Faith

Accompanied in the Furnace

Image of Victoria Mejias and her daughter

My daughter burst through the door shouting she made the honor roll! My son trailed behind her with his head down low.

She is bubblier by nature. He has always been more pessimistic. But something was different. Something was off. He wasn’t his normal self. He didn’t even say, “hello.” Instead he strolled into his room, laid his stuff down, sat down and just stared off.

What was going on with my baby? My first born. I wanted so badly to console him but he wouldn’t let me in.

Two sleepless nights followed. Two consecutive days of no rest – not for either of us. I even asked my daughter what was going on but she had no idea. He was desperately trying to work through a struggle all on his own. But why? He didn’t have to?

On the third night, he asked to come into my room. We sat on the edge of my bed as he looked at me with tears welling up in his eyes. “Mom, can we talk?” My heart leapt hearing those words. “Of course, honey,” I responded.

There he unloaded a very heavy and unsettling story about a racist altercation in the locker room.

At first I fought back tears while I listened. It broke my heart. The whole situation was disturbing. I couldn’t take away his pain. But I decided to cry with him, to comfort him and stay by his side. I thank God he allowed me to share in his pain. Click To Tweet

I could relate. That seems to be my lot in life. Not to have my suffering removed but to feel relieved knowing God is with me through my toughest moments.

It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible passages. Scripture recounts the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three Jews who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar. These three men remained faithful. Each time the king demanded they worship him they responded that “…the Lord would deliver them.” And one of the most powerful statements yet, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up,” as they rejected the king over and over. (Daniel 3:16-18, ESV)

They took a stand for what was right. They were faithful to God. Were they spared suffering? 

No, God didn’t swoop in on a magic carpet and rescue them. They were thrown into the fiery furnace. And did the door swing open? Were they saved from danger? No, instead, the king had the temperature of the furnace turned up seven times hotter.

Isn’t that how life works much of the time? You do the right thing and you’re punished. At least that’s how it goes for me. You pray for a break. But, no, the flames grow and the fire intensifies.

And that is what makes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s stance so powerful. They recognized they were in danger and still believed God would rescue them but “if not, be it known to you,” they said, they still wouldn’t bow down. The furnace would not break their faith. Click To Tweet And the story did not end there.

Scripture says, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” (Daniel 3:24-25, ESV)

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“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!’”  (Daniel 3:26, ESV)

What an amazing testimony! That the Lord would accompany us in bad times. That we’d not be alone. That He’d be fully present in the furnace. And not only that but that we’d come out on the other side – freed! 

And “The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.” (Daniel 3:27, ESV) The only damage the fire caused was to burn off their shackles. Click To Tweet

The truth is we will encounter good times and endure bad ones. But I praise God that we are not alone in our struggles. The Lord is available to us. We need only let Him in.

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Know that when you hurt, He aches and He wants to be with you in your roughest moments. Click To Tweet

Like my son, I think our tendency is to hide and internalize pain. But Jesus is waiting for you with arms open wide. He will see you through the suffering. Refuse to surrender to your trials and turn to Him when you’re hurting. 

So what battle are you fighting? Are you facing trouble or experiencing hardship? Have you let God in to comfort you in your pain?

Get to Know Victoria:

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Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria received her Certification in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute in 2012. She has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally as far out as Damoh, India at the World Leaders Evangelical Conference. Recently Victoria was the recipient of two Congressional awards for her service by Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón and Nebraska’s Congressman Don Bacon during a floor speech at the US House of Representatives.

Victoria serves with Wholly Loved Ministries in numerous capacities, including functioning as one of their feature writers, writing articles on behalf of the ministry for iBelieve. She has two children, loves the Lord, reaching the lost and enjoys travel, arts and culture. Visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE.

Wholly Loved Ministries is a non-profit organization that exists to help women live in Christ’s freedom. Donate now to support our mission or contact us to learn more.

Enduring Trials, Hardships and Trials, intentional living, living in grace, Resting in Christ, surrender, Video Devotion

Peace in the Stress, a Video Devotion

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Hardships and Trials

God’s Favor–The Gift of Presence

If God’s favor meant great health, I’d missed it. If it meant worldly success, happiness, prestige and an expanding ministry, God had abandoned me. But if favor—if grace—meant a vivid revelation of my Father’s heart and a deepening intimacy with Him, then even as I lay in bed sick and fatigued, I rested squarely in my Daddy’s hands. Right where He wanted me to be.

Image of a light with quote from blog post

It just took me a while to see it, cherish it. In fact, it wasn’t until my body started to recover that I saw the precious gift God had given all those mornings months before.

Sometimes it takes a crisis—an illness, a tragedy, having one’s life tilted upside down—to grab hold of what really matters. In 2011, after a lifetime of great health and athleticism, after nearly two decades of walking closely with Jesus and two years of surrendering to His call, colitis knocked me flat. Shifted my identity and for a while, left me grasping for answers.

If I could no longer run, who was I?

If I couldn’t push through this physical obstacle, was I still a woman of strength? An overcomer?

Why would God allow this? I’d been serving Him, writing for Him, speaking for Him, but now I was reduced to a tired, thin woman who often couldn’t make it to the bathroom on time let alone serve outside the home. Wasn’t I more effective when well?

I was failing. I wasn’t using the gifts God had given me. I wasn’t tending to my family as I felt called to do. I hadn’t touched my keyboard in months and wasn’t sure I ever would again.

I wasn’t any good for the body of Christ. I wasn’t any good for my family.

This was an incredibly painful time. A period of refining and stripping. A year I will always remember. The time when, as I read my Bible each morning and I clung to God’s Word lovingly preserved through the ages, He drew me to Himself and held me close to His heart. Those moments between us, when all the rest of the world faded from view, are precious beyond what I can express.

… there’s nothing so precious, nothing that can soothe the heart, quite like being held by the One who knows and loves you most.

There’s nothing so precious, nothing that can soothe the heart, quite like being held by the One who knows and loves you most.

verse image of James 1:2 with a sunrise in the backgroundPerhaps this is, in part, what James meant when he said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds …” (James 1:2, NIV). Though in context, he’s referring to the joy of knowing God has a purpose in our pain. But this points to an even bigger truth–God loves us always. In our times of health and pain.

I’ve known joy. Not the momentary elation our world teaches us to chase after, but the deep, unyielding, persevering joy of knowing God, truly knowing Him, and being known by Him.

If favor is found in what I can do or the wealth I attain, if it’s found in prestige and accolades, I failed. And I’ll gladly fail again–to gain something much more enduring and fulfilling.

Time with Christ. To be held and to know His hands are strong and firm and ever-present, that’s joy. And that’s the greatest gift Christ died to give us—unhindered access to Himself. He’s always there, always reaching, always loving. But sometimes He needs to help us see that, rest in that. Sometimes that help comes through pain; a pain with the sweetest of dividends.

Let’s talk about this! When has God turned a difficult time into an enduring blessing? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

When life hits hard and we feel used up, it’s easy to think we’re somehow less valuable or perhaps overlooked by God. But our value is immutable, and we can live out our purpose in every season, if we choose. Join us for our next Wholly Loved Conference on January 20th hosted by Beautiful Savior in LaVista, NE to learn how to discover and live out your purpose.

Then, join us in February for our Bold and Brave Conference, hosted by St. Paul’s United Methodist in Papillion. You can check out all our conference dates and register HERE.

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Experiencing Christ, Video Devotion

When God Feels Distant — Video Devotion

VLOG #3 Due Are you there God_12-20-17 from Wholly Loved Ministry on Vimeo.

Do you ever feel like God’s checked out for the day or taken a much-needed vacation? Do you earnestly desire His presence and relentlessly search for it and feel nothing? What do you do in those situations?

Almost two years ago, I had a stroke that left me with dulled sensation in the right half of my body. Some parts are completely numb. My nerves react to my inability to feel by misfiring. My body knows something is wrong and tries to fix it. It’s trying to feel. It won’t give up trying to regain sensation. Because of this, I take a nerve blocking medication to stop the prickly and tingling sensation that are more than I can handle.

And just like my body, sometimes I can’t feel God. Sometimes I can feel Him a little. Sometimes I can feel Him a lot. I want to feel Him a lot, all the time. But how? How do I go from feeling nothing some days to being engulfed in His divine presence everyday?

In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

In other words, God is always with us and will never leave us. Even if we can’t feel Him, He is there. He doesn’t leave. He doesn’t take a vacation. So if you want to feel His steadfast presence, ask Him to reveal Himself to you in ways you’ll see and understand. To show you ways that you can feel Him even when you are “numb”, and be diligent in daily attempts to connect with Him through prayer and scripture as you learn to live Wholly Loved.