Faith

Hope in Chronic Illness — Guest Post

woman gazing toward the sunrise with quote from Matthew Henry

Grasping for Hope

by Jennifer Henn

Several years ago, I was wasting away from undiagnosed Celiac Disease. It affected every system in my body. When the doctors finally determined the cause of my symptoms, I weighed 100 pounds and couldn’t absorb nutrients. They ordered me to rest, saying, “Do nothing so you can heal.”

Those are hard words for a mother to hear. I was willing to do anything to quicken my healing. I thought if I could understand certain Bible passages, and put those truths into practice, my hardship would soon be over. I read and memorized Scripture, studied and journaled about it, hoping for a full understanding. But I had the wrong perspective. God wanted to work within my heart, and heart surgery takes time.

I cried, “Why is this so hard!” I struggled to grasp the truth and personal application of the Scripture I’d read.

I wanted change in my life—now. But I’ve learned God wants me to have a deeper understanding of His truth, which can’t be immediately grasped.

The first couple of years following my diagnosis were the hardest and often brought me to one section of Scripture in the Bible.  “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV).

In my exhausted state, I often questioned whether my character was improving. The weight of never feeling well and multiple doctor appointments bore down on the weak places in my soul. In my quiet time, I asked God, “Am I persevering? Will I find the hope Romans talks about?”

I needed hope that God’s Word is true when it says I am loved and that His ways are greater than mine. Meditating on this truth needed to be a daily practice in order to end the voice of despair taunting my mind.

To keep hope in view, I asked a friend who makes jewelry to make me a bracelet. I asked it be made with three different colored stones. Green would represent perseverance, red character, and a faux diamond for hope.

The bracelet companion reminded me that God was working things out of me that needed to go. Things like stubborn reliance on myself or the craving for people’s approval. At the same time, He worked in my ability to trust Him. While I learned to praise God in my storm, He gave me hope.

When I look back, I see hope was there the entire time. It took hope to ask for the bracelet to be made. Hope led me to continue in perseverance with prayer and the reading of Scripture. Hope opened my eyes to the sufferings of others which took the focus off myself. And hope showed itself when others said, “I see Jesus in you.”

When I focused on the struggle, I became discouraged. But over time, I learned that understanding comes through the struggle. God supplied hope through His love to keep me going. And through it all, my perspective on life changed.

When we praise God through our suffering, He works in hope. Once we have a deep sustaining hope, we can bring encouragement to others. Today, in your difficult circumstance, believe in hope. Praise the One who made you and is doing a good work in you.

Let’s talk about this!

Where might you be missing hope that’s in front of you? Who do you know that needs encouragement through their time of hopelessness?

Did this devotion encourage you?

If so, make sure to check out our Bible reading plan available now on the YouVersion app! You can find Cover image for Bible study devotionalit HERE! And make sure to grab a copy of our 90-day devotional, Drawing Near. You can find that HERE.

Get to know Jennifer!

Jennifer Henn homeschooled for nineteen years. She speaks and writes about her experiences from preschool through high school. Discouraged by the trend of homeschoolers to label themselves, she shares a balanced approach. She believes you can teach your children at home while enjoying the freedom to explore their individual interests.

Her first book, Take The Mystery Out of Homeschooling: A How-To Guide, takes parents incrementally through the basics of homeschooling and offers practical advice so they can make informed decisions.

Visit her on her website, follow her on Facebook and Instragram, and purchase her book on Amazon.

Are you considering homeschooling your children but have no idea how it’s done? Take The Mystery Out of Homeschooling: A How-To Guide takes parents incrementally through the basics and offers practical advice so they can make informed decisions. Easy to navigate sections include: popular teaching methods, what subjects to teach, how to schedule the school year, socializing your children, where to get help, record keeping, and much more!Jennifer puts your mind at ease through personal examples of her own and other homeschool veterans. If you want to homeschool, and need a resource for success, this book is for you.

 

freedom, identity, security

Reclaiming Redemption

AndreaQuoteTrustJesus

Picture a woman in chains behind bars. Her orange jumpsuit is a beacon screaming, “Guilty!” She’s lost all hope of freedom from this ugly place until the warden swings open the cell door. “A stranger paid your debt. You can go.” As she hurries out in disbelief, crossing the threshold into the sunlight, she looks down. Where there was once prison garb, she now sees a white sundress and pearls. She’s been transformed by mercy.

And she’s an image of us when we grasp the power of redemption.  

It may have been real bars that kept you living in shame, or the memory of bad decisions. Perhaps it’s a harsh word you’d take back, an affair you can’t wish away, or a sinful pattern you can’t kick. According to Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” Gulp. We’re right to feel the weight of our sin. The penalty is severe. But praise God that’s not where the verse ends. Listen to this: death doesn’t hold us because “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 ESV).    

Over and over Scripture paints this picture of our freedom. Colossians 1:13-14 ESV reaffirms this truth saying, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Colossians-1_14-

Sometimes it’s hard to understand or accept this reality because redemption isn’t an everyday word in our vocabulary. What does it mean to be redeemed? Is our spiritual jail cell really unlocked?

Those were questions I struggled with until I did some digging into Scripture. “Apolutrosis”- it sounds like an odd sickness, but it’s the original Greek word for redemption in today’s verse. It means to be released because a ransom was paid.

What does that reveal about our identity?

It tells our story. We were prisoners to sin, held captive, and unable to gain our freedom. But in our darkest moment, God saw us and bought us back for a high price—Jesus’s perfect life sacrificed on the cross to atone for ours.

How does it make you feel to know you’ve been ransomed? That a payment was made on your behalf so that nothing hinders your relationship with God? That you now can approach Him with your head up in honor instead of down with shame? Maybe it’ll take a while to sink in.

It makes me super relieved. I’m beyond thankful Jesus paid my debt, that I don’t have to try to prove I’m worthy of God’s love because He makes me worthy. I lived in shame and struggle for so many unnecessary years when I could’ve traded my guilt for His freely offered peace. And I’m thankful I don’t have to live fearfully anymore.

Now I live in grace and I claim my redemption daily. Receiving this truth to my core, that I can’t undo the fact that I’ve been bought back, fuels me to live differently. I cling as closely as possible to my big brother, Jesus, because He’s proven His love and protection is something I can count on.

Perhaps you still feel more chained than freed. But once you trust in Jesus, He wants to bust you out of every jail cell you’ve crawled into. Trust that His sacrifice was enough for your past, present, and future mistakes. God not only paid your debt in full, but also credited you with Jesus’ brilliant righteousness. You can live joyfully knowing He traded your orange jumpsuit for His white robe.

AndreaQuoteLiveJoyfullyFB

Hardships and Trials

When Disillusionment Steals Our Joy

 

It’s easy to allow discouragement to morph into disillusionment and for disillusionment to taint our heart, distancing us from God and blinding us to His hand. But, as my guest today shares, if we’re alert and prayerful, if we’re diligent to hold tight to truth and Christ, disillusionment can also lead to incredible growth and can provide a glorious redirection.

Quote image: God sees you

I Didn’t Think it Would be Like This.

By Donna Jones

We never saw it coming. I expected this kind of behavior from a non-believer, but from a Christian?

Never.

The gap between my expectations and my reality left my tender soul shredded into tiny little pieces, like the bits of paper you throw as confetti. Except this was no celebration. I wondered how a heart ripped to shreds could ever be whole again.

Enter disillusionment; the place where expectations and reality collide.

I remember thinking, How did this happen? Why did this happen?

I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed a thousand times by women in different circumstances: The wife whose husband walked out the door; the couple that followed God’s leading, only to be hurt by those they tried to help; the gal who battled health and financial crisis; the woman who stepped out in faith, and failed. And then there’s the mom of the toddler, the mom of the teenager, the mom of the prodigal, and the sweet gal who just wants to be a mom.

They all wrestle with the thought: I didn’t think it would be like this.

But it is.

So, what now?

 

Generally, disillusionment doesn’t happen overnight (although it can). Typically, disillusionment starts as disappointment, which leads to discouragement, which morphs into discontentment, which lands as disillusionment. Think of it like this:

Disappointment + Time = Discouragement

Discouragement + Time = Discontentment

Discontentment + Time = Disillusionment

How do you know if you’ve moved from disappointment to disillusionment?

You’ve lost hope.

You’ve checked out.

You’re desperate to control.

You’re bitter

You’re cynical.

You’re mad at God.

You’re suspicious of others.

You’ve given up on your faith, yourself, or God.

May I whisper just a few words of hope to you? You. Are. Not. The. First.

In the Bible, the prophet Elijah dealt with disillusionment. So did Sarah, the matriarch to the Jewish nation revealed in Genesis, and Job, the ancient man whose intense suffering is revealed in the Bible book bearing His name. At some point, most of us travel through the dark tunnel of disillusionment. How we deal with disillusionment determines how we come out on the other side. Click To Tweet

So how can we handle disappointment so it doesn’t morph into disillusionment, and derail us?

  1. Acknowledge Loss

It’s OK to feel sad when things don’t turn out like we hoped. Part of navigating disappointment before it becomes disillusionment is to acknowledge our loss.

During difficult seasons David, ancient Israel’s second king, poured out his heart to God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8 NIV).

1 Peter 5:7 tell us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.”

When we pour out our problems to God, God pours in His perspective to us.

If we bottle our burdens we may become convinced God doesn’t care, but if we cast our burdens we may be certain God does. Click To Tweet
  1. Examine Expectations

Disillusionment occurs when we feel something is not as good as we believed it to be. These beliefs are based on expectations.

Unexamined expectations are likely to be unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations are likely to become unrealized expectations.

Unrealized expectations leave us disappointed, discouraged, discontent, and disillusioned.

When an expectation isn’t realistic, it’s easy to become disillusioned, so we must ask, “Is my expectation realistic?”

  1. Cling to Christ

When disappointment leaves us reeling, we have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment.

Is it always easy to rely on God while enduring difficulty? No, it isn’t.

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But reliance on God during my storm brings redemption from God to my story. Click To Tweet

Joseph, the ancient Hebrew turned Egyptian slave, experienced this first hand, after his brothers’ betrayed him. Because Joseph clung to God through the heartache and hurt, he could look his brothers square in the eye and declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.(Genesis 50:20 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment from unmet expectations? What lessons have you learned by choosing to rely on God, even when it’s hard? 

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV) 

 

Get to know Donna! 

A pastor’s wife and national speaker, Donna Jones is a Bible teacher/explainer, who’s spoken in twenty-five states and on four continents, keynoting events of more than 1000. Donna is the author Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God, Raising Kids with Good Manners, and Taming Your Family Zoo, and is a contributing author to the 365-day devotional, A Moment to Breathe. She has been on numerous radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family and Good Day Dallas, and writes regularly for Crosswalk.com. 

Donna loves sipping a really good cup of coffee, and hanging with her pastor/hubby or one of their three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter just to chat. Donna would love to connect with you at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram at donnaajones.

Disillusionment hurts and can derail us or push us to draw us closer to Jesus. For those of you who’ve been doing our Becoming His Princess study, you’ll see, for Sarah, unmet longing appeared to follow the negative progression Donna warns us of in her post. As Donna shared, we all face this risk. When disillusionment hits, it can drive us closer to Jesus or distance us from Him. You can hear my thoughts on this, and how we can actively guard our hearts against this, in Becoming His Princess’s opening session, week three. Listen HERE.

If you’re just starting the study, you can watch week one’s opening session HERE and week two’s opening session HERE. (Video sessions will be uploaded as they’re completed.)

You can listen to session two HERE.

And you can pick up your own copy, free, HERE.

Cover image for studyIf you live local, you can still join us for live teaching each Tuesday night at Wildewood Christian, located in Papillion. You can also join us, starting in March, for live teaching on Tuesday mornings or evenings (two options) at Christ Community Church in Omaha. (Registration links will open soon.)

Want us to come to your church? Contact us HERE.