Heart Issues

The Redirection of An Emotional Heart attack

I cannot describe how outrageous 2019 actually was.  There were many days I felt I couldn’t breathe. I ended up in the emergency room because of the aching in my chest that I honestly believed was a heart attack. I’ve had all the tests; my physical heart is fine. It seemed that it was my emotional heart that was aching and broken. I felt I was endlessly searching for some truth and light in the midst of a torrential sea of darkness.  A shift came as I learned my need to be reconciled to the fact that things had to happen last year for me to become the woman God created me to be. Click To Tweet

I spent hours going over everything trying to figure out what had gone wrong. I released a friendship of five plus years for reasons I still don’t fully understand but have come to accept. I stepped out of leading ministry and a Bible study group, quit two jobs, was unemployed for several weeks, and felt a piercing loneliness.

Through all the pain, I found my comfort in God, spending hours immersing myself in His promises, searching Scripture for answers and direction for the future. Click To Tweet I’ve often encouraged friends when they found themselves in these places with verses I believed breathed life into them but none of those brought peace. The healing came as I breathed in grace-filled nuggets of truth I had not noticed before. Praise was on my lips day and night in an effort to reclaim all that I’d lost.

I found hope in verses such as “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Sermons that taught me about making dead things come alive. Genesis 28:16 says, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” Seriously, I did not recognize His intervening on my behalf and this verse helped me remember God is with me. There were songs that resonated with my heart cry of knowing who God says I am that gave me courage to keep moving forward.

In sweet surrender, I finally laid aside all the angst associated with past pain and began to progress towards healing. The transforming work of the Holy Spirit became more prevalent, teaching me to relinquish control. Click To Tweet I’m grateful I serve a God who gently yet consistently nudges me towards the path He has for me.

As I look forward to 2020, I am ready to resume actively pursuing my journey in Christ, hand in hand with my Savior. Won’t you join me?

Where are you at in 2020? Are you excited for what God has ahead or are you feeling discouraged and defeated? What can you do to today to find strength, anticipation, and encouragement in Christ? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.

Make sure to check out our latest Bible reading plan, available for free on the YouVersion Bible Reading App:

Grace Reading Plan ImageChrist’s grace has the power to change everything. We don’t have to strive, to compete or compare, or question whether or not we measure up. We’re enough because Christ in us in enough. The cross of Christ sets us free.

Find it HERE.

 

 

 

Resting in Christ

How God Responds to Our Pain

quote on suffering from Tim Keller

If you want to catch a glimpse of God’s heart for you, simply watch a mother with her newborn. The hours spent walking the floor as she tries to soothe her little one to sleep. The energy sacrificed to care for her. The joy she feels when the child grows or laughs or simply breathes. Her anguish when her child is sick or in pain.

Nothing tears me up and drives me to pray quite like seeing my daughter struggle. About two and a half years ago she accepted and eight-month paid internship in North Carolina. Eager for an opportunity to venture into the adult world, she left Nebraska with hope-filled anticipation.

Her enthusiasm soon turned into a scary depression, triggered by numerous circumstances. First, she was considerably younger than all her coworkers, which made it difficult for her to form relationships. Second, she was paired with an extremely critical and domineering roommate, which caused my daughter to doubt everything good about herself. Navigating a management role at the age of 19, this was her first time living so far from home, and she was lonely. She struggled to find a faith community and missed her friends and family. As time went on, her feelings of isolation grew, which only served to deepen what we later learned was undiagnosed depression.

Watching her struggle from afar, I felt powerless to help her. I often longed to catch a plane, if for no other reason than to stay close. I wanted to hold her, and in so doing, to shoulder some of her load.

When we’re hurting, like my daughter was, it helps to know we’re not alone. The truth is, if we belong to Jesus, we are never alone, regardless of how we feel. Scripture promises that. The Bible tells us that God is with us, loves us fiercely, and will never leave us. When we feel as if our heart is shredded, when the intensity of our pain steals our words and we find ourselves unable to pray, the Holy Spirit steps in and intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26 tells us “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (NIV). Words in the original Greek often convey such richer meaning than our English translations, and that is true here.

When we suffer, and we will, the Spirit closely identifies with our suffering and comes alongside us in a deeply personal, empowering way. The late biblical commentator Matthew Poole phrased it this way: “The word” ‘helps,’ or more accurately, ‘joins to help,’ sunantilambanomai in the Greek, “imports such help, as when another of great strength steps in and sustains the burden that lies too heavy on our shoulders.”

But God does so much more than that. He feels our pain and prays for and with us with “groanings too Quote pulled from post with peace backgrounddeep for words” (ESV).

I’ve never understood the depth of this verse, the depth of God’s emotion conveyed by the words Paul chose, until I too prayed and “groaned” for my daughter during her struggle. If God feels even half of what I did, and I know He does, as His love is so much greater than mine, then His heart breaks as well, and His heartbreak spurs Him to action.

God stays with me, offers His strength in place of my weakness, and prays with and for me. He doesn’t let up, nor will He leave until He’s carried me safely to the other side. He will do the same for you.

Let’s talk about this! Do you trust that God is sees you, loves you, and is with you? What are some ways you remind yourself of this truth when life feels hard or frightening?

Join the conversation in the comments below and connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

If you’re going through a particularly fearful time, make sure to visit Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear page to find numerous faith-bolstering resources.

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Faith, Hearing God, Revealing Jesus, surrender

Finding Jesus in the Center of My Pain

JessicaSufferingQuote

Ugly tears coursed down my cheeks. Why? How could this have happened? The betrayal hit me like a gut punch. I wanted to scream it all away, or at the very least tear someone apart with my bare fingernails. But even that wouldn’t make it better, wouldn’t erase what I was going through. I felt so alone.

The hurt felt worse than a knife. It felt like a massive, crushing weight obliterating every inch of who I’d been. And I was left alone to pick up the pieces, not even sure I could.

Sometimes, the hardships we go through seem unimaginable: A difficult, completely unfair illness cutting us down in the prime of our life. Debilitating financial or legal issues that seem to have no way out. Crushing betrayal or other emotional or physical violation. It’s the opposite of how we think life should go.

In the midst of my pain, I was on my own. I knew no one who’d been through what I was experiencing. There was no one I could confide in who’d truly understand. Talking to a counselor brought temporary relief but no real solutions. Blocking it out and staying as busy as possible only worked for so long.

Then came Jesus. In the darkness, in the depths of my pain, I realized: He knew. I didn’t even have to open my mouth to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal.

Not only that, but He’d been there, too.

In the depths of my #pain, I realized: #Jesus knew. I didn’t have to share any of the scary or nitty-gritty details, because He saw them up-close and personal. He'd been there, too. Click To Tweet

He’d experienced the worst pain, the deepest betrayal, the hardest suffering—none of it deserved, and all of it something He could stop if only He caved to temptation. Yet our Savior chose to bear the cup of sacrifice and endure. And it hurt Him—so very, very badly.

But for some reason, I’d never before understood this. Growing up, I’d been taught Jesus died on the cross, but His suffering seemed abstract. In paintings depicting the crucifixion, the holes from the nails had a bit of blood, and Jesus was frowning beneath His crown of thorns, but it was all rather contained—a PG version of what He’d really been through. Then His suffering was over and, whoosh! Our Savior was dressed in head-to-toe white with a glowing golden halo, smiling like He’d never been gasping for His last breath or sobbing from the pain of being sold for thirty pieces of silver by one of His twelve best friends.

But when I encountered Jesus in my sorrow, it wasn’t the Sunday school, family-friendly version kneeling beside me as I collapsed before Him in a darkened room with my prayer of surrender. It was the scarred-up Jesus, the One who remembered the ragged bloodstained holes from where they’d driven the nails in, who didn’t wince as they beat Him but cried out in agony, who didn’t just quietly and stoically accept that Judas let Him down but ached over the treachery.

This Jesus understood. And when I realized that, and I allowed him to meet me in my suffering, I was no longer alone.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared suffering when we walk with Jesus, which makes all the difference.

Jesus never promised a life free of hardship when we became Christian. Suffering is universal. But it’s a shared #suffering when we walk with #Jesus, which makes all the difference. Click To Tweet

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ESV).” These aren’t just words on a page. There is true rest, a peace, in knowing Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden.

There is true rest, a #peace, in knowing #Jesus has been there, too, and can ease our burden. Click To Tweet

But not only is there rest, but also hope. While Jesus did suffer, His suffering ended. He overcame. He triumphed. As He told His disciples in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Many years have passed since my tough time, and sometimes it feels like it didn’t happen to me at all, but rather to a character in a book I read. I still go through hard times, when I want to throw myself on the bed and cry, when I want to give up and surrender.

Yet now I have a secret weapon: I know God is with me in the center of my pain. And that, like nothing else, helps move me towards healing.

Prayer

Praying When Hate or Trials Get in the Way

 

KristenPrayerQuote2-

Hate is a word I never use unless I’m talking about cancer.

It’s a festering, growing batch of cells that leads to sickness and destruction in one’s body. When it attacks someone you love, everything within you rages and aches.

I detest the joy cancer steals, and the life it tries to take. I abhor its effect on families and the financial stress it creates. I especially hate the physical pain it causes and how it can trigger a wavering faith.

I wish it didn’t exist.

But it does. So my hatred is an ill use of my time. And, therefore, I avert my focus from disdain back to what I love— Jesus and my family. Yes, my little sister has cancer, but I choose to concentrate on my adoration of Him and her.

Watching someone I love endure pain erodes my heart a little each day, leaving me on the verge of tears constantly. But as I concentrate on Jesus, the Healer, and my love for my sister, I can rebuild some of that erosion.Watching someone I love endure pain erodes my heart, but as I concentrate on Jesus, the Healer, I can rebuild some of that erosion. Click To Tweet

Although to be frank, praying in the midst of heartache, no matter what kind, is challenging. I’ve counseled many to remember that God is good and loving and kind. But what good is there in this disease? Or maybe you’re asking, “What good is there in losing a loved one?” Or a marriage? Or a career?

My limited, human viewpoint has a hard time seeing through the cloud of grief. Sure, I notice droplets of joy along the way— a new medicine working, a successful surgery, a clearheaded afternoon— but the hardships remain.

So what can we do when we’re feeble and frail? KristenPrayerQuote1

We remember the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

These are heavy verses, so let’s break them down.

When we’re physically tired and spiritually drained, when we have no idea what to ask God for, or when anger confuses our judgment, we can count on the Holy Spirit for help. Click To TweetWhen we’re physically tired and spiritually drained, when we have no idea what to ask God for, or when anger confuses our judgment, we can count on the Holy Spirit for help. He’s our Advocate (John 14:26 & 15:26), who speaks to God on our behalf, and since the Holy Spirit is God living in us, who understands all things, He knows exactly how to pray for our situation. He will and can only plead for us according to the will of God. And since God is fully good and perfect, His will is also good for all.

I’ve sobbed to God with misplaced words and disjointed thoughts, finally crying out, “God, You know! You know!” He understands “what we ought to pray for”, and immediately does.

If you’re up against trials, a confusing path, or a hatred you can’t get past, drop to your knees and ask the Holy Spirit to “groan” on your behalf. Jesus knows what you and your loved ones need. Trust Him to get you through your battle.

Let’s talk about this! When has it been hard for you to pray? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other.When has it been hard for you to pray? Share your thoughts, so we can learn from and encourage each other. Click To Tweet And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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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