Terror, Hope, and the Faithfulness of Friends

“When Jesus saw their [active] faith [springing from confidence in Him], He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5 AMP

“I say to you, get up, pick up your mat and go home.” Mark 2:11 AMP

You never know important a tight-knit community of faith-filled friends who love you and pray for you are until you find yourself desperately needing them. That type of bond, faith, and honor is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Over the last several weeks, I was reminded why God says our faith tribes are an essential. We need each other (Romans 12:4-5).

About a year ago, my husband and I visited a special beach where he had proposed to me several years ago. On that location, stood a towering, old bald cypress tree. A once vibrant, majestic tree was a reminder of the many years and tropical storms that had passed through the area. The tree’s roots were exposed, tangled, and broken. The needles were gone. The branches had been ripped from the trunk from the previous year’s storm, and the tree had finally died.

Determined to keep the precious memory of our special tree alive, we snatched a piece of it and brought it home, knowing Hurricane Michael, which was just a few days away from making landfall, would ensure we’d never see it again. It was a memento, a treasure we would never forget; and I had big plans to memorialize it.

One late afternoon, I used a small electronic sander on the tough bark of the tree piece to prep it for the art project I had planned. Brown dust thickly piled on the garage floor and my feet within forty-five minutes. I probably would have continued sanding the rest of the evening if allowed; but a loud thunderstorm (thank you, Jesus!) came out of nowhere, forcing me to stop as the lightning came dangerously close to the house.

Frustrated, I turned off the electric sander, peeled off the face mask and glasses, and sat down on the garage steps leading into the house. That was when I realized something in my body didn’t feel right. The air felt heavier than I remembered before sanding. My nose felt unusually congested, and I coughed repeatedly. I decided maybe my sinuses were just a little irritated but didn’t give it much thought.

The next morning, I woke up feeling like I had the flu. My body ached. I had chills. I was running a slight fever. My nose was totally stopped up, and I had a bit of a sore throat. That’s when I realized the horrible truth: I must have unknowingly breathed in some amount of bark particles.

I was scheduled to co-lead singing for worship at church that morning. I wondered how I would sing when I sounded like I had spent the night yelling at a ball game and smoking about ten packs of cigarettes, but I managed to struggle through the service. I didn’t feel right. What was happening to me? I wondered. How much bark did I actually breathe in?

That night I had terrible dreams, like I did for many nights to follow, about drowning. The following days weren’t much better than the nights. The flu symptoms died down; but within a few short days, I found myself gasping for air randomly throughout the day, stuck in a waking nightmare. It felt like an elephant climbed upon my chest and sat on me.

From that day through the many weeks to follow, I found myself at urgent care and the doctor’s office. They gave me inhalers and steroids and allergy medications. All the medicine helped me cope with the worst of the symptoms, but it didn’t stop them. I suffered continuous allergic asthmatic attacks, some of which lasted hours at a time. The worst days were filled with asthma-induced panic attacks and the long nights of dreaming about shadows chasing or strangling me (and a protective figure standing between me and my oppressors — was it Jesus?). My body was under attack and so was my now very weary spirit. To call those days and nights “hellish” would be too nice a word.

It’s in the moments like what I describe above, you find yourself thankful for the ones in your life who don’t give up and fight for you when you can’t fight for yourself. My husband spent many days and nights holding me and praying for me through the attacks and all the tears. Each time, when I said it was too much to go on, and I felt like I was not strong enough to fight for the next breath, he prayed. He asked God to bring peace and order to my body; and each time, the raging physical, emotional, and spiritual storm within me quieted. My tears stopped, and I rested.

I also have a small but mighty group of friends interceding and praying for me. I had dinner with one of my closest friends on a particularly rough evening. She saw my slumped posture and the sullen expression on my face (I was so tired of fighting for air) and declared health and wholeness for my body while we sat in the restaurant booth. She gripped my hands and prayed fervently, commanding the sickness to leave, not caring who was watching. Again like before with my husband, my body obeyed. The lung spasms stopped, and we had good dinner conversation that night. For several hours, I felt relief and peace.

The battle raged for a couple of weeks longer, and it appeared I was actually getting sicker instead of recovering. But the funny thing is, that’s often when God shows up — when things look most hopeless. I sat on the edge of my bed, late into a Tuesday night, wondering if I needed to go to the emergency room because I might die in my sleep. The next morning, I cried all the way to work. I was so tired. I couldn’t fight anymore, but the One who hears our cries and the prayers of faithful friends was fighting for me. And my friends were still interceding and praying for me daily.

That night, I stayed home from our monthly church dinner to rest. At the same moment I was praying Mark 2:5-11 over myself that evening, unbeknownst to me, my husband and my friends were praying the same scripture over me. I knew I couldn’t fight anymore. I couldn’t let fear control me either. I just simply prayed, “Lord, let me be restored because of the faith of my friends.”

Suddenly, it was like that bully-of-an-elephant moved from my chest. I began breathing deeply without even realizing it. Then it hit me — I didn’t need to fight for each breath! I was breathing without giving it a second thought! Something had changed. And I knew my friends had prayed, and Father God had answered that prayer for wholeness in my body.

When my husband returned home, it was confirmed: I had prayed for the faith of my friends to heal me, and my friends had prayed the same prayer. I was blown away. But was it true? Was I getting better?

Six days have passed, and I continue to improve with impressive speed. I no longer need the inhalers. I’m still on a low dose steroid per my doctor’s orders; but honestly, I don’t feel like I need it. I can laugh again. I can breathe again. I see hope again. And it’s all because of the God who hears the cries of His children and a small, but powerful group of faithful friends.

Be that kind of friend and change someone else’s life like they changed mine. I am forever grateful.

Love,

Heather

Comfort for Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

It has been seventeen years since the terrible day of 9/11. It is a day I will never forget.

There was nothing special about the day of 9/11 initially. In fact, I would consider it an extraordinarily ordinary

day. I was in the third month of my new career and busy sorting through stacks of printed manuals. I had the monotonous job of separating and rubber banding the manuals by hand. It wasn’t the most exciting task, but I did it with the enthusiasm of a college kid entering the workforce for the first time (because I was).

On the way to my desk that morning, I visited three of my coworkers in the second floor conference room. They were preparing a plan for coordinating communications with South Florida offices for a tropical storm that was projected to hit Cape Coral, Florida. A small, old television on a cart was displaying the latest news cast, as they hoped to get an update on the storm.

A little over an hour later, David, one of the three coworkers from the conference room, peeked around my cubicle wall. “Would you like to take a breakfast break and watch some news with us? We have some donuts and juice in the conference room.”

I shook my head, “No, thanks. I have twenty more of these manuals to go.”

David nodded and disappeared back into the upstairs conference room.

A few minutes passed, and I suddenly heard the hallway along my cubicle become strangely silent. There had been plenty of the usual busyness and movement just a few moments ago. The stillness caused me to get up from my chair and walk the length of the empty hall.

Where did everyone go? I wondered, peering into the empty offices.

Sensing it had something to do with the TV, I ran up the stairs to the conference room where my coworkers were watching the news. To my surprise, several coworkers from my floor were crammed into the relatively small conference room. When I approached the doorway, I was met with stares of shock and disbelief.

“A plane just hit the World Trade Center,” one of my coworkers said, trembling. For a moment, I had trouble comprehending what she said. The words seemed off. Something didn’t feel right.

Everyone in the room was now facing the television, and I suddenly began to understand. Heavy smoke billowed from the side of the North Tower where a commercial plane had hit it only moments before. The news reporters were scrambling to figure out what had happened — was it an accident? It must have been an accident.

As the live camera feed on the World Trade Center towers was focused on the damage done to the first tower, another commercial plane struck the South Tower. A collective gasp and sudden stunned silence filled the room. It was suddenly painfully obvious: this was no accident.

Without warning, the towers began collapsing. People were jumping to their deaths. It was the most horrific event unfolding before my eyes that I’ve ever witnessed. My shock and terror only deepened as I heard later that morning a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, partially destroying the building. And I felt those emotions again as I heard about the courageous lives lost when a fourth commercial plane was hijacked. The passengers on that plane refused to allow the evil men to reach the destination of Washington D.C. and crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania.

I don’t remember much else from that particular day. I cried off and on. Offices and businesses closed. Schools and colleges shut down for the day. For a few days, it seemed the world stood still. My young, barely 18-year-old mind could hardly comprehend what happened.

A few days later, school resumed; and I was in a math class. But it was no ordinary school day. It felt like no day would be normal ever again as a young woman sat beside me, sobbing uncontrollably. She kept apologizing for the inability to control her tears and explained that she was a stewardess who was assigned to one of the flights that was hijacked. She wasn’t feeling well that day and switched shifts with another stewardess who ended up dying on one of the planes. Other students tried to comfort her, as another student talked about a missing uncle for whom first responders were still looking under the piles of rubble at the site of the World Trade Center.

My family was spared. No one close to me was impacted, but as I learned in the days and weeks that followed, many other people in my social circles had people dear to them or close to their families who lost their lives. As a result, I was thankful, but also felt guilt. I felt numb. I felt anger. I felt helplessness. I was traumatized. But I’m sure the grief and trauma I experienced paled in comparison to those whom were affected that day. I can’t even imagine what they must have felt and still feel.

Every year is a reminder of those who were lost, and the lives they touched that day. My heart mourns for those who still experience painful memories and for those who lost friends and family close to them. However, I am also reminded God reigns and is sovereign during terrible events like 9/11 (Romans 8:28), and I can be a light to others in the midst of tragedy as I allow Him to fill the broken and confused parts of me and heal and, in turn, help others through the healing process.

We cannot change the past, but we are not helpless as lovers of Jesus. We can encourage those are struggling. We can pray for them and over them for peace. We can hold their hands as they go to counseling and therapy sessions. For

those who are tormented by memories, we can speak to the spirit of trauma and cast it out in the name of Jesus (yes, Child of God, you can pray for deliverance for the oppressed). We can intercede and agree for the Lord to bring strength and inner healing to the suffering. We can lead others to an encounter with the Lord by asking them to pray and ask Jesus where He was in the middle of the painful event. The peace and comfort people experience through this sort of encounter is often transformational by understanding that He experienced the event with them. They were never alone (Joshua 1:9).

And, heaven forbid, should another event like 9/11 come in the future, we can and must be the hands and feet of Christ. We must not be paralyzed.

“He heals the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

Finding Lasting Contentment

It’s an odd paradox to have all you need yet still feel discontent. If you are skeptical of this seeming contradiction, all you have to do is read or watch interviews of professional football players, rock stars, or other very successful people who state they have everything they ever wanted but still feel empty. As a result, their hearts wander. The direction of their lives cease to contain the same vibrancy it once did in their youth when they thought, “I’ll be happy if I can only achieve [insert ideal moment/thing here].” 

I am not trying to say we should not have dreams and ambitions in life. Setting goals and working towards them can be a rewarding process that brings honor and glory to God because it is an expression of who God has created us to be (1 Corithinians 10:31). But, with that said, the dream or ambition itself should not be our center focus. When it becomes the ultimate goal, discontentment can lead to an unhealthy spirit and elevate the process of filling a perceived lack to an idol. It’s a heart issue that affects non-Christians and Believers in Christ alike.

The Bible warns us about discontentment because it can be a symptom of disobedience. Why? Instead of looking to God to provide for our needs and give us the desire of our hearts, we develop a mindset of looking for a change in our circumstances to bring us happiness. See the example of Adam and Eve who ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they felt they were lacking something good that God was withholding from them. As a result, they willfully disobeyed the command not to eat of the tree. It is the heart of the natural man to constantly look at our own lack and try to fill it because we are looking for something eternal that only God can provide to us.

As a person who has climbed the proverbial career ladder and sought financial success for all the wrong reasons in the past, I recognize I must heed God’s whispered warnings to my heart about avoiding the discontentment trap. When things are going well, it can be easy sometimes to feel in control. When you cease to feel desperate, it can be seemingly easy to live a life without God at the forefront, steering the way. Ironically, it’s in those moments when I find I often need Him most, even though I don’t feel like I do.

How do we find contentment when our hearts are restless? Paul gives us the “secret” in Philippians 4:11-13 (AMP): “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. 12 I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. 13 I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

In short, Christ is the only one who can provide peace, where our attempts to answer the “if I only hads” of life cannot. I encourage you, Brother/Sister, if you find yourself discontent with the situation you’re in, meditate on the passage Philippians 4:11-13 and ask God to show you the root of your dissatisfaction and remind you of the source of your hope. Remember your God will supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I hope this post will encourage you and bring perspective about the important things in life. God is in control and has your best interest at heart. He intends to maximize the potential of who you are created to be and increase the effectiveness of your ministry in your life and those around you. He would never deprive you from something better.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

With much love,
Heather White

His Eye is on the Sparrow

What is the price of five sparrows — two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. – Luke 12:6-7 

I couldn’t believe it. God just used a faithful friend to give me turn-by-turn directions for something seemingly insignificant. How could it be that the God of the universe would care about something as small as a piece of code I was writing for a work form? Even now, my mind has a hard time catching up with my heart which knows God cares about all of the details of our lives, big and small. I hope my true story (from two weeks ago!) will encourage you.

As hour four quickly closed, I felt no closer to figuring out how to write a particular piece of application code that my supervisor wanted than when I first started. I admit to feeling a little hopeless at that point. I may be in the computer field, but I am not a programmer. I stared at the code with frustration for a long minute.

“Ask me,” the Lord stirred within in my heart in that familiar still, small voice.

“Okay,” I responded obediently, unsure what to ask exactly. “Lord, will you point me to the right resource?”

A few minutes after hearing nothing more, I texted a friend who knew the code language that I needed (I laugh now as I write this post because I think I felt like I needed to help the Lord answer my prayer). My friend tried to help and pointed me to a couple of sites, but my particular code issue was not something he was familiar with writing. The sites were useful suggestions, but after another hour fiddling with the code, I realized I was getting nowhere fast. As a last resort, I used my lunch to post a plea to Facebook for help.

“Now, what do I do, Lord?” I sighed.

A minute later, my smart phone buzzed with a message from another friend named Faith who responded to my request for help on Facebook (my friend’s name is not actually “Faith.” However, per her request, I changed her name as part of the permission she gave me to use her part of the conversation that you will read below).

“Did you ask the Holy Spirit about the code?” Faith asked.

“I asked Him for a solution,” I wrote back quickly.

“I agree He’ll lead you to a solution. I’m asking for a word of knowledge about it. I have no idea in the natural [physical world]. I’ll let you know what I hear in a few minutes.”

About ten minutes later, I received a follow-up message from Faith, “There’s something in the second part of the code. Does that make sense at all?”

I went back to my original code and started at the second sub statement, which happened to be the part I was struggling with all morning. Knowing that she had not seen the code and wasn’t a programmer, I started laughing at my excitement at what the Lord was doing through her, “Yes, your response makes perfect sense! I still need to get clarification on what to do with the second part though.”

“Okay, I didn’t know if codes have parts. LOL! I’ll ask what to do with it,” she confirmed before shortly continuing a minute later, “Delete something is what I heard. Like there’s too much maybe?” she mentioned.

I instantly recognized what she meant. “Yes, I think I did add too much to my code,” I agreed.

Although Faith could not hear me, I was laughing again as I looked at the code and removed what I suspected was incorrect from the overall module. When I was done making changes, I eagerly tested the code, but encountered an error.  However, I remained determined and I felt in my spirit that we were on the right path.

“I have no idea what I’m talking about,” Faith texted.

“That is funny to me, because I do know what you’re saying,” I confirmed. “I deleted the problematic code, but something is still missing.”

“Okay, I’m asking,” she responded and quickly followed up with “I am hearing something about a closing statement. Do they have those in programming?”

“Yes, closing statements are in programming” I confirmed.

I scrolled to the last closing statement, but nothing looked wrong. Everything appeared to be in order, and the syntax appeared correct. While I was still searching for my mistake, I received another message from Faith.

“Maybe not in the closing closing statement but one further up in the code?” she urged without knowing I was still struggling.

Her words suddenly made sense. Of course, the issue was with the end sub statement at the tail-end of the second sub command. It was the same code I had wrestled with all day. Immediately, I found the syntax error and corrected it. My fingers couldn’t press the run button fast enough when I realized that error was likely the last barrier to making the code work. Believe it or not, it worked! Perfectly! Only God could do that. I am still in awe.  

I’ve thought over the last several days why God would do such a seemly small thing. That piece of code would never have cured cancer or solved the problems of the world. It was a mundane script for a simple operational purpose at work. Why would God bother to help me with something so menial?

I believe God is involved in the details of our lives for many reasons. He’s a good Daddy. He loves us. It’s also a testimony of His great love in the little adventures of our everyday lives for others to see. If the whole event teaches someone about His love in even the smallest way, I feel it was worth doing and certainly worth sharing.

Peace and love to you, and may you experience His reality in your life — even in the smallest of things. If He cares for each tiny sparrow, He will certainly love you that much more!

Sincerely,
Heather

The Dreamer, the Deceiver and the Unbeliever

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20

Does God still give gifts of apostleship, prophecy, miracles, healing, discerning spirits, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, tongues and interpreting tongues to Christians today? Theologians and otherstackofbibles_sm Christian experts frequently debate this subject. As a result, I decided to write a post about this question, not from an argumentative standpoint, but as a way to understand my own personal journey and remain grounded in the Scriptures. Over the years as I studied the Bible, examined the Greek, and witnessed God’s hand in my life and the lives of others, my thoughts about the existence and use of miraculous gifts has shifted.

Early in my Christian journey, I regularly dreamed of real events involving friends and family which had not yet occurred. These dreams were so startling they prompted me to engage and encourage the person I had dreamt about. As I interacted with friends about what was happening to me, I quickly learned these gifts were not considered “normal” within my Christian social circles. As a result, for many years I ignored these gifts which I often called “curses” because I did not understand them. I usually kept them to myself. At the time, I was very young, and I didn’t understand what those gifts are, why they happen, and from whom they are given (1 Corinthians 12:11).

As the years passed, I saw spiritual abuse by people within other denominations who claimed to have gifts like mine, using it as a gimmick to get money from gullible people. It became easy to distance myself from those false prophets. I already wanted nothing to do with my gifts and primarily went to churches that believed in cessationism, meaning the miraculous gifts ceased with the 12 Apostles. I convinced myself, despite my own experiences, that all people claiming to operate in the miraculous were frauds and fakes or they were fooling themselves.

More years passed. I knew doctrine. I knew Jesus saved me, but my spiritual life was stunted and without power for various reasons. Life was often distracting and difficult at times. God was real, but I didn’t see Him actively moving in my life; and at the time, I so desperately needed Him to show up.

Then the year 2012 happened. That was the year God encountered me and everything changed. He used a tiny prayer room, Spirit-filled Christians from different denominations, and the wife of the minister to physically heal me from an anxiety disorder that I had suffered from my whole life. I was healed in an instant, and my life transformed forever because God heard the prayers of Brothers and Sisters that night.

As I walked through the days and weeks that followed, the transformation in my life became more evident. I wanted others to know what Jesus did for me. Most of all, I wanted other people to be free. If he did it for me, I knew he’d do it again for someone else. However, as soon as I shared my testimony, I met familiar resistance. Many people around me didn’t know what to think of my story. Some try to argue that God didn’t use that night to heal me, but it was tough to disagree that I was not the same person. What really happened to me?

Soon after being healed, I moved to a non-denominational, charismatic church and witnessed believers and non-believers become healed from cancer, injuries, mental oppression, and illnesses. I also met other

Drawn for me by a lady at my church (a stranger at the time) who didn't know my story, but she said felt like God was saying He was making a beautiful flower from the ashes.
Drawn for me by a lady at my church (a stranger at the time) who didn’t know my story, but she said felt like God was saying He was making a beautiful flower from the ashes.

Christians who prophetically dreamed like me. Suddenly I was normal and ordinary which was comforting.

Experiences are great, but they can be deceiving. I appreciate them because they provide valuable perspective, but what do the Scriptures say about the miraculous gifts? The best answer I can give you is “read your Bible.” His Word is my litmus test. To settle the issue in my own heart once and for all, I researched many verses and dissected them in their original Greek. Some of the verses I reviewed were:

  • Acts 2:17-18 a reference to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Joel 2:28-29 stating God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days [Greek lexicon]
  • Acts 4:10-16 the Apostles were identified as being sent by Jesus and performing miracles in His name and under His authority
  • 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 the gifts of prophecy and tongues are temporary [Greek lexicon]
  • 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 – the gift of tongues signifies that salvation is available to gentiles (also see Isaiah 28:11-12)
  • Romans 8:24 a possible connection to the “day of perfection” in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 [Greek lexicon]
  • Ephesians 2:20 a reference about the gentiles being included into the family of God upon the foundation of previous apostles and prophets. This verse is often used to state that apostles and prophets are no longer needed because Jesus, as the cornerstone, completed the Temple of the Lord.
  • Ephesians 4:11-13 Gifts and offices of the Spirit including apostles with a little “a” [Greek lexicon]
  • James 1:25 This passage talks about the perfect law has already come to compare it to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and Romans 8:24 [Greek lexicon]
  • Hebrews 2:3-4 Apostles (with a capital “A”) were identified as those who had been with Christ and performed signs and miracles in His name [Greek lexicon]

I hope the verses above help you come to your own conclusions, because after all the research I’ve done, I have decided the answer to whether or not God still regularly gives these gifts is not definitive. Phrases like “prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless…but when the time of perfection comes, these things will become useless” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, emphasis added) and “[Miraculous gifts] will continue until we all come into such unity in our faith…” (Ephesians 4:11-13, emphasis added) are not easily discernible. What is the “time of perfection” and “unity in our faith”? Do these passages refer to Jesus when He walked among us, or maybe they refer to when we die and we’re united with Christ? There aren’t clear answers to these questions, and the Greek fails to define these verses in enough detail. And what do the experts say? That answer also varies depending on whom you ask. What now?

At this point, I pray. I ask God for wisdom. I ask Him for discernment. I examine my experiences with a critical eye. I ask myself if those experiences have been tested or can be tested (1 John 4:1-3). Do the experiences proclaim the Gospel and point to Jesus, or do they simply exalt a person? If they do not point to Jesus, they are not from the Lord.

No matter what stance you take on this issue, it’s not the primary focus of our lives. That designation is reserved for Jesus alone. I hope this post encourages you on your faith journey.

In His love,

Heather

Giants in the Promised Land

She stared at the monumental task before her. Its completion seemed impossible. She understood how David must have felt with only a sling and a stone to take down a giant. Her mind raced. Her heart jumped. How would she get through this moment? Wasn’t she in the center of God’s Will? Didn’t she go where the Lord had called? Why was each step such an enormous effort? Did the Lord intend for her to fail?

I can think of countless times I’ve experienced that exact distressing scenario, wondering if maybe I heard God incorrectly or somehow removed myself from His Will and protection over my life. It’s not a fun place to be. Sometimes, we further confuse ourselves when we agree

Arriving

with well-meaning but uninformed clichés, suggesting God will always remove every obstacle and open every door when we’re on the right path.

It can feel distressing when you reach a new chapter, a momentary “promised land” in life and quickly discover it’s not going to be easy due to “giants” (obstacles, challenges, struggles, problems or seemingly impossible situations) in the land before you, threatening to spoil your victory and ruin you at every turn.

One evening a few months ago during my prayer time with God, I was particularly upset and confused about a giant in my life. I complained to my Abba Father for thirty minutes, asking Him why my mission field was enormously difficult and expressing how discontent it made me feel. I can almost imagine as I whined that God was calmly listening with an “are-you-done-throwing-your-pity-party-yet-so-I-can-talk” type of look on His face.

“Please speak to me through your Scripture, Lord,” I asked piously after concluding my rant (I understand if you’re snickering at me, dear reader). Little did I know how much God would use that request to teach me about how He felt my journey was going.

Soon after I voiced my request, the reference Acts 20:19-21 came to mind. As I wrote it down, another reference, Zechariah 4:10, popped in my head. I quickly wrote it below the first reference.

I was curious to know what the verses said as they were not immediately familiar references to me. I opened my Amplified Bible and leafed through until I found the first passage from Acts:

“Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and trials which came on me because of the plots of the Jews [against me]; [you know] how I did not shrink back in fear from telling you anything that was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public meetings, and from house to house, solemnly [and wholeheartedly] testifying to both Jews and Greeks, urging them to turn in repentance to God and [to have] faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [for salvation].”

The verse and section in context was Paul explaining that his ministry was difficult from the first day he entered his mission field in Asia and often accompanied by tears and trials. However, he concluded the end result was worth the struggle because it furthered the Gospel and glorified God.

I was floored. Did I just read that right? Did I not just complain to God about the giants in my mission field being too tall and the road too hard and too long from the first day I began this journey?

“Okay,” I mused aloud. “You’ve got my attention.”

I flipped eagerly to the other verse, now acutely aware the Lord was speaking clearly about that which I was groaning:

“Who [with reason] despises the day of small things (beginnings)? For these seven [eyes] shall rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord which roam throughout the earth.”

The second piece of Scripture was a bit more difficult to figure out because of the metaphors, but with some simple research, I eventually understood. The passage was about the construction of the Temple and God’s pleasure as He oversaw the building process. Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see, but the message was clear in my mind: The Father saw the construction within me, His Temple, growing pains and all, and was pleased.

I sat in my chair for several minutes, staring at the verses I just read. I was speechless. The words were not easy to read. God was delighted with how my journey was going. But was I? Not so much.

I wanted God to simplify my mission and agree with me to take away the obstacles, but He didn’t. Instead, I found myself having to face my giant head on. But I never fought the battle alone.

God often shows up in the most incredible ways in those dark moments when we find ourselves in Goliath’s shadow. Defeating such a giant requires faith and trust, even when the current circumstances look a lot like failure. It often means we keep fighting until we’ve reached the end. Only then do we realize God is always for us (Romans 8:28) and He’s always with us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He uses our weaknesses as His strength. Our victories over the giants in our lives grow us and prepare us to fight bigger battles. It witnesses to those who don’t know our loving God about His reality. Our testimonies of overcoming adversity teach others and build their faith to believe that they can do the same with God by their side.

Wandering in the Wilderness

“Everyone wants the promise, but no one wants to be pruned.” – Kris Vallotton

The journey of life is full of new beginnings, unexpected turns and course resetting. Often times, when we feel like we’ve arrived, a new change shakes us or grows us. Many times, this process is painful, but necessary for maturity.sand_sm

I have experienced many of my own twists and turns throughout my life journey; but through it all, God has been with me, guiding my steps and whispering reassurance to my heart along the way. You can read about my testimony and God’s goodness through my life struggles on my About Me page.

Earlier this year, I found myself at an unexpected crossroad in my career and life in general. I call it “unexpected” because I had known for years that God’s will for my life was to remain within my place of employment where I had been for the last 15 years in different positions. He confirmed His will for me to remain where I was many times by providing opportunities for me to minister to others through love and encouragement. He gave me moments to share His love and His nature with the lost, hurting and broken. He gave me lifelong friendships for encouragement, correction and growth. He even used my workplace to bless me with a husband who is the love of my life.

Amid the blessings were also job struggles and pains associated with maturing and disappointments along the way. In many ways, I believed my place of employment was my long-term “Promised Land” because it was where God had sent me. But then it happened — change.

Sometimes, the change in course is obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. In many previous crossroad situations, the choice was often not obvious; but in this particular case, there was no mistaking it.

Months earlier, I began to feel a deep stirring of the Spirit, nudging me and telling me it was a season of change. It was time to move. To be honest, I wasn’t excited. I know I should say I was giddy with anticipation about the prospect of moving on to a new adventure, but I wasn’t. I was finally feeling settled and comfortable in the position which I had been placed. It certainly had its challenges and issues. In fact, there was a storm going on in that area of my life; however, I assumed it was one of those issues that would eventually get better. Plus, I knew I would give up many blessings to change careers — daily interactions with amazing friends, a position that gave me direct access to the organization’s decision makers and knowing how my role fit into the organization. But my heart became restless and many nights were sleepless.

I realized the first day I felt tug of the Spirit on my soul that God was also giving me a choice. Although He told me it was time to change course, I also felt Him telling me I could remain where I was and He would bless me and others for His Kingdom’s purposes. However, I knew if I moved, it was the best choice that He had for my life. Even so it was not an easy decision.

I asked God, “Where will you move me? Where do you want me to go?” When I didn’t receive an answer, I prayed and waited.

Although I really hate change and my stomach was quite unsettled, I answered one morning, “I am willing to go wherever you called me.” In that moment of submission, I felt like God was saying to me through unspoken words to my heart, “Understand there will be a sacrifice; but if you lean on me and relinquish control, I will give you new coordinates for your life and career. I know you’ve dreamed for many years about a specific type of job. If you go where I’m asking you to go, your dream will be realized. But it won’t be without a cost. Spiritual growth and trust in me will be necessary to see it through to the end.”

When I asked God what the path ahead would look like, desperately wanting a roadmap to make the process less intimidating, I felt like He was telling me it would look nothing like what I could anticipate, and I wouldn’t know all the answers until the end. But He knew. I just had to trust Him. As I considered the terms, I took a deep breath and watched as my season of change was set in motion.

The trust aspect became my greatest trial I faced. There were plenty of twists and turns and lots of confusion like a complex maze, just as God had warned. The process of moving took much longer than I thought it would. Patience is still an area in which God is constantly teaching and correcting me. Several days, weeks and months passed before the process was complete. Also, there were multiple interviews at different places. When something appeared to be working out, it suddenly fell through, and I really didn’t know what or where to go until the last minute. Even after I arrived in my new workplace, I was in constant transition and helping in a couple different areas for several weeks. Although I struggled and change was hard, God was faithful and kept His promises, and I suddenly found myself with options to go into the field I love.

“Almost there! Just keep going!” I would tell myself. Some days, I said it to myself through tears. Did I mention change is hard? Sometimes, I wondered if I’d be in the Wilderness forever. For a restless heart, sometimes the waiting period can feel that way. It can be easy to lose your way and lose hope if you take your eyes off of Christ and focus on all the uncertainties. But God kept every word of the promises He gave me.

People often think of the Wilderness as punishment. They think of the Israelites wandering in the desolation for 40 years. Instead, it is usually a time of testing and trials intended to grow and strengthen us. It is a time of preparation for our next life chapter which requires more than previous situations had demanded. Wilderness moments, although sometimes extremely lonely and discouraging, is never without God’s grace (Mark 1:13). For me, the greatest experiences and often the closest I have felt to God occurred during my Wilderness moments. It makes the life struggles worth the perseverance when we see God move miraculous ways.

If you find yourself in your own Wilderness experience, take heart! You are not forgotten. God is preparing you for your next adventure. He’s giving you an opportunity to see Him move and to mature spiritually. You will see He is faithful, and you will eventually reach the end and discover your Promised Land.

May God’s peace, love and joy accompany you along your life’s journey.