How Job Teaches Us to Grieve With Hope

MARISSA BONDURANT|GUEST “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21). In February of 2019 my husband taped a sign on our refrigerator that said, “It’s been 0 days since an incident in this home.” He was trying to bring some levity to a horrible week for our family. One thing after another occurred and we were exhausted from dealing with all the emergencies. I remember feeling on edge with the thought of, “What’s next?” On a much bigger scale, Job understood what it was like to receive one tragic report after another. In Job 1:13 a messenger arrives and tells Job about the Sabeans who came, taking all his oxen and donkeys and destroying his servants. While he was still talking, another messenger entered and told Job that fire consumed all his sheep. While he was still talking, a third messenger inform him that his camels were stolen and more servants killed. And while that messenger was still talking, a fourth comes in and tells Job that all his children perished in a horrible house collapse. His children, his livelihood, his finances… all gone in a single day. How did Job react? And how can his response encourage us in our sufferings today?...

How Job Teaches Us to Grieve With Hope2022-08-03T01:53:44+00:00

A Living Grief

HEATHER MOLENDYK|CONTRIBUTOR Hot water pounds my shoulders. I reach to turn the temperature hotter, desperate for the heat to stop the shivering in my bones. Although I am completely alone, my arms hug my naked chest in a protective gesture. They attempt to hold the broken pieces of my heart together. They utterly fail. The crumpling starts with my face before traveling down my vulnerable form. Dry sobs push up through my throat, contorting my mouth in a silent scream. There I stand completely alone, body raging against the guttural pain of grief, and unable to catch my breath before the next wave of tears push past my clenched eyes. To say that losing a loved one is hard is like saying an erupting volcano causes landscaping inconveniences. The exit of one you love always leaves a hole. Others may make substitutions. Others may offer what they can. But just like the uniqueness of individual snowflakes, each person in our lives contributes a special touch that only their fingerprints can make. We all know that life – no matter how vibrant and impactful – is always temporary. Each person is destined for eternity somewhere else. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. No one can live forever. That’s what each carved stone whispers to us from the cemetery. To dust we all return. No one is exempt...

A Living Grief2022-06-25T20:12:15+00:00

John 16: A Perfect Peace

BETHANY BELUE|GUEST It is 6:00 p.m. on a Friday night. The kitchen is a mess with dirty dishes scattered on the counter and crumbs blanketing the floor from a toddler who thinks throwing his food is funny. My hair is tied in a messy ponytail, and spit-up stains dot my shirt. My 19-month-old is running wild awaiting bath time while my two-month-old cries, ready for her last little nap before the end of the day. As I look around at this scene, with toys scattered everywhere and the sounds of young children filling the home, I can’t help but laugh. Although I’m living in my very own circus and a far cry from how I used to spend a Friday night, I laugh at how different my life is now and how peaceful my heart is in this moment of chaos. For all of us, the last few years have felt heavy, unnerving, and probably at times like living in a dramatic movie. Between a pandemic which has completely changed so much about our world, political divisions, racial unrest, and continual brokenness that fills our lives, we can all say we have faced tribulation. While all of these things have impacted my life personally, the biggest focus in my world has been the birth of two children in less than two years after years of struggling with infertility. These babies were prayed for, longed for, and still very much a surprise to us. In a short period of time, while the world around us changed dramatically, everything in our personal lives changed as we welcomed these two little lives into our family. As I navigate this new season that feels like I’m barely keeping my head above water, I surprisingly told a friend recently, “I think I may be more at peace now in this season than I've ever felt before.”

John 16: A Perfect Peace2022-05-04T23:34:24+00:00

John 16: Peace in Jesus

ALLISON VAN EGMOND | GUEST The world news blares updates about recent warfare. An email alert chimes with bad news from a doctor. A mom yells in frustration. A pastor is persecuted for speaking the truth. A teen is plagued with suicidal thoughts. A kid screams for attention. A couple quarrels regularly. A woman struggles with falling into the same sin. There are many daily concerns that threaten to steal our peace. Longing for Peace Our chaotic lives can cause us to feel overwhelmed and unsettled. We are surrounded by various forms of suffering. Sometimes in the midst of the turmoil in my own life, I dream about lounging on the beach with a book in my hand, a salty snack to nibble on, and the soothing sounds of the ocean around me. Perhaps you’ve had a similar daydream. When life seems to swirl in chaos around us, we tend to want to escape the noise. We dream about another world, another place where there are no demands on our attention, no noises filling our ears, no fears or sorrows filling our minds. We long for a break. A pause button. Peace and quiet.

John 16: Peace in Jesus2022-05-04T00:23:38+00:00

John 15: Abide, Wholly Dependent Yet Secure

MELISSA OSTERLOO | GUEST Relationships are powerfully influential; we begin our lives completely reliant on the love and care given to us by our parents. Secure attachment— trust built over time through consistent encounters of dependent needs being fulfilled— informed us that we were seen, safe, and valuable. Children naturally feel at home in their parents’ arms, no matter what circumstances surround them. They grow and thrive, confident that their longings will not go unnoticed. We can learn a lot from children. In John 15:1-2, Jesus describes himself as the true vine, and his Father as the vinedresser. "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." Over the past four years, I have been living through a tough season of pruning. My husband, Adam, and I moved to northern Alabama in March 2018 for what seemed to be a great opportunity. He had built a solid reputation in the commercial truck industry and was recruited to open a new sales territory that had great potential. However, within just 8 months, instead of reaping the rewards of hard-earned commissions, we found ourselves endorsing the back of a severance check. Just enough to get by for a couple of months, and mere weeks before Christmas. Our harvest had not been fruitful.

John 15: Abide, Wholly Dependent Yet Secure2022-05-04T00:27:40+00:00

The Presence of Joy, Even in the Midst of Tears

KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR I lost my dad to cancer when I was twenty-three years old. We were close, and my dad was, in many ways, an anchor in my life, so I struggled immensely in the months following his death. One of the cards we received during this time had Nehemiah 8:10 printed on it: “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” I remember staring at the words longing to understand what it meant to have joy in the midst of my pain. A few years later I sat in my sister’s living room while she battled the side effects of treatment for breast cancer. The world felt weighty. I pushed back tears as I looked through her music, hoping to find something uplifting, joyful. I saw a song entitled, “Joy,” so I played the music anticipating a fun and light tune. What filled the room were the words of the familiar childhood song: I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart… But the singer sounded…sad. It was almost as if she was crying as she sang the heartfelt words. I dropped to my knees and prayed. Is this what it means to have joy in you, Lord? Can I cry while remaining joyful?

The Presence of Joy, Even in the Midst of Tears2022-05-04T00:30:38+00:00

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love for Us

BARBARANNE KELLY | CONTRIBUTOR “He loves me. . . he loves me not. He loves me. . . he loves me not” Did you ever play this childhood game? Plucking the petals from a daisy to determine the feelings of a childish sweetheart, the outcome dependent upon whether the flower had an even or odd number of petals. Silly, right? What does the number of petals on any given flower have to do with the intentions of the heart? And yet, is this the narrative that plays in your mind when suffering comes? Do you pluck from the circumstances sent by our heavenly Father to determine whether he loves you? Some circumstances feel loving, others don’t. When he makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters (Ps. 23:2), do you sing, “he loves me!”? When he calls you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4), does your heart whisper, “he loves me not”? Suffering forces us to face what we truly believe. Do we believe that God loves us and that he is working all things—even hard things—for our good? When trials come—and they will: disaster, disease, depression, death—which narrative will be our default? When faced with pain, what is the first thought, and then the next, and the next, that enters our minds?

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love for Us2022-05-04T00:31:59+00:00

On Suffering Well and the Mercy of God

MARISSA BONDURANT | GUEST She stood next to me one Sunday with tears streaming down her cheeks. Without looking at her, I gave her arm a squeeze. Both our faces were up; both of us were singing loudly. But I was singing of God’s faithfulness with a new baby strapped to my body, and she was singing of God’s faithfulness with the stinging news of another failed IVF treatment. In my heart I wondered, “How is my friend doing it? If I were in her shoes, there is no way I’d be able to sing to the Lord this morning.” Suffering Well Have you ever had a similar thought? Have you ever watched a fellow believer suffer well and wondered how she did it? It might help to define “suffering well.” To suffer well is to suffer like Jesus. To acknowledge the real pain and sorrow of the experience, while simultaneously holding on to the hope that the pain will not last forever. Before he went to the cross, Jesus was honest with his Father about his pain – asking God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26:39). Then his prayer moved directly into hope and trust, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). My friend who sang praises to the Lord in the middle of heartache was not ignoring her pain. She was pleading with God to make her a mom, but she also held onto God’s promise to make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Perhaps hardest of all, she trusted that God’s version of beauty would be better than any version she could imagine.

On Suffering Well and the Mercy of God2022-05-04T00:42:31+00:00

In the Darkest Night: Draw Near, Hold Fast, Consider Others

LEAH FARISH|GUEST In the darkest season of my life, I was lifted decisively out of the pit by a passage in the book of Hebrews. The three simple commands embedded in it made all the difference. Like many crises, mine was a wreck of multiple trains. My legal work on a case had provoked opposition that descended to the level of criminal threats against me and my client. Physically, I was dangerously fatigued and in pain. Travel upheavals had left me on a different continent from my husband and children. It was almost Christmas, and a snowstorm made even church attendance unlikely. I opened my Bible to Hebrews 10, and this is what I read: Therefore, brothers,] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (vv. 19-25) Three phrases stood out to me, leading me like flashing beacons in an icy night: Draw near With these two short words I was summoned into God’s presence. The fire in those words of Hebrews warmed me. I had been asking for so many things, and now I could see I was being welcomed not just to speak to the Lord, but to climb up in his lap and feel his embrace. My heart was broken and fearful, but I remembered, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18), and that if I draw near to him, he will draw near to me (James 4:8)...

In the Darkest Night: Draw Near, Hold Fast, Consider Others2022-05-04T23:29:47+00:00

The Backwards Baby Announcement

SUSAN TYNER|CONTRIBUTOR Interruptions are not my finest moments. Whether a flat tire or a sick child, I get frustrated when I can’t walk through the day as it’s set on my calendar. Imagine how Mary felt. According to Luke 1, Mary was minding her own business when Gabriel knocked on the door. There she was, flipping through a stack of wedding magazines when an angel gave her a backwards baby announcement. Instead of a pregnant mother announcing that she’s expecting, Mary was told to expect a baby. The Baby. This was more than a flat tire kind of interruption. Not only did Gabriel’s announcement change the trajectory of her life, this pregnancy threw a serious kink in her plans to settle down with Joseph. Gabriel’s words made any white picket fence dreams go up in smoke. And besides the obvious shock of an angel dropping by, his words did not make sense. Mary knew enough about the birds and the bees to ask how? If she were a virgin, how could she become a mother? Gabriel explained a bit more, but I wonder if that just made Mary more confused (after all, what does “overshadow” even look like?). How did Mary respond to getting her world turned upside down? Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38) First, she believed. Mary did not understand all the nuts and bolts of how she would get pregnant, but she accepted the extraordinary explanation that God would be the Father of this holy child even as she, a sinful woman, carried Him. While the old priest Zacharias (read the previous passage) pushed back on Gabriel during that angelic interruption, Mary, a mere teen, accepted the mystery of immaculate conception...

The Backwards Baby Announcement2022-05-04T23:30:05+00:00
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