Share Each Other’s Burdens…

Reaching out for help is not easy for me. It’s not that I want to appear stronger than I am. I’m more concerned about inconveniencing anyone else with my problems. But sometimes the burden gets to be too much for me to bear on my own. In those moments, I’m thankful for the handful of family and friends on which I can lean.

Earlier this week was one of those moments. When I reached out for help through prayer and encouragement, the enemy of my soul tried to bring condemnation. His accusations were directed at my faith. He tried to tell me that I was somehow weak and not faith-filled enough to combat my emotional trial on my own. And I almost fell for it. I almost started to doubt my spiritual fortitude.

But then God, in His gracious love for me, reminded me of Israel’s battle against the Amalekites. “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arm soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset” (Exodus 17:11-12 NLT). The victory was dependent upon Moses being able to keep his arms lifted. But he couldn’t do it on his own. He needed help.

Galatians 6:2 says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (NLT). I am quick to offer support to someone who is walking through difficulty. But I’m more hesitant to receive support from others. However, there is no shame in needing help. As the challenges of my current circumstances begin to weigh on me, it’s okay for me to reach out for support. God has blessed me with an amazing support network. And I would be foolish not to use them to keep my hands steady.

Losing Control

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” – Isaiah 54:13

When my kids were infants, we brought them to church and dedicated them to the Lord. I remember this beautiful ceremony so well. We committed to raise them in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We recognized them as the gifts they were from God. And we acknowledged they were on temporary loan to us from Him. But somewhere along the way I forgot these babies were not really mine.

I’ve always struggled with fully releasing my kids to God’s care. Being in control is how I’ve dealt with the inevitable fear and worry that comes with parenting. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn, very painfully, that not even this super mama can insulate them from the pain of this broken world.

As I’m realizing my inability to shield my kids from all pain and disappointment, I’m being stripped of the delusion that I’m in control. I think that’s a good place to be. It’s not comfortable or easy. But it is good.

Isaiah 54:13 says, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV). This verse reminds me who is the ultimate caretaker of my kids. I can’t control every detail of their lives, but I can entrust them to One who can.

Trusting the Dream Giver

A few days ago, a friend and I were talking about how we walk through difficult times without always knowing why or what the end of the story will be. She pointed out that the people of the Bible also walked through hard times not knowing the why or seeing the end of the story–which got me thinking about some of them.

Joseph was one of those people. As we find him in Genesis 37, his life was on track. Sure his brothers weren’t huge fans, but he was deeply loved by his father. On top of that, God spoke to him through dreams. And they were good dreams:

“‘Listen to this dream,’ he said. ‘We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!'” (Genesis 37:6-7 NLT).

“Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. ‘Listen, I have had another dream,’ he said. ‘The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!'” (Genesis 37:9 NLT).

Then his life took a dramatic turn. His brothers, jealous because of the favor he received from his father and these dreams that foretold of them bowing to him, sold him into slavery. Suddenly, his life was very different than the one he had envisioned. He found himself in a foreign country, working as a slave. But the Lord blessed him, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master” (Genesis 39:2 NLT). However, despite finding success, this wasn’t exactly the fulfillment of his dreams. He was still off track somehow.

Once again, things took an unfortunate turn. He was falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison (Genesis 39:6-20). I can only imagine how Joseph felt. On that first night, I wonder if he cried out to God in frustration and desperation, “There must be some mistake! This can’t be right! What about the dreams you gave me?! How will they be fulfilled from here?!” In that moment, I believe Joseph had a choice–he could bemoan the unfulfilled dreams and become bitter. Or he could keep his eyes on the Dream Giver and trust Him to do what He said He would do. I think the story shows that he chose to trust God because, once again, God blessed him, even in prison: “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden” (Genesis 39:21 NLT).

But I’m sure this was a choice he had to make over and over again–in moments of fear or loneliness. Or when he successfully interpreted the cup bearers dream. I’m sure he thought this was the moment when all things would be set right. But the cup bearer forgot about him. And he was stuck in prison for two more years! I can imagine how hard it was for him to pull himself back up and say, “I will trust you Lord, no matter what!” But I believe that’s exactly what he did.

We all know the conclusion of the story. He was released from prison and saw the fulfillment of his dreams (Genesis 41-45). But none of it would have happened if Joseph hadn’t chosen to trust God–over and over again.

“God is not a man, so He doesn’t lie. He is not human, so He doesn’t change His mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” – Number 23:19 NLT

I’ve been given this choice too. I can choose to focus on the dream that is unfulfilled or the promise that has been unmet. Or I can keep my eyes on the Dream Giver and Promise Keeper. God’s Word says, “God is not a man, so He doesn’t lie. He is not human, so He doesn’t change His mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Number 23:19 NLT).

So I will choose to trust the Lord, no matter how many detours life seems to take. I will choose to trust Him, no matter how many times I get my hopes up that this will be the moment that all things are set right, only to be disappointed in people again. I will “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise” (Hebrews 10:23 NLT).

I can’t see the end of my story, but I know that God does. So I choose to trust Him, no matter what!

Hope for the Future

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

I used to feel so secure in my future. I had things planned out so far in advance–to the point that I stopped asking God what His thoughts were. Then my future became uncertain, and I was forced to trust God with it. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. I use Matthew 6:34 almost as an excuse for why I’m not planning anything beyond the next few minutes: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (NLT).

The truth is, the future frightens me. From one day to the next, I honestly don’t know what new pain or challenge I will face. I’ve told myself that by not planning for tomorrow I’m not worrying about it. But the reality is, I am so worried about tomorrow that I refuse to think about or plan for it. I’ve even trained my kids not to ask about anything beyond today. “Mom, can I have carrots in my lunch tomorrow?” Journey would ask. Then I’d hear Faith reply, “Remember Journey, don’t worry about tomorrow!” It sounds so spiritually stupid now as I write it. But I thought I was protecting them, along with myself, from unmet expectations of the future. If I don’t plan for it or hope for it, I won’t be disappointed.

But the other day, as I was dropping the kids off to school, Journey asked about plans for next summer. My first inclination was to give my usual caution: “We’re not going to worry about things that far in advance.” But I stopped myself before I said it. I felt so strongly that instead of shutting it down, I should encourage a hope for the future, not only for him and his sister, but for me too.

James 4:13-16 says, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (NLT). This was another verse I used to keep myself safe. But the point of it isn’t to tell me not to plan for the future. It’s to warn me not to make my plans without God’s direct involvement. After all, He said in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (NLT).

Just as the Corrie Ten Boom quote above says, I can trust God with my future. I can remember that He’s the one in control and He has good things planned for me. And in my trust of God, I can teach my kids to embrace the future and not be afraid of it.

The Struggle for Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

I’ve discovered the secret of living a life full of joy. Wanna know what it is? Thankfulness. Finding something for which to be thankful will always point me back to God and restore my joy. But here’s the problem: Most of the time I don’t want to be thankful. I want to complain and moan and cry and whine. Being thankful is just too much work. It’s just easier to complain, and frankly, sometimes it feels better–at least for a moment.

This weekend, my kids and I took a quick road trip to Legoland. What should’ve been a two-hour drive, stretched to nearly three hours. My kids, who are usually pretty good with long car drives, were becoming impatient. The traffic was cutting into their play time. But being the good, hypocritical mom that I am, I encouraged them to start looking for things about which they could be thankful. I even quoted scripture to them: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV).

Then Monday rolled around and all I could see was what was going wrong in my life. I complained and whined and got a sinus headache from all the crying. Then Tuesday came and more of the same. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I shake this funk I had stumbled into? But this morning, as I took a step back, I realized that in all my complaining, not once had I really taken the time to offer worship or give thanks. I had spent the better part of two days feeling sorry for myself and telling God how He was failing me. No wonder I was in a funk.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential for me to be honest with God–to tell Him truthfully when I’m struggling. We all need those unfiltered moments. But even in those times of “realness” with Him, something productive and life-giving has to come out of it. The only way I know how to do that is to take the focus off myself and my problems and look to Him.

So that’s what I’m doing. It’s not easy. It requires me to be intentional about what I’m thinking and talking about. But I’m choosing thankfulness and joy today.

What about you? How do you pull yourself out of a joyless funk?

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