You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

This is a true story of an unshakeable faith in the midst of great sorrow, grief, and suffering.

After returning from a week’s vacation with my husband, Jeff, I wrote the following in my journal.

“I can’t even imagine the grief, sorrow, pain, and hurt they are going through, and yet, their faith in Christ is secure.”

SAM_1280Jeff and I had the opportunity to attend a pastors and wives retreat in Buchanan, Michigan, at a beautiful facility called The Lodge. We spent four nights and five days with three other pastoral couples and our host couple, Ed and Gayle, who facilitated our sharing sessions.

Prior to beginning our sessions, we sensed a spirit of love and grace within the lodge. We are thankful for our prayer team who were praying for us, along with others. I know now that these prayers were not only meant for us, but also for our host couple.

We quickly learned that Ed and Gayle lost their precious adult son six months prior, through a tragic death. I don’t feel led to share any details, for they seem inconsequential in relation to the deep loss this dear couple has experienced. I will say that I’ve never been with anyone who has demonstrated such grace and faith in the midst of severe suffering. I didn’t mention the second part to their faith journey. Ed learned he had a large cancerous tumor in his bladder just a few months following his son’s death.

Ironically, I heard the following statement twice during our vacation/retreat week, “You can make your own choices, but you can’t choose your consequences.” This was spoken first by our retreat host and the second time by my sister-in-law. Both were restating what they had originally spoken to their adult sons.

I think this statement grabbed me to my core, as I thought of how God allows us to freely make our own choices in life and how these choices will either result in pleasing God or the folly of our own flesh. When we choose to go our own way, apart from God’s direction and leading in our lives, we really are saying to God, “I know what’s best for my life and I really don’t need your guidance or authority to rule over me.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it…the first sin in the garden.

Fletcher 2My thoughts quickly race back to our retreat hosts. Although they feel that their son made some wrong choices toward the end of his life, they also know and testify to the unmerited favor of God in their lives. Throughout our week together, they shared how in the midst of heartache over the loss of their son, they are choosing to hold God’s hand as they continue to serve faithfully in the ministry God has called them to. Their unwavering faith and commitment to Christ brings hope, healing, and encouragement to pastors and wives through Life Action Ministries https://lifeaction.org/. For more information about The Lodge, please go to: http://www.retreatatthelodge.org/.

Holding His Hand

In the deepest despairs of life, God is near. His promises are true. If you are overtaken with grief and sorrow over the loss of a loved one, I encourage you to cry out to Jesus. The Psalmist declares: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

For those wrestling with decisions, please consider the words of the Apostle Paul.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:7-10).

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“Now my wheelchair symbolizes independence.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni w therapist“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

JoniDad-Beach2_2_jpg_500x500_max_q85
Joni at the beach with her dad.

 “One hot July afternoon in 1967, I dove into a shallow lake and my life changed forever. I suffered a spinal cord fracture that left me paralyzed from the neck down, without use of my hands and legs. Lying in my hospital bed, I tried desperately to make sense of the horrible turn of events. I begged friends to assist me in suicide. Slit my wrists, dump pills down my throat, anything to end my misery!”

While angry with God and questioning His power, Joni Eareckson Tada’s friend, Steve, pointed Joni to Christ.

Joni believes God’s purpose in her accident was to “turn a stubborn kid into a woman who would reflect patience, endurance and a lively, optimistic hope of the heavenly glories above.”

Joni with friendsIf anyone knows what it’s like to suffer, Joni does. And yet, throughout the fifty plus years she’s lived as a paraplegic, Joni has given God full permission to use her life to help othersjoni painting and to honor Him. Joni is an artist (painting with her teeth), she’s authored over 50 books, and is the Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, an international advocate for people with disabilities. To learn more about this lovely woman and her ministry, please check out Joni’s website: http://www.joniandfriends.org/

Most of us won’t experience the same type of suffering as Joni, but everyone will eventually face some form of suffering. It could come through a broken relationship, a wayward child, indebtedness, a serious illness, and the list continues. When suffering comes, we too, have a choice to make… to hold God’s hand and allow Him to fill us with His unfailing love, grace, peace, and power to fulfill His purpose in our lives, or remain helpless and hopeless.

Holding His Hand

“My wheelchair used to symbolize alienation and confinement. But God has changed its meaning because I have trusted in Him. Now my wheelchair symbolizes independence. It is a choice I made and one that anyone can make.”  – Joni Eareckson Tada

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:18-39

The words of this song capture the thrilling perspective Joni has come to know in the years since her accident:

I rejoice with him whose pain my Saviour heals. And I weep with him who still his anguish feels. But earthly joys and earthly tears are confined to earthly years, And greater good, the Word of God reveals. In this life we have a cross that we must bear; It’s just a tiny part of Jesus’ death that we can share. And one day we’ll lay it down, ’cause He’s promised us a crown To which our suffering can never be compared.

That’s why Heaven is nearer to me, and at times it is all I can see. Sweet music I hear, coming down to my ear, And I know that it’s playing for me. For I am Christ the Saviour’s own bride, And redeemed I shall stand by His side. He will say, “Shall we dance?” and our endless romance Will be worth all the tears I have cried.

Heaven Your Real Home is one of my favorite books about living for eternity.

Heaven Your Real Home

Another book authored by Joni, Making Sense of Suffering.

suffering

Joni’s Corner: Weekly (Each Monday) encouraging thoughts shared by Joni, and her Diamonds In The Dust video series. See link below.

http://www.joniandfriends.org/jonis-corner/

Holding His Hand story of Joni, and photos are used by permission. Joni and Friends International Disability Center www.joniandfriends.org 

 

Posted in Disabilities, Faith, Fear, Hope, Suffering, Suicide, True Testimonies of God's Grace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Fret!

Me & Mom

Me & Mom

“Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them” (Psalm 17:10).

Don’t fret! Right, easier said than done. When facing a difficult situation, I tend to fret (worry or feel anxious). This is often my first reaction when fear sneaks in. Then as I recall God’s faithfulness, I gradually start to relax and peace comes.

Lying in my bed as a young child, I cried out in deep sorrow. I missed my mother, who passed away when I was seven. No one saw my tears in the dark of the night, I thought. That is until I mysteriously sensed a loving hand reach down and hold me close. This is the best way to describe my first realization of God. I continue to miss my mom, but I now recognize my Heavenly Father who faithfully comforts me with His loving presence.

Trusting the unseen hand of God “in the dark of the night” requires a steadfast faith in God’s goodness and an unquenchable desire for the Word of God.

Holding His Hand

“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” – Timothy Keller’s book: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.

I have found that journaling helps me recall God’s faithfulness in my life. Whenever I face a difficult situation, I’ll pick up one of my journals and read how God has been faithful over and over again throughout the years.

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Common Scarlet Thread

After completing three years of journaling about my greatest passion in life: to intentionally pass down my faith in Christ to my family, under the blog title Covenant Heirs, the Lord has now directed me to begin a new blog. The title: Holding His Hand.

(I will periodicallyScarlet Thread write in my Covenant Heirs blog https://covenantheirs.org/, for parents and grandparents.)

The common thread that binds Christians together is the precious blood of Jesus.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Through Holding His Hand blog, I will share personal reflections of how God deeply and compassionately cares for His children in the midst of life’s inevitable storms. In addition to my personal faith journeys, I will include true stories I’ve compiled of men and women who have also experienced God’s unfailing love and grace during their personal pain and suffering.

My first blog entry following this introduction is titled: Don’t Fret! My personal testimony of how God held my hand after the loss of my mother when I was seven. To receive this testimony (July 7, 2016), and to follow my blog, please click-on the Follow tab on the sidebar or complete your contact information underneath the Contact tab above.

In Psalm 37, David reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His people. In the midst of evil and personal suffering, he encourages believers to remain faithful and to trust God’s promises even when it all appears futile.

Psalm 37 (NIV)

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; 13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. 15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; 17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. 19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; 22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed.

23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.[b]

27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.

Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed[c]; the offspring of the wicked will perish. 29 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. 31 The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; 33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked  or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord  and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, 36 but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.[d] 38 But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future[e] for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

For further study of Psalm 37: (Excerpt from: Be Worshipful (Psalms 1-89), Repackaged — By: Warren W. Wiersbe)

David had written about the wicked in Psalm 36 (see vv. 1, 11), and he will pick up the theme again in Psalm 39. He wrote Psalm 37 in his mature years (v. 25), and in it he discussed the age-old problem of why the righteous suffer while the wicked seem to prosper. Perhaps this psalm was part of David’s preparation of Solomon for the throne (1 Kings 2:3; see Prov. 23:17-18; 24:19-20). Honest atheists and agnostics don’t have to wrestle with this problem because their philosophy of relativism forbids them to use words like good, bad, righteous, and wicked. However, those who believe in God sometimes wonder why He allows the wicked to succeed while the righteous suffer. The word wicked is found fourteen times in the psalm. The theological foundation for the psalm is the covenant God made with Israel, recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27–30. God owned the land, and if the nation obeyed Him, they could live in the land and enjoy its blessings. But if Israel disobeyed the Lord, He would first chasten them in the land (invasion, drought, famine), but if they continued to rebel, He would then take them out of the land (captivity). But it seemed that the wicked were prospering and that God wasn’t doing anything about it (see Jer. 12). The righteous could fret over the problem (vv. 1, 7-8), leave the land (v. 3), or go on being faithful, trusting the Lord to keep His Word (vv. 3, 5, 7, 34, 39). Like any mature believer who had been through his own share of suffering, David took the long view of the situation and evaluated the immediate and the transient in terms of the ultimate and the eternal. He encouraged Solomon and the people to believe God’s promises and wait on Him. In the psalm, he gave four encouraging assurances to believers who question how God is running His world. (See also Ps. 49 and 73.)

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