When all the world is loud, God whispers.

dark cave“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper” 1 Kings 19:12.

Listen…so you may hear His loving and gentle voice.

For me, His voice whispered through a Bear Hugger.

Nearly nine years ago, at age 51, I experienced severe shortness of breath. Undiagnosed for a few months, I became increasingly more anxious and frightened with reoccurring incidents. Two that stand out to me:

Playing outdoors with our young granddaughter (4), I found myself gasping for breath, while wondering if I would even live through the moment, or get to see my granddaughter grow up. (She’s now 13.)

On another occasion, I found myself clinging to a sales clerk’s counter at Walmart. She probably should have called for an ambulance. Well, maybe not, since God’s timing is always perfect.

A few weeks later, I was finally admitted into the hospital with a suspected coronary artery blockage. My family surrounded me while I awaited my turn for a heart catheterization. I remember my biggest worry was not so much the impending procedure, since I desperately wanted relief from the inability to breath, but of being cold. I’m always cold!

After my family prayed with me, the nurses wheeled me into the surgical room. It’s there, I knew I was being cared for, not just by the medical staff, but by God.

After being transferred onto the surgical bed, I immediately experienced being embraced by a comfy warm apparatus. It was a large inflatable blanket-type device which blew warm air onto my cold body. Wow! I couldn’t believe my simple fear of being cold was eliminated in an instant. The nurses later told me the technical name of the device: Bair Hugger, or as I now affectionately refer to it as Bear Hugger.

I ended up having a stent inserted into my artery, which was nearly 100% blocked. And nine months later, a second stent was placed in the same artery. I think of it as God giving me double protection.

God held my hand during some serious health issues over the years and it gives me great joy to share this one with my blogger friends.

Holding His Hand:

I believe we will always experience God during fearful moments of life, if we will simply listen and watch for His unfailing presence in times of darkness. Recently, I was trapped by myself in an elevator during a storm. It was pitch dark! I couldn’t even see my hand in front of me. I began to panic, thinking I would be stuck for hours…and possibly plunge to the basement floor. Then, within minutes, the doors opened and I was free to escape the darkness. God often allows us to experience darkness in our lives (illness, a job loss, sin, etc.) so that we will experience His undeniable presence. A presence of peace, calm, and warmth…all culminating in God’s perfect love and protection during our fear.

Take Elijah for instance. Elijah had demonstrated courage before Ahab in the king’s palace and on Mount Carmel. He had also witnessed God’s supply by the brook, in the home of the widow, in the years of famine, in the fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice, in the coming of the rain, and in the ability to outrun Ahab back to Jezreel. However, when faced with the threat of Jezebel and the obvious fact there would be no immediate revival in the land, he suddenly became fearful and discouraged. Elijah was exhausted, and found himself in a dark cave, hiding from Jezebel’s death threat. But wait! It was in this dark and quiet place that Elijah heard God’s voice.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

For a deeper understanding of this Scripture passage, I invite you to follow the link to Bible.org ministry.

https://bible.org/seriespage/16-restoration-elijah-1-kings-195-18

Possibly you have found yourself in a dark place like Elijah or like me, facing a life-threatening situation, or it could be another fear that’s gripping your heart. If so, I encourage you to quiet your spirit and listen for God’s gentle whisper. It’s not easy in this extremely loud world, so it will take intentionality. Turn off all social media devices and find a place of solitude. It may not be a cave or a surgical room, or it may, but wherever it is for you, know that God’s presence is with you…just listen.

Does God allow rape?

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:4

Personal testimony written by Joy Pedrow.  Used by permission*

 As a victim of rape, I thought the rape was my fault. I did not fully understand that I was experiencing the result of sin until years later. No matter the reason for the rape, it still wounded me deeply. Because of my hurt and pain, I often wondered why God would allow His children to suffer.

my-tearsDuring the months following my abuse, God felt closer than ever before. He never moved. When I cried out in agony, He was by my side. When I prayed with tears streaming down my cheeks, He was there. When I begged Him to take away the pain, He held my hand.

He was there.

Right beside me, holding my hand, and helping me find healing. He was there and He knew this would happen. Even David knew that God was present and active in his life.

 “For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began Psalm 139:13-16

 I never would wish the pain I experienced on anyone, but you know what, God used that pain for His good and taught me a few valuable lessons.

First of all, God revealed to me that I did not know Him. I did not know the gospel. I thought I had to work for my salvation. I did not know about Grace. I did not know that I could experience God’s love in an intimate way. I thought God was a big guy up in the sky, telling me what to do, but never telling me why.

God used rape to bring me to my knees, see my need for Him, and fully surrender my life to Christ.

Secondly, God constantly uses my story for His glory. My ministry is built on authenticity and vulnerability. God gave me a story and I share it with the world, because sharing my story brings others freedom.

I experienced pain, but God has redeemed every single tear I cried.

Sin is ugly.

Pain is ugly.

Rape is ugly.

But God is beautiful.

Redemption is beautiful.

YOU are beautiful.

God may allow rape, but He is not distant, uncaring or uninvolved. If you are a victim, He is painfully aware of your suffering. I believe that night I was raped, that God was in the room. He was standing, angry, and pacing. He was MAD.

God HATES rape and will punish those who commit that sin. Read what His Word says about sexual sin:

“In this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8

 I believe that Jesus was there too. He was just as angry. Jesus felt the pain I was feeling. At that moment, the sin of the man who was hurting me was the sin that Jesus paid the price for on the cross. The immense pain I was experiencing as a result of sin was the same immense pain Jesus felt on the cross as the result of sin.

We are not alone in our suffering.

Good news, one day Jesus will bring suffering to an end.

You can choose to blame God for rape, since He allows suffering to happen, or you can blame sin. But if you choose to blame God, remember that He gave up His one and only Son for YOU. Do not place blame somewhere other than where it rightly belongs. We can choose to feel angry at God, or we can turn to Him for peace, comfort and healing. Does anger really help us find healing anyway?

God was present then and God is here now, ready to welcome you home, ready to love you and ready to help you find healing. In the midst of pain, choose to run to Him, instead of from Him, and trust in His perfect love.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed awayRevelation 21:4.

 ______________

 About Joy Pedrow

joy-pedrow*Joy Pedrow is a second year student, pursuing a Masters of Art in Christian Education degree in women’s ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. To know more about Joy, please visit JoyPedrow.com http://joypedrow.com/, where she points women to Christ so he can bring them healing from addiction and freedom from shame.

*Joy’s testimony was first posted by Sue Edwards on Thu, 01/19/2017. Follow this link for the original blog entry on Engage, a Ministry of Bible.org, posted by Dr. Sue Edwards.   http://blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_edwards/does_god_allow_rape

sue-edwardsDr. Sue Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women’s Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women’s Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women’s ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.

Some of my favorite quotes from Joy

When I cried out in agony, He (God) was by my side. When I prayed with tears streaming down my cheeks, He was there. When I begged Him to take away the pain, He held my hand.

 I never would wish the pain I experienced on anyone, but you know what, God used that pain for His good and taught me a few valuable lessons.

 I experienced pain, but God has redeemed every single tear I cried. 

 Holding His Hand

Only God knows the pain we will suffer while living on Earth. I can’t imagine knowing in advance the pain and suffering my children would incur. And if I did, I would do everything humanly possible to prevent each one.

God did know, and planned for His Son to suffer and die on the cross, to redeem the entire world from the power of sin and death. I cannot fathom this at all! However, I know this is true because I have received the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus by faith. Christ’s great and amazing love for me is what takes me through each painful occurrence, with the assurance that He is always with me. Praise be to our LORD and Savior.

 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.

If you have experienced rape or any other type of severe suffering, I want you to know God desires to hold your hand and lead you to complete healing and wholeness. Like Joy, prior to her rape, you may not know Jesus as your Savior. If not, I pray that you will receive Him now. Please click on this link: https://holdinghishand.org/receive-jesus/

I encourage you to share your pain with a trustworthy Christian (friend, pastor, counselor). God places people in our lives to love and support us when we need them the most. Joy shares her personal journey of healing from sexual abuse on her website at: http://joypedrow.com/2017/01/how-to-heal-from-sexual-abuse/

“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book” Psalm 56:8.

In the Face of Death, God has a Plan

Personal Testimony Written by Katie Finn

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” James 1:2-8.

Did you know that God always answers prayer? His timing is always perfect and He has a beautiful plan for each person He has ever created.

I was born blue in the face. One doctor tried to give me oxygen but it wasn’t helping me, and another doctor suggested that they check my blood sugar. My blood sugar was extremely low, in the single digits. They found out that the illness I had was rare and only a few children in history had been born with it. The child who survived the longest lived to age 14 and was unable to sit up, walk, talk, or feed them self. The doctors told my parents, in this condition, I would only live to age 21. Throughout my childhood I spent a lot of time in the hospital. My parents and churches from all over the world were praying for me and for the doctors to have wisdom. They prayed that the Lord would work through them.

Mike & Katie Celebrating their Anniversary
Mike & Katie Celebrating their Anniversary

At age 2 the doctors decided to remove half of my pancreas which had been producing too much insulin. I was healthy for about two and a half years and then I started to get very sick again. The doctors discovered that my pancreas had grown back and was producing more insulin than it had before, so at age 5 my pancreas was completely removed. I have been a diabetic ever since. Today I am nearly 30. God answered the prayers of so many people. I have had the experience of graduating high school, college, and am now married! These are three wonderful experiences that my parents didn’t know I would ever have.

God is so good! I thank Him for each day that He blesses me with. Each day is a beautiful gift from God. As I wake up each morning and begin to tear away the paper, I can’t wait to see what He will unfold before me as I open the box. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11.

I’ve had some very hard days which have strengthened my faith in God. I’ve come to realize I don’t have to go through these times alone because I have Jesus! I know that there will never come a day in my life that will present challenges that He can’t handle through me. My goal each day is to stay as close to God as I possibly can.

Through every surgery, hospital stay, and seizure, I’ve never had to face it alone. God is there. I believe that He always has a plan. All I must do is obey if He asks me to do something, and trust Him for the results. I’m so glad my life is in His hands. I know I would not be here today without Him!

No matter what challenges you may be facing, know that you don’t have to go through them alone. God loves you and if you will trust Him and believe that He has a plan, He will be with you through any challenge, any sickness, or any struggle you may ever have to face.

About Katie Finn:

Katie Finn
Katie Finn

I met Katie a year ago, when my husband and I accepted a call to pastor a church where Katie and Mike are members and serve God faithfully. After only a few conversations with Katie, I learned of her life-threatening illness and unshakeable faith in Christ. Her desire to please God in all areas of life is demonstrated by her humble and gentle spirit.

Unable to drive because of her illness and having other limitations with her vision, Katie doesn’t let this deter her from living a life of purpose and joy.

God has gifted Katie with many talents, including the ministry of music. She skillfully plays the piano and the flute, and sings beautifully unto the Lord. Katie also enjoys sewing, making many of her own clothes, and preparing healthy recipes.

Katie serves alongside of her husband, Mike, as Outreach Pastors at our church (St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene, KC, MO). They both have a tremendous heart for reaching people with the Gospel of Christ. Mike is completing his bachelor’s in biblical studies degree at MidAmerica Nazarene University, as he and Katie prepare for full-time ministry.

One of my favorite quotes from Katie’s testimony: Each day is a beautiful gift from God. As I wake up each morning and begin to tear away the paper, I can’t wait to see what He will unfold before me as I open the box.

Holding His Hand:

Mike and Katie Celebrating Christmas with Katie's family
Mike and Katie Celebrating Christmas with Katie’s Family

When all seems dark and hopeless, Jesus is there. While talking with Katie’s dad, tears filled my eyes as he retold the frightening hours/years following Katie’s birth. He said the doctors gave little to no hope of survival for their precious little girl. Katie’s parents spent endless hours lifting their hearts to God. And while confessing their anguish and fearfulness, they came to an altar of total relinquishment and trust, by praying for God’s will to be accomplished through Katie’s fragile life. The physicians’ non-encouraging consultations continued throughout Katie’s young childhood, and yet, hope and peace came through an ever-present awareness of Christ’s nearness and faithfulness.

Recommended Reading: 1 Kings 17:7-24 – Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

 

“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 

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.