Waiting on the LORD

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Part One of Three

Part 1: A brief look at three women and one man who experienced great loss and the raw emotions they displayed during their pain. In this three-part reflection, we will begin to answer these questions:  Is there purpose in waiting on God?  Does God love me and care about me? Why do my prayers seem to go unanswered?

Waiting for the LORD to act on our behalf or answer our prayers can seem unbearable at times. And I believe even more so in this high tech, instantaneous world we live in.

I’ve been studying the life of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Both women were widowed and experienced feelings of abandonment, great loneliness, poverty, and an uncertain future. Any one of these emotions can evoke fear and a sense of hopelessness, let alone the combination of multiple struggles and hardships.

Possibly you can relate to some of these emotions or others that seemingly hit without much warning, or at other times, seem to linger much longer than we’d prefer. I know that I can relate to most.

It became clear to me that Naomi’s deep grief stemmed from not only the death of her husband, but also the death of her two sons. I personally can’t fathom the intense sorrow and pain of these multiple losses. I’ve been told from close friends who have experienced a death of a child, that this is the greatest pain they’ve ever experienced, even more so than the death of a spouse or parent.

Marriage of my mom and dad. Rev. Alvin Mueller, pastor who led my mom to Jesus during her battle with cancer.
My grandmother, grandfather, and me

I do know that the pain of losing my mother at age seven was severe, but as I look back, I realize that my pain paled in comparison with that of my paternal grandfather. He experienced the death of his only child, (my father), the death of his wife, his parents, and my mother, all within seven years.

Me and my grandfather

Being raised by my grandfather following the loss of my mother, I observed what I thought to be peculiar behavior in my grandfather, especially around certain holidays. At the time, I didn’t understand why my loving and doting grandpa would often remain in bed on Christmas mornings. Much later, as an adult, I realized that my  grandfather suffered intensely during Christmas, as he recalled cherished and happier memories of his deceased son and wife. This time of the year was also a trigger for his pain, with the birth and death dates falling during the holiday season. I now look back with great love, compassion, and empathy for my tenderhearted grandfather.

I suppose this is why I can relate to Naomi. Her anguish was intense and the way she responded was real. The following is Naomi’s response to her hometown, as they exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” Her Hebrew name means “pleasant.”

Returning to Bethlehem, after being gone for ten years, and following the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi expresses her heartache to the crowd and to God.

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Mara in Hebrew means “bitter.”

Some who haven’t experienced the same type of suffering may be quick to judge Naomi for her direct response, and this is understandable. It’s often difficult to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes unless you have worn the same shoes.

For me, it’s easy to relate to Naomi’s raw emotions because of my personal experience and the observation of my grandfather’s response to great loss.

It’s amazing how God helps us to identify with those who have experienced the same or similar losses. I believe He does this so that we can offer hope and encouragement to those who He brings into our lives.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Throughout this fascinating love story filled with a plethora of drama and suspense, we learn a lot about two women who learned to wait upon the LORD… for His divine and providential plans to unfold in their lives. From the account of Scripture, Ruth possessed a humble and faithful spirit of servanthood and obedience. Observing these attractive character traits first in her mother-in-law, Ruth began to emulate Naomi’s genuine faith. Doing so, Ruth placed her faith in the One True God, which ultimately led her to her kinsman redeemer and future husband, Boaz.

Over a relatively short time span, we see how Naomi’s trust in God revitalized as she passes along words of wisdom to Ruth.

Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). This refers to Ruth waiting to hear back from Boaz, to learn if he could legally purchase Naomi’s land, and in doing so become Ruth’s husband. (Ruth 4 describes this God-ordained transaction.)

Waiting on the LORD for answers to our prayers and for a much-desired miracle can seem like “forever” in some instances. And there are times that we may feel like giving up and even blaming God for not “coming through” for us. If you’re human, you have probably felt like Naomi at one time or another. And this is perfectly okay! God understands our heart, even more than we do. He created us with a full range of emotions, and He is big enough to handle our outbursts resulting from inner strife and pain.

God also knows that waiting on answers to our prayers can be a true test of our faith. In fact, God often uses the time of waiting to strengthen our faith. Here are a few examples from the Bible of those who found themselves in a time of waiting on the LORD.

  • Jesus had to wait until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23) to fulfill His mission on earth, performing miracles and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Then 3 years later, Jesus completed His mission on the cross, for the redemption of the world. (John 3:16)
  • Jesus then waited 40 days after his resurrection from the grave before He ascended to the Father. (Acts 1:3)
  • The apostles had to wait 10 days after Jesus ascended before they received the promised Holy Spirit in the upper room. (Acts 1:4-5)
  • Moses, at age 80 (Exodus 7:7), had waited in the desert for 40 years (Acts 7:30) before he was sent by God to rescue the children of Israel from Pharoah.
  • The Israelites waited for 430 years before God delivered them from the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:40)
  • Abraham had to wait 25 years for the birth of his son Isaac. (Genesis 21:5)
  • Noah had to wait for 120 years from the time God told him to build the ark until the time of the flood. (Genesis 6:3)
  • And Mary and Martha waited a gut-wrenching two days before Jesus came to heal and ultimately raise their brother Lazarus from the grave. (John 11:5-6)
  • An invalid for 38 years waited by the Pool of Bethseda to be healed. (John 5:1-16) (See link to The Chosen, “The Perfect Opportunity”)

When hardships and new obstacles come our way, do we instantly turn to God for guidance and provision, or do we fret and worry, and try to fix problems with our own means and within our own time schedule? Scripture teaches that our trials teach us to trust in God and strengthens our faith in Him. It also teaches us that our trials produce a deeper intimacy with the LORD (1 Peter 4:1-2). When we accept that hardship is a part of the Christian life, we can lean on God and grow closer to Him.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

When, (not if) we find ourselves in a time of waiting, God promises to be with us and to give us His power and wisdom to navigate through these difficult seasons of life. All God asks of us is to take hold of His outstretched hand of mercy, grace, and unconditional love, and rest assured of His perfect timing. The following passages of Scripture are encouraging to me, and I hope they will be to you as well.

“For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.…” (Romans 8:24-26).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Romans 8:35)?

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

As we wait upon the LORD and trust that His way is better than our plans and desires, and that He understands our needs better than we do, we will be able to rest in His perfect love and provision. Our heavenly Father sees what lies ahead and knows what He wants to accomplish in every situation of our life. And as we spend time in His Word, we will discover that our trust in God is growing as we discern His ways and plans are for our good and not for harm. (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Chosen TV Series (Season 2, episode 4) “The Perfect Opportunity” – offers a heart-wrenching rendition of someone waiting on the LORD for healing thirty-eight years, and the dance of victory he receives through Christ alone.  (The link below will give you directions for watching The Chosen.)

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https://thechosensupport.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360045859754-How-Do-I-Watch-The-Chosen-On-My-TV-

Watch for the next blog post: Part Two: Reasons for Waiting—A Time of Testing

“When We Fall Apart” – Songs of Hope

While driving to work I heard this song playing on the radio: “When We Fall Apart.” I don’t recall hearing it before, but the words caught my attention. A portion of the lyrics:

“When We Fall Apart” by Ryan Stevenson, songwriter, musician

You were 43 when you got the news
Life will be changing, nothing we can do
The clock is ticking now
All I can think about
Is knowing I have to move on without you somehow
And I just can’t believe
That you’re the one whose keeping it together
As you hold my hand and say

It’s okay to cry
It’s okay to fall apart
You don’t have to try
To be strong when you are not
And it may take some time to make sense of all your thoughts
But don’t ever fight your tears
‘Cause there is freedom in every drop
Sometimes the only way to heal a broken heart is when we fall apart

Ryan Stevenson penned these words ten years after the death of his mother. His personal testimony:

I remember the last words my mom spoke to me. She said on her death bed in our last conversation, ‘don’t ever think that you need to have it all together. Don’t ever think that you need to fight back your tears because sometimes the only way we see clearly is when we look through our tears. Sometimes our greatest act of strength is really our weakness. It’s in our surrender. And sometimes the only way we heal is when we just let go, crumble and fall apart.’” – Ryan Stevenson

To listen to this song, “When We Fall Apart,” see the  video at: https://youtu.be/xUPgzd3nwMo

Following nine years as a paramedic, Ryan Stevenson signed an exclusive agreement with Gotee Records in 2013 after capturing TobyMac’s attention by co-writing the No. 1 and Grammy-nominated single “Speak Life.” In 2015, Stevenson’s full-length album “Fresh Start,” featured the RIAA Gold-certified single “Eye of the Storm.”

“The Eye of the Storm” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sx8wTnnfSc

“I’m so thankful that songs sneak past us and our boundaries and penetrate to the heart. I just want to encourage everybody to be bold, speak out about your brokenness, speak out about things that are actually going on in your life because that is what makes what we are doing special and sets people free – that is our testimony that truly starts revival.” – Ryan Stevenson

Arriving at work, I began to research more about Ryan Stevenson. Wow! I’m not sure why I hadn’t learned about this Christian music artist before, but I have heard many of his songs on the radio. Some which include: “Eye Of The Storm,” “Speak Life,” Amadeo.” Each one has an amazing story behind it.

TobyMac and Ryan Stevenson

God took a tenderhearted little boy from Bonanza, Oregon, and shaped his yielded spirit to follow Christ…through various means. Childhood and teenage insecurities, seeds of faith planted by his parents, church attendance and his youth pastor, as a caretaker for his mom who was diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year in high school, a ‘chance’ encounter with a woman struck by lightning while working as a paramedic, the death of his mom, his wife’s miscarriage of twins, and a special unexpected meeting with TobyMac.

Without going into detail of each one, I encourage you to listen to the amazing God-filled testimony of Ryan Stevenson on the Billy Graham Association website: https://billygraham.org/audio/how-ryan-stevenson-found-peace-with-god-in-the-eye-of-the-storm/

Abbreviated testimony of Ryan Stevenson talking about his songs, by CCLI – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQPQcy9nzJk

Each of us will encounter storms in life…death of a loved one, job loss, cancer diagnosis, divorce, infertility, wayward prodigal, financial hardship, and the list goes on. And some of us may face more and even greater hardships than others.

Because we live in a fallen world (Genesis 3), because of sin, we will all face difficult and painful circumstances. However, there is good news for those who have placed their trust in the LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“One glorious future day, the curse of corruption and decay will be lifted for all eternity: “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:19–21, NLT; see also Revelation 22:3).” (To read more see: Got Questions, What Does The Bible Say About Corruption? https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-corruption.html  

During our women’s Bible study, our teacher wrote on a dry erase board all the bad things we could think of. It was quite a list! But then she added: Starvation, the Rwanda genocide (where Hutu extremists murdered at least 800,000 Tutsis over the course of 100 days), mass shootings where gunmen shoot and kill children, youth, and adults. Then she said, “And, yes, God is still the comfort for ALL those who mourn.” Our feelings may tell us otherwise, especially in the moment of great despair. Just like our Bible study teacher tearfully recalled, “There was a time when I didn’t believe God could comfort me, when my daughter passed away (from a very rare illness caused by a waterborne amoeba that attacks the brain).” She went on to say, “But God understood my pain, and He was and is faithful to be my comforter.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

I pray that these testimonies and songs of hope will encourage you today. And for those who are going through a difficult journey, May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13).

With the love of Jesus,

Charmé

“Wildest Dreams” Album

Ryan Stevenson –  https://www.ryanstevensonmusic.com/

“Eye of the Storm” book

 

Ryan Stevenson and his family

 

Loss of a spouse…GOD IS FAITHFUL!

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Written by: Mary Alice Medley

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Daryl & Mary Alice Medley 50th Wedding Anniversary

On September 17, 2014, we went to Daryl’s doctor’s appointment. While we were there he became very ill so I took him to the emergency room. This was the beginning of our journey together until February 27, 2015 when Daryl went home to his eternal reward.

During those long days, weeks, and months, I remained by Daryl’s side. Driving daily to and from the hospital or the nursing home, some of the trips were in torrential rain and the dark of night. Daryl, knowing I’m not a good driver and have no sense of direction, worried about me and always said, “be careful” or “is the car running okay?” I didn’t have a single accident or any car trouble during this time. I had wonderful friends who offered to drive me on days when I couldn’t. GOD IS FAITHFUL!

There were many trips to the emergency room and the hospital–eight trips to the ER and admitted to the hospital six times. When Daryl wasn’t in the hospital he was in the nursing home. Healthcare facilities are not cheap! When I saw the final cost (nearly $600.000), it was breathtaking. Yes, we had insurance and it paid a large portion of the expenses, but I was responsible for several thousand dollars on the hospital and doctor bills, plus nursing home and dialysis center expenses. Every time I received a bill from the hospital I called to make arrangements for monthly payments and most of the time they were very cooperative. In fact, while paying on four different hospital bills, I received another one. So, once again, I called to arrange payments. But after checking on the information, the clerk returned to the phone and said, “The bill is paid in full!” GOD IS FAITHFUL!

I accepted the fact that I would be making monthly payments for a long time. However, God had another plan. Daryl and his siblings inherited a farm several years ago. The farm had been on the market but hadn’t sold and we all wondered why and when someone would buy it. About a month after Daryl was hospitalized, I received a call from his sister. She said, “We sold the farm.” I told her that was an answer to prayer and I would use the money to take care of Daryl. We did not receive a huge sum because the proceeds were divided among five siblings, but I have NO medical bills! God’s timing is perfect. GOD IS FAITHFUL!

While Daryl was ill, I had some issues at home. The refrigerator quit. I didn’t want to take the time to go shopping, so I ordered a new refrigerator online. It was delivered and the old one removed. The delivery man said he needed to turn off the water for the ice maker on the old fridge, so he went downstairs and turned it off, supposedly. After several days, I noticed water on the laundry room floor and could see where a pipe was leaking. I called a plumber we had used previously. The plumber came and discovered all the wood flooring under the kitchen was water-soaked and the kitchen floor needed to be pulled up and the wood dried out. I was unable to get someone to come out immediately to dry everything out, and they would not install a new floor until they were sure my insurance was going to pay. I made many phone calls over the next several weeks, trying to assure that the damage would be paid for. Eventually, I received a check for the entire cost and got a nice new kitchen floor. GOD IS FAITHFUL!

God continues to show His faithfulness to me in so many ways.

One day I had a flat tire. I had never aired up a tire, so God provided a kind gentleman who offered to help me. The next day some kind friends followed me to Tires Plus so I could get it fixed. GOD IS FAITHFUL!

My garage door failed to stay down. so I prayed and said, “Lord you know I won’t sleep tonight if this garage door is up.” I tried one more time and it went down. I called a repairman who came out quickly and fixed it. The cost was minimal because I had purchased a maintenance agreement with the company.  GOD IS FAITHFUL!

One day I was getting ready to run some errands, and when I turned the key in the car ignition, it wouldn’t start. I needed a new battery. I walked across the street and asked my neighbor if he could help. He came, put the battery charger on and instructed me to a place where I could buy a new battery and have it installed. I was up and running within an hour. GOD IS FAITHFUL!

Just recently, I was driving down what is typically a very busy street. Suddenly a large dog jumped out in front of me. I stopped immediately, but I hit the dog. He rolled over several times right down the middle of the street. Thankfully, there were no cars coming! The dog jumped up on all fours and ran away. I am so thankful I didn’t run him over because he would have been hurt badly and I would have damaged my car considerably. Also, if there would have been anyone coming behind me, they could not have avoided hitting my car, which would have caused considerable damage. GOD IS FAITHFUL!

When we started this journey in September of 2014, the Lord gave me a verse from Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

God’s promises are sure and HE IS FAITHFUL!

About Mary Alice: I first met Mary Alice when my husband was interviewing for the lead pastor position at St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene, KC., MO. Since then, I ‘ve had the wonderful opportunity getting to know Mary Alice as a friend and sister in Christ. She demonstrates a strong and dedicated faith in God. Mary Alice is the prayer coordinator for our church and is always reaching out to those who need encouragement, including me. It was a true blessing to meet some of her family during our National Grandparents Day of Prayer. Mary Alice and Daryl have raised a family who loves Jesus.

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Mary Alice with her family

I hope that you will take the time to read more about Mary Alice through her personal testimony.

MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY

By Mary Alice Medley

medley-girl
Mary Alice

I was very fortunate to have Christian parents who always guided me in the things of the Lord. My father was a minister. He lost his health at a very young age, before I was born.  When I was just a few months old, I became very ill. My parents were living in a very remote area, so they could not get me to a doctor. My father anointed me, and I was healed. God had a reason for sparing my life.

When I was six months old, my parents moved back to civilization and settled in Indiana. I grew up in a small town, small school, and small church. When I was five, I accepted Christ as my Savior at my mother’s knee. The church I grew up in was quite legalistic and I found myself at the altar many times. My heart’s desire was to serve the Lord, but I had a lot of spiritual growing to do.

After high school, I attended Olivet Nazarene College (now University) for two years. Those were eye-opening days for me and experiences that enriched my life. My parents were unable to help me financially, so it was a struggle, but again, God was faithful and I am so thankful for the opportunity and the friends I made during those years.

God kept His hand on me and in 1959 I felt led to move to Kansas City to work at the Nazarene Publishing House. I started attending St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene and am still attending the same church today. I met my husband at the church and we were married in 1963. We were blessed with two children in the next two years. Those were difficult times financially and physically, but God was faithful and provided our needs.

On Christmas Eve, 1971, I gave birth to a stillborn child that I had carried for nine months. The days and weeks following that loss were very difficult for me. I felt like no one understood, but again, God was so faithful and provided strength and guidance.

In the fall of 1972, I began working at Nazarene Headquarters (now Global Ministry Center). I worked in various areas for the Church of the Nazarene until December 2008, when Daryl fell on the ice and became disabled. I needed to stay home and care for him, and again, God was faithful to give us strength and supply our needs.

As I look back, I see the hand of God as He led me each step of the way. Today, as I face life as a widow, I sense God’s presence in my life each day. He is my shelter, my rock, my helper, my healer, my provider. He is faithful and I will serve Him as long as he gives me breath.

Holding His Hand

Illness and death are sadly a part of this world. The reason? Sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and we now live in a world filled with the effects of sinful man.

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—(Romans 12:5).

 But the story doesn’t end there. Read on: (Parentheses added.)

21 For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (Christ). 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam (Christ), a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man (Adam) was of the dust of the earth; the second man (Christ) is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man (Adam), so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man (Christ), so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man (Adam), so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man (Christ).

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[h]

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?     Where, O death, is your sting?”[i]

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:44-57)

God can resurrect the body–perfectly, completely and supernaturally.

Mary Alice holds an unshakeable faith in Christ. She has told me multiple times that even though she misses Daryl greatly, she looks forward to being reunited with him someday. She will also be reunited with their child, who was stillborn.

One day God will supernaturally bring our human bodies together, breathe into us His Spirit, and empower us physically for eternal life. Because of the resurrection of Christ, the process of death will one day be reversed, and death will be swallowed up in victory.

Eternal life can be found in Christ alone. If you haven’t received Jesus as your Savior yet, please click on this link for a simple prayer of faith:  https://holdinghishand.org/receive-jesus/

The Bible says that Christ is preparing a place in Heaven for all who have received Him. (John 14:1-3) It will be a glorious place! A place where God will dwell with his people.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:2-4)