In Everything Give Thanks

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In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18

This week we are giving thanks. Thanks for family. Thanks for food. Thanks for faith.

For many of us the holidays are truly a time of thanksgiving. And yet at the same time, the stress and tension of family relationships or circumstantial difficulties can make this time a great challenge. Paul makes quite clear to us in this scripture that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in everything.

This is hard.

I’ve found on this parenting journey a great blessing comes in framing life’s challenges in thankfulness. I am learning to thank God in the struggle, even if I can’t yet thank Him for the struggle. Trials are easier to endure and find peace in if I can keep a close gaze on God. He is above and beyond the trial, yet chooses to come walk with me through the trial.

I will give thanks to God because of His righteousness. Psalm 7:17

In difficulty, there is always something worth giving thanks for. And we can start with the very character of God Himself. He is God no matter what we are facing. And He is still on His throne. He is still “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8). He is still light, and He is still love. When we focus on His righteousness, we see our circumstances through very different lenses.

With this new perspective, then, I find three reasons we can give thanks in everything.

Glimpses of His presence and glory– Even in the midst of the most difficult times, God will reveal Himself and make His presence known. Our first born daughter was born with a blocked intestine and had to have emergency surgery on her 8th day of life. All of our family spent Thanksgiving Day that year in the hospital with her. One of those nights we left to get good rest in our own beds, and as we got in the car, the Christian radio station there announced a prayer for “a new born little girl Katelyn having surgery on her intestines tomorrow.”  God gave us a glimpse of His presence that night- a glimpse we needed to keep clinging to Him and to each other to get through the hardest time of our lives. Look around and see the beautiful sunset, a friend’s encouraging phone call, a Bible verse hung on the wall, a caring doctor as glimpses of His presence and glory to keep you going. And be thankful.

Gifts of His love and strength- In moments of fear, frustration, helplessness and loss of hope, listen for the whisper of God’s love over your life. Remember again His perfect heavenly Father love that completely and unconditionally loves you, His beloved daughter. Remember His Fatherly protection and provision. The Christian group Plumb sings the lyric “How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?”  Clinging to His love we can find strength to keep breathing and to keep walking even just one small step at a time. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). And we can be thankful.

Grace for today and hope for tomorrow- I’ve found on my hardest days that God’s grace comes in different ways. It is grace that brings comfort, wisdom and strength to the present, and gives peace in the midst of the raging storm. It is grace that reminds me who I am and whose I am. It reminds me that God has authored each day I face before time began. But it is also grace that gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Hope is holding on to the truth that this is not our home. Our eternal home is on high in the presence of God, and there with Him there is no weeping, no broken bodies, and no more sin. And we can be thankful- for the now and for the coming.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4

Of all the things we can give thanks for this week, we can give thanks for Him and to Him- for He created everything, He is over everything, He is in everything.

In everything, give thanks.

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Hope Rejoices in Trials

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In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed.   1 Peter 1:6-7

Can we find a joy in knowing there is a purpose to our trials? Is there a hope in knowing God has a greater goal in allowing these trials into our lives? Does a peace come in the midst of the refining fire of life’s challenges?

There are two phrases of this scripture that can give us a better perspective for facing trials:

“Now for a little while”- The translation literally means “now for just a few minutes.” Elsewhere in scripture (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8), we learn that “a thousand years are like a day” in God’s sight. If we work the math on that (which would be easier done on a white board), and say that 1,000 years in our time is like 24 hours to God, then we can work back and say 500 years to us is like 12 hours to God, and 250 years is like 6 hours, etc.  If we live an average of about 80 years, then we will only live about 1.9 hours in God’s eternal perspective. 1.9 hours. Then if we estimate how long a season of trial may be, we can see the perspective of “now for just a few minutes.” Even our greatest difficulties last just “a little while” in light of the eternal time we will spend worshipping God in heaven- free from all pain and suffering.  Seasons of struggle can seem endless, but in light of eternity, their time is short. We can hold on through the hard, knowing the hard lasts only a little while.

“Praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed”- I see two meanings for the end of this passage. First, we can rejoice in knowing that in the end, when Jesus is fully revealed and reclaims His Kingdom reign here on earth, we will overflow with praise, glory, and honor that will overshadow all of this life’s temporary sufferings.  Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) When the glory of Jesus Christ is fully revealed, we can be assured our sufferings will pale in light of Him.

A second meaning for this passage that I see is the revealing of Christ that happens not only in the future, but in our present circumstance. The word “revealed” here literally means “to be laid bare, to uncover, to lay open what has been veiled or covered up.”  In the midst of great trial, Christ can seem hidden. We can struggle to find Him in the hard. But if we hold on, He is faithful to unveil Himself to us, and bring in peace and joy. His light can penetrate even our darkest moments, and the revelation that He is with us restores hope. His presence can bring us to a place of praise, glory and honor even as we “suffer grief in all kinds of trial.”

My soul will boast in the LORD, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:2, 18

We can rejoice in our afflictions because of God’s nearness. He does not leave us to suffer on our own, but rushes in close with His great strength and comfort. I can look back on my most challenging seasons as a parent, and can testify that those were the times when God was closest. He was there growing my faith, leading my steps, working in my life as He worked in my child’s life as well. And for that awareness of Him, and the work that He did deep in my soul, I would not trade those times. He really can bring us to a place of rejoicing, a place of thanking Him for the trials.

Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Psalm 51:8

Bones that are broken heal up stronger than they were before. So too are our hearts made stronger by God’s healing hands when we have been through grief, disappointment, loss and hurt. Our faith is refined, our peace is restored, and our hope is renewed.

Because They’re His, Not Mine

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I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.  For his whole life, He will be given over to the LORD.  I Samuel 1:27-28

Because my children belong to God, and not to me, I can find freedom, peace and rest as I trust them to His strong hands and perfect love. If I live in this faith and keep this perspective, my parenting journey is changed for His glory and for my good.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I know He loves them even more than I do. The great love and endless grace of their Heavenly Father are poured over each child as He protects and provides for their every need.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can trust them to His care. Whether they are sitting close at my side, or travelling far across the world, our omnipresent God is with them. His eyes are always on them, even when my own are not.

Because they’re His, and not mine, my own worth is not based on their choices. Whether they are shining in righteousness or struggling with sin, I resist taking the credit or the blame. I choose rather to set my own worth on who I am in Christ, which has not changed since my children were born.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I’m free to serve them with unconditional love. Each one is a gift placed in my care by their Creator. May I love them as He would have me. May I serve them with His patience, His grace, His discipline and His wisdom.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can be their parent and not their best friend. Seeking to please God, and not to please my child, I can keep my place as parent in their lives. I can parent with purpose training their hearts and minds for Christ.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can see past who they are today to who He is shaping them to be. He has begun a good work in each one of them, and I can rest knowing He will be faithful to complete it. I see His hand working even in the hard. Each glimpse of His presence gives me more patience and grace.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can live with healthy boundaries, respecting their emerging independence. As they grow, may they take on more responsibility for their own decisions. May I model that responsibility as I live my life before them.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can keep myself healthy to best serve Him in this role. I can seek to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. In doing so, I am best fit to honor God in this role. I can live with balance and an eternal perspective.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can parent for His glory rather than for my own accolade. I can resist the temptation to compare and compete with others. I can seek the contentment that comes in living for the Lord, and not for myself.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can stand in awe of who He has made them to be- today. When I set aside pressures to perform and pretend and be perfect, I see each child as an amazing creation shaped not by my will, but by the will of God. Each heart, mind, body and soul is a treasure who is worthy of great care.

Lord, forgive me for where my parenting has been centered on me, or centered on my child, and not centered on You. Make me a faithful servant of the children you have placed in my care. Give me your heart to love them as you would. Renew in me the wonder of who you have made them to be. I want to be faithful to you.

 

Hope Rejoices with the Truth

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Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  I Corinthians 13:7

Jesus calls Satan “a liar and the father of lies” and tells us “there is no truth in him.” The “prince of this world” seeks to deceive God’s children with lies- some obvious, some more subtle- and works to confuse, condemn, and ultimately control them. Satan’s lies rob us of joy, steal our peace, and leave us hopeless. We have all been his victim.

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:5

As we put our hope in God, we will seek His guidance and His truth. We will learn to flee from what is evil and rejoice with what is true. We will teach our children truth, and walk together with them in what is true.

There are several lies that are common among mothers of children with special needs.

“You can have it all.” The world offers a false promise that we can have a perfect marriage, perfect children, perfect job, perfect church and perfect home. We can easily fall prey to the lie that the “American dream” is within our reach if we will just go for it. And we can believe that we cannot be happy until we attain it all. But the truth is there are only so many hours in the day, and how we choose to spend those hours matters for eternity. Fleeing the material temptations and turning to eternal joy will bring lasting peace. Trusting God with where He has placed us and what He has given us, especially our children, allows us to rejoice and be content.

“You have to do everything.” It is a lie that we as mothers of “normal” children or children with special needs have to take care of everything and have all the answers. We may strive to be “Super Mom” and keep all the balls in the air, but we usually end up driving ourselves to exhaustion doing so. In our quest for control, we can easily cross into codependency- doing things for others they ought to be doing themselves. We lose sight of healthy boundaries and rob others of contributing in their roles. Each of us has a system of support that includes family, church, school, doctors who are gifted to help each of our children. We have to learn to let God use others to support our children, and to support us. Pride can keep us from receiving the good help God provides.

“It’s all your fault.” Shame and blame are Satan’s trademarks. If you experience either, you can know you’ve been lied to. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1). When we turn our focus inward, we can be quick to blame ourselves. But when we focus on Christ, we see His gentle eyes pouring out love and forgiveness. We are free to own sin or mistakes we may have made, and move towards reconciliation where needed. And we are also free to see where others have sinned, and move towards offering them forgiveness.

“If only you had…, this wouldn’t have happened.”  “Should’a, could’a, would’a” are more marks of Satan. Regret can rush in as we think and re-think what we could have done differently to change the present. We can get paralyzed in the past, and not face the present or prepare for the future. Paul writes, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13) Learning to trust God’s sovereign hand in our lives turns us from blaming ourselves (or even others), to seeking how He will bring glory to Himself through this.

“You can’t handle this.” Some trials seem too big to endure. Some disappointments or uncertainties bring overwhelming fear. Satan loves to throw lies that cause us to cower and hide, rather than reach out for the mighty hand of God when faced with great difficulty. And on one hand, this lie is true. We can’t handle this- on our own strength. But we can handle this with the help of our All-Powerful God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13).  We can rejoice knowing God is bigger, and “nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)

We are wise to surround ourselves with truth to combat the lies Satan will cast our way. There is hope knowing truth can be found in God’s Word.

We can rejoice in the One who Himself is The Way, The Truth and The Life (John 14:6).