Suffering Hidden

Well, hello, blog old friend! Except for two recent blog posts recently, it’s been a long time since I last wrote here, and I have missed you!

The last two years were a blur for me. 2017 and 2018 felt like one long year with lots of changes and transitions. In 2017 I was pregnant with Wes- our youngest- had lots and lots of morning sickness, was part of a team that planted a church, completed a language intensive, Wes was born, and Maia started school. In 2018 we said goodbye to the UAE, were in transition, started a very restricted healing diet, moved to another country and went through major culture shock. Both years were one difficult marathon.

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We experienced everything from my crazy hormones and a chronic debilitating infection in my husband to post partum darkness for me & autoimmune symptoms for both of us. There wasn’t much reprieve between our stressful time of transition in the US and our move to this country. We did all that with three kids in tow, including a baby who slept maaaybe 5 full nights his whole first year of life.

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We are still in this season of resettling. During this time I’ve also found myself cooking for 3 different diets for health reasons. I’ve been spending 4-6 hours in the kitchen making 6-9 meals every day. It’s been brutal.

Sometimes people look back on a time of suffering and talk about how sweet it was and how they knew God so much better through it. If I’m honest, sweet is not how I would describe these past years. There was a lot of joy at different times. God met me in His word and fed my hope time and time again. But these have been hard years with many days barely making it from one day to the next.

I have wrestled with Christ. There have been all kinds of tears: tears of exhaustion, of anger, of perplexity. I have at times resisted the mighty hand of God that causes sleepless nights, illness, and all kinds of stress because I have been afraid it will break me. Having little reprieve in unrelenting stress with increasing demands has been fuel for lots of temptation. I have been especially tempted to doubt God’s goodness and care for me, and to put my hope in something other than God, namely, REST.

How do I process a very difficult, long season? Especially when my faith has been tested and I have a hard time seeing if I have really grown in trust? Do I give in to serious introspection? Do I despair over the many times I gave in to unbelief? Do I find comfort in the times I did trust? How do I move on with confidence to a different season of resettling and language learning while still experiencing some of the same suffering and temptations to unbelief?

In some ways I don’t think it really matters whether I see clearly what all God has been doing, and whether I can clearly measure growth in knowing God. What gives me confidence is what Christ did when He bound His life to mine (Rom. 8: 9). He, the Uncreated One, came to live inside me through His spirit. He also hid me inside himself forever (Col. 3: 3). Nothing can change this.

I am inside Christ. Everything that the Lord has brought to my life and that He will bring in the future, I can only experience safely in Him. I wrote earlier that I have feared at times that all this stress would be the end of me. But that can never be. Nothing can destroy me.

I am hidden in Him in an irreversible way. God is for me in Christ. Safe in Him, what can man [or sleeplessness, unrelenting stress, exhaustion, or depression] do to me?” (Psalm 56: 8). Moreover, in Christ the only thing they can do is serve Him His purpose to do me good. God never wastes anything so whether or not I can see what He has been accomplishing in my life, I take heart: He will effectively fulfill His design in conforming me to His Son (Rom. 8: 29).

This gives me hope when I think I am stuck in unbelief and fear. It changes how I pray from, “Father, please change me” to “Father, I know you are changing me. I am so thankful you’re not stuck in making me like Jesus.”

Christ is inside me. I don’t need to be overly preoccupied with my faith, because “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2: 20). I live by faith in His faith, not mine. Because He is faithful and true, I have seen Christ’s faith in His Father ultimately ruling my heart, enabling me to submit to His word, and praising Him when I don’t understand what He is doing or why. Christ’s holiness in me has been enabling me to confess when I trust my judgement more than His. In a shocking gift of grace, God is living His life through me in Jesus Christ (Eph. 4: 18). That is the only way to overcome the unbelief in my heart that Christ already overcame at the cross.

The life of Jesus in me is revealed through suffering. This diet, this culture shock, this broken body of mine are how God will manifest the life of Jesus in my mortal flesh. This moves me to embrace this season. To thank Him for it, even. I will only know His endurance, His trust, His courage, and His joy as I see Him living them out in me by faith. His life is the life I want, the only life that enables me not to lose heart (2 Cor. 4).

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The Day I Heard Him Say, “You Are My People”- How Christ Satisfies The Homesick Heart

longing-for-home1The longing to belong has been my ever present companion the past 6 years since I got married and left the Dominican Republic, my home country, for good.

For 28 years I had taken for granted what it was like to belong. Being together with our church people was a way of life in the DR. We vacationed with other families from church almost every time we went on holiday. Birthdays, graduations, holidays, Friday nights, Wednesday night ice cream after prayer meeting, pizza after church on Sunday nights, long weekends at the beach – always, always, always meant being with multiple friends from church. My family (from a strong Arabic background) was not the only one that lived that way but many families around me. Grieving, just as joy, was a community affair. So any given month there were many reasons to gather with family and friends. Together was just the way to be. A lot of my grounding and identity came from being well known and deeply loved.

On my wedding day -in a two hour long greeting line- I tearfully hugged my family and church goodbye. I moved to a new city in the United States. I was eager to discover who would be “our people.” We loved hospitality and opened our home consistently to our church family. But the first 3 years I couldn’t quite tell who wanted us to be their people (mostly because I misread cultural cues.) I yearned to do life together – not just to invite others into our life but to have others invite us into their life – especially the way I had been used to in the DR.

I compared our family with other families who seemed to have what I longed for. At times I was jealous and dissatisfied. I had friends. We had our small group from church. But something was missing from my life that had been a big part of my life. I looked for home in people and developed sinful habits of seeking refuge and safety in what they thought of me.

Over time, the Lord kindly used my new church– especially our women – to give more of that sense of belonging. Towards the end of my 5 years there I was very grateful for all the relationships the Lord had grown over the years and was so sad to leave them. Just as I felt like I was starting to understand my American friends more fully and their way of doing life, we gave up life with them to move to the other side of the world.

I didn’t realize, though, that I was still grieving that belonging didn’t feel exactly like it had in the DR. So with unresolved grief and with patterns of seeking refuge & safety in people as a way of coping with that loss – we moved to a very international city in the Middle East.

Our time in that new city was relatively short due (10 months) to my husband’s work. I jumped into trying to do life with God’s people there, because I knew it would be for a very limited time. I think I expected to belong in an expat community – where everyone far from home is aware of how hard it is and would embrace us into doing life together. But metropolitan life, ministry, distance, extreme busyness, no car, children who get sick – all made doing life in community very challenging, not just for me but for every woman. We tried to join a small group at different times and were not able. I asked questions, served others often, invited people into our home. Most of the friends I pursued the first 6-7 months were very helpful and kind but were not able to give themselves in consistent relationship as they focused in loving unbelieving friends around them, cared for the many needs in our church and they themselves adjusted to living far from home. I am thankful for the way they blessed our family and how Jesus provided through them. But my longing to belong was not met in those relationships the way I hoped. This exposed my heart to me as much sin was revealed during those months.

Thankfully, in God’s mercy and grace in spite of my sin, the last few months there, I definitely tasted the sweetness of community life in multiple ways. God provided friends through discipleship relationships and God’s people served us lovingly. I am very thankful especially for the way God bound our hearts together with two families and our last two months there we had very sweet times of fellowship.

We were beginning to feel a little bit at home when we had to pack up our apartment and say goodbye – again. As I thought of moving to another city in that same country and start all over again, my heart shrank and many tears flowed. I wasn’t sure I could do it. But the Lord used losing that sense of earthly belonging a third (or fourth time?) to show me something about Him that I desperately needed to understand.

“You Are My People”

One day, late in May, reading Isaiah 51: 12-16, the Lord broke into my soul. His Word – alive and piercing – brought clarity to my heart:

“I, I am he who comforts you;
who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
of the son of man who is made like grass,
and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,
I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name,

establishing the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”

When I read the phrase, “You are my people” I burst out crying. I had been longing for 6 years to hear other people say clearly (in a way that made sense to me in my culture and personality): “You guys are our people.” But that day I heard God himself telling me that. I’d feared man and ran for refuge in others – I’d forgotten my Maker and Redeemer. Yet, the eternal God, the one who comforts me and gave Himself for me, was saying, “Aylin, you are mine!”

God’s Spirit through Isaiah opened my heart to understand the longing to belong is good and right. God gave it so we long for Him! Yet I had been ruled by the functional beliefs that:

· the longing to belong would ultimately be met by people.
· I am entitled to have this longing met completely in this earthly life.

The Lord reminded me of the precious promise woven through all of Scripture: “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” From the beginning, home was always meant to be where God was. Sin entered in and ruined that. We could no longer be at home with God because of our sin. But our homemaking God had a plan. Jesus Christ left His home so he could come and make his home with us. Through His death and resurrection he opened the way to bring us home to God.

When the Lord says, “I will make my dwelling among you” He is giving us the gift of doing life with us. In Christ I have been welcomed into the life of the Trinity – and I now have the same relationship with the Father that the Son has. Through the indwelling of His Spirit, Christ does life with us and through us. In Christ my longing to belong was met!

A Gift (Not A Right)

When God made us His, He also welcomed us into His family. But sometimes we don’t experience that sense of belonging among them as we would like. Experiencing belonging is a gift, not a right. Yet ever since I left the DR I had been functionally living as if it was a right. And when I didn’t experience it – either because of my own cultural definitions or due to the Fall (my own or the brokenness of others around me) – I would at times experience jealousy, anger, fear or deep sadness. He has led me to repentance from idolatry and unbelief by comforting me with the promise of who He is: He is my home.

Onward and Upward

As I move to a new city, He has emboldened my heart by making me realize I have been looking for home, but Home has found me and will never let me go! At the same time, there is also a very real sense in which I will be homesick all my life until I reach my lasting Home. God’s promise in Revelations 21: 3,

“Behold, the home of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God”

has not yet been fully realized. There is deep suffering and grief that comes from not being Home with our Father. Jesus Himself tasted both while he lived on this earth. I am learning to recognize the grief and restlessness of my heart as signs of homesickness for God Himself. I am also learning to actually grieve instead of stuffing my emotions down.

Thankfully, the grief of the heart far from its Home is filled with hope. The Spirit in us guarantees we will receive the city we have been seeking and longing for (Hebrews 11: 14). We can embrace our “exile” status with joy, become friends with grief, and like Jesus, set our face to fulfill our purpose on this earth to worship God and make disciples. We no longer set our face to satisfy a longing that can’t ever be completely and ultimately satisfied on this earth.

There is a day coming when God Himself will comfort each one of us as a nursing mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66: 11). What a tender, intimate picture! We will be deeply satisfied with the glorious sense of belonging found in God alone as soon as we see Jesus face to face. Then, we will be finally Home.

The God Who Serves Us

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis describes a horrific place where all dreams come true and characters find themselves living in their own nightmares. As darkness engulfs them, Lucy cries, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now!” At first nothing changes, but soon a huge bird flies towards them, encircling them and then flies away. As it circles around them the bird whispers to Lucy, “Courage, dear heart.” She is certain she has heard Aslan’s voice. The captain of the ship follows the bird’s guidance and they find themselves in the light again.

Serving others is not necessarily living our own nightmare. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive. But sometimes in the laying down of our lives, we find ourselves anxious about God’s love for us. The hours and days ahead of us seem dark and hopelessness threatens us. We may experience weariness and deep discouragement as we nurture life in others: in parenting, mentoring another woman, or nurturing a relative with disabilities. Lucy’s words resonate with my own heart, “God, if ever you loved me at all…”

As we start a new week of serving and dying to self, where do we find fresh endurance to love others beyond our own strength?

The Son of Man, Our Servant

Over the past months I have discovered comfort in an astonishing truth found in Mark 10:43-45:

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Just before these verses, the disciples James and John had come to Jesus and requested they wanted to sit at his right and left hand when He was in glory. They wanted to be great in Jesus’ kingdom. The Lord used this opportunity to explain to them who is truly great in His kingdom.  

In this passage, Jesus used striking language to refer to Himself. In calling Himself the Son of Man, He was alluding to the prophetic vision in Daniel 7: 13-14. In this passage, Daniel saw one “like a son of man” to whom the Ancient of Days gave all dominion and glory and a kingdom from all peoples and nations “who would serve Him.”

And yet in Mark we find something unexpected. The Son of Man said he didn’t come to be served but to serve those for whom He would give his life. Jesus is the Servant Isaiah talks about who would be “a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42: 6-7).

There is great joy in the Son of Man’s revelation of Himself as our Servant.  He knows we are utterly unable and unwilling to count others as more important than ourselves. So He both served us and enabled our service. He did that by living a perfect life, giving us His righteousness and taking our condemnation. By dying and rising again, he gave us a new heart and set us free from our sin so that it no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6: 14).

Christ became a servant until death. God then highly exalted him and gave Him a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2: 8-9). Christ served us with his life, death and resurrection. But his service to us did not end there!

Now at God’s right hand, He ministers to us daily as our merciful and faithful High Priest (Heb. 8: 1-2). It blows my mind to think that our highly exalted King Jesus is still that Son of Man who serves. As our priest forever:

  •         He always lives to pray for us as He sits at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 8: 34; Heb. 7: 25).
  •         He is able to completely save those who draw near to God through Him (Heb. 7: 25-26).
  •         He provides emergency help by giving us a way of escape when we are being tempted (Heb. 2:16-18).
  •         He is our helper who can never forget or abandon us (Heb. 13: 5-6).

We find power as we entrust ourselves to the Son of Man’s ongoing service. Through His Spirit in us we have a Helper who enables us to be helpers! He is intimately involved in our lives, equipping us daily to do God’s will (1 Peter 4: 10-11).

As we experience the difficulties and sorrows that nurturing others can bring, our hearts may cry out with worry or bitterness, “Who cares for me?! Who sees my needs?!” Believe that our Risen Lord does. Comfort food, close friends, Instagram and Netflix will never hold a candle to what Jesus does for us at the right hand of God. When we are desperate for comfort and respite, let’s run to the Throne of grace! Promised grace and mercy await us there (Heb. 4: 16). His help and provision may come in the form of His people serving us or in the removal of the hardship. But it may also come by the way He strengthens our soul (Psalm 138: 3).

And, can you believe this? At the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, the Son of Man, who served us with his life, death, resurrection and intercessory work, will dress Himself, have us recline at the table and serve us (Lk. 12: 32). His service to us will continue into Eternity! Such is our Savior! O for faith, then, to trust His voice whispering to us today: “Courage, dear heart.

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The art included in this post is by Ruth from GraceLaced Shoppe. Click on the image if you are interested in purchasing it. 

Guest Interview–Rebekah Kline: Loving The God Who Takes Your Child

Rebekah and I met many years ago, shortly after I first moved to the US to go to university there. Neither of us could have imagined how the Lord would, over time, bind our hearts together in our love for His kingdom nor how He would use our friendship to deepen each other’s faith in Him. Seeing Rebekah and Justin worship Jesus even as their hearts were broken, was an amazing testimony to me that Jesus is truly enough. I am so humbled that she would be willing to share the story of their son’s brief life and death here on the blog today. I needed to read this interview today as I experience afresh the brokenness of this world in my life and in the life of people I deeply love. I pray the Lord uses this to strengthen your faith as well, whatever your suffering is today. 

Worthy Hope–Share about you and your family:

Rebekah Kline: In 2005, a girl from Kentucky (me :), Rebekah) met a guy from Nebraska (Justin) in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. It was love at first sight…”and the rest is history!” It has been a rich life together from the very beginning. By just our 4th year of marriage, Justin and I had moved to the hood of our city to become missionaries, had three children, and buried one.

God blessed us with two awesome little girls, Eliza Jobi and Jersie Cruz, and in 2012 we werrebekahjustinbabye overflowing with joy to welcome our first son to the family, Ezra Blaize. When the nurse first handed him to me, he was so beautiful that it literally knocked the b
reath out of me for a second! When Ezra was 2 months old, I was home alone with all the children while Justin was in Nebraska for the death of his grandpa. On a Sunday evening, when I went to wake up Ezra from his nap, I found that he had stopped breathing and had passed away in his sleep. No cause was ever found for his death – he was a perfectly healthy and very strong baby boy – and so it fell under the category of SIDS.

WH: Did you have a theological framework for suffering when little Ezra went Home to be with the Lord?
RK: When Ezra died, it was like the earth cracked open and darkness swallowed me up. It was the most intense sorrow I have ever known…but it was also the most intense grace I have ever known! As I’ve reflected on the darkest of those days when the pain was the most raw, I have said many times that it was THEOLOGY that kept me from drowning. I am so grateful for my rich Christian heritage which so well prepared me for this trial. (And many, many other things I could point to throughout the course of my whole life that God was using to train and prepare me for such a time as this! He is so mindful, isn’t He?!) Even in those earliest days of deep sadness, what held me up was what I knew to be true about

1. the CHARACTER of God and
2. the PROMISES of God.

My faith remained intact and unwavering, simply because I knew that He is good and He has done right by me. Somehow He was going to make this serve our great good and His great glory. During those times when I was certain that I was going under and was going to drown, I leaned hard on the truth that God in His perfect wisdom has chosen suffering to be the irreplaceable pathway to be close to Him. I had been taught that it is through the hottest fires and the deepest waters that we learn the richest things about God…and now I know it’s all true!

WH: How did your theology of suffering grow through this trial?

RK: In the ER while we waited for the outstanding team of doctors and nurses who worked so hard to revive Ezra, my dad and my brother were by my side in place of Justin who was still in Nebraska. (They also happen to be two of my pastors!) They were talking with me about heaven and eternity and the good and perfect character of God; my head was spinning. I clearly remember my thought process in that room: “Is this stuff all true?!?! I’ve been a believer for over 20 years and now I’m actually wondering if this is all real?! What I’m going to do is lean real hard on it, and if it’s not real, then it’s not going to hold me up and I’ll fall. But if it’s real, then it will hold me up.” I found out that all the things I’d been taught about God and His Word, all the things I had ever read or heard…it’s all true! I have learned that God Himself calls us to these deep waters, He is WITH US as we go through them, and He is always actively at work to bring good. We began to enter into more precious depths of who God is for us as He showed us these things.

WH: How have Jesus and the Gospel become more precious?
RK: Because of Jesus, all of God’s righteous anger toward my sin is gone, so there is nothing left in God’s heart toward me except goodness! Even THIS.

WH: How have you seen God advancing His kingdom?
RK: God has done great things through the brief life and death of Ezra Blaize. “Ezra” means “helper.” God has used him to help several see their need for Jesus and place their trust in Him! He has used Ezra to build up our faith in His grace that is sufficient for us and made perfect in weakness and to help us hold the things of this life more loosely.

“If Thou shouldst call me to resign what most I prize, it ne’er was mine; I only yield to Thee what was Thine.” (Charlotte Elliott, 1834)

To lose a child is to lose your most precious possession on this earth. But suffering cuts the cords that tie us to earth! When the Lord took Ezra, there was one less cord to fasten me to this world and another band to draw me toward heaven. I love what Charles Spurgeon said,

“Trials drive us from earth. Happy is the trouble that drives us from earth.”

WH: How did the Lord use community to sustain you?
RK: One of the sweetest ways that Jesus showed Himself to us was through His body. We were overwhelmed by the love and prayers and compassion of the body of Christ, and we knew that it was God Himself caring for us! In many ways, I understood the Incarnation more deeply than ever. Through the loss of Ezra, we experienced Jesus putting on flesh and coming to us in our need. How could we doubt the goodness of God when we saw it so clearly in His people?! Justin and I were convicted to the core by the example set for us.
I still cry to this day when I think about one of the many stories I could share about my dear friend Aylin who was given a special gift to enter into our sorrow with us and carry the heavy weight of the burden with us. The first few nights after Ezra’s death were stifling. The enemy would whisper in my ear all night long, “It’s your fault. You killed your son.” I’m not sure if Aylin was aware of this dark spiritual warfare, but I’ll never forget her text message late at night that said, “I want to keep watch with you.”

Here is a brief clip from Ezra’s funeral where Justin and I share more about God’s grace and how He is a very present help in time of need.

“My heart is broken – never to be mended – but God is enough.” (Amy Carmichael)

Guest Interview–Aurelia Smith and Perseverance in Chronic Pain

When I first met Aurelia, an instant bond was created. She is wise, loves people and loves to laugh. Most of all she loves her Savior. He has made her beautiful through suffering. Aurelia is a biblical counselor and I am SO thankful she was able to answer these questions about what the Lord has taught her through chronic pain.

Worthy Hope: Can you share a little about you? What are some of your trials in motherhood especially regarding your health?

Aureliaureliaa Smith: Although an autoimmune condition surfaced in my childhood, it did not keep me from leading a normal, active life. I have served in our nation’s military and am a graduate of one of our military institutions. However, when I started to carry and bear children, my body took a turn for the worse and my life has never been the same physically.

Because of this, many of my physical trials are directly related to motherhood! There have been multiple times when I thought the Lord was going to take me home or I have been unable to care for myself or my children. I have two beautiful sons and over the years I have come to realize just how miraculous their births were. They also have some health struggles that impact their daily lives as well, but they are manageable (allergies & asthma).

Another incident that God used in the area of hardships was when I thought my oldest son was going to die. His umbilical hernia was strangulated and required emergency surgery. He almost did not recover from this surgery and we almost lost him. This all occurred during my very difficult second pregnancy.

WH: Did you have a theological framework when you first started experiencing these trials? What was it?

AS: God in his grace began to prepare me in amazing ways before my health took a turn for the worst and my child suffered this near-death experience. I was pursuing my masters degree in biblical counseling at the time. I was also doing projects and papers that dealt with the practical application of the sovereignty of God. In God’s perfect design, I had already consumed helpful resources like, “Trusting God,” by Jerry Bridges. This book specifically talks about how important it is to understand and know that God is loving, wise and all powerful before suffering occurs so that we can honor him in the midst of it.

WH: How has the Lord grown your perspective on Him, you and your circumstances through this situation?

AS: In order to answer this question completely I would need pages!!! However, here is a short summary statement in answer your question. God has helped me to savor, thrill and delight in his Son alone. He continues to show me how good he is, and that regardless of the circumstance, I can honor and please him. Health or no health. Pain or no pain. By his enabling power, he is helping me to fix my eyes on the eternal rather than the temporal, and that has made all the difference!!

WH: How has he sharpened your theology of suffering?

AS: Here are some bullet statements:

-All suffering, my personal experiences included, is directly related to The Fall and all the terrible after-effects of The Curse

-Suffering is not a surprise to God & is one of the primary means by which he conforms me to the image of his Son

-Suffering should not be a surprise to us! It is promised!

-I am to view all suffering and hardship as discipline from the hand of a loving Father. Not because I’ve done something wrong per se, but because he is working a harvest of righteousness and peace that can come no other way (Heb 12)

-Suffering is a gift. Suffering is a stewardship. Suffering is given for the edification of not just the individual, but for the entire community of faith

WH: What are some ways you see the Lord advancing His kingdom through your suffering?

AS: Opportunities to share the gospel with those who might have not had ears to hear had I not experienced these forms of suffering. Opportunities to comfort, encourage and cheer my sisters on in the race that God uniquely ordered for them to run. Churches who have grown because of the tangible ways they sought to serve my family and I in practical ways (loving in action and in truth). Growth in compassion because of experiences in suffering. Sharing about his sufficient power and grace to see his people through any and all circumstances until he safely brings us home. Opportunities to speak frankly to my young children about suffering, God’s sovereignty and death so that they are biblically prepared for whatever comes.

WH: What were/are some of the temptations that you faced? What truth (s) reorient your heart when you were tempted?

AS: The temptations attached to chronic pain and medical issues probably have some similarities from person to person. But for me, anger is one of the largest temptations that I face. My temptation towards unrighteous anger is a result of being upset with my family members for not understanding how hard each day can be. Being a wife and mother in the midst of daily pain, exhaustion and baffling symptoms is one tall order. Doing so with joy is a taller order still. When I am tempted to unrighteous anger at not being understood or identified with, I turn to Jesus who perfectly understands what it is like to be in this body and who calls me to faithfulness nonetheless. Absolutely no one can understand what my daily existence is outside of my faithful Savior.

I would say the second big temptation for me is pride. Prolonged physical, life-altering trials make it obvious that we need others! What I used to be able to accomplish is no longer a reality. Learning how to ask for help, and receive it with grace has been a large part of my growth.

WH: What role has community played in your suffering?

AS: Community is an intimate part of this more than decade long journey for me. The churches of which we have been members have been the faithful hands and feet of Jesus in our lives. From caring for my children when I could not, stepping in when my husband was deployed, shopping for our groceries when I could not, and weeping when I wept, we have experienced the great joy and support to be found in the body of Christ. There is so much more to be said here but this is a start!

That I May Know Him–part 2

Two months ago we moved to another country. Even though people here have been very kind to us, we are still in the process of developing close friendships. I am at times battling loneliness and am desirous of deep connections. Recently, I was excited for several coffee/playdates lined up that week. I was really looking forward to spend time with other ladies. In God’s providence  four out of five of these times were cancelled, most of them because of illness in either mine or their kids. The morning I found out about the fourth cancellation, I was sorely disappointed. That day also brought painful joints from chronic inflammation and sick little girls who were needy and butting heads. As I looked ahead at the next eight hours, I really wanted to give into self-pity. I missed home in Ohio, was lonely for friends and longed for help. To be honest, I cried as my husband left for work.

It is for weeks like these that I need a theology of suffering. I am quickly tempted to self-pity, anger and impatience when certain things are taken away. How does glorying in Christ and treasuring Him speak into the disappointments, loneliness and physical suffering I experienced that week?

In the last post I wrote about how the main way to know God is to know the crucified Christ and to be like Him in His death and resurrection. Philippians 3 shows that we rejoice in Christ as we put our trust in His righteousness and despair of our own. Putting our confidence in the flesh is both a threat to our joy and the enemy of knowing God. The more we trust ourselves, the less we experience Christ’s power.

These truths give me perspective as a mom. I want to know God but I often don’t want to know Him by the means that He has designed. I have prayed, like Moses, “Show me your glory,” and what I really mean is “I want to see your glory as I go from triumph to triumph, from victory to victory, from success to success.” It may be just a moment of quiet, or a room I picked up to stay that way, feeling like I measure up to others, or simply wanting to be noticed. I don’t want to find myself easily tempted and failing, so vulnerable, so needy.

Our Daily Little Deaths–The Ground to See His Glory

Our lives as Christian moms are such a mercy! Our daily little deaths are the ground in which we can see the glory of God. We see His glory as we experience His power. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God. It is with His resurrection power that He is now enabling us to serve! He gives us His Spirit so we may serve our families by His strength (Phil. 3: 3). We can go ahead in faith in spite of our felt weakness because He is serving us so we can serve others.

Our tendency in the flesh is to find joy and put our confidence in that which is tangible and visible, but temporary—feeling loved and that we belong; our past successes at work or in ministry; being respected and admired for our gifts and skills; managing our homes efficiently; laying down routines; in our credentials as moms; thinking we are better than other moms. Every time we lose these tangible goals is a mini joy-producing death where we get to see His glory in the things which are not seen.

When the Lord allows me to experience pain and weakness while still having to care for my girls, His resurrection power is mine by faith as I put my hope to endure in His strength. In serving my two littles every day, I am walking in the footsteps of the One who made Himself nothing and took the form of a servant (Phil. 2: 7-8). We are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4: 10).

When I see ways in which I am weak as a mom–not as creative or imaginative or efficient as I would like to be–I need to set my eyes on what I can not see: He is the One that does the work. He will take care of my kids and be all they need. He alone will get the glory for anything good that comes out of my parenting. If his name and glory are really “the desire of our hearts” (Isaiah 26: 8),  then we find much joy in knowing our parenting is for the glory of His praise and not ours.

So if the way we will truly know God and His glory is as we die and the risen Jesus lives His life in us, we then gladly die.

Christ, Our Treasure

When Christ takes away the things that bring us joy, or those relationships that serve as an strengthening influence, we don’t have to despair because He is our hope. Christ the greatest Good of all, was not withheld from me, even if rest, health, and deep, intimate friendship were, on the week I mentioned earlier. And He never will.

So friend– next time you and I find ourselves thinking:

“Lord, this is not how I want to spend this day\

[driving kids around, comforting a sick child after a sleepless night, dealing with this child’s hormones, doing conflict resolution all.day.long, doing this parenting thing with a husband who is working late again, or throwing up with morning sickness]”,

Let us, with faith, pray instead:

“Lord, I want to know you right here in the unexpected places.

Give me eyes to see your resurrection power enabling me to serve.

Show me your glory as I die to my comfort, my desires, my interests.

I want to experience You living your life in me.

I am dead to sin so I don’t need to give into it.

You are my treasure.

Show me what it means that you are enough.”

And, dear sister, rest assured—at the last day the repeatedly tested genuineness of our faith, borne out through many kinds of trials, will result in praise and honor and glory to Christ (1 Peter 1:7). Nothing will be lost. Christ will get the glory and we will enjoy Him forever.

Guest Interview–Michelle Cooper, part 2

Yesterday I introduced you to my friend, Michelle. So thankful for her willingness to pull back the curtain a bit and let us have glimpses into their home, and most especially to God’s work in their lives. Here is the second part of the interview!

Worthy Hope: What were/are some of the temptations that you face? What sustains/feeds your joy in the midst of the daily grind?

Michelle Cooper: It’s easy to feel like no one understands what you’re going through. Could this be true? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t speak truth into my world. And the only thing I need to know is that Christ does know me and understand my temptations.

~I am always tempted toward pride, as though having a child with special needs makes me more worthy of the Kingdom.

~I am tempted to be discouraged and give up disciplining a child who we are constantly wondering, “does he understand what we’re asking of him?”

~I am tempted to compare my situation with friends who have typical kids who are 5 years old, thinking how simple it must be to have a kid who talks, is potty trained,
easily interacts with others, can be trusted to go play at a park w/out kicking someone off a playset!

~I am tempted to wonder if I would have had a fifth kid had we not had a child with special needs; meaning, life might feel simpler so we might have had one or two more.

~I am tempted to envy my husband who has a life outside of this home 🙂

WH: What truths reorient your heart when you are tempted?

MC: God has had my days and life marked out from the beginning. He knew hemichelle1 was going to save me. He knew He was going to give me this child with special needs. He knew he would give the resources we have, and when not, He would provide through His people. He knew this was GOOD for me and for my husband and our family. Our church. Our parents. Our neighbors. There was NO mistake. Psalm 139:13-18, right? There were absolutely, 100% no surprises for God. He allowed Myles to be born with Down syndrome. He knew it was good for us. I cannot argue with this. I simply cannot. I remind myself of this when I start being tempted to want OUT… to be FREE… to be INDEPENDENT. He has marked our path. And I can be confident in this even on the days when my mental, emotional, and physical body is screaming for something else and I feel my spirit poised to run the other direction. He gently pulls me back and this can be painful, but oh so good when I submit.

In the daily grind– coffee sustains my heart. As well as chocolate bark with salted almonds 🙂 Of course, God’s Word is always encouragement to my soul–I Peter 1:3-9. I know the trials they were going through were perhaps of much more gravity than a child with special needs. But, I still think we can cling to this truth today– He is holding us securely till the end and we can have inexpressible joy even in the midst of hardship because we know what He has done and is still doing on our behalf. This life is NOT all there is!!

James 1 always encourages me, knowing that the testing of my faith produces perseverance. This kind of goes back to the above question about how my perspective has changed. God does build our endurance for the trials of life through suffering. We question His goodness, His plan. The question rings, “How can this be good for me??” I have asked myself that question over and over again. But He gently helps me see the spectrum of where I was when He saved me to where I am now– growing in faith.

We can’t always see the contrast when we’re in the midst of trials. Many times, in the heat of situations, I seriously think I’m digressing! And there are times when I probably am! But in the courage the Spirit gives, we move forward in faith, disciplining ourselves to remember what is true. Eventually He will show us where we are at now and how He has grown us. And that builds more endurance for the next trial. At least this is how it has worked out in my life

WH: In what ways do you see the Lord advancing His kingdom because of Myles?

MC: Having any outward physical identifier allows people in public to connect with you. So Myles has bright red hair, freckles, blue glasses, and Down syndrome. There is a lot to talk about 🙂 We have many opportunities to speak with others ANYWHERE we are at because many times people are trying to make connections. It’s not as though we are giving the Gospel at each of these interactions, but we certainly are able to speak truth and demonstrate joy even in the midst of what can be awkward situations (i.e. him yelling in a store, or running away from us, or hitting a kid at the park).

Our neighbors have basically grown up with Myles. We live on a cul-de-sac and all of us lived here before Myles was born. So when we brought him home, of course everyone was excited to meet the new baby. I think they were shocked by our response. I mean, of course, we were still processing 3 days later what just happened. But we were still filled with joy and able to share our confidence in what God had given us in Myles.

At our church, it has definitely been an opportunity for growth. I think many believers love the idea of special needs having a place in the church family. But when faced with it up close and personal, you are forced to question your philosophy and belief about what that really looks like when practically played out. Many times, it is easier said than done. And it takes hard work to be able to meet the world of special needs when it comes to breaking down barriers that make it hard for the Gospel to get through.

My husband works in public education. He has had more opportunities than I have had to share the Gospel clearly with co-workers. God has used the conversation piece of Myles’ to make easy segues into spiritual matters, whether it’s about the sin nature of a child even with special needs or everyone being created in God’s image or the idea of suffering and trials being ongoing.

michelle4

And God is working in our family day by day. It has been really interesting to see how God has used Myles right here in our own family! Watching our older boys make sense of disability in their school setting, and having Myles as an anchor in their lives, has really opened their minds to other kids who are not like them. It’s amazing and their love for Myles despite his behavior is enormous. We are confident the Lord will use it long into their adult lives. ~~