christmas-joy

Light Affliction?

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:61-18

light-afflictionMy Bible study this morning included 2 Corinthians 11: 23-28 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. As I was reading and studying, I was struck by Paul’s words, “our light affliction”. I had just read the verses in chapter 11, where he recounted his sufferings. He was given 39 stripes 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, stoned, shipwrecked 3 times, spent all day and night in the deep, imprisoned, cold, hungry, weary, and in pain. Yet he calls it “our light affliction” when encouraging the Christians at Corinth. How could all of this be considered light?

The key to it is in verse 18, looking not at the things which are seen (temporal), but on the eternal. These afflictions we endure now are indeed light, when we look at them in the perspective of eternity. The times of extreme pain that left me bedridden for days are nothing in the light of eternity. Going through 6 miscarriages was overwhelming to me, until I began looking at it with the right perspective. The spiritual perspective.

In the flesh, these things are not light. The pain, fatigue, heartache, the empty arms…Paul’s excruciating pain, exhaustion, imprisonment…they are hard. They hurt. We feel weak and wonder if we’ll make it through. Yet we’re not to walk in the flesh. We’re to have a heavenly perspective.

Never Forget

God has given such victory to me, but it is so easy to slip back into the old ways. All I have to do is let my focus slip back to me. Stop being thankful. Stop remembering that God is working in me. Forget He wants to use me. Forget He loves me, and gives me His best. All I have to do is forget that this life is just a tiny vapor, and it will be worth it all when I see Jesus.

So today, let’s remember that the pain we endure, the heartache, the betrayals, the weight of ministry, whatever we are enduring, it’s just a light affliction. One day we will look on our Saviour’s face, and it will seem like nothing. We’ll be thankful for this affliction, because we will see how God used it in our lives.

christmas-joy

When I Need Help

I will lift up mine eyes

When you’re full of grief, dealing with ongoing health issues, or in a dark place, you want help. You need help. I remember needing help for the basic things in life. At times, I needed my husband’s help to walk very far. I needed help with basic household chores. I needed lots of help. I still need help. I need help with the pain today. I need help cleaning my kitchen. I need help getting it all done.

I remember at one of my lowest points physically, I was crying and telling the Lord I just couldn’t do it. I needed help! We were on deputation, I was sick, I was dealing with the miscarriages (and not dealing very well at that point), and I just couldn’t do it. My amazing husband was calling and emailing pastors to set up meetings, studying and preparing for those meetings, preaching, presenting our work to Africa, and carrying most of “my” load as well. He helped clean missions apartments when we left, loaded the van, helped me with whatever I couldn’t do, and encouraged and cheered me on when I was overwhelmed, and did all the driving between meetings. But I still needed help. I needed help making it through our next meeting and lunch/dinner with the pastor. I needed help to smile and be engaged with them when my heart was breaking and I just wanted to crawl back into bed. I needed help packing up and driving to the next place to do it all again. Don’t get me wrong. I loved deputation, but it was physically very difficult, and I was on an emotional roller coaster with the thrill of each pregnancy, and the anguish of each miscarriage.

I needed help when people joked that we couldn’t be “real missionaries” because we didn’t have children. I needed help when people told us deputation was easier for us because we weren’t doing it with small children. In those cases, I needed help in the form of the Lord’s hand over my mouth, and help not bursting into tears in front of them. I needed help to keep smiling and be gracious. I needed a lot of help.

It doesn’t matter what your struggle is, we all need help. You may need different help than I did, but we both need help. And I found that help was ever-present. “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” I will be honest here, I didn’t always want His help. I sometimes just simply wanted my own way. I wanted Him to take the pain and sickness away and give me my children. Was that too much to ask? He is God. He can do anything. So why wouldn’t He just do these two simple things? But when I was ready to stop clinging to wanting things my way, and accept the help He wanted to give, I found He was all I needed. No, I didn’t suddenly have more energy and less pain. I still can’t keep my house clean and keep up with Bible studies and other ministry. And I don’t have children in my home. But I have His help. I have the strength for what God wants me to accomplish today. I have peace in the midst of frustration. I have joy in the midst of my sorrow. He is my help…and He truly is all I need.

I would never have chosen this path I’m walking. I had other hopes, plans, and dreams for my life. (They included good health and lots of children!) But I have learned that even when God gives me what I would not choose, it is good. I am learning that even when it hurts, it’s best. I know that even when it’s the exact opposite of what my heart yearns for, He doeth all things well. I can trust Him and He will help me through. That help may not look like what I wanted or expected, but it will be what I need. I have grown in ways I didn’t even realize i needed to grow. I have learned so much.

If you are struggling today, lift up your eyes. Look to Jesus for the help you need. It may not be the help you want, but He will give you all you need for today. Be willing to turn loose of your agenda, and your demands, even your desires, and accept the help your Father wants to give you.

christmas-joy

A Sacrifice of Praise

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:12-15

sacrifice-flower-picPraise is important in Scripture. In the Old Testament we find where the Levites were being assigned their work in the service of God. Some were given the specific task of singing and praising God!

We don’t usually think of sacrifice and praise in the same sentence. We usually think of praise in terms of joy and victory, when it comes pouring out of an abundant and overflowing heart, without effort. But think of it. Aren’t there times when praise truly is a sacrifice? Those days when the heart is broken, the body is ill or tired, life is full of frustrations and we find it much easier to cry, sleep, or complain than to offer praise.

During these times we have to make a decision to praise our God because it is right and good and He is holy and worthy of it, not because it comes flowing forth effortlessly. We choose to sing through the heartache, discouragement, fatigue, or pain.  We offer up our praise to our God as a sacrifice that is well pleasing to Him. Not because we feel like it, but because He is worthy of it.

“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalms 22:3

“I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
Psalms 18:3

“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” Psalms 50:23

“Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.” Psalms 33:1-2