The Five Words we all Need to Hear Sometimes

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him~ Nahum 1:7

 It’s been a long week.

 Every single time I turned on the television or radio I was deeply discouraged by the folly and cruelty of the human race. A stomach virus that can only be described as malevolent has wrecked havoc on our household. School starts in a few days and that means at least one shopping trip.

 Under normal conditions shopping is an activity I enjoy. However, school shopping with a seventh-grade girl is not “normal conditions”. School shopping with a seventh-grade girl is a grueling and brutal business that ought to be declared an act of torture by civilized people everywhere.

 I miss my oldest daughter (who lives in another state) and on the other end of the life spectrum it has become painfully apparent that my Dad is aging rapidly. To top it all off I have a couple of long-standing personal problems that are vexing me to no end. The outcome of those issues is for the most part, firmly outside of my control and I (like control freaks everywhere) despise any outcome firmly outside of my control.

I totally get that all these issues are first-world problems that don’t amount too all that much in the grand scheme of life and eternity. However, they are my first-world problems and most of them are here to stay.

 This morning I did what Christians are called to do when confronted with problems we cannot solve on our own. I prayed about the problems. Admittedly, it was not the most inspiring or poignant prayer I have ever prayed. It probably sounded more like a low-level pity party than a proper prayer to the Almighty. The substance was essentially just “God show me how to deal with all this without losing my mind”.

God did what God typically does whenever I start whining. He took me to His word where I found this verse:

 They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism~ Acts 6:5 NIV

 It wasn’t the entire verse that caught my attention and shook me back to a less self-indulgent reality. Rather it was a few words tucked in the heart of the verse, the five words that pulled me out of my funk this morning were “ faith and the Holy Spirit”. God showed me those two things are all we need to endure through any trouble (big or small) life throws our way.

 The Bible calls faith the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). But I believe faith is more than that, faith is that still, small voice that speaks to our spirits in times of trouble and reminds us that God IS. Because God IS the thing or things that test us are not the giants that they appear to be on the surface.

 They are just circumstances.

 Circumstances are simply pesky little moments in time that will someday feel inconsequential in the vast expanse of eternity. Circumstances that feel problematic and intractable are sometimes just God setting us up for something infinitely better. Circumstances are sometimes just lessons we have to learn in order to move on to those better things. Perhaps most comforting of all is the fact that circumstances will change over the course of time. The reality we see today is likely very different from the reality we will see a year from now.

 Faith reminds us in times of trouble that God—not circumstances—is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and keeping that truth at the forefront of our minds can keep us sane in the midst of circumstances that threaten to steal our peace.

 Despite my bellyaching I am entirely convinced that God cares about our problems— no matter how big, small or neurotic they may be.

 I believe that because God gave us the Holy Spirit.

 The Holy Spirit is the comforter and helper of Christians in times of trouble or confusion. However He is more than just comfort and help. He is also our guide and a source of supernatural wisdom and strength. If we seek Him and ask He has promised to give us the wisdom we need to navigate the tough stuff of life, and that really is all we need.

 

Stop Dropping the D-Bomb and Other Ways to Stay Married-

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord~ Proverbs 18:22 NIV

 My husband and I have officially been married for more years than most millennials have been alive. Alan and I were barely into our twenties when we got married and like all couples who marry young, we kind of grew-up together.

 I would love to tell you that every moment of our marriage has been a blissful one. Like all married people we have had good and bad times, however, at this point in our relationship I can honestly say that I would not trade even a minute of any of it for anything this world has to offer. There is simply no sweeter or more effective way to learn about life, love, God’s grace and what it really means to forgive and be forgiven.

I do not pretend to know everything there is to know about marriage, I am still learning. However, through the years I have learned a thing or two about the art of keeping love alive. Today I want to share six practical things I have learned (mostly the hard way) about the art of keeping a marriage healthy. Beginning with:

 Learn to let go-

 I am convinced that most divorces aren’t caused by big problems that cannot be solved. Divorces are the result of little irritations we refuse to let go of. I learned this a few years into our marriage when I observed that my sweetie had what I concluded were some vexing personal habits. Most notably Alan is a “piler”. He piles things neatly and continues to pile them until he is ready to deal with the mess or the pile outgrows the space available. This habit came to my attention via an enormous heap of clothing in the corner of our bedroom. I decided to see how big it would get before he did something about it. It took longer than I liked, and my outrage grew in direct proportion to the size of the pile. Three weeks in, I was done with keeping the peace and spent the better part of a day formulating an impressive lecture on the merits of tidiness and importance of respecting one’s partner. I was prepared to nail him with it, and then I had one of those gut-wrenching moments that are painful to experience but are totally necessary sometimes. It hit me that the pile of laundry was going to be the beginning of the end my marriage if I didn’t let go of my need to have it my way all the time. I promptly quashed my “righteous” indignation and vowed to stop letting that particular habit get the best of me.

 Connect without having sex-

 It’s easy to get carried away by the busyness of life and fall into the trap of living like roommates rather than two people who have made a life-long romantic commitment to one another. The key to changing that reality once it takes root is intentional connection. It’s important (especially for women) to connect in ways other than having sex. Get in the habit of making time to do the things you did while you were dating. Go places together, set-aside time just to talk, text each other, do the chores together and hold hands in public places. Those things are the reason you were happier while you were dating.

 Have sex-

 Find a pattern that works for both of you and have sex on a regular basis. Sex keeps the roommate vibe at bay and makes it easier (especially for men) to connect relationally outside of the bedroom.

 Stop dropping the D-bomb-

 Screaming you want a divorce in the middle of a stupid squabble is the emotional equivalent of choosing the nuclear option. There is absolutely nowhere productive the conversation can go from there. Divorce is not a word that should be uttered casually, in anger, or ever, if you care anything at all about staying married.

 Don’t let your marriage become entirely kid-centric-

 Little kids can suck-up all of our physical and emotional energy and sometimes it feels like they will always be a part of your daily routine. But I can assure that the little nippers do grow-up and move on with their lives. When they leave, you and your spouse will be stuck with whatever relationship you built while they were growing-up. Make it a good one.

 Become a student of your spouse-

 Learn everything you can about the likes and dislikes of your spouse for the sole purpose of bringing joy into their life. I promise it will bring joy into yours as well.

 Divorce is a heartbreak on every level, morally spiritually and relationally; our culture’s causal attitude towards marriage has devastated millions and generated incalculable social chaos. The Christian divorce epidemic is a big part of the reason the church has lost its moral authority in the culture. But most importantly divorce is a tragedy because even when every other alternative has been exhausted and divorce is deemed the only option (due to chronic infidelity or abuse) divorce is agonizing. Every divorce statistic represents two hurting and broken humans who had their dreams of a blissful, enduring union crushed and a large share of their personal history made null and void by a single legal decree.

 Prevention really is the only cure.

 

 

 

Betrayed Like Bernie?

 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you~ Matthew 5:11-12 NASB

 I feel the need to offer a brief disclaimer.

 I am not, nor will I ever be a supporter of Bernie Sanders political and social vision for America. In my judgment his very best ideas are half-baked and hopelessly naïve. Despite his declarations to the contrary Bernie is and always has been more of a communist than a socialist. Communism is an absurd notion that deserves to die already. Communism is the governmental equivalent of a ponzi scheme.

 It has swindled and subjugated millions in the name of “social and economic equality”.

 Communism promises plenty but only delivers material, spiritual and moral poverty. Once it takes root, it destroys the ambition of the people and with that all economic and human potential. Communism only works if the people view the state as their sole benefactor and provider; therefore faith in God is a serious threat to communism, which makes communism a serious threat to religious liberty.

 Equally as critical, I simply cannot envision myself casting a vote for anyone who is clearly worse at math than I am.

 Now that I have that little rant out of the way, I have to confess I felt nothing but compassion and empathy for Bernie Sanders when it was disclosed this week that power-brokers in the Democratic Party schemed to block his path to the Democratic nomination. I may not like or support his political vision, but I have to concede that it was the dirtiest of deals and more than a little unfair.

 Most of us have been where he’s at, at one time or another. We were just doing life, going about our business, attempting to do our best with the gifts, talents and opportunities God has given us, only to discover that people, sometimes people we trusted, had betrayed or cheated us in a significant way.

 We can be cheated out of opportunities, as was the case with Bernie. Or we can be swindled out of money or cheated on by a spouse. Other times it’s our reputation we are cheated out of of when we are slandered or misrepresented in some way.

 Whatever the details, being cheated is the ugly stuff of life. It tests even the most patient among us (sometimes to the breaking point) and has the potential to destroy our trust in people and our faith in the goodness of God.

 I am convinced that the feelings of anger and hurt that follow a betrayal or cheating incident are not sinful or wrong. It’s normal and perhaps even healthy to feel anger towards someone who mistreats us in some way.

 It’s how we deal with our feelings that matter.

 How we handle our feelings will determine our future spiritual health, the people we become and the condition of future relationships. If our anger and hurt is permitted to fester into resentment we will be destroyed by our own bitterness and useless to ever do anything good. Conversely, being mistreated can, over time, make us wiser, more compassionate, and more sensitive people if we allow God to use the experience to mold us into better people.

 Dealing with a betrayal in a healthy way has to begin with a deeply held belief that God really is good and that He has a plan for our ultimate good (Jeremiah 29:11), even when life is unfair and people cheat us.

 Belief that God loves us and has a plan for our good is the only thing that enables us to forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness is not easy and is almost always a process rather than an event. Sometimes we have to repeat the process over and over again until it sticks. We know we’ve forgiven when we are totally free of anger and bitterness towards the person or people who wronged us.

 Betrayal, like every other ugly thing we are stuck with in this sin-sick world, has the power to make us either better or bitter.

 The choice is ours to make.

 

 

God and the Election

Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare~ Jeremiah 29:7 NLT

 Life is filled with disappointments.

 For most of us, our acquaintance with disappointment begins fairly early usually around the same time we discover the truth about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Hopefully, as we mature, the issues that cause us disappointment evolve at least a little. Nevertheless disappointment tends to remain an issue for most of us.

 This reality has been validated by the outcome of the 2016 election.

 As of this week, the fix is clearly in. We know with absolute certainty that barring a federal indictment or a third party miracle candidate either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will serve as leader of the free world come January 20th, 2017.

 This was not the outcome I wanted or I prayed for. I have made a gloomy sort of peace with the fact that this election will be a choice between the lesser of two evils and I have to choose one or I am in effect choosing the other, and I have chosen my candidate.

 However, I don’t have to like it.

 In my opinion neither is fit for public office. I have never in all my life seen two candidates who are both so terrible in their own unique way. For me, having to choose between the two is almost like being forced to choose which incurable venereal disease I want to have. Both have a consistent track record of flip-flopping, personal corruption, shady deals and less-than-stellar judgment calls.

 Sigh.

 My initial inclination was to purchase a tract of land in a remote section of Wyoming and begin hoarding dehydrated food and drinking water. Eventually I calmed down and began a journey through the five stages of grief. I probably spent more time in denial and anger than is healthy before landing on acceptance, with acceptance came the acknowledgement that God is still firmly in control.

 Then I started thinking.

 I started thinking about God’s purpose in all this and how Christians (including myself) ought to respond to the chaos that has erupted in recent years. After some thought and a lot of prayer I concluded that there are at least three things Christians can do right now to prepare for the future and be light in the increasingly strange times we live in.

 First:

 Pray- Matthew 7:7, 1st Timothy 2:1-3, Matthew 18:18-19

 Pray that spiritual leaders will be discerning and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Pray for truth to take root in our world. Pray for wisdom. Pray for world leaders. Pray for the next President. Pray for people to get saved. Pray our political leaders will become the people we desperately need them to be. Just pray.

 Speak boldly- Acts 4:31

 For too long most of us have equated spiritual boldness with rudeness or disrespect for the values of others. Since no rational human wants to be an impertinent jerk, Christians have become timid and even fearful when it comes to proclaiming truth. It’s time to find some balance and start speaking the truth about sin, life, death, heaven and hell. We should choose our words wisely when we speak (Colossians 4:6). That being said, we need to speak up. Our world is literally perishing due to a lack of spiritual knowledge.

 Get grounded in the word- Psalm 119:105, John 8:32

 We live in an age of deception. We are constantly bombarded with the message that right is wrong and wrong is right. Even some who know better have departed from the truth and begun to assert that all spiritual paths lead to the same place and some prominent teachers and preachers have begun to claim that the God of the Bible goes by many names. None of this is true. Not coincidently, these radical shifts in thinking have taken place as corporate Bible studies are being dropped in many churches. The truth found in the Bible is the only antidote to the deception out there. We should study it.

 God has reminded me over and over again these past weeks that my hope is not in the political process. My hope is in God who calls each one of us to fully face the challenges of our world with hearts full faith.

 The fact that God has ultimate control over the political process is in a sense all the hope we need in this world. We know that no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, we can rest easy knowing that God, not the next president is ultimately in control of all things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Key to Dealing with Disappointment

 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 NIV

 I will not lie. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks around our house. We have been in the final throes of the moving process and experienced all the standard drama associated with moving ones worldly belongings across four states and over sixteen hundred miles.

Everything and I mean everything, has taken longer and cost more than we thought it would. The electric company called last week to let us know that our first bill was sent back (they were not amused). A few phone calls revealed that ALL our mail is being returned to sender and a trip to the post office has yet to remedy the situation.

 Our new neighborhood is a place where folks take lawn care seriously and we have not figured out how to make the sprinkler system work. As a result our lawn is turning an ominous shade of brown and the neighbors have begun to cast sideways glances at us. The dogs are troubled by the recent changes and cannot figure out on a consistent basis where they are supposed to “do their business”.

 Sadly, all that pales in comparison to the drama we have experienced with one of our kids. This kid has been what can only be described as a mammoth pain in the backside for weeks now. We have been losing our minds trying to find an explanation for this behavior.

 A long encouraging conversation resulted in no discernable change in behavior. We then attempted some coaching, when that failed we moved on to gentle correction, praying for wisdom, and finally punishing the bad behavior with increasing intensity: nothing worked. We wondered if the disobedience was perhaps a result of homesickness or missing the old school or perhaps even a weird side-effect of getting less sunshine.

 After a number of increasingly more intense discussions it was revealed that at the root of the angsty misbehavior was something more basic…

 Disappointment.

 I am not sure what the kid was hoping for, and neither do they. But it turns out that living in Washington is a lot like living in Arizona only with more rain and fewer swimming pools. They were expecting things to somehow be different, more exciting, and less humdrum. At one point in the conversation they did admit that at the very least were hoping that a change in location would result in a change of expectations. We discussed the issue at length and I am pleased to report that life in Price household has finally returned to something that more closely resembles normal.

 My immediate reaction was relief that the crisis was over; relief was followed quickly by amusement. My amusement faded when it hit me that even many grown-ups have been guilty of the same sort of wishful hoping at one time or another.

 Most of us have irrationally hoped that making an outward alteration in education level, tax bracket, marital status or zip code would somehow alter more than just our education level, marital status, zip code or tax bracket. We believe deep down inside that getting married will fix our relationship problems, moving will transform us into a more interesting person or that getting a degree will give us the sense of belonging or prestige we have always longed for. When we wake-up the day after making the big change as the same person we’ve always been, reality results in…

 Disappointment.

 Disappointment is unavoidable in a fallen world. Few things in life work out exactly as we hoped or even planned they would. If disappointment is not handled properly it can transform into anger towards God. If anger is allowed to fester it will eventually grow into a cancer that always results in either a nasty case of depression or a grown-up version of acting out. We act-out (sin) because deep down inside we feel that our disappointment has earned us the right to take pleasure where we can find it. Acting-out is an ugly thing that never ends well for anyone, regardless of age.

 For Christians the key to coping with the inevitable disappointments of life begins with a willingness to surrender our dreams and desires to God. When we let go of our dreams and desires, we are freed up to embrace the dreams God has for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

When God Ordains Trouble

 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God”~ Genesis 44:5a, 7, 8a

 I rarely worry during the day and I’m usually out like a light within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. I would love to tell you it’s because I am some sort of a super Christian who has completely conquered the sin of worry.

 However, that would be a terrible lie.

I do worry sometimes. Sadly, it’s never at an hour when I can constructively deal with issues or problems. For some reason I will never entirely grasp, my brain simply prefers to focus in on all the unsolvable problems of life around three-o-clock in the morning. It never fails to amaze me how I can feel perfectly relaxed and anxiety-free at ten only to wake up with an extensive list of thoroughly bizarre concerns that appear to require my full attention just a few hours later.

 I was back at it the other night, wide-awake at 2:45 a.m. staring at the ceiling, mulling over an issue that has been vexing me on and off for months. The situation in question can only be categorized as an interpersonal disaster. I cannot figure out for the life of me how exactly the situation got to be so bad or even where it all went wrong in the first place.

 Looking back, there are things I could have (and probably should have) done differently. That said, I’m not sure doing things differently would have improved the outcome all that much. The whole thing is a big, stupid mess that appears to have been fated to become a big, stupid mess from day one. And the mess just keeps getting messier no matter what I do (or stop doing) to fix it.

 As I lay awake in the wee hours of the night praying for wisdom, it struck me that there are times in this life when it appears as if God has simply ordained trouble for people. It happened to some of God’s best and brightest. Paul, Joseph, Naomi and David are just a few examples of people who found themselves in serious trouble they did not create and were powerless to escape without God’s intervention.

 When Jesus promised we would have trouble in this life (John 16:33), He was not overstating facts. Friends betray our confidence, the wrong people get elected, persecution occurs, financial misfortune appears seemingly out of thin air. As if all that were not enough, spouses are sometimes prone to wander, terrorists attack without reason or forewarning and kids who were raised right can still go horribly wrong. Even the seemingly most secure and peaceful of situations can and sometimes do transform in the course of a single day.

 God’s purposes are largely hidden and almost always easier to understand in retrospect. Sometimes, as with Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth, God has a much larger plan that is unfolding, and our pain is simply a stepping-stone to our true purpose in this life. Other times, God uses trouble to prepare us for responsibilities or blessings beyond anything we could possibly imagine, as He did with Joseph and David. Other times, trouble or persecution is simply the natural consequence of a life of obedience, as with the apostle Paul.

 God also uses trouble to reveal truth we need to see about ourselves. In the process of revealing those truths He refines us and makes us better people. Sometimes God uses trouble to draw us into a closer relationship with Him, and sometimes God uses trouble to reorder our priorities and steer us back to our original calling.

 If you live long enough and serve faithfully enough you will likely find yourself in the middle of a mess you did not make and have no clue how to fix. When trouble comes and life feels out of control, the natural response is to wonder what we did wrong or if God has somehow abandoned us. That response makes sense on a natural level but is an enormous waste of spiritual time and emotional energy.

 Rather, we should get busy praying for wisdom, direction and the ability to be flexible because something infinitely bigger and better is likely right around the corner.

The trouble you are facing today is simply God preparing you for the blessings and responsibilities of tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

When You’re Ready For It to be Over Already

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength~ Isaiah 40:29-31a

For the most part my son was a sweet and obedient little boy. However, there was one area he struggled throughout his childhood. Alex was (and is now) a kid who routinely spoke his mind, irrespective of the appropriateness of the situation.

 When Alex was six my husband took him to a local home improvement store where he saw a man dressed as a woman for the first time. Alex stared at the man for just a second or two, gave a slight nod, as if he had made his mind up about something significant and loudly declared that if men were going to wear dresses they ought to at least shave their legs. Alex charmed everyone within earshot with his thoroughly naïve but straightforward appraisal of the situation, except of course, the man wearing the dress.

 My son’s inclination to boldly speak his mind was not limited to the questionable wardrobe choices of others. Nor did it start when he was six. It started in early toddlerhood. To my utter horror, He would routinely ask total strangers the most personal questions imaginable. He also made a regular habit of informing the parents of other children when he felt their kids were misbehaving. He was notorious for correcting or contradicting any opinion he believed to be based on misinformation. Regardless of the age or person giving the opinion.

 As awkward, embarrassing and downright irritating all that was, nothing matched the level of humiliation I felt when my son would decide was ready to leave a gathering or a play date. Once he made-up his mind that he had enough fun for the day, he would approach me (he never once did this privately) and announce loudly that he was “done” and “ready for it to be over”. Once my initial inclination to hide under the furniture passed, I was typically overwhelmed with a very un-motherly yearning to murder my own offspring. For nearly a year of his childhood most of our outings ended with a lengthy lecture on the importance of not actually saying everything we think or feel.

 Alex’s desire to be done with any situation he wasn’t enjoying anymore was maddening. However, I do understand his feelings. Sometimes even grown-ups are done with a situation or trial long before God has decided it’s time for us to move on.

Lately, I have found myself saying some things to God that sound remarkably like the things my toddler used to say to me.

 It is not as if the trial we’ve experienced has been the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. We have a great deal to be thankful for. We have a steady income, our kids are healthy, none of them are currently using drugs or openly rebelling against God, we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. My husband and I are healthy and our marriage is solid. In other words all the stuff that really matters in this life is still okay in our world.

 All that said, having a house that has sat on a stagnant market for the better part of a year has been hard. Our lives are currently on hold. The youngest is struggling emotionally. Living apart has been tough (to say the least) and our checking account needs CPR. However none of those issues compare to the spiritual bewilderment we have experienced as we waited for God to act on our behalf.

 There have been many times over the course of the last eight months when I have felt as if we were being tested (and failing badly). I now know I was wrong, at least about the testing part. We have been reading the situation all-wrong. It’s not a test.

 It’s an opportunity.

 Like any trial the last eight months has been an opportunity to learn to love and trust God even when life is a lot less than easy and the answers are hard to find. It’s been an opportunity to trust and to proclaim the goodness of God even when He has felt far away. It’s been opportunity to show the world what faith really looks like (Hebrews 11:1).

 I know this likely won’t be last time I will be given an opportunity that feels like a test. I am hoping and praying that the next time an opportunity disguised, as a misfortune comes around I will have the wisdom to recognize it for what it is sooner.

The Hard Truth Concerning Forgiveness

I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept~ Genesis 50:17

 They have become ubiquitous on Facebook.

Photos of a man standing at sunset, back to the camera arms spread wide in an expression of complete and glorious freedom. Or sometimes the photo is of a young woman dressed in white strolling serenely down a long tree-lined path, suggesting a future filled with joy and endless possibilities.

 The quotes accompanying these images are sometimes spiritually questionable. Others are far too syrupy and sentimental for my taste. However, the vast majority of quotes on the subject are thought provoking and more than a little convicting…

 We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies~ Martin Luther King Jr.

 The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong~ Gandhi

 Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness~ Corrie Ten Boom

 Over the course of the last few years I have had the “opportunity” to work through two unrelated and dissimilar situations, both requiring me to forgive some massive and very personal hurts. I concluded after working through those situations that none of the quotes I have seen tell the complete story of forgiveness. Sappy sentimentalities and inspiring quips extolling the virtues and benefits of forgiveness inevitably miss a core truth.

 Forgiveness is hard.

 Sometimes it hurts almost as much as the offense that necessitated the forgiving. If the offense was particularly personal or the person who did the hurting was someone we trusted. The act of forgiving that person can hurt to the point of physical agony. Forgiveness is tough because involves a release of the right to seek revenge on someone who doubtless has earned some sort of retaliation. The letting go of what is logically a right can feel overwhelmingly unjust.

 Forgiveness is a foundational (albeit sometimes unpopular) doctrine of the Christian faith. God forgives without hesitation, and He clearly expects His people to forgive in the same spirit. Forgiving is so important to God that it’s a prerequisite for obtaining His forgiveness (Matthew 6:15).

 God knows enough about people to know that when we refuse to forgive, unforgiveness transforms us in a profoundly ugly way. We eventually become incapable of focusing on anything but our wounds and resentment. The relentless emphasis on the negative causes our patience to shrivel and our irritation with everyone to increase. Over time we inevitably twist into a hostile, unsympathetic and nasty version of ourselves. 

 Regrettably, knowing all this does not make forgiving any easier.

 It is considerably more difficult (if not impossible) to forgive without God’s assistance and power. Some offenses are simply too great to forgive on our own; we acquire the help we need to forgive through persistent and sometimes prolonged prayer. Prayer keeps us connected to God, prevents bitterness from taking root in our hearts and empowers us to forgive the unforgivable. We pray until our feelings towards the person who did the hurting change.

 Prayer also prevents people from blaming God for situations He had nothing to do with. Oftentimes, when Christians have suffered a serious offense they struggle as much with anger towards God, for allowing the hurt to happen as they do with the person who hurt them. It’s important to understand that God is not a puppet master who controls the choices of people.

 Sometimes people hurt others because they are egotistical, callous or even evil. Most of the time people hurt others because they are stupid, insensitive or lack awareness of how their actions affect others. Either way, it’s profoundly unjust to hold God accountable for the actions of free people.

 Forgiving would be easier if people were capable of simply forgetting offenses. We cannot do that. However, over time, with God’s assistance, we can reach a point where we are no longer held prisoner by the anger we feel towards those who have betrayed us. Forgiveness is freedom that will empower us to live a happy, useful and God-honoring life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When You Hit the Wall

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith~ Hebrew 12:1-2

 There are a number of terms for it, some of them colorful. Sometimes it’s called “throwing in the towel” or “flaking out.” I generally refer to it as “calling it. ”The military calls it “deserting your post”, my kids call it “canning” and the English call it “bunking off”. I will not repeat the phrase my Father had for it; all you need to know is that it’s not the least bit appropriate.

 Runners call it “hitting the wall.” I am partial to that particular expression because “hitting the wall” is about more than quitting. Hitting the wall is a moment in a race that appears to come out of nowhere. Suddenly the runner is overcome with negative thoughts and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead. Every muscle begs for mercy. The runner longs to just give up and go home.

 Hitting the wall happens for a number of reasons, some completely outside the runner’s control. Poor weather conditions, outside distractions, fatigue, illness or lack of proper training for that particular race can cause even the most seasoned athlete to long to bow out of the race and hit the nearest Five Guys. Whatever the cause, the bottom-line is simple. When a runner hits the wall, they have a choice to make. Do they give-up and go home or do they dig deep and muster the strength to finish the race?

 Runners are not the only ones faced with that choice.

At some point in the Christian life, every follower of Jesus hits a spiritual wall: a dark and ugly fork in the road where the walk of faith simply feels too hard and not worth pursuing. Deep down inside they don’t know if they can or even want to keep going. No Christian wants to admit they’ve hit the wall but everyone does at some point.

 Hitting the spiritual wall can come as a result of deep grief or profound personal loss. Sometimes it comes after a long period of remaining faithful in the face of what feels like endless disappointment. Mistreatment by other Christians can cause even the most mature believer to hit the wall. Other times, it’s a result of relentless attacks from the enemy. It can happen because of lack of attention to our spiritual life. Sometimes it’s a result of chronic overwork or discouragement.

 The causes matter, but not nearly as much as our response.

 There are two common responses to hitting the wall. The first is to get angry and run as far from God as possible. This reaction is born out of the belief that God could have and should have prevented whatever circumstances led to our confusion and misery. This all-too common reaction makes sense on a human level. However, it inevitably leads to spiritual disaster and is exactly what the enemy of our souls wants us to do.

 The healthy response to the hopelessness that occurs when we hit the wall is to run towards God. Running towards God begins with an honest conversation. We need to talk to Him about our situation and our feelings about it. This can be scary, many believers balk at the notion of being honest with God. It feels sinful and wrong to admit our anger and confusion out loud. Being real with God isn’t something we do for God. God already knows exactly what we think and how we feel (Hebrews 4:12). We get real with God for our own good, to keep from getting stuck in bitterness.

 Once we talk things out with God, it is time for an evaluation of our life and attitudes. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions:

 Is there sin we need to repent of (Acts 3:19)?

Are we spending time in prayer and reading the Bible (Hebrews 2:2-4)?

Are we isolating ourselves from other Christians (Hebrews 10:25)?

Are we blaming God for the devil’s work (Luke 22:31)?

Are we praising Him in spite of our circumstances (Psalm 22)?

Are we believing God will work out His plan for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28)?

Are we walking in faith or fear (Isaiah 41:10)?

 Once any necessary repenting is done, it’s time to trust. Trust that God’s love for you has not changed or faded. Trust that He is still on your side. Trust that this miserable, awful trial you are enduring will make you wiser, more compassionate and better able to serve. Most importantly, trust that God is good and believe that better days are right around the corner.

Because they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Why of Trials

In all 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 the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed~ 1st Peter 1:6-7

 Every December, as the year comes to a close, I try to spend some time during the final weeks of the month mentally recapping the past year. I mull over the good as well as the not-so-good. I spend some time thanking God for the good and pray for the wisdom to make the bad stuff better in the coming year.

 As my mind meandered through the events of 2015, it did not take me long to conclude that this past year will not go on record as one of the better years in Price family history. It was, in fact, awful. 2015 was one of those years where everything was a struggle. Nothing worked out the way we hoped it would, or in a way that made any sense at all to any of us. There have certainly been blessings, but for the most part even the blessings this year were born out of enormous difficulty and came as result of some hard-fought battles.

 Don’t get me wrong; I believe with all of my heart that God is firmly in control of all of the events of our life, even the less than perfect ones. I also believe that our happy ending will be arriving at some point in the (hopefully) near future but we sure haven’t experienced it as of this writing.

 I am sharing our story not because I want to bum you out with my closing blog of 2015. I am sharing because I believe it’s imperative that Christians are truthful with each other about our struggles. If we always put on a happy face and pretend not to have have problems or stress or, in my case, an unbelievably crummy year, we will never really understand the reason God allows struggles and heartache in the lives of His people.

 Not understanding the why of the tough, bothersome, tedious junk can be spiritually confusing. Living in a state of spiritual confusion tends to make us hard, bitter and resentful and can cause us to leave the life of faith altogether.

 There are all kinds of reasons why God allows us to struggle or suffer through stuff that FEELS completely unnecessary. Sometimes struggles come because there are things we need to learn about ourselves. There is nothing like a little stress to show us all the attitudes and knee-jerk responses to pressure that are not exactly what Jesus would do in the same situation. We will never change what we can’t see, so it could even be argued that trials are a necessary evil that help us see what areas of our lives still need work.

 Trials also prove our faith. Not to God. God knows exactly how much or little faith we all have already. Persisting through a trial with our faith firmly intact proves to you and me and all people around us that we are not just flocking to God for what He can provide. Perseverance proves our love for God and is the truest sign of salvation that there is.

 Last week I was given a reminder of perhaps the most critical reason of all that God allows us to experience trials and difficulties. I had the privilege of looking someone I care deeply about in the eye and telling them in all honesty that I completely understood the weird, crazy, absurd situation they were dealing with. I could do that because I had been through something very similar just a few years before. I could assure this person that they too would survive their shock just as I had survived mine. The Apostle Paul gives us an image of how the cycle of trial and comfort works in the life of a Christian in 2nd Corinthians 1:3-5:

 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.

 My prayer for all of us this coming year is that God will comfort us in tangible way through the trials that are sure to come our way. I also pray that He will give us all many opportunities to be the hands, feet and source of comfort our hurting world will undoubtedly need in 2016.