When “ONE” Really Does Matter

When “ONE” Really Does Matter

 

Earlier this year I felt led to start a life group at New Life Community Church—a life group that focused on spiritual freedom, spiritual healing, spiritual warfare, and the icky issues that often get overlooked in favor of more traditional studies by famous authors. You know, the studies about Grace, How to Pray, How to Disciple, How to do this and that and the other. Don’t get me wrong, I love those types of studies too, but sometimes people walk into church a little “messy” on the inside, and sometimes those people need something a little different than another “Five Steps to Being a Better Christian.”

I was excited as it got under way. There were four of us ladies, which would be perfect when it came to discussing the more sensitive issues we were likely to explore. (It’s easier to share in a small small group then in a room with twenty people.) But after just a few weeks our small group was reduced to microscopic proportions as just I and one other woman remained. Not surprisingly I struggled with the doubt of whether or not I had really “heard” God’s voice in this endeavor. Apparently I had some unmet expectations regarding the “success” of this group. (Don’t you love how God kicks us off our platform of pride rather bluntly?) But in the end I knew I had followed His leading, and I committed myself to sticking it out, even if it was only so “ONE” little life could possibly be affected in a positive way (and even if that “ONE” just happened to be ME!).

Surrendering my expectations to God lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I could walk into the “group” (I mean, if two people can be called a group) excited about the study and what God had revealed to my friend during her week. We probably learned more from each other’s insights and experiences then either of us thought possible.

A few months into the group I had the opportunity to share a testimony at a Life Group Leaders meeting our church held. I had “ONE” little testimony to read, but God had more in store as a result.

After the meeting a woman approached me and asked if there was room for “ONE” more (Oh nope, sorry, three is a crowd—NOT). So she started attending the group even though the study was ending soon. She shared some of her struggles and asked us to pray for some of her family members who were struggling with some specific “icky” issues we often addressed in our study. The three of us developed quite a bond through this “doing life” together thing. We now pray for each other on a regular basis and know we can depend on each other for a listening, non-critical/judgmental ear. We have a “safe” place to share what many people may find “taboo” in a Christian environment (after all, Christians shouldn’t be depressed or have anxiety, right?!).

A few weeks after this woman joined our group, one of the Pastors referred another woman to me who needed a listening, non-judgmental ear regarding her “issues”. She ended up coming to the group, even though she was only able to make it to a couple meetings before it ended.  (I’ll share more about her amazing spiritual transformation in a later post, but you won’t want to miss it! It’s powerful!) So, by the end of the semester, our little life group was up to four. Then the summer came and I found out God had some major plans!

Now, we weren’t even meeting in the summer, nor was this group specifically advertised at church—but the church happens to have a website where people can browse through the life groups and read a little paragraph about it to see if it’s something they are interested in. Through this website, a few more ladies contacted me and a few others were referred to the group via word of mouth. I like to think of it as a carefully God-selected group of women called to come together in this special way.

In a matter of two months I went from prayers of, “Lord, only one? Ok, I’ll trust that this “ONE” is exactly what you have planned,” to, “Ok Lord, where am I going to find room for all of these people?!” You see, the Unexpected God came through again with His awe-inspiring blessings.

In just a few weeks our group begins again, this time we have two different meeting dates because there isn’t enough room for all of us in the room we had been using! So we’ve expanded to two days of meeting, and TEN women searching for the same thing: a dynamic and intimate relationship with Christ. Woo! God is GOOOOOD!

So I said all of that to say this: if you’re leading or mentoring just “ONE”, or maybe you write a blog and only “ONE” person reads it, or maybe you work hard to serve but not “ONE” person notices your efforts, then take heart! Maybe God will grow your ministry and maybe not, but either way, the “ONE” He gave to you is the perfect one because He chose it. So embrace it! Every “ONE” is important in God’s kingdom and we really CAN change the world one person at a time. It starts with our own spiritual freedom, and then through building relationships—one at a time—and trusting God with the results. You never know how your influence, testimony, or freedom in Christ could be used to affect the life of another…and another…and another…

…Or, as it was in my case, maybe that “ONE” God wants to transform is actually YOU.

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[Trying to] Embrace the Change

 

[Trying to] Embrace the Change

 

As I sat in the school office watching kids hustle to and fro I asked Him, “Lord, if this is what you want then give me a willing heart, because right now I don’t feel so willing.” But I knew when I saw that sign on the door as I left the school that morning that I needed to fill out an application and at least try.

It’s not that we need the money or that I need to work to make ends meet. After all, I already make a little money here and there from freelance writing. But for some reason, ever since my one and only child left the home for the first time to start first grade in a public school (a change which took many months to embrace), I have been wandering around my house in a daze of bewilderment. Yes, I have school, I have writing, I have housework and yard work, and yes I can walk the dog more, read more, and study more. I can even go to Baskin Robbins by myself. The only problem is I don’t want any of those things. At least not in the way I had thought I would.

My life has revolved around my daughter since the day she was born and now I have this eight hour void of nothingness every day. I don’t know why, exactly, but for the last three weeks I have barely managed to get through even a few pages of a textbook (and am way far behind on my own school work as a result). Today I finally had to admit, among reluctant tears, that I am experiencing something like a post-partum depression. Not that I don’t know God’s truth or am somehow duped into self-degrading thoughts (as I have been many times in the past). It’s just that intense feeling of—loss. Things are changing, like it or not, and right now I’m just trying to survive each day until 3pm when I get to hug my baby girl again.

As much as I had dreamed about typing all day, submitting articles, writing books, being some sort of “authority” in matters such as spiritual freedom and emotional health, God has slowly redirected my focus. He has called me to work as a counselor and more doors have opened for me to work one on one with hurting people in the “real” world, not just in the cyber world; prayer partnering and mentorship, and other ways to be a “lay-counselor” as I finish my education in that field. Some of those people are young women (teens), a ministry I have also dreamt about for many years. Excited to have that opportunity—yes—but the change is still hard to get used to.

Being on the phone and available to others 24/7 is a blessing, though. Seeing how God is changing hearts and paving the way for grace to be known is beyond compare to any writing ministry or church “work” I have ever been a part of. He’s creating a new passion within me, and for the first time in the past two years, that passion does not revolve around being an author or even a writer (though I will still continue to do this blog, so don’t get too excited).

And for the past few years I have prayed for God to allow me to earn some sort of income so that I could bless others as I have been blessed (I’m not in a situation where I can just take my husband’s paycheck and do whatever I want with it). I had thought the answer to that prayer would be through writing, but then I found myself filling out that application to make $8 an hour, a wage I last earned when I worked as a janitor in a hospital over ten years ago. At least for now, as I adjust to the new schedule, the new routine of quiet that is my home now, I need to get out there and get to work. Not to be busy for the sake of being busy, but to allow God to answer my prayers in His way, not my way.

It’s funny how in a matter of hours God can transform a stubborn heart into a yearning one. One that found itself asking to land this minimum wage job and dreaming of the ways this money could be used to minister to others.

But wait, there’s more. Not only did my Unexpected God change my heart on the matter, but He had some other surprises in store like a husband getting a HUGE promotion at work. Only two months ago my husband had suggested, “If you got even a part time, small job, we could really build up our savings fast.” I huffed and ga-fawed (yeah I made that word up) and crossed my arms in defiance, “I have a real job! Just because I don’t earn a steady paycheck like you…” And then I saw that ad for the cafeteria job and filled out the application in a blind moment of complete trust, surrendering my heart to God. It was only after that moment that my husband got his new position at work and told me, “Hey, you don’t even need to get a job, honey. I just want you to stay home.”

And you know what? Now I actually want to go out and be with real people in the real world. I want to take the light of Jesus beyond my computer. I want that minimum wage, four-hour-a-day job. Though I suppose being a “known” author would be glamorous to some extent, the change in hearts God has generously allowed me to be a part of over the past few months is worth far more than any book contract. So, if I don’t get that cafeteria job, I’ll look for another “real job” because I am going to embrace the change. I’m un-crossing my arms and saying, “Ok, Lord. Where you tell me to go is where I’ll go.”

If you’re on the fence of surrender I’ll help you make the decision a bit faster. Trust God’s will and timing in all things, and trust that He can and will change your heart if you only ask Him to. One prayer is never denied an answer, and that is, “Lord, give me a heart that is willing.”

Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)

I recently received this song to accompany in an upcoming worship set. I had never heard it before, but it just blew me away. It’s one of those  songs I can play at home and I don’t consider it “practice” because the “practice” is worship for me. What a blessing to my heart–I know it will bless yours too. My favorite line:

When change and tears are past. All safe and blessed, We shall meet at last.

He’s coming soon, friends. Soon! We will meet at last, the Lover of our souls! All of this pain…will…be…over!

(Click to watch the video>>>)  Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest) as performed by Kari Jobe

***

Be still my soul,

The Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently,

The cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide.

In ev’ry change,

He faithful will remain.

Be still my soul,

Thy best, thy heav’nly friend.

Through stormy ways leads to a joyful end.

***

Be still my soul,

Thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence,

Let nothing shake.

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul,

The waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

***

In You I rest,

In You I found my hope.

In You I trust,

You never let me go,

I place my life

Within Your hands alone.

Be still, my soul.

***

Be still my soul,

The hour is hast’ning on

When we shall be

Forever with the Lord.

When disappointment,

Grief, and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot

Love’s purest joys restored.

Be still my soul,

When change and tears are past.

All safe and blessed,

We shall meet at last.

***

In You I rest,

In You I found my hope.

In You I trust,

You never let me go,

I place my life

Within Your hands alone.

Be still, my soul.

***

Be still my soul.

Be still my soul.

Let’s Get Honest

**Originally published in The Christian Online Magazine, April 2013**

 

We need to get honest with each other. When God put, “Thou shalt not lie,” in the Ten Commandments, do you suppose He meant something other than lying? Did He have a distinction between a little white lie and a big ugly lie? God says what He means and means what He says, He’s not out to throw riddles at us. He wants us to understand His word so we will obey it. But every day we, as a community of believers, lie to each other. When we say we’re fine and we’re not, or when we put on a face that says, “I’ve got it all together,” when we’re really falling apart on the inside. Our own insecurities draw us into deception. It needs to stop!

 

To start the ball rolling I am going to be honest with you. While I get the awesome privilege of writing this column every month, drawing on my experiences in the health/wellness industry, I also want my readers to know that I haven’t got it all figured out. That I’m not a size two stick-figure who eats carrots and lettuce all day and that I don’t spend two hours in the gym every day lifting weights and preparing for marathons. That is not who I am! I am an average sized woman, with hips and a butt, who doesn’t always practice what I preach when it comes to health. Sometimes I sit at my desk all day without dropping a bead of sweat in physical activity, and sometimes I even drink a soda (gasp!). I’m a real person who strives to live a God-honoring life of balance (remember 1 Corinthians 6:12). But sometimes I get out of balance and fail to live out what I know to be God’s best.

 

The Holy Spirit is quick to convict, though, and I am learning how to repent in a timely manner because eating right and taking care of my temple is not a choice, it is a command. It is a command we, as believers, have all been given. Though I know this and believe it, I sometimes fail to behave it. So I’m getting real with you. I am a real person with real issues who sometimes struggles to apply what I know to be true in the area of health and fitness.

 

Is this really about weight loss, having a beach body, or looking like Brad Pitt (for the men out there)? NO! It’s about honoring God with our choices. Every time we choose a fruit or vegetable over a processed, chemical-laced boxed product, we honor God. Every time we choose to incorporate some exercise into our day, we honor God. This is the essence of maintaining our God-given “temples.” It’s a process: one choice at a time, one minute at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time, and one year at a time.

 

We need not feel ashamed if we’ve fallen short in this area. Instead, Jesus commands, “Go, and sin no more (John 8:11).” So, if you’re like me, and you’ve had trouble, at times, applying what you know to be true to your physical and spiritual life, confess it to God, dust yourself off and press on! And while you’re at it, find a support partner who will hold you accountable. Both spiritually and physically.

 

Most importantly, choose today to get honest with God, yourself, and the people in your life. We’ll never progress in our spiritual lives if we continue to wear masks in our relationships. Sometimes that even means admitting we can’t do it on our own and we need help—accountability and prayer.

 

And finally, let’s choose to honor God by respecting and taking care of what He’s given to us, showing others—through our actions—what being a good steward of God-given gifts really looks like.

 

“Let everything you do reflect the integrity of your teaching.” Titus 2:7b, NLT

©Rebecca Aarup

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.

 

When the Past Collides with the Present and Little Hearts are Broken

 

I was at my wits end. Throughout the day I had told my child to do one thing or another, and over and over again she flat—out—refused! Now, my daughter is typically described (by teachers and babysitters) as a well-behaved, well mannered, obedient child. And normally I would agree. Disrespect, lying, and especially disobedience are not tolerated in this household. Having an only child and not being able to have more, it’s sometimes difficult to be consistent with discipline, but overall my husband and I agree about most things in that area and stick with our bottom lines.

And now I had come to that moment of extreme frustration. Baffled by my child’s blatant disobedience I knew she needed a punishment that would get her attention to the seriousness of the situation. “There will be NO Easter basket tomorrow,” I told her, “And NO restaurant.” The only thing Samantha had wanted for Easter was to visit her favorite restaurant and of course, get an Easter basket like nearly every other young child on the planet. But it wasn’t happening this year. With only hours to go until Easter, I phoned my husband, who was still working out of town, and relayed the message. He was disappointed because, like me, he enjoys giving things to our daughter. But he agreed with me (and despite our “faith” differences, one thing we agreed on from the beginning was to raise a calm, well-behaved, obedient, and respectful child because they are quite hard to find these days).

In an instant, as the sentence was laid down, my little girl’s heart broke. She cried for several hours repeatedly recounting her sorrow for her disobedience. With her sorrow came the request, “Can I get an Easter basket now? And go to the restaurant tomorrow?” And each time my reply was, “No.” And I would be met with a fresh wave of tears.

In that moment, holding my daughter’s sobbing body in my arms, I knew it was time. It was time to tell her what Mommy had done so very long ago. It was time to tell her, though she was still young, how serious sin is and why sometimes the consequences of our choices are not removed.

“You know, Samantha, when I was young I made a very bad choice. I not only disobeyed my parents, but even worse, I disobeyed God. My sin was very serious.”

“What did you do, Mommy?” Her eyes were wide with curiosity. She was realizing her Mommy wasn’t perfect after all.

“Well, I can’t tell you what I did just yet. It was very bad. Maybe when you’re older I will tell you exactly what happened. But for now, all you need to know is that I disobeyed God’s commands as well as the instruction of my parents. I wanted my own way, but what I got instead was a very serious consequence.”

(And, after a few moments of explaining what a “consequence” was, our conversation continued.)

“So, after your Mommy sinned, I received a bad consequence for my choice. I became sick with a disease, something that will never go away.”

Samantha began to cry again, “Are you going to die?!”

“No, no, no. I’m not that sick. It’s just something that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and it causes me a great deal of pain at times. Even though I told God how sorry I was, and even though I asked Him to take away the sickness, He chose not to remove it. Now the sickness reminds me of how important it is to follow God’s word and how God gives me ‘rules’ in order to protect me. ‘Rules’ like obeying my parents even when I don’t like what they’re telling me to do.”

“Ohhh…” She nodded in understanding.

“So, tomorrow, you will not get an Easter basket and we will not go to the restaurant. I know you’re sorry and God knows you’re sorry. I forgive you and God has forgiven you. But that doesn’t take away the consequence of your choice to disobey. Sometimes God doesn’t take away the consequences. And you know what? If I didn’t discipline you for your disobedience, then I would be disobeying God’s instructions. And I will not do that. So, unfortunately, we will not be doing the things you want to do tomorrow.”

We proceeded to discuss examples of people in the Bible who sinned, and whose consequence was not taken away (Adam and Eve, Lot’s wife…etc.). But we didn’t stop there, we also discussed the concept of mercy, and how when Jesus died for us, He showed us mercy in not giving us what we deserved. So now, because we believe in Him, we get to live with Him forever, even though we don’t deserve it. Sometimes we get mercy, and sometimes we need to experience the consequences of our choices to help us remember to listen to God.

We also talked about how our sin not only affects us, but others as well. Her daddy and I were both disappointed that we couldn’t give her the things we wanted. Not only does sin hurt us, it hurts others.

It was a great opportunity not only for Samantha, but for me as her parent. I admit, I was struggling with the idea of not getting her something for Easter, because I knew she would likely be met with a class full of children in Sunday School excitedly talking about all the neat things they received. I didn’t want her to feel left out. But I knew this life lesson was far more important than a few pieces of candy and some plastic eggs.

And you know what? Easter came, and she and I went to church with joy. In Sunday School she received a pencil and a single plastic egg filled with candy. She was so ecstatic at this gift! She practically skipped to the car as we left the church exclaiming, “God showed me mercy and I got something for Easter!”

As a Jesus-loving parent, I cannot tell you how much those words warmed my heart. It wasn’t easy to stick to my guns, as a parent, and enforce this punishment. After all, Easter only comes once a year. But in the end, God was faithful as I was faithful to obey Him (in disciplining my child and actually enforcing it). We both learned that obeying God is better. For her, she realized that the consequence is so not worth the temporary choice to have her own way (and now she’d have to wait another whole year to receive an Easter basket!). And for me, I learned that good discipline goes beyond making sure my child “fits in” or gets what all the other kids are getting. What’s more important than her measuring up to other kids is that she knows Jesus, loves Him, worships Him, and obeys Him even when it goes against what everyone else is doing. These are the life-lessons that will benefit her for an eternity, and that she will remember for years to come. Compared to a candy-filled plastic egg, that’s a pretty nice reward, wouldn’t you say?

I hope you all had a blessed Easter (Resurrection Sunday). In the Aarup household, it was the best we have ever shared together.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

_______________________________

You can support Rebecca with one click! If you enjoyed this post, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.

 

So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Yes, He Does

**Originally Published on Encourage 365, December 2012**

 

Yes, He Does

“[Jesus] became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14 (MSG)

It was God who made the first move, not me, not you, not mankind. Just like He did in the Garden of Eden as God Himself walked through the thick brush of foliage to find His children. “Where are you, my son, Adam? Where are you my daughter, Eve?” God made the first move to seek out His beloved while at the same time His beloved were running the other way.

Jesus became flesh, He became human not only to save the world from sin, but to show us that He does care, He does understand, He does empathize.

Imagine being the King of all kings and coming down to this sinful planet, all the riches of the world at your disposal and yet you are essentially homeless. You choose a life of servant humility so no one can say you don’t understand. Of course He understands. He felt loneliness, injustice, persecution, rejection, loss, and grief. He knows, He hears, He cares, and He understands. Yes, He does. He lived it, walked it, breathed it, and yet persevered without doubt. He knew His heavenly Father was always moving toward Him and us. He demonstrated that truth through His life, by coming to us as flesh and blood, walking among us, serving us, and loving us, and finally, dying for us.

“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to Him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Hebrews 4:15-16 (MSG)

Hunched over the toilet, tears streaming down my face, uncontrollable wretching—probably the worst physical reaction I have ever had to stress. I found myself on my knees in the bathroom asking God if he really understood. “Really, God? Really? You’re up there, you can do whatever you want, and yet you allow this…this nonsense. Do you even know what I’m going through?”

In one day I had lost a beloved pet of nearly twelve years, quite unexpectedly. My five-year old wept, unable to comprehend why her beloved kitty was not coming home–how she was fine one day and just—gone—the next. And just moments before finding out about my cat, we received notice of a lawsuit against us; a dispute with a previous landlord that had been ongoing for over a year. They had summoned us to court by sending the order to a previous address (an action that is legal in my state), despite having our new address, so we were unaware of the order to appear in court. They sued us for damages well documented on our move-in sheet (in other words, the damages were there before we moved in). This lawsuit, barring a miracle, will ruin us financially (not that we were doing that well to begin with!)  Just when our family was beginning to recover from a financially difficult year, a bombshell blows. Unable to find work, the burden rests on my unbelieving husband. He asks me why my God would allow such unfairness to continue in our lives and I had no good answers.

But then…

As the pastor preached on John 1, he prayed that our eyes would be newly opened to truth despite the familiarity of the passage. Surely God moved toward me in that moment and revealed Himself again. He didn’t change my circumstances, but He did allow me to accept them rather than fight them.

Something awaits me in this mess. I don’t know what, exactly, but I know God is not sitting “up there” with His arms crossed, laughing His head off at our plight. Probably a thousand different reasons could be drawn up as to why this is all happening once again around Christmas (which seems to be a theme in my family—December disasters is how my husband refers to it.) But one thing was certain to me as I listened to my pastor, God is here, He is moving toward me. Toward me? I am overwhelmed with mercy and grace. All of a sudden I don’t need to know the why, how, or what. God ordains my steps, and now I ask Him, “Where do I go now? What is my next move? Give me wisdom to know and faith to believe you’re in control.”

He doesn’t want us to toss aside our pain as if it doesn’t compare to what He did for us, He is not trying to give us some divine guilt trip. Instead, He offers His presence among us to comfort and heal us. We learn faith as we experience these things. It hurts and that is ok. He knows and He pursues us in our grief. I can almost hear Him saying the same thing to me as He did to Adam and Eve, “Child, where are you? I am here, I want to help you. Come to Me; rest in Me; find peace in Me. I understand, yes, I do.”