Just Believe

What is your reaction when someone tells you not to be afraid? My first reaction is usually fear and lots of questions. When we were young, my brother and our friend convinced (or maybe I should say coerced) me to ride the new double loop Shock Wave roller coaster at Six Flags. I was filled with fear and questions, but they insisted there was nothing to worry about. After a lot of screaming and even some crying, they had to practically carry me off of it, but I survived!

In Mark 5, Jairus, a synagogue leader, had a young daughter who was very ill and dying (v 23). The synagogue leaders of that time were skeptical of Jesus, but Jairus took a huge leap of faith and went to Jesus for help.

Along the way Jesus stopped when a woman touched his garments hoping to be healed. Jesus immediately recognized that healing power had passed from Him. So He insisted on identifying her, assuring her that she was healed by her faith, and most importantly loving her.

Surely Jairus felt impatient or worried as he waited for Jesus to go to his daughter, but he didn’t react impulsively. He simply waited. While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, news came that Jairus’ daughter had died. But before Jairus could respond with anger or grief, Jesus said, “Be not afraid. Only believe” (Mark 5:36).

Jairus must have had many emotions going through his mind, especially fear and questions. He may have felt that all hope was lost, but Jesus was telling Jairus that He was not finished. They continued on to Jairus’ house where Jesus resurrected the young girl. It is possible His delayed arrival was part of a greater plan. The girl’s resurrection was a much greater miracle than healing her illness, and Jairus’ faith grew as a result of the entire experience.

Jesus knows our problems before they actually occur. He also knows the strength of our faith or lack of faith, but there is no problem we could ever face that is too big. God’s timing is not usually our timing. Sometimes we must wait for answers. When the circumstances of our life seem totally hopeless and God does not seem to be acting, maybe it’s all part of His divine plan.

If life feels like a roller coaster that you never wanted on with double loops of trouble and mountains of unexpected delays, remember Jesus words to Jairus in Mark 5:36 – “Be not afraid. Only believe.” Believe what? Believe that God can. Believe that He does exist. Believe that He is with you. Believe that its never too late. Believe that He is stronger. Believe that He will carry you.

Just as my brother and friend did at Six Flags, God will be with you through the ride, He knows all the dips and loops in your life before they even occur, and He will carry you when you can’t go on.

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Fear of the unknown causes much distress in our lives. When things are out of our control, we often worry, feel stressed, and even become physically ill. Unfortunately life is not always as perfect as it appears on social media. People are hurting all around us. Those who are battered and bruised may show visible signs of their pain. Others endure pain that we cannot perceive. Whether its physical or emotional pain, many are fighting battles of which we are unaware.

Isaiah 42:6 says, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do. I will not forsake them.” The Israelites were blinded by their captivity, and they experienced the same fears and questions that we experience today. God did not forsake them. He delivered them and guided them to the Promised Land. Today, He continues to turn the darkness into light, makes the rough spots smooth, and never forsakes us, just as He did so many years ago.

Often when the way grows dark and we can’t see what lies ahead, it is easy to wonder where is God and why isn’t He working. We may forget that He is always there. Isaiah 42:6 reminds us that He will smooth the rough places and will never desert us. It doesn’t matter how dark or rough the road becomes, our Almighty God has the power to turn the darkness into light. Even in that darkest moment, when things seem to be spiraling out of control and we possibly even doubt God’s presence, we can trust that He is still there just as He promised! The secret is to turn our focus from the fear, worry, pain, anger, or stress and instead focus on seeking Him.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am you God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

The Cross Room

The young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. “Lord, I can’t go on,” he said. “I have too heavy a cross to bear.” 

The Lord replied, “My son, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room, then open that other door and pick out any cross that you wish.” 

The young man was filled with relief. “Thank you, Lord,” he sighed, and did what he was told.  Upon entering the other door, he saw many crosses, some so large that the tops were not even visible. Then he spotted a tiny cross leaning against the far wall. “I would like this one, Lord,” he whispered. 

And the Lord replied, “My son, that’s the cross you just brought in.”

Author unknown

As we trudge along dragging our own personal cross, the weight of it sometimes seems unbearable. Like the man in this story, we may wish to trade for another that is easier to manage, but we usually don’t have to look very far to see someone carrying a much greater burden. 

After my husband’s accident, there was a time when he was critical, and the team of doctors were watching for complications which could require immediate brain surgery.  During this time, we waited, prayed, and wondered if those complications would occur and how damaging they might be. But even as we waited, I saw other patients and families in the ICU who were suffering so much more. I also knew of families in our hometown who were suffering greatly as well. Our cross seemed heavy, but there were many crosses in that hospital that seemed much larger. During that time and still today as he recovers, God provided all the strength and grace that we needed to get through each day. 

Recently my new doctor decided to do some bloodwork to determine exactly what kind of arthritis I have been dealing with for several years. I didn’t think much of it at the time. A few weeks later, my cross suddenly seemed even larger and heavier after a much unexpected diagnosis of Lupus. The pain began years ago but had gradually progressed.  There had seemed to be a good explanation for every symptom that had appeared over the last decade, so I never thought much of the possibility that something more could be the cause.  Although nothing had changed physically, the emotional weight was immense at first. But God quickly reminded me again that there are many with greater burdens than mine. I know if I walked into The Cross Room I would see that my cross is tiny compared to so many others.  

The Cross that we bear may be heavy at times, but it’s ours. I would not trade my or my family’s cross for any other because I know that God has prepared us specifically for these crosses. We aren’t equipped to carry the weight of your cross, just as you haven’t been equipped to carry the weight of ours. Whatever you are going through, whatever struggle you face each day, whether its physical or emotional, God has given you everything you need to carry that cross.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness -2 Corinthians 12:9.  Through our difficulties, God’s power can shine!  

When you think you have no more strength to carry it, call to Him. He will provide a way whether it be a rest or simply a realization that your cross isn’t nearly as large as you thought.  Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you – Psalm 55

It is easy to get discouraged during difficult times and allow fear to control our thoughts and actions. It helps to remember that no matter what I’m going through, I can trust that God is there leading the way and will be with me each step of the journey.

Noah and his family were in the ark for a very long time as they waited for the rain to stop, waters to recede, and the ground to dry.  According to Genesis 8, it was about 370 days. That’s a long time to be stuck on a boat with wild animals, livestock, and a handful of family members. No matter how large that ark was, you know it was not quite big enough to escape the smell of so many animals or to find a moment of peace and quiet!  As they waited for the ark to stop drifting, they may have wondered if the huge sea of water would ever disappear or would they be stuck in the ark forever. Once the boat settled on the earth and they still had to wait for God to open the huge door, I’m sure they must have wondered if He had completely forgotten them.

There had to be many days of fear, discouragement, doubts, questions, or just being frustrated with the situation on that ark and even the changes waiting outside.  As the only survivors after the flood, they may have also felt very alone.  Don’t we all experience similar feelings while waiting to see God at work in our situation?

But God remembered Noah – Genesis 8:1.  God did not forget about them or leave them to their own devices to figure out what to do. In the Old Testament,  remember  means to pay attention to. In other words, God took action. He never forgot them! He had a plan all along and what seemed like a lack of action was more about His timing.

When your situation has you beat down with worry and fear, know that God has not forgotten you. He is right there with you! He won’t leave you sitting in a stinking ark wondering what to do. When the timing is right, He will open the door, and you can plant your feet on solid ground as the sun shines brightly on your face. You are always remembered by God!

Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” God promises to be with us every step of our journey. In fact, He is not just with us but is leading the way.  He is always one step ahead of us, and nothing will happen that is out of His control.

Which of God’s promises helps you to remember that God is faithful to remember you today just as He remembered Noah so many years ago?

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 It is Well

Many times during the past year I have said, “Everything is going to be alright.”  Sometimes I believed it, and other times I said it to encourage my husband and family.  But one thing I always knew was that God was with us in those times of uncertainty.  

2 Kings 4 tells about the Shunamite woman who had waited a long time for a child and then watched him grow ill and die. Elisha had told her years ago that God would give her a child because of her faith and service. She knew that God had given her this child, and she believed that through Elisha, God would revive him. So she promptly decided to go to Elisha for help. 

Her faith was so strong that she didn’t even tell her husband the boy had died. When questioned, she stated that everything was all right. She did this not once, but twice. This woman’s child had just died, yet she was able to tell others that everything was fine and trust that God was in control of the situation!  

We all face times of uncertainty at some point. Moments of fear, anxety, depression, pain, weakness, discouragement, and even doubt can quickly begin to control our thoughts and actions. When there are questions about the future, questions about your health, insecurities, fear, and so many unknowns, don’t give up. Instead you can run directly to God with confidence that He remains in control regardless of the storm going on around you. Like the Shunamite woman, you can know that everything is all right 

The song “It is Well With My Soul” was written after several tragedies suffered by businessman Horatio Spafford and his family.  In 1871,  Their young son died with pneumonia and much of their business was destroyed by the Chicago fire. Two years later, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters collided with another vessel and resulted in the death of all four of their children. As Spafford traveled across the ocean to join his grieving wife, he wrote the words to “It is Well With My Soul”.

When peace like a river attendeth my way, 

When sorrows like sea billows roll, 

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 

It is well, it is well with my soul. 

When your world seems to be crashing down around you, true peace can only be found with God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.  The son she had waited so long for had just died in her arms, but the Shunamite woman had a peace that could only come from God. 

Do you trust God so much that even in the darkest moments you can say “Everything is all right”?  Philippians 4:6 says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,  with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. If your answer was “No, I don’t trust God enough to know that everything will be all right”, the answer is in prayer.  Follow the Shunamite woman’s example and go to another Christian who will walk beside you and pray with you. Pray for God to give you that peace that passes all understanding. Keep praying until you can say, “Everything is all right”.

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A Naked-Tree Christmas

My Christmas tree stands naked this Christmas except for the pre-strung lights. I’ve seen pictures of so many beautiful trees on social media, yet I haven’t managed to hang the special ornaments which our family has collected each year since our children were born. A busy schedule, health issues, and simply not making it a priority have all stood in the way.

But today as I noticed how plain and simple it looks, I thought of the night our Savior was born as recorded in Luke 2. There was nothing fancy about His birth. He was not born in a palace or even the nicest inn found in Bethlehem. There was no huge family celebration or extravagant baby shower. Instead God brought His son into the world quietly in a stable with a feed trough for his bed. It was a simple birth for the Son of God and Savior of the world.

My naked Christmas tree reminded me that we often lose our focus. We put so much time and effort into making the perfect Christmas that we forget to spread the good news as the shepherds did that first Christmas. My naked tree reminded me how important it is for us to take a moment and ponder on the true meaning of Christmas: the humble birth of our Lord Jesus which would bring great joy for all people (Luke 2:10).

When the shepherds had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:17-19). Have a Naked-Tree Christmas and make the time to ponder on the good news of Jesus’ birth and experience the true joy of Christmas!

God Calling

Last night my cat darted outside and refused to come back even though a cold front was quickly dropping the temperature.  This morning as I was getting ready for work I could hear her outside the window calling to me.  As I got ready for work, she followed me from room to room and called to me from each window.  She was relentless until I finally took the time to go and open the door for her.

God is also calling to us.  Like my cat, He will follow you to every room of your life calling out to you.  Maybe He’s sent messages through the words of a friend, a scripture, a devotional, or a song.  Maybe He’s calling to lead you in a particular direction, to guide you back to a close relationship with Him, or most importantly to offer you the gift of salvation. 

Do you remember the story of Jonah? God called him to go to the city of Nineveh, but he didn’t want to go. Instead he boarded a boat and ran in the opposite direction trying to escape God’s plan. But when God sent a huge storm, the men threw Jonah overboard after deciding that he was the reason for the storm. God then sent a big fish to save Jonah because He still had a plan. After three days in the belly of the fish, Jonah finally agreed to obey God’s calling and go to Nineveh. 

Imagine how much easier things would have been for Jonah if he had answered God’s calling the first time. I’m so glad that He is persistent like my cat and keeps calling my name. Unfortunately sometimes He must take drastic measures (like a huge fish) to get our attention, but thankfully He’s also a God of second chances. 

God speaks to us in many ways. I’m so glad that He is persistent like my cat and keeps calling my name when I don’t listen. Honestly I don’t often respond to His first call because I’m busy, hard-headed, in denial, hindered by pride, afraid, uncomfortable, or just want to do things my own way.  Recently, I  was contacted by two people about using a gift more, one a dear friend and the other someone I’ve never met personally.  I now recognize that as God calling my name.  He is calling me to open the door.  A door that He is waiting to lead me through, a door of obedience. I just have to prayerfully open the door. 

What is He calling you to do?  Maybe it’s a call of action.  Something He wants you to do.  Someone He wants you to forgive.  Someone He wants you to contact. Something that is outside of your comfort zone and makes you want to run like Jonah. Don’t keep ignoring His call.  Whatever the reason you’ve not answered, stop now and listen.  Really listen and open that door of obedience instead of running in the opposite direction. I assure you that once you make the choice to obey, God will equip you with all that is needed. 

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