Daily life is littered with all sorts of sickness. Flu season hit my household this week, and according to the CDC, most of United States is in the midst of a “high activity” flu season. One does not realize the luxury of the average day until it’s besieged and de-railed by influenza. Life comes to a pause, and workloads pile up.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in four adults had one or more chronic health conditions in 2012. Discouragement that leads to a depressive state cannot be categorized as a “it will never happen to me” notion. Mental health is an astronomical concern in this country. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the US experience mental illness in a given year.
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2)
If our bodies and minds are ailing at such a high rate, it shouldn’t surprise us that our spiritual lives are unhealthy as well. LifeWay Research released a report in April of 2017 that states “more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible.” Though we don’t have full control over flu germs, depression, and terminal disease, we can choose to read Scripture daily.
Let’s pray for complete health, mind, body and soul. To seek His counsel in all things, and welcome the wisdom of the Holy Spirit into the part of our hearts that need healing. A healthy life is comprised of more than a fit physically body free of injury and illness.
It’s been two decades since my high school friend passed on to heaven, and I still can’t bring myself to go to a class reunion. Knowing she won’t be there solidifies the fact that lasting female friendships are hard to come by. God has a way of placing people to speak truth into our lives. No one could expose my terrible choices, applaud the successes I was too timid to share, or shake up a Sunday service by clapping and dancing in worship with me like my friend did. For a chronically insecure girl like me, her loss was devastating.
Through the long road of healing, God has graciously bloomed flowers of remarkable friendship. Each God-placed friend has extended the love of Jesus to me when I have needed it most, sometimes unknown even to them. When we seek God with all of our hearts, He blesses us with people to share life with. Here are three friendships that came into my life when I least expected to meet a lifelong friend.
1. The Friend that Tracked Me Down
“Orpah kissed her mother-in law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her” (Ruth 1:14).
She had invited me to FCA, which ignited my faith and led me to officially surrender my life to Christ. Her life reflects her solid faith. Even amid the pressures of college life that all but took me out, she remained steady in her faith. When I became a ghost, she never stopped looking for me. Before social media was a thing, it was possible to disappear for a little bit. That’s exactly what I did as my life unraveled and I destroyed the shattered remnants of my first marriage. I started to pull back and disappear, ashamed and scared that God would never be able to use me, and my past friends would never forgive me. But this friend never gave up trying to find me. Jesus never gives up on us.
“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story-“ Psalm 107:2 NIV
“OK,” I motioned for my eight-year-old, “hop on.”
In the midst of a Spring that just won’t spring, I trekked through our over-saturated backyard in my rain boots with my daughter on my back. Emergency trips for X-rays never happen at convenient times, and so it seemed mildly appropriate the car was parked in the backyard while our street was being re-paved.
It’s easy to talk about God when things are great. To reflect His presence in our lives it’s rolling along at a nice clip. When the new road is freshly paved and void of bumps threatening to pop tires or spill coffee. We sing praises when the sun shines and the flowers bloom before the first day of summer, but much less when the old road is broken up and blocking our driveway.
How do we speak of God when the days are gray and we don’t feel very cheery? Deuteronomy 6:5-9 says “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” NIV
God doesn’t move or change with the weather or the roadwork. Through it all, He remains. When we are gray, ugly and broken-up, He loves us the same. So, on ugly broken days, when we have to carry our kids across the muddy lawn …we speak of God.
“Let me pray over it,” I said as I attached an icepack to her blue-green foot. We prayed, and then started to laugh. All the way to the car, sitting in the waiting room watching funny videos, and when her sock came off to reveal a regularly colored foot. Little Lo didn’t want to be pushed in a wheel chair to the X-ray room …so she rolled herself there like she’d just made the wheel chair grand prix. And we continued to laugh. The situation wasn’t funny -she had a dance competition in literal days and could put no weight on her foot. But she has God-given gift to see hard situations through a heavenly perspective.
Ruled a sprain, good doctors and good treatment would heal her, but we both knew prayer had a big stake in her circumstance. God will put out the orange barrels and block us from our driveways at times. There are parts of our lives that need tending to, in the time only He knows they will set properly. When we pray specifically for radical change, He is faithful to reframe our circumstances. God’s hand is in every rescue, and every excavation of evil. In Christ, inconvenience is used for good, and all things exist under His reign.
Telling our story, like Psalm 107:2 says, is more than just sharing the gospel. Loving God, like Deuteronomy 6:5-9 instructs us, is more than telling our testimony. It’s living His truth, as though it’s permeated into every last thought and thread of our being. Loving God is living loved, in the everyday annoyances and little bits of triumph. Laughing in light of trying times tells more than mere words. Celebrating small victories make says something about the state of our souls. We are the redeemed of the LORD! Through all we say do, let the love of our Mighty God’s redemptive and compassionate hand be ever so evident.
Find a way to laugh …or at least smile through the tears on tough days. Reach out to encourage a friend to remove self-pity. Remember all there is to be thankful for. Repeat, “Jesus!” for there is power in His name. We are promised painful times this side of heaven, but there is so much good to say. Talk about it! Repeat it! Go tell it! The healing power of God is activated when we engage in conversation with Him. Our hope is restored by the re-telling of way He’s moved in our lives before, and it encourages and assures us He will do it again.
Many of the most important lessons God will teach us will come out of the adversities of family life. During a battle with bullying, my daughter clung to Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (NIV) Through her trials, she chose to focus on working hard with the gifts God has blessed her with. Lessons from my 10-year-old. God is not a God of coincidence. We can learn the most about who God created us to be from the people He places in our families.
A pastor at my church recently preached, “You can’t really prove what’s there, but you can show it.” Esther 4:14 immediately came to mind. Watching my child get bullied was painful. I doubted my ability to guide her through it. But He was faithful to remind me, “For such a time as this.” As Esther was made queen, I was made “mom.” You were made “dad …brother …husband …grandpa …sister, aunt …and so on. Let’s take hold of these truths today and pray for the role each of our family members has been blessed by God to live.
“Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.” Psalm 96:10
God is unmoved. He reigns. He is omnipotent and sovereign. I know the truth of this verse in my head, but my world has been in complete earthquake mode. All of the wheels typically fall off in May, but this Spring’s combination of heartache and stress have left deep purple circles under my eyes.
“I don’t care …fine!”
The door slammed. Round two, day four. The tween years are rapidly rushing in the gray hair. Life isn’t stopping or slowing down so I can devise a plan of attack. It’s exhausting my emotions and frying my nerves. It’s messing with the amount of sleep I depend on, and interrupting hours when the house used to be quiet enough to unwind. Some nights both kids fall asleep on either side of me- one afraid of something and the other sad about something and we are all too tired to have heartfelt talks about it before we fall asleep.
“Butthole …butthead …” The “butt” themed names continued to trail off as one of my darling children walked away to read her book as physically far away from me as she could get …to roll her eyes and make faces. How dare I tell her she couldn’t have my phone. It’s so great when that happens in front of other people in a public place …it’s my favorite. There’s no willpower, role model or Bible verse that can stop hard seasons and stages. I remember slamming my door off the frame when I was their age, but somehow I thought I had done just enough good parenting to skirt the door slamming issue. The respectful children I have raised are no where to found some days.
On top of parenting two tween girls, life has piled on injury, conflict, difficult decisions, and air thick with drama in unexpected places. Life is going to be life, and if I don’t find a healthy way to handle the curve balls, I will start slamming doors myself. Or end up with stomach ulcers. When all of the hard, sad, trying, annoying, hurtful and overwhelming stuff reaches a certain capacity, I come unglued in prayer. The floodgates of composure open and the tears stream down my face, relying on the power of Jesus’ name (sometimes at very high volume) to pick me up off of the floor. In those moments, He is faithful to remind me I already have Peace.
Remembering is an important part of our faith. Psalm 105:5 says, “Remember the wonders He has done, his miracles …” (NIV) Our memories, answered prayers, and miracles are powerful. “Remember. As a motivation for and focus of worship and the basis for trust- remember how the Lord has remembered.” (NIVSB, emphasis mine.) Compassionate and merciful, He sees us, hears us, and is with us. In the suffering hidden behind our highlight reels, He is palpably present. Psalm 105:39 says, “He spread out a cloud as a covering…” (NIV) to protect His people (NIVSB). His peace shields our hearts.He is constant.
Constant means unchanging, uniform, regular or invariable. It’s continuing without pause or letup. Who, or what, is unceasing? Can we rely on anything to be regularly recurrent, continual, or persistent? Only God is faithful, unswerving in love and devotion. As we ride the waves of this world, He remains steady.
The dark circles under my eyes can be a badge of honor or a burden of despair. In every situation, I have a choice. And I don’t always make it well. I complain, but Christ is constant. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (NIV) The steadiness of Christ is in me. But I sometimes approach life like a roller coaster, strapping in and screaming when I’m scared and laughing when I’m happy. That’s no way to live.
Through all of the chaos, Jesus remains constant. Unmoved. He sees me. He hears me. But I need to pause and remember the peace He died to give me. It’s not an easy world to live in. We will undoubtedly feel like aliens on our own planet many days. We’re placed purposefully by an all-knowing God who promises we’re never alone. Believe Him. Matthew 28:20b says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”