Spiritual food for your faith journey and encouragement for hard times.
Spiritual food for your faith journey and encouragement for hard times.
(This wisdom for overcoming disappointment is excerpted from Christine Caine’s Undaunted: Daring to do what God Calls You to Do.)
God knows when we need nurture and healing, refreshment and sustenance, and he gives us that. In fact, for our journey, he gives us five important tools to sustain us and to help us provide sustenance to others.
When you’re hurting, going home is the best thing to do, and church is the believer’s spiritual home.
The first Sunday after Nick and I lost our baby, taking that pain and disappointment to church seemed so counter-intuitive. I knew that we would be surrounded by well-intentioned church friends asking, “How’s the pregnancy going? How is the baby?” I dreaded having to answer those questions. But we knew that we needed to go to the House of God.
What I remember most about that Sunday is not how awful it was to answer people’s questions about the baby and have to tell the news one more time, and again, and again, but rather how incredibly loving and warm our church family was to us. I had no idea how much I needed a loving community to share my burden. But God did. And as our church gathered ’round Nick and me in our grief, we were able to lift our eyes off our circumstances and see God’s loving kindness.
Do you feel stuck in a hopeless struggle and suspect prayer won’t make a difference? I recommend these insights from the life of Joshua, courtesy of Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s NIV Life Journey Bible. -Adam Forrest
Too often we pray with low expectations. Perhaps we pray out of habit or guilt, but there are times when we don’t expect God to do anything drastic on our behalf. Perhaps we fear getting our hopes dashed, so we set low expectations for God so that he won’t fail or disappoint us.
Joshua prayed differently. He asked God to make the sun stand still so that his warriors could continue to fight in daylight.
But Joshua didn’t expect God to do all the work. He trusted God to do his part — suspend the heavenly bodies — while he did his part, which was to wield his sword and lead his soldiers tirelessly into battle. The Lord hurled hailstones on the Amorites, while the Israelites chased and fought them. Joshua didn’t passively wait for God to do everything, but he trusted God to do what God could do [see Joshua 10:1-15].
Where is God when tragedy strikes? Christine Caine shares two biblical truths that comforted her in the wake of a soul-crushing disappointment — a miscarriage. I recommend this excerpt from Undaunted to anyone who feels drained and discouraged by disappointments. -Adam Forrest
Disappointment is a sad and terribly lonely place. We all land there at some point in life. Your children move away and never call. Colleagues betray you. The company to which you’ve devoted your years “downsizes,” and you’re on the list right along with the newcomer and the slacker. The man you love doesn’t love you back. The perfect child you dream over and tend in pregnancy is born with defects that will make the rest of your life, and all your family members’ lives, nothing less than challenging. You get a disease or suffer an injury for which there is no relief or cure. Your investments dwindle. Friends disappear. The one you’ve prayed to find Jesus never does. Your dreams shatter. Best-laid plans go astray. Other Christians fail you. People disappoint you. You even disappoint yourself.
Any one of these things can introduce sadness, discouragement, and dismay into your life; any of these things can daunt you. And the long series of disappointments you accumulate in a lifetime can stop you from moving forward into all the goodness God has planned for you — and that means they’ll be stopping not only you, but also all those God has destined you to reach along your life journey. After all, how can anyone stuck in their own disappointment help others out of theirs? How can you convince others of the wonder of God’s promises if you doubt them yourself? How can you share how God has saved you when you don’t feel saved at all?
I had to resolve my own heartache if I expected to keep ministering to others in theirs.
But [this miscarriage] would be a hard one to move beyond. Why is it that you can know in your head that God has your good in mind and can redeem any and every circumstance, and yet you can still feel hugely disappointed and deeply despondent? Your head tells you God is trustworthy — but in a moment of aching disappointment, your heart tells you he’s not even there.
In my world and Nick’s, after the miscarriage, everything was not okay. If we were going to get through this without developing bitterness of spirit, we had to process our disappointment in a healthy way. We had to conclude for ourselves that the valley of death we were walking through isn’t, to borrow an image from Pilgrim’s Progress, a Slough of Despond from which we would never emerge, but simply a shadow, and that shadow would not define our lives. Christ does. And yet — this was not a job loss, or a financial reversal, or a wrecked car. This was the death of a long-awaited child, a child much-loved though I never had the chance to hold him in my arms or kiss his head or feel his breath on my face. This would be so hard to triumph over.
If I were to move beyond the daunting disappointment of this moment, I would have to remind myself of things about God that I knew to be true, though they might not feel true at the moment. There was so much I did not know, yet I was determined to cling to what I did know. I turned to the only place I could in such grief. I turned to God’s Word. Let me share with you the truths that brought me deep comfort and helped me begin to accept the disappointments that we cannot escape in life.
When you’ve failed, what’s more natural for you — to deny your failure, or to claim it? Here Peter’s example shows the good that can come from failure. (This is an excerpt from the NIV Life Journey Bible by doctors John Townsend and Henry Cloud.) -Adam Forrest
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.
Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. -Mark 14:66-72
Peter had failed profoundly. Rather than stand up and publicly state his allegiance for his endangered Lord and friend, Peter denied knowing Jesus. And though this failure was significant, it was not final. Peter grew from his mistakes, and Jesus reinstated him [see John 21:15-19]. By all Biblical and historical accounts, the restored Peter was a tremendous leader in the early church.
We need to embrace failure when it occurs. People who spend their lives trying to avoid or deny failure are also eluding maturity. The Bible is full of examples of faithful stumblers who through perseverance and love of God became mature people…
Does it seem strange to you that Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, entered the world as a helpless infant? What are we to make of this? John Ortberg reflects on the crucial differences between Jesus and his contemporary, King Herod, in this excerpt from Who Is This Man. -Adam Forrest
He entered the world with no dignity.
He would have been known as a mamzer, a child whose parents were not married. All languages have a word for mamzer, and all of them are ugly. His cradle was a feeding trough. His nursery mates had four legs. He was wrapped in rags. He was born in a cave, targeted for death, raised on the run.
He would die with even less dignity: convicted, beaten, bleeding, abandoned, naked, shamed. He had no status. Dignity on the level of a king is the last word you would associate with Jesus. There is a king in the story, though. Jesus was born “during the time of King Herod.”
To an ancient reader, Herod — not Jesus — would have been the picture of greatness. Born of noble birth, leader of armies, Herod was so highly regarded by the Roman Senate that they gave him the title “King of the Jews” when he was only thirty-three years old. He was so politically skilled that he held on to his throne for forty years, even persuading Caesar Augustus to retain him after he had backed Caesar’s mortal enemy, Mark Antony. He was the greatest builder of his day. “No one in Herod’s period built so extensively with projects that shed such a bright light on that world.” The massive stones of the temple he built are visible two thousand years later.
Jesus was a builder. A carpenter. He likely did construction in a town called Sepphoris for one of Herod’s sons. Nothing he built is known to endure.
In the ancient world, all sympathies would have rested with Herod. He was nearer to the gods, guardian of the Pax Romana, adviser to Caesar. The definitive biography of him is called: Herod: King of the Jews, Friend of the Romans. The two phrases are connected: if Herod were not a friend of the Romans, he would not be king of the Jews.
Jesus would be called “friend of sinners.” It was not a compliment. He would be arrested as an enemy of the Romans.
Sometimes life turns you upside down, writes Christine Caine in this excerpt from Undaunted. We can’t control when life-changing news hits, but when it does, we (and God) can still do something about what happens next. I was inspired by Christine’s insights and I hope you’ll enjoy this too. -Adam Forrest
Life will eventually turn every person upside down, inside out. No one is immune. Not the mom in the suburbs who finds out her teen daughter is pregnant. Not the husband who is entangled in an affair with a woman not his wife. Not the kid whose parents are strung out on drugs. Not the girl entrenched in human trafficking. Not the boy with HIV or his brother hungry and without any prospect of enough to eat.
Not the woman who finds out her whole sense of identity is based on a family connection that turns out to be a lie.
But just as life will upend you, so will love.
Love has the power to undo you for fear of losing it, as it did my parents over the thought of George and me discovering our adoption. Love has the power to bewilder, as it does when a baby, new life, comes to you.
Can you change someone through prayer, good advice, and lots of elbow grease? Find out what doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend have to say in this devotion from the NIV Life Journey Bible. -Adam Forrest
Moses did what he could, but he did not try to change things outside of his domain. He changed himself by mustering his own courage, appearing before Pharaoh and delivering God’s message. But he could not change Pharaoh’s heart, nor did he try. Yes, he worked to influence Pharaoh, but he did not have the power to make Pharaoh follow his wishes.
Though Pharaoh was clearly in the wrong, it was not Moses’ job to change him. It was his job to deliver the message.
Like Moses, our boundaries help define what we do not have power over: everything outside of them! As the “Serenity Prayer” reminds us [see below the jump], we need the courage to change the things we can and the peace to accept the things we can’t change. In other words, “God, clarify my boundaries!” We can work on submitting ourselves to the process and work with God to change us. We cannot change anything else: not the weather, the past, the economy — and especially not other people.
This is the second in a 2-part story from Christine Caine’s Undaunted. In part one Christine sets the stage for her encounter with recently-freed sex slaves and their challenging questions. -Adam Forrest
“I don’t know,” I stammered at last. “I don’t know why I didn’t come sooner.” Such weak, small, light words for such a weighty question. “I am sorry. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
The silence became even more pronounced. Time seemed to have stopped. Nothing else mattered to me at that moment but these girls, their despair — and what healing God could bring to them. Though the silence seemed to last for an eternity, I felt so clearly present, so tuned into the now.
“I want you to know,” I said with new conviction, “that I have now heard your cries. I have seen you. I see you now.” I turned to Mary. “I see you, Mary…” I turned to Sonia. “I see you, Sonia.” I looked intently at each girl seated at the table. “I see each of you. I hear you. I know you by name. I have come for each of you.”
I wanted to see these girls as Jesus saw them — not as a sea of needs, but as individuals he had called by name and chosen one by one and loved. I heard his words before I spoke my own: Tell them I have their names written in my book. That I came to give the good news to the poor. To heal the brokenhearted. To set the captives free. Tell them these promises are for here. Now. As well as for eternity. [Psalm 69:28; 139:16; Isaiah 49:1; Revelation 3:5; 17:8; 20:12-15; Luke 4:18].
This is the true story of an intense encounter between former sex slaves and author Christine Caine. As Christine reveals in this excerpt from Undaunted: Daring to Do what God Calls You to Do, the sex slaves had just recently been freed by police — but were perhaps still less than free.
I was personally very moved by this story. I’m thankful that Christine shared it so that I could share it with you here. -Adam Forrest
Though no longer in a physical prison, Mary remained silent, constantly tormented by recurring nightmares. The daily horror may have ceased, but the pain screamed nonstop.
Mary was safe but not yet free.
Stunned, I sat quietly for a moment after Mary finished her story. Around me, the young women at the table remained quiet too, almost reverent… Questions hammered at my broken heart: How could this possibly happen in our world today? No matter how much money is involved, how can anyone be so depraved as to make sex slaves of others — let alone make it an international operation, enslaving not just one girl but hundreds of thousands, again and again and again?
Sonia, a Russian girl who had arrived at the shelter the previous day, interrupted my flood of thought. “Why are you here?” she demanded, her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Why did you come?”
We all choose a song to sing. What’s yours? We gain insight from Deborah’s song in this devotion excerpted from Once-a-Day Men and Women of the Bible Devotional.
“So may all your enemies perish, Lord! But may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” -Judges 5:31
What song do you sing? This verse is the last stanza in the famous song of Deborah, the fourth (and only female) leader of Israel during the long and difficult period following Joshua’s death. She organized a military response to the aggression of Jabin, a Canaanite kingpin, whose army included a fearsome 900 iron chariots. Foot soldiers facing this armada would be like modern infantry advancing against tanks and artillery.
In Israel’s army, the determining factor was never the order of battle, but always the faith of its leaders. In an ugly, evil era, Deborah called the nation to its mission. For 40 years the people prospered under her leadership. In one decisive moment, she did not flinch at Sisera’s overwhelming military advantage, but pressed her countrymen to victory — by prayer, words of encouragement and her presence. In the end, her bully adversary lost his army, his life and his honor.