Special Delivery: God’s Great Grace in the Birth of My Fourth Son- Part 3

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2

“This, then, is of faith, that everything, the very least, or what seems to us great, every change of the seasons, everything that touches us in mind, body, or estate, whether brought about through this outward senseless nature, or by the will of man, good or bad, is overruled to each of us by the all-holy and all-loving will of God. Whatever befalls us, however it befalls us, we must receive as the will of God. If it befalls us through man’s negligence, or ill-will, or anger, still it is, in even the least circumstance, to us the will of God. For if the least thing could happen to us without God’s permission, it would be something out of God’s control. God’s providence or His love would not be what they are. Almighty God Himself would not be the same God; not the God whom we believe, adore, and love.”

E. B. Pusey

I am so thankful that I have a solid foundational understanding of the sovereignty of God. Nothing slips through His hands. He providentially orchestrates all things that touch our life.

Knowing this, helped me handle a difficult phone call the afternoon of January 9th, 2024, the day before I turned 39 weeks. The fetal and maternal health specialist called me to talk to me about my fasting glucose numbers that hadn’t budged. I asked her what the concern was since my blood pressure was fine and his growth was fine. With no sugar coating whatsoever, she very bluntly responded, “Risk of stillbirth.”

Although I was a bit taken aback by her answer, I believed that most likely was not the case for me since my other numbers were not in question, yet, I chose to rest in God’s sovereignty regarding this phone call and this information presented to me. I asked her about the foley balloon method and she said that was definitely an option for me.

“How would you feel about scheduling your induction for tomorrow?”

Truth be told, friends, I wanted off this rollercoaster and knew that none of this was coincidence. This was all coming to me from God’s hand, even through a doctor’s lack of tact. Even if she was possibly pressuring me with that scary outcome, God was allowing it and giving us an opportunity to trust Him as He gave us wisdom to make the right decisions.

I agreed to proceed with the induction and received a request through the health portal for an appointment at the hospital for 5:30 AM the next day. I called the sweet sister in Christ who was on call to watch the boys and asked if she would be able to come over to hang with the boys while Paul and I were at the hospital. She said she would be at our house by 5 AM and was so excited for us to be so close to meeting baby boy #4! Her joy for us was quite calming for me as I embraced this new unknown experience that was ahead of me.

Considering childcare for the other boys was another thing weighing on Paul and I’s mind, we were so thankful that our boys would be cared for and loved on while we were briefly away. This sweet sister played with them and baked homemade banana bread with them. Even 1,000 miles away from family, God has provided a family for us in so many ways through our amazing church. I let a lot of my friends know about the situation and Paul informed our elders- we had a lot of people praying for us.

Grace.

I had trouble sleeping that night from nerves (and some contractions too) and was woken up by our three year old who wanted to sleep next to me as he had always done pretty much his whole life. He had no idea that his little world was about to change. He was about to become a big brother!

I didn’t even need my alarm to go off at 4:30 AM because my eyes were already wide open as I rolled out of bed to get ready to head to the hospital. After checking into the hospital, we got settled into my birthing suite that overlooked Tampa Bay. As the sun rose, the view got even sweeter. I doubt many people get to labor while looking at water and palm trees out the window. 😊

Grace.

I relayed the birth plan to my nurse who was a sweet homeschooling mama. The midwife on call was also just as sweet…and spunky. She was my hype girl for sure! Our game plan was for me to labor with the foley balloon for about five hours, check my dilation to see how my body was responding to that method and then break my water, knowing that he would most likely come quickly after that since that happened with the other boys. By God’s grace, within 30 minutes of the balloon being inserted, my contractions picked up and labor began to progress wonderfully. I was even able to walk around and labor over a birthing ball for the first time. I implemented breathing exercises this time around and a rocking motion that truly helped me stay focused as I calmly took each contraction as they came. My focal point being Tampa Bay, of course.

One thing that was truly different with this labor was my great need to cry. The oxytocin was truly making me weep; It was beautifully overwhelming in the best way. Within 2.5 hours, the balloon helped me dilate to 4 cm, and he was low enough for the midwife to break my water. That of course was when labor got intense FAST. I continued the swaying motion standing up, but this time, I needed to hold onto Paul’s hand and lean into his shoulder as I had done with my previous labors. He is such an amazing birthing partner; we truly make a great team.

Grace.

Within 30 minutes, I began to vocalize through the contractions so I knew I was approaching transition. I made my way to the bed, got on my knees, and faced the wall with my arms around Paul’s shoulders. As contractions were getting stronger and stronger, and I got the urge to push, I grabbed the bars of the bed and used it to brace myself as I pushed. Within 3 or 4 pushes, he was born!

Grace.

The midwife slipped Jonathan through my legs so I could see him…oh, my goodness…so much hair!!

Our Florida boy was born at 1:20 PM- something I had silently asked the Lord…that he would be born during the day, which is why the view out of the window was so beautiful with that Florida sun shining off the water.

“I did it, I did it!”

Little man’s blood sugar was a little low right after he was born but after sucking on some sugar mixture and eating (he latched perfectly immediately!), his numbers were thankfully normal. He would have to have his glucose checked 4 more times while we were at the hospital, but the numbers were within range each time. Thank You, Lord! We only had to stay at the hospital for 24 hours…another silent prayer answered!

Grace.

So here we are, now seven weeks postpartum, with baby boy laying on my lap, as I wrap up what will most likely be my last birth story. Although it is not exactly how I wanted his birth to go, I trust that God’s hand was upon the whole journey and that His grace carried me the whole way as I know it will continue to do until I take my last breath. I will forever live to tell Jonathan (and my other boys) of this great grace that is ever-sufficient.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV

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Special Delivery: God’s Great Grace in the Birth of My Fourth Son- Part 2

Click here to read Part 1

For me to adequately give God the glory He deserves and highlight His great grace in Jonathan’s life, I wanted to explain more about those “mini storms” in this last pregnancy. I would say morning sickness is one of those “mini storms,” but after experiencing pretty crummy 1st trimesters with all of my pregnancies, I believe I managed to endure it fairly well. I was even able to volunteer at VBS at our church- helping lead the worship songs and dances- right in the middle of the nausea, fatigue, and occasional vomiting in the shower…all for God’s glory. 

A couple weeks prior to that though, I got to experience the first AMA rainstorm regarding routine scans and tests per the prenatal care we decided was best for me. Without divulging too many details for the sake of privacy in our marriage, I want to first say that regarding my prenatal care and where I would give birth, Paul and I had to come to a compromise. Having experienced a traumatic hospital birth with Isaiah, a blissful birth center birth with James, then an unexpected, yet providentially guided hospital birth again with Jude in 2020 that came with complications and trauma of its own (click here to read more about that), finding a group of midwives (vs. a traditional OB) for my prenatal care that delivered at a very well-respected hospital here in Tampa was the middle ground for both Paul and I. 

Because of my AMA label, a routine test and scan were done to ensure there were no genetic abnormalities (the risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome increases as the mother ages). I opted out of the genetic blood screening but chose to have the scan done that measured the fluid behind the baby’s neck (depending on the results, it can be a soft marker for Down’s). Immediately following the scan, I was told that all measurements looked great and was directed to head downstairs to the lab for 1st trimester prenatal bloodwork. After I finished getting my blood drawn, I was gathering my belongings and gathering my little ducklings to head to the van. As I got up from my chair, suddenly, I saw my midwife come from the elevators who just told me moments earlier that everything was “normal” and sent me on my way. Her countenance was now different as she hurriedly told me that the ultrasound tech “couldn’t find the nasal bone” and that “It would be best to get the genetic screening done…and if not, [I] could be referred to a genetic specialist.” Confused and having no clue what any of this had to do with seeing a genetic specialist, I told her that the tech had trouble getting a good profile so perhaps that is why she wasn’t able to see the nasal bone very well.

“It could be another genetic variant,” she kept saying. Trying my best to wrap my mind around what she was trying to explain to me, I agreed to getting the genetic blood test done since I was already there. When I got to the van, I started typing “no nasal bone” into the Google search bar and the next words auto populated…. “down syndrome.” I clicked on the first medical article from the NIH and the summary said, “The absence of a nasal bone is a powerful marker for Down Syndrome.” 

My heart sank. Tearing filling my eyes, I immediately called Paul to update him on this whirlwind of such a confusing situation that just happened. I tried my best to avoid researching anymore when I got home, especially once I got the notification from my online patient portal that my appointment notes were available to view. I scrolled down and saw the words “absent nasal bone.” Paul and I continued to look over the ultrasound photos of the fuzzy profile, yet couldn’t really understand why the obvious white bone of the nose was considered “absent.” Every “normal” ultrasound photo of a profile we Googled looked just like ours. We just couldn’t understand it. 

That night, a precious couple offered to watch the boys for us so that Paul and I could sneak away for a date night (completely unaware about what happened earlier in the day), but neither of us could get our minds off of the heavy news we received as we considered what our life might look like with a child with special needs. It was so overwhelming for me that I had a panic attack in the middle of the night. 

The next day, knowing we wouldn’t receive the genetic screening results for probably two weeks, Paul uploaded the ultrasound photos of our sweet baby’s profile to a paid online health portal with a radiologist for a second opinion. The radiologist confirmed that he saw the nasal bone and was also baffled that they told us it was “absent.” Feeling a little more relieved, we anticipated the genetic screening results in the coming week or so. While waiting for the results, a message came through the online patient portal asking if I wanted to schedule an appointment with a genetic specialist as if they were already assuming there was something abnormal for certain. The message flustered me, but I declined the referral and waited on the test results instead, which much to our relief, stated there were no abnormalities. 

Grace.

The pregnancy continued to progress beautifully as I gained more energy in my second trimester and was able to manage a solo 8-hour road trip from Tampa to Atlanta for the G3 conference to spend time with some sweet sisters in Christ as we learned about the beauty of the sovereignty of God.

In this pregnancy, I needed to be rooted in that doctrine more than ever

Since I did not want to do the traditional glucose test at 26 weeks (I have a horrible migraine reaction to the Glucola drink and chugging 8 oz of grape juice wasn’t an option like it was with my birth center experience), I requested to check my blood sugar with a glucometer instead. What I wasn’t aware of is that I had to check my blood sugar four times a day for 2 weeks. Yikes! 

Funny enough (or not so funny, really), in God’s providence, I would have to continue to do that up until the day that I gave birth! Yay, gestational diabetes diagnosis! 🙃 I received that diagnosis the same day that I would teach to a room full of 140 women at my church on the canon of scripture and the whole counsel of God later that night (all while my 5 year old couldn’t stop vomiting all day). Talk about a day that I needed to trust God for His peace!

The diagnosis officially put me in the high-risk category and was the hardest part for me at the end of the pregnancy, but again, in God’s sovereign providence, it forced me to pay careful attention to my diet and exercise (staying disciplined even through the holidays and my birthday), which I never really did with my other pregnancies. This meant that I didn’t gain as much weight, and I physically felt pretty amazing. 

Grace.

So from November-January, I had to keep track of my glucose levels four times a day/seven days a week and send the numbers every Sunday night to the doctor assigned to me (a fetal and maternal health doctor that I only met once during a virtual visit). That part was honestly the hardest for me emotionally. I felt like I had to turn in my homework to my teacher, and if I was late in sending in my numbers, I would get a message to remind me and face the disappointment that my numbers were only slightly improving. My fasting glucose levels were the only numbers that were out of range consistently…but only slightly out of range; I struggled so much to get those numbers to change even with the diet and exercise changes and taking various supplements to help regulate my blood sugar. 

Around week 34, I received a message in my health portal from a random nurse that said one of the doctors wanted me to start medication since my numbers weren’t decreasing as much as they would like. I immediately got flustered and responded letting her know that I would continue to monitor and regulate to the best of my ability with diet and exercise. In addition to the push for medication, they also wanted to make sure that his growth was on track because Jude was 9.6 lbs. and had shoulder dystocia. That was something that they would remind me of consistently. “We want to make sure he’s not ‘too big.’” Thankfully, his growth was great- he was only in the 35th percentile. Little did I know that they wanted me to have weekly scans up until birth. When I realized they were adding the scans to my already scheduled prenatal appointments, I politely declined.

Deep breaths, Emily…you’re almost done.

The next week I received the same message about being put on medication because the numbers were still slightly out of range. I got flustered again and declined the medication again. A few days later, I received a direct message from my fetal and maternal health specialist asking if I would monitor my glucose levels in the middle of the night around 2 AM for a couple nights to see where my levels were at. If the number was too low, then we know why my body was overcompensating with raising my blood sugar; if they were too high then we would know my body really was struggling to produce insulin at night. The first night, the number was way too high at 2am, which greatly concerned me. I agreed to try the medication so my body could finish strong, even though I absolutely hated the idea of taking medication while pregnant, not knowing how that would impact the baby’s growth and health. 

But in God’s providence, the night that I took the medication, I discovered that I was in fact allergic- within 30 minutes, my lips, tongue, and face all went numb for three hours, but thankfully, didn’t get any worse. I would not have to take medication after all.

Grace.

Of course, once I told my doctor about the side effects, she advised me to not take the medication, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for the remainder of my pregnancy because they were beginning to talk about induction. 

At my 38-week appointment, we agreed to one last growth scan to ensure that they could not push for induction based upon his size, so I had Paul come with me just in case that topic came up. The typical protocol for a gestational diabetes diagnosis is induction at 39 weeks. The midwife that I met with that day at my appointment was very understanding of my concerns and was in full support of seeing where things were at by 40 weeks (I had only gone a day or two past 40 weeks in the past so I was confident things would most likely go the same way this time around…my water broke with all of my boys). 

Yet, I was still nervous as we neared 40 weeks; I did not want to be pressured into anything and wanted as many options available as possible. I began researching more about a natural induction method that I heard about regarding a foley balloon (Google it, it’s fascinating). I sent out a message asking about that method and was upset to discover that even if I chose that route, they wouldn’t allow me to go home to labor with it (some birth centers will let you go home with the balloon in place to labor at home), and they would still need to place an induction on the schedule (most likely to use Pitocin in case I didn’t progress with the balloon method). I did NOT want Pitocin. Even though I was beginning to have consistent contractions, I still felt stuck and unsure of what to do. 

It was emotional for me, but I was trying my best to lean upon Him and take it moment by moment even with all the unknowns ahead. Yet, He truly was giving me His peace, and it wouldn’t be that much longer before I held precious Jonathan in my arms.

Grace.

I kept reminding my heart of God’s great sovereignty in all things. God was orchestrating all of this. Even in the difficulties, His grace continued to shine through.

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Driven Towards Christ

I have always considered myself a goal-oriented person. When asked to describe myself during interviews for jobs I would often use words like passionate, driven, hard-working, and loyal. There are many times in my life that I intensely kept my “eye on the prize,” ran hard after what I wanted, and achieved my goals. Tragically, this tenacity of running after my goals would result in me becoming distracted from the most important prize, Jesus Christ. The Spirit would convict me, and I would ask the Lord to help me rightly prioritize my time and focus. It’s a beautiful thing to be driven and hard-working, but it is all in vain if your first passion is not your drive towards growing in your relationship with Christ. The stronger you develop your nearness to the Lord, the more you will become like Him. We must remember that the most important race run in this life is for the Kingdom of God, for the glory of Christ’s name, not ours. We must remain motivated by the glory of God.  

What motivates your drive toward Christ?

For the Apostle Paul, it was the prize of the upward call of God:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)

Intersecting Faith and Life:

What excites you and drives your passion? Being made in the image of God means that we all have passion. The important question we must ask ourselves is: is my passion directed inward or does it fuel me to pursue Christ and His purposes? Our drive and passion for the Lord and His Kingdom are related to our devotion to Him and reveal our purpose of knowing Christ and serving Christ. Most of all, reading and studying the scriptures should fuel our passion because it sets our eyes upon the Lord and helps us take our eyes off of ourselves.

We can remind our hearts that if we are born again, Christ purchased our life for a purpose and has made us His own. He did this so that we would bear fruit for His glory. Christ reached down and rescued me, so I should always be reaching for Christ. We press on to make knowing Christ relationally and serving Him faithfully, and we must press on even more when we feel weak. We can look to Christ and ask for strength to keep going, and He will be faithful to give us His abundant grace. We shouldn’t be entangled by our past sins, sorrows, or even successes, as those things will distract us and hold us back from pressing on in our race to pursue Christ and His purpose. May the Lord give us zeal and an increased pace, and an increased engagement in Kingdom pursuits as we press toward the prize. Ultimately, Christlikeness is our prize. Let us seek the Lord and ask Him to increase our passion to become more like Him!

Further Reading:

  • 1 Timothy 6:11-12
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8
  • Matthew 6:33
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Yielding to God’s Sanctification

I have always been a list maker and fueled by accomplishment for as long as I can remember. At some point, being successful and driven became the meaning behind every breath I took; I found purpose in my performance and productivity. I loved the high from “the hustle” and having my schedule full to the brim. I spent years upon year upon years crowding the margins of my existence seeking after this feeling of accomplishment.

This vicious cycle of constant hustle was all I knew for well over 20 years of my life. I still wrestle with the temptation to find my worth in my productivity and seeking my happiness when everything is “perfect.” I am what you may call a recovering “Type A” person. That is an exhausting way to live and if you are not careful, this mentality will creep into your spiritual life and soon you will be trying to work to earn God’s favor and love. Have you ever experienced these thoughts when it comes to your walk with God?

I didn’t pray enough today. I haven’t read my Bible in over a week! Man, why can’t I get over this sin?! I am such a failure! Am I even saved?

But as Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, we know that we cannot earn our salvation because it is a gift from God:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

And just as God is sovereign in salvation, He is also sovereign in our sanctification as we learn to partner with Him in our growth in Christ. He is the one who is in charge of seeing us mature on our walk with Him. The same grace that saved us is the very same grace that keeps us and molds us into the image of Christ, each new day. From the moment of your conversion, you became God’s work-in-progress, and the greatest news of all is that He doesn’t grow weary, stressed or exhausted with you. He will complete the work He began in us!

That is why I love this encouragement from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1: 

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

(Philippians 1:6, ESV)

Our salvation has been gifted to you for the sake of Christ, for His glory, not ours. The gift to have faith in Jesus? God began that work! And if God starts it, God finishes it. We simply need to lean on His strength and grace and ask for wisdom to walk in obedience. The Holy Spirit is our Helper and He will help you walk in God’s will. You don’t have to muster up your faith muscles to see that happen. You simply need to trust that God’s plan with your life will be accomplished, not because there is anything good in you, but because of His goodness and faithfulness! If you struggle with trying to earn God’s love and forgiveness, then let us run to the throne of grace and ask the Lord to remind your heart of His steadfastness and faithfulness in your life. You are safe in His hand and promises to not only never lose any of His own, but to sanctify His children until our final day.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to earth to live the perfect life for me; to fulfill the law completely for me. I trust that His death on the cross paid for my punishment of the curse of the law that I will never be able to uphold. I come boldly to the throne of grace today and receive new mercies that Christ died for me to have. Help me lean upon Your strength and grace today and see the work that You started in me continue until Your glorious return or when I meet You face to face. I trust that You are working in my heart and life and conforming me into the image of Christ day by day. Help me yield to it to Your sanctification. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Fixing Our Gaze Upon Christ

At the beginning of a new year, so many of us often set lofty goals that we want to pursue. Some common ones are: lose weight, exercise more, read a certain number of books, get out of debt, eat healthier, travel more, learn a new skill or hobby, or drink more water. 

All those goals or resolutions are quite admirable, and many can be achieved and maintained if one sets their mind to work hard and stay committed and focused to keep chasing after the lifestyle shift and goal ahead of them. Unfortunately, after the excitement of the fresh new year wains, many people get discouraged and distracted and soon enough, they quickly throw in the towel and stop running towards their goal. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of people who made New Year’s resolutions actually stayed committed to the endeavor of pursuing to completion their resolution or change of lifestyle.That means over half of the people who set a goal for the new year will fail! The study also involved people who did not make a New Year’s resolution but set out to achieve a simple goal- only 4% of those people were successful at achieving their goals. The question that needs to be raised is: what got in the way of the pursuit? 

Considering our Christian journey is far more important than mere earthly plans, I cannot help but apply this situation to spiritual pursuits, our spiritual race. How often do we set our hearts at running the race set before us-towards pursuing more of Christ and the knowledge of Him- and become distracted, discouraged, and entangled in worldly temptations that pull us away from Him? I know for me, the distractions around me sometimes feel inescapable and overwhelming. But we have inspiration…we have a model to look to- Christ!

In chapter 12 of the book of Hebrews we see an encouragement regarding our Christian race that we need to fix our gaze upon Christ because He is our example:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” .

(Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV)

Jesus is not only our example on this Christian pilgrimage, but He is also the One who endows us with the power and grace to keep running our race and to finish well. We are able to keep pressing forward, casting off distractions, discouragements, and disappointment because He is the One who is faithful to complete the work that He began in us. This doesn’t mean that we are free of responsibility on our race. We often determine the pace in which we are running. What has slowed you down on your Christian journey? Are you looking backwards? Have you been caught in the trap of sin that has stolen your zeal for Jesus? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves. Hebrews 12:1-2 commands us to lay aside every weight and snare and to fix our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He loved us so much that He endured the cross to purchase our freedom from sin. That should be enough motivation for us to keep running after Him and glorify Him with our life. Worldly temptations, distractions, and discouragements will inevitably come, but we do not have to be ensnared by them and give up on pursuing God. Let us make a commitment this new year to lay it all aside to run after the Lord and the things of His Kingdom like never before. 

Father God, 

I have such a desire to pursue You and grow in the knowledge of You, but I feel surrounded by so many distractions and temptations that keep me from being faithful on my Christian journey. I repent for allowing myself to be ensnared by sin that does not satisfy. You are the only One who can truly satisfy my soul. Help me to cast off all things that would entangle me and keep me from running the race set before me with fervor. Please give me wisdom on how I can limit my distractions and set boundaries in my life so that I can prioritize spiritual things. I find my hope in You and trust Your joy will keep my heart from growing discouraged. I fix my gaze upon You, Jesus. Thank You for Your faithfulness, for Your nearness, and for Your Holy Spirit that empowers me to say no to distraction and stay focused on Kingdom matters. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Finding the Good in Suffering

What word comes to mind when you reflect upon suffering, trials, storms, pain, difficulties, and struggles? Most likely, the word “good” seems a bit out of place to describe such life challenges. Yet, we see in the life of Job that although he experienced tremendous pain and loss in his life at the hand of the enemy, God allowed it to happen and used it for good so that Job would know the Lord more deeply. 

The “double for his trouble”(that Job received double the material blessings for his suffering) teaching that you hear so often in the prosperity gospel message tries to take the focus off the entire point of the book of Job that reveals to us the beautiful attribute of God’s sovereignty over all things that happens in our world, including pain and suffering. When we try to give more power to Satan than we should, we infer that he “got one passed God” like God was completely unaware it was going to happen. The fact of the matter is that God allows suffering and pain to come into our life for a reason.

God will use all things to conform us to the image of Christ and often in the life of the believer, that includes pain and suffering. In times of suffering, we can pray for God’s mercy to come and cry out for His help in time of trouble, yes, but we must remember Jesus promised that “in this life, there will be trouble” (John 16:33). Yet, we know that He overcame the world for us, and we will one day taste of that victory in full when we meet Him face to face!

The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans reminds us that even in the midst of our suffering, we can keep our mind set upon the future glory that awaits us in heaven one day:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

(Romans 8:18, ESV)

That is why we must keep our eyes fixed upon the hope of eternity and not on this life. And that is why faith in God is so important because it is the rock on which we stand when trials and the storms of life come because they will. We must remember that our faith in Him means that because of the cross, we are forgiven and now we can have the hope that He never leaves our side and walks with us through the valley and the mountain top experiences, and we have the ultimate hope that there is a glorious eternal life that awaits us in Christ Jesus. That is our anchor…the hope of eternity. There is a day that awaits believers where all pain and suffering will cease. But until then, we continue to declare “And if not…He is still good” and trust our life in His sovereign hands no matter what comes our way and know that He is working all things for our good because we love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

Let’s pray:

Father, 

Please help me find Your mercy and goodness when trials and the storms of life come my way. If I am prone to grumble and complain, may the Holy Spirit convict my heart quickly and remind me to be thankful for Your promise of eternity because of the cross. May I look for opportunities to comfort those around me who are suffering as well, so we can help hold each other up. We live in a fallen world, and although we cannot escape suffering, we know that heaven is our home and that the crown of life awaits those who stand firm in the faith, trusting that you have overcome the world and there is no reason to fear. Help me see the good that will come out of me walking through every dark trial. I give You praise and thanksgiving that You will never leave me alone to walk through suffering by myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Clinging to Contentment

As Americans, our culture seems to have a desire for more, more, more, especially when it comes to material things. Even if we don’t need it, if it is on sale, oftentimes, we feel drawn to purchase the item. We are becoming consumed with consumerism. Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves, if we are always seeking and reaching for more, are we truly satisfied in Christ alone? Are we looking to material things, people, or great circumstances to find peace or joy? Are we content with what God has already provided for us? 

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he begins to share with the church at Philippi encouragement about learning how to rejoice no matter what is going on in life and gives the people direction in what they need to focus on. 

In Philippians 4:8, he exhorts:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

If the Philippians would put this into practice, they would experience the peace of God.

As Paul nears the end of his letter to the church at Philippi, he reflects on God’s perfect provision:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

(Philippians 4:11-12, ESV)

He ends that thought with the famous verse, proclaiming that he can do all things through Christ that gives him strength. What is most encouraging about this verse is its context: contentment. The secret to finding contentment regardless of circumstance, having plenty or being hungry, that Paul is talking about is Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the One who gives us the strength and ability to remain content no matter what we are experiencing. True contentment is knowing that Jesus alone can satisfy our souls. True contentment is satisfaction of having our emotional well-being detached from our circumstances and bound to God and His wonderful grace. The world, the flesh, and the devil will perpetuate dis-satisfaction in your soul. Dis-satisfaction happens when you fixate on the source of the problem, and you begin believing your deserve more than what you have. When we search for fulfillment in things, people, or even our circumstances, we will always come up short. All of these things we try to fill our lives with aren’t necessarily bad things, but when they become the end goals, and the reason for our being, they become idols in our life. We end up being discontented because those things were never meant to fulfill us. Jesus is the only One who can bring true contentment into our life. We must learn how to disconnect our hearts from the allurements and attractions of this world and cling to Christ instead. We must remain humble and grateful no matter our circumstances. Let us ask the Lord to help us to seek contentment and hold onto it regardless of what we may be experiencing. 

Let’s pray:

Dear Lord,

I am struggling with discontentment. Help me to guard my heart from discouragement and complaining. Teach me how to find ways to praise You when my expectations are not met or I become uncomfortable in my current circumstances. I know I need to trust in Your sovereignty and lean upon Your ways over my own. Your grace is sufficient for me, and I thank You for always guiding me into truth and convicting my heart when I fall into the sin grumbling and complaining, thinking that I know better than You. My lips long to praise Your great name. I know that at the point of great need, You pour out Your grace. Help me to remain humble and grateful. Thank You for Your love for me and for changing my heart to reflect Yours. I pray You would use all things to transform me and strengthen my faith in You. May I find contentment in You alone and cling to it each day of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Delighting in the Lord

When I am pulled into the temptation of complaining about my circumstances, I must ask myself some questions to gain perspective and do a serious heart assessment: if I am always seeking for an escape from the discomfort or trial, am I truly satisfied in Christ alone? Am I looking to material things, people, or enjoyable experiences to find peace or joy? I am truly content with what God has already provided for me in Christ? We know as believers we can always find answers and direction in the scriptures.

Psalm 37:4 tells us to:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” 

(Psalm 37:4, NKJV)

The Hebrew word translated “delight” literally means to be delicate or feminine. It carries the idea of being pliable or sensitive.  In this specific context in Psalm 37, it means to be dependent upon God and to derive one’s pleasure from Him.

When we read this verse, we usually picture the word delight to mean to enjoy God, which in a way it does. But as I went deeper researching the Hebrew meaning of the word, I realized the verse seems to be a command to us. God is commanding us to find our pleasure and contentment in Him alone.

Here, also in this verse, the Lord is telling us that He will give us the desires of our heart once we fully depend on Him and His ways. When we have a full understanding of who God is and what His ways are like, we can take genuine pleasure in Him. Not because of what He can do for us, but just because of who He is. 

What begins to happen the more we take delight in the Lord, He begins to change our heart and change our desires to reflect His desires. Instead of thinking more about ourselves and what we want, we begin to think more highly of others and become less self-focused and selfish. Suddenly, one of our greatest desires then becomes to please God and tell others about Him, using our life to give God all the glory He deserves. 

Intersecting Faith and Life:

Jesus is the One who gives us the strength and ability to remain content no matter what we are experiencing. True contentment is knowing that Jesus alone can satisfy our souls. When we search for fulfillment in things, people, or even our circumstances, we will always come up short. All of these things we try to fill our lives with aren’t necessarily bad things, but when they become the end goals, and the reason for our being, they become idols in our life. We end up being discontented because those things were never meant to fulfill us. Jesus is the only One who can bring true contentment into our life. May we learn to delight in Him, and over time, we will begin to see how He changes our desires to look more like Him. Take some time to reflect and journal and express your gratitude to the Lord. If you are feeling discontented, ask the Lord to help you find satisfaction and peace in Him alone.

Further Reading:

  • Philippians 4:13
  • 1 Timothy 6:6-11

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Serving Like Christ

“Ministry” is from the Greek word diakoneo, meaning “to serve.” At my church, our pastors believe that every member of God’s Church is a minister, so obviously that would mean that every believer is called to serve- serve Jesus and serve His Body. Jesus was the servant of all. In fact, He was the Servant King. Christ shares in the gospel of John of the importance of serving and following Him as He serves others.

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him”

(John 12:26, ESV).

Jesus asks us as Christians to lay our lives down continually, denying our wants and desires, or as the Apostle Paul said to do, “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).

Do we know how to do that?

It is human nature to seek after what our hearts and flesh crave, but we do not have to give into that kind of nature for we have a new nature in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:10/ 2 Corinthians 5:17/ Ephesians 4:24).

Some people have wrong thoughts about God and service, perhaps believing their service doesn’t matter because others have it taken care of. Or perhaps they see pastors as the ones who are qualified for service and ministry, so they don’t need to join in. But we are all priests to our God (1 Peter 2:9)! When we put our hands to the plow, so to speak, in ministry, we are worshiping God. Those who are saved by Christ will eagerly and joyfully serve Christ and His people. We have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness to match Him and follow Him. What clothes are you wearing- the world’s or Christ’s? 

No matter the excuse or wrong thinking regarding ministry and service, we can ask God to help us see the importance of serving the Lord and others. The Holy Spirit empowers us to set aside our selfishness and learn how to be selfless like Jesus, preferring others above ourselves. That kind of lifestyle starts in the mind, in the way we think, as we learn to think of ourselves less and look for ways to put others first. The Lord promises that the Father will honor the one who serves Christ by serving His people. As we learn to prefer others above ourselves, the Lord fills us with His love to the overflow to reach more people for His Kingdom. Let us ask God to help us value the call to serve so we can look more like Him. 

Heavenly Father, 

You are selfless, humble, gracious, and merciful and You ask us as Your children to follow Your example. I cannot do that in my own strength. Thank You for empowering me with Your Holy Spirit and with Your grace to be able to deny my own desires and selfish ambitions. When I mess up or find myself walking pride, thank You for convicting my heart of my self-seeking nature. I need Your help to prefer others above myself. Your Word transforms my mind so that I can learn how to think less of myself and seek to serve You and Your people. I trust that You will help me see what that looks like specifically in my own life. My heart longs to be the servant You have called me to be. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Walking in Forgiveness

A few years ago, the Lord gave me a wonderful opportunity to mentor and disciple a few young women from a former church that my husband and I attended several years prior. It turned out that word started getting around that these young ladies had been associating with me, and the pastors of this church did not approve. One young lady was told that she needed to disconnect from me immediately because my husband and I were dangerous individuals…we were called “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” 

Once the shock wore off from hearing such statements said about us, I knew I was faced with two options of how to handle these accusations: allow those words to embitter me towards my former pastors or lay down my offense at the foot of the cross, forgive, and pray for them. 

In one of Jesus’ sermons in Luke 6, He gives great wisdom to those who are recipients of hurtful words and actions from others:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28, NIV).

A few verses later, He simply states that one should do unto others that we would want done to us (Luke 6:31). As one who is a peace-keeper by nature, I typically struggle when I know someone has a problem with me. I am not one to burn bridges or cut people off. Of course, there is such thing as boundaries, but I have always tried to keep my heart free from offense; I admit, that I haven’t always been able to shake off those stings from words spoken about me. Knowing that offense will undoubtably come, I must be quick to forgive and quick to pray for those who mistreat me. It’s difficult to hold onto offense when you are purposely and intentionally praying for the person who hurt you. It doesn’t mean that we can always forget the action or words wielded against us, but it does mean that we cannot hold onto it. One of the best ways to guard our heart from bitterness is to ask God to bless those who curse us. You won’t have space in your heart for offense when you are approaching the throne of grace on behalf of that enemy. 

Unforgiveness is bondage; It is a yoke that slowly tightens around our neck and chokes the life out of us. Bitterness is like a cancer that spreads throughout your whole body and affects you completely and everything and everyone around you. We are given many opportunities every single day to take the bait to become offended and hold grudges, but it is so important that we hold onto Jesus and His powerful Word- God’s perfect truth. 

I don’t know who you may need to forgive. I don’t know how deep the pain goes, how big or small the offense may be. I don’t know how long you have carried that burden with you, but I do know that you need to forgive, and you don’t have to do it in your own strength. God has given you the Holy Spirit to help you, to heal you, to change your heart. Let’s ask Him to help us lift our enemies up to Him so that we can be free and honor God.

Father,

I come to You today first and foremost with a grateful heart that You would lavish Your mercy and love upon me, someone who has sinned against You, oh, Holy and righteous Creator God! Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, who stood in my place to die a death that I deserved so that I could be forgiven, justified, and restored back to You to now be called Your child. If I am holding onto unforgiveness against someone who has hurt me or gravely sinned against me, I repent and forgive that person immediately. I have no right to harbor unforgiveness against anyone, and as Your child, You call me to forgive others because I have been forgiven by You. I choose to obey You, no matter how difficult it may be for me. I trust Your Spirit will empower me to forgive and love others how You have forgiven and love me. Help me heal from the wounds that may have been caused by the hands of others. I pray for their heart that they would walk in repentance and walk in forgiveness and know and trust You like I do. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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