Category Archives: Faith

All things faith related.

Stopped in Our Tracks: Joy in the Midst of Pain

We can’t really know how strong our faith is until we have an opportunity to exercise it. And it’s not as if we go out looking for these chances, because most of the time these chances come in the midst of pain. Many of us mosey along in life—we read our devotions, do our work, and care for our families on a surface (though genuine) level until something unforeseen stops us in our tracks.

And since we’re on this side of Heaven, that “something unforeseen” always appears sooner or later, doesn’t it? Whether it’s a lost job, a death in the family, a strained relationship, or a scary diagnosis, suddenly life is more complex than we ever imagined, and we wonder how we ever walked so casually through life before. We wonder how everyone else can keep walking so casually through life while we’re pouring all of our energy into managing our crisis situation. How can life continue on around us? At first, it feels indecent. Cold.

But then we center our focus back on Jesus.

The clouds part, if for the briefest of moments, and we’re able to see our Creator walking alongside us. Holding us, even. We realize we’re glad life is carrying on around us—it gives us hope that normalcy (whatever that means) may not be completely out of reach again for ourselves.

We realize that, while we’ve claimed to be faithful followers of Jesus all along, now is our chance to embrace it. To heavily lean into our faith. To draw near to God in ways we never could have imagined otherwise. We feel his tangible presence and his deep peace envelop us as we take the next step and face the next day, and we know—we know—we aren’t doing this alone. Not just in a “Jesus loves me, this I know” sort of way, but in an intense, raw, going-through-this-wouldn’t-be-possible-without-Jesus sort of way.

We fall at His feet in prayer and in worship, knowing that He’s big enough to change our circumstances and acknowledging that His ways are so far beyond us that he indeed may not. We remind ourselves over and over again that His plan is always best. Even when we don’t understand. What peace there is, knowing we don’t have to understand.

And while we would, of course, never choose the difficulty we’re facing, we draw near to God in such a way as to find some semblance of joy in the midst of the heartache. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. It’s dependent only on our level of connection to our glorious Creator. Joy in the midst of pain is illogical and impossible to explain. But it’s real. Oh, but it’s real.

So we pray our way through our difficulties, managing what is in our control here on earth and heavily leaning on God along the way. And our faith—our relationship with our Creator—will never be the same. And for that, we’re thankful.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

When You Just Can’t Catch a Breath

Sometimes we just can’t catch a breath. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the abundance of blessings surrounding us, and it’s not that our faith is gone. It’s just that nothing feels quite settled.

Maybe the news has been beating you down so constantly it has become a mental block. Maybe the circumstances you’ve prayed would change for so long haven’t budged and hope is hanging thin. Maybe the hurt of those around you is piling up and there’s nothing you can do, so you feel overwhelmed.

You know God is powerful and capable, but you also know sometimes circumstances don’t change this side of heaven, so you’re hesitant to expect him to move in a big way. You know prayers get answered, but also sometimes they don’t seem to get answered, so you’re hesitant to pour yourself into prayer.

Maybe the door to *fill in the blank* has been closed so many times, you’d rather not try to open it again than risk finding more pain on the other side.

If any of this rings true, here is my encouragement for you today:

You are enough. You are not deficient. Letting God carry you through the difficulties shows your strength and wisdom as you rely on him. In other words, stop trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. You are not that strong in and of yourself. In his arms is the safest place to be.

God is still good. It’s true. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Emotions often lie or embellish. Emotions can help us gather information about ourselves, but they can’t be trusted without reason, logic, and prayer alongside them. Don’t believe everything they tell you or you’ll only end up hurt.

Your pain, hurt, hopelessness, faithlessness, mistakes…none of that defines you. God defines you. And he calls you:

            – a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

            – God’s child (John 1:12)

            – a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)

            – a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)

            – redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)

            – a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

If this is what God says of us, who are we to disagree?

When life feels heavy, don’t retreat. Seek community. Let loved ones help carry your load. Take a step in faith, no matter how small it may seem to anyone else.

And more than anything else, lean into God. Seek silence with him. Create space for him to wrap you in his arms and quietly remind you of his goodness, provision, and love. He’s just waiting for the opportunity to tell you.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if you haven’t already, I invite you to sign up for my monthly email encouragements – you’ll receive my free historical romance novella (Love on a Whim) if you do!

Dear Weary Christian Parent

Dear Weary Christian Parent,

First of all, the fact that you’re weary shows that you care; that you’re in it for the long haul. So congratulate yourself for loving your children so thoroughly—you’re doing great.

I hope you know you’re not failing just because you got short with your child, forgot that appointment, or yelled when the chaos was too much. You’re human. And when you get real with them and ask your children’s forgiveness, it will likely come with hugs and smiles, just as it does so lavishly from our Father to us.

Don’t forget that you were never meant to “do it all.” Even Jesus had limits and boundaries. He didn’t heal every person in every town he visited. He rested. He sought solace to pray. He didn’t drive himself into the ground trying to be everything for everyone around him; he was human. And he simply kept his focus on where his Father was leading each day. And one more time for those in the back—he rested.

Remember to use your “yes” sparingly and intentionally. Saying yes to something means saying no to other things, be they organic playdates, much-needed family nights, or that alone time with God that you just haven’t managed to squeeze in lately. Whatever you say “yes” or “no” to, pray and think it through. You don’t win any prizes for having your children in the most activities…you only get burned out. Trust me—unless they are future Olympians, your children would much rather have a present, peaceful parent than a shelf full of trophies.

When things feel too hard and you wonder if you’re just crazy (as we all do), remember—parenting IS hard. Culture is against you and your desire to raise godly, moral humans. We are constantly at battle against the evil one who wants to guide our children away from us…away from God. No wonder you’re weary. Christian parenting takes diligence, patience, and lots of grace, and while it’s wonderful and rewarding, it’s also exhausting.

Let Jesus carry you. His strength is unlimited and it’s ours free through the power of the Holy Spirit. Walking in His strength is a pretty incredible privilege in the Christian life. It’s a game-changer.

A few last reminders for battling the weariness. Prioritize sleep as much as possible. Drink more water and less coffee. Laugh more. Carve out at least a few minutes of solitude to sit at the feet of God and lay your day before him, and you won’t regret it. You just might find your weariness being replaced with strength and the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Love,

Jessie

PS—One final thing. Don’t forget that YOU are the parent God decided your child needed. The pairing is purposeful. Move forward with confidence as you guide your child closer to knowing the God of the universe. Also, take a deep breath and calm those racing, worried thoughts. God’s got this. God’s got you.

A Controversial Post … I Guess?

If you aren’t living under a rock, and I assume you’re not since you’re reading this, you know that on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the infamous Roe v Wade ruling from 1973, meaning abortion is no longer deemed an American “right” federally protected by the Constitution. The states now get to decide.

I really, really don’t like to get political online. I like to stay neutral when I can and use social media for connecting with readers, writers, and fellow moms and Jesus-followers. That doesn’t mean I don’t have strong political opinions – ask my close friends and family and you’ll be assured that I do. Sometimes I wade into the choppy online political waters, but I’ve learned that the interwebs aren’t the most productive places to spout opinions and convictions. 😉 However, to be honest, sometimes I don’t want to keep my mouth shut. Especially when it’s an issue of morality.

There is plenty of wiggle room for differences of opinions on many topics in the news these days. But I stand with my pastor, David Wigington, when he recently wrote these words…

“Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is a victory for unborn children and a victory for life. This ends federal protection for a practice that I believe grieves the heart of God and should grieve the heart of every follower of Jesus. Over 60 million babies have been aborted in my lifetime. Every one of those 60 million babies were known and loved by God. But yesterday’s ruling marks the beginning of the church’s work and not the end. The world needs to see us ACTING with compassion toward the unborn and the born and toward their mothers and fathers… saving these children is about MORE than just ending abortion. I’m also aware I have friends who have lived through horrible nightmares of their own and feel very differently than I do about this issue. Just know that I love you and I see you and I want to hear your story.”

Last night I saw someone being interviewed on the news saying pro-lifers don’t care about what happens to the baby once it’s born. The fact that this is widely believed disgusts me, so let me say loud and clear: YES, we need to protect ALL life, not only the unborn. YES, we need to provide assistance and counseling to pregnant women and do what we can to support them throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond. YES, we need to make sure the child is loved and cared for after birth. YES, we have work to do in many different areas, and YES, there is healing and compassion for those on the other side of abortion. But in formulating our convictions, we have to start with life. None of it matters if life isn’t given a chance.

On June 24th, while I was celebrating a win for human life along with many others, some Christians were angered by the ruling. Pro-choicers chant “My body, my choice!” while pro-lifers respond, “But it’s not your body; it’s a baby’s body, with its own DNA and everything!” So where is the massive disconnect between sides? (And massive, it is!!) The truth is, there is an inherent difference to how we view the very definition of life. Pro-lifers don’t believe the issue has anything to do with women’s health; it’s a matter of a child’s inherent right to live. Pro-choicers don’t believe a fetus is a baby up to a certain point (and that point changes dramatically depending on who you’re talking to), and therefore they make it an issue of women’s healthcare.

According to a 2018 article from SSRN , 45% of Americans believe that the statement human life begins at conception is a philosophical or religious belief, while 95% of biologists believe it’s a fact that human life begins at conception.

Chew on that one for a minute. Keep chewing. Now, leaving God out of it for the sake of conversation with not-yet-Christians, who should we trust to define life? Biologists – whose job it is to study life? Or the American public with all their whims and opinions? I’ll leave that rhetorical.

People on both sides of the issue are extremely fired up right now, and I’m watching long-standing relationships crumble around me before my very eyes between people who can’t see beyond opinions to the person holding them. Whatever side you’re on, if you’re holding tightly to opinions but aren’t able to lay emotions aside and discuss your views using facts while also seeing clearly that the person you’re disagreeing with is a human being made in God’s image , you might want to rethink some things.

I could talk about this all day, but here’s my final thought. If we don’t show love to those we disagree with, the divide will only deepen. America’s temper is rising rapidly and it needs us all to take a deep breath before we speak. Find common ground as a starting point. Don’t shut people down. Remember that most pro-choicers have complex fears and reasons for believing so. While I will never agree with them, I can listen and love them and try to understand, all while praying they come to see life at every age and stage as the miracle it is – a gift worthy of protection from the instant God created it.

Let me leave you with a few verses that spoke to me this morning. I pray they soak into your heart as well.

“Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See than none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”  — 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-19, 23-24

What if Our Defintion of “Good” is All Wrong?

What if our definition of good is all wrong? What if, in our humanness, we reduce goodness to what feels, looks, or seems good when all the while, God has bigger things to say about it?

I have an autoimmune condition. Most of the time I’m fine, but sometimes I’m not. And ten years ago, I had a few of the worst weeks of my life. During those weeks, immediately following the birth of our baby girl, I was unable to carry on normal responsibilities. All I could really do was sit while my husband, family, and friends took care of our newborn, two-year-old, and four-year-old. If I moved my head much at all, my body would spasm, and let me tell you…it was unpleasant. It was bad. Awful. Angering. And all the other adjectives that describe a terrible situation. Physically, it was the worst time of my life.

It may come as a surprise that I can say with full confidence that this time of physical and emotional suffering was the best time of my life, spiritually. When distractions were removed and I found myself crying out to God hundreds of times per day, he and I grew closer, as relationships naturally do when given undivided time and attention.

The book of Isaiah was written seven hundred years before Jesus was born. But this prophet spoke prophecies regarding the coming Savior that unfolded exactly as stated, seven hundred years later. Isaiah 53:10 says this regarding Jesus:

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.

If you’re like me, that sentence gives you pause. We could discuss for days all the approaches to theology regarding God willing or not willing human suffering, but let’s lay that aside for now. The above verse states clearly that God’s plan was to crush Jesus. Crush.

Seem dramatic? I agree. But with this mysterious plan of God’s came the rescue of the entire human race.

And look at 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9. Paul says this in the New Testament:

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

As a result of Paul’s crushing, he learned to rely on God. It may not sound worth it, but I assure you, it is. Paul says so and God says so. Our time on earth is only a blink of an eye compared to eternity in Heaven, so being Heaven-minded now has much greater benefits for us in the long run. We will never fully understand God’s ways, but one truth we can count on is this:

Good things come from crushing.

Maybe we don’t feel it, see it, or even believe it much of the time. But feelings don’t lead us to truth. Truth is truth, regardless of our thoughts or feelings. The truth is, going through intense difficulties refines us in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. As long as we don’t run the other direction, being crushed draws us nearer to God than any amount of church-going, praise songs, or study can. (And no, we don’t draw near to God because God has an ego problem and wants us to need him. We draw near to God so we can know on an intimate level his love, goodness, and guidance.)

This topic was inspired by a recent sermon by my pastor, David Wigington. In his sermon, which you can check out here, he said, “Crushing doesn’t destroy your gifts; it exposes them.” Truer words were never spoken.

When I was going through that health crisis a decade ago, I nearly felt like my life was over. I never dreamed of all God could do with me in the years to come. Suffering allowed me to experience what it means to rely utterly and completely on God, and because of it, I am now able to be and do things I would have otherwise never thought possible.

Suffering is never pleasant in the moment. Of course we want to avoid pain when possible, and I’m not implying otherwise, but when unpreventable suffering does come, if aligning our souls with God himself is what we gain, what could be better? Perhaps it’s time to rethink our perception of good.

Do you have any stories of how God used difficult things in your life to bring about good? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below – it’s so encouraging to read such stories! And if you want to dive deeper into David Wigington’s words of wisdom, check out his awesome book, God of the Long View. Highly recommend!