Finding Purpose in Suffering – Part 1

This blog post is my biggest take away from the women’s conference I attended in Colorado Springs last weekend where Nancy Guthrie was the speaker. I only was able to attend Saturday and each of those sessions were grounded in the Word of God and both convicted and encouraged. The last session “Trusting God with Our Hardest Question” was the one that most impacted me.

Nancy shared how our hardest question while in the midst of suffering is why? Why me? Why did this happen? What caused it? What purpose is there in it? She went on to talk about causes of suffering but what really gripped my attention was when she began talking about what is the purpose of my suffering. I am compiling from my notes from the conference, experiences and thoughts since the conference a list of twelve purposes in suffering. Today I will share the first six and the rest will be covered in my next post.

TWELVE PURPOSES IN SUFFERING

1. To Put God’s Glory on Display (John 9:3)

John 9 Jesus heals the blind beggar

1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

People immediately were assuming this man’s blindness was because of his or his parents sins but Jesus corrects that and says it is so that the works of God might be displayed. So often, we too, want to find somebody to blame or a cause and effect when that is not the case but instead is a way for God’s glory to be on display in our lives.

This makes me want to pray and ask God to display His works in my life whether that is healing from my chronic illness or His spirit enabling me to be filled with joy and peace in the midst of it.

2.To Make Me More Fruitful (John 15:2)

John 15:1-2

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

When you prune plants in your garden you do not do it to hurt the plants but to make them be more fruitful. We saw a firsthand illustration of this a few years ago while living in Arizona. We had decided to grow grapes after seeing them in our next door neighbors yard.. After the first year, the vines had spread a huge amount. We got our booklet from the county extension on how to prune our grapes and we followed the instructions. When we had finished, over three fourths of the vines were pruned away. Our grapes looked hacked up and terrible until spring came. That year they grew and put on so many grapes we were overwhelmed with a huge abundance of grapes at harvest and had many to share with others.It  made me want to stop praying for God to stop the painful pruning, but to instead, ask that it result in eternal fruit for the Lord.

3. To Shape Me into Christ’s Likeness (Romans 8:29)

We often hear the verse Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” It will all work out for good without thinking that the good it is referring to is in the following verse. “29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

God is using all things to work together to make us look more like Jesus, often in the crucible of difficulty.

4. To Equip Me to Comfort Others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthinas 1:3-4.

If we want our suffering to be wasted just keep it to ourselves. Instead, we should allow the broken places of our life to be used to minister to others. Another brother or sister who has walked through what you are now walking through whether it is death of a loved one, infertility, loss of a job, chronic illness etc. can offer comfort better than anyone else. They know from experience what you are going through and can share how God met them in the midst of it.

5. To Cause Me to Depend on God More Fully (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

8For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Suffering makes us less self-reliant and more reliant and dependent on God. Suffering makes us unable to rescue ourselves or change the circumstances which cause us to call out in dependence upon Him.

6. To Make the Life of Jesus More Evident (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11

So our weaknesses and sufferings are a canvas on which Jesus stands out and is made more evident.

Purposes 7 through 12 will be shared in my next blog post. Praying that allows time for you to consider these purposes and ponder how God is working them in your lives.

Blessings,

Deb

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God-Incidences

I love how God works!!!We have been looking on Craigslist for a drop leaf table to have in our living room to put at the end of our dining table for enjoying meals with our life group and others God brings across our path. Yesterday we found one at the home of sweet young couple and the guy, like my husband, was also named Joel. They are like minded Christians and he is a worship pastor at a church in Denver. Not only did we buy it but they stopped and prayed for God to use meals around that table to be a place where people can laugh together, weep together and people come to know God personally. Contact info exchanged and new friends made and a table for God to use!

Solace Emmanuel

Early in August we got the joyful news our daughter was expecting our sixth grandchild. We were rejoicing and looking forward to a March trip to help out after baby arrived. Friday August 12. Our daughter went in for a twelve week checkup at her midwife and no heart beat was found. 

 were ordered and confirmed this precious little one was no longer alive. The next day medication was given to expel this precious one who had went to dwell with God. The medications caused our daughter to hemorrhage to point of losing consciousness in ER. Blood transfusions and an emergency D & C stabilized her physically but left her and her husband’s hearts shattered with loss and grief.

Since they were unable to know the sex of this little one they name him/her Solace Emmanuel. Solace meaning “comfort” and Emmanuel meaning “God with us”.

In my processing this loss I wrote the following letter to Solace.

Solace Emmanuel

Your life ended as the blood heavily flowed. Oh so much more than a baby’s body was expelled in that gushing flow. Hopes, dreams and anticipations for a future that included you in our lives also hemorrhaged away. You were/are loved, you are missed and you are grieved for Solace.

As I was praying for your Mom, while she was in the hospital hemorrhaging, I so wished I could have spared her this pain. This pain and grief I have walked through three times myself and know will be something she will carry with her for the rest of her life. I was so keenly reminded of the Heavenly Father, who did not spare His Beloved of Son, even knowing the pain, shed blood and punishment He would endure out of His great love for us. How the Father knew from His Son’s death would spring forth life and redemption. While I cannot spare my daughter this pain, I pray that God will work His glorious plan of redeeming grace, love and refining in your Mommy and Daddy as they walk through the shadowlands of loss and grief. I pray that your brief life would work changes in them, in your siblings, in Papi and I that would have eternal benefits.

I know the three I lost changed me, like the loss of you dear Solace will forever change your parents. My losses showed me how precious and fragile life is, they developed compassion in me for others walking this lonely path of loss from a grief the world either does not recognize or feels too uncomfortable to talk about and does not publicly grieve as we do other loved ones that die.  It grew my dependence on God as I learned how to grieve and find comfort in the laments of the Psalms. I learned to pray “Thy will be done”, though my heart was shattering into a million pieces. I experienced firsthand how God is near to the broken-hearted and how He can comfort and carry me in my hard and broken places. Through loss and grief I learned new facets of His faithfulness, His sovereignty and His goodness.

Solace, you will be remembered. Every March 1st I will think of as your birthday and think of the possible milestones of your life. My last wee one lost was to have been born in February 1988. She would have been a few months older than my niece Lydia. At occasions like Lydia’s learning to read, school graduations, wedding day I would pause in the midst of the joy and remember the one who left before any milestones outside my womb. Just as your Mama will,in the years to come,sweet Solace, have the bittersweet moments of recalling you and your short precious life.

So dear Solace Emmanuel celebrate the eternal joy, as you do not see through a glass darkly, but you clearly see our Savior face to face. 

Much love,

Nana

 

 

Nana

As I have seen a mother bend
With aching, bleeding heart,
O’er lifeless limbs and lifeless face –
So have I had to part
With the sweet prattler at my knee,
the baby from my breast,
And on the lips so cold in death,
Such farewell kisses prest.
If I should live a thousand years
Time’s hand cannot efface,
The features painted on my heart
Of each beloved face.
If I should bathe in endless seas
They could not wash away
The memory of these children’s forms; –
How fresh it is to-day.
Ah, how my grief has taught my heart
To feel another’s woe!
With what a sympathetic pang
I watch the tear-drops flow!
Dear Jesus! must Thou take our lambs,
Our cherished lambs away?
Thou hast so many, we so few –
Canst Thou not let them stay?
Must the round limbs we love so well,
Grow stiff and cold in death?
Must all our loveliest flowerets fall
Before his ice breath?
Nay Lord, but it is hard, is hard –
Oh give us faith to see,
That grief, not joy is best for us
Since it is sent by Thee.
And oh, by all our mortal pangs
hear Thou the mother’s plea –
Be gracious to the darling ones
We’ve given back to Thee.
Let them not miss the mother’s love,
The mother’s fond caress;
Gather them to Thy gentle breast
In faithful tenderness.
Oh Lead them into pastures green,
And unto living springs;

Perfect Peace

Phil 4 vs 6-7 chickadee image

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

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Perfect Peace

Perfect peace,

Perfect rest

Quiet grace

For each test.

Guard my heart 

To fully know Your love.

Guard my mind

To think on things above.

Perfect peace

Perfect rest

Quiet grace

For each test.

Deborah Peabody November 29, 2014

Phil 4 vs 6-7 boho print

Lord,

Help me to remember who I am in You and to dwell in Your perfect peace. Enable me to rest, not stress and let Your Spirit work in and through me.

Amen.

Phil 4 vs 6-7 sun thru clouds

Verses for Overcoming Fear

In my previous post I shared my testimony on overcoming fear through the Word of God which I shared in front of our church’s Moms group on May 14th. My talking in front of a group of women is in itself testimony of God working on my fears! As I was preparing for that talk I also compiled a list of verse on fear that have helped me and made into a handout. Today that is what I am sharing here. May these verses minister to the souls of any who struggle with fear as I have.

Verses to Help Overcome Fear

2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Isaiah 26:3-4

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 41:10

fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:6-7

6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Psalm 46:1-3

1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

Psalm 57:1

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.

Psalm 56:3-4

When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Matthew 6:26-27, 34

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Psalm 9:9-10

9The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,

a stronghold in times of trouble.

10Those who know your name trust in you,

for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5

4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Psalm 4:8

In peace I will lie down and sleep,

for you alone, Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 3:5-6

I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

6I will not fear though tens of thousands

assail me on every side.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Overcoming Fear through God’s Word.

A couple years ago, my husband was on yet another business trip while I was home alone on a very windy night. The howling wind that knocks a stray plastic flowerpot against the house or causes the welcome sign to clatter against the siding turning it into intruders with sinister intent. The single chirp of a smoke alarm with a weakening battery at 3:00 am becomes the alarm system going off is a window is being opened. My thudding heart pounds in my ears causing me to question every noise. This was me the Christian battling my fear once again. 

I am not sure when fear first tip-toed into my life, but can’t remember a time when it wasn’t lurking in the shadows. I can’t remember when fear first visited and setup its residence inside my fragile heart.  My earliest memories of fear were tied to the family I was born into where a parent would suddenly rage and punish for infractions I committed. The standards were constantly evolving as to what was good and acceptable behavior.  Any violation of those ever changing standards brought about severe and sudden punishment.  The walking on eggshells fear of causing any waves was firmly rooted in me early.

My fears multiplied as I grew. I remember jumping as far as I could to get into or out of my bed, otherwise the monsters that lived under my bed at night would grab me. My fear of fires wasn’t helped by my Dad, who for entertainment would pile the family in the car when he saw smoke, and chased it until we could see the burning building. I can vividly remember both a tire warehouse and a house fire we witnessed on these drives and had numerous nightmares of fires as a child. Having a third grade teacher who told horror story after horror story of people being struck by lightning greatly increased my fear of thunderstorms

As I matured, my fears did too. Fear of not being accepted or ever loved, (In my home I was frequently reminded how bad and unlovable I was.), fear of failure, fear of not getting good enough grades, fear of not ever being attractive enough to be loved, fear of being alone, fear of being in new social circles where I didn’t know anyone…fear of, fear of, fear of!!!  

At seventeen, after a thwarted attack by a drunken man, I began a whole new set of fears. Thank God, a neighbor that lived on my 3 block route from my house to my job intervened. I couldn’t tell anybody for fear that my parents would find out and make me quit my job, which would mean I would never afford college or a car. I now added the fear of rape or other attacks to my list of fears. This began the long era of nights alone becoming a battlefield of terror and horrific “what ifs”.

Yet God’s Word tells me in 2 Timothy 1:7 fear is not from God, so where did this fear come from?

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God has been so faithful to help me face up, literally head on, many of my fears. He has bit by bit drawn me out of the shadows and into the light.  God orchestrated that the girl who was terrified of mild spring thunderstorms in Eastern Washington to live in Tornado Alley for five years. He brought a loving, godly man into my life who, after nearly 33 years of marriage, still finds me beautiful in spite of gravity’s pull of time. We lived under evacuation notice for 3 weeks in Alaska while forest fires raged nearby. The girl afraid of meeting new people, of being accepted or being in new situations, married a man who was raised as a missionary kid overseas and was accustomed to visiting a different church each Sunday when back in the States on furloughs. This same man joined the United States Air Force a few weeks after we were married. We spent the next ten years moving to bases in Montana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Alaska, and Iowa.

When hubby got out of the military, we returned to my home town of Spokane, Washington and spent the next sixteen years there. God allowed a job transfer to Phoenix in 2008 and we lived there for six years.  A year ago, we once again had to say hard good-byes and moved here to Colorado due to my health. I am learning to come out of my shell and make friends and actually enjoy new social situations.

Motherhood brought on many new fears and “what if” scenarios.  Both of our children were born a bit early and had infant apnea where they would at times “forget” to breathe while they were sleeping. They had these episodes and needed apnea monitors for several months.  Logan, our son, who was our first child, had a strangulated hernia and had to have emergency surgery when he was eight weeks old. This happened during a freak Mother’s Day blizzard that knocked power out of the whole town of Great Falls, Montana. While generators kept the essentials running in the hospital, we sat in a dark waiting room where I played the championship game of “what if”. I had fully convinced myself our son would die because I needed to be punished for getting pregnant before our wedding.

As a mom, I could easily think of numerous “what if” scenarios for my kids as they grew from infancy until adulthood. My fears, I am sure many times, stifled my kids especially in their teen years.

whatifs

The area that has been the most difficult to overcome is my fears of evil attackers when I am alone at night. Joel has traveled throughout our marriage. As a result, I have memorized many verses on safety, peace and sleep.

My family always attended church while I was growing up. I first understood the go

My family always attended church while I was growing up. I first understood the gospel, my sinful condition and need for Jesus as my personal savior at Vacation Bible School the summer I was nine and a half years old. My home life was difficult but my relationship with Jesus Christ and a few Christian friends really sustained and protected me in many ways especially through my teen years. As I grew in my Christian walk, I realized my fears and my dysfunctional family had twisted my view of God. Though I was saved, I still felt I had to be “good enough” to earn approval of God or He would make me pay the harsh consequences. I began to learn through the Word about the character of God, about His amazing, unfailing love and faithfulness, His unchangeableness, His mercy, grace and goodness. Bit by bit I was able to replace my false views of God. Over the years I also began to realize I am not who an angry parent says I am. I am who Christ says that I am in His Word. I am a sinner deserving of hell but I am so loved that He went to the cross for me. God brought others alongside me to shepherd me and train me that fear is the opposite of faith and that God gives us grace for each day but not grace for the “what-ifs”. I learned the importance of taking my thoughts captive and bring them under submission to Christ rather than to let them run rampant on the well-worn ruts of fear.

, my sinful condition and need for Jesus as my personal savior at Vacation Bible School the summer I was nine and a half years old. My home life was difficult but my relationship with Jesus Christ and a few Christian friends really sustained and protected me in many ways especially through my teen years. As I grew in my Christian walk, I realized my fears and my dysfunctional family had twisted my view of God. Though I was saved, I still felt I had to be “good enough” to earn approval of God or He would make me pay the harsh consequences. I began to learn through the Word about the character of God, about His amazing, unfailing love and faithfulness, His unchangeableness, His mercy, grace and goodness. Bit by bit I was able to replace my false views of God. Over the years I also began to realize I am not who an angry parent says I am. I am who Christ says that I am in His Word. I am a sinner deserving of hell but I am so loved that He went to the cross for me. God brought others alongside me to shepherd me and train me that fear is the opposite of faith and that God gives us grace for each day but not grace for the “what-ifs”. I learned the importance of taking my thoughts captive and bring them under submission to Christ rather than to let them run rampant on the well-worn ruts of fear.

3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

take-every-thought-captive

On my family room wall I have a large metal sign that says “whatever”. That sign is a constant reminder of thinking right thoughts as listed in Philippians 4:8.

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.              Philippians 4:8

Often just asking myself if what I am thinking is true, about either God’s character or what the Word says, is all I need to rein my thoughts in and take them captive. If I am still struggling to take my thoughts captive, I go down the list and ask if my thoughts are honorable, just, pure, lovely etc. Lining up my thoughts to the truth of God’s Word and character have been my greatest help in taking thoughts captive and dealing with fear.

Colossians 3:12-17 is a passage that I have camped in the last few years. It not only helps me realize who I am, but also how I need to respond to others, even others who the enemy of my soul uses to condemn me (Romans 8:1).

12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:12-17

At the beginning of that passage I read I am chosen, holy and beloved. Because I am chosen, holy and beloved I am enabled to have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love and forgiveness towards others.   I also notice that thankfulness is mentioned three times in this passage. When I practice thankfulness and am grateful for all the many blessings great and small I am much less likely to fear.

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Ephesians 1 is another great chapter about who I am in Christ; who you are in Christ. It tells me I am blessed with every spiritual blessing, He chose me before the foundation of the world, He predestined me for adoption, I have redemption, He has lavished His grace on me and I have an inheritance.

When I take my eyes off of Christ and His word I can easily fall back under the grip of fear.  I now know it is a spiritual battle my loving Abba God wants me to be victorious in through the power of His Holy Spirit and His Word.

In 1 John it tells us that God is love and then in 1 John 4:18 we see fear has nothing to do with God and love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

When I am struggling with fear, Isaiah 26:3 is often a moment by moment prayer of mine. I ask God to enable me to keep my mind focused on Him rather than my fears.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 26:3

isaiah-26-3

Psalm 4:8 is my prayer every time my husband travels. In the last few years most nights are full of peaceful sleep.

 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8

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I would like to end with a couple quotes by Paul David Tripp that have greatly impacted me.

“I am not afraid for one glorious reason: I have been lit by the Lord of light”

 Paul David Tripp

This second quote well summarizes my testimony and is also by Paul Tripp.

“Deep and lasting security, resilient hope, and sturdy rest of heart and mind can only be found vertically. You will only know the rest for which you seek when you begin to embrace the astounding reality of who you are as a child of God. If you are God’s child, you are the object of the love of the Person who rules everything that there is to rule.”  Paul David Tripp  page 31 A Shelter in a Time of Storm