Hope at a Dead End

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Gentle Reader, please share this with a friend that this could speak to. This is for the brother or sister whose gotten bad news about their career, health, or a family matter.

You feel stuck at a dead end, watching dreams crumble in the midst of the daily grind. Maybe pain and fear binds you, keeps you stuck in less than all you could be. Maybe you’ve pushed ahead in your goals as far as physical limits will allow. Maybe it’s not simply the voice of our own emotions screaming “you’ll never win.” Maybe a human authority is telling you that the odds are against you and they’re not ever getting any better.

There are no guarantees in this life. God doesn’t owe us anything, least of all miracles. “God works all things for our good.” But not all things in life are good. “God is for us, so who can be against us?” Yet we won’t win every battle. At some point, God is going to let us lose a battle with death itself. If we remain in the faith, God does turn even the ultimate loss of death into our ultimate victory, eternal life with Christ. Remembering that can help us face the prospect of painful losses with hope and fight on.

The nature of faith is uncertainty. God is faithful to God’s word. If the Bible says God promised to do it, God will do it. Yet many promises are conditional on us acting by faith. And applying the Bible’s promises to specific situations isn’t always easy. And it can be even more challenging to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. We need a humble awareness our heart’s strong desires can cause us to misunderstand. I pray God changes our hearts from desiring what isn’t God’s will to desiring what is God’s will.

But at your dead end, remember we serve the God who led Israel out of Egypt, straight into a dead end.

[tweetthis]At your dead end, remember we serve the God who led Israel out of Egypt, straight into a dead end.[/tweetthis]

Picture it. The Red Sea before the Children of Israel, and the armies of Egypt behind them. Trapped. Impossible to go forward into freedom. Impossible to escape the master bent on dragging them back into slavery. Yet God commanded Moses: “Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” (Exodus 14:15b-16)

By faith, Moses obeyed the Lord, and the sea parted. By faith, the children of Israel went forward.

God overcame Israel’s dead end.

I can’t guarantee the desire of your heart is in line with God’s. I can’t guarantee your goals and plans are indeed the Lord’s plans. Still, when you come to closed doors that are unlikely to open, knock. Pray. Let God lead you to the best of your knowledge and discernment. And knock on the closed doors you encounter.

God can move mountains. God can give you favor and blessing beyond measure. If it is God’s will, knock, and the door will be opened. If it doesn’t open, it only means that specific door wasn’t right at that specific time. Keep trying other doors until God changes your heart or shows you another path. Or takes you home forever.

Don’t assume an open door is God’s will, either. Not everyone who opens a door when you knock is acting in accord with God’s will.

So let’s act by faith, aware of our natural limits, and aware of what God can do if God pleases to do it. Let’s weep and cry aloud as needed. Let’s praise and lift our hands in worship and sincere thanksgiving as the Spirit moves in us. Let’s pray carefully about the opportunities that do come to make sure they are God’s will.

But I believe the “dead end” in your life isn’t the end. One way or another, in this life or the next, God has so much more for you.

[tweetthis]Hope at a Dead End #overcome “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[/tweetthis]

Be Bold, Be Brave

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Eleven years ago, my friend Brandi Swindell lost her election for City Council in Boise. She faced a tough election and was hit with both barrels and attacked by vile people. She got volunteers who worked hard for her with great determination. She lost by a lot more than I would have imagined. It was depressing. Her enemies celebrated and mocked. But God…

God had just begun to work in her life. She founded Stanton Health Care in Boise and that ministry touches the lives and hearts of women and their children throughout the Treasure Valley. Stanton Boise moved its office next door to Boise’s Planned Parenthood and is in the progress of building a life-affirming clinic in Meridian. They are, to borrow a phrase from Steve Camp, “lighting their candles on the front porch of Hell.” And, not only that, there are Stanton clinics being established around the world through God working through his people.

I wasn’t able to attend the Tenth Stanton gala this Friday, but I saw pictures and I thought of that November so many years ago and the amazing faithfulness of God. Some of my friends are running for office and some will lose. And there is the big election. [Note from Andrea: which this blog will not discuss at any length aside from spiritual concerns it raises.]

Elections have consequences, let there be no doubt of that. However, win or lose, God is not done with us. And no matter how bad the election results are, they cannot stop the goodness of God, the work he is doing through his people, and the common grace He gives to all mankind. The worst of tyrants who have tried have only been short lived like an eclipse that blocks the sun for but a moment before the the light begins to break through.

No matter how disheartening an election’s results might be, take heart that God is at work in the world. No matter the disappointment for us personally or for our countries, we should remember the words of the Prophet Jeremiah who, in the midst of the destroyed City of Jerusalem, wrote, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.”

Whatever happens this Election Day be assured that the plans and purposes of God will prevail in your life and for the nation.

[tweetthis]Whatever today holds, be assured the plans and purposes of God will prevail in your life.[/tweetthis]

On a hopefully somewhat light-hearted note, consider this advice from the British franchise Doctor Who’s lead role, the Twelth Doctor:
necessaryevil[tweetthis]”At least try to do better than ‘evil.'” –The twelfth Doctor pic.twitter.com/zgbMeA6Fr5 [/tweetthis]

Blessings

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As some of you may know, my husband and I suffer from infertility, both male and female factors. Sometimes, I don’t know what is more painful, when your dreams of biological children start to die inside you or when others give up on you ever conceiving. I turned thirty-four earlier this month and my husband will be thirty-five next month. We’ve been married (and also together) for thirteen years as of July.

My ghost babies are growing up so fast. Twelve, nine, who knows?

If you’re not infertile, you may not get it, what it’s like to grieve for children who were not only never born but never conceived but your heart is stubbornly so sure ought to have existed. A big hole in your life, filled in by other things, hard to value them sometimes. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, a homeschooler. We’ve waited, and waited, and waited. The time I would’ve spent on those activities gets poured into other things, such as writing and editing. It gets harder and harder to value that time, the silence. Irony of life is, mothers long for things scarce to them, that I have too much of, while I honestly wish I had all the problems that go along with motherhood.

Some in our society have forgotten I am not blessed, I am cursed. Ironically, I say “I am cursed” partially from a social standpoint. Childless women can pick up subtle, hopefully unintended social messages that we are second-class citizens compared to mothers. We get left out, discounted, treated like we don’t exist, don’t count. In the media, women like me are often portrayed as either dangerously insane and/or as abusive shrews. Our pain can lead to bitterness and so forth, but due to resiliency, many of us remain loving, kind, compassionate souls who would’ve been great moms and are no threat.

When I say I am cursed, I also simply mean I lack a blessing. It is a blessing to have children. It is a blessing to have sticky fingerprints and crayon art everywhere. It is a blessing to get to give the same instructions repeatedly, to get to watch the same cartoon, play the same CD over and over. Children are blessings that not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

What about my ghosts? Are they doomed to never be? Will God remember the child who never was? Will God give eternal life in Heaven to the sons and daughters robbed of this life by the health problems that kept their parents from conceiving them? Do we infertile have any hope of seeing the babies we mourn in Heaven or are we without hope and fools to desperately believe otherwise?

If it is foolish to hope my never-were children are in Heaven, so be it. When I get there, God will comfort me some other way, if they’re not. All I know is God weeps with us childless would-be parents and with the children who have lost their moms and dads. Perhaps in good time he will make something beautiful out of our broken pieces.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Will God remember the children who never were and give them eternal life in Heaven? #infertility[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Author @andreajgraham gets #real on the pain of #infertility on her #blog. #children #blessings[/tweetthis]

Feeling Defeated? Rest in the Conquering King

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“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Troubled? Christ tells us we can turn to his speech in John 14-16 any time and receive comfort and peace from knowing the Father himself loves us and that someday he will bring us out of our present sorrow and deliver us to joy. He promises us hardship and trouble and travail in this life and that the unbelieving world will hate us if we are truly walking with Him, and has indeed often killed the saints, and many do so thinking they do God service as Jesus said.

But we are to take heart: he has overcome the world. Victory is secured for us. Keep holding the line, keep walking the walk. Stay the course. The battle rages on, but no matter what its outcome, the war is already won.  Let us abide in Christ and rest in Him. Let him fight the battle. Trust and obey him. He’s the conquering king and his enemies are defeated and routed, including the sin or the fallen condition you are struggling with, and even the great enemy, death itself, has been mortally wounded and will be only a distant memory sooner than it seems as we struggle in this life.

Turn your eyes to Christ’s cross and His empty grave and be encouraged, brothers and sisters. It is finished. God has prevailed and He will prevail in your life if you do not lose heart and desert him for his already defeated foe. So put away doubting, put away your own understanding, and trust in Him today.  Give to him any weight that hinders you from trusting him, be it sorrow, be it hurt, be it anger, be it the trust others have broken, and any nay-saying voice, be it real or imagined.  Confess it, express it, but release it into His victorious hands.

 

Faith Guarantees We Won’t Need Our Eternity Back

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“ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

At the end of chapter ten, the author of Hebrews tells us we are saved by faith that is strong enough to endure through hard struggles and suffering that cause us to be destroyed if we shrink back, sorrow unto death, and lose faith in God. In chapter eleven, the author now continues on to define what faith is.

Assurance, rendered as a vague “substance” traditionally, means: a pledge, guarantee, or security that inspires confidence and frees us from uncertainty. Pledge, guarantee, or security in turn is something given to provide protection and/or ensure an obligation, such as a binding promise, is kept. This implies that our faith is not of ourselves, but a gift from God to secure our ultimate hope of spending eternity with him in Heaven.

To hope in turn means to desire and expect to obtain, with confidence and can be synonymous with “to trust.” Another way the author of Hebrews could have put the first half of this verse in English is, then, “Faith is given to us to ensure we will receive from God the promises we trust him to fulfill.”

Substance, was probably meant in the sense of “essence” and that rendering means, “Faith is the ultimate reality of the promises we trust God to fulfill.”

That leaves “Faith . . . is the conviction of things not seen.” This is a case where the KJV rendering, “Faith is the evidence,” was  clear enough. “Conviction” in this context merely means “Faith is what convinces us of the truth of things not seen.”  Evidence is still the most succinct  way to say that.

Lord, we trust you today to keep your promises just as you always have before. Remind us, when we grow weary in our struggles, of your faithfulness to keep your word to your people throughout history. We know times are hard now, we know we may not see your word come to pass in this life, but we know you are not limited to the blink of an eye our lifetimes are compared to eternity. Strengthen us, today. Increase our faith. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.