Impossible Choice

~ Written by Cassie Harris

I was at a loss for words in how to respond as he told me about his wife’s illness. As he finished, with tears in his eyes he whispered confidently, “The joy of the Lord is my strength. I’ll be okay.” I wiped away my own frustrated tears. What I felt in that moment wasn’t joy. Honestly, it felt like torture.

I understand that God doesn’t make mistakes. But there are times when a part of me wants to question His idea of goodness. It’s hard enough to smile when you’re in pain, but sometimes, it feels nearly impossible to have joy when your heart is breaking. Hardships make me question words such as ‘compassion’ and ‘mercy.’

I don’t know what to do with verses like, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).”

No. Compassion, lovingkindness and faithfulness are God’s consistent characteristics in an ever-changing, fallen and broken world. A broken world which often leaves me in pain. My God is big enough to handle my tears.

But then, within the tears, He asks me to remember that my joy rests in the God who never changes. It is in that reminder that I cling to joy.

~ Written by Cassie Harris

As the torrential rains nearly blinded our visibility, I went into survival mode, asking questions of my fiancé I knew he didn’t need me to ask. “Do you know how to put the car in neutral if we need to coast down the hill? Do you have your seatbelt on?” I had never experienced a flash flood before. The angry downpour made me more than a little nervous as we trekked downtown to rescue stranded friends.

His attitude and patience said it all. For him this experience was just another late summer evening. He answered my questions gently, but was obviously a little nervous himself, ready to make split-second decisions as needed. Overall, the situation was never out of control, though it surprised us both. 

Our two different approaches to the storm reminded me of the two approaches Christians have to trials in our everyday lives. If we’re used to navigating life’s storms by relying on prayer, our circumstancial fears find relief because we know God is more in control than we are. If prayer is something we only experience once in a while – or even never before- our trials, disappointments and sorrows overtake our lives. 

So, how about you? How do you handle the storms of life?

~ Written by Viki Rife

I couldn’t get out of bed, not even to walk eight feet into the bathroom. If my feet touched the floor, my plans would be ruined.

I had asked God to wake me up at 5 a.m. because I couldn’t use an alarm. I had already learned that if I made any sound at all, at least one of my three children would wake up. I was desperate for time with God before the craziness of my day started.

I reached for my Bible. Two minutes later, there was a knock on the door. It had to be our two-year-old — he wasn’t yet tall enough to turn the handle.

Sighing, I went to let him in. “Come snuggle with me,” I told him. “Mommy’s going to pray.” I opened the small yellow notebook that contained my prayer reminders. At the top of each page was a name, and below was a list of ways I was praying for that person. As I turned each page, I would tell my son who we were praying for and what details were on the list. Then we would pray together.

After that he started coming in every morning. Within a few days he was volunteering to pray for certain requests. When a prayer was answered, I would let him place the check mark beside it.

One day he said, “Can I hold the book?” With great reverence he took the little prayer book and placed it on his lap. He opened it and said, “This page is about Daddy.”

“How should we pray for Daddy?” I asked him. To my surprise, he knew the entire list. That day he went through the prayer notebook telling me what each page said.

Now, thirty years later, I can look back and see that those morning interruptions were God’s way of answering my prayers. I had asked God to help my children be prayer warriors. He showed me how to help them develop their prayer life through helping them experience it. It leaves me wondering how many other interruptions in my life are opportunities in disguise.

Does God Get It?

~ Written by Cassie Harris

I hear myself praying, “Do whatever it takes, Lord,” quite often for my unsaved loved ones. After over a decade of watching them walk further and further away from the truth of the Gospel, it’s a prayer of desperation. I have no idea how else to pray, so I cling to the promise of the Holy Spirit’s intercession in Romans 8:26.

Recently, God took one step further in answering that prayer for a friend of mine. As I stood on the sidelines and watched his life crumble just a little more, I bravely yet foolishly questioned God’s sovereignty. I heard my heart question God with inquiries like, “Wasn’t that too much? Do you really understand what my friend needs? Aren’t You scaring him away?”

Needless to say, my friend survived the ordeal. It even made him ask questions about the Lord he hadn’t asked since we were kids. I rejoiced with him, but my heart was humbled.

Often, as “mature Christians” we forget that our faith is actively being stretched and strengthened by God. We seem to forget that experiences now transform our faith just as much as they did when we were just starting out in our faith.

Being made like Christ, being transformed into His likeness, is a process. It can be scary and filled with unknowns. When we forget to rely on the sovereignty of God, those transformations can feel more fearful than joyful.

Our faith isn’t about our strength, it’s about God’s grace.

~ Written by Viki Rife

She walked into the office and proudly showed us her hands. Her nails, much longer than they had been the day before, were decorated with the most amazing designs and colors. As everyone stopped to admire the masterpiece, she highlighted her shopping savvy, “I got this done for only $80.”

Fortunately, no one saw how my mouth was hanging open. Two days earlier I had invited her, one of the few Christians among my co-workers, to a women’s conference. The cost was $65. Her immediate response was, “Oh, I could never afford that! The kids need school clothes.”

It’s not my place to judge, but I caught myself wondering, “What benefits her family more, her attendance at a Christian conference or her long, fancy nails?” I could almost feel Jesus sigh.

Sometimes I grieve over our misplaced priorities. I know I’m not immune to the same mentality. My investment in my spiritual growth is dependent on whether I have any energy, time or money left over after I’ve cared for my own needs and desires and met the expectations of everyone around me. I may not get a manicure, but there are thousands of things in this world that compete with my love for Christ.

It’s a pretty clear principle that we invest in whatever matters most to us. And what we invest most in is the part of our lives that will grow most. How we spend our resources is a very real indicator of where we’re headed. Jesus said it best, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)

~ Written by Melissa Kreis

As the tow-headed boy lathered his hands and turned the water on full-blast, he asked, “How come the water sometimes goes down the drain and sometimes it stops?”

Not sure how to explain this concept to a 4-year-old, I answered rather blandly, “I don’t know.”

“How does it work under the sink?” he persisted.

Now I was really stumped. I am not in the least bit mechanically inclined. So I offered the same answer, “I don’t know.”

Thoroughly puzzled, Derek* incredulously stated, “But you’re the teacher! You should know everything about this!”

Smiling and chuckling to myself, I answered the curious and candid young one, “I don’t know everything, but God does!”

I believe with my mind that God knows everything. I believe He knows my every thought, wish, action, and motive. But when I am stressed or worried about my present or future circumstances, my first reaction isn’t always to talk with God first. I do sometimes, but other times I try to pull myself up by my bootstraps or phone a friend.

However, I certainly don’t know everything, and neither do my caring friends. Only God does. So, my prayer is that the head knowledge that God knows everything would transfer to my emotions and heart when I am anxious. May He be the One I ultimately rely on for strength, and the first friend I call.

*Not his real name.

~ Written by Viki Rife

“I want to be a scientist when I grow up,” the six-year-old told his daddy. “But I don’t know if I can do it.” His father assured him that he was smart enough and would probably be a good scientist. The child asked intensely, “Do you really think I could be a scientist?” His daddy reiterated his confidence in the possibility.

“Okay, then,” the child said with a satisfied nod, “I’m going to invent a potion that will make everybody love Jesus.”

When his daddy, my son, told me about the discussion, my first thought was, “I wish!” It does seem ideal. But God never intended for the Christian life to be that easy. He knows that what is won by struggle and hard effort means much more to us, and can go deeper into our soul, than any quick fix.

 As my grandson gets older, I am trusting he will discover there already is a potion to help people love Jesus. It’s called the Bible. The more we read it, the more we fall in love with the amazing, loving God revealed in its pages. Thank God, He has already provided a way for us to fall in love with Jesus.

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