As mentioned yesterday, I’m going to be writing daily posts for the next couple of weeks. I usually won’t decide the content in advance – though I do have a few ideas I’ve been tossing around for some time now that may show up.
Today, I want to take a look at an excerpt from one of my favorite books of the Bible, James.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:2-8
I love the outlook on life this passage promotes. We are not promised easy lives, and some seasons will be harder than others. When we hit obstacles, though, James says we should learn from them in order to build our characters.
However, what if you don’t know what to do? The answer is simple: Ask God.
This is one of the reasons it is so important to pray and read the Bible daily. When a crisis comes up in your life, you will already be used to speaking with Him and hearing His Word. If you do not already read and pray daily, I encourage you to do so. Start with a few minutes a day and see where it goes. In our fast-paced world, taking time to speak to Him as well as read scripture is a wonderful way to relax and relieve stress.
Before I was saved, I very much believed in God. I prayed to Him mostly for “big things.” I remember in high school, for instance, praying over and over in my head, “Please don’t let my mom die” during a surgery she had where there were serious complications and she lost a lot of blood. I did come close to losing her that day, but God indeed saved her, and I was blessed that she lived nearly another 30 years – brightening so much of my life.
One of the things I failed to do before JC led me to Jesus, though, was pray to God daily in order to establish a personal relationship with Him. I sure was missing out. Connecting with Him in this way brings so much joy and peace. I can feel Him in a way I never could before.
In addition, while I had attempted to read the Bible once or twice as a kid, I only made it as far as Leviticus in the Old Testament. I do remember reading some of the New Testament, though – as I found the red ink for the words of Jesus fascinating.
Once I was saved back in June 2018, reading the Bible became part of my daily life, just as much as praying. This quiet time makes all the difference. I have read the full Bible three times since then, with two more read-throughs in progress on various plans. I do not claim to be an expert, far from it. However, I feel it is important that we all read and absorb the Word for ourselves.
Before I was saved, my priorities were all wrong. I loved God, sure, but He was that powerful figure I went to when I needed something. As far as my day-to-day life, I didn’t see how He fit in. I was serving the wrong masters – trying to fill holes in my heart and in my soul with stuff, food, and other destructive habits. I am sure He wanted to help me. In fact, I know He did, but I was too disconnected. Until Jesus.
As we encounter challenges in our lives, we must seek Him out. Find Him in the situation. Take a moment. Take a breath. Listen. He is there. And when we encounter similar circumstances again down the road, we can say, “I’ve seen this before. I’ve got this,” and face the situation with more confidence. Because, after all, Jesus has you.
I love You. I love You more than I can ever express. But thank God You already know how much I love You because You created this heart, mind, body, and soul. All I am and all I have is Yours. Not because I give it to You. I can’t give You something that was already Yours. Instead, I surrender to the knowledge that all I am and all I have is Yours. Use me. Use me daily, please. Yes, I’m broken and messed up. Yes, I sin every single day – but You can still use me because of Your incredible love. I’m sorry I am what I am. I’m sorry for the things I have done and the things I have thought about doing. Forgive me Jesus. Wash me clean, and use me. Whatever that means – use me. I surrender all areas of my life to You. I cannot get things right without You. I can do nothing apart from You.
I have been saved for 11 years. Nothing is the same – thank God! I am a new creation. I didn’t know that would happen, and I certainly did not see You coming into my life. You hit me like a tidal wave and my life, which was never mine, was handed over to the Creator. Very soon after my salvation, I felt the Holy Spirit burdening my heart for mission work or owning a business. I knew back then that I needed my spouse to have that same burden. I started praying, Lord, “for the Holy Spirit to reveal to (spouse) what I feel He has already shown me – I know it is in His perfect time.”
I quickly took a leap of faith. Just a few short months into being saved, I resigned from a lucrative job with upward mobility; over ten years at the same company, but I trusted You. You protected me and took me on a scary journey that blessed me so very much. I cannot express my gratitude for the path you took me on. But this letter is not about my career path. It’s about my marriage.
Father when I married, neither of us were saved. When I met You, I had 3 kids and 12 years of marriage under my belt. You changed me – thank God! You changed me! My heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, and money became all about You. I cried (and still do) myself to sleep trying to understand how it is that I have this incredible burden for missions, giving, and having minimal stuff – I just need You! But my spouse does not share this burden. He was baptized two years after me and says he is saved. Father, he is a deacon and leads mission trips – so he certainly appears to be saved to the church family. He serves in a ministry, too. Aren’t those all things a “saved” person would do? Father, only You know his heart. I plead with You to either bring him to salvation or remind him of his salvation.
On April 24, 2011, I wrote this to you, Lord: Still confused about obedience to husband. Continuing to pray for revelation to both of us. Still want to purge this house of stuff and wipe debt away.
Why would one spouse be so burdened and not the other? My Pastor told me, “God is not a God of confusion.” I agree with that – but what if I am not confused.
April 27, 2011:No change on . . . unity.
I told myself, “God is not a God of confusion.”
April 30, 2011. I decided to tithe. I was lead to do it based on Malachi 3:9-10, and I did it. It was income You provided to me, Lord. I didn’t ask my husband; I just did it, and I prayed that God would be seen and glorified through that tithe of first fruits.
That was the first time this household had ever tithed.
I was firm in that we were going to tithe no matter what the numbers said. “Test me.” . . . My prayer is that God will be seen!
May 2, 2011:. . . we certainly could’ve used that money. But – there is no doubt in my mind that He will do way greater things with that money than we could ever do! May God forgive us for failing as stewards for so long and for so much money.
Was I wrong as a wife to tithe without my husband being led to tithe? I don’t think so, because otherwise I am disobeying Scripture. Jesus is first in all things.
May 9, 2011, Mother’s Day:What makes a mom happy:
The Dad/husband to be a strong spiritual leader of the home as He commands
Her children to be focused on the Lord. . . .
The sermon that day was about a husband who is a strong spiritual leader. Lord, I wrote to You and emphasized the word “strong.” But, Father, in all honesty, I would have taken and happily embraced any signs of spiritual leadership, no matter the strength.
Lord – please hear my prayer. It’s so hard training these kids alone, and my son, Lord, my son. . . . I’m fasting, Lord, yet no “moments of unity.” Well, it’s only eight days into the fast. God is in control and loves me more than I can ever understand.
Father, during Spring 2011, I continued on the ten-week fast. I was so sure you would bring unity between my spouse and I. Why didn’t he feel the burden about none of this stuff matters. We have becomes slaves to the stuff. . . . I then stepped out again, as I felt led to do, and used all of my savings to pay off every debt (except the mortgage). I was burdened to direct His resources to:
Share the Word
Help the poor
Help the fatherless
Was I wrong as a wife to pay off the joint debts to free up money to advance the Kingdom? Money that God blessed me with over years of hard work. Scriptures say to owe nothing to anyone, except love. I am not disobeying Scriptures. Should I have waited for however long for my spouse to feel led, too? Maybe. We were both on the ten-week fast. He had already been saved and baptized by this point. Should I see him read the Bible? I don’t. Should I hear him pray? I don’t. Should he mention the name of “Jesus” or a verse at any point?
October 22, 2011. Missionaries visited church. I wrote to the Lord:
Always tugs on my heart – Africa and being a missionary. All I pray for is a heart that is obedient and knows His will for my life. Why did He create me?
Find the lost
October 25, 2011. A representative from a ministry in Central America came and spoke at church. I felt so burdened by God to go. So, I committed to go. Should I have waited for my spouse to be led, too? Go, tell, and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I was not going to disobey Scriptures.
December 16, 2011:I am prayerful 2012 is the year where we make a difference for His Kingdom – a big difference.
January 1, 2012. Father, I prayed a similar prayer – a bit longer this time. It was a hope I had for 2012. I prayed that my spouse would:
Put Jesus first in all things and recognize this world and all in it is temporary.
Study, work, and pray to become the leader God created him to be.
Not be scared of all the commands on his life, but instead embrace them and realize the Creator of the universe will achieve the purpose for which He has made him – it is through His strength and power these commands will be fulfilled.
Maybe 2012 is the year I will see my husband pick up a Bible or pray . . . or mention the name of “Jesus.” But he wears the “Jesus” shirts I buy him, and he went on a mission trip so . . . what does this all mean. God is not a God of confusion.
July 6, 2013. I continued with the burden on my heart for my spouse . . . until He reveals the long-term plan to (spouse) – it is where I am.
January 26, 2014:Lord, I’m grateful my spouse just went on his third mission trip. Thank you, Jesus! I think his heart grew closer to the people there. I do pray he becomes a bold witness. Lord, I would love for my husband to pray with me just once or for me to see him holding a Bible or hear him talk about Jesus. . . .
February 17, 2014:Lord, I ask boldly, I pray: Full-time missionaries, the entire family we would all be soul-winners spearheaded by husband.
August 30, 2014:Lord, things are weird at home. (Spouse) is going through this phase where he is ignoring the entire family. Not sure why. I will keep praying.
December 26, 2014:Still want to purge this house. . . .
God is not a God of confusion.
May 15, 2015:(Spouse) still floating on a sea of confusion. Using distractions to avoid allowing God to deeply work on him so he is fully dependent on God. You have to go through the trial, or God will bring you back to the trial. Maybe now he will pray or read the Bible or attend church with the family. Maybe. . . . God, I still have the ongoing call to be on the mission field. I need to continue to pray for God’s will and the obedient heart to fulfill it. No matter what, I have the blood of Jesus.
November 8, 2015:(Spouse) continues to be on a sea of confusion. I am not sure what is driving his decision-making. I pray for him to be the leader of this home that God created him to be. I pray (once again) to be the wife he needs me to be to grow in his walk with Jesus.
After years of whispers about attending law school, my boss approved the company to pay for it. I did not wait for my spouse to also be led for me to attend law school at night. Was that wrong? Should I ignore the leadings of the Holy Spirit and, if so, for how long?
I prayed, fasted, begged: Maybe in 2016, he will pray with me or read with me or mention Jesus. But, he serves in the church and wears “Jesus” shirts, and he goes on mission trips, and he is now a deacon. So, everything looks okay from the outside looking in. It breaks my heart when he demands the kids do chores on the Sabbath, and they politely remind him it is the Sabbath. He repeats the command, they obey. What do I do as a submissive wife? Maybe he will read the Bible or pray or attend church with the family. Maybe he will see Sabbath as a day of rest, not for laundry and dishes. Maybe.
September 16, 2016:Lord, I still have my priorities messed up, and I do not spend enough time praying and in God’s Word. This has led to hearing Him less, resulting in a mechanical daily routine and confusion about His will. God is not a God of confusion. He will not send conflicting messages. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He will not have the husband and wife on two different pages. Ask yourself: Is your motive Biblical? The enemy takes truth and covers it with a veil of lies, so it still resembles the truth.
December 29, 2016:Lord, please help (spouse) and I to put Jesus first in all things. Help each family member to be a soul-winner.
March 16, 2017:Being broken and weak is an honor. It means He is working on you and His power will be shown through you. If I need to be broken to grow and show His power more – so be it. Despite the pain and hurt, He is with me. It is well with my soul.
December 24, 2017:Lord, my prayers for 2018 are that every family member seeks Jesus and puts Him first. We downsize and focus on what and who matters. We use our God-given resources and abilities to help.
December 28, 2018:Lord, I have been asking for a husband who prays with me and reads the Bible with me.
My prayers for 2019 include: Every family member grows daily in their walk with Jesus and puts Him first in all things. We purge and focus on who and what matters. We use our God-given resources and abilities to advance His will.
Father, I also ask that you help me to aggressively seek, desire, embrace, and obey Your will, no matter the cost. My kids, my marriage, my job, my resources, my life – NONE are mine. You loaned me these things – break me, bend me to Your will; all I am and all I have you loaned me, I humbly offer as vessels and weapons of righteousness. Use this sinner to advance your Kingdom.
January 5, 2019:There is a lot before me in 2019. I do not yet feel like I am in His will. I have also been focusing on “Thy Will Be Done.” Whatever that means – bend me or break me to be aligned to Your will.
January 26, 2019:I want a husband who prays with me multiple times a day, leads me to get on my knees, reads the Word to me, challenges my walk and studying and prayer life and serving. I want a husband who takes me by the hand and leads me to Jesus on those stormy waters. “Always keep your eyes on Jesus, JC. Always.” I want a husband who challenges me in my thinking and my choices. Pushes me to run the race with enthusiasm and dedication while being filled with smiles and laughter the whole way. I want a husband that not only serves alongside of me, but pushes me to serve with him and serve in general. Through a prayer life, being led by God to then lead me, your wife. I want intimacy wrapped in prayer and deep spirituality of such an act between two married people ordained by God. An entanglement of souls through the Holy Spirit, forever connected in the bond of salvation.
How long do I beg, Jesus, for my spouse to obey Scriptures, to pray with me, or read the Bible, or attend the church with the family? He goes on mission trips, wears Christian shirts, is a deacon, and serves in a men’s ministry. What do I do when he forces the kids to do chores on Sunday and they say, “But it’s the Sabbath.” I know the Bible says for kids to obey their father – even when he directs them to disobey Scriptures? Jesus first in all things.
This is controversial, but I felt led to write this: I know God hates divorce, but how long do I allow the husband and father of this family to drive disobediently in the areas of money, the Sabbath, love, spiritual leadership, and so on? God gave me these kids. He loaned them to me. I’ve been fighting to train them up alone for over a decade, yet married to a deacon who refuses to pray with his wife or sit with us in church. What happened to seek first the Kingdom of God versus blowing God’s resources on rubbish?
Yes, I know God hates divorce, and I know God is not a God of confusion. What if I am not confused.
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14
I recently started the wheels turning on another significant change in my life, related to being born again. Last month, I started making a huge course-correction to bring my life in line with His plan for me. While such a massive change should be scary, it has not been. In fact, my overall reaction has been joyful – which tells me I am on the right path at last.
As part of closing the book on one part of my life and starting a new one, I am currently in the process of de-cluttering. This is no small undertaking for me. For years, I tried to fill holes in my soul and heart with stuff. Books I never have time to read. Movies and TV series I never have time to watch. Collectibles I never have time to dust.
Oh, collectibles. What a dangerous foe you are to an obsessive person such as myself. “Collect all 96!” is a command, not a suggestion. Completing the collection becomes more important than enjoying it. “I don’t really like this piece, but it is for the collection” is a way to justify spending money on something that is not only unnecessary but also unwanted.
No matter what I bought, though, and no matter how much debt I took on to expand my collection of things, my soul and heart were never quite fulfilled.
Sure, it would feel good for a little bit. Then I would realize I still felt empty inside.
Now, literally surrounded by stuff, I seek to dig out. My original goal was to get rid of at least half of it by donating, selling, or trashing. I have tried to purge before, but things are different this time.
It is difficult. So far, I am failing in my goal. I have purged so much stuff – more than I ever have in my adult life – yet I am keeping more than I am giving up.
Three things are holding me back. The first is the sheer volume of stuff. Only when attempting to sort through and pack everything have I started to realize and acknowledge that I am a hoarder. Not a collector. A hoarder. Oh, I am not bad enough to be on one of those TV shows, but I am certainly on that path. Had I not accepted Jesus in my heart, I probably would have been at that level within ten years – other than the fact that I probably would have been dead by even now. And it would be up to someone else to sort through my mountain of worthless junk.
The second thing holding me back is time. It takes time to makes such decisions, and time is something I currently lack.
Finally, sentimentality causes me to think and re-think about the fate of each item.
Are these just excuses? I hope not. I do feel I have made much progress. Yet, there are far more boxes to be kept for now than I would have ever anticipated. Perhaps I am failing. I am, after all, only human.
I now realize it will take multiple rounds of purging to reach and exceed my original goal. All of this is temporary and will eventually be solved, I remind myself as to not get overwhelmed.
What really matters is that I want a simpler life. I want to focus on Him. I don’t want a television set for awhile, for instance. I am going from a 74-inch widescreen set with a full surround sound system to nothing.
I just want peace, quiet, and time.
Time to study His Word. Time to spend with my true love. Time to spend in nature experiencing His creations.
I want to focus on becoming financially responsible and on paying off the massive debt accumulated to collect so much completely useless stuff. Yes, I am finally learning to be a responsible adult. Twenty-six years late, but who is counting?
In the midst of these changes, I have neglected my writing – including this blog. Effective today, I am going to attempt to carve out time to return to a weekly posting schedule. Writing is something else I want to focus on during and beyond my time of metamorphosis – which can’t come soon enough.
Yes, my entire life is changing, but Jesus and my true love are holding my hands the whole way. I may be surrounded by stuff, but this is only temporary. I will be surrounded by love for all eternity.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you with the same blessings of love that have filled me.