Why did God let me down?

Please see JC’s “The Cycle of Trust” for background on today’s post.

By JC

So many prayers for healing. She was so young. Maybe I did not pray enough. Maybe I did not pray the right way.

I have heard non-believers say, “How can a loving God allow that?”

When you are crushed and cannot breathe, yet the hits keep coming, believers ask that, too. I do.

I begged Jesus through sobs of pain. Crying out, “Please help, Jesus. Please.”

Nothing.

Silence.

I watched her take her last breaths while in pain.

I prayed for her to be healed, but I also know that we are to pray for His will above all else. So, I dutifully prayed, “Father, please heal her. If that is not Your will, then please allow her to pass peacefully in her sleep.”

That is not how it happened. It was not peaceful or painless.

If another believer were to ask me, “How can a loving God allow that?” I would quote Isaiah 55:9: “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

I would also say that He loves us more than we can understand, so there must have been worse things ahead. Worse pain, things unbearable to see. So, He called her home before things reached that point.

Haven’t we been through enough? So much death and pain in such a short time, so many loved ones gone despite prayers and fasting. Why God, why do we now have to go through this, too? We are still recovering from the last tragedy. The last wounds are still raw.

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

I believe Scriptures. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He died for my sins. So, I read this verse and know it to be true. But God, how weak do I need to be?

The pain is more than I can bear, Lord.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18

I seek You. Why am I seeking, though? I have the Holy Spirit. You are already right here with me. Help me to feel You. I need You, Lord. I need to remember that I am not like King Saul.

“Now the Spirit of the LORD had left Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear.”
1 Samuel 16:14

You will not remove Your Holy Spirit from me.

“God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 5:5

I do not have to fear like King David, when he saw the Spirit removed from Saul and penned Psalm 51.

“Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”
Psalm 51:11-12

While this pain is unbearable, I cannot let my heart doubt You or Your love.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Proverb 4:23

My own heart works against me.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
Jeremiah 17:9

So, where do I go from here? I am to guard my heart, which is desperately wicked, but I cannot guard it properly.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

But because I believe Jesus is the Son of God, I have His peace that is beyond understanding. I have peace when I should not. I have peace when the world says, “How can a loving God allow this?”

The answer is, I do not know. I may never know this side of Heaven. But I know God is love (1 John 4:16).

I also know I am not to focus on such thoughts, nor allow my heart to ruminate on such things.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:8

It is not easy. Pain crushes. Feeling like God let you down crushes.

I do not believe that time heals all wounds. Instead, I believe that you find your new normal. Through Jesus, you find the way to move forward with the hole in your heart and determine your new normal.

Why did God let me down? I don’t know that He did. I know my heart is telling me that, but my heart can be wicked.

No, I cannot guard my heart. I need Jesus for that. We must stay anchored to Him for peace and joy that is beyond understanding.


“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭57:1‬

Credit: JC

Dear God, please forgive me

For background on today’s post, please see previous posts where JC has shared her story – including “Spiritual Abuse” and “The Cycle of Trust.”

Credit: JC

By JC

Dear God,

Please forgive me. I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not trust You during my storm.

Funny thing is that I know the story about the disciples and You sleeping in the boat, commonly known as “Jesus Calms the Storm”:

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!'”
Matthew 8:23–27

I read your Word everyday so I know this story. And yet, for a long time, I have doubted Your control over the storm I am in. I never said it that way or thought about it that way, but that is what I did. While I never doubted that You love me, I was not hearing from You. Despite my faithful prayers, the many times I cried and begged for an answer, You were silent. I felt like the disciples – scared and crying out, “Lord, where are You?”

I prayed to You, Lord, asking for You to bend me and break me to Your will. I kept handing over the situation to You, reminding myself of Philippians 4:6: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

But then I would take the situation back from You:

Lord, You are not moving, I do not see anything improving for months and months, despite my prayers and fasting and my broken heart. I do not understand, I know You love me. I have been a Christian for over a decade, so I know what to do when prayer goes unanswered–Fast, ask God if there is unconfessed sin in my life, check if what I am asking is in line with Scriptures, talk to Godly people, and sometimes understand no answer is an answer.

I was trying everything just to survive.

Then, I was listening to K-LOVE at work this week and I heard this: God waits until you truly surrender to Him. Then, He kindly says, “My child, I was just waiting for you to be done.”

That hit me hard. I was trying to do this or that. While I was praying and fasting and removing sins from my life, I had not fully surrendered to You. It was unintentional, I believed I had surrendered. But, what I was saying was “God, please fix this . . . just not that way please.”

I was not fully surrendered to You. I then started praying, “Lord, please do whatever You want. I no longer care. Just please do something.” [I am not recommending this exact prayer, as I had a bad attitude.]

I spent a few days praying this and inviting the Holy Spirit to work on my bad attitude.

Then, You moved.

And You moved in a big way.

I am sorry I did not trust You. I am sorry I kept handing over my burdens and then taking them back. I am sorry I did not fully surrender to You.

Thank you, God. You have taught us so much. May we never forget these lessons:

  • You provide (Philippians 4:19)
  • Trust in You (Proverb 3:5)
  • Be still (Psalm 46:10)
  • “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6)
  • Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
  • Owe no one a thing, except love (Romans 13:8)
  • Love Jesus first
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
  • If it’s His will, He will
  • “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28)
  • “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20)
  • And nothing can separate us from Your love (Romans 8:38-39)

Amen


Doctor Lois Evans, beloved bride of Texas-based pastor and author Doctor Tony Evans, went Home on December 30. Doctor Evans on January 5 provided a poignant sermon as a tribute to her, embedded below or available directly on YouTube. JC notes, “He talks about being close to God, how you can hear and see Heaven when you stay close to Him. She trusted Him in her death. We must always stay close to Him and trust Him no matter what.”

 Credit: Tony Evans (YouTube)

Is nostalgia holding you back?

Credit: JC

By JC & Snow

Nostalgia can be fun, but it can also be a barrier to spiritual growth if you dwell too much on the past. For one thing, we tend to remember the best parts and forget the rest. While this is only natural, it can make the “good ol’ days” of our lives seem idyllic in a way against which our lives today can never hope to compete.

The Israelites of the Old Testament come to mind. It seems every few miles on the way to the Promised Land, they are complaining to poor Moses about something. Here is but one example:

“‘If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.'”
Exodus 16:3

God and Moses have literally led these people to freedom. God has even worked visible miracles to do so, including the parting of the Red Sea. Yet, they are remembering the good ol’ days . . . of being slaves in Egypt. Here is how the Bible describes that slavery:

“The Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.

“The Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.”
from Exodus 1:11,13-14

Rather than placing their newfound freedom in perspective, the Israelites choose to obsess over the best part of their former lives – the Egyptian version of the all-you-can-eat buffet. They forget that the costs of admission to that buffet were their bodies and spirits.

This is not to suggest we should dwell on negative events from our past. In fact, you should discard anything that is holding you back and take only the good memories with you. Just don’t obsess over those memories.

As always, Paul has some good advice on the topic:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 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 ‭3:12-14‬

Paul is focusing himself and telling himself to forget his past. Along the same lines, let’s go back to the Old Testament. This is from Isaiah:

“I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses. I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned, their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick. But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”
Isaiah 43:16-18

Here, God is telling us, humanity, to forget His previous miracles because His future miracles will be even bigger.

People will sometimes say if only God still did big miracles – like the parting of the Red Sea. Saved Christians don’t need to see those kinds of miracles, though, because, as Paul said, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we intimately know Jesus. These are far bigger miracles than parting any seas. We are carrying within us the very same power that brought Jesus back to life.

The faithful of Isaiah’s time were only able to read or hear about what we are blessed to have. They were still faithful, even without the gifts we have.

“All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:13‬

Live for today and tomorrow, not for yesterday. Lean into the future, not the past.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

Darkness and light

Credit: Snow

By Snow

I grip my flashlight a little tighter, wishing for the millionth time since I was a little boy that it really was a lightsaber. I’m in the middle of my daily walk, which I started much later than usual, and the sky is black. I’m entering a long stretch of dark road between the comforting illumination of my apartment complex and the lights of a busy street somewhere up ahead.

In the daylight, the only real concern I have in this area is dodging droppings left on the sidewalk for me by my Canadian friends – beautiful geese who gather to honk and laugh as I dance around their little presents.

In the dark, though, everything seems different. My flashlight is bulky and metal, chosen specifically because it resembles a lightsaber hilt. No little plastic flashlight would do. Yet, the light it produces seems frail. Barely penetrating the void.

Through the mist of rain, I see a shape ahead. Someone coming towards me?

My heart begins thudding. For a moment, I am afraid.

Then, I remember two things.

1.) I’m a child of God, and
2.) God sees just as perfectly at night as in the day.

I bravely press on. I pass the ominous shape.

It’s not a person at all.

Not even a goose.

It’s the back of a sign pointing the way to my apartment complex.


I thank the Holy Spirit for reminding me last night that I don’t need a lightsaber. All I need is God.

May Jesus bless you. Thank you for reading.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:12

“To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”
from Psalm 139:12

Credit: Snow

For He shall save His people from their sins

By Snow

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
Matthew 1:18-25

It is Christmas morning. I am running late for a family gathering. I just finished wrapping the last of the presents. I haven’t even showered yet. With absolutely nothing planned in advance, what better time to start writing a blog post after nearly three months of silence on my part?

This is my first Christmas morning “alone.” Of course, I am really not alone. I always have Jesus. I always have God. I always have the Holy Spirit. I have even felt my mom, who passed away in May, flit in and out a couple of times today.

While I cannot be with them today, I have also been looked in upon by my beloved and by my friends. In fact, when I was feeling down a few minutes ago, I instantly received a text message from a friend, followed by another from my beloved. Like I said, Jesus is with me and looking after me. I am blessed.

Some of us will spend time today with family and friends. Gifts might be exchanged. The shopping frenzy just ended, and the return frenzy is about to begin.

Let today, though, be a moment of peace. For today, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Breathe.

Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends.

And if you find yourself “alone,” remember, that you are not truly alone. Jesus is with you. Feel Him.

Once you have accepted Jesus in your heart, no one can separate you from Him and His love. For that is the ultimate gift, His gift to us.

Jesus came here to our sinful world not to receive gifts, not to take residence in a grand palace and rule from afar, but to serve others. His life and death, indeed, was in service to all of us. His life is a perfect example of the loving humans we are all capable of being, as creatures designed in His image.

While we cannot achieve the perfection of Jesus, we can strive to improve ourselves and how we treat others every day. In this world, we are faced with many temptations. It is easy to take the route of negativity, but what does that accomplish? Look on this world with positive eyes. Find the good in others. Find ways to spread love. Find hope.

No, we are not perfect. Even the best of us is still a sinner. That is why it is critical to understand the importance of the birth and death of Jesus. He came here not only to serve as an example but to sacrifice His life for our own. Through His death, all of our sins are forgiven and eternal life with Him is ours — as long as we believe in Jesus and accept Him in our hearts.

No matter where you fall on the scale of sin, you need Jesus, and He is waiting for you. Even if you have broken every commandment at least once, Jesus will still forgive you and grant you eternal life.

Even if you consider yourself a “good person” who does many good deeds, you still need Jesus to forgive you, for you are still a sinner. You could never do enough good deeds to make up for your sin. Only Jesus can pay that price, and He already has.

If you already know Jesus, then stop for a moment.

Feel Him.

Feel His love.

Thank Him for the many blessings in Your life. Every breath is a blessing.

Breathe.

If you don’t yet know Jesus, why not reach out to Him today? Pray with me. Use my words or your own. He will know what your heart wants to say.

Jesus,

I open my heart to You, the Son of God. Thank You for dying on the cross for the sins of humanity, including my own. Please forgive me my sins. You were resurrected after death. Please grant me eternal life to be with You always. I need You, Jesus. Please make me a new creation and open my eyes anew. I give my life to You, Jesus. Please fill me with Your love and the Holy Spirit.

In Your blessed name I pray, Jesus.

Amen

Credit: JC

I am thankful to Jesus for making me a new creation. For forgiving me my many sins. For showing me the potential He sees in me. For showing me the depths of a love I never knew possible. For Mom. For my beloved. For my family. For my friends. For His provisions. For every breath. I thank Jesus.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you!

Choosing God

By JC

This is the fourth post in a series about a 40 day fast I recently completed. The previous entries are:

The task for the final day of the fast was to write vows of commitment to God, focusing on areas in your relationship with Him that need to be renewed or strengthened. Mine are below.

Credit: JC

I commit to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). I commit to purging my possessions and giving to those in need, to store up treasure in heaven so the desires of my heart will be heaven-focused (Luke 12:34). I commit to choosing a rich relationship with God over earthly wealth and not worrying about whether I have enough food or clothes (Luke 12:21-23).

I commit to going and making disciples of all the nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And teaching these new disciples to obey God’s commands knowing that You are with me to the end (Matthew 28:18-20).

I commit to forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). I commit to always rejoicing in the Lord and, instead of worrying, praying about everything and thanking God for all He has done – focusing on the peace He guards my heart and mind with (Philippians 4:4-7). I commit to fixing my mind on that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). I commit to being content with whatever I have and knowing that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

I commit to being bold for Christ and working to bring honor to Christ, my life is His (Philippians 1:20-21). I will submit to Christ in everything and parent my children in the instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24; 6:1-4).

I commit to remembering that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I commit to only worshiping the one true God and not misusing His name. I commit to keeping the Sabbath holy, honoring my parents and not committing murder or adultery or stealing, lying, or coveting (Exodus 20:3-17).

I commit to remembering that overwhelming victory is mine through Christ because nothing can ever separate me from His love (Romans 8:37-39). I commit to loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and meditating on His commands daily (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).

I commit to confessing my sins daily because I will fail at these commitments but He is faithful (1 John 1:9).

I commit that as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15).

A 40 day fast to deepen your relationship with God

By JC

I recently completed a 40 day fast for my marriage during which I performed at least one daily act to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. While Fireproof was an initial jumping off point, I created my own version to better fit my situation. I learned as I did mine and landed with the below.

Goal: Deepen your relationship with God.
Notes: I recommend that you combine this with a daily food fast. When you crave the food(s) you have given up, it will remind you throughout the day of the fast. Due to its origins, the text of this fast assumes you are married. However, you could potentially replace “spouse” with any key person in your life. As I mentioned last time, this fast is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone.
Prayer when craving the missing food(s) and during your daily quiet time: “Let today be the day I come to know You deeper than ever before.”

Day 1: Commit to reading the Bible daily for at least 15 minutes, if you do not already do so. Commit to praying daily for at least 10 minutes, if you do not already do so.

Day 2: Find a “Nathan” for this fast to hold you accountable. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, and tell you like it is.

Day 3: Ask how you can pray for your spouse. If he or she won’t/can’t answer, pray Deuteronomy 6:5 over them: “I pray [spouse’s name] will love the LORD our God with all [his/her] heart, all [his/her] soul, and all [his/her] strength.”

Day 4: At least during the fast, commit to live out Ephesians 4:26-31:

“‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

Day 5: Commit to live out Galatians 5:22-26:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”

Day 6: Commit to communicating to your spouse either a verse or a prayer every day during the fast.

Day 7: Forgive your spouse. Write a letter to give them or burn.

Day 8: Ask your spouse how the situation or circumstance he or she asked you to pray about is going. If a specific request was not provided, communicate to them, “I am praying for you daily.”

Day 9: Do something unexpected that your spouse will see as a kind gesture.

Day 10: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.

Day 11: Write our three positive things about your spouse. Leave it for him or her to find.

Day 12: Think of something you do that you know annoys your spouse. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t do this thing for the rest of the fast.

Day 13: Think of a conflict you and your spouse have that you can pray about and find a compromise. Try to put your spouse first.

Day 14: Be present with your spouse. No need to say or do anything. Just be present.

Day 15: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite dinner.

Day 16: Find a way to show respect to your spouse today.

Day 17: Pray to God to examine your heart and show you anything that offends Him.

Day 18: Pray for God to allow you to see your spouse through His eyes.

Day 19: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 20: Remove any temptation that may be in your life – a person, a thing; get help for an addiction, etc.

Credit: JC

Day 21: Plan to worship with your spouse.

Day 22: See if your spouse will share with you anything for which you need to ask forgiveness. If so, ask forgiveness. If you don’t feel sorry, pray about it. Don’t just emptily apologize.

Day 23: Do an unexpected kind gesture.

Day 24: Leave your spouse an encouraging card with Scriptures.

Day 25: Find out your spouse’s love language. If you already know, fill him or her up.

Day 26: Pray with your spouse. If you can’t, tell him or her that you are praying for them.

Day 27: Recommend a Bible study to your spouse to read alone or together.

Day 28: Thank your spouse for a specific thing he or she recently did.

Day 29: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 30: Leave your spouse a handwritten letter of encouragement with verses.

Day 31: Do an unexpected kind gesture.

Day 32: Write what made you fall in love with your spouse. Give it to him or her, if you so choose.

Day 33: Create a “break” for your spouse. Do a chore, errand, or something else he or she would normally do.

Day 34: Cook or buy your spouse his or her favorite meal.

Day 35: Plan to worship with your spouse.

Day 36: Spend time with God. Ask Him to examine your heart. Listen.

Day 37: Thank your spouse for something he or she recently did.

Day 38: Check in with your spouse to see if the prayer request has changed or how it is progressing.

Day 39: Determine what, if anything, you want to share with your spouse about the fast. Any letters written during it? Any insights?

Day 40: Write vows of commitment to God. What areas in your relationship with God need to be renewed? Strengthened?

In a future installment, I will share my renewed commitment to God from Day 40. Thank you for reading. I pray that if you choose to fast, you will find what you seek.

40 days in the desert

By JC

Today is the last day of the 40 day fast for my marriage. I completed at least one daily act of kindness for the past 40 days to try to show my spouse the kindness and love of Christ, regardless of his behavior. Prior to this fast, I was frustrated with my spouse’s behaviors and saw him differently than I do now. Doing the acts of kindness had an opposite effect than I would have expected. My spouse ignored or rejected all of my acts of kindness and instead increased his negativity.

I have been praying hedges of protection with the blood of Jesus at least once a day around the kids and the house to protect us from the increased negativity. There is so much power in the name of Jesus!!

Before I go any further with this post, I feel burdened to say that the 40 day fast approach is NOT intended for people who are in marriages where your health/well-being is at stake. I am not asking you to stay with someone for 40 days who mistreats you or your kids or anyone. Please get help. I learned over these 40 days that it takes 7 times for someone who is being abused to finally leave. More sobering than that, not everyone survives to their 7th attempt. If you are in this kind of relationship, please get help: www.thehotline.org. God created you in His image, and He did not intend for you to be abused by your spouse or anyone. He sees you as His temple:

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.”
from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

There are many other verses, but just know that you are loved by God Almighty, there is hope, and you ARE strong enough in Jesus to leave. I now know that.

I received so many insights during this 40 day fast. I mentioned one example of a fast in my last post, that one is for two married people who are both believers and one spouse does not hate the other. That is not my situation, as my husband has not spoken to me in many months and refuses to be in the same room with me, even though we currently live together. So, I modified the fast I used to better fit my situation, but still included Christ-like daily tasks. I will post the revised fast I created soon.

I recommend that if you create your own fast, daily pray and obey two sets of Scriptures. The first is:

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 4:29-32

The second set of verses is:

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
from Galatians 5:22-23

Pray that you will show the fruit of the Spirit daily to your spouse and to others as well.

Armed with daily prayers and an open heart, the insights began to flow over the 40 days:

  • Working to be more like Jesus ALWAYS hurts because as sinners, we are so far from Him.
  • Everyone needs a “Nathan” and should be a “Nathan” for someone. Named for the prophet who confronted King David in 2 Samuel 12 after he sinned against God, a “Nathan” is the person in your life who will challenge you, call you out, tell you like it is, and hold you accountable.
  • If your spouse is saved and does not pray with you, read with you, worship with you, or help you feel Jesus, get on your knees and pray about it. It is a problem. Galatians 5:7-8 states, “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.” These verses spoke volumes to me in my situation.
  • God never commanded us to obey someone in authority when they are leading us to rebel against God. There are many examples of this in the Bible, but I will note only one. From Daniel 6:6-10, “So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said [. . .] give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. [. . .] But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” We are never to rebel against God because someone in authority over us leads us that way. Never.
  • I had to realize the need for God to change my heart. Regardless of how my spouse acted. I needed to respond in a Christ-like manner and show my kids a healthy example of Jesus in marriage in my home. I needed to examine my own heart.
  • I must see my spouse as a child of God; Jesus died for my spouse. No matter how I feel about him or how he treats me, God loves my spouse. I prayed that God would help me to see my spouse as God sees him. Instead of frustration with my spouse, I began to feel deep pity. I then cried many mornings praying for my spouse as I saw how he is missing out on the incredible relationship that believers should have with Jesus. To be clear, my spouse says he is saved and has been baptized, but refuses to pray with me or the kids, I have never seen him read the Bible or heard him quote Scripture or say the name “Jesus.” It is not my place to judge his relationship with Jesus, all I know is I now pitied this person that used to frustrate me. I began to beg God daily that my spouse would come to know Jesus deeper that day then he ever had before. I will continue to pray this.
  • I asked my spouse, “How can I pray for you?” Note that I prayed for him daily already, but this was an opportunity for him to share with me, if he chose to, what his prayer needs were.
  • Share with your spouse that you pray for them daily. It is irrelevant if they care or acknowledge this. You never need anyone’s permission to pray for them.
  • Anytime you try to move your family to obedience, Satan will fight you hard. He wants the family out of alignment with God’s Word because the family is the foundation to everything.
  • I needed to find things for which to appreciate my spouse, such as, “Thank you for cutting the grass.”
  • I needed to acknowledge Christian things my spouse does, such as, “I am grateful that you were baptized.”
  • I wrote a letter to my spouse asking for forgiveness. As he has not spoken to me in many months, I still wanted to do this task, as I am sure I have hurt him over the years of our marriage. I did not want to write some generic letter, so I prayed about what to write that would be authentic and possibly heal my spouse. During my quiet time one morning, God showed me that I failed at Ephesians 5:22-24, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” As a wife, I did not always obey these verses. So, I apologized to my husband for not consistently obeying Ephesians 5.
Credit: JC
  • As the hate and hurt flowed from my spouse, Pastor’s wife shared with me that it is the anguish in my spouse’s soul manifesting, which reinforced the pity I now feel.
  • I wrote vows to God on the last day of the fast. Pastor told me this fast was going to be more about me and less about my marriage. I admit I did not understand that in the beginning, but he was right.

If your spouse is not saved, I highly recommend Stormie Omartian‘s The Power of a Praying Wife Book of Prayers or The Power of a Praying Husband. I prayed through this book nine years ago, and my spouse made a profession of faith and was baptized as I completed the book. Also, please refer to 1 Corinthians 7:12-13, “Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a fellow believer has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a believing woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.” I was in that boat for two years where I was the believer and my spouse was not. Again, I am not at all saying to stay with someone who abuses you. Please get help.

As for Snow, his unbelieving wife is divorcing him. This situation is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “If the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.”

As the 40 day fast concludes, I now see my spouse as someone to be pitied, and I cry out for him daily instead of the “mindless” prayers I used to pray for him. I now know that with Christ’s strength, I can respond to hate with love. I now trust God even more, for I was reminded that God has me and my kids; He always has. I now pray “Thy will be done” and mean it.

I thank God for this fast and pray that if you choose to enter a fast, you will receive the insights you seek.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
James 1:5

Sunlight and rain

Credit: JC

By Snow

“When they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
from Luke 23:33-34

The above is a powerful statement. Jesus has been beaten, flogged, nailed to a cross, and tortured in various other ways as well. However, He asks God to forgive His tormentors. While He is suffering, dying for all of our sins, Jesus thinks not of Himself but of those who are killing Him. He thinks not of vengeance but of mercy.

This sets Jesus apart from any other would-be deities – at least the ones that I’ve ever heard about, anyway. Looking at Greek mythology, for example, would Apollo have asked his father, Zeus, to forgive humans who were torturing him? No. The lightning bolts simply would have started raining down. End of problem.

Not Jesus. He asks His Father to forgive His tormentors. Stop and think about that action. The beauty of it. It is the inverse Kingdom come to life. What an incredible example Jesus sets. He lives up to His own words, for during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated:

“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
from Matthew 5:44-45

Do you want to break the chains ensnaring you with your enemies? Love them. Though it is difficult to achieve, if you love your enemies, they no longer have any control over you. They want you to react, to stray from your values, from your God. Instead, you love them, and in so doing, you rise above and declaw them.

Paul explains in a much more eloquent fashion than I can:

“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. […] Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”
Romans 12:14,17-21

It is only natural to want revenge in certain situations, but you are misplacing your energy. Do you really think any revenge you come up with is going to be superior to what God can deliver in His righteous anger? “I will take revenge,” He says. Let Him handle it. Trust Him.

I try not to label people as “enemies” in my life, for even that gives them energy, but there are certainly some individuals that come to mind who have, from my perspective, either hurt or attempted to hurt me or loved ones over the years. Inspired by the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, I have started praying for them. No matter what they did or attempted to do, none of them have committed atrocities like the tormentors of Jesus, so surely I can be as forgiving as He was?

Easier said than done, though, and I struggle each time. My Bible Study Partner suggests one approach is to pray to see them as God does. How can we see them through the eyes of God, rather than our human eyes? Doing so can lead to a new perspective and a different heart when dealing with them. You may find pity or sadness for them, rather than responsive hurt or anger.

Even if I am able to accomplish the above, I must admit, however, that I doubt I could have the presence of mind to be as gracious while in the midst of undergoing torture like Jesus did. “Jesus is perfect, so of course He responds perfectly” I think to myself, looking to excuse what I suspect my own failings would be in such a situation.

Then, another Biblical example flashes to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit). In the early days of the church, in the aftermath of Jesus’s death and resurrection, Stephen is persecuted for being a follower of Jesus. While in the process of being stoned to death and becoming the first Christian to die for his faith, Stephen – as imperfectly human as you or I – follows the example of Christ:

“He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.”
Acts of the Apostles 7:60

Jesus and Stephen have set a high standard for us. As with many of the ideals of the Bible, loving your “enemy” is best achieved by starting small and working at it each day. Think of someone who “torments” you in some way. Begin praying for that individual today. Feel how it changes your perspective of him or her. Feel how it changes you.

Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.

The Cycle of Trust

By JC

I am going through a tremendous time of change in my life. While I met Jesus 11 years ago, I have not been fully surrendered to Him. What does that mean, “fully surrendered”?

The meaning I am applying here is that every corner of my life, every person in my life, every relationship in my life, AND my life itself belongs to Jesus. Saved people believe that, and we know it. How often do we live it, though?

I am sure there are times that we surrender situations to Jesus, ones that we know we cannot at all control – medical situations or other people’s behavior. But I am talking about even the corners of our lives that we believe we can control, such as where I want to work or where I want to go today.

For several months now, Snow and I have been working on fully surrendering our lives to Jesus and praying, “Bend me, break me to Your Will.” Within the past five months, we have both lost our jobs in the corporate world, we each lost someone incredibly dear to us to death (Praise God they both knew Jesus) and at least one marriage is ending.

For us, we daily give our worries to God, but we pick them right back up – sometimes within minutes. Daily questions we ask include:

  • “What is the plan, God?”
  • “What do You want me to do?”
  • “What is Your desired outcome so I can get there?”

I love clarity, and so there are times where I pray God would just tell me what to do: Where is the goal line? I will obey and move the ball down the field, but just tell me where You want me to wind up.

This is not how God works. I was studying Abram this week (before he became Abraham), and this man literally left all he knew for some place that God said He would show him at some point. WHAT??

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.'”
Genesis 12:1

Notice that word “will.” Leave all that you know and are comfortable with for this completely unknown path that I am not ready yet to reveal to you.

As I studied this verse and Abram’s reaction, I thought to myself, could I do that? I say that I want to fully surrender all to Jesus, and I do believe that, but could I really do that? Leave all that I know and all that is comfortable for some unknown path? That is fully trusting God – wow.

Credit: JC

Since Snow and I have been praying the “Bend me, break me” prayers for months, God has been removing toxic things from our lives. The work environments were extremely toxic. Certain relationships were and are extremely toxic. Both Snow and I were saved later in life, so we made stupid decisions before we were saved that are now being cleaned up, and God is at work in those corners of our lives, too.

All of that is an amazing blessing, but here is the issue: My heart.

Do I fully trust God with what He is doing in my life? Can I be like Abram and just obey without knowing the plan or the outcome?

The still, small voice reminds me of the following:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Romans 8:28

As I think about this verse, I definitely love God. I do not always act like it because I am a sinner, but I do love Him. And I do believe that He has a plan for my life because of two specific verses, though there are others.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”
Jeremiah 29:11

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
Psalm 139:16

I believe in the Bible 100%, every word of it. So, based solely on these two example verses above, He has a plan, and the plan is for my ultimate good.

So why do I struggle with trusting Him? Has He ever let me down?

Yes, in my opinion, He did. Allow me to explain.

Two years ago, there was this sweet, amazing young girl that out of the blue got an aggressive cancer that began to ravage her body. The medical treatments were done, the surgeries occurred, etc. I believed in the power of prayer, and there were thousands of us praying for this sweet girl to be healed physically and remain in this world.

God chose to heal her a different way and ushered her into eternity. As a believer, I know that God knows best, and He loves her more than we can process, and I know He chose to call her Home, and it was the perfect response for her.

What about those of us who trusted God to heal her, though? There are several verses that talk about ask anything in My name and I will do it – so what happened here?

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.”
Matthew 18:19

“Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”
John 14:14

Jesus and Snow are going to help me heal and dive into these verses more. There will be a future post on this topic, so I will end that trail here for now.

For the purposes of today’s post, I must trust God. Things do not always make sense to me.

Can I be like Abram and just obey without knowing the end game? Oh, but I do know – Romans 8:28. Maybe this hurts, and it is messed up in my opinion, but He is at work, and I must trust Him. I will trust Him for a short time period, then start worrying again: How will this work? What about that?

It is a cycle of trust for me. I see it as a spiritual battle. The enemy does NOT want me to trust God and fully surrender to Him.

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Romans 8:5-8

Note those words God uses, “always hostile to God,” “never” obeys, and “can never please God.”

“Always” and “never” are words that leave no room for lack of clarity. So, if I am listening to the enemy, dominated by the fear, the worry, I will never please God in that state of mind.

I am working on replacing worry with worship, for the enemy hates when we give glory to God (that is the whole reason Satan rebelled, to get glory).

I would like to say I have conquered this battle, but the cycle of trust continues: I trust Him, I worry, He reminds me of His love and promises, I trust Him, I worry.

The two things that I am focused on are:

  1. Asking God to show me areas that I am not yet fully surrendered in and then listening to His response
  2. Working hard to apply 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We 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.”

I cannot control every thought that enters my mind, but I can control what I do with each thought once it is there. I compare it to Scripture and assess whether it is light and love. If it is, I engage God about it. If the thought is not edifying, pure, or anchored in the Truth, do I dwell on it and allow it to seep into my soul?

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:9

I see in the above verse, “Trust me.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

I see in these verses God saying, “I got it, regardless of what you think based on what you see around you. I got it.”

There is a battle going on, brothers and sisters. Fully surrendering and unconditionally trusting in God is the way to disarm the enemy.