Spiritual abuse

By JC

The term “spiritual abuse” is not something I looked up on the Internet. I do not even know if such a phrase already exists. Here is how I am defining it: When someone you are under the authority of, per the Bible, fails to fulfill their Biblical responsibilities and instead creates an environment of disobedience to God.

I am the first person to say that nobody is perfect. This is not about a failure along the way or an error. This is about a spiritual authority that has a consistent pattern of being disobedient to the word of God, yet claiming they know Jesus. If you have been reading this blog for any period of time, you know a little about my story.

God has recently laid it on my heart to go deeper with you and reveal more. My intent is to help just one person. Perhaps that one person is you. If so, I have been praying for you.

I have been married for 23 years; neither of us were saved when we got married. Eleven years ago, I was saved, and then two years after that, my husband was baptized. There are many responsibilities in the Bible that are given to governments, people in authority, and to husbands and wives. Ever since I was saved, God put on my heart the burden to give up my old life and be on the mission field full time. What an honor to serve Him full time.

My husband did not have the same call on his heart. We talked to the Senior Pastor, who told me, “God is not a God of confusion.” The problem with the pastor’s advice is that he never said to my husband, “Have you prayed about the burden on your wife’s heart? She is adamant this is what she has heard from the Lord.”

My husband does not pray, does not read the Bible, and never speaks the name “Jesus.” But, as a “good,” submissive wife, I thought that the pastor and my husband were right. God is not a God of confusion. For over a decade, then, I buried that burden deep within my heart. I went on mission trips each year. I prayed that God would reveal the same burden to my husband, but He did not or my husband never revealed He did. That burden is with me every day to this very day. But I replay what the pastor said, “God is not a God of confusion.”

Daily, I beg God for my husband to draw closer to Jesus. I beg for God to provide me with a husband who will read the Bible with me or pray with me or provide some example to our three kids of what a Christian husband and father might look like.

Morning after morning and night after night during my prayer time with God, I sob. I cry out to God. I have become an expert at stifling my sobs, as I do not want the kids to hear me. I have also become an expert at “cleaning up” my face should one of the kids enter the area where I am praying. I wipe the tears extremely quickly and slap a smile on my face. I even learned that a certain eye cream helps when I have cried too hard and my eyes get puffy.

I have become an expert at hiding my pain. I have become an expert at burying what I know God put on my heart: Full time missionary work. I tell myself that if God wanted me to be a full time missionary, He would burden my husband. So, maybe the timing is not just right yet. Keep stifling those sobs, keep using that eye cream, keep being submissive.

Credit: JC

In March of this year, my best friend in the world passed away extremely unexpectedly. He was 46-years-old.

I was crushed.

I could not breathe.

The police were waiting for me to arrive. And there my best friend was, gone, laying on the floor, gone at age 46. I had to make decisions about cremation, funeral services, his finances, etc. I am his executor. I agreed to do this, yes, but not now. I thought when we were 90, maybe.

You left me. I felt alone and so hurt. Jesus quickly swooped in and reminded me that you were a child of God. You are now with Him and completely healed. Jesus reminded me that I will see you again. I still cling to that knowledge to help me get through the pain day-by-day. Praise Jesus for His promises.

The death of my best friend awoke in me a journey that I needed to go on. As I planned his funeral and cleaned out his home, I kept feeling him with me spiritually. I believe that when someone has crossed over, they are still with you, just in a different way. As the months passed, I felt my best friend sharing with me that he had no idea how much I cried and hid my tears and buried what I was created to be and denied what I heard from God.

I began to research about Christian divorce and talked to a few close, Christian friends. I heard it over and over: “God hates divorce.”

I continued to cry out to God and continued to stifle my sobbing and hide my tears and deny who I was in Him.

A few months ago, God showed me examples in the Bible of people under ungodly authorities. In Exodus 1:15-16, Pharaoh tells the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys. Verse 17 notes, “But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders.” In verses 20 and 21, it says, “So God was good to the midwives […]. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.” It appears from these Scriptures that God rewarded the midwives for their disobedience to the king and obedience to God.

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar requires all people to bow down and give worship to a statue. Three Jewish men refuse to obey the king. In verse 15, Nebuchadnezzar says, “I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue.” In verse 18, the men reply, “We want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” The king throws the men into a blazing furnace and God saves them. Then in verse 28, “They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” The three men were then promoted to even higher positions than before. It appears from these Scriptures that God rewarded the three men for their disobedience to the king and obedience to God.

I am currently in a Bible study by a popular American preacher. He says that when the wife fulfills Biblical responsibilities that belong to the husband, everything gets turned upside-down and the family unit is exposed to the enemy. I believe that, but what does a wife do? Stand by and allow her kids not to be led at all because it is the husband’s role?

Years ago, I made a conscious decision to lead my children and, yes, I assumed Biblical responsibilities that my Christian husband refused to do. I never stopped praying for my husband to be the spiritual leader that God created him to be and for me to be the wife that he needed to fulfill that role. No progress. More sobbing. More hiding the pain.

I have been fasting and praying for years about how to reconcile the command to be submissive to my husband versus the call that I know God has placed on my life as well as me leading the children versus my husband. I am choosing to divorce my husband. There are many reasons why I made this choice: verbal abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, and, most of all, spiritual abuse.

I am not saying this path is for everyone. You must pray and listen to God. I have peace with the path I am now on. I have bathed it in prayer and asked for forgiveness from my husband and from God. I will continue to cry out daily for my husband, even when he is no longer my husband. The most important thing in this world is Jesus. Luke 12:31 says to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”

All I need is Jesus. I want to give Him my life, my every breath. I have denied for a decade what He created me to do. I will be judged by other believers for the path I am taking. But this is not about them. This is about many years of daily conversations with God and me obeying the commands He has placed on the lives of every believer.

As I was praying about my marriage, my husband, and the path I am going down, I felt led to read Genesis. Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, when Jacob just wanted to marry Rachel. In Genesis 31:1-16, conflict arises between Jacob and Laban. In verse 3, it says, “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there and I will be with you.'”

There will be occasions in our lives that God will use conflict to get us on a new path and, more importantly, He will use conflict to sever relationships that are not guiding us to God. If there is a relationship in your life that is causing you to move away from God, pray about severing it. Our command is to obey God, above all other authorities we are under: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

What I realized is that in choosing to submit to my husband, I was allowing myself and my kids to be led away from God. When I began to move toward God, conflicts arose. I realized that the marriage I am in is a mockery of God. There is nothing Biblical about this marriage other than two people in it who claim to know Jesus as Lord. I choose to no longer submit to a husband who refuses to pray, read the Bible, or speak the name above all names, Jesus.

Yes, I will be judged by people for filing for a divorce. But I have peace in knowing that I am not confused, and I will no longer be spiritually abused or abused in any other way.

I am a child of God, and He loves me.

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

Never truly apart

By JC

During a fast where one of the prayers was to hit me with a 4×4 of what to do in my marriage, I felt led by God to meet with two friends – a pastor and his wife. In previous posts, I have talked a little about my marriage and the struggles that exist in the church family and assumptions and so on. There was a lot going on in my mind, how do I know what is from God? I do know that “God hates divorce,” for I have heard that over and over.

My friends both had been married before; they each had different experiences. They were brutally honest with me, which I needed. I came in with a list of reasons why I needed a divorce – self-justification of why Malachi 2 did not apply. They said, of course God will forgive you if you choose to divorce your spouse. That is not the right attitude, though. Out of love, they called me out, and asked, did I want their permission to divorce, or did I want a path that would deepen my relationship with God as I proceeded?

Of course, I wanted to deepen my relationship with God! I had mentioned Snow to them, and they asked whether I was having an affair with him, and I said absolutely not. Which is the truth. I shared that we pray together and read together daily, that we fast together. That we have been on this journey together since June of 2018. They then said that I was having an emotional affair with Snow. I had not seen it that way, but there was a 4×4 I needed.

It is true that Snow did many things my spouse refused to do, such as speak to me, pray with me, read with me, serve with me, and fast with me.

In order to be fully emptied out and healed, they said I needed to fast for 40 days from Snow AND show Christ’s kindness to my spouse during those 40 days. Based on Fireproof, there are little tasks, like do an unexpected act of kindness. Things I was already doing for my spouse prior to the fast included, praying for him everyday, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. I did not speak hurt or hate into his life, and I worked hard to never say a bad word about him to our kids. Those things continue.

This fast approach is to achieve two things:

  1. Eliminate the enemy using Snow as a temptation.
  2. Allow me to treat my spouse in a way that honors God.

Pastor and his wife had not left their previous marriages in healthy ways, and it caused them damage as individuals and brought baggage into their marriage to one another. They made it clear this fast was about ME and being emptied and healed and focusing on God and being fully dependent on God. I would come out stronger and closer to God.

I know that God used them to speak to me because I had been hearing whispers from God that I needed to fast from Snow (for both of us, not just me), but I would not listen because I did not want to do it. When it was mentioned by Pastor, I knew this was God, and I also knew that I would not be able to move forward without doing this. So, very unwillingly, I agreed to the 40-day covenant with God – broken only if my spouse left or a death occurred. Pastor then said not to tell my spouse or kids what I was doing.

I went to Snow’s place that very night and shared that I needed to fast from him for the next 40 days. That was harder than I thought, which only reinforced that I needed to do it. Fasts are supposed to be a sacrifice, that you give up a thing that is being placed above God or that is going to hurt to give up. Fasts are not supposed to be easy. They are supposed to have a cost assigned to them.

“David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. […] David replied, ‘I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.'”
2 Samuel 12:16,22

I was still on the food fast about my marriage, so I maintained that fast and kicked off this new one. As mentioned, it is combined with being Christ-like, regardless of how my spouse acts. The goal is to demonstrate to the kids a healthier example and leave the marriage knowing I treated my spouse in a Christ-like manner. I was not always doing this before, for when spouse got on my nerves, I would tell Snow things he did – a “no-no.” I had not seen it that way, as Snow is also my best friend – but they were right, I was having an emotional affair. I would add that I was also having a spiritual affair. As they said, the fast is more about me than it is about my spouse.

Driving away that night from Snow’s place, I was struggling to breathe, let alone drive – I felt like I was hyperventilating. I felt sick to my stomach – how will I survive without praying with him, reading with him, being challenged by him as we read the Scriptures?

Credit: JC

I have since learned that I do, in fact, feel Jesus through Snow. He is one way that I feel Jesus. I also feel Jesus on my own, of course, because I do have a personal relationship with Jesus, but I definitely grow in Jesus when we are studying or praying together. I learned just how much I love Snow and how spiritually entangled I am with him. So, yes, I definitely needed to fast from him.

I will not be leaving my marriage for a man, but instead leaving a marriage where I acted as Christ-like as I could and, yet, was ignored or rejected. Pastor said this was irreconcilable differences.

The first few days of this fast, God answered prayers left and right, and I started to trust Him more and more. He started to show visions in dreams and such of a future assignment. All the while, I was doing acts of kindness and my spouse was rejecting them at worst or ignoring them at best. This was exactly what I expected, but, again, this is about me and providing a Christ-like example to my kids and leaving this marriage knowing I acted as Christ-like as possible to my spouse.

We are now on the 14th day of the fast. Back on the 5th day, God wrote the following through me. I shot up out of bed and immediately started to write this poem. I don’t do poetry. It was flowing so fast, I could barely keep up, and the lines were being given to me out of order, so I was guessing where they would go. It just flowed, and I tried to keep up.

Praise You in this Fast

I will praise You in this fast.
I belong first in Your arms,
Healing me and sealing me from my past.
Blowing away life’s fiery storms,
I am being purified,
And I am being prepared.
I will testify!

Yes, this pain is more than I can bear,
In You, my salvation does lie.
Wash me clean,
Bend me, break me,
I must walk by faith, not by what I have seen.
You are my God!
I will raise my hands in praise!

Rip down any facade.
No matter how high the waves, You carry me and lift me above,
While this tears at my heart, I have never felt so close to Your love,
And now we know we are never truly apart.
I have learned incredible trust,
Work and purify and refine,
I did not want to do this, but now I see I must,
You are a jealous God and said “I want you both to be all Mine.”

With many tears, I obey,
Like clay, reshape my life.
Each day, You are showing me the Way.
At the end, I will be his wife.
I have learned I needed to forgive,
I needed to cleanse,
Being freed, I can truly live.
I needed to see through Your lens.

I have been ripped in two, my very soul,
This mourning has torn my heart,
Only You can fill this hole.
Now we will never be apart,
You have taught me to trust.
Love the Lord God with all your strength and mind,
Body, soul, spirit and might,
You are all I need to find,
You fill me with the strength to fight.
You fill me with confidence I will see him again,
It will be at the end of an aisle,
Though I don’t know exactly when.
At each thought of You and him, I smile,
I surrender all to You,
That is what this fast is about,
So the one can become two,
Removing each and every doubt.
I am Yours forever,
We will walk side by side always,
We belong together, wherever and however,
Never to be separated, not even by the end of days.

Our souls are intertwined with each other,
We are so buried in You,
We will never worship another,
This love is being purified and made true.
While we bend and break in Your hands,
Our love and bond in You grows,
May You always shield our marriage from life’s demands,
Running into Your arms is all we need to know.

Thank you, thank you for this fast!
While we lay shattered,
New clay molds are being cast.
Our bodies and souls will not remain battered,
You saw us in the womb,
Wove us together in history,
Freed by Jesus the second He left the tomb.
Drop these chains, release the hurt, you are now part of His story,
Who could ever fathom such love,
May we never forget the lessons of this fast,
Through life’s storms, we will keep our eyes on You above,
Our growth and trust, may it ever last,
Forged in pain and tears,
We will praise You in this fast,
As You gently wash away our fears.

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.

Rediscovering myself

By Snow

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Romans 12:2

At some point, I have to tell my story. I mean, I have already told some of it, but not all of it. JC tells me I need to tell my story. She recently told hers and even followed up with an inspirational reaction to the loss of her job. I am proud of her for so openly presenting her story, but the problem is, I am not entirely clear on what my story is.

From the outside, my life before Jesus seemed just fine. I seemingly had it all. A spouse. A good job. A nice house.

In reality, I had nothing. For I did not have Jesus. I did not have love. I did not have fulfillment.

It may have started as early as kindergarten, but it probably wasn’t until third grade that I really began in earnest the process of hiding away the real me. I was in a new school that year. I became friends with a few of the other boys in my class, but eventually distanced myself from two of them when I realized they weren’t very nice to others. Of course, this then made me a primary target.

They began teasing me. I was both the tallest and the widest kid in the class, so their moniker of choice was “Fat Boy.” Unfortunately, the main culprit sat next to me, so he was able to do this all day long. I asked the teacher to move my desk, but she refused. Now, in her defense, the likelihood is I did not fully communicate why I wanted my desk to be moved. She was probably just trying to prevent the entire class from requesting seat changes.

I eventually complained at home about what was happening. Home was always supportive, so it wasn’t until I went to school that I had witnessed anything like this. My mom suggested something out of the kindness of her heart that would have unintended consequences on me for years. “If you make fun of yourself first, then they won’t be able to tease you.”

Her advice made sense to me, so I followed it. I called myself all of the names they wanted to call me. I laughed at myself for eating too much and called myself fat. In so doing, I laid down an early brick in front of the real me. Inside, it still hurt, only now I was the one inflicting the pain.

Unfortunately, I continued the act of teasing myself throughout school and into adulthood. This produced many more bricks over the years. No one could hurt me, because I had already carved myself up better than they ever could. I knew exactly where to strike to inflict the most damage.

I also began to worry about how people perceived me. So, I would lay more bricks around the real me either by acting how I thought they wanted or simply by trying my best to fade as far away from their view as possible. Most often the latter. If invisibility had been offered to me as a superpower, I gladly would have taken it. In many ways, I mastered being invisible anyway.

There is more to my story, though. This blog is about raw truth. So here we go. The day I met (spouse) 20 years ago, I heard a voice say, “You will marry this woman.” Sounds romantic, right? Then, this same inner voice said, “And you will regret it.”

I had the urge to leave right then. Maybe I should have. But I didn’t. I stayed and started dating her.

I was coming off a relationship from the previous year where I fallen hard for a woman that was essentially my first girlfriend. After we broke up, I was sure no one could ever love me and that I would die alone.

So this new woman claimed to love me and seemed nice enough. I indeed ended up marrying her.

I settled.

I never loved (spouse). But I thought no one else would ever love me. If the real me protested, “Wait for true love,” he was drowned out by the addition of another set of bricks.

Credit: Snow

In the months leading up to our wedding, (spouse) went through maids of honor like candy. (Spouse) claimed it was due to jealousy. Meanwhile, my family dropped out of giving a bridal shower for her due to some words exchanged. I was never clear on what happened, nor do I care, but it was also chalked up by (spouse) to jealousy.

I should note I supported (spouse) through all of this, taking her side despite not really having all of the facts.

The day of the wedding, during the reception, I began to doubt my choice. I accidentally stepped on the train of my spouse’s dress. I am not the most graceful guy. I shot her a smile and said I was sorry. What I got in return was daggers. If looks could kill, I would have been dead right there. “This is supposed to be the best day of your life,” I heard an inner voice say. I tried to act like it was. I even said it was. But it wasn’t.

During the traditional dances, my family and I watched my spouse dance with her father. When I danced with my mother, a moment that was important to me, I saw that my spouse was nowhere to be found. I remember looking around at first in disappointment before finally thinking, “Forget it and focus on Mom.” It turned out my spouse had been snatched away by her parents for photos with their family out in the hallway of the reception area. They soon demanded I drop everything and get in the pictures as well. I wanted to tell them no and leave, but I dutifully listened.

(Flash forward 16 years to the day. My spouse and I are unexpectedly visiting a crowded aquarium. For various reasons, I go into an anxiety attack. She leaves me standing there and runs off in a huff. A revealing moment. JC learns of this and begins finding methods to help me overcome my anxiety. A couple months later, she quietly comforts me in the midst of an attack. Also revealing.)

The point of all of this is to attempt to show some of the red flags I missed.

The first year of marriage went okay. The second year, all kinds of games began. I began to learn more about the silent treatment and other nonsense. All, in retrospect, to manipulate me to my spouse’s will.

“I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.”
from Genesis 40:15

Already an issue, I began to lose even more confidence in myself. Already strong, the wall surrounding the real me from the outside world became a force to be reckoned with as more and more bricks were added.

By the time I met JC a few years ago, only small pieces of the real me could peek out. Last June, she led me to Christ. Then, Jesus saved me. I started looking at my life with fresh eyes. I found that my focus had been on the wrong things.

For instance, I was buying things to fill spiritual and emotional holes. No matter how much I bought, the holes were still there, though.

What did buying all of this stuff get me, then? Debt, lots of debt. And not just for my own useless stuff, for I also became a debt mule for my spouse’s overspending.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”
Matthew 6:19-20

Feeling my life was empty and devoid of hope, I wished for death multiple times a day. With that goal in mind, I did not really plan for a future. By the way, the “I wish I was dead” financial plan is not one I recommend.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38

Now, I am saved. Jesus changes everything. The whole world is different. I have His love. No one can ever take that from me. I have also found my true love, JC.

Yes, I have inspiration to live. I no longer dismiss the blessings of life. I am grateful for Him and His gifts.

All that debt is still there, though, so it is something I have started working on. I intend to pay it off and thereafter remain debt-free. As I learn and claw my way out, I also want to help others avoid or escape from such traps. I am also deep in the midst of decluttering my life.

As for that wall, JC began relentlessly to pound away at it once she realized it was there. Challenging me. Praying with me. Reading with me. Busting through layers upon layers of bricks with the power of Jesus. Protecting and rescuing the real me, yet always loving both the walled me and the exposed me.

As I move towards who He created me to be, I am in the process of making some significant changes to my life. Some of them are easy, some are difficult, and some are scary in their scale.

I am burning the ships of my past. I have at least three or four ablaze in the harbor. I am learning to move on from the comfortable and trust Jesus. He is my holy savior.

Credit: Snow

My thanks to JC for being an inspiration and providing editing assistance on this post. I literally would not be here without her. But that is a story for another day.

Thanks to all of you for reading.

May Jesus bless you.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27

JC Journals: Pathways to peace

By JC & Snow

Bridge path
Credit: JC

Today’s post represents a written collaboration with my Bible Study Partner, JC. She has actually collaborated on Beloved Walks from the beginning, for she helped name the site and provides the beautiful photographs that accompany and often inspire my writing.

JC keeps a number of journals, including one in which she captures thoughts related to her faith and whispers from Jesus. In coming to terms with the death of a very special loved one in February 2017, she documented a number of revelations from March 2017 to April 2018 on how to deal with tragedy. Those insights form the core of today’s post.

JC notes that one of the ways God whispers to us is through daily devotionals. Bits and pieces of scripture and advice all came together for her in the course of that year – some in the form of devotionals obviously sent by Him. In addition to reading the Bible daily, she recommends devotionals as another way to hear Him. You can find various devotionals all over the web or within the YouVersion Bible app (reading plans). Here is one list of devotionals that might be helpful to you as a starting point.

–Snow

* * *

In our lives, there will be times we face tragedy. It is part of the human experience. For instance, the loss of someone we love dearly can be devastating.

When faced with overwhelming sorrow, what should you do at the very worst moment of your life?

Worship.

When the Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, he obeyed and began the necessary preparations. Abraham journeyed to the mountains of Moriah to offer sacrifice, with Isaac in tow. Unaware of his role in the plan, Isaac questioned why they had not brought a sheep along for their offering. “God will provide,” Abraham professed (Genesis 22:8), and indeed He did – sparing Isaac after Abraham passed this ultimate test of trust and providing a ram in his place.

If the pain is so overwhelming that it consumes you, you must rest and find comfort in who God is, not in how you feel, what you see, or what is happening.

Focus on resting in who He is.

Pray.

How can you pray when you hurt so much you can’t even breathe?

We need God to breathe.

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Genesis 2:7

“For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job 33:4

If you can’t breathe or pray, follow these steps until you can:

1.) Keep repeating the name of Jesus out loud

2.) Read Romans 8:26

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

You do not have to pray yet, you do not have to find the words yet, for the Holy Spirit within you is already praying on your behalf.

3.) Read Psalm 42

While it may feel as if God has abandoned you, He has not. His love for you is eternal. Praise Him, for He will comfort you.

4.) Read Job 1:20-21

“Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, ‘I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!'”

Job had lost everything except that which no one could take, his faith and God’s love.

5.) Read Job 13:15-16

“God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him. But this is what will save me—I am not godless. If I were, I could not stand before him.”

Give your words to God. Even if they are angry words at first. He understands. Talk to Him. He will help you. He loves you.

If or once you are able to breathe and pray, repeat “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

You can breathe, but you are in pain. How can you move forward when you are so weary?

Psalm 42:5 tells us to praise the Lord when we are discouraged. You must discipline your soul to still praise Him. You must command your soul to praise the Lord.

Pray for His purpose in this trial to be revealed to you, how you need to be His witness in it, and for His strength to endure it. You will be tested.

How might you find strength?

First and foremost, pray and read His Word.

If it moves you, listen to praise music. For instance, the raw honesty of a song like “Praise You In This Storm” by Casting Crowns might ring true for you.

“Every tear I’ve cried, You hold in your hand. You never left my side, and, though my heart is torn, I will praise you in this storm.”
From “Praise You In This Storm,” Lifesong, Casting Crowns, written by Mark Hall & Bernie Herms

Seek nature. Wherever you are in the world, He is there. Look for signs of Him. Go outside and breathe. Look for Him. He is there.

Mountain
Credit: JC

Finally, always return to praying to Him and reading scripture.

“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. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
Romans 8:28-29

God’s awesome power is such that He uses tragic events to create good.

The best opportunity for Christians to move closer to being like Jesus is in the middle of suffering. He suffered on the cross for us, giving up His very life so that we may live.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
1 Peter 1:6-7

There is always a purpose to every trial in your life. You are being tested. Being at your lowest provides the best opportunity for you to prove your faith.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
Genesis 50:20

Feel the power of Joseph’s words in the above verse. His brothers had literally sold him into slavery, but he recognized that God used the tragedy for good. For Joseph to have affected so many by the end of his journey, he had to endure that hardship near the beginning. Without it, his path would have been completely different, and he would not have touched so many people.

Joseph’s trial had a purpose. It was a stepping stone. You may not be able to see it yet, and you may never see it this side of Heaven, but your trial is the same. It has a purpose. It is a stepping stone.

“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. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Take comfort in Paul’s words above. When you are at your lowest point, that is when Jesus has the most opportunity to lift you up. Feel His power.

If you have not yet accepted Jesus in your heart, then use this as an opportunity to seek Him.

If you are already saved, nothing can take the blessings of Jesus and eternal life away from you. However, Satan can make you feel those blessings are at risk. He will try to take the peace of Christ away from you.

Be strong. You are a child of God.

“When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”
Job 42:10

Only after Job prayed for his friends was he blessed and healed.

Keep praying. You are not alone. You are never alone.

* * *

And now, we pray for you, the one who has encountered this post due to tragedy in your life.

Heavenly Father,

Please bless the readers of this entry who need your comfort. You are always with us, but reveal your presence to them today. Let them feel Your holy arms as you hold them.

Lift them and allow them to begin breathing, praying, and healing. Whether here or elsewhere, let them find a path to inner peace through your Word.

Let them feel the power of Your glory. Let them feel the glory of Your love. Let them feel the love of Your Son.

In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.

Amen

* * *

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.