JC Journals: Pathways to peace

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.

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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.

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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

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Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

Listening to the gentle whispers

“‘Go out and stand before me on the mountain,’ the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.”
1 Kings 19:11-12

For most of this month, I have been in a partial fast in which I abstain from certain foods. This is my first fast since becoming a Christian, and I am seeking clarity on a certain aspect of my life. Only one person knows I am on this fast, and I mention it here only for purposes of illustration in this post.

I have been lamenting that I have heard no answers. “Maybe I’m not doing it right,” I have said, both of the fast and of my accompanying prayer.

I encountered the above passage for the first time in one of my Bible reading plans earlier this week, and it moved me to tears. Yet, I missed applying its message to me.

God is neither in the wind nor in the Earthquake. He is not even in the fire. Answers to our prayers are not likely to arrive in the form of a booming voice sent down from clouds surrounded by angels.

No, God speaks to us most often in soft whispers.

Of course He does. Our all-powerful God need not blast us with His greatness. Only the weak need raise their voices. No, God speaks to us in whispers, and it is up to us to listen.

Whispers are compelling, far more so than shouts. Whispers force you to listen if you want to hear their messages.

Encountering the above passage was, in fact, a whisper from God to me: “Your prayers are being answered. Listen.” As I said, though, I missed it, even though the passage instantly meant so much to me.

Sunlight shining through a tree
Credit: JC

As I continued to fret about my lack of response from Him, the passage came up again yesterday in a different reading plan. “This means you need to pay closer attention to it,” said my Bible Study Partner (BSP).

I enjoyed re-reading the passage, but I still didn’t understand what He was trying to say to me through it. I was hearing the words, even loving the words, but not applying them to my life.

My BSP and I talked later in the day about the fast. I went over my frustrations again about not hearing from Him.

In what at first seemed like a separate conversation, we also reviewed various insights we had made over the last several days. My BSP then asked me to repeat my fasting prayer to her. As I did, it dawned on me what she was trying to show me.

Those insights were my answers. He had been whispering to me all along.

I felt chills, and the tears flowed again. I had finally heard Him. He literally had to speak through my BSP to get my attention, but I had finally heard Him. No wind. No Earthquake. No fire. Just whispers. Beautiful whispers.

How might these whispers from God arrive? Here are some examples that have applied for me:

  • Recurrence of certain Bible verses
  • Momentary flashes of insight
  • Fleeting thoughts that might, at first, seem irrelevant
  • Being placed in unexpected situations or scenarios
  • Words spoken by those around you

Once I realized that He had indeed been whispering to me, His answers fell into place and appeared so obvious in retrospect. How had I missed them?

Because I was too distracted by the winds, Earthquakes, and fires of everyday life to hear His whispers.

Are you seeking answers from Jesus? Does it seem as if He has been ignoring you? Close your eyes and listen for His whispers. He is there with you, always.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.