Week 4: It’s Okay to Rest; It’s Okay to Need Care

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

In her book, “You’re Already Amazing”, Holley Gerth dedicates a chapter to why it’s okay for us to care for ourselves. She gives us permission to release the lie that “it’s selfish to care for ourselves” and instead, guides us to the truth that we need to care for ourselves so that we have the inner resources to care for those around us. She gives us the imagery of an “emotional bank account” and talks about how it’s so important to balance our deposits and withdrawals. I find her simple explanation so refreshing. It clicks in the way that lights up the eyes and an understanding “ohhhh!” escapes the lips (or, the more comical light-bulb flicking on above the head). When I took time to reflect on this, I noticed just how out of sync my “balance” was, and I fear that you may find the same. It is so easy to overextend our energy balance when each movement costs us valuable energy, but in a way, it is such a powerful little reminder about prioritizing, simplifying, and accepting the here and now so we can return to a state of balance.

I believe, with such joy, that spending time with Christ with an open heart and surrendered spirit leads to us finding true balance. He’s the God of radiant redemption. It’s time to let Him gently take off our masks that say, “I’m fine” and “I should be able to do more”, to let Him lovingly draw near to us and intimately look into the face of His child. Let Him see your authentic soul, He longs to. He knows you need care, and He isn’t disappointed. There is no shame in Christ. No guilt, no earning, no striving, and no condemnation. Especially not for the weak, for it’s the weak He came to rescue (Mark 2:17). We believe many lies that steal our rest and joy, and I believe this deeply saddens our Lord. Our all-loving Jesus knows just how to cleanse us from these lies. He knows how to help us see that it’s not selfish to rest (Matthew 11:28). He knows we don’t need to “do more” because He has already accomplished the true victory (Romans 5:6). He knows how to help us stop striving to please others so vigorously that it leaves us empty (Galatians 1:10-11), and He knows how to fill us up again (John 16:26). He knows how to remove our doubts, insecurities, and anxieties and replace them with peace (John 14:27). And the most beautiful thing He knows how to do is simply to care for you (Luke 12:6-7). I pray that you will let speak truth into your life and spread peace throughout your soul.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week Three: Your Illness is Not Your Fault

A few years ago, I came across a prayer blog for a captivating little girl named Daisy. Simply looking at her freckly little face instantly revealed what a bubbly, intelligent, unique soul was dancing around inside of her. It took one peak at a post about her to fall in love with that sweet little kindergartener. Heart warmed, spirits lifted, mind refreshed.

With great sorrow but even greater faith, her family shared that Daisy had been diagnosed with cancer. They shared updates about her grueling battles with the illness, along with very cheerful and touching stories about her life and vivacious personality; a personality as charming as they come! If Daisy’s life could speak for itself, I imagine it would speak with bravery and tenderness as it said, “Cancer is horrible, but life isn’t.”

Just a few days after Daisy was first diagnosed with cancer, her father gave a sermon at his home church entitled, “When My Heart Is Overwhelmed.”  This was the first time I had heard Britt Merrick speak, and it touched me in a way that I haven’t been able to forget since that day. He said many things in that sermon, but I felt one of the most powerful and influential things was this:

I will tell you that it takes more faith to endure Christ not healing your daughter than it does to see Him heal your daughter.

This is a truth that I pray warms and ignites in your heart in a way that changes your blame forever. Illness is not a punishment for a lack of faith. Illness brings an endurance, courage, hope, and belief in Christ that far extends the kind of faith that is only present when things are going okay. It surpasses that faith in lavish ways. When you face agonizing circumstances, God is not turning His back on you. God is reaching His hand and His pure heart out to you.

It heavies my heart to share that this year, Daisy passed away. Her family shared her memorial service on their blog, and it was a service of such deep faith and celebration of God that I cannot speak of it without tears of admiration. Daisy’s mother, Kate, walked onto the stage full of daisies with tears and courage both filling her eyes and shared words that I have held deeply in my heart ever since. She said that “Daisy’s faith in God was like a covenant, not a contract.” These words captivate me. A covenant faith; a faith based on promise rather than circumstance. This is what our illnesses give us an opportunity for, the opportunity to grow with God in a way that isn’t shaken by the sorrows of the world, but endures all things safely wrapped in His embrace.

I pray that this story will help you see that illness doesn’t fall upon us because we’re unworthy of good health. Illness touches the hearts and lives of people without consideration of what they believe or how they’ll handle it. Illness comes, and it breaks, and it steals, and it overwhelms, and it even kills, but it does not punish. We are under grace, and filled with it as well. Our gracious God doesn’t strike us down, but lifts us up. I pray that you will accept this bold truth, and let it dissolve the lies you’ve been pierced with for too long.

Your illness is not your fault.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week Two: Your Pain is Significant

As we wake in the morning, open our eyes to the sunshine peaking through the cracks of the blinds, and are embraced by a fresh new day, it doesn’t take long for pain to slip in. You may awaken beaming with hope and feel your soul dancing with joy, but somehow, pain still creeps into the shadows. There are so very many ways it can. Maybe it’s aches all over your body, crashing as strongly today as they did the day before. Or maybe it’s the tender wounds that a broken relationship inflicted on your heart. Perhaps it’s the loneliness in the midst of a loss you haven’t been able to fill. If none of these things, perhaps what you feel is the exhaustion of being downtrodden by emotions that you’ve battled day in and day out–feeling oppressed by their weight and conquered by their power. No matter what you feel or how deeply it’s affected your heart, these pains are so very real, and they matter. These pains may have stolen your gaze and slipped lies into your heart. They may have taken the serenity of the morning and twisted it into the sorrow of mourning. There is such a vast sea of sorrow, and yet, every drop of it matters.

These words may look like a small statement to offer such a big wound; somewhat like a band-aid offered to a life-threatening wound. But please don’t let the simplicity of this statement fool you; these words have a great power to them. Neatly packed within that statement are two beautiful, strong, soothing, and inspiring truths. Will you take a closer look with me as we unpack them, one by one?

The first garment of truth is comforting and cozy and just what it sounds like: your pain is noticed; your pain matters. You may have grown used to your pain. You may have accepted it as a companion, even though you’ve longed to be freed from it. But there is still hope, and there is still peace, and there is still freedom for each and every one of your wounds. Your pain matters. If you’ve felt it for an hour or you’ve felt it for many years, it’s still a terrible pain that you do not have to simply adjust to and overlook. It matters. You don’t have to hide it or push through it. You can show your heart, your wounds, your tears, and your desire for restoration. You do not have to be ashamed; not ashamed in front of God or in front of me, because we both understand what pain feels like.

In Psalm 56, as David cries out to God, he shares a verse that roots the truth that our pain is significant. He says:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

God pays special attention to us. He sees your tears, your sorrows, your pain, your worries, your doubts, and all those broken pieces you’re trying to put back together. He doesn’t simply see them, but comes along side you and offers His comfort, understanding, and redemption. This means that He knows not only the wounds, but how to heal them, and how to protect you from worsening them. As we open our precious Bibles, we are introduced to a God who was involved with and empathetic toward His children in every pain and sorrow. He’s a rescuer and a comforter. Please allow Him to come along side you, to cleanse your wounds and tenderly wipe the tears away from your eyes. Allow Him to tell you that He has a plan and a purpose for you, and you don’t have to hopelessly endure pain. He is with you. Allow Him to talk to you about your pain and to bring you His rest. He longs to be near you and share this burden with you. He doesn’t want you to try to bear this on your own; He longs to be your faithful companion.

The second garment of truth is bold and graceful and has deep meaning. This truth is that your pain has purpose. Pain itself is a terrible, awful, and entirely dreadful thing, but we learn a great deal from it. It isn’t the pain itself that is so significant as what it teaches us and how we let it form us. It’s not the fact that we need pain, but that we need the lessons that pain sobers us to. Pain reveals a divine hope that is independent of earthly comfort. When we let go of earthly safety nets, here are a few of the lessons and virtues we learn and grow in: gratitude, mercy, empathy, true friendship and companionship, patience, endurance, healing, hope, redemption, compassion, appreciation, depth, deliverance, purpose, joy, faith.

If you’re stuck in the midst of sorrow, wondering how pain and heartache can shape your heart and soul into something more beautiful than it was before this grief every touched you, let me remind you of how sweet little snowflakes are formed. As the rain falls down from the sky–that gloomy, formless rain slipping from grey clouds–the bitter air touches it. The bitterness stills each and every motion of that falling drop of water. The drop stretches and falls and the bitterness freezes its every motion into a masterpiece. And that’s certainly what a snowflake is, a piece of irreplaceable art that is tiny in size yet immense in God’s craftsmanship. And these lovely snowflakes are never the same, but always unique. The form, the artistry, the beauty, and the unique design of every little snowflake is a direct result of the bitterness it came through to fall upon your shoulder, stick to your coat, and bring a smile to your face.

So take heart, and be courageous, because God even redeems the rain. And as the sweet, beautiful snow reflects the sunlight, so His love shines upon us.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week One: You Are Not Alone in Your Illness

I was so touched by the opportunity to connect with some of you through my post, 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded. Your kind words and inspirational stories were so moving. Since there was such a meaningful response, I decided to dig deeper into that post and share more with you. For the next few weeks, let’s take another look at why these truths are so significant. Please join me as we discuss one truth each week for the next few weeks! I look forward to sharing this journey with you 🙂

~Week One: You Are Not Alone in Your Illness~

John 16 that has been one of the most comforting Bible chapters for me in my pain. During this chapter, Jesus has been ministering to His disciples about the coming terror of His crucifixion, and preparing them for the overwhelming sorrow they will experience. But in the midst of that, He is promising them His authority to overcome even this horrific death, and reassuring them of the unshakable joy that will thrill their hearts when He returns for them. As I read His words, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I feel hope ignite in my heart and peace soothe my soul. Though I’ve never seen His gentle face, I can vividly imagine the expressions upon it as He spoke. Empathy, hope, loyalty, humility, victory. After sharing His heart with them, offering them His peace, He says,

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

These words have touched and resonated with my aching heart, and I imagine that they must with yours, too. Although we feel truth in this statement for a different reason, many of our hearts can still feel the sting of the pain. You have scattered, each one going your own way, leaving me alone. We have experienced heart-wrenching times of feeling abandoned during our illnesses. But it is not this part of the statement that is so bold, so powerful, so timelessly true as what Jesus says next.

But I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

I truly believe this is one of the greatest truths we can delight our hearts with. I believe this is one of the most powerful truths we can accept in our trials of illness. Let our hearts reflect and hold tightly to this truth. For we are designed to share relationships with other humans, but we are sustained by a relationship with God. Although fellowship delights us and thrills our soul, it is but a taste of what unity with Christ is.

So what does it mean that God is with you in your struggles?

It means that He understands the agony of the pain you are enduring, because He felt these very things.

It means that He hears the cries of your heart as you suffer and is there to soothe you with His peace.

It means He understands the warfare your body is immersed in and has designed a rescue plan for you.

It means that He came before you to conquer death before it could ever touch your precious existence.

It means He has counted each tear that has flowed from your beautiful eyes, and that He knows the day that He will wipe them away and bring you to His eternal sanctuary where there will be no more pain or sorrow or tears.

It means He holds the seeds of faith you have planted in Him and will blossom them into blessings more beautiful than an endless field of fresh flowers.

The sustaining truth of “God with us” is a firm promise that God is able to fill our hearts, minds, bodies and souls with a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). To feel the spirit of His joy dwelling in your heart, despite any circumstance, must be one of the most magical and refreshing feeling known to a believer’s heart. It is positively divine! It’s so awe-striking to be lifted from gloom and sorrow into the shining hope Christ illuminates into our souls.

There are moments when we cannot see or feel or even imagine hope, but it is still alive and active and ready to lift us out of these lonely places. God is ready to wrap you up in His loving kindness. Community exists, companionship exists, family exists, and there is hope for all of these even in the most grueling of illnesses. I cannot word it any more lovely than Jamie Tworkowski has in his vision statement for the movement To Write Love On Her Arms, so I will gratefully share his words with you:

We live in a difficult world, a broken world. We believe everyone can relate to pain, all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.

We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty, but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions—moments, and seasons, and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real and help is real.

You need to know rescue is possible, freedom is possible, God is still in the business of redemption. We’re seeing it happen.

I pray that these words will encourage your heart and sit well with your soul. May you always remember that hope and love are your faithful companions, and you are not alone.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

When Loss is Gain

A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends and I went on a tiny adventure to a church in a neighboring town. It was a night of worship and a message for college aged kids, and the large and lovely church was filled to the brim with twenty-somethings. The summer series had just begun, and it was all about Godly relationships.

The speakers were a married couple, and they spoke about the significance of self-sacrificial relationships. Kemper began with the example of a fuse; the component of a structure that is designed to fail so that the rest of the machine doesn’t. He spoke about how when an overwhelming electrical current hits, the fuse is designed to take that current so that the other parts of the mechanism don’t have to. The fuse gives itself up, by design, for the sake of the machine. He then turned this example to us and spoke about how we need to let go of certain parts of ourselves for the sake of our relationships. Both he and Laura were careful to explain that we need to be attentive to what we are willing to sacrifice. We need to let go of the negatives, not the positives. We need to let go of the things that hinder God’s glory in the relationship, not make decisions just to please the other person. I couldn’t have worded it any more beautifully and cleverly as they did that night. Their words deeply touched my heart. The truth was so refreshing; so soothing. It’s stayed with me, and it’s reached toward other parts of my life, as well. Because I can’t help but think that if we need to let go of negative things like selfishness, fears, and control to have graceful, nurtured, and healthy relationships with others (and we know we do!), don’t we need to do the same for our own well-being, too?

It may seem to be a strange question. How can we be selfless, for the sake of ourselves? But let’s put it another way:

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” ~Hebrews 12:1

Because when the stress hits, and the choices come, and the days ache, what are we releasing and what are we gripping? Because, my dear friend, if we are clenching our pride and we are releasing our peace, we really must reconsider our choice. What is it that hinders, that so easily entangles us? Are we willing to let go?

Are we willing to let go of the fear of the unknown, so that we can hold on our faith in our unfailing, all-loving Christ?

Are we willing to let go of our prideful desire to do everything ourselves, so that we can accept the grace and hospitality of others?

Are we willing to let go of trying to accomplish tasks we know we are not well enough to, so that we can spare ourselves energy much needed for the things we can do?

Are we willing to let go of the lies that we are incapable, so that we can rejoice over our accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem?

I pray that our view of our relationships and ourselves would be refreshed with the gentle and powerful reminder. We are designed with a vast, intimate potential for intentional, faithful, redeemed relationships and that comes from letting ourselves be freed from all the lies that have stood in the way. This starts in our own hearts. Let us be kinder to ourselves today.

May I ask you this: what are you willing to give up today? And what will you gain when you lose it?

(If you would like to learn more about the message I referenced, please view the “Vintage Ministries” podcast: Love and Nunchuck’s #2 by Kemper and Laura Lewis.)