Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


2 Comments

Is Jesus Weeping with Us?

My parents’ next-door neighbor once told my mother, when she was going through a difficult time, that “God never promised you a rose garden.”

It was the first time I had heard the phrase. And it certainly wasn’t a particularly empathetic thing to say. But sometimes we can find truth even in hurtful words. While this pithy maxim was no comfort to my mother at that time, I can take some comfort in it today. It reminds me in times of doubting, when I let fear seep into my consciousness, that God is working even in the trials.

The saying isn’t in the Bible, but the Bible backs it up. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have troubles…” (John 16:33) and we see God’s servants–Abraham, Joseph, David, Jesus, Paul–suffering over and again in the scriptures. We know that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). And 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

God, his Son not sparing, has given us salvation. And he has promised us a better life to come–but that is not this life. We can take solace in Romans 8:28, though: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This doesn’t mean everything we experience will be good, but does assure us that every experience will be used for our good. Our hardships and trials may strengthen us or better refine us into the people God wants us to be.  “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…” (Malachi 3:3).

I have confidence that God–who is all powerful–is at times restraining himself from stepping in to lift us out of our trials. I believe his love for us is more than we can even begin to imagine, and that he feels pain at our sorrows.

When Jesus went to raise Lazarus from the dead, we can be sure he knew what he was about to do. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep,” he said to the disciples. “But I go to awaken him” (John 11:11). He knew before he even set out for Bethany that his friend would live again.

Yet, upon seeing the sorrow in this place, Jesus wept. He doesn’t weep here because Lazarus has died. He knows Lazarus will live again. It says, “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:32-33).

He wept not because Lazarus had died. He wept because his friends were in pain.

What comfort there is in knowing that Jesus weeps also for us in our sufferings. That he would be moved by our pain also.

So many times I’ve thought, like Mary, “Lord, if you had been here….” Or, “Lord, if you wanted to you could take it all away. You could heal our broken bodies. You could pull us out at any moment from this trial.” And these things are true.

So why doesn’t he lift us out in immediate answer to our prayers?

If Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Mary is right to say this. But if Lazarus had not died, he could not have been raised from the dead. We see that there is more glory for God–and surely a deepening of faith for all those witnessing this resurrection–because Lazarus died. The trial–the death, the four days of mourning–was never in vain.

While I will have troubles in this world, God is using them. Not one trial will be wasted. Not one heartache will be for naught. And God must have purpose in our trials; if they were of no use to us or to him, I don’t believe he would allow them.

Maybe God will see fit at some point to step in and give us a miraculous healing. To bless us with children conceived naturally in our own home. But maybe he will give us children another way. Or maybe he is directing us to a childless life for a greater purpose and glory than we can understand.

But knowing that God has allowed trials in our lives, and that following Christ does not mean freedom from all pain or suffering or illness in this life, reminds me that in the hard times God is still with me. He is here, refining me like silver, blessing me in trials, feeling my pain and heartache, loving me and drawng me closer to himself each day.

And with that knowledge has to come grattitude. I’m thankful that he loves me enough to make me the person he knows I should be. Even when it’s painful for both of us.

Advertisements


7 Comments

Falling Down, Getting Back Up

You know that feeling, when you just blink your eyes and realize a month has passed? I can’t believe my last post was February 25!

I wish I had super exciting news to report, and some good excuses for why I’ve been absent and where I’ve been. But I don’t. It’s just been a different season for me lately, and although I’ve been missing writing, I’ve also been knee-deep in those things of life that have to be dealt with. Maybe you’ve been there too? Or maybe you’re much more organized than I am and know how to line up guest posts and keep things going. Ha. Someday maybe I’ll be there.

I’ve had a tough couple of days. To be honest, I’ve been kind of frustrated about our infertility lately. I feel like it should be over already. As we keep waiting for that elusive BFP, this sense that we’re actually trying yet it still hasn’t worked has dredged up a lot of feelings I thought I’d addressed and moved through.

Apparently they were just buried.

For months now I’ve been “so well-adjusted” and happy. I’ve been self-assured and confident that I’ve learned all the lessons God could possibly be teaching me through this trial. As we’ve been studying Joseph’s story and all about suffering in I Peter for my Bible studies, I’ve read along, nodding. “Oh yes,” I’ve thought, “suffering does develop good character in us. Look what it’s done for me!”

But I’m ready to be done with infertility. I’m ready to move on. When will God agree? Can’t I graduate yet?

We went to the rodeo on Saturday. The Houston Livestock show and Rodeo is seriously amazing. And that’s coming from a yankee suburban girl. I went to the rodeo for the first time two years ago. I had no idea what to expect, and I fell in love. We missed the rodeo last year, so this was only my second trip, but it didn’t disappoint.

The Houston Rodeo has an event that, to my understanding, very few other rodeos still have. It’s called mutton busting. In this extreme sport, 5 and 6 year old boys and girls who weigh between 35 and 55 pounds are plopped onto full-grown sheep. They hold on tightly as the sheep (hopefully) runs across a pen.

Sometimes they fall off after a short distance. And other times, the adults waiting at the end struggle to get the children to release the sheep. When they fall off, they almost always bounce back up and wave to the audience.

This is the highlight of the rodeo for me. I’m a little sad I wasn’t given the opportunity to ride a sheep when I was a child, and I fully intend to sign my children up for a ride one day. They may or may not have any say in the matter…

As we sat in the outdoor tent watching the mutton busing prelims, I was feeling so emotional. I kept feeling like I was holding back tears. But there wasn’t anything to cry about.

Over the next few days, I tried to process these feelings. It came as something of a surprise to me, but I realized that I was feeling really frustrated and angry about our situation. I’ve been irritated by the injustice of infertility. Some little part of me keeps welling up and crying out, “not fair!” Like a child.

Where is this coming from? I thought I’d dealt with these feelings. I’ve been matured and made better in my trial, right? I know I’ve been blessed through infertility and yet I lost the ability, for a few days, to find joy in my trial.

I don’t have a moral to the story here. Or even a good metaphor to tie the sheep in (though I kind of wish I did). This is where I’ve been lately. Processing. Evaluating. Re-processing. Re-evaluating. And praying. And asking God to give me some clarity here, and to give me some joy.

It’s easy to blog all the good lessons I’m learning, and the amazing finds in God’s word that just make my heart leap. It’s easy, on a blog, to put on a good face and seem like everything’s fine. To play this, “look at me and how I’m blossoming” card. But I guess that’s just part of the picture.

And the other part, the part that’s easier to hide, is the “this is really hard” part. The part that whines, “are we there yet?” The part that still cries out, “It’s not fair!”

I don’t like that part. But it’s a good reminder that I still have a lot to learn. And I guess I always will.

But maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to keep learning it all through infertility? We’ll see where the next month takes us, I guess.


2 Comments

Defining ‘Good’

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

What is good?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How do I know if something that happens to me (or around me) is good or bad? Is it even possible to know the difference this side of heaven?

Maybe this seems a pedantic question. Or even a semantic one. But I think there may be real spiritual implications in how we define this one little word.

As with many words, we can be a little loose with our language sometimes. How often have you said something was amazing or awesome–even though you know that these words can truly, deeply, only apply to God? And what do you love? Do you love your spouse? Your shoes? That great movie? Clearly we don’t mean the same love for all things.

So, I’ll start by refining what I’m talking about when I ask this question. I’m not talking about what tastes good, what looks good, what feels good–these are clearly things open to interpretation and different for each person. I can no more determine what tastes good for you than you can for me. It is a matter of personal preference.

I’m also not talking about clear, defined standards set forth in scripture. I don’t need to debate whether God is good–in the most complete and intrinsic sense of the word. And I don’t need to debate whether no one else is good. Jesus said as much. (See Luke 18:19, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good–except God alone.'”) Similarly, I’m not asking if creation was good or bad–as God declared all things good when he made them. That was before the fall.

I’m talking about how we evaluate the things around us. How do we view our life circumstances? Do we view them all on the basis of personal preference–if it feels good (or bad), it must be good (or bad)? Or do we view life circumstances and the trials and challenges and sufferings in light of scripture?

In Romans 8:28, we see that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

Maybe infertility isn’t intrinsically good. But maybe it’s been good for me.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If I am living in light of eternity, and living as a sojourner and alien in this world, then what is good and what is bad is going to take on a new meaning. What causes pain or suffering or temporary discontent in this life may be bringing me closer to God. What I see as “bad” and what causes suffering may be integral to developing my relationship with God. And does that not make such events–or at least the repercussions of such events–good?

The world is full of evil, don’t misunderstand me. And the devil will play his games and work his tricks to try to pull us down. But I would submit that if we are living life in view of eternity, we won’t be fooled by the devil’s schemes. We can’t be brought down into the pit of despair when we know that God is truly for us (Romans 8:31).

Bad things happen. I’m not saying that bad things are good. But if we believe, if we trust God in everything, if we do not fear the world because we aren’t of this world–even the worst things can be used for good in our lives.

And so I ask again–can we define what is good? Because I don’t think I can trust my instincts. I think knowing what is good for us and what is bad for us is impossible this side of heaven.

And what are the spiritual implications of not being confident in our definitions here?

There is one who knows. One who knows that the difficult childhood you went through directly relates to your acceptance of the Son. One who knows that the wealth and prosperity you received in this earth did nothing but distance you from himself. One who knows how to bless us–even when that blessing includes a baptism by fire and trial and pain–so that we will truly know him. And since he knows and I don’t, I must choose to trust him and trust his direction for my life–even when it goes against my hopes or plans or sense of what is good.

All the “good” things this world can offer us are really bad if they pull us away from God. All the “bad” things in the world that push us on our knees and draw us to God and Christ are a gift to us. When I’m with God, if I have any care whatsoever about this life I’m living now, I’ll not be surprised to hear him say, “That trial of infertility? I allowed that in your life. I did it because I love you, and because I knew it would draw your heart closer to mine.” And what response can there be to that but a heartfelt thank you?

So I give up on trying to value my circumstances. And I say, why not thank him now?

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)


1 Comment

Why Do We Suffer?

Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

I have often wondered about this verse. What, exactly, does Jesus mean when he says he has overcome the world? And today, as I was reading through some verses about suffering, I thought, maybe it means that although we have troubles this side of heaven, this is not all there is. And that hope and knowledge of something more, something better, can sustain us in times of trial. Knowing that Jesus has overcome the world can give us hope and the long-term perspective we need to endure difficult times.

There is really no need to define suffering or trials. And really the definition will differ for different people. As some have a higher tolerance for physical pain, certainly some have a higher threshold for emotional or circumstantial trials. I know my greatest pain and suffering has been through infertility. And I also know some of my greatest triumphs of faith and of compassion are because of infertility.

I’ve written before about whether our trials are God’s will for us. I don’t believe they are. I believe God loves us with a love so all encompassing that it pains him to see us in even a tiny bit of pain. And I believe that our trials are because we live in a fallen world–consequences not necessarily of an individual (that is, my trials are not necessarily consequences of my personal sin), but consequences of the entrance of sin in the world. That said, I am realizing that because God works our sufferings for our good, he allows trials in our lives. These trials can bring about many different results in us, and I am encouraged by the scriptures I was studying because when I put infertility in each verse, I can already see some of these results in my life. Wow. We serve a good God!

I’d like to encourage you, as you read the following verses, to keep your own greatest challenge in mind and reflect on whether God has used that suffering in your life to produce the promised results.

Has God used your suffering to produce or increase godly character and hope in your life? Has he used your suffering for the good of your character?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Have you become more empathetic or compassionate as a result of suffering? Do you find yourself better able to relate to others in pain because you know what pain is? Has God comforted you as only he can, thereby equipping you to comfort others?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

Have your most challenging experiences made you a better person? Are your trials not contributing to your sanctification?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And oh there is so much in this next one! Has your trial pushed your faith to a deeper level? Has it moved any of your head knowledge to gut faith?

I am sure that all of these purposes for suffering have come through in my life in some way through infertility. I am also sure that there is more value that I can gain from my trials because I still have a lot of growing to do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want this trial to be over!

Nonetheless, these scriptures reaffirm that I wouldn’t trade this experience. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but even now, even in the midst of this trial, God is already redeeming my pain, for my good, for the good of others, and for his glory. Praise God!

One more thing. God may not will for us to endure suffering, but the fact that we do is a fact of life. And God uses this suffering to accomplish great purposes. Our suffering is not due to a lack of faith or a faulty understanding of God’s promises to us. To suggest so is to question the faith of such great fathers of the church as Paul, who repeatedly asked God to remove what he calls a “thorn in his side” that God told him had to stay; Peter, who was martyred and who acknowledges in his letters that the saints are going to suffer in this world as Christ did, and Jesus himself, who asked for the cup to pass from him, but chose to do God’s will and be crucified instead. So take heart when you face trials. In this world you will. But a time is coming when pain and suffering and even the heartache of infertility will be but a distant memory. For Jesus has overcome this world.


3 Comments

David Asked, “How Long O Lord?”

Months ago I introduced what I planned to make my first blog series. And then I never even wrote the first article in the series. Oops. So for that, “This is my first blog series. We’ll see how it goes” comment in the intro article, we can go ahead and conclude that it didn’t go well. It didn’t go at all. 

But I didn’t forget it. And this time I’m doing it right. I hope.

The crux of that introductory post was that being called to do something doesn’t mean it will be easy. I find this idea comforting as we deal with infertility. When we first received our diagnosis, I questioned my calling. Am I not supposed to be a mother?

Today, I will say I don’t know what I am called to be. But I do know I desire to be a mother. And I do know that simply facing hardship along the way does not indicate that I am not supposed to have children of my own. I know that’s true, because there are plenty of people in the Bible who are clearly called to do specific things but face great difficulty getting to their objectives. For the next several Mondays, I’ll be writing about some of these biblical people and the challenges they faced on the way to becoming who God called them to be.

I’m starting this series with David. I chose to begin with David for a few reasons:

  • His calling is indisputable. As the anointed (read: chosen) king of Israel, there can be no doubt that God fully intended for David to be king.
  • His hardship is indisputable. David spent years of his life hiding from King Saul (who wanted to kill him). He was apart from his family. He had to spend time living among his enemies. And he documented his hardship in the Psalms, so we can be sure that David wasn’t hanging out in those caves thinking, “Yeah—this is the life.
  • It’s difficult to find meaning in his hardship. Sometimes we face difficulties in life that the perspective of time helps us see were for our good. We can look back at what we’ve been through and see that it was good that things didn’t go the way we wanted when we wanted. We can see that we’ve grown from certain hardships. Or we can see that the path we ended up taking because of a challenge was a better path, the path we were supposed to take.
    But sometimes we can’t see why things happened the way they did. We may not know the value or reason for such hardships until we get a chance to ask God himself. When we look at the hardships David endured, it’s not like we can say, “Good thing he spent all those years of his life suffering and on the run from King Saul. Because of that hardship he was a better king.” Maybe he was better for it. The fact is, we don’t know.
    It is nice to have the Psalms, to see how we can cry out to God when we are in agony—so that’s a benefit to us of David’s hardship. But who knows how David saw his hardship or what he learned from it. Did he ever look back and take delight in his most dire circumstances and how they shaped him? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.
  • David is rewarded for his faithfulness. Despite facing such challenging circumstances, David continues to trust God and to serve God throughout his life. He doesn’t turn against God when his circumstances are difficult or unbearable. And he speaks honestly to God about what he is feeling. He sets an example for us. He is a sinner, and he suffers for it. But he also finds forgiveness in God’s mercy. He has a heart after God’s own heart. And it is through David’s line that God chooses to bring the Messiah. Jesus is the ultimate king from the line of David. And David is honored by having a place in Christ’s lineage. 

This is an aside, but I think it applies as we try to discern God’s calling in our lives: When David volunteered to fight Goliath, he was a young boy. King Saul initially tells him he is too young to fight. After Saul finally consents in I Samuel 17:37, “Then Saul gave David his own armor–a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. ‘I can’t go in these,’ he protested to Saul. ‘I’m not used to them.’ So David took them off again.” (I Samuel 17:38-39) You see, we can’t wear someone else’s armor. We can’t try to be like someone else. We are who God created and called us to be. Trying to be someone else will only wear us down or wear us out, as David would have been as a boy in a man’s armor. To triumph in the battles we face, we have to be true to who we are.

I could go into great detail about how—and how long—David suffered, but I don’t think that’s necessary (for more on David’s life, see I and II Samuel and many of the Psalms). But David’s Psalms of suffering serve as examples to us to help us voice our pain and desperation to God when we face hardships of many kinds. I leave you with Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

~~~

For the second episode in this series, on Moses, click here.


10 Comments

Five-Minute Friday: Lonely

Every Friday, Lisa-Jo Baker provides a prompt for “Five-Minute Friday“: Write for five minutes only–no editing, no rewriting. This week’s prompt is “Lonely.” Here goes . . .

~~~

I’ve become all-too familiar with loneliness. It comes with the territory of infertility. And frankly, I’m over it.

Infertility struck at a time when I was destined to feel lonely anyway. New city, new state, new church, new house. Everything that’s new feels so cold and empty before you get to know it. Well, except in Houston, where it’s always humid instead.

Dreary Front Entry

Empty Bedroom

When we found out we were infertile, there wasn’t anyone local to turn to–not that we would have turned to anyone anyway. We were shocked. And scared. Lonely anyway, embarrassed by a diagnosis we never expected.

We slowly told a few people. DH’s parents. My parents. Some of our closest friends from DC–which wasn’t our “back home” but somehow felt like it. But at some level, they can’t relate. And it’s harsh to say that, but it feels true. Even now, when I know that I’m not the only one who suffers, that we all carry our own little secrets and challenges and battle scars. But I suffer in this way, a way that seems unfamiliar and unrelatable to my mommy-friends who have more toddler than they can handle right now and like to offer, “take mine.”

But Lonely and I have been fighting and Lonely is losing. I’m kicking it out. I’m meeting people. Getting deep–though maybe not as deep as I could. We still play infertility tight to the chest until we’re sure and it’s necessary, and the knowing might somehow help the other person.

Feeling less lonely nonetheless. And thankful. For the things we have learned. For the little battles over loneliness that we have won. For a God who lets me know every time I need to know it, that he is here and he knows and he understands.

Furnished Bedroom

TIME

Five Minute Friday


2 Comments

The Production of Hope

I had an interesting question in a comment the other day, and it’s sparked a lot of thought.

From anchortomysoul:

I do take comfort in that knowing he said this would happen, and that trials produce perseverance and perseverance character and character hope which does not disappoint! Although the end of that verse confuses me! Ha how does character produce hope?

The verse referenced is Romans 5:3-5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Last year, I studied Revelation in my Bible study. At first I really struggled with it–and not just because it’s such a difficult book to read through. I struggled with the idea of the world’s end, and especially with the idea that we were supposed to be looking forward to it and even praying for it (“your kingdom come,” in the Lord’s prayer, is just one example). Frankly, it was hard for me to say truthfully that I wanted Christ to return and for the world to end. There are things I want to do. Like have babies, for example.

But suffering makes you think about these things differently. When we were first diagnosed with IF, I felt oddly in tune with the suffering in the world. It was like my personal tragedy somehow highlighted tragedy around me. It was probably because I was so emotional at that time. Uncharacteristically emotional–though I don’t know that “uncharacteristic” is still an accurate description nine months later.

And when I watched the news coverage Monday of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, it was all I could do to hold back tears. Maybe that’s a normal response, but I know it wasn’t a normal response for me 10 years ago. When 9/11 happened I was glued to the TV in fascination, but I don’t remember any real sense of empathy for the people whose lives were lost or who lost loved ones. That sounds terrible as I reread it, but it’s true.

Suffering–through the longing for a family, the challenges that infertility has wrought on us, and, yes, the growth we’ve experienced through IF–has led me to be more aware of the fact that we live in a fallen world. A world of pain. A world where people are hurting every day and all.the.time. This is not my home. And I don’t want this to be my home.

I don’t have an official answer to the question posed, but I have a response. Suffering produces hope. Through suffering, we persevere; perseverance builds our character (I think, primarily, our trust and faith in God, our recognition of our own powerlessness and incompleteness alone, etc.), and we end up with hope. To hope in a place where there will be no more crying. To hope in the perfection promised. To hope in Christ, in his offer of salvation, in the redemption, and in the completion of that story when he will come again.

And now, when I say the Lord’s prayer each night, I mean it. Especially “Your kingdom come.”