I am in a reflective mood. I’m making sense of setbacks, praising God for my present messy life, and pondering His plans for my future.
Four years ago today, I stepped away from my full time pharmacist gig for what I thought was a temporary medical leave of absence.
When I climbed over the guardrail of security (my plan) and stepped off the cliff (into God’s plan) I free fall into grace.
When I stepped away from work for medical testing, my plan was to name the painful debilitating symptoms, seek treatment and return to work. However, days merged into months with no answer while my condition worsened. Without a diagnosis and title, my medical team was reluctant to treat my symptoms. Little did I know it would take over a year of testing to determine the nature of bizarre symptoms.
Making Sense of Setbacks
l am thankful God placed a chronically ill woman in the Gospels. Like the woman with the issue of blood in the book of Mark, I can relate to desperately seeking medical help without relief. By faith, the unnamed woman battling an isolating illness stretched out her hand and touched Jesus’ robe. She knew with one touch she could be healed. At this account, Jesus called her, “Daughter.” This is the only biblical account of Christ calling a woman, “Daughter.” Her faith healed her illness. His title relabeled her identity.
I’d like to say I’ve overcome all my hang-ups, but I haven’t. I still struggle with my identity as a forced stay-at-home-mom, rare illness warrior, writer, “retired” pharmacist and daughter. I wish I could tell you I no longer struggle with my current situation or my illness. But I can’t. Most days I feel like a stalled racehorse eager to run a race, only to discover my batteries are too low to get out of the gate.
Jesus, Coffee, & Afternoon Naps
This illness forces me to rest daily. I get by every day with Jesus, coffee, and afternoon naps.
God continues to teach me how to be productive for His Kingdom, His Plans, and His Purpose, which no longer includes me serving as the local pharmacist. With the insight of hindsight, I see these perceived setbacks were actually a set-up for God to work in me and through me.
In today’s post, Leah Lively shares tips on overcoming Bible study obstacles.
Leah and I briefly met before her family moved to the Louisianan bayous. Years later, their family moved back to the east coast with her husband’s career. Between surviving gulf coast hurricanes and the storms of parenthood, she has written a new Bible study called, “30 Days with John: A Journey with Jesus’ Most Beloved Disciple.”
Overcoming Bible Study Obstacles
A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me some obstacles they faced when it came to studying the Bible. They echoed some of the same challenges: the Bible is difficult to understand, where do you begin, and an inability to stay focused. I understood the struggle all too well, until a couple of years ago.
In 2017, I attended a conference for writers and speakers in Christian ministry. A well-known Bible teacher organized this event and took us step by step through her time in prayer, in the Word, and writing. Two takeaways the main speaker shared were: we had to be in God’s Word if we wanted to share God’s Word in our world. Also, as believers, we had to know God’s Word because the world is constantly going to come against His Truth. If we don’t know His Truth we will be deceived.
1. Create Authentic Time
The speaker continued to give us the tools to create an authentic time of studying the Bible. It isn’t magic. It isn’t something some believers have, and others don’t. In the book of John, chapter 16, Jesus shares with the disciples in His final hours. He tells them He will be going away because if He leaves, the Counselor (Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth) cannot come to them. “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13) Jesus promises that when the Holy Spirit comes to them, they would finally understand. Their eyes would be opened to all Jesus had been teaching for the last three years.
God offers us the Holy Spirit too. When we become believers, the Holy Spirit
becomes a part of us. When we open God’s word, the Truth comes alive in ways we
have never seen to the point that we cannot wait to discover all the Spirit has
to show us. The Bible was written through the help of the Holy Spirit, so we
need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for help in understanding the scripture.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
2. Read in Chunks
Another speaker at the conference addressed which scripture to read. She recommended reading the Bible in chunks. We tend to focus on a verse or two, which is fine, but to get a bigger picture and understanding of the passage, she said we should read the entire chapter or read through an entire book over the course of several days. To gain understanding, it helps to know who the author is, what perspective he has, as well as the time frame he is writing in. I had never read the Bible this way, but I was determined when I returned home from the conference.
I prayed next time I sat down to study, asking God (through the Holy Spirit) to reveal His truth to me. I asked for understanding. God led me to study the life of Paul. I started in the book of Acts, reading about his life, his conversion, and ministry. By reading Paul’s letters in the order he wrote them, I was able to compare them with details in Acts to see what he was experiencing when each letter was written. My eyes were opened to a greater understanding of Paul and the trials he experienced throughout his ministry.
Two years later, on May 1st, I published a study on the book of John titled, 30 Days with John: A Journey with Jesus’ Most Beloved Disciple. Each day’s study begins with prayer, a full reading of the passage, and then questions to take you back through the scripture to aid in understanding. The study is concise, yet in-depth, for those who get overwhelmed by longer studies and lack the available time to complete them. I hope the study I have written will help facilitate going deeper into God’s word. We don’t have to be pastors or teachers, speakers or writers to love and understand the scripture. It’s here for all of us. The more we know God’s Word, the closer we become in a relationship with Him.
There are always going to be obstacles when it comes to reading scripture because the enemy doesn’t want you to do it! That is a topic for an entirely different blog post. Don’t allow distractions and obstacles to keep you from growing closer to God. If you need more focus, pray and ask God. The more He draws you into His Word, you will find those distractions and obstacles won’t be a problem for you. I hope the suggestions I have given will encourage you and give you some confidence in reading and understanding God’s word.
30 Days with John: A Journey with Jesus’ Most Beloved Disciple,available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Born and raised in Virginia, Leah’s faith journey began in a small church in a small town. She is a wife to one and a mom to 4 along with a sweet female boxer. Leah is motivated by 2 Corinthians 13:11 where Paul encourages the church in Corinth to “become mature and be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” She wants believers to grow in their faith and discover a hunger for God’s word. Leah’s genuine and authentic style of presenting the gospel lays a foundation for readers to learn more of God’s Truths.
Years ago, a friend introduced the notion of focusing on one word for the year. Despite being several years younger, my friend possessed a mature faith that I wanted to emulate. She didn’t merely know about God, she understood God, the way He moves and the nuances of His character. Like my friend, I wanted to know God intimately, not know about God from a distance.
An Eight-Year Discovery
Looking back, I smile at each focused word. Some years I understood the reason why the focued word captured my attention. However, other years the reason behind the chosen word remained a mystery for me to solve.
2012: Unshaken (Psalm 16:8)
2013: Provision (Genesis 22:8)
2014: Abundance (Psalm 65:11)
2015: Hope (Hebrews 6:19)
2016: Trust (Romans 15:13)
2017: Refuge (Psalm 73:28)
2018: Rest (Psalm 46:10)
2019: Dwell (Psalm 91:1)
This year I will dwell on the word ‘dwell.’ While the layers of this word have yet to unfold, I have an inkling that God intends to teach me to:
Dwell in His unfailing love(Exodus 15:13)
Dwell in His joy (1 Chronicles 16:27)
Dwell is His rest(Psalm 91:1)
Dwell in His protection (Psalm 91:9-10)
Dwell in His peace(Psalm 4:8)
Dwell in His goodness and love (Psalm 23:6)
What is your one focus word for the year?
Perhaps, you’re not sure how to select a word. Next week, I will share ideas on how to choose one word for the year.
Despite my daughters resting position, white enamel drums chattered as I checked her temperature, 103.1°F. My fingers gently swept the hair away from her crimson face as I whispered, “Honey, brush your teeth. We’re going to the doctor,”
Guttural moans escaped her petite frame.
I am thankful the pediatrician’s office offer walk-in sick appointments. Less than an hour later, we answered the obligatory questions from the nurse and physician.
“Based on your symptoms, I am going to test you for Strep and Mono,” the pediatrician offered gently.
Both tests returned negative. My daughter has a mystery virus.
The doctor instructed us to “treat the symptoms with fluids, fever medications, and most importantly, rest.”
REST is the Treatment.
Rest is a short word which when used wields incredible power.
Why is rest always last on my list?
I am no longer talking about my daughter being sick. I mean living in a state of rest.
Why do I try to fix small things on my own, like scheduling conflicts or car repairs, while leaving the big-ticket issues for God? God doesn’t say to bring him only the big problems in life, but instead, Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT).
Rest is first on God’s list. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandants, rest was implied in the first two commandments. “You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.” (Exodus 20:3-4, NLT).
I am weary of managing small problems on my own rather than resting everyday concerns with God. I am guilty of creating an idol of self-reliance. By categorizing what I think I can handle versus what I should hand over to God, my personal, I-can-handle-this-To-Do-list has become my god.
Over time, my stubborn, strong-willed, nature created an invisible idol called the god of self-reliance. Instead of the rest and peace, God Almighty offers, my false self-reliance god left me feeling weary and drained.
The path to restful living contains stepping-stones of surrender and a stone of contentment with where I am with what I have for right now.
Friend, are you like me?
Ask yourself if you are weary of managing life on your own instead of resting everyday concerns with God. Like me, have you unknowingly formed an idol of self-reliance? If so, pray with me.
Dear Lord, help me to live out your plan for peace and rest in my life. I release all my concerns big and small into your Sovereign capable hands. Tear down any idol(s)I unknowingly formed. Teach me to rest in You day-by-day. Jesus, I thank you for your saving and sustaining grace. In your name, I pray. Amen.
I leave you with the same prescription for treatment as my daughter–rest.
Reading from Eugene Peterson’s Message version of Matthew, the words, “The Great Reversal” leaped off the page and lodged in my heart.
For reasons I cannot explain, I had an attack of Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis that endured all last week. Extreme muscle weakness and random paralysis enwrapped my body. I was thankful for the snow days because my teens were home to help me. Too weak to hold a coffee mug, the kids held the mug for me while I sipped hazelnut liquid mercy.
The Great Reversal. Those words tumbled around in my mind like laundry in the dryer.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Sometimes God will allow a great reversal in our life circumstances, to cause us to stop, to rely on Him, and to allow God’s purpose to prevail.
Since the discovery and diagnosis of my illness, my life and the life of my family has taken on a great reversal. Though we have settled into a new normal, I still grapple with this new assignment in life. I struggle with my identity and my purpose—areas of my life that I never questioned before because life was going according to my plan.
In my personal great reversal, I have changed roles from an active, healthy, able-bodied wife, mother, and pharmacist to a passive, chronically ill wife and mother humbled by my limitations and lack of income. I feel like a butterfly stuffed back into a cocoon.
On the flip side of my personal great reversal, I’ve had a front row seat to God’s faithfulness, compassion, and provision. If this statement is too vague, let me supply a few details. When the $1000 bill for my genetic testing arrived, I specifically prayed for God’s provision. I was no longer working and finances were tight. A few hours later, a woman from my Bible study called and asked to stop by for coffee. We had a delightful visit, just the two of us. Upon her departure, she prayed for me and told me she felt led to do something for me. There on my crayon-marred kitchen table, she penned a check for $1000! Tears erupted from the corners of my eyes. Once I regained composure, I shared with her my earlier prayer and we cried and praised God together.
When the time came for us to sell our lakefront home and move me to a one-level home, God took care of us on every side. We accepted an above asking price offer within twelve days of the listing and we closed within the month hassle free.
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
Perhaps my greatest personal reversal is my daily surrender to God. I have switched from relying on self to relying on God. I can no longer function without God’s daily strength (and a several cups of coffee). I know I cannot take care of my needs, but I rely daily on the One who does.
Friend, I invite you to ask:
Have I experienced a recent reversal or set back in my life?
Could this set back could be a set up for God’s greater purpose in my life?
What would happen if I chose to reverse my perspective and ask God to see this new circumstance through His eyes?
What area of God’s character do you think He is trying to reveal to me?
During this winter season, what would happen if we watered and rested our minds and soul on Christ?The Apostle Paul wrote, these encouraging words in Philippians 4:4-9:
The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
What new growth does God have planned for us if we simply rest, cease striving, and “Be still and know, that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)?
The notion of resting and being still is the concept I am embracing for 2018.
Resting and being still before the Lord is active work. It means setting aside a large portion of uninterrupted time to read and marinate in God’s Word. It also means being quiet before the Lord and listening to His voice. The mere act of being still contradicts our Western culture of bombarding noise, distractions, and busyness.
God is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6) and His rewards are rest and peace.