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Entries in Circumstances (13)

Thursday
Oct052017

Getting Needs Met ... or Not

Dianne Barker has a knack for pinpointing issues we all struggle with, and the biblical truth that helps. In this Perspective UPGRADE, she examines a question we may ask in the middle of stressful circumstances.

     

"Overwhelmed, I cried out to the Lord," Dianne said. 'What about my needs?'”

I (Dawn) believe the Lord understands our struggle. Humanly, Jesus had physical needs during His time on earth, and He looked to scriptures for strength. That's exactly where we need to go.

Dianne continues . . .

I went into marriage expecting my wonderful husband to meet all my needs and make me sublimely happy.

Our first few years were pretty much carefree. When I left a successful journalism career to be a stay-at-home mom, I had no regrets. Making a nest for my husband and our two young children brought me great joy. Meeting their needs had highest priority, although I carved out some time to continue writing.

Life has a way of piling stress upon stress.

As our children grew, we enjoyed the normal progression of family life: music lessons and recitals ... Little League and Scouts ... choral concerts and competitions.

We enjoyed our hectic life and managed the good stress.

Then heartbreaking stress caught up with us as our aging parents declined in health. I gladly poured out my life caring for them.

Increasing, daily challenges drained my time and energy, taking an emotional toll, and weariness sent me to the Lord.

“What about my needs? Doesn’t anybody care about my needs?”

He surprised me with an answer.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

I’d always viewed that familiar promise as assurance he would meet my physical, financial, and spiritual needs. A gentle voice in my spirit said, “I will supply your emotional needs. That frees you to meet the needs of your family.”

It was a jaw-dropping moment.

The Lord continued encouraging my heart with these words: “…as your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).

My circumstances didn’t change, only my perspective.

When you’re weary and feeling your needs aren’t getting met, consider having a conversation with yourself.

  • God placed me here—in this family, in these circumstances—on purpose. He thought I had something to contribute. He surely has a lot of confidence to entrust me with such a complicated assignment.
  • I feel inadequate, but I’ll never be stronger than I am right now because God is my strength. And he won’t be stronger tomorrow.
  • The One who engraved me on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16) is fully able to supply all my needs. Knowing that, I needn’t depend on anyone else for this impossible provision.

Many years have passed since the Lord interrupted my pity party with an amazing promise. He met my needs and renewed my strength day by day, enabling me to pour out my life with joy, serving my precious family.

Circumstances are temporary. Our parents are in heaven and our children have left the nest. I look back on those challenging times with gratitude for the faithfulness of God.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

I’ve never regretted the decision to trust him to supply my needs. He’s surpassed my expectations. 

Who are you depending on to meet your needs?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned. This post is adapted from I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.)

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug172017

Pursuing Happiness? Upgrade to Joy!

Joanie Shawhan is an encourager. She helps people in desperate circumstances. Her life is full and well-pleasing to the Lord. Yet she still longed for true joy. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she shares how her understanding of joy has grown over the years.

"In the pursuit of happiness, I have filled my life with many things," Joanie says. "Some I regret, some were wonderful gifts, but none filled the void deep within."

I (Dawn) can identify with that. How easy it is to fill our lives with good things and miss the most important thing—the Lord Himself.

Joanie continues . . .

When I pursued happiness, I discovered that eventually the surge of pleasure dissipated. The negative emotions I attempted to suppress—hurt, grief, sadness, loneliness—once again surfaced, and I felt empty.

I scrambled for the next available object or relationship to fill that void, desperately hoping to restore bliss. I often based my happiness on my circumstances.

Many of us strive for contentment. We may regret some of our choices.

  • Shopping therapy may lift our moods—until we receive the credit card bill.
  • Whether lonely, tired or depressed, we know chocolates boost our spirits—until we glare at the digits on the scale.
  • Addictions drive us with unquenchable thirst that demands a fix, surpassing the previous high.
  • We get involved in wrong relationships. These derail our destinies and hurtle us down destructive paths, leaving a wake of devastation.

We look for fulfillment not only in these temporary pleasures, but our blessings as well.

  • Traveling to exotic places can be exhilarating, but once we arrive home, the sights and sounds are relegated to memory.
  • We throw ourselves into our jobs, chasing the next promotion, a different boss or more money.
  • We purchase larger houses with higher mortgages.
  • We fill them with pets whose soulful eyes beg us to take them home.

Relationships are one of the greatest gifts God has given us to enjoy.

From childhood, a girl dreams of her wedding day, gliding down the aisle clothed in a princess gown to meet her groom. Oops, the knight in shining armor has fallen off his horse. AGAIN!

Next comes the arrival of a darling bundle of joy. Ten tiny toes and fingers plunged into adorable outfits. But soon come sleepless nights, terrible twos and rebellious teens. 

We often expect these blessings to fill the deep void inside of us. But when happiness eludes us because of unfulfilled expectations, barbs of emptiness stab at our hearts.

It is during these seasons of disappointment, hurt and disillusionment that we become offended and bitterness takes root. Unfortunately, we sometimes trash relationships we once treasured.

Maybe we need to upgrade our pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy.

Joy is eternal. It transcends our circumstances.

Joy comes easy during our mountaintop adventures. But we can also experience joy in seasons of deep sorrow.

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit that comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives. He is the only one who can fill the empty places, heal our broken hearts and restore joy.

When we pursue Jesus and His presence, we will experience His joy.

“In His presence is the fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11 NKJV).

How can we upgrade happiness to joy?

1. Thanksgiving 

We thank God for all He has given us, acknowledging that all we have comes from Him. Expressing words of gratitude leads us to contentment and joy.

2. Praise

Praise opens the door to the presence of God. In praise and worship, we take our eyes off ourselves and our concerns and turn our gaze toward God. We focus on who He is—His character, His majesty, His glory—and we are filled with His joy.

3. Scripture

When we reflect on the truth of God’s Word, we discover His character—His compassion, His mercy and His love for us. His promises offer us comfort, peace, hope and joy. 

4. Testimony

Reading or listening to the real-life stories of how God rescued others in the midst of their suffering restores hope and stirs our joy.

5. Helping Others

Reaching out to others takes our eyes off ourselves. We focus on the needs of another person. In our giving, we please God, the giver of life, and He allows us to share in His joy.

6. Forgive

Corrie ten Boom said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness generates joy.

In the presence of God I have been changed. I discovered that He has enabled me to do the seemingly impossible—believe, trust and forgive.

How do YOU upgrade from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. She also speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. For more information, visit Joanie's website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of dimitrisvetsikas-Pixabay.

Tuesday
Mar282017

Trials Polish the Shine

I’ve watched Kathy Carlton Willis deal with trial after trial and somehow continue to shine. I often wonder how she manages to grin despite the challenges. In this deeply personal Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us consider the blessing in our trials.

“Trials are going to happen to everyone. We don’t get a choice," Kathy says, "but we do get to choose how we respond. Will I grin or will I groan? I’ve found if I can stay focused on God and others, I can endure the negative circumstances in my life.”

Kathy’s not merely saying words. She’s my (Dawn's) personal Barnabas of encouragement even when she’s in the middle of her own painful situations.

Kathy continues . . .

A few months ago I had a simple surgery that resulted in serious complications. Others ask how I keep smiling during personal turmoil.  

Even though my time in the hospital was miserable, the God-appointments were amazing! When people entered my room to do their jobs, God prompted me to say the right thing so they felt comfortable opening up about a burden. I got to deliver a dose of Jesus’ grace before they left.

Only God could bring the hurting to me when I was hurting and couldn’t go to them!

How rewarding to be used for God’s good and glory despite physical limitations.

If you are going through a terrible circumstance, I’m here to share this fact: trials polish the shine more!

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" (1 Peter 1:6-7a, NLT).

I rejoice that God planted me at the right place at the right time. Oh—the stories I heard!

People came in with family problems. One admitted she was shamed by a hospital worker for being “just an aide.” My tenderhearted night nurse was worried about her own upcoming medical test. The next week she returned to thank me for my prayers because her test came back normal!

A mom visiting her son across the hall talked to me about his serious injuries. We discussed how God answers prayer. Many more God-stories occurred.

As I walked the halls, every door had the name of that room's patient and their doctor. I prayed for each. For the patients, to have grace to endure, and for the doctors to have both wisdom and compassion.

It was like my own personal missionary assignment!

Praying for others got my mind off my own problems and kept them in perspective considering what others faced.

TIPS for ENDURANCE

1. Be alert to others.

Be alert to what's going on around you more than you're tuned in to your own problems.

God can use us anywhere as long as we pay attention to the pain—and joy—of others rather than being singularly focused on our own dilemmas.

2. Sense the prayers of others.

Allow them to lift you up, uP, UP—just like a hot air balloon.

3. Don't apologize for being weak.

One of God's graces is that when we are weak, God shows up strong. (Well... He's always strong, but I sure notice it more when I'm weak!)

4. Tap into God's strength.

The strength you need or others need in you will show up as He surges through you with His power. It's the Christian's super power!

For whatever reason, God seems to like to use me in the MESS rather than in the BEST. If that’s the way He gets the most glory, I’m okay with that. My story is about how BIG He is despite my big problems.

Whether in the BEST, or the MESS—I am BLESSED.

How might God use you during your current messy life situation?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker   at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author   - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Thursday
Mar022017

"Even Though"—How to Upgrade Angry Reactions

Kolleen Lucariello's desire is to help people embrace their identity in Christ in practical ways. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she deals with anger and how our relationship with the Lord can change our responses.

"Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. This thought randomly ran through my mind,” Kolleen says, “as Pat and I traveled south down the Interstate in early January.

I (Dawn) was just cut off on a San Diego highway as a man quickly moved from one lane— across mine—to rush toward an off-ramp, putting several cars in danger. I panicked, and oh yes, I got that sudden angry response. Kolleen has a insight for us about how to deal with life's tough circumstances with a more scriptural response.

Kolleen continues . . .

Our GPS was programmed to guide us straight to the driveway of our son and daughter-in-law’s home, and I had just witnessed one more incidence of road rage on the highway (and my husband was not involved!).

We’ve observed some pretty scary moments during our travel time when angry drivers decide they wouldn’t get mad—they’d get evenbehind the wheel of a vehicle.

I was surprised a few days later when this same thought crossed MY mind as I felt my mad inside begin to rise. Don’t get mad, get even.

It’s been quite a few years since that’s been my motto for getting through life. Yet, over the next few days, the slightest irritation brought this phrase to mind.

I began to notice how effortlessly it is for some to quickly move into the get even lane.

But why had I?

Where was this sudden urge to get even for every offense coming from?

  • Did I have suppressed anger?
  • Was the constant chatter on social media making me hostile?
  • Hormones, maybe?

I decided it was time to pray and ask God to fill me in.  That’s when one word was added to the statement.

Though.

Now, the sentence running through my mind was, don’t get mad, get even… though. With an emphasis on even though.

Just a few days later I read this, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he [even though a slave] became a successful and prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian” (Genesis 39:2, AMP).

There it was, even though, and along with it, came my answer.

You upgrade your reaction when you:

1. Trust God is with you, even though you’re distressed, full of anguish and your cry seems unheard.

His very own brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. Can you imagine?  They saw the distress and anguish as Joseph pleaded for them to let him go but, the Amplified Bible says, they “would not listen to his cry” and he found himself a slave in another country (Genesis 42:21).

All betrayal is rough, but betrayal by a spouse, sibling, parent or the closest of friends strikes a devastating blow.

Betrayal inflicts such intense anguish and distress, you may wonder how you will ever survive. We can become slaves to the pain as we find ourselves wandering in a strange, unknown and unwanted land, where cries for mercy go unheard.

But just as God was with Joseph, even though he found himself in Egypt, He is with us in our even though land too.

2. Trust God is able to prosper you and bring you success, even though your circumstances are not what you dreamed.

Remember Joseph’s dreams? Sheaves bowed down to him. Evidently, he was able to move on from the delay of the dream. He excelled in everything that he did even though he was a slave; and because the Lord was always with him, he found success and prosperity.

I’m certain Joseph never imagined he’d find himself a slave in Egypt. He’s the perfect example for us of someone living out Colossians 3: 23-24:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (NIV).

The Lord is with those who protect their attitude even though the work might not be exactly what we dreamed.

3. Trust God’s purposes even though we may not understand them at the time.

Something I find remarkable in the story of Joseph is this: not once is there any mention of Joseph plotting in his heart how to get even with anyone who betrayed himnot his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, nor the chief cupbearer who failed to follow through on his promise to remember Joseph when he was released from prison. Not even Potiphar for assuming the worst and never seeking to hear his side of the story. Not once.

Instead, he saw God in the even though when he stood face to face with his brothers and recognized that even though they intended evil towards him, God’s intended purpose was for good.

Rather than living by the don’t get mad, get even motto, add the word though as a reminder of how God can bless us in our even though moments.

Are you going through something right now that tempts you to get even? How can the truth of “even though” help you upgrade your reaction?

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ, one letter at a time. Connect with Kolleen here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Megapixelstock, Stocksnap.io.

Thursday
Apr282016

Five Sure-Fire Joy Robbers

Kathy Carlton Willis is teaching me quite a bit about joy, because I've "watched" her choosing joy in some tough circumstances. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she shares some of her secrets!

“One fall season, we had an abundance of pecans in our yard,” Kathy said. Mom and I picked up enough to share and plenty to keep over winter for baking. Still there were some left over, so we had a huge box of pecans sitting on our front porch.

"Then we noticed that all the pecans disappeared; only the empty box remained.”

Squirrels? Pecans? What's not to love? I (Dawn) am  always eager to hear how Kathy weaves a good story into biblical life application, and she doesn't disappoint here!

Kathy continues . . .

Who would dare come up on our porch and steal our pecans out from under us but not take the box?”

 The answer was right before our very eyes.

Squirrels, of course!

All winter long we noticed they seemed to be eating well, but we didn’t realize we were the ones feeding them.

This is a trivial example of being robbed, but I know people who were robbed of their possessions, and they felt so violated. Sometimes the person who robbed them was someone they knew; other times, complete strangers invaded their personal space and stole their belongings.

No matter the circumstances, being robbed attacks anyone’s sense of security. Being robbed of our joy is no different.

But we have control of our joy, unlike when possessions are taken from us.

When joy is stolen, it isn’t so the other party can possess our joy. No, when they do something that causes us to quit being joyful, it’s not as if they are now wearing our joy! They’re usually as unhappy as we are when they have placed us in a negative situation.

Why is it we allow others to steal our joy? Perhaps it’s not even their motive to see us lose our peace and gladness. But when we allow circumstances to push our buttons, our joy departs.

5 Sure-Fire Joy Robbers:

1. A loss 

2. Being Misunderstood

3. Being Betrayed 

4. Being Rejected

5. Worry & Doubt

The key is to realize no one has access to our joy control switch besides us.

When we feel robbed of joy we must admit—at some level we allowed it to happen.

Our source of joy is not in circumstances or other people, but in the peace of God, which passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

It’s impossible to always be happy.

Bad things happen.

People trash our parade route!

Happiness is based on happenstance or circumstances.

But it’s possible to rejoice with joy that wells up from a God-space deep within us. And when it’s flowing, it naturally bubbles over onto others.

“So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy” (John 16:22 NLT).

Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had” (Lamentations 5:21 NLT).

In order to experience the abundance of joy, it’s important to deal with any burdens weighing you down.

Here are three specific steps you can take to prevent those joy-robbers.

1. Don’t be anxious. Instead, vent your worries and frustrations to the Lord. (Philippians 4:6)

2. Deal with situations as they surface—don’t let them accumulate. (Ephesians 4:25–27) Control jealousy and anger in healthy ways. Don’t let others push your buttons. (Proverbs 14:29–30).

3. Don’t let someone else engage you in a guilt trip. You don’t need the frequent flyer miles that go along with that sort of journey! (Romans 8:1)

The next time you feel robbed, evaluate your own attitudes. Are you fully relying on God or are you allowing circumstances to dictate your moods and emotions?

Which of these specific steps can help you prevent with your joy-robbers today?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas.

Squrrel Graphic adapted, image courtesy of rhamm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.