The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
Recently I attended a women’s retreat at a campground in the northern part of lower Michigan. The trees were just beginning to turn; as we drove further north, the display of color became more and more amazing. Here and there red leaves and pink, yellows and gold, and brilliant orange peeked out among the greens. As I gazed on the beauty around me, I was appreciative of our Creator God. Then it started to rain.
Light splashes here and there on the windshield became a steady drizzle, then a downpour. Gray clouds turned dark, and fog rolled in as the temperature began dropping. We could no longer see the color because of the darkness. It was still raining when we arrived at camp, and the ground was turning to muck. I thought of the umbrella hanging in my closet at home, and was glad I had packed a hooded, all-weather jacket.
My husband, Sean and I are considered the “sandwich generation”. Our children still require assistance and guidance in their schoolwork, we are involved in their boy scouts, sports teams, youth group, etc. And…we drive them there. Our parents range from 75 to late 80’s so we are assisting them when needed. Recently, my father-in-law suffered a severe infection with complications resulting in his being in and out of the hospital, a step-down rehab facility and finally, trying to regain independence in his own home which is becoming increasingly difficult.
Let it go…let it go. We all recognize these words from a familiar Disney movie. Words that many times are much easier sung than done! How often do we hold on to minor offenses done to us by others…many times unknown by the “offender”? We either become angry and defensive or retreat into ourselves. I am guilty of this a lot, especially the retreating part.
With that in mind, I have been questioning why all of this is happening. I’m questioning God. I know that God can handle my questions, but I need to find the answers. I know that God is who He says He is. I know He can do what He says He can do. But do I really believe that when things get really scary? Do I believe that He will show up? Can I really put the fate of my children in God’s hands? Can I put all my earthly treasures and possessions in God’s hands? I know these treasures on earth are not the important things, but once my mind starts down this path, I just kept on questioning, spinning out of control. Can I trust that God is going to show up? He has so many times before, yet I am questioning if he’ll show up for me again, or have I used up all my favors? I am scared!
So many of the people I pray for have health issues. As a retired physician, I find myself unconsciously analyzing people’s prognoses based on what I know about their health issues. I find myself thinking, “Wow! That cancer is stage 3 or 4. That’s going to take a real miracle from you Lord, for her to be healed.” Or, “He’ll get better. We can treat that now.” I catch myself prioritizing which people to pray for miracles for.
As I turn the pages of my bible I see notes of dates and events next to verses that brought me comfort or peace in hard times. Psalm 147:3, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Next to that verse is written the date my grandmother died. Psalm 91:14-16, “ ‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.’ ” The date written here corresponds to a time of painful and difficult parenting, when my autistic son was in middle school. I once spent most of a challenging year reminding myself to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46.6).
I used this time of loneliness as an opportunity to grow in my relationship with the Lord and also myself. I spent a lot of time journaling, reading, and learning more about the person God has intended me to be. God knows our hearts the best, so why not listen to what He has to say? Looking back, I am thankful for moments like that because it made me stronger by being open-minded during difficult times.
Bible Study Tips and Tools: Old Testament
Sure, Numbers can be a little dry and Hosea can be tough to understand (he married who?!?) but staying away from the Old Testament robs you of a deeper understanding of the Lord. After all, most of the Bible is Old Testament, so at some point we’re really going to have to buck up and give it a shot.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had this friend. We met in photography class, and then again in guitar class. Our souls were kindred spirits. Among other commonalities, we shared a love of painting. Over the course of the school year, we would show each other our paintings, and critique them accordingly. She was so much better than I was. She went on to get a scholarship, for her talent, to the local university, and still to this day, continues to have a career in painting. After I moved, we kept in touch a little bit. During one of our conversations, we were reminiscing about our crazy high school days, and I mentioned how jealous I had always been of her painting skills. She scoffed and said, “You shouldn’t have been, I was crazy. I was just painting what I saw in my head.” After an awkward laugh, I asked what she meant, and she went on to say that she had been diagnosed with a few different mental illnesses over the last few years, and was on medication. I was shocked, but didn’t show it. I told her I was proud she had the courage to get help, and humorously asked if her painting had diminished since she had begun medication. After that conversation, I began to wonder: if my brain worked like hers, would I be a stellar artist? Would I really wish that upon myself?
Recently after band practice I listened to our kids’ conversation on the car ride home. Although they are enthusiastically committed, they typically vent out their complaints: the repetition and monotony, harsh conditions, tough messages from teachers with high expectations, unclear directions, difficult personalities, evolving and unforeseen changes, lack of progress. As I listened it crossed my mind that they could actually be describing my faith walk. I’m committed but complaining about similar things, just plodding along, uncomfortable, frustrated, discouraged by the cares of this world. There are seasons where this is generally the norm more than the exception. God never promised we would live pain-free.