We never stop caring for our children, and we are always affected by their choices. My daughter and her husband moved to Denver nearly two years ago chasing freedom and a certain lifestyle far away from God and the godly influence of family. The blessing is that we can never get away from God (Psalm 139:7-8).
My daughter recently drove from Denver, CO to Alabama, without her husband’s help, to take back their two big dogs which have had a home with my husband and me from the time my daughter and her husband moved to Denver. Though she was in town only for one full night, she eagerly stretched herself in many directions to accomplish a lot in a short time. She planned to sleep at our home but never came home that night, which had me concerned. She had to wait a few hours for her mechanic father-in-law to look over her new car because his truck broke down on his way in from work. While waiting for her father-in-law, she spent time at a so-called “friend’s” home. This “friend” was a drug acquaintance; that’s how they met and why they got along. It’s strange the power we let others have over us; it’s a very easy, effective tool for satan.
After a restless night of little sleep waiting for her to come home, I searched the internet for the address of my daughter’s father-in-law before driving to see if my daughter was there. I was very concerned that she might not be there, that she may have wrecked and had not yet been found or that she never went to his house but instead had stayed doing drugs with her so-called “friend.”
I almost went to the friend’s house first, as memories of the day my daughter ran away from home three years ago seeking a lifestyle away from God and all godly influences flooded my mind. The day she ran away every part of me said to check at a particular person’s home for her, but instead of going with this instinct I ran here and there wherever my daughter said she was, only wasting precious time giving satan more opportunity to convince her that her wrong choices were absolutely right.
Now three years later, with a different dynamic but still with satan’s desperate attacks in light of his ever-weakening hold over my daughter, I went where she said she was the night before to be absolutely relieved as I drove by her in-laws’ home and saw her car safely nestled between a tractor and another family vehicle. A huge sigh of relief and thankfulness swept over me as God reminded me to never be overwhelmed by anything, knowing that He does not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). I later found out that she had fallen asleep from exhaustion mid-conversation, and the in-laws laid her over on the couch to let her rest.
All the way to the in-laws’ home I listened to Steffany Gretzinger’s album Blackout which leads my heart to worship the Creator and Lover of our souls who has it all in control even when we don’t. I thought I would have to use my asthma inhaler at first, but soon after I began worshiping and praising God, the tightness in my chest subsided. Still, false visions of my daughter passed out after using drugs at her “friend’s” home kept reaching for my focus as I prayed, sang, and worshiped my Lord who has much better than addiction in store for all those who love them with their whole hearts and seek Him with all their might (Deuteronomy 4:29, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 24:7, 29:13, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30).
My daughter’s visit, though shorter than the drive here and back to Denver was a blessing, a time for us to plant seeds of God’s love. Though we planted seeds of love her entire life, we struggled when it seemed all the seeds fell on hard ground to not grow. But even in the darkest hour I had to cling to God’s promises concerning those who live for Him and raise their children to do the same (Psalm 103:13, Proverbs 22:6, Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 6:1-4, 2 Timothy 3:15, 1 Peter 2:12).
My heart leaps for joy to praise my Lord who is strong enough and can always turn satan’s attacks to our benefit when we love God and seek to honor Him with our lives (Romans 8:28). Our God—the one, true God—is perfect as is everything about Him: His love, judgment, advice for living, forgiveness, renewal, justice, and His emotions, to name a few (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Psalm 18:30, Job 11:5-12, Malachi 3:6, Matthew 5:48) .
God’s emotions are real, but they are not the same as ours. Often we make decisions based on emotion, respond to others strictly on an emotional basis, and sometimes fail to respond because we are paralyzed by our emotions. God isn’t subject to any of these as His emotions are very different from our own. He is never paralyzed by fear, nor does He respond selfishly, and He is never overwhelmed. I am so thankful that our perfect Creator by His perfect love for us is bigger, stronger, and far beyond our emotional bounds (1 Corinthians 1:25, James 1:17, 1 John 4:4).
Just as our lives are affected by one another’s choices and relationship with God, our lives are all affected by the perfect love of the one, true God. We can never acknowledge nor deserve all His blessings of providence, protection, and more, but we can seek to acknowledge His presence and bless Him with our prayers and our choices. Our relationship with Him is more powerful than satan’s control in any form. It’s when we recognize this and put it to work that we see changes not only in our own lives but in the lives of those we love and those to whom we are neighbors.
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes, but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. The LORD hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged; and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right. A man’s heart deviseth his way; but the LORD directeth his steps. A just weight and balance are the LORD’S; all the weights of the bag are his work. The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.” (Proverbs 16:2-9,11,17)
Distraction is the first stage of attack. Satan distracts us with something desirable or fearful, whichever he thinks will be most likely take our eyes off God. Today my biggest distraction was my daughter's travel plans, or lack thereof.
Besides the main attraction distraction, satan mixes in some smaller ones to ensure that we look away from God. There are always "fires" to put out in our busy lives. Today my smaller distractions were delivery people at the wrong house, pets getting on my nerves being needy, and appliances not working as I needed them to. Simple things satan uses to frustrate and overwhelm. He also uses good things we are happy to focus on. Anything to get our focus off God. If we aren't focused on God, we won't accomplish our God-ordained tasks for the day.
Yesterday the bag of distractions was a different mix, but the purpose was the same: to prevent God’s truth and love from being shared in my life in the best way possible. Recognizing and properly handling distractions is essential to staying on track. Sometimes it can be confusing to identify a distraction versus an opportunity to share God’s truth and love. It's amazing how our discernment directly correlates to our focus on God.
There are two sides to every coin. Distractions are the first stage of attack in which satan wants to start our downward spiral to end utterly defeated; however, they are also opportunities to react, opportunities to make choices, so we can think of them as training maneuvers. As the above scripture informs, “all the weights of the bag are [God’s] work.” God allows the distractions in order for us to train and strengthen our focus despite them. How well can an untrained soldier fight?
Satan is going to throw distraction after distraction our way in a nonstop attempt to divert our attention. Understanding this, we can be on guard to best handle these attacks. With each right choice maneuvering the battlefield, we become more apt to recognize distractions and make the right choice to stay focused.
Staying focused is crucial to staying alive. When a soldier is distracted on the battlefield, he or she is already on the way to defeat. Often for individual soldiers, this means losing the ability to continue defending one’s self and friendly forces. It can mean a loss of life or limb or can mean becoming a prisoner of war.
Staying focused on God is crucial to a person’s spiritual and other successes. We commit our thoughts, desires, plans, and actions to God, and He establishes our thoughts and orders our steps (Proverbs 16:3). God’s Word forewarns us to stay alert: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). All it takes is a simple yet effective, personally-directed distraction to knock us off guard. Satan never sends a distraction as a single attack. He uses the distraction to thwart our focus in order to engage us in a secondary attack.
By staying focused on God, we yield satan's attempts futile. Isaiah 26:3 became my motto verse when my grandmother was sick and passing from this life; “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee” (emphasis added). The only way for me to keep steady was to remain focused on God. That is not to say that I didn’t mourn the death of my grandmother as I missed her greatly; we were extremely close kindred spirits. But I did not let her passing nor anything else take my eyes off God because I recognized how much I needed His presence in my grandmother's absence. He is our eternal, unchanging, perfect source of strength, hope, wisdom, and encouragement. Many times I have recited Isaiah 26:3 to myself and as a result have been strengthened to stay focused and not fall to satan’s attacks.
Once distracted, then wounded. Once wounded, then an easier target. I don’t want to be an easy target for satan. I don’t want to be a challenge he enjoys attacking either. Like most of us, I just wish satan would forget that I exist. But that will never happen. As long as we are alive, satan will continue to throw distractions our way to knock us off center. He doesn’t care about us; it’s not personal. However, he knows that if he can knock us off our focus, we won’t be effective for Christ, his true enemy and our only hope. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
God’s Word clearly directs that we are to love one another and esteem others above ourselves. Among many scriptures giving these directions is Ephesians 5:2, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”
Ephesians chapter five instructs us how to live wisely with love for one another. Regarding marriage, wives are told to submit to their husbands “as unto the Lord” (verse 22). Verse twenty-eight instructs that husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. “The two shall be one flesh” as the husband loves “his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (verses 31,33).
Things go sour when we lose focus of the only source of true love, Christ, and our understanding of how to love becomes skewed. Satan uses daily challenges of life against us to distract us from Christ distorting our understanding. Our follow through concerning marital love is compromised when either spouse loses focus on their relationship with God and/or one another.
Satan used lifelong perceptions against our marriage. My husband had never taken great care of his body. As the epitome of the classic overachiever, besides working my body too harshly, I tried to eat right and exercise to maintain health. Because of my body image issues and my husband’s lack of care for his body, I struggled to love my husband and his body how God intended. I prayed for years about this hindrance in our marriage and individual walks with Christ.
Although we never broadcast our physically intimate relationship or lack thereof, everyone in our lives seemed to know that we had no sex life. One day my boss with whom I had a very professional relationship expressed concern to me before work one day that I had a God-given need to be held and cherished by my husband. Immediately I felt like I had a huge banner across my forehead exclaiming my no-sex marriage. I was so embarrassed, confused, and infuriated at the same time. I wondered what showed this man that I was not held by my husband. Did I behave uncomely toward him, coworkers, or patients? I evaluated everything and came up with nothing. I never asked him how he knew, and in fact didn’t respond that day but with a few tears and a red face that I couldn’t hold back, but as time went on, this type interaction occurred more often with a variety of people in our lives. Since I wasn’t prone to discuss this aspect of our marriage with others, I knew outward evidence showed that it was miserably lacking natural affection.
Our marriage suffered a tirade of satanic attacks that attempted to completely sever what God had joined together for our good and His glory. My husband’s obesity and correlating health problems mixed with my body image issues and health problems which challenged physical intimacy seemed a recipe for hopelessness. I prayed for years desiring to see come to fruition the God-honoring marriage my husband and I had envisioned at the start. After years of growing farther apart, our marriage seemed beyond repair. I almost gave up and planned to leave my husband.
With my strong will, God knew the only way to stop me in my tracks was to allow me to be too sick to carry out my plan. I began getting much sicker the summer of 2016, and my health kept taking deep dives. Though I was very sick in 2017, I was still determined to leave my loveless marriage if things didn’t turn around. I felt that my husband was a non-communicative zombie. I became too sick to work in 2018 halting my plans to abandon the sinking ship.
Our marriage grew more divided over the next couple of years as we suffered many attacks individually and as a couple, all intended by satan to sever our relationship. I prayed for our marriage and for my husband in very specific ways but never for our physical intimacy. I had never prioritized this part of our relationship and for years tried to have emotional and spiritual intimacy with my husband apart from physical intimacy. Our emotional and spiritual connection was weak and fell easily to attacks, disabling our work for Christ. I had tried to separate what God designed to work jointly.
God has blessed our marriage to grow stronger than ever over the past few months despite all satan’s efforts to isolate and weaken us. We have been married for twelve years and grew so distant from one another for eleven of those twelve years. God has not only answered my prayers for my husband and our marriage but also heaped blessing upon blessing upon our marriage that I didn’t ask for. He has healed and corrected so many wrong views and unhelpful tendencies in our relationship. He has used His recent blessings to teach us the importance of being united and intimate in every aspect to be truly woven together in love as one, strong enough to withstand all satan’s attempts to destroy us and our relationship which God ordained.
God’s precious words to Israel through the prophet Isaiah come to mind: “Hast thou not known: hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).
We utterly failed to love as we should in our marriage, but we never threw it away. We hoped against hope because we believed God’s promises to be perfect and unfailing regardless of what we saw in our circumstances. And now we are truly reaping the blessings of holding on and trusting God’s promises. So often we questioned and prayed for understanding not seeing how anything good could come from our broken union, and God heard our prayers, answering in His perfect timing. We may never fully understand why the promises were hindered for so long, but we know that God is perfect and trust Him fully with our lives and our marriage. There is no greater peace than knowing though we continue to be attacked, we are fortified with renewed strength by waiting upon the Lord.
God forms us as unique individuals to cooperatively work in His world. He gives us all a unique set of talents and skills to use for our good and that of others. He desires us to honor and glorify Him and give Him praise for our individual talents and skills. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). 2 Peter 4:10 reads, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” We are to serve one another and honor God with the gifts and talents He gives us.
God made us all unique and in His image. Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” He loves us enough to create us unique and in His image; we should love Him enough to honor Him for His creativity.
In Psalm 139, King David says, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well…How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them…Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (14,17,23-24).
God made us all to be incredibly interesting people with our unique packages of talents, personality quirks, and more. It’s up to us if we will seek Him and seek to honor Him with how He made us. Every day we have dozens of opportunities to promote ourselves or promote God who made us in His image to represent Him in this world.
God never stops loving a person and desiring a relationship with him or her, even when that person tries exhaustingly to live for himself or herself. Living for ourselves is overwhelming and exhausting because we were not designed to live for ourselves. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Living for God in God leads to shalom—complete fulfillment as a result of God’s presence. We cannot truly live for God apart from Him. The more we desire to know Him and honor Him, the more we welcome His shaping into our lives. The peace of God’s presence and the blessings and rewards He gives overshadow all discomfort involved with His shaping us for better use.
Seeking to honor God without seeking God Himself and inviting Him into every detail of our lives results in His crushing and reforming us. In Jeremiah 18: 6, God reminds the Israelites they are in His hands: “As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” Using our human perspective to plan our life never works out right. The bumps in the road are much harder when we choose the road instead of following God there. Seeking God and trusting Him with all the details gives us constant peace, even when trouble hits. Trying to figure out the best way to use what God gives us without inviting God’s direction in a very detailed manner leads to much more pain than pleasure in life.
Part of how God continues to shape us is by putting new desires into our hearts and new opportunities into our lives. James 1:17 states, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” We do not recognize these gifts if our attention is not on God. If we are consumed building our lives in our own time and strength, we do not have capacity left to acknowledge what God wants to do in us and for us. The unknown author of The Kneeling Christian says it this way, “A full hand cannot take Christ’s gifts.”
In Psalm 139:15, the King James Version of the Bible reads, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” The Hebrew word translated as “substance” here means “bones, frame, might, strength” according to Strong’s and NAS Exhaustive Concordances, collectively. The Hebrew word translated here as “curiously wrought” means to variegate color, according to Strong’s Concordance; and according to NAS Exhaustive Concordance the primitive root of this word is translated as “embroiderer, skillfully wrought, and weaver.” Whether you think of the man and woman as weavers or God as the Almighty Weaver who is using the man and woman to weave the unique person who will result from their union, God is undeniably involved in creating our frame and everything about us.
We are to give credit where credit is due, so others will know the loving kindness of God. As the prophet Isaiah prayed to God, he acknowledged, “O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8). We read in David’s Psalm of Praise, Psalm 145, “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works” (4-5).
God not only knew what our personality and life situation would be, but He designed them together for our good and His glory. It takes seeking God with our whole hearts while desiring and determining to live for Him in order for us to see this come to fruition. Though we may not fully understand in this life how all our intricacies work together for our good and His glory, we can rest assured that they do. Romans 8:28, one of my anchor verses when I cannot see the good in something, assures us that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
It’s awe-inspiring to know that the Master Potter created and placed together every cell of our being and is still shaping us to be more honorable vessels for Himself. To know that every detail from our beginning to our end is in the loving care of our Eternal Creator Father is assurance enough for us to focus more on Him and less on ourselves or any of our details in life.