I write about pain, loss, brokenness, healing, and restoration a lot on this blog. These describe much of how I've experienced adulthood, so naturally I write about them as I navigate life. Last week, though I struggled with physical ailments, I wrote a significant amount. I finished three short pieces in one week, a real victory for me. I prayed acknowledging my needs, thanked God for the blessing of progress, and praised Him publicly for who He is. If there’s a formula for success, I would say that is it.
However, this week I haven’t accomplished much at all. I have been battling SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) for the third time in the past few years, and all quick-bandage solutions to keep me going stopped working at all. I finally was forced to deal with (and suffer) how serious the infection had become this time. One entire week has gone by without my writing.
Physical ailments and aggravations are a real part of life for everyone. We all have unwanted time-out when we feel useless and unproductive. Humans have an innate desire to be productive and useful. We lose our vision for personal prosperity and success when we don’t feel that we matter or can make a difference.
This is one of satan’s greatest weapons for many including the chronically ill. When we aren’t able to be productive in a way that we are accustomed or comfortable, we are sometimes so overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and uselessness that we become depressed. We feel hopeless and defeated. That’s just how satan wants us—powerless. He wants us feeling so left out of life and productivity that we stay there pouting, doubting, and doing without, to borrow from my former pastor.
Good news! We don’t have to fall for this trap. We know that for one reason or another, we will all face downtime from an injury or ailment, chronic or not. Since we know this, we are armed with knowledge. God expects us to put our knowledge to work on our behalf against satan’s schemes. God requires us to fight in order to win; that’s why He gives us armor. He is always with us and equips us to fight, or resist, satan’s attacks on our hearts and minds. That is why we are told in Ephesians 6:10-13 to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God in order that we may “stand against the wiles of the devil…withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (emphasis added).
First, we are to have our loins girt about with the truth. The truth is that God loves each of us, created us out of His love, cares for our every individual and corporate need, and has a purpose and plan for our lives. Furthermore, we are to know the truth that God made no mistake in regard to His creation and didn’t create anyone to suffer defeat. Therefore, we are to never feel helpless, hopeless, or alone, because the truth is that we aren’t. Certainly we feel this way at times, but that is a direct attack of satan on our hearts and minds.
Secondly, we are to have on the breastplate of righteousness. This is God’s righteousness and our choice to follow, believe, and do what God approves. We see the direct relationship between choices and outcomes throughout the Bible. The choice to believe and honor God always leads to a positive result. The choice to go our own way and determine for ourselves what is good always leads to trouble.
Thirdly, we are to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The Greek word used here for preparation means firm footing, foundation, readiness. The gospel means the good news of the coming Messiah, or savior. Peace refers to God’s gift of wholeness, peace of mind, quietness, rest. We are to be firmly footed in the gospel of peace, so we aren’t shaken by what we experience in this life.
Above all, we are to take up the shield of faith, “wherewith [we] shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). “The Lord Himself is our shield (Ps 7:10, 13; Zech 12:8), providing protection by inbirthing His spoken-word (rhema) of faith in the believer,” according to Helps Word-studies. The comparison is made to the oblong Roman shield used by warriors for full body protection in battle. Faith in God protects the whole person in spiritual warfare.
Finally, we are to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Salvation gives us hope beyond not only our current circumstances but beyond this life. Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth thee.” Keeping our thoughts on God, His salvation, and the hope only He can give us protects our mind against thoughts contrary to the truth, thoughts that will inevitably cause us harm.
God’s Word is a most powerful weapon against satan. Satan will try to twist it as he did with Eve in the garden (Gen 3:1-5) and with Jesus in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11), but knowing it well is our most powerful defense. The word used for sword in this verse means “a short sword or dagger” according to Strong’s Concordance. A dagger is used for close combat. That means when the enemy is right there in your face attacking with everything He can, you are to use God’s Word as your defense. You must be very familiar with it to use it successfully. Think of King David as a young lad against Goliath. He would only approach Goliath with what he was accustomed. This is why he opted to use stones and a sling rather than a sword and armor which he had not proven (1 Samuel 17:34-42).
Additionally, we are instructed to “pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). To pray always means to keep our minds on God as already directed by the helmet of salvation but also to communicate with Him, to acknowledge Him as the all-knowing, all-powerful creator who is our help and hope. Supplication literally means to beg. God expects us to bring our needs to Him. He knows our every need, but it is important for us to acknowledge our dependence on Him.
Notice that we aren’t just to pray for our own needs. There’s a constant battle going on in which we are to pray for others. While we fight our own good fight in faith, we are to uplift others to God for their strength, focus, and determination as well.
We are instructed to have the mind of Christ and to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in [us] both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” We are told to “do all things without murmurings and disputing: that [we] may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:5, 12-15).
If we fall with every attack, what does that say not only about us, but about our God as well? We are to be “blameless and harmless” and “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.” It’s important for us to understand where our help comes from and how to fight and show others our source of strength for the battle because everyone will face attacks in various forms, but the armor for success on the battlefield remains the same.
As I face physical obstacles this week, satan tries to use them to attack my mind and heart. I know that he wants to halt what God has for me to do. Therefore, I will remain focused and know that hiccups and pauses are just that and nothing more unless I give satan power to use them against me. I refuse to allow satan to use them to deter my perseverance in the Lord.
I pray that you will choose to take action against satan’s attacks on you and others by taking up the armor God freely gives and enables us to use. Prove it as we learn is so important for effective use. Pray for others and earnestly petition God for your needs. He will never leave you to fight alone, and He always gives victory.
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer,” (Psalm 19:14).
We all get the same twenty-four hours, and it’s up to us how we spend it each day. I read and study God’s Word often, but what difference does it make? There’s a remarkable difference when I take more time for God versus social media or fruitless communication. However, if I leave out meditating upon God’s Word when it’s not in front of my eyes or pouring into my ears, I am a miserable, grumpy, and even foul, creature.
Recently while doing some neglected yard work, I realized that I was growling, grumbling and even cursing. The old-fashioned, bible-promoting grandmother in my conscience fussed and shamed me until I wanted to crawl in a gopher hole. Why on earth was my attitude and communication so foul? Maybe no one heard me, but maybe they did. What if a neighbor heard me growling and cursing? Besides thinking I’m insane, they wouldn’t judge me to be close to God. The privilege and responsibility of being close to God is to represent Him well to the watching, and listening, world.
The words of Psalm 19:14 cut my heart like a knife. That verse ends with acknowledging God as redeemer. My redeemer. That’s right. Let me not forget that Christ has redeemed me unto good works. He redeemed and purified me. I patiently remind myself that the purification part is lifelong, and I won’t have it down pat, not today, not tomorrow, but I am to work diligently at it at all times lest I bring dishonor to the One who saved me and is patient enough to continue sanctifying me for His purpose—to bring others to Him, to know His truth and love for all mankind.
When God commissioned Joshua to lead Israel after the death of Moses, He instructed Joshua to not let His Word depart from him, to “meditate therein day and night” to “observe to do according to all that is written therein.” For only then would Joshua be “prosperous” and “have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
Deuteronomy 6:5-8 shows God’s command to Israelites to “love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
This command applies to all who desire to be God’s children. We are to read and study His Word daily, and also meditate upon it constantly to where it affects our attitudes, thoughts, desires, actions, and speech.
A consistent pattern in God’s Word is a command followed by a promise, instructions for our part followed by explanation of God’s reward for us doing our part. Reading farther in Deuteronomy 6, we see that God tells of the wonderful land He will bring the Israelites to as a result of their doing their part. He highlights some major blessings in that land and reminds the children that it is a land of blessings not built by their own hands but by the hands of the wicked who God will force out of the land as a result of their wickedness in living apart from Him. God reinforces to the children the importance of fearing, honoring, and serving Him and not going after other gods “lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth,” (Deuteronomy 6:13-15).
Today we have all kinds of apps on the devices almost grown into our hands that we have no excuse for not reading and studying God’s Word. No time to read? No problem. Download or stream a podcast, audio devotional, or audio Bible. There are many free, accessible options in our land of plenty. Get a pair of earbuds as cheap as one buck, and you’re set to listen to God’s Word anywhere you go without disturbing others.
The busyness of our world makes us believe that we don’t have time to read and study God’s Word, much less to meditate upon it. Think of the busyness as a weapon satan uses against you to keep you from the only true source of power, peace, joy, wisdom, and strength—God. Even if you are in a public line, driving, mowing grass, or racing down grocery aisles, train yourself to have God’s Word on your heart at all times. You might not want to listen to scripture as you speed shop after work, but you can quickly glance at a verse before getting out of your car to remind you to be patient with others so you don’t experience shopper’s rage when you are in a game of grocery buggy bumper cars in the crowded supermarket.
I encourage you to pick up God’s Word, whether it’s an old fashioned hard copy or on your smart phone, and apply its power in your life today. I challenge you to download one app to support your relationship with God. I love The Holy Bible App by You Version, a ministry of Life Church. This app is so extensive that it’s hard to believe it is FREE and ad free! Through this app I have several translations of the bible downloaded on my phone. You also can choose from thousands of bible studies and devotionals to do alone or with a friend over your phone. You can save scripture images and even store notes for sections of your bible. You can even opt to listen to it as an audio Bible. It’s really incredible. Our Daily Bread is another great app for quick daily devotional reads. The #Bible App is an excellent resource to quickly flip through highlighted verses and biblical excerpts they update each day. In the way of podcasts, I have been blessed by the brief, encouraging Lunchtime Word on Latoya Washington’s Broken Vessels podcasts. There are many more apps and podcasts out there that can aid to strengthen your walk with Christ. Desiring a closer walk is essential; where there’s a will there’s a way. ;-)
“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:27-34)
I put off writing many years because I was busy with my own agenda: working, providing, trying to be a good example while making a difference in the lives of others. Besides a wife and mom, I was a teacher who felt such a burden to be the noble example of a productive life committed to God. I felt it was my duty to be the example of what God wants us to be.
Woe unto me so high and mighty on my pedestal! I thought of myself as humble and hard-working, yet I opted for common sense over God’s leading in my life. I allowed others’ thoughts and advice to sway my decisions when the direction God led me was the opposite of human sense and security.
I knew my health was bad and getting worse, but so far I had succeeded by living in spite of my conditions, ignoring the problems as much as possible and attending them only as much as needed to make them less noticeable in daily life. This strategy got me by for many years, and even after it no longer worked, I stubbornly tried to keep it going. Often that’s what we do: bandage ourselves to get back on the track as quickly as possible.
While perseverance is a virtue, often stubborn, self-centered pride is disguised as the same. Sometimes jumping back on the track or fighting to stay on is not what God wants us to do. Wisdom is knowing when to fight to stay on and when to acquiesce, or better yet, willingly embrace, what God wants you to do otherwise.
The important thing is to love God with our whole hearts, seek Him with all we are, and honor Him with what He has given us. Let God dictate your seasons of life and guide you as to what track He wants you on. Being on the right track at the time God appoints is what makes the difference in our own lives, the lives of others, and glorifies God.
Sometimes, we get tired of the track we are on and hop off due to our own desires, not led by God. Other times, we fight so hard to stay on the wrong track because we feel a sense of pride, significance, and even ownership.
God gives us all varying talents and gifts with which we are to honor Him and bless others. Sometimes, God wants us on one track for a while then wants us to let go, get off, and move to a different one. Folks who make major career changes move from one track to another.
I don’t want to test God’s patience like the children of Israel who followed God’s instructions to leave Egypt with the first Passover only to wander in the wilderness for forty years, refusing to take possession of the land God gave them and lamenting leaving their positions as slaves in Egypt (Exodus 11-19, Numbers 13-14). However, I feel that is exactly what I have done for so long. God called me to a different track in my life, but the safety and purpose of my old track made sense to me. I am so thankful that God has not turned me over to my own pride and lack of faith as He did the Israelites who were destined to die in the wilderness for their lack of faith and obedience.
I don’t want to die in my sorrow like that unfaithful generation of Israelites. God allowed my physical illnesses to finally boot me off track completely when I continued to cling desperately at any hope to jump back on. And I have certainly related to Jeremiah’s lamentation for the children of Israel in Lamentations 3, but the pain and suffering are not the end.
God’s mercies are new each morning. I can never earn or deserve His love and compassion, but I can thank Him by living in faith moment to moment, not trying to plan my tomorrow and work out my purpose by my limited human understanding.
Being sidelined for a couple of years really humbles you. God put me in a long time out for my own good. My health needed attention as well as did my relationship with God. I went through depression very bitterly asking God why such physical torment was happening to me.
During a time of much healing, God continually reminded me that His track for me was to focus on my health and write for Him. I still argued because writing is such a challenge with my health conditions. I kept looking ahead to what I considered the bigger picture, knowing that my health won’t allow me to write as a full-time job. There’s nothing more humbling than becoming so sick that you become truly aware of and thankful for each breath and each movement and function of your body.
What I finally had to grasp was that God was not asking me to look ahead and figure out the big picture. He was telling me what to do as I could right now, and that was writing, physical therapy, and a healthy lifestyle.
I have always found my worth in serving others, so when my existence, even after a couple years of recuperation, was all about my life continuing and my health growing stronger, God really put me in my place to know that His grand purpose will be accomplished, with or without me; I am not so important that His work will stop while I am sidelined.
Now God is patiently teaching me how to put my feet on a different wheel, one that I still am tempted to resist out of selfish pride. However, after being sidelined for so long while God nourished my heart, soul, mind, and body, I quickly push away the temptation for me to accomplish my own objectives for God. I still battle pride daily, but I know that the end thereof is death, and the result of trusting and obeying God is fullness of life in which I won’t worry about tomorrow or what I will have for provision of life.
I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into the light.
Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day.
My flesh and my skin hath he made old; He hath broken my bones.
He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail.
He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old.
He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: He hath made my chain heavy.
Also when I cry and shout, He shutteth out my prayer.
He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, He hath made my paths crooked.
He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places.
He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: He hath made me desolate.
He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow.
He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins.
I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day.
He hath filled me with bitterness, He hath made me drunken with wormwood.
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, He hath covered me with ashes.
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High,
To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not.
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?
Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.
Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.
Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.
All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.
Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission.
Till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.
Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.
Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.
I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon.
Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.
Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.
O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life.
O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause.
Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me.
Thou hast heard their reproach, O Lord, and all their imaginations against me;
The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day.
Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I am their musick.
Render unto them a recompence, O Lord, according to the work of their hands.
Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them.
Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord.