Tidbits and Blessings Blog
by Jeanie Malone
I’d love for you to join the conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments section under each entry.
Do you have a personal mission statement and coordinating goals and objectives? Companies, organizations, and many churches have carefully written out their mission statements, goals, and objectives at one time or another. Many don’t update these as necessary to meet changing dynamics. There is a power in having and maintaining these as a corporate organization, family, and individuals. That’s right; we should prayerfully consider our mission, goals, and objectives as individuals, couples, and families and carefully put them to words.
Often as Christians we understand that we are to represent Christ to a hurting world, but we don’t examine and resolve to follow specifics beyond that vague call. According to Barna Research, sharing faith is increasingly optional to Christians and almost half of practicing Christian Millennials say evangelism is wrong.
Jesus taught that a house without a firm foundation will surely fall (Matthew 7:24-27). If we don’t prayerfully choose and embrace our purpose, we are much more likely to be swayed by the lies that seek to overtake our thoughts and attitudes.
As an English teacher, I became accustomed to developing a yearly mission, monthly goals, and daily objectives for my students’ learning.
The mission was the long-term, overarching purpose, the change they should come away with at the end of the year.
The monthly goals derived from the long-term mission, or purpose, for their being in the class and broke down the mission into what I intended for them to achieve.
The daily objectives were actionable steps we would take to achieve the larger goals.
The mission is one, overarching statement regarding your purpose. You’ll have several goals and even more objectives as they outline the singular steps to accomplish your goals as you live your mission.
As a Christian, my mission affects how I live every aspect of life—professional and personal, so I will have several goals that represent different aspects of my life and are all connected back to my overarching, life-shaping mission to serve others in Christ’s love to connect them to God. I will have goals as a writer, a wife, a mother, etcetera.
How this looks for a Christian might be something like this:
My Mission: To serve others in Christ’s love to connect them to God.
Writing Goal: To write and share engaging content that will initiate or deepen others’ relationship with Jesus Christ.
Physically Healthy Marriage Objectives:
Pray: Dear Heavenly Father, I want to live according to Your will. I know Your plans are best. Help me to understand my purpose and design goals to accomplish what You have for me to do. I seek Your divine wisdom in setting my daily objectives to achieve the goals that will lead others to You. I give You all the honor and glory for all You ordain for me to accomplish. In Jesus Christ’s name, the only name with all the power of heaven, amen.
God reminded the Jews held captive in Babylon, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
God gave the captive Jews some specific things to do while waiting for their expected end:
God allowed the Jews to suffer the consequences of their choice to live apart from Him. Their selfishness and pride caused them to either be driven from their homeland or to suffer famine in their once thriving, now land of hunger. Regardless of the individual situations, there was always a corporate hope for God’s chosen people. The Jews who suffered as a result of their sin could not revoke God’s promises for blessing or punishment. God was still with them, guiding them. It was their choice whether or not to abide in and obey God or further disregard Him and His commands.
Likewise, it is our choice to embrace or reject God’s guidance. Either way, we will live with the direct and indirect results of our choices. Our disobedience never erases God’s promises but keeps us from them, and oppositely, our obedience opens the door for us to experience God’s blessings as fully as He designed.
Some things to understand about the Babylonian Exile:
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.
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.