A Vaccine for Anxiety

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I read an article in The New York Times that said although we – today, in this generation – are more wealthy, are more healthy, have a bigger sense of liberty and purpose than our parents and grandparents did in their generation, we are 20% more anxious and depressed.

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

Usually when anything increases 10% in any generation, it’s an epidemic. We are living in a double epidemic of depression and anxiety right now. 

This is The New York Times reporting this. They don’t lean to the right politically. They’re not really any friend of the church. They’re just doing their journalistic duty reporting that even though we are healthier than ever before and have all the advancements of the medical world available to us, and even though we are wealthier and have more opportunity and more means to make more money and even though we have a greater sense of liberty, meaning we can go anywhere, travel anywhere, set personal goals and bucket lists, with all of that – 

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

I’ve got a friend who is a pastor in the church. 8 years ago he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As time went on after his diagnosis, he became fatigued toward the people in his church coming up to him Sunday after Sunday saying that the cure to his anxiety was that he just needed to trust Jesus a bit more. 

He told me one day over coffee that he wanted to lovingly punch the people who kept saying that all he needed to stop any anxiety attacks was to pray more. 

If you don’t know anything about having an anxiety disorder than you don’t know. 

I read about a man who experienced an anxiety attack for the first time and when it hit him, he thought he was having heart attack because his blood pressure was at the level of a stroke. 

The doctor told him to go home and rest, and for the next 3 nights he had an anxiety attack and thought he was dying. He was flown from Kansas City to Los Angeles for better care and for the next 6 months, every single night, he thought he was dying due to experiencing this anxious paralysis. 

$50,000 later with all the medical tests available, he was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. 

And this guy is a Christian leader, an elder in a church. He gets told all the time by people at his church to suck it up, pray it out, trust Jesus and he wants to slug people in their well-meaning faces. 

I know a woman in the church who struggles with an anxiety disorder and I reached out to her via Facebook-messenging last week asking her about her anxiety disorder and she wrote back – 

“You can do everything right in your marriage and it can still fall apart. You can do your best in raising your kids in a loving way – or even in the way the Bible wants you to – and there’s still no guarantee that when they are older they still love Jesus – they could walk away from God. You can do everything right at work and still not succeed in the way you expect .Or still not get promoted. Or still not find purpose. Or even lose your job. You can do everything right as a friend and still get back-stabbed by them.”

And then she wrote this – 

“This world is volatile and if you haven’t admitted that, it’s time to admit it.” 

The New York Times article referenced earlier goes on to say that the Western world, specifically America, is disintegrating from other inside out. That, no matter how much you convince yourself on the outside of things that everything is okay, your soul inside knows something is off. No matter how many trips you take or things you buy or nights out with friends or shows you binge to ignore it – something is off inside.

I’ll put it like this: 

In all of life, in every aspect, there will be a backdrop of disappointment and dissatisfaction. 

[insert sarcasm] Thanks for choosing to read my blog today. I hope you are fully encouraged. Enjoy the rest of your week.

…………………………..

No matter how much wealth, how much health, how much liberty you have to succeed or how great you look or how awesome your family is, depression and anxiety will set in if you think any of those things can really save you. 

Have you heard the latest report on what the death rate is right now? I didn’t have to Google the answer. The death rate is 1 per person.

You are going to die.
I am going to die.
Every day is a gift from God.

And if I attach myself to something that is also disintegrating, like my marriage, my kids, my job, my money, my health,  then my soul knows that and I will disintegrate as well. 

C.S. Lewis put it this way, 

“Most people, if they really learned how to look into their own hearts would know that they want something that this world can never give them. These longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning will ever satisfy. 

There is always something that we have grasped at that first moment of longing that just fades away with reality. The thing we thought we were going to get in the new experience always evades us.” [C.S. Lewis]

Part of the reason people come to Jesus and give their life to Him is they hope He will give them the idols they worship. They hope Jesus will give them a spouse, give them a child, give them their break through, give them their health back, give them a house like everyone else. 

People pray to Jesus all the time saying He’s their Savior but what they’re praying for is really their savior. 

Anxiety is ultimately the fear of losing someone or something you think you can’t live without. 

Yes, if it happens, one day, it’ll hurt to lose a job, lose a dream, lose a loved one, lose your own health. But the only thing you can’t truly live without is Jesus.

When our day doesn’t go how we thought, or our year doesn’t go as hoped, or our life turns out in a worse way than we dreamed (when a flu virus becomes a global pandemic) we forget there’s a sovereign God.

And I’m not a doctor or a scientist but if you feel like you don’t have control of your life you probably don’t have control of your life. 

The only thing that lasts is God. Everything else fades away. 

Your soul knows when you attach yourself to something other than Jesus and that’s why we get more miserable and more unsatisfied. 

We are only as durable as what we have placed our trust in. 

Did you know that beautiful people (to the world, I think all people are beautiful) but beautiful people to culture are more prone to commit suicide because as they get older, they lose their looks and figure and since they’ve attached their identity to their physical appearance, once that is gone, what do they have to live for in their mind? 

The Bible communicates that your life and mine is all about us having an intimate relationship with God and once you say you will believe in Him and follow Him, He will not only forgive you and bring you in, He will spend the rest of your life destroying your lesser loves. 

He will frustrate the things in your life you love more than Him – the things you think you can’t live without. If God doesn’t destroy what is destructible, you will place your identity and faith in it and it will destroy you from the inside out. 

That’s why I beg every Sunday when I preach at the loving church I am a part of for those listening to place Jesus at the center of who they are. They need love Him more than self, more than health, more than money, more than marriage, more than children, more than dreams, because if they don’t, those areas are going to be frustrated until Jesus is their passion and you are going to be anxious. 

As long as you think life is all about you and how fake great you are, anxiety and depression will grow in you. 

If you want the good and satisfying life Jesus came to earth to die and rise for you to have, you have got to let go of whatever or whoever you’ve attached yourself to and hang onto Him. 

Let go and let God.

It’s when we say, God, this life is not about me. It’s about You. I’m taking each day as a gift from You, no matter what happens, You are large and in charge and I am Your child, Your servant, I will trust in You. 

How many Christians are praying a prayer like that verses how many are over-reacting with anxiety at what is taking place in their lives or in the media?

If you want to let go of anxiety, you have to attach yourself to something eternal. 

If you attach yourself to someone or something other than Jesus, that something or someone is fading away and you will fade away with it, but if you attach yourself to Jesus, the One who was, is and will always be, you will live and your anxiety will fade away. 

But it’s a daily decision and I was hoping to give you that daily reminder today. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Helping a Loved One Grieve Through Their Miscarriage

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A miscarriage can be defined as the ending of a pregnancy, spontaneously, within 20 weeks after conception.  

Miscarriage is a topic hardly ever discussed. 

The March of Dimes Foundation reports that 10-15% of pregnancies conclude in a miscarriage. If the woman carrying is over 35 years old, the rate of a miscarriage is 25%. 

Chances are, there are women you know well, women you work with, women you live by, who have miscarried and have kept that emotional weight internally because they just don’t know how to talk about it.

Experiencing a miscarriage is an event that brings a deep level of confusion and sadness. With bewilderment and grief, most people keep the loss a secret. It’s taboo to discuss with even the closest people we know. 

My wife had never been pregnant before in our 13+ years of marriage and it’s been her dream, our dream, for her to conceive and experience a full-term pregnancy. 

Unable to become naturally pregnant or try in vitro fertilization, we were thankful for scientific advances that enabled us to pursue embryonic adoption, having frozen embryos placed in the uterus. 

Fittingly so, my wife and I received medical affirmation that she was with child for the first time while we were on vacation at Disney World, the most magical place on earth.   

10 weeks after conception, she miscarried. 

To add salt to the wound, the miscarriage occurred on August 22nd, which is referred to by parents as “Rainbow Day”. Rainbow day is a national day to reflect on the babies born after there has been a miscarriage, a still birth or the death of a child. It’s a day of hope for parents to look back on and see that the miscarriage wasn’t the ending, but that life came afterwards later on. 

This miscarriage was a first for her, a first for me. The shock and the loss for words and the ongoing demands of life that propelled us to move on without being able to move on was all fresh and awkward. 

As a husband who was in pain, but not close to the pain my wife’s body, mind and heart was going through, I offer this wisdom and these practical ways to help anyone you love who is going through the same ordeal, to heal. 

Don’t analyze or counsel right away.

After my wife and I were married for five years, we found out we were infertile. Immediately after that news from the doctor, I began the paperwork toward infant-adoption as a way to start our family. 

I did not allow my wife to grieve the dream she had most of her life to become naturally pregnant. Yes, the option of adoption was a good one, but to shift over quickly to it without giving space to process the purging of her dream was not wise. 

There is something innate in us that wants to solve our loved ones problems. We think fixing is helping. But offering solutions too quickly after painful news does not allow the person to express their emotions, work through their grief in time, and even feel validated for their anguish. 

When a wife comes to a husband with her pain or guilt or fear over anything, the husband is just supposed to listen. Just listen, and not solve. The wife just wants to be heard, and husbands, or any friend with the woman, can work on that. 

Pamper her so she has space to grieve. 

When a miscarriage occurs, life does not stop to wait until the woman is ready to move on. Life moves on. Work, chores, a family’s schedule, worship, errands – they do not wait for anyone. 

A couple weeks after the miscarriage, I called a fancy hotel suite, booked a room, packed a bag for my wife and when she got home from work, sent her off to her hotel for an evening to herself. 

She relaxed in a jacuzzi in her room, ordered room service for dinner, with extra desserts and watched shows she never gets to watch due to the demands of our family.

And she cried and cried.
The time to herself allowed her to release tears. 

The next morning I scheduled a massage for her to help with how tense she had been. 

Pampering her did not heal everything in her heart, but it did give her space to stop, pause and grieve. 

Encourage her to share the miscarriage with a female friend. 

Writer Kendra Hurley for The New York Times reports that 40% of women who experience a miscarriage say that afterwards, for months, they felt very alone. 

There is a false sense of guilt that can rise up in a woman when she miscarries. All of us want to figure out why things happen the way they do, but miscarriages are so confusing and mostly unexplainable, and with the physical and emotional toll that comes with it, it can bring unnecessary, harmful shame. 

It is so difficult to have friendships that break through below the surface. Very few people have friendships they’re not related to where they can go to someone and share devastation. 

The way a friendship deepens is when one friend decides bravely to share their brokenness and the receiving friend listens, grieves with them, hugs them and checks in on them. 

Gently, just a couple times, I encouraged my wife to reach out to a friend she trusted to share the miscarriage news. She did, soon after, reach out to a close friend.

Talking about it made it real, which made it something to heal from, which deepened the friendship she already had. I am very thankful to that friend of ours who took time to simply being a friend. 

Schedule a photographer for family photos.

One of the damaging things pain can elicit is tunnel vision. Through devastating news we become so fixated on the trial that it’s all we look at, think about, dwell on. We become obsessed with it and it begins to own us.

While miscarriage pain should be acknowledged, it will only lead to more isolation and depressive moods if it’s only acknowledged. 

Meaning, there is so much to be thankful for. 

My wife and I have been infertile our entire relationship. But, through God’s hand of providence, and through the sacrificial generosity of two birth-mothers, we have two daughters we adopted from birth. We have an amazing family. Only the Lord could have knitted us all together in the way and timing He has. 

To remind my wife of that, we scheduled family photos outside on a beautiful day. We got our beautiful girls dressed up in multiple outfits and had our picture taken by a professional photographer over the course of a couple hours. 

Having those pictures printed and looked at, it brought smiles to our faces how adorably amazing our lives are. The miscarriage was a signifiant event, but it was not the only thing going on in our lives. 

If there are no children in the family where miscarriage occurs, family photos as a couple, or with a pet can also be therapeutic. 

If not a photos option, there are other creative ways to redirect the thoughts of someone who has lost a pregnancy to thoughts of gratitude. 

Pray for God to strengthen her increasingly.

A miscarriage is an event that never fully heals. It leaves a permanent scar. The high level of excitement that comes with news of being pregnant combined with the devastation of news that the pregnancy is no more is something that is unforgettable. 

But, she can be strengthened. By God. 

As Christians, people who love Jesus, my wife and I firmly believe that God works all things out  for our good. When we love God, we aren’t handed an easy life, but through suffering and heartache God promises good to come out of it. 

Our response is to wait and trust Him. 

When our daughters are afraid at night from something, or they’re in pain, my wife and I will sing this song to them while holding them closely: 

When I am afraid, I will trust in You,
I will trust in You,
I will trust in You.
When I am afraid I will trust in You,
And all my fears will wash away.  

Weeks after the miscarriage, I wrote in magic marker on our master bathroom mirror Psalm 56:3-4, which says, 

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

The healing power of God’s Spirit can begin to patch together the heart that’s been broken by a miscarriage and, simultaneously, infuse hope for dreams to remain alive and good to come out of what is broken. Pray for her. 

Thank for reading. You are loved (and, if there is love and trust in your relationships, reach out to a loved one to see if they’ve ever experienced a miscarriage and if they’d like to talk about it). 

Z

Raising Our Standard of Giving

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One of the highest ways you can love someone is to remove the obstacles in their path to following Jesus.

The highest way I can love you is to remove anything that stands between you and growing in Christ. If sin is in the way, I want to allow God to remove it by sharing truth. If worshipping a human like a child or a lover or a boss is in the way, I want to allow God to remove them in your heart by sharing Scripture. 

And if money is in the way of your spiritual growth, I desire strongly to show you from Scripture, that you will be free when you stop serving money and start serving God with your money. It’s not about using people to make money. It’s about using money to help people. 

Is money in the way between you and following Jesus more obediently?

I met with a newly married guy in the church for over a year. We met every other week when both schedules allowed it. We would catch up and go through the Bible. We met at Panera and were the only males in there every single time.

For the first 6 months, it was great learning Scripture together. The next couple of months we cranked it up a bit and not just held the other accountable to reading the Bible daily, but to also living out the Bible on a daily basis. 

I asked this question each time we got together, Is there sacrifice in your life? 

This is a good, needed, consistent question for the follower of Christ. To be Christ-like is to sacrifice, and if there’s no sacrifice in one’s life, then whatever area that comes to mind that isn’t being sacrificed, that area is still not like Jesus and it’s got to change. 

One time I asked him is, Is there sacrifice in your life – in terms of generosity and giving to God and others and the needy – is there sacrifice? 

After thinking about it and wondering if we were close enough to share some vulnerable things like money and giving, he said, No. Honestly, there’s not. God’s has blessed me and I’ve been putting $20 a month in the offering bag at church. but it’s no sacrifice. I spend more on golf balls than what I do to give back.

He then went home, talked to his wife about their casual, sporadic giving, and when we met again he said, Zach, for the sake of accountability, I want you to know I wrote a check that hurt. Since then he has been open about giving 10% of their income to their church as God continues to provide for them and since then they have chosen to support two sibling children in Haiti, and since then they have been more Christ-like than ever before.

He sent me a text a couple weeks ago that said, Zach, will you hold be accountable to consistent, sacrificial giving? Will you continue to ask me how our giving is going? And will you pray that God continues to provide as we continue to sacrifice? In a later text, he said, Will you pray I fully grasp the gift of sacrificial living? 

And I pray that for him. I pray that for my home. I pray it for you, that we understand the beauty and freedom and responsibility and gift of sacrificial living and giving.

Giving away your money is part of following Jesus. 

Chances are, there are some individuals and family units who give a good percentage of what God has given them, back to church or non-profits or those in need, but it’s not sacrificial. It doesn’t hurt. It’s easy. They barely think about it because it’s not a stretch. 

Maybe it’s time to evaluate and increase the amount and watch your faith grow.

Christian Smith wrote a book entitled, Passing the Plate in 2008. Up to today it’s the most comprehensive, eye-opening work that’s ever been done on Christians who give to the church. It’s a sociological work that set out to answer this question: Why are Christians in the U.S. so stingy? 

Smith shares a stat that says, More than 36% of American Christians give less than 2% of their income in each year.

That’s got me shaking my head.

Over 1/3 of the Christians in this country –people who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and that every word is true, who have made Jesus their Lord and Savior, Christians who agree that they will stand before God and give an account of how they used what He gave them – are giving less than 2% of all God has graciously given to them?  

A Christian’s focus should be on how to raise their standard of giving, not their standard of living. 

I know you can’t send Jesus an angry email, so please feel free to send me one if that really irks your tater. Jesus says this in His Sermon on the Mount:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).

Meaning: The only things you can keep forever are the things you have given away. 

Here are some practical steps you need to take if you call yourself a Christ-follower: 

If you are not tithing consistently, begin today.

To tithe means to give the first 10% of everything you make, to God.

You may be sponsoring needy children and supporting missionaries and non-profits, helping friends in need, good, but God gets the first 10%, and then if you want to be generous to others, it’s out of the 90% you have remaining after giving to God.

I’ll let God be stark about it:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions……Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need (Malachi 3:8, 10).

God says when we don’t give to Him first, we’re stealing from Him. But since this Malachi text says tithe, if we give God our first 10% – it’s a clear statement that we are showing God we truly worship Him. Simple sentence, huge life change. 

Maybe that forces you to have an honest conversation with your spouse or with your children or with God today, where you get out the budget and say, From this point forward, nothing will mean more to us, nothing will get more of our attention than giving back to God.

If you’re not tithing, begin today. Be sure you give to a church that has a godly leadership and is trustworthy.

If you are giving God 10%, move towards sacrificial generosity. 

Tithing is a great place to begin. For some of you, you need to begin at 3%, test drive it a few months, move it up to 7%, see if God still provides, and He will if you are wise. Once you get up to giving 10%, it’s not over. In the Old Testament, 10% was the minimum standard expected, you had to at least give 10% (most families in the Old Testament gave 20-25%). But in the New Testament, the word tithe isn’t mentioned, instead, giving in the early church is referred to as sacrificial generosity. 

The New Testament isn’t satisfied with just 10%. The New Testament is only  satisfied when our giving to God reflects the cross. When it hurts. When it’s generous. When it’s sacrificial. 

Mother Theresa said, We are to give until there is pain in the giving. 

For some, less than 10% hurts, or more than 10% hurts. 

Sacrifice is not measured by how much you give, but by how much you keep for yourself. 

In every area of my life I want to be sacrificial because in every area of my life I want to look like Jesus.

Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.

If Jesus is the most generous Person to ever live, then growth in Christ would mean we would need to be generous, right? 

If you’ve been tithing for a while and it’s been a bit routine, pray about increasing your generous lifestyle until there’s sacrifice. 

Richard Foster writes,  God’s ownership of everything changes the kind of question we ask in giving. Rather than, ‘How much of my money should I give to God?’ we learn to ask, ‘How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?

I have a friend who has been open about giving with me and he’s been tithing since his marriage began. When he lost his job and had to take a new job that was half his previous income, his wife and him have up’ed their giving 4 different times. 

I know a Christian family who gave away a very nice SUV to a single, needy college student who never got a break in her life. I know a family who wants to provide money out of their savings so an infertile couple they know can adopt a beautiful little Chinese girl across the world. 

If we see everything as God’s, that it’s all his, then we’ll freely give it away. It’s those who refuse, those who hoard, those who are stingy, they still see what they hold as theirs. But it’s God’s. 

I hope you have someone close enough to you where you can show them your tax-return or year end giving, what you gave and how you lived, ask them if they see the cross of Christ demonstrated through your spending, saving, and giving.

If you’re not tithing, get there.
If you’ve tithed for a while, move to sacrificial generosity.
One more applicable challenge:

Ask Jesus to expose and eliminate any idols in your life.

An idol is anything, if Jesus said, Give it all to me – leave your job, all your money, I want your children, I want your health – if Jesus asked for it all, whatever you’d be reluctant to give Him – that’s an idol.

C.S. Lewis wrote that, History is the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

Kyle Idleman writes in his book, Not a Fan, Followers are willing to deny themselves and say, ‘I choose Jesus. I choose Jesus over my family. I choose Jesus over money. I choose Jesus over my career. I am his completely. I choose Jesus over alcohol and partying. I choose Jesus over pornography. I choose Jesus over a remodeled house. I choose Jesus over my freedom. I choose Jesus over what people think about me. A follower makes a decision every day to deny himself and choose Jesus, even if it costs everything.”

If there is anything standing between you and Jesus (and it’s probably money) just give it to Jesus in a sacrificial, consistent, cheerful way. You’ll grow your standard of living by increasing your standard of giving.  

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

3 Things You Would Have More Of If You Believed In Easter

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Just before He is crucified, one of Jesus’ closest friends denies knowing Him at all. This close friend denies knowing Jesus hours after telling Jesus he would die for Jesus. He denies knowing Jesus to strangers. He denies knowing Jesus to children he doesn’t know. He curses and swears on his life he’s never met Jesus before.

This is after knowing Jesus for three and a half years. He traveled with Jesus. Ate with him every single day for 1,200 days. Learned from Jesus. Watched Jesus love.

Peter is his name.

After Jesus is killed, Peter is left with regret for betraying Jesus.

Peter reverts to what he was good at: He goes fishing.

All of us, when we feel like a failure, we revert to what we are decent at so we don’t feel so much like a failure.

Jesus rises from death. He finds Peter. He forgives Peter. Jesus tells Peter how much he is loved. He gives Peter grace. It changes Peter’s life. It gives him true identity. And it led Peter to write these words:

Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy. (1 Peter 2:10, NLT)

Jesus told Peter after the resurrection that Peter wasn’t his past. He wasn’t his failures. And Peter was never the same.

We should not look the same after Jesus’ recieving mercy as we did before it.

Peter uses the word mercy a lot. It’s because he should know what mercy is after denying Jesus three times and being reinstated by Christ.

I could write until I’m blue in the face and all my hair falls out who you are in Christ, but only the Spirit can get a hold of you through the mercy of Jesus. I’m just doing some reminding here.

If there is any regret in our lives, it’s because we choose to not embrace our identity in who God says we are.

A few snapshots of what you would experience if you just embrace who you really are to Jesus:

You would be more secure.

If we try to find our identity in our spouse, in what they think of us, what happens when the marriage fails? There goes our identity.

If our identity is in our job, what happens when we underperform or we’re not recognized, or we lose the job? There goes our identity.

If our identity is in friends, what happens when they backstab us or don’t fulfill us in the way we expect?

If our identity is in money, what happens when we’re still empty inside after spending it?

We are unstoppably secure when we place our identity in Christ. He loves us, even when we fail. He’s saved us. He wants us. And the world can’t touch it.

I want to say that if my kids ran away and my wife left me for someone else and the doctor said I have cancer and I was fired from my job and in my desperation, no one that said they loved me came to love me in my time of need, after all of that I would still be secure in Jesus.

Just think of the worst of the worst that could happen and know it will not change who you are to Jesus. He loves you so much, so let’s stop freaking out and getting angry over the slightest of things. We aren’t insecure people, we’re Christians secure in God’s love.

You would be more confident.

So many Christians comes to God in prayer, in need, and they’re like, Um, God…I mean, yeah, um, Jesus, hey, I’m really struggling, I guess. And I don’t know if this is okay, but I kind of need some help, and I’m not sure if You can do something, maybe, to, well, you know………

Where’s the confidence?

You are God’s son. You are His daughter. You are the apple of His eye. Stop talking to Him like He’s some dictator and you’re some peasant. He’s your Father. Go to Him confidently and tell Him what you need.

You would be more restful. 

How much of our frantic pace is directly related to the fact we ignore who we are in Christ?

We are running around with our heads cut off to prove things to others, to show others we’re there for them, to provide for family and to serve people non-stop. As a result, we are exhausted because we’re trying to make all of that happen on our own strength.

Your crazy schedule is traced back to your reluctance to embrace your true identity in Jesus.

The opposite of security, confidence and rest is emptiness. Insecurity has made me empty. Fear has left me empty. Busyness has left me empty. Jesus has never.

Unless you and I believe Jesus is alive today and that He loves us, we will be empty.

Unless we believe the tomb is empty, our lives will be, empty.

Thanks for reading. Happy Easter. You are loved.

Z

Changing Our Perspective in Hardship

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Many people right now are being asked by God to endure hardship. There are marriage problems, parenting issues, infertility heartaches, stress at work, addictions, loneliness, there’s financial problems, health issues –all around there is hardship.

Are you being asked by God to endure hardship right now? I hope this perspective helps:

Hardship isn’t punishment from God because He doesn’t love you. Hardship is discipline from God because He does love you. 

I’m going to bypass the endless amount of parenting analogies that apply here.

At times, when my faith is weak, I choose to primarily focus on the hardship and how things are really tough and I cry out to God, I thought You were a good and loving God?! Why are you allowing this to happen to me?!? Check out these verses:

Don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. (Hebrews 12:5-7)

God says, You have hardship BECAUSE I’m a good God. It’s discipline for you to become more like My Son Jesus, if you can endure humbly through it. This is an opportunity to grow your witness and add to your testimony. Rely on Me. There is purpose here. 

The goodness of God is that He will use the sin/pain/trials of life to bring eventual, permanent good. Another reminder verse:

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God. (Romans 8:28)

With the trial we are asked by God to embrace and grow in, instead of thanking God, instead of trusting God, we ask, Why God? Why them? Why me? Why now? 

Let’s not forget that Jesus never used the word Christian. Jesus used the words follower and disciple.

Follower. Disciple.

In your hardship, will you still follow God? Or you could drop out.

The word disciple comes from the Latin root word discipline, meaning you can’t be a disciple without going through some discipline.

In your hardship, recognizing it’s not God punishing you, it’s God discipline, it’s God bringing love and purpose, will you still be His follower? Or you could drop out.

I am grateful God has allowed hardship and discipline to occur in my life. After hardship and discipline, I am more honest. I’m more hard-working. I’m more grateful. Because I hung onto God and saw His discipline as an act of love toward me.

We don’t automatically enter into this world with wisdom and theology and holiness. We grow up in this world with lots of folly and mess and sin. We choose to go toward death because we fall in love with rebellion. And because of grace and love and kindness, God is a Father who adopts us, makes us His, cleanses and frees us from our past, so that we can move toward true life and peace. After trusting and accepting Him, He will (not, He might. He will), in His perfect timing, allow trials in order to lovingly discipline us, hoping we hold onto Him and if so, become more like Him.

If you sit by an unbeliever at work, and you’re a believer, and both of you get fired, for YOU, it’s God disciplining you to trust Him more. I don’t know what it is for the unbeliever.

If a non-Christian gets cancer and you do as well, for YOU, it’s an opportunity to follow God more closely and not let go of Him. It will hone your character.

When hardship comes, we are asking the wrong question. When difficulty comes in our life, we’re asking, How can I change this? – whatever this is – a better marriage, better health, I want kids, I want to be married, I want more obedient kids, I want to pay the bills, I want to leave my addictions……….

We’re asking the wrong question if we’re primarily concerned with, How can I change this difficulty?

What I see from Hebrews chapter 12, is that we shouldn’t ask during our difficulties, How can I change this?

In every trial, we should be asking, How can this difficulty change me?

No matter how severe, how long, how devastating, how fatiguing the hardship is, for a healthy and biblical perspective, ask God, Lord, what discipline are you allowing me to have so this changes me for the better? 

Maybe it’s not about you fixing your difficulties as much as it is about your difficulties fixing you.

If we can have the faith in God to stop complaining about our hardships and start being thankful for them, then we can have joy. We can praise Him no matter what. We can rejoice. We can sing. We can declare that we are His followers and we will follow toward Him through anything this world throws at us. We will never let go of Jesus. If Jesus left heaven and resisted temptation for 33 years and died the death you deserved, and if there are faithful Christians on the other side of the world being murdered for their faith, then how can you, even as exhausted as you may be, whine about your current hardship?

It’s an honor to suffer. Do you not trust what God is doing by allowing the pain to occur in your life? If we trust God is our afterlife, then we can trust Him with this temporary trial in this life. Do not drop out. Seek His will in the trial. He’s allowing it to happen for a reason. To change you.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. – C.S. Lewis

Thanks for reading. You are loved.

Z