When There Seems No Way

Have you felt stuck? I don’t mean stuck on a crossword problem. I’m talking at your wit’s end (overwhelmed and not sure how to proceed) because you’re…

Stuck in a rut, wheels spinning. 

Stuck in a tunnel, no end in sight.

Stuck in a wilderness, longing for green pastures.

Stuck in a spiritual dry spell, waiting for God to drench your spirit. 

Stuck with the consequences of poor decisions. 

I’ve been bogged down with all the above at some point. But lately, I’m stuck for words!

Perhaps you’ve been there. Searching for words to encourage someone who’s stuck in a barren land.

Words seem inadequate. So there are no words.

What can I say to the sister-in-law who mourns the death of her parents? The friend who lives with chronic pain. The dad hospitalized with COVID. Grown children crippled by anxiety. The young man looking for a job. The mom about to give birth after losing a premature child last year. Not one, but two recent widows, who ache for their husbands. Need I go on?

Sometimes I don’t know how to pray for these dear people. That’s when I rely on “the Spirit to intercede for me with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8: 26). 

Shutting my mouth and listening to someone who’s hurting often speaks louder than words. Besides, how can I share a timely word that lifts someone’s spirit without sounding trite? Fear of saying (or writing) the wrong thing kept me stuck for words until God’s Word reminded me.

When there are no words—there’s God.

God is TRUTH!

God’s Word is TRUTH!

Must we walk in someone’s shoes before we share the balm of truth? Scripture reveals God’s character by His actions. “Fear not. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

Not if, but when we go through difficult times—God is with us. Why would we not want to share God’s goodness and mercy with someone whose hurting?

God makes a way when there seems no way.

Doubts, anger, grief, loneliness, pain, fear will try to convince us we’re stuck. There’s no way out of this situation . . . this heartache. But our feelings can’t eliminate facts. 

“Behold, I’m about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

When the way seems impossible, God makes a way . . . even in this.

Photos by Jennifer Wrede

What If You Thought?

In the movie, Casablanca, Vichy France’s prefect of police (Captain Renault) tells his men to “round up the usual suspects” when a Nazi officer is shot. That famous line is something I tell myself:

“Karen, whenever your thoughts go wild, round up the usual suspects.”

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For a long time, I thought my usual suspects were fear and worry because those negative emotions robbed my joy, woke me up at night, and prevented me from stepping out of my comfort zone. Then I realized my thoughts were the culprit, instigating all kinds of wild imaginings especially over my kids’ safety.

What if my toddler chokes on a hotdog? What if a stranger steals my kid? What if my teenage child gets injured in a car accident? What if my husband and I die, who’ll raise our kids?

My children grew up, but the wild imaginings continued. I felt more vulnerable with age, and realized how little control (if any) I had over the well being of others. I’d also witnessed enough tragedy in the news and among friends to justify my what ifs.

I told myself worry and fear couldn’t prevent bad things from happening. I told myself worry and fear were a waste of mental energy if these trial weren’t going to happen. I told myself fear is not from the Lord. But all that self talk didn’t help because I’d failed to recognize the source of my worry and fear.

Finally, someone listened to my wild imaginings and said, “You need to capture your thoughts so you’ll experience God’s peace.”

Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?

I understood the impact thoughts have on our moods, words, and actions. I’d often told my children, “Think happy thoughts.” I’d quote Philippians 4:8. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

So what was I thinking?

If I was going to capture my thoughts, I had to recognize my malicious thoughts so I could round them up at the first sign of goosebumps or dread. When a fearful moment arrived, I envisioned minuscule soldiers stationed in my mind—arresting that terrifying thought before it got out of hand. No visitation allowed. I refused to let my mind entertain that thought.

 

police-306317_1280But the nagging thoughts hollered:
What if your negative thoughts are valid?
What if your worst nightmares come true?

That’s when I mustered my second defense. It wasn’t enough to capture my thoughts, I had to renew my mind by reading God’s Word. Then, I challenged myself. “You like to dwell on what ifs. Think about this:

What if you controlled your thoughts instead of allowing your thoughts to control you?
What if you believed God is able to do more than you can imagine instead of focusing on your wild imaginings?
What if you believed God’s promises to provide, comfort, and guide you instead of wondering how you’ll cope?
What if you trusted God’s sovereignty instead of worrying about the future?
What if you believed God’s grace is sufficient even in your worst nightmare?
What if you believed that nothing—no sin or failure—can separate you from God’s love?
What if you believed to be absent from the flesh is to be present with the Lord?
What if you gave thanks in everything for this is God’s will for you?

Would these thoughts, these mind-blowing truths, alleviate your worries and fears? Would they free you to live? If so, round up the usual suspects–even in this moment!

 

Images: Pixabay.com

 

 

Self-Condemnation not Allowed

You’re a horrible person. When will you ever learn? How can God love you?

Those are some of the nagging, ugly voices in someone’s head who wrestles with Self-Condemnation. They’re stuck. Unable to let go of their mistakes and sin. Or they view themselves as an ongoing failure.

I’ve been there, and I wonder. Did Eve live in condemnation because she listened to Satan instead of God, and ate the forbidden fruit?

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  • Did Eve justify her sin and continue to blame Satan?
  • Feel bitter towards Adam who blamed her when God confronted him?
  • Beat herself up whenever she thought of that fruit which was pleasing to the eye, but didn’t live up to Satan’s promise?

Or did Eve recognize God’s grace and praise His name? Aware that God could have struck her dead and taken another rib from Adam to create another, more perfect woman.

Instead, the Lord loved Eve and sought her while she was hiding in the garden. He listened to her explanation. Then—despite Eve’s guilt—God sacrificed an animal to provide skins to clothe her. And He promised that one day, her seed would bruise the head of Satan.

Did she receive God’s forgiveness…and forgive herself…even though she bore the harsh consequences of her actions?

I regret words and actions that happened decades ago. But there’s no place for loathing myself or living in self-condemnation. It’s also not good to overlook our wrong behavior with a flippant attitude that “nobody’s perfect.”

Even so, the enemy loves to wag his finger and lying tongue at us.

You’re a failure. Nobody loves you.
How many times will God forgive you?
You’ll never reach your goals.
You’re a horrible excuse for a wife and mom.

The only way to stop the lies—and condemnation—is to take our every thought captive. Then squash negative thoughts and emotions with God’s Word as we rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to transform us.

Barb Ravling’s book, Renewing of the Mind Project, helped me. It’s filled with introspective questions to reveal what we think and believe about God, ourselves, and our circumstances. She also provides tips and ample scripture—God’s Truth—so we can gain victory over our negative emotions and debilitating habits.

  • “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”(Romans 8:1)
  • “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:35)
  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)

Condemnation is an insufferable place to live. So is bitterness, anger, worry, stress, and emotional eating. Barb Raveling says, “If we want to be victorious over our habits and emotions, we need to take time to renew our mind.”

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After all, self-condemnation is “condemning someone God loves very much…even in this moment…YOU!”

 

Do You Talk to Yourself?

I’ve been absent for a month—meandering in the wilderness.

I won’t ask if you missed me but, if you haven’t noticed, my last three blogs were guest posts. I value what each of them had to say, but I also shared their words because I had nothing to say.

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Spiritually depressed, without apparent reason, I wondered if I’d ever blog again.

Have you been soul empty? Lost the joy of the Lord?

Earlier this summer, I warned readers of Taking a Vacation from God which can lead to spiritual apathy. That wasn’t my case.

Spiritual blindness sprang up overnight. Blinded to the cause, I begged for a lifeline out of the miry pit.

Read my Bible, but His Word didn’t register.
Prayed, but my words fell flat.
Went to church, but the manna only nourished me for an hour.

I couldn’t blame my current circumstances for life was sweet. Or a lack of spiritual meat because I’d been studying God’s names; in awe of His love for me.

So I waited for the cloud to pass. My only hope in Him.

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Then Pastor Joe referred me to the book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

The author said the cause of spiritual depression can be someone’s temperament, physical ailment, or unbelief. But another cause can be a reaction after a great blessing or exceptional experience such as Elijah in 1 Kings.

Made sense. After weeks of preparing a talk, He Knows My Name, my spiritual high came crashing. Is that how astronauts feel when they return from celestial heights to Earth?

What’s the cure? According to Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Psalm 42 is the antidote.

The Psalmist, King David, is depressed by his circumstances, but instead of commiserating, he talks to himself.

“We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to talk to us.”

Lloyd-Martin explains. “Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. They start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.”

Do you listen to the voices in your head? Is the main voice talking your Self?

We need to learn how to handle ourselves.

“You have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’—what business have you to be be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’—instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way.

Remind yourself of God. Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.”

Ending on this note: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.

Is this cure sure?

Well, I wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t found the joy of the Lord even in this…..

 

Wilderness  photo: www.JennyWredePhotography.com

Depressed woman: Pixabay

 

 

 

How Do You Handle A New Normal?

My friend could walk and feed herself a year ago.

She could hug her husband, hold her grandchildren, use her mobile phone, drive a car. Pull the bedspread over her shoulders when she was cold at night.

Now Vicki’s life is a new kind of normal.

Physical therapy, medical appointments, caregivers, pain pills, temporarily living with her husband in their married daughter’s home, learning to walk by faith and not by sight.

Doctors predict improvement, but rehabilitation is a slow process. There are never guarantees in life, but there is gratitude. And Vicki is the first to praise God’s mercies and provision in this new normal.

My friend, Terrie, and I visited our mutual friend. A married couple also came. We gathered around the dining room table to eat pancakes, talk, laugh, listen, pray. Tried not to cry.

But it was no small matter—and I doubt it went unnoticed—that a stranger sat among us. The caregiver tried to be inconspicuous as she fed Vicki, waited for her to chew, and swallow. Wiped her mouth and held a glass of orange juice to her lips.

Before we left, Terrie offered to massage Vicki’s feet with lotion.

Vicki smiled. “That’d be great. Thank you.”

Terrie sat on the floor in front of the wheelchair. She removed Vicki’s tennis shoe and compression sock. We mentioned the blue polish on her toenails. My eyes watered (thus the blurry photo) as I watched my friend gently massage and caress Vicki’s feet and the calves of her weak legs.

I thought of the woman in the Bible—who’d been forgiven much—washing Jesus’ feet with her tears; drying them with her long hair.

Did my two friends view this foot massage as a humble, sacred moment?

I snapped a photo to remember how quickly life can change. A visual reminder that no act of kindness is too small if we want others to know that we care.

I wondered how Vicki felt, confined in a wheelchair, allowing people to feed her and massage her feet. Did she swallow her pride? Mentally beat her breast, ‘Why me, Lord?’ Or did she feel loved and cherished?

I can’t speak for Vicki—and wouldn’t share her thoughts if I knew—but I can say this.

From the time we met, this soft-spoken woman’s been a prayer warrior. I’ve seen her rely on the Lord Jesus to sustain her in previous trials, and her stalwart faith hasn’t changed.

Vicki told us that her grandson called her “a Bible-reading Grandma.” She can’t hold her Bible now, but God’s Word upholds her.

For years ago, Vicki chose to immerse herself in scripture. She learned to trust in a sovereign God long before this storm blew into her life. And by God’s grace, she will not be moved even in this.