A Mother’s Struggles

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Did you hit it out of the park this year with a nice Mother’s Day card or a thoughtful gift? Did you go to the next level by taking your mom out to lunch or somewhere else that she enjoys? Did you celebrate all the wonderful women in your life and remember those who’ve passed away?

Some moms struggle on Mother’s Day. Not because they have not been celebrated, but because they struggle with disappointment, regret, and worry. Genesis 18 tells us the story of a mom who struggled because her Mother’s Day had not come yet.

God called Abraham and Sarah into a new land, blessed them, and promised to give them a big family. At that point, they didn’t have any children yet, but Abraham and Sarah trusted God and His timing. As the years wore on, the couple grew more desperate and then finally gave up hope.  At the ages of 99 and 89 respectively,  they were clearly past the age of bearing children

But one day, Abraham and Sarah received three visitors. The visitors exposed the struggles that Sarah was having while waiting for God’s promises to come to pass in her life. The visit also proves that God cares about the secret struggles of motherhood

Sarah struggled in three ways in this story. At first, you might think she struggled with eavesdropping, but that’s not true. Abraham and Sarah were extraordinary hosts. Abraham prepared the curds and milk along with a choice calf for their guests while Sarah made fresh bread. Caring for others can be exhausting. Sarah’s first struggle with probably with fatigue. Are there any mothers out there who can relate?

Sarah also struggled with her faith. She endured a lot of heartache waiting for God’s promises. At this point, it was biologically impossible for her to have a child (v. 11). When she heard the mysterious visitor repeat God’s promise, she chuckled to herself in doubt. She couldn’t see how God’s promise could possibly come true in her circumstance.

Sarah’s third struggle in this story is with fear.  The mysterious visitor had supernatural knowledge. He knew that Sarah would have a baby within the year. He also knew that Sarah has laughed to herself inside the tent. When the mysterious visitor called her out she denied it because she was afraid.

God showed His care for struggling moms in three ways. First, God came near. The three guests turned out to be much more than ordinary. The spokesman for the trio was even referred to as “the Lord.” Bible students consider this to be one of several pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ. Before God took in human flesh in the New Testament, He came to earth to show His care.

The second way that God showed His care was by listening. The Lord overheard Sarah’s comments and concerns even though she kept them to herself. He didn’t judge or condemn her, He just brought them to the surface.

Thirdly, God restated His promises. God shared His promises for Abraham and Sarah several times throughout their years. After exposing Sarah’s concerns, the Lord restated His promise of a child for Abraham and Sarah with added emphasis: Is anything too difficult for the Lord?

Motherhood was God’s idea and His interactions with Abraham and Sarah proves that He cares about the secret struggles of motherhood. God’s visit in the Old Testament also sets the stage for how He would visit in the New Testament. In the Gospels, we learn that God came near to you and me in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s ears are still open to all of those who call out to Him in prayer. And God graciously restates His promises for us over and over again in the Scriptures.

God cares for moms wherever they are – in a tent in the Middle East or in a house in the Midwest.  He gave the greatest Mother’s Day presents of all when He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior. That allows us all to rest in the words of 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (NIV).”

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What to Do When You Hit the Lowest Point in Your Life

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You and I can be brought low by many things in life. We can be humbled by our own actions or hurt by the actions of others. We can be broken by what seems like a random series of events, but nothing in life is random. C.S. Lewis once said, “God allows us to experience the low points in life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.

Jeremiah the Prophet spent his entire life and ministry moving from one low point to another. He proclaimed God’s Word in Judah for 40 years and no one ever listened to him. He was repeatedly rejected and plotted against. At one point, Jeremiah was even thrown in He was thrown into a muddy pit and left to die. No wonder Jeremiah is known as “The Weeping Prophet” (Jeremiah 9:1).

You may be able to identify with Jeremiah’s experience in the muddy pit. You feel like you are the lowest point in your life. You are confused, lonely, and afraid.

There’s hope! Jeremiah made it out his pit and you can too. If you read about Jeremiah’s life before and after the muddy pit, you can discover three ways of escape.

Jeremiah was thrown into a dried out well because he was encouraging the Jews to surrender to the Babylonians who had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 38). Some of the city officials were disturbed by Jeremiah’s messages and complained about him to the king. King Zedekiah was a weak leader and allowed the city officials to do whatever they wanted to Jeremiah. The officials were afraid to kill a prophet directly, so they lowered him into an unusable well and left him to die. When Ebed-Melech, another city official, heard about what happened to Jeremiah, he went to the king and pleaded for the prophet’s life. Ebed-Melech made a harness of worn-out rags and rescued Jeremiah from the well with the help of 30 other men. Jeremiah continued to deliver God’s Word even after he made it out of the lowest point in his life.

Jeremiah’s experience in the muddy pit reveals three ways of escaping your own low points in life. One way is obvious from the story itself and two more are implied from Jeremiah’s life.

1. Accept help from your friends.

If can feel pretty lonely struggling through a low point in your life, even if it’s not your fault. Even though you feel alone, you are probably not the only person who has ever dealt with your particular problem. Even if you are, you have people around you who care about you and want to help.

In my experience, those who really need help tend to resist it because of pride or privacy. Some people know how to give help others but don’t know how to receive it. Ecclesiastes  4:9-10 is helpful here: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (NASB).

2. Remember your calling (Jeremiah 1:1-19)

The first chapter of Jeremiah records his calling from God. Jeremiah was marked out at an early age for what seemed like an impossible ministry. Jeremiah was used by God to call the nation of Israel to repentance. Even though the Jews never responded, God never left Jeremiah’s side.

No matter who you are, God has a calling on your life too. First and foremost, you have been called to salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9, 4:1). If you are a follower of Jesus, you have also been called to spiritual growth and Christian service (1 Peter. 1:15). You may also be called to ministry leadership or specific ministry assignment (Luke 5:1-11). Jeff Iorg’s book, Is God Calling Me, is a great resource for assessing your calling. Jeff Iorg’s book, Is God Calling Me? is a great resource for assessing your calling.

3. Trust God’s plan (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

Later, God gave Jeremiah a message for the Jews who experienced their own low points while in exile in Babylon. Jeremiah told them to make the most of their lives because God is still in control. He encouraged them to rest easy knowing God still had a plan for their future. The prophet also urged them to anticipate a time when you would have a personal relationship with God.

God has a plan for your life just like He had a plan for Jeremiah and the Children of Israel. Your challenges and struggles may be unique to you, but they aren’t a surprise to God. Trusting God and his plan is one of the surest ways of escaping the low points of life.

Like Jeremiah, you or someone you know may be stuck in a muddy pit. Not only has God provided a way of escape, but He also wants to use the experience to teach you some lessons that you cannot learn on solid ground.

 

Five Tips for Making a Hospital Visit

pastor-hospital-visitChristian leaders minister to others in crisis situations. One of the most common crises is going to the hospital for surgery. Here are five suggestions to help you be a better hospital visitor.

  1. Be kind and courteous.  Remember, you are there to encourage the patient, not embarrass them. Don’t sit on the bed, make light of their health condition, or get in the way of the hospital staff. Instead, stand where the patient can see you easily, use humor, only when appropriate, and compliment the hospital staff whenever possible.
  1. Respect their privacy.  Patients take their pain and sickness to the hospital, but usually have to leave their modesty at home. It is always a good idea to knock before you enter a patient’s room or excuse yourself if they need to get settled in their bed. You should also be careful not to share too much information with other caring people, even as a prayer request.
  1. Make time for spiritual encouragement.  If you are visiting on behalf of a church, the patient is probably expecting you to pray with them at sometime during your visit. Don’t be shy about leading the patient and whoever else may be present in an uplifting word of prayer. You may also choose to read or quote Scripture as an added encouragement.
  1. Don’t impersonate a doctor.  You may learn details about the patient’s health situation or diagnosis during your visit. The patient may even ask for you opinion. In either case, resist the urge to share your “unprofessional opinion” with the patient or their family.
  1. Don’t wear out your welcome.  Most people are glad to have visitors in the hospital, but they may feel as if they need to entertain you while you are there. Unless the situation is critical, it is best to keep the visit brief; 15 to 20 minutes is usually sufficient.

These are just some suggestions I’ve found to be helpful.  What would you add to it to help others make better hospital visits?

Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Running and Coaching Well

Feet-Running2In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a foot race.  He encourages us to “run in such a way that you may win” (v. 24b).

The writer of Hebrews also makes the same comparison urging believers to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrew 12:1-2).  Christians who are also leaders must read this passage from two perspectives.  First, they must read it as a “runner” striving to live their own life well.   But Christian leaders should also read these verses as a “coach” who is responsible to help others run their race well.

Recently, I set down with the staff that I am privileged to work with and looked at Hebrews 12:1-2 from the perspective of coach.  Here are the “coaching tips” that we gleaned from the passage.

  1. Remember, you are not alone.  One of the best parts about running in a road race is the camaraderie and the people who cheer you on.  The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone.  We all need to belong to a local congregation to encouragement and support.
  2. Even if you are slow, just keep going.  The Christian life is a more like a marathon than a sprint; it requires endurance.  Distractions and stumbling blocks are unavoidable, but just keep moving.
  3. Stay focused on Jesus.  Focus in key because it determines your motivation and direction.  For the Christian, the focus should always be in Jesus Christ, “the author and perfecter of faith.”

What other coaching tip would you add to our list to help others “run” well?