Bethany’s Story Part 6: Jesus is All I Need

In Parts 1-5 of Bethany’s story, we’ve learned about the relationships in her life and how they changed through divorce, loss and pain. Today, we’re going to examine and discover Bethany’s relationship with her Father…her heavenly Father, that is. Did you just decide this blog isn’t worth reading, not worth your time? I beg to differ with you, friend. It’s very interesting and just a little controversial. Trust me, you want to keep reading.

As we learned in Part 1 of Bethany’s Story, Bethany was brought up in a loving, Christian home. She loved Jesus with all her heart. But once her parents divorced, her life was completely turned upside down, inside out. Neither parent took her to church after the divorce and God was all but removed from her life. We know her story. She grew up, married and had three boys. Bethany always believed in God and would sometimes talk about Him to her husband. When John lost his job, Bethany reassured him that God would provide for them.

When Bethany’s oldest son, Ben, was ten, his friend from down the street invited him to church. Bethany allowed him to go and soon he had an encounter with Jesus and became born again. Being “born again,” is when you understand what Jesus Christ did for you by suffering, dying on the cross and raising from the dead…accepting what He did for YOU and knowing that nothing you have done or ever will do (good or bad) can save you from going to hell or get you into heaven. Believing in Jesus and deciding you will live your life for Him…that is being born again. God’s love will fill you and you will feel totally different. And that is just the first step of an awesome and wonderfully fulfilling life, here on earth and in eternity. If you’re not born again, also known as saved, you’re going to want to experience that ASAP.

Ben was going to church regularly with the neighbors and started begging his parents to go, too. Bethany and John weren’t too keen on the idea, but when Ben was persistent, they decided they should go. They began attending church on and off for a while. John wasn’t really “into it” and Bethany felt strange things when she was there.

“At first, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if I liked what I was feeling.”

“There was a short period of time a few years before this when I had started to get serious about the Lord, where I had some real experiences.”

She knew this feeling she was having meant that God was working on the inside of her and wanted to change some things about her life. She was not ready to let go of certain things in her life…

“I began feeling God more strongly than before. I knew for sure that He was pulling me. I felt that way on Sundays and then would live my life like normal during the rest of the week.”

So, she was experiencing the love of God and His presence when she came to church on Sunday mornings. But then, during the week, she’d forget all about Him and live the way she wanted. Sound familiar to anyone? Yes, salvation or being born again is all about what Jesus has done for us. BUT, truly living for Jesus, surrendering your life completely to Him is what He wants for each of us. That doesn’t mean our lives will be boring or not full of fun, but on the contrary, our lives will be abundant. Abundant with God’s love and His blessings. There is nothing better than living your life knowing that you are walking in the plan that God has designed especially for you. That’s true fulfillment! And isn’t that what we all want? To be fulfilled? To be happy? To have peace? To be secure?

Okay, here comes that controversy I eluded to earlier..

“I had been smoking marijuana for a few years. I saw nothing wrong with it because it made me happy and less anxious.”

The marijuana helped Bethany deal with the stress in her marriage and her son who has Asperger’s. It was a coping mechanism for her and she felt like she needed it to make it through each day.

“At first, it was a fun thing to do on girls’ weekends. Then I realized that I liked it way too much. But it made my life easy.”

Everything was better through the high of marijuana. Her kids were adorable and funny. Her husband was great. Everything was awesome after smoking a little weed.

“It got to the point where I made excuses to do it more. It helped me sleep, my kids were hilarious. I had no stress when I smoked.”

“I depended on the marijuana to deal with my stress-husband, kids, money. I would turn to it and it would make everything okay.”

After a while, John started to get concerned with the frequency and amount of marijuana that Bethany was using. She was spending a lot of money, too. She admits that it got to the point that she was smoking all day, every day. John told her, “I don’t know you any other way” (other than high).

Bethany was still smoking when she rededicated her life back to God. She didn’t see a problem with it and wasn’t eager to give it up.

“I was afraid to let it go. Marijuana was my friend. I felt there was no reason to quit.”

Soon though, Bethany began feeling like she shouldn’t be doing it anymore. That’s what happens when you start to draw close to God. He slowly refines you like gold in a fire.

Bethany searched the Bible for scriptures that said she shouldn’t be smoking marijuana. She could only find those pertaining to drunkenness. She reasoned that she had already given up alcohol, so that didn’t apply to her. She couldn’t find anything that said it was wrong or not wrong.

“I had a moment standing in front of my dresser one day. I was ready to light up again. I clearly heard God say to me, ‘You put this before me. It’s the first thing you think about in the morning, in the afternoon and before you go to bed. It’s taking the place of me.’ I put it down and said aloud, ‘Okay, I’m done. It’s all about you. I will never do it again. I will completely lean on You.’ I haven’t touched it since.”

You see, God wants us to completely rely on Him. For our stress, our worries, our sadness, our pain, our guilt, our regrets…for everything. Why? Because He is capable of handling it all. Way more capable than we are. That is why we don’t ever need to rely on drugs, alcohol, sex or other coping mechanisms to deal with life.

Since that day in her bedroom, Bethany has been free. This act of surrender and obedience to God opened up doors in her life. It set into motion many good things for her husband and her entire family.

John was saved and baptized. Her younger boys were saved and baptized. Her mom and stepdad started coming back to church and have grown closer to God. Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law and their kids got saved. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of God’s goodness and favor in Bethany’s life.

Bethany experiences true and powerful moments with God.

“There are times when it is very obvious that He is here with me, like He’s standing right in front of me. Sometimes in worship services, I have a hard time physically standing. I feel completely undone. At times, it’s hard to breathe.”

“Being in the presence of God – it’s like nothing else is even happening around me. I forget where I am. It’s just me and Him. It’s the best feeling ever! That’s how you know that God is real.”

One moment with Jesus, that’s all it takes to convince even the biggest skeptic.

“That’s God showing you He is real. When you experience these moments. I mean, you don’t go to church and just make up those feelings. It’s real. He’s real.”

Some friendships of Bethany’s were lost when she became a Christian. But, God has replaced or restored those friendships one hundred fold. Friendship is so important to Bethany. The Bible talks about how you may lose friends when you follow Jesus. When her friends began to reject her, she clung to God’s promises.

“I trust you. All I need is you.”

Bethany says she never even thought to pray for friends, but alas! God knows the desires of our hearts. He knows what we need and desire before we even ask. God gave Bethany a wonderful church family who love her to pieces.

“I have so many people in my life that I never thought I would have relationships with. When I’m at church, I feel like I’m home.”

Because Bethany has totally surrendered her life to God, she and her family are blessed in so many ways. Yes, salvation is ultimately about not going to hell, but it is about so much more. We don’t have to wait to get to heaven to experience God’s goodness and favor. We can have heaven on Earth. If you have ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer, that’s what it is talking about. “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s exactly what Bethany has been seeing in her life. A little bit of heaven on Earth.

stairway-to-heaven

Don’t Worry About It!

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  Matthew 6:25

What are you worried about today?

Paying your bills?  Your health?  Your marriage?  Your children?  Your future? 

Are you constantly worried about what other people think about you?  

Are you worried about the safety of your husband at his job?

Are you constantly worried that your husband is going to leave you or cheat on you?

Are you afraid your children are falling in with the “wrong” crowd?

Are you worried about the health of your aging parents and how you are going to care for them?

Are you newly divorced and filled with anxiety for your future?

Does worry consume your life to the point that you are paralyzed with fear, stress and anxiety?  

Are you a person who takes medication for your anxiety?

A life full of worry, stress and anxiety is not God’s will for His children.

Jesus said it Himself…He does not want you to be filled with worry about the cares of this life.  He always takes care of His children!  Always!!!

A lot of times, we think that WE must be the avenue through which our problems are solved.  “God helps those who help themselves.”  Right?

No!  Do you know that quote is NOT in the Bible!  Nope, not in there.  We go around saying this and fool ourselves into thinking that we must “do” something.  “Doing” turns into worrying.  Worrying about everything and anything.

Do you realize that Jesus’ sacrifice was a complete act of grace for our lives…our lives for all eternity AND our lives NOW?

Jesus’ sacrifice was not only for the covering of our sins, the health of our bodies and our eternal salvation.  It was also for our peace!  Isaiah 53 says,

“But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,”

Jesus suffered brutal punishment and pain so that we could have peace in our lives!!!

On the night Jesus was betrayed, He left these parting words with His disciples.  Even in the midst of the ensuing chaos, His desire for those He loved was for them to be at peace.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you;  not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

Peace is translated, “Shalom.”  Wellness, wholeness, completeness, as well as peace of heart and mind.  Shalom means having every part of your being (spirit, soul, and body) in complete and total peace.

Walking in the peace of God, just like Jesus did, allows us to be in perfect control of our feelings, emotions and actions, no matter what the devil throws our way.  Not once do we see Jesus wringing His hands or having an emotional meltdown.  Even when the storm literally raged around Him, He spoke and embodied peace.  Jesus was THE peace-speaker.

The peace we have been given (as a gift, like salvation, healing, grace, righteousness, etc) is not a feeling that is based on our life circumstances.  It is a state in which we live.

But, but, but you say. “You don’t know what my life is like.  I have so much stress!”   Being at peace is a decision you make inside you, in your heart.  By YOU deciding that you will NOT LET stress consume your life, you are allowing God to work on the external circumstances FOR you.

During the last few years of my first marriage and the divorce that ended it, I had a peace that I cannot explain.  As many of you know, having marriage issues and going through a divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can endure.  Did I feel stressed and worried at times?  Of course I did.  But, before I would let it consume me, I would do something that might seem kind of silly to some of you.  I would close my eyes, picture myself holding my problems in my cupped hands, and then would throw them upward, as if “casting” them up to God.  Peace would come over me!  It’s true!  I did this seemingly childish act many times over until it has now become a habit of mine.  When I begin to worry or be afraid or stressed, I toss it to God like a game of hot potato and tell Him, “It’s all yours, Lord.”  Then I get back to doing what He wants me to be doing.  This simple act has helped me through a divorce and every other stressful situation I’ve encountered since, big or small.

What should we do instead of stressing about all the worrisome issues that come up in life?

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”            Matthew 6:33

Follow hard after God and He will work out all the details for you.  No worries.  He’s got this.

When we worry, we are telling God that we don’t need Him to help us.  We are saying that we can handle it ourselves.  If you think about it, we are nullifying Jesus’ sacrifice for our peace when we hold on to our problems.

Worrying is a sign of lack of faith in God.   Having faith in God, aka not worrying about things or getting stressed out, produces peace in your life.

Worry=little or no faith    Peace=total surrender and full of faith

Are you walking in the midst of your storm and not even noticing the waves tossing you about or the lightning and thunder roaring around you?  

Or are you consumed by stress and worry?  Is stress manifesting itself in your body through stomach ulcers, headaches, moodiness, and depression? 

The devil knows where to attack you…in those areas of your life where you feel the least secure.  Is your primary concern your finances?  Then, that’s where you won’t have peace.  Or maybe it’s your kids?  Then, that’s where your stress will originate from.

If you want peace in your life, refuse to allow worry and stress to come in.  Jesus said, “Let NOT your heart be troubled.”

“Cast your cares upon the Lord, for He cares for YOU.” I Peter 5:7

No matter how tiny or insignificant it may seem.  If it is causing you worry or distress, God wants you to give it to Him.  He knows what to do with your worries.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Besides, what good does worrying do you?

“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your stature?”  Matthew 6:27

Worrying accomplishes one thing and one thing only…it gives the devil an open door into your heart to attack you and weaken your mind, spirit and body.

Find rest for your soul in the arms of Jesus.  He paid it all for you to have life everlasting and life abundantly. Embrace His grace and trust in Him with all the issues in your life.  Refuse to allow worry to consume you. God wants you to walk in peace.

Peace is part of the package of free gifts bequeathed to YOU at the moment of your born-again experience.  Walk in peace, starting NOW!

I sang this song as a little girl…I still sing it to this day when I’m feeling stressed or worried.  It goes like this..

I cast all my cares upon You,

I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet.

And any time, I don’t know, what to do,

I will cast all my cares upon You.

What are you worried about right now?  Put your hands out in front of you, picture you problem in your hands and then throw it up in the air. Cast your cares upon the Lord.  Have faith that He is working it all out for you, for your good!  Go ahead, try it.  No one’s looking…:)

Forgiving When It’s Hardest

“I can never forgive him.  NEVER!”  Words shouted to God, an oath sworn in the deepest recesses of my heart.  How could I forgive someone who destroyed my dreams, ruined my plans, stole my life, obliterated my self-worth?  How could I forgive someone who chose his addiction over his wife, his babies?  How could I forgive him from walking away from us?

I was repeatedly told, “Forgive.”  I tried. I really, really tried.  I said it to my friends.  I said it to my family.  I forgive him.  I even said it to him.  I forgive you.  Inside though, I was still nursing my wounds, trying to resuscitate my damaged heart.  I couldn’t let go.

If I forgive him, I’ll be letting him off the hook.

If I forgive him, it’s like I’m saying what he did was no big deal.

If I forgive him, I’m condoning his behavior.

I can’t just forgive and forget!

Unforgiveness poisoned my life.  With my new husband, simple disagreements morphed into manic rages.  Confusion engulfed my mind.  Guilt dictated my relationship with my children.  Anxiety and regret ruled supreme in my heart.  More times than not, face-to-face encounters with the ex rivaled episodes of “Jerry Springer.”  So.much.anger.  Somewhere deep in my mind, I foolishly thought that I was making him pay for the years of pain he caused me.  No one else seemed to be holding him responsible, so I would!

My children were hurting and confused.  “Why’s Daddy so mad at you?  Why does Daddy yell at you?  Why are you crying again, Mommy?”  I pacified my sweet babes with vague explanations.  So little, so innocent.  An understanding came to me.  My bitterness was hurting my children.  They needed permission to love their daddy without hurting their mommy.  I decided, I will forgive him and get past these feelings that were controlling me.  For my children and for them alone.

I prayed.  I read the Bible.  I sought wise counsel.  I continually spoke forgiveness aloud.  I forgive him.  I forgive him.  When I felt like screaming, I kept silent.  When I longed to bring up past sins, I held my tongue.  When I felt anxious for the safety of my children, I hid in the arms of my Savior through prayer and meditation on His Word.  I spoke kindness to my children about their father.  I replaced my negative internal dialogue with God’s opinion of me.  Self-pity turned into sympathy.  Self-loathing became self-loving.  Loving myself made me love others.  Seeing myself as God sees me helped me to see others as God sees them…even my ex-husband.

Through this process, I noticed my children were relaxing.  I could almost see the stress and anxiety leave their little bodies.  A load was lifted.  It was working!

But wait!  I began to feel less stressed.  Less anxious.  Less hostile.  The aching in my chest isn’t there anymore. When I think about my failed marriage and the events which caused it, I no longer feel anger. Or bitterness.  Or shame.  Or regret. What happened???   Is this what it feels like to be happy?  To be joyful?  To be at peace with myself?

I FORGIVE HIM!!!  I really, really do!  This victim became a victor!!!

At long last, joy and peace are mine!

Forgiveness is not FOR the person who has wronged you.  Forgiveness is for YOU!  Release them and release yourself.

Forgiveness is not forgetting.  My mind will not allow me to forget.  But now, when I remember, the pain is gone.

Forgiveness is freedom from the chains of anger, hatred and bitterness that steal joy and peace in your life.

Forgiveness does not always happen quickly.  It took me literally YEARS to get to the place I am today.  Be patient and consistent.

Forgive and be free!

And don’t forget what Jesus said Himself, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matthew 6:14-15

Before you go, watch this video.  The words to this song were healing balm to my soul.

 

In Hot Pursuit of Peace

I woke up this morning to a frightening realization. Today is December 2! That means I have only 23 days to prepare for Christmas!!! I have yet to buy one gift, bake one cookie or put up one decoration. How did this sneak up on me so fast??? Breathe, Susie, breathe. This happens to me every year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas is a flurry, no actually, a blizzard of activity. From Thanksgiving dinner to Return to Bethlehem to the girls’ dance recital to the church Christmas programs to Christmas morning with 5 kids…then add in gift shopping, baking, all the extra rehearsals and practices for said programs and all the normal day to day activities of our busy family’s life minus my husband who is out of town for work most of the month…Oh my! Our regular life is crazy to begin with..December life is like a 5 year old after drinking a whole box of 5 hour energy drinks. Seriously.

No wonder I nearly have a nervous breakdown each year! I get stressed out, in a chronic bad mood, yell at my kids, yell at my husband, and am just an angsty ball of unhappiness that progressively builds until Christmas morning when it all comes crashing down and I finally “feel” like it’s Christmas. I have even been guilty of saying that I hate the month of December and the Christmas season (gasp!) because it is so stressful for me. What a shame, don’t you think? Christmas should not be this way. It IS the most wonderful time of the year! And, I want it to be that way THIS year for me and my family. So how am I going to make this happen? My mother says to me, “It’s too much, Suze, it’s just too much. You need to cut back on all that you guys are doing. Something’s gotta give.” Easy for her to say now that her kids are out of the house! You know that commercial that was out a couple years ago about drug/tobacco use? The one where the parents find out that the kid is using drugs (or smoking, I can’t remember exactly)? The parent asks the kid how did they become hooked on the drug or whatever and the kid looks at the parent and says, “I learned it by watching you.” That would be the situation with me and my mother. I learned to be like this because my mom was the same way!!! My dad says I am like my mom on steroids…anyway…

Sure, I could cut back on the activities that we are all involved in. That would definitely help. But, which ones? Do I tell the girls they can’t sing with the children’s choir at church or do I not allow the boys to be involved with Return to Bethlehem or do I not participate in the adult choir at church this year? Or better yet, do I not bake Christmas cookies this year or decorate my house? Ummm….no. None of these is an option for me or our family. There is no way I can say no to any of these, especially at this point. And honestly, I don’t want to say no. Christmas means more to us than just one day of presents and singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Christmas is a month-long celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus, and showing His love to as many people as we can by serving in all these different areas to our community. From Lew all the way down to Emma, December and all its activities (big and small) are a big deal for us. So how do I make this year different from all the years before? How do I not get stressed out and turn into Cruella Deville this year?

I spent some time in the Word this morning, asking God to help me to be calm during this Christmas season, to be at peace and enjoy myself. Isaiah 9:6 says this, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the PRINCE OF PEACE.” He’s the PRINCE OF PEACE!!! Are you seeing this with me? The irony? Here I am, losing my cool, going bananas, fighting with my family during a time of year when we are to be celebrating the arrival of the Prince of Peace! I’m actually laughing out loud over the ridiculousness of ME!

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” I’m just shaking my head at myself right now. When I was going through the separation and divorce of my first marriage and the subsequent trying times afterwards, God gave me this sweet peace that I can not even describe. I trusted God completely and it was a beautiful and intimate time with the Lord like no other time in my life. Now, honestly, how can the stress of the Christmas season even compare with the stress of going through a divorce with three little kids? There is no comparison.

What God has done before, He will do again. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. That’s His word. That being said, I am going to rest in Him and cast all my cares upon Him. I will find joy in every day of this Christmas season. I will laugh instead of yell. I will take a deep breath and remember what is important when I feel overwhelmed. I will enjoy my children and share in their excitement and joy of Christmas instead of being so busy with the task at hand. We’ll take time to drink hot cocoa and watch Christmas movies and build fires in the fireplace and sing Christmas carols and actually talk about Jesus and His birth. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll let the kids help me decorate the Christmas tree this year instead of allowing the crazy OCD lady to take over. The possibilities for joy and peace are endless!

So, even though it’s only December, I am making a resolution. I resolve in the month of December to be calm, cool and collected. To not allow the stress of the season to affect how I treat others around me. I will enjoy myself and be okay with whatever gets done. I will not allow others to make me feel bad for saying “no” to extra stuff that will steal my joy and peace this Christmas season. I am going to allow the Prince of Peace to fill me with peace. And just breathe…

If you see me this month and I’m not smiling, feel free to remind me of my resolution. I have a feeling this will require daily effort. 🙂

Psalm 34:14 “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” I’ll be in hot pursuit of peace from now on!

Peace and joy to you and your family too!

Susie 🙂