Why is This Happening?

“Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people that we love suffer? Why do mothers, fathers, children get sick and die? Why is there rape, murder, racism, anger and so much hatred everywhere you turn? If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen?”

So many awful things have happened this year. It seems that we are completely surrounded by sadness and despair. In my own life throughout this year, I’ve experienced tremendous losses, insurmountable stress, tragedy, fear and sadness.

For instance…I share these things with you to demonstrate that we all have situations to overcome or deal with in our lives. I speak from experience, not from a perfect life. Some may say, “Easy for you to say, Susie. You haven’t had bad things happen in your life like I have.” So on that note…

One of my closest friends was diagnosed with colon cancer (and thankfully has recovered 100%).

My grandfather passed away during the initial COVID quarantine.

Working in healthcare during this pandemic was so awful…I recently “retired.” Unless you work in healthcare, you can’t imagine what I’m speaking of.

A dear friend died suddenly from complications of COVID…a coworker. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that.

Several people I know are battling with cancer…young women. A high school classmate died from breast cancer this year.

My sister was in a head-on collision with a truck and suffered a traumatic brain injury, broken foot and neck and hip injury. She is on the long road to recovery.

My dad fell down the basement steps and mangled his elbow, which required extensive surgery. He is also on the long road to recovery.

My girls’ education has been disjointed and disorganized. Lily is having trouble getting everything together to apply to colleges because of all the delays and cancellations of everything. Nathan’s football season in his first year of college football was canceled. Who cares, you may say? Well, he’s there on a football scholarship, so… Schools are doing the best they can, but it’s a lot of stress for these kids and the parents.

This election season has been completely ridiculous. The way people are acting towards one another…there are no words. It grieves my heart.

I could go on and on…I’m sure you have a list as well.

I can easily fall into the trap of asking, “Why?”

I don’t know.

But, this is what I know. God is sovereign and He is good. I don’t always understand His plans and His thoughts, but I know He is good.

I know that He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to pay the price for all our sins, all our sickness and diseases.

I know that there are things that happen here on earth that I don’t understand now, but when I see Jesus face to face, it will all make sense.

I know that this world has been corrupted by evil and sometimes we must suffer because of that. But God, our Abba Father, has given us a Hope, a Rescuer, a Defender in Jesus.

I understand that the trials, sickness, and heartache of this earth are just for a little while. This is a temporary situation.

I know that my God is full of grace to help me through whatever I face in life. He walks with me through every situation I find myself in. He is close to me when my heart is broken, when I am depressed and when I am afraid. I trust Him with my whole heart.

I know that he sees each tear I cry when I am sad, lonely, overwhelmed or worried.

I know that He makes everything beautiful in His time.

I know that He uses every situation for good in some way, even when I can’t understand and or see it.

I know that God loves my family and my friends more perfectly than I ever can and I place them in His hands. His will be done in their lives.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can point you to the One who does. God’s Word comforts me and encourages me. I pray for His grace each day to help me face whatever comes. The Bible says His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness is great.

He is who I turn to. He is who I cling to. He is all I know.

Peace in a Pandemic

What’s around us doesn’t have to get in us. -Joyce Meyer

I know that is hard, if not seemingly impossible, to achieve with everything that is going on in our world today. Fear and anxiety is the common thread of every news program, social media post and article that we are unrelentingly exposed to every day.  I freely admit, it is all WAY too much for me to handle on my own. Don’t you agree?

When I find myself becoming anxious, afraid and overwhelmed, this is what I’ve been doing. I pray these words, just like David did in Psalm 61:2.   When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.  That “Rock” is Jesus.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  He gives a peace that doesn’t make sense when you consider what is happening in the world right now.  The peace that passes all understanding.

Throughout the day, I meditate on these words, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  Dwelling in the secret place of God simply means that you spend time with Him daily through worship (thankfulness), prayer (talking to Him), and reading His Word (the Bible is the blueprint for our lives, it’s the way God speaks to us most easily). Being in the secret place is a time of intimacy between you and your Creator. A time to talk to Him and for Him to talk to you. When you enjoy this kind of relationship with God, you can count on His protection, His covering, His rest, His peace and His security. Psalm 91 says that He will even command His angels to protect you, defend you and guard you!

And why would God do these things? Why would He even care what we’re feeling or going through? Because He loves us. When we call on Him for help, He WILL answer. He gives us His Word. God promises to be with you, to walk with you and talk with you, even during a global pandemic. Don’t worry, He’s not too busy…You’re at the top of His priority list!

So, I encourage you today to do as the apostle Peter instructed us to do:  Humble yourself before God, admitting that you can’t deal with this crisis on your own. Then, cast all your cares (all your anxieties, all your worries and all your concerns, once and for all) because He cares about you (with deep affection and watches over you very carefully).

Reciting the above verses from the Bible every day will help you stay grounded and peaceful. As you spend time with God, share with me what He is speaking to you, if you’d like. I would love to hear all about it!

In the meantime, hang in there, friends, we’re going to make it! Here’s an awesome song to encourage you!

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 🙂