Dare to share

Have you ever felt like you were the only one that struggles with something?  Like what you are going through is unique to just you and no one else could understand?  Or maybe you’ve felt that even though others have been in a similar situation, they surely “handled it” better than you did?  Like they were far more spiritual and steady than you are, and therefore, you are failing…..maybe even failing in your faith?

Photo credit: Krissy Basham

I recently sat in a room with some women as they shared their stories.  They talked about their life experiences and their heartaches.  One was raised in an abusive home, and experienced years of pain and grief.  Another became pregnant at a very young age.  Another wandered from the faith she was raised with as the years of life grew on her.  Another has experienced addiction.   

As I listened to their stories, I couldn’t help but to be in awe of them!  Sharing their stories took courage!  But something else happened when they shared.  The others in the room had the courage to also open up about their own struggles. 

God promises that we are never alone in our trials.

Isaiah 41:10 says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

God assures us many times in His word that He is always with us.  That He will never leave us.  That we do not need to walk this life alone.

But the enemy likes to isolate us and make us believe that we are alone.  He whispers the lie that “No one struggles with this like you do.” And “Her faith is stronger than yours is, so this is easier for her to go through.” How about this one, “If you share that part of your life, they will think badly of you.  It’s better to keep it to yourself until you fix it….”.  Lies.  

The enemy is constantly trying to keep us from community, from fellowship with Jesus and with others.  I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “strength in numbers”?  There is such truth there.   When we choose to be connected to the body of Christ through church, small groups, and bible studies, we are exercising that principle.  We are placing ourselves in community with others for support and encouragement.  When we do so, we have others around us to love, support and remind us of God’s love and faithfulness.

Photo credit: Krissy Basham

When we choose to be honest and open about our stories, it not only helps us, but it truly helps others as well. 

Think of it this way; When you are experiencing a difficulty in your life, isn’t it easier to talk it out with someone who has been down a similar road?  It is our shared experiences that bind us.  Often our situation is not exactly the same as our sister’s.  But just knowing that she also wrestled in her heart and faith to get through something can help us feel less like the failure that the enemy wants to convince us that we are.  Hearing her talk about it opens up a place in our souls for healing to begin. 

2 Corinthians 1:4 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  The idea here is that we share our struggles to encourage each other.  This way no one needs to feel alone.  Too many women feel alone in this life.  But as we share life, we realize that not only are we united in our struggles, but in our strength as well!

The women I spoke about today are beautiful women of God!  Each one has changed and continues to grow in her faith and trust in God.  The beautiful thing about our stories, is that The Author still has the pen in His hand.  If your life and story is not what you want it to be, take heart!  It is not over yet!  As long as there is breath in our lungs, there is time to grow.  And there is time for God to work.

If you are currently in a struggle, don’t keep it to yourself, share life with your faith community.  If you are without a faith community to plug into, I strongly encourage you to seek one out! Share gently, and within the walls of trust inside your connections, but share.  You are not alone.   Don’t allow yourself to continue to be isolated in your trial.  Help and healing begins when we bring the truth into the light. 

If you are “on the other side” of a struggle, someone needs to hear from you.  Someone is hurting and isolated.  Someone needs to hear how God brought you through.  God WILL use our trials for good.  Nothing is wasted with Him.  He can use the fragments of broken pieces in our lives, but we must share them for that to happen.  He didn’t bring you through the pain just for yourself, He wants to use it in the lives of those He connects you to. 

God, I know you want to use my story for your glory.  Lead me to share where you want to shine.  I trust that you will draw my heart to another who needs to see your face reflected in mine.  I want my life to bring you honor as I share all that you’ve done for me.  Please give me courage to be transparent.

Photo credit: Krissy Basham (again!)

Storytelling

I just love a good book,  don’t you?

It’s so exciting to get drawn into the story line,  the characters,  and the emotions of a well written book!

I have a few Christian authors that I really enjoy.   I’ve read many of their books.   Some authors write such compelling stories that you cry at the sad parts,  and even laugh out loud at the funny predicaments the characters find themselves in.

But you always know,  when the story gets tense or difficult,  that there is still time for things to get better,  because you can see how many pages are still in your book.   You know it isn’t over because you’re not done turning pages.

If only life were like that.

You’re probably familiar with the tale of the Prodigal Son in scripture.  

Luke 15:11-32 tells of one families heartbreak over their adult sons.  The father in this tale had two sons.   One was obedient and a hard working rule follower.   The other was selfish and rebellious, demanding his inheritance from his father in advance.  

This son took the money,  left home,  and proceeded to party.   He lived quite a wild life for some time.  

There would have been many sleepless nights of worry  and wondering for his parents.  “Where is he?  What is he doing?  Did I do the right thing?  Is he going to completely ruin his life?”  Those parents were no different than you or I would be.   We would be grief stricken over it,  and so were they.

Imagine if this families story ended there,   with the son leaving and their hearts broken.
They certainly couldn’t see that there were more pages in their story….

Then think for a moment about the Israelite people.

They were lost and wandering in the desert.   They had their children,  their elderly parents and their animals in tow.  

They didn’t have the benefit of knowing that there was more to their story. They may have wondered if “this was it” for them.  

Imagine if their story ended here.  Lost,  hot, hungry,  and feeling abandoned.

And then there’s Peter.

Peter knew Jesus personally.  He had a front row seat to the miracles and teachings of Christ himself.   And when Jesus was close to his darkest hour,  Peter turned his back on him.  He claimed that he didn’t know him at all. And when that rooster crowed,  Peter broke.  He was filled with shame and regret.  He had messed up on a colossal level,  and he knew it.

Imagine if his story ended there,  with Peter weeping bitterly over his mistake.

But none of those stories ended that way!

The Prodigal Son came home,  the Israelite’s entered the promise land, and Peter became an incredible Apostle.   The Rock that Jesus said that He would build His church on!

My point is this; The story of YOUR life is still being written.

Sometimes we think that when something bad happens to us, or to someone we love,  that we have turned the last page in the book.  We worry that “this is it”.   That there’s no more time for things to get better.

But in enters hope!

Hebrews 1:11 says this;
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hope and faith are so completely intertwined that it’s difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.   Faith is CONFIDENCE in what we hope for!

Sometimes we hope for many things don’t we?  We hope our lives will be comfortable.  We hope to have good relationships.   We hope our children will turn out well.   We hope to have a nice vacation this year.   We hope our boss will notice all our hard work. We may even hope our car keeps running.

But the kind of hope I’m talking about here is different.   It’s not the kind of hope that we sometimes call “wishful thinking”.  This kind of hope EXPECTS good things.  It is Expectant Hope.

And Expectant Hope believes fully that God is still working for our good.  That our story is still being written.   It is “assurance about what we do not see”. 

When life gets challenging,  remember that there are still many pages left in your “book”.  The Author is not finished with the last chapter!  As long as you’re still drawing breath,  there’s still hope.  

Expectant Hope.  

Everytime I’ve been in a situation where I felt hopeless,  like things were so bad that they could never be good again,  God has come through for me in beautiful and amazing ways.  His timing is always perfect, and never late.  So when it happens that way,  we know it’s Him and not us holding the pen.   He gets the glory,  not me. 

God worked in the heart of the Prodigal Son,  and turned him around.   God worked in the lives of the wandering Israelite people and set their feet on the right path toward the Promise Land.   And He never gave up on Peter,  and changed his life of regret to a life of purpose and value for His kingdom.  

He finished their story in the pages of scripture.   He didn’t leave them desolate,  lost or broken.  He won’t leave you either!

When it’s hardest to pray,  pray the hardest.

Remember that He is always working,  even when we can’t see it.  

Trust God for the rest of your story.

John 13:7  Jesus replied,  “You don’t understand what I’m doing now,  but someday you will. “

Don’t give up on God,  He hasn’t given up on you.   Philippians 1:6 speaks to this truth  “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Until Jesus comes,  God holds the pen,  and is still writing your story.