My sister-in-law has Alzheimer’s. It is awful. I hate it. She does not deserve it. She was diagnosed in her early 60’s – too young, way too young; but then, who is ever ready for this dreadful disease? Jean is one of the sweetest people I have ever known. She welcomed me into JB’s family with open arms and, even now, her favorite thing to do is to hug everyone.
When our kids were little Jean and Ronnie took them home to north Louisiana for a week most summers. JB and I would drive from Orlando and meet them in Pensacola where we made the exchange. The two of us drove home in a quiet van to a week of re-discovering what we enjoyed and had in common when the kids were not the center of attention. Our children made great memories with Aunt Jean and Uncle Ronnie and those two drove them all the way back to Orlando to bring them home. (Don’t get Ronnie worked up telling how many times he had to listen to Adventures in Odyssey cassette tapes with our kids in his Suburban!) We all were blessed by this sweet annual tradition. Jean and Ronnie have always showed up for us. With three kids that’s lots of graduations – high school and college, scattered all over the map. But Jean and Ronnie have always come.
So, why, why, why? Why does someone like Jean get “the big A”? The answer is “I do not know.” This I do know: Life is Tough; if it is not Alzheimer’s it will be something else. Everybody has hardship at one time or another; sometimes it seems like an avalanche. But this too I know: God is Good. God is not the cause of our hardships; rather, he is the one who helps us survive them. In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” I know this to be true and you can too.
In the world you will have tribulation.
I probably don’t have to convince you that Jesus was right when He said, “in the world you will have tribulation.” You can fill in the blank with the tragedy or hardship or hurtful situation you are facing. But perhaps you struggle with Jesus’ promise, “in me you may have peace.” Here are a few tips I have learned about finding his peace in the midst of something that stinks:
in me you may have peace.
- Count your blessings; even when things are awful you can find much for which to be grateful. I am so thankful Jean has Ronnie; he cares for her with strength and grace and patience that he does not have on his own! It is amazing to see how God equips us with what we need when we need it, never early. I am grateful for her sitters who care for her so lovingly and make daily life easier for her and for Ronnie.
- Don’t gripe; that is wasting good time. Your mama was right when she said, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all.” You may be amazed that the less you gripe, the more joy you are able to recognize all around you.
- God is in control; not me or you. When you finally give up trying to fix everything yourself and realize you are not in control, down deep inside, great freedom and peace await you. God has been in control since he created the world, but sin brought heartache and trouble. Tribulations are real, but God is always for us and working for our good and his glory. He wants to redeem all people to himself. Everyone else may fail and disappoint but God is forever faithful.
- Hope comes from God and his peace is available to each of us. One of my very favorite scripture passages is Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Knowing these things about God and experiencing his peace in the midst of storms does not change the fact that life is tough. But it makes all the difference in how we cope.
Jean and Ronnie and two sweet sitters came to visit us last week. While Jean knows us and hugs us (a lot!) and occasionally cries on our shoulders, she does not talk much. Her sparky personality is not so sparky anymore. But she is still our Jean and we love her dearly. We tell old stories and remind her how much she has meant to our family. She may pace the house and change chairs in the living room repeatedly but she is still our Jean. We are grateful she is not in pain and she is still very kind toward everyone. Even in our sadness we feel blessed.
We feel blessed.
Walking this hard road has brought out good in all of us. We pause and smell the roses; we tell each other what we love about each other; we thank each other for things said, things done, memories secured.
Back to the last line of that passage in John 16, Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” Yes He has, and I am so glad to know that this world is not my permanent home.The troubles of our world may be hard, but Jesus has indeed overcome the world and those who know Him personally have the promise of eternal life in heaven F.O.R.E.V.E.R. No more war, no more disease, no more elections, no more chains that tie us down. Eternity is real – either with Jesus in heaven, or in hell, forever separated from God, a place of fire and destruction. Praise God for Jesus and for the eternal home he has prepared for all who believe and receive him.
If your focus has been on the reality that Life is Tough, try looking up and around and recognize that, even so, God is Good.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” These first lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities were the introduction to my speech at high school graduation a long time ago. I realize now that every generation seems to think things were much better years ago. The truth is no generation gets it all right; life just somehow appears better in hindsight. Currently there is much concern about what is going on in our world and in our culture. And I would agree there are a lot of shifts and many are not good. Terrorism is growing; innocent people are being killed and fear is escalating. Character and integrity are not held in honor; pressure to tolerate unacceptable behavior is forced upon people; speaking up for good and moral choices is often frowned upon. What’s wrong in our world? How did we get here? What are we to do in times like these?
First let me suggest that we should not be so surprised. All that we see today and what other generations have moaned over is represented and forecast in the Bible. I continue to be amazed at the timeless nature of God’s Word. When sin entered our world, trouble began, and sin still trips us up today.
Deceit: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jeremiah 17:9) Hearts were deceitful in Bible times as well as today.
Pride: Referring to King Uzziah of Judah, we read, “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper….But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” (2 Chronicles 26) Pride and arrogance and an “I don’t need God” approach to life is nothing new.
Idolatry: One of the ten commandments is, “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Every time people have chosen money, prestige, power, other people over God Almighty, the results have been disappointing, if not disastrous.
Sexual Sins: These are rampant now and, quite frankly, have been for centuries. There are many varieties of sexual sins. First Corinthians 6:18 states, “Flee from sexual immorality.” That verse would not have been necessary without sexual sin being a problem.
So what do we do in times like these? A book I read years ago is entitled The Heart of The Problem. Author Dr. Henry Brandt was a respected psychologist, counselor, and educator. His premise was quite simple – the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart — sin. When a person quits blaming problems, addictions, and bad choices on circumstances and other people; and he/she accepts sin as the root of the problem, freedom is not far away. Because, as Brandt affirms, there is a solution for sin!
Heart of the problem is problem of the heart
The Bible affirms that we are all sinners – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That’s all of us, none can claim to be sinless.
The good news, also known as The Gospel, is God’s provision for our sin. He sent Jesus to live and to die to pay the price for our sin so we could be accepted as righteous before God. The life Jesus lived is recorded in history; the fact of his death and resurrection is also unquestionably documented. He was not one of many good teachers or prophets; He was and is the Son of God and He offers freedom from sin to E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. It is a free gift – seems too good to be true, and yet it is true.
We do not have to remain trapped by sin and its consequences. And we do not have to live in fear and discouragement regarding the state of our world and culture. We can have hope and joy and peace, in spite of times that seem desperate. My opinion is not worth much, but when asked about all the hot topics, my best answer is, “let’s see what God says in His word.” It is with great confidence we can stand on His word and obey His commands. But nobody said that would be easy. People will not always like or agree with the truths in the Bible; God’s word convicts, redeems, teaches, and leads us into righteousness. I am convinced that God is for us and He is for our good.
God is for us and He is for our good.
As a sinner saved by God’s grace, it is my duty and privilege to live in a way that honors Him. That means I should love others extravagantly, give my time and gifts and resources to help people in need, and share the good news of Jesus with a world that desperately needs what He offers.
Focusing on God and His love for this world changes us and infuses us with His power. There is no time for getting caught up in arguments and controversy; our time is best spent seeking God and allowing Him to use us in His plan for our world.
An old hymn says, “In Times Like These, You Need a Savior.” Yes. We. Do.
Mothers’ Day is very emotional, multiplied by so many perspectives regarding its significance. Yesterday I was reminded of this as I had conversations with numerous people and perused so many posts on Facebook. In church we had a time of prayer focusing on Mothers’ Day.
First we thanked God for mothers and other women who have been mother-figures in our lives. Truth be told, not everyone has or had a great mom. BUT, when we put our minds to it we can discover some good qualities in the woman who brought us into the world. It is important to search (hard, if necessary) to find those good traits and thank God for her. For those with faithful, loving moms, it is not always smooth sailing; that is just the nature of relationships. However it is our choice to focus on all we can be grateful for and celebrate the woman who raised us, taught us, showed up for us, and often just put up with us. Whether you had a super mom or a not so super mom, there are other special women who have met the needs we have for mothering. On Mothers’ Day it is appropriate to thank these women who have been there for us, teaching, encouraging, supporting, and perhaps just listening. Sometimes those women have children of their own, but they make room for us; sometimes they are not officially mothers but they definitely serve in a mother-role to us and that counts! Sometimes it takes practice or intentionality (a word my son loves but I struggle with) to thank God for what you have rather than moan over what you feel like you may have missed or lost.
Grateful Grief or Selfish Grief
Secondly we prayed for those whose mothers have died. I am now in that group; we still love them and miss them. Regardless of their age when they died or our age when they died, most of us will continue to miss them the rest of our lives. But rather than feeling sorry for ourselves over what will be missed in the days ahead, we can remember and be grateful for the good memories we have from when they were with us. So, will our grief be grateful grief or selfish grief? It is our choice. And here are some things we can celebrate: we can be thankful that their influence and character can live on through us; we can talk about them and tell lots of stories so our children will have a sense of knowing who they were; we can live the rest of our lives to make them proud. I’m surprised no-one has marketed a WWMS bracelet – “what would Mama say?” It might be a good idea to consider when we are about to do something foolish or wrong.
“What Would Mama Say?”
JB and I were talking yesterday; his Mother died at 63 when we were 34; my Mama died at 90 when we were 62. Big difference. While we missed having his Mother involved in the lives of our children, she did not have to grow old and deal with all that comes with old age. When Mama died we were grateful for all the years we had with her but she suffered the last few years with the “Big A” as she called it, and that was very hard. So, either way, death is going to come and we should not be totally surprised when it comes to our own family. God only promises forever to those who accept His gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. On this earth all of our days are limited; why do some die early and some late? I have no idea but I do know God is faithful to meet our needs and bring comfort and strength when and how we need it.
We also prayed yesterday for mothers who have had to live through the death of a child. Now that is a big one and I know their hearts burn with love and loss on Mothers’ Day. It is not what we would call normal; it just should not happen; but it does. And only God is able to soothe a loss that deep. A dear friend of mine whose son died a few years ago wrote the sweetest post yesterday. In it she wrote,”my son went to the arms of Jesus, and I found amazing grace at the feet of Jesus. Grace wins every time!” What a testimony.
Grace wins every time
A young friend of ours from Kenya has experienced much loss in her life, including her mother and other family members. She serves God and others every day. She posted online, “I am blessed to be a blessing. So much has been given to me, so much is expected from me. Lord I am saying YES, here I am, use me!” Oh, that we all had this attitude.
Finally yesterday we prayed for the many young women who long to be mothers but have not yet had that desired fulfilled. We all know them; they are our friends, our family, our neighbors. Have you ever thought how hard Mothers’ Day is for these women (and their sweet husbands)? We prayed that God would bless them and give them a child – whether by birth or by adoption. God is God; we are not. Though we may not always understand His ways, we can trust Him. I will continue to pray He will bless these women with children to call them “Mom.”
So, there you have it – had you ever thought how many angles there are to Mothers’ Day? Call or text someone special today and express your love and appreciation and prayers.
Claim as your own, “I am blessed to be a blessing. Lord I am saying YES, here I am, use me!”