What do you do with family? Just the word family contains a lot: a lot of emotion and a lot of history. Some hopes and dreams and wishes. Probably some fears and a few hurts. For some of you, the word brings up considerably more positive reactions than negative ones. Others of you are simply trying to break years of destructive family cycles and build a better foundation for your children to launch from. God designed us to live and grow in families, so it's no surprise that families also encompass many of our most difficult relationships.
How much do you pray? Okay, before anyone gives up on this post or journies into a guilt trip where I don't intend to lead you, let's all admit that we could all pray more. We could (and probably should) seek God more. But that's not my intent in asking the question. Instead, I want to consider the why behind our actual tendency and discipline. Why don't we pray more?
How important is the Bible to you? That's not a trick question. Well, okay. Maybe it is. The Typical Christian Answer Most of us would say the Bible is very important, right? After all, it's God's word to us. His instructions on how to live. The story of our family and heritage. Encouragement for tough circumstances. Inspiration to persevere. Hope for the future. So, back to my original question. How important is the Bible to you? Are you sure?
Most people older than ten have faced some sort of tragedy. Some of us experienced horror younger than that. A car accident or house fire The death of a loved one Parental divorce Abuse, neglect, or abandonment The list of bad things goes on and on. Yet we know that God redeems. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 61:3 that He exchanges beauty for ashes, or as the Contemporary English Version writes, The Lord has sent me to comfort those who mourn, especially in Jerusalem. He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts. But how do we get from broken hearts to joyous praise?
In my book The Warrior's Bride, I shared quite a bit about the health problems my husband endures. Chronic pain, back issues, migraines, leg cramps, and more are a regular part of our lives. I used to wonder what I was supposed to do with that. Were the physical struggles a test? A character building process? Would God heal him, or lead us to the doctor with the right procedure to make things better? And what does it say about our faith if nothing changes? What does it say about God if things get worse?
A recent conversation among friends on Facebook recently got me thinking. Consider the original question: "How many articles of clothing (not including underwear, workout items, and pajamas) do you think you need? How many do you own? No condemnation...just a question." Does the question make you squirm? Is your closet overflowing? Do you have more than one closet full of clothes? Maybe clothes aren't your thing. Maybe it's jewelry. Or books. Or kitchen gadgets. Or collectible knick knacks. Or trips to the beach or the mountains. The basic question remains the same: How much is enough?
Well-meaning friends. We've all been there: Looking at a friend or acquaintance going through something we don't understand, searching for the right words to say with only pithy sayings coming to mind. God never gives us more than we can handle. When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. Everything has a purpose. As someone who's walked through some heart-wrenching circumstances, can I tell you something? Yes, God can give us more than we handle. No, sometimes He doesn't open a window. And we may never see the purpose this side of heaven, and even then may not like what we discover. But what do we do with that? If we accept that as truth, then what is the proper response to tragedy? What does God want to see?
How kind are you? Seriously ... on a scale of one to ten, where would you rate your kindness level? How often do you show appreciation? Are you gracious to others? Do you practice patience or speak compliments? Does the Golden Rule echo in your actions? Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Matthew 7:12, The Message Would your family or coworkers give you the same rating as you are giving yourself? Hmmm.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, lived a young man named Solomon. He showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David (1 Kings 3:3). Now, he wasn't perfect Now, he wasn't perfect. In fact, immediately after telling us that Solomon walked according to his father's instructions, it also says that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. A big no-no. Yet God honored his heart, coming to Solomon one night and saying, Ask for whatever you want me to give you (1 Kings 3:5). Can you imagine? How do you find wisdom?
When your world is falling apart, what do you do? I mean really, don't-know-if-you-can-breathe, falling apart. My gut reaction is to isolate and hibernate. I stay off social media and email, I don't leave my house or even answer my door. Chores may get done if they are critical, but otherwise, I tend to even ignore them. I'll likely function enough to offer the most basic care for my family, but by and large, I want to do nothing. The problem with this tendency is that it encourages greater negativity, increases mopiness, and generally demoralizes my already depressed mental state. Want proof my reaction is universal? (And the keys to coming out of it without serious intervention?)