When Mama died in September 2015, my relationship with the Lord changed. I'd been a Christian since I was a kid but it wasn't until I was in a pit of depression and longing for my mother did I really come to realize why He died on the cross for me- for my sin, absolutely yes, but also for my pain. My hurt. My sorrow.
God reached right down from Heaven and lifted me up. He got me out of the bed on the days it seemed impossible. He gave me joy in mourning. Comfort in sadness. Purpose in pain. His Word and His promises spoke right to my heart. He gave me a peace that passeth all understanding.
What was I going to do with this joy? With this testimony of hope and restoration that can only be found through Him?
Well, I was going to tell others all about it. Podcasts. Blog posts. IG photos of sunsets inscribed with scriptures.
People are hurting. Lonely. Living in hell- going to hell. Bondage. Addiction. Affliction. Depression. They need to know the Way, the Truth, the Life. I was put here to tell them. I mourned a mama, a daddy, a step-daddy. I watched a positive pregnancy test turn negative. I knew heartache. Dysfunction. And it was all part of a greater plan- a testimony.
Because God was there every step of the way. Lifting. Sharpening. Comforting. Restoring. And people needed to know. They needed to know if I could get through it, they could get through it.
But one day I woke up, after being so on fire for the Lord and what He had done in my life- and nothing.
I skipped that morning in the prayer closet. I just wasn't in the mood to study that day. I skipped the next morning, too. And the next. I went for a walk down the country road with my Spaniel. I didn't talk aloud to God as I usually did. Instead, I just talked to the dog about every rock and weed he sniffed.
I went to church. I didn't take notes.
I fell asleep without praying.
The Bible stayed shut. The notepad empty from weeks before.
Oh, but great things still happened. Answered prayers. God-ordained opportunities. And I mumbled a, "Thank you, Lord." instead of lifting my hands and truly praising His name. I just didn't feel it anymore. God was still good, I knew it, but the honeymoon seemed to be over. The butterflies had flown.
Fizzle. It had all fizzled.
Why do we do this, sisters? How can we be so on fire for our God one minute and bored with it all the next? As if our spirituality is related to our feelings? Aren't we to love and praise and obey even when we don't feel like it? Action is what matters. Not feelings or emotions. Feelings and emotions are fickle.
We can't give Satan credit for everything. Lord knows I don't want to be one of those Christians casting the devil out of every doorknob- but are we too stupid to see this is what pleases him?
The fizzle tickles Satan. The fizzle and the smolder. And eventually- weak rings of smoke are all that is left of what once was a raging fire. And he loves it. He revels in it. He likes when we are indifferent. Apathetic. Stagnant. Lukewarm. Bored with the story of the greatest sacrifice of all time- the sacrifice that sets captives free.
He likes when we aren't in the mood to pull out the NIV. Or talk to our Maker. Or when we fall asleep or eat the food without praying. When we can't find the time to study, but we find the time for a Golden Girls marathon.
I don't know about you, but God has been too good to me. He deserves more than being kept in a Sunday morning box. He deserves the blog posts and the IG pictures of stars and Psalms and hands raised to Heaven and shouting His goodness from every keyboard and every stage. He deserves that and so much more.
I refuse the fizzle and the smolder and to become nothing but a pile of ashes.
Refuse it with me. Rebuke it.
Fan the flame again.
Susannah B. Lewis, follow her on Facebook here
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Our oldest, Zoë, has been talking our ears off lately. It’s both beautiful and exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is nod and say “mmm-hmm” or just smile while I try and think through my Costco grocery list before the littlest one realizes he’s not buckled in the cart and tries some wild escapade.
This morning after our Bible reading,
Noble said, “But if you believe in Jesus you won’t die. Because heaven is our true home.”
Zoë: “Will we keep breathing in heaven?”
I responded, “Your body dies, but your soul never dies and lives forever in heaven with God. We get a new body, and every breath we breathe will be praising Jesus the King.”
Zoë: “I think that already happened to Nana.”
Later while strategically hitting up every snack sample in Costco, Zoë asked: “How do we gaze upon His beauty?”
After gathering my thoughts from such a breathtaking question, I answered, “It means that God is majestic and holy and too wonderful to comprehend and awesome and good and perfect. When we see Him as that we want to spend our lives knowing Him because there is no one else like Him.”
Zoë: “It is hard to understand why life passes through so quickly.”
My thoughts exactly, Sweet Pea. Only I was lamenting how fleeting these days are when all 3 of my babes can fit in the front of the cart, and they lean over for hugs and kisses or head butts. Alternatively, they rest their heads on my shoulder, and I feel their little arms around my neck while I try and push a heavy cart with a big ole pregnant belly.
And we’re having conversations like these.
And all three of them are talking in my ear at the same time. Or they are pestering each other by covering up the letters on the handlebar. Don’t ask. It’s maddening.
However, I was overwhelmed with gratitude this morning for this season. I love having all my babies close and the togetherness all day long (don’t hear perfect harmony) even in the midst of being at the end of my rope as Zoë so honestly and insightfully said about me on Mother’s Day: “You’re good at being slow to anger even though sometimes you’re fast to anger.”
Yup, because Mommy needs Jesus too.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Isn’t this what Scripture means when it says to teach God’s words to your children when:
- you sit (in the car in rush hour traffic) and
- walk (up and down the grocery aisles) and
- lie down (but not in your own bed because your 5-year-old still has too much to say at the end of the day) and
- rise (before the sun because everyone in your house is staging a coup against sleep).
Even when you think they’re not listening and you feel every thought you’re trying to share is interrupted by some catastrophe, they catch little drips at a time that become impressed on their tender hearts and will one day overflow. That’s what I’m striving for anyway in all the ordinary, mundane rhythm of life.
So here’s to keeping those babies close and entrusting their hearts to God.
Noel McKenna is a wife and a mommy who blends a pile high stack of books on CD and outdoor play with a whole lot of Jesus into her journey through motherhood. She and her husband, Nathan, have been married for 8 years and juggle this leg of their lives with grace and humor. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more of her beautifully honest glimpses into this life she now lives.
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Who shall teach the next generation about God, His truths, and His offer of salvation?
Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” This current generation bears the responsibility of teaching the faith to the next generation and that means you and I have a vital role to play (Titus 2:2-5). We live in a broken world with broken homes and broken people who are desperately in need of a Savior. Our future depends on the next generation. Will the next generation choose to follow the Lord and His ways? Their morals, beliefs, and ideals will guide the course of this nation and the world in the years to come. Therefore, we must take every opportunity to invest in the future by sharing our faith and the principles found in God’s Word.
The family bears the primary responsibility of teaching the next generation God’s ways. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Mom and Dad have the privilege and task of teaching the next generation about matters of faith with a determined diligence.
When are the best teachable moments? According to Deuteronomy 6:6-7, when you are in your home, when you travel from place to place, at bedtime, and in the morning. Endless opportunities exist to instruct the next generation. In fact, “… The influence of Mom and Dad ... are two to three times more influential than any church program.”1
Understanding the current generation and cultural influences can be advantageous when identifying practical life lessons. An eye-opening resource that presents generational tendencies is iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood by Jean M. Twenge, PhD. “Born in 1995 and later, they grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet.”2
Twenge utilized extensive research to compile a list of ten distinctives for iGens. Three characteristics identified that are relevant to this blog include: Insecure, Irreligious, and Indefinite.3
Insecurity can be impacted by an increase in Internet time and a decrease in personal interaction.4 Social media presents perfect images and messages of the worldly success. Teaching concerning identity and security in Jesus Christ is needed to confront the mixed messages of culture.
This generation has also been described as irreligious. “… More iGen’ers are being raised in non-religious households, and more iGen teens have decided not to belong to a religion anymore.”5 The purpose and value of participating in a local church must be demonstrated and conveyed to the next generation.
Indefinite refers to the blurred lines of sexuality.6 IGens must be taught God’s plan for sexuality and the family. Being informed about generational tendencies enables us to target instruction and impact beliefs.
Finally, it is the Word of God that must be taught to the next generation. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word … I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). We must be aggressive and intentional in our teaching. The future depends on our faithfulness to God’s Word and to passing our faith to the next generation.
1Mark A. Holmen, Building Faith at Home: Why Faith at Home Must Be Your Church’s #1 Priority (Ventura: Regal Books, 2007), 25.
2Jean M. Twenge, PhD, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (New York: Atria Books, 2017), 2.
Stephanie Edge is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She served in Women’s Ministry in Jackson, TN for sixteen years. Stephanie graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. She also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an Associate Professor at Union University and teaches adjunct for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a passion for teaching God’s Word and is a member of Englewood Baptist Church.
Back to School Time! As each new school year approaches, I find my wishes and dreams are sky high! Yet I often find myself deflated months later in the middle of crazy schedules, overcommitments, self-inflicted sleepless nights, and longing for the next blissful season. Am I the only mom that feels like I’m failing because my checklist of draining items outweighs the life-giving details? This year I resolve to be different.
This year I will be the peace.
As we roll into this new school year and have a clean slate to start fresh, I am challenging myself to be the “Peace” to my family. Not to be the peacemaker, or the person spouting about peace, but to actually be the peace and calming influence in my home.
This will look like me
- listening to my kids work things out rather than trying to problem solve for them.
- saying “no” to good things, to allow my family to get more rest or more time together.
- setting aside stuff I want to do for myself until a later time.
- having my kids plan a day of family fun that they want to do.
- planning school supply shopping earlier, or online, so I'm not all stressed out and yelling.
- stopping myself from spewing worry and frustration from my mouth because I am nervous about my kids starting school.
Here are the top 5 ways I will be the peace in my home at the start of this school year.
1. I will be excited about the endless possibilities of this new school year.
I will not allow my fears and worries transfer onto my children. Any concerns I have over the new school year, I will take to the Lord rather than speak them out loud for my children to hear.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
2. I will speak words of life over my children
I will speak only life-giving words about the new school year. I will encourage my children to speak to God about their own back to school butterflies.
“Don’t worry about anything,
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6 HCSB
3. I will Say “No” to excess.
I will say “No” to the things that add too much to my plate. “No” to the things that don’t give me life. “No” to the invites for good things that will have me forego great family times. I will let these last weeks and days before school starts be intentional and not chaotic.
“God’s curse blights the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder,
but if you’re down on your luck,
he’s right there to help.
Wise living gets rewarded with honor;
stupid living gets the booby prize.”
Proverbs 3:33-35 MSG
4. In the words of Elsa, I will “let it go!”
If I forgot to order the personalized backpack in the perfect color, I will let it go.
If I am almost done with summer and my bucket list hasn’t even been touched, I will let the guilt go.
If I am upset that my child didn’t get in a class with their best friend, I will let it go.
I will let go of the back to school clothes shopping. I will instead turn it into a fun September activity together rather than a knockdown, drag-out stress-ball of time for back to school. (Honestly, the weather is still as hot as anything, and they won’t wear the cute fall clothes for a few months anyway!)
This is an opportunity to choose peace over being frazzled.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17 HCSB
5. I will be there.
Once school starts, I will just be there for my child without overloading my schedule. Those first few weeks of school can be difficult for kids. They may not know anyone in their class, get a teacher they don’t like, struggle with remembering their new schedule, or are just plain tired.
I will not be on the phone at school pick up. I will hug them. I will sit down for family dinners. I will share about my day, inviting them to share about theirs. I know they will talk when they are ready, but I will make sure I am there for them to have the opportunity to talk.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
My prayer is to find a way to let some things go and make a choice to be an influence of peace in my home this back to school season.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NASB
Denise Slater - I’m a mom to 12 year old triplets and a wife to a college professor. We both have relocated to Tennessee by way of Michigan (Go Blue!), Missouri and Arkansas, which means we have lots of family to visit during the summer. We are blessed to travel quite often during the summer as my husband’s job during this time can be done anywhere with a modem.
I am excited to have my friend Jaclyn on the blog today! She and I went to high school together but live in different states now. Thanks to social media, I read a small part of her story when she shared a post not too long ago. I knew I wanted her to guest blog for us because she has a story women can resonate with...body image. I am thankful for her transparency and I pray it can help someone today! Please know you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need prayer!
When I was little, how much I weighed or what size pants I wore was never brought up. Who cared??
I was never called fat, always an average size. Because I started tumbling at the age of five and always stayed busy with some form of athletic sport, my bottom half was always on the larger size compared to my waist. It was in high school when I started to pay more attention to my weight and size. The models in clothing ads were much thinner than me (and of course taller, too). I was 5'1" and wore a size 6. I was no where near fat but the BMI chart said I was overweight.
After high school, I was determined to not gain the "Freshman 15." I wanted the opposite. I was going to be thin like society said I should be. Being an average size 6 was not good enough, and there the obsession began. I was obsessed with looking at myself in the mirror and judging my flaws around my waist, hips and thighs. I would turn this way and that way, suck in my stomach and would wish I was a size 0 or 2. Working out and eating low fat and fat-free was not doing the trick anymore.
There had to be something else.
That's when I started purging my food. It was wrong, but I justified it because I didn't do it all the time and not every meal. The truth of the matter was I was bulimic. I became more obsessed when I started working at a local gym part-time. I would get there an hour before the gym opened to workout and then stay after my shift to workout some more. It was working. By the end of the summer, I was a size 0/2. Just what I wanted. My friends were concerned. My family wondered. I just denied anything and said I had been working out a lot, which was true, but I kept the bulimia a secret.
When I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and my workouts became less and my eating habits were lax, I had to purge even more. It happened at every meal and then eventually became everything I ate. I would be in tears in the bathroom because it hurt to purge my food. In my apartment, I would cry while looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself I needed to stop. But I couldn't. I was gaining weight. I had to keep throwing up. I was now a size 4 and extremely unhealthy.
This went on for over 6 years. It wasn't until I met the man who is now my husband that I revealed my secret. When we started dating, I told him who I really was. I was bulimic. He was a smoker so we made a pact to face the things that were taking over our lives head on. I needed more than just his help to get me out of the pit. I needed prayers and God's help. I emailed my friend and family and confessed my secret and begged them for prayers to help me. It was a slow recovery, and I went through a lot of changes. I gained more weight, and my metabolism was gone. My body was hanging onto everything in fear it was going to go without food. My teeth were ruined, my esophagus scarred and I was no longer "thin", but I was getting better. It was a very long road to recovery but I had God on my side along with friends and family who cared about me. Prayers and God's love and grace were my strength and I realized that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
It has taken years for my metabolism to begin to fully function like it should, which in turn caused me to struggle with my weight. Now I'm finally at a place where I no longer look at the number on the scale or my pant size. It's all about how I feel. Yes, I still look in the mirror and want to lose some inches, I'm human, but my ultimate goal is to just be healthy.
Now that I have kids, especially a daughter, I hope I can instill good healthy habits in them. I want them to see me eating whole foods and exercising because I want to be healthy, not skinny. Because of society and the pressures we put on ourselves, I can only pray that my kids don't go down the road I traveled. God made us all different, yet beautiful in His eyes. We just need to see the beauty within us.
I’m Jaclyn and from a really small town called Calvert City in Kentucky. I accepted Christ and was baptized when I was eighteen, after graduating high school. I moved to Louisville when I was twenty and never left! I married my best friend in 2006 and my last name changed for the 4th and final time. We have two amazing kiddos; Jackson who is eight and Evelyn who is four. They are full of life and keep us on our toes. I am the office manager for a local eye company called VisionFirst. Life is hard and marriage is hard but I am thankful for the love and grace that God gives us.
You ALL know our sweet friend today. In fact, she’s been here before. We know you will be encouraged by her own story of how the Lord not only saved her, but continues to walk with her today. Please welcome Susannah back as she shares about God’s goodness in her life.
In September 2015, I was 34-years-old and had just self-published my first book, “Ten Years Taken”. It was a joyous time because my childhood dreams were finally coming true! Since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be a writer. And finally, after many years of writing and editing and ripping up manuscripts, everything was coming full circle. I was travelling around the state to speak at book clubs and libraries, appearing at book signings in community centers and churches, giving interviews to local newspapers and radio stations and recognized as a real author. People even stopped me in Target to talk about my novel and the characters I had invented! It was such a surreal time, and I was ecstatic when “Ten Years Taken” was listed among the Top 30 best-selling self-published books on Amazon.
My mother was truly my biggest fan. She was on the front row at every event, first in line at every book signing and she bought 18 copies of each newspaper or publication I was featured in. She constantly advertised my book and shared my blog posts on social media and continually told me how proud of me she was. She said she’d always known I’d be an author.
One cool Saturday night in September, my mama hung the next day’s church clothes on her closet door. She placed a cup of water on her nightstand next to my novel and climbed into her plush bed. And sometime during the night, while my mother slept, her soul went to be with Jesus.
I watched my young father die of a heart attack when I was eleven, and when my mother passed away, I suddenly felt like an orphan. I felt like a 34-year-old orphan. I was so utterly lost and alone and without any roots. I didn’t know how in the world I was expected to live a lifetime without my mother because she had been my rock, my friend, my spiritual mentor, my everything.
Of course, it is normal for a daughter to mourn her mother’s death, but I went beyond typical grieving. I spiraled down into a dark, deep pit of despair. I knew my mother was resting at our Savior’s feet, without the cares of this world, but I couldn’t even find joy or peace in that beautiful truth. I just so selfishly wanted her here with me. I needed her advice. I wanted to hear her laugh. I wanted to feel her fingers running through my hair. I wanted her by my side. I just wanted my mother.
As the months passed, I was still unable to get out of bed many days. I was unable to cook dinner for my family or attend my children’s ballgames. Not only was I devastated at the void in my life, but I was bitter and angry. While spending so much time in my bed sobbing and hiding from the world, I mourned my father’s death all over again. I didn’t foresee my joy ever being restored.
I’ve been saved since I was a little girl. My mother was a great Godly woman and raised me on the promises found in the Word of God. I knew all the Scriptures about hope and restoration and how Jesus was near to the brokenhearted, but still I was utterly broken.
And finally, worn and weary and heavy-laden, I could no longer bear the burden. I was exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, and in a moment of sweet surrender, as tears fell from my eyes, I gave it all to the Lord. I told Him, “God, I cannot do this anymore. I cannot continue living in this dark pit of grief. I need you.”
When I finally let go of the rope ‒ when I finally surrendered the hurt, the ache, the void ‒ my Savior was so gracious to catch me. He came to me right where I was and gave rest to my weary soul. He gave me peace that passes all understanding. He gave me light in the darkness. He restored my joy.
The Lord has even revealed great purpose in my pain. I’ve been able to show the comfort that He has shown me to others, just as we are instructed to do in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7. I’ve continually drawn closer to Him and relied on His sweet grace and mercy, and in turn, He’s called me to do things I never thought possible. He’s called me to speak His promises of life and hope to those who are grieving. He’s called me to point the hurting and the broken to Him. He’s called me to use my writing for His glory. He’s given me beauty for ashes not only concerning the deaths of my parents, but also infertility and alcohol abuse and many other trials.
Jesus was battered and beaten and bloodied. He was mocked and ridiculed, and then He hung on an old, rugged cross to die for our sins. What incredible pain and sorrow He went through! But the purpose, the beautiful purpose, was revealed three days later when that tomb proved empty.
And like Jesus’ pain, our pain has great purpose, too.
Of course, I still miss my parents every day. Lord, what I wouldn’t give to be able to pick up the phone and call my mother and ask her to make me a Mississippi Mud Cake. But if my mother was still here, I wouldn’t be commissioned to point others to the Great Comforter. I wouldn’t have experienced His agape love and been proved time and time again that He truly is near to the brokenhearted. I wouldn’t realize so fully how our Father truly works ALL things together for good.
No matter the pain or sorrow or longing we experience here in our temporary home, if it points us to Jesus, it’s worth it.
As a special treat for Father's Day, we are featuring our second male guest blogger! I have known Kevin Carson my entire life. His father was the pastor of the church (the one with the holy saltines) that I wrote about in my salvation story. I have always thought of Kevin's entire family as salt-of-the-earth type of people - so authentic, so humble, and so Christlike. While I knew him as a kid, he is now a pastor, professor, counselor, author, and speaker. And today, he is writing as a father on a subject that has touched the lives of so many of our readers. May his story fill your burdened heart with great hope.
Today is my sweet baby’s nineteenth birthday. Kayla lived for one short month. We had hoped to enjoy her for our lifetime, but in God’s plan her days were so few in number. Her impact though has far outweighed her days. In some ways it seems like yesterday and like we were kids when we had her; in other ways, it seems like an eternity ago. Although some of the feelings change, the hurt and the loss never go away. Oh to sing to her again just one more time, to hold her, to caress her head, to read to her, to tell her how pretty she is, to say, “I love you.” This many years later, it still makes me cry.
There are so many parents like me and like us. When your child dies, your world changes. Things are never the same again. Something inside of you constitutionally is different. It’s a club no parent wanted to be part of – those who have lost a child. Yes, there’s laughter. Yes, there are good days. Yes, life goes on. But don’t confuse living and going on with life as if there is no pain, no hurt, or no loss.
Then in the midst of life, we remember that the Bible is for life. The Bible teaches that God’s plan for each of Christ’s followers is to change into His image, to become like Christ. Additionally, the Bible itself is for life change. God gives us His Word in order for us to change in the power of the Spirit to become more like Christ. Therefore, the Bible’s verses are to be applied to life’s circumstances.
As a grieving father with my sweet girl’s grieving mother, my challenge is to apply the Bible to our daughter’s death as well. There are many passages I could consider (and maybe someday will), but two specifically stand out to me as I consider 19 years and counting.
Challenging Passage #1: James 1:2
James was written to fellow Christians who were in deep persecution. People are dying. They are running for their lives. They are disappointed Christ has not come back to earth yet like He promised. It is a rough time. In the midst of this incredibly rough time, our Pastor James, Jesus’ brother, writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
What? How in the world are they – how in the world are we – how in the world are you supposed to count it all joy when you undergo trials of every sort? Does he include when your baby dies?
Over the years this verse has challenged me and helped me. In the midst of the simplest trials or in the throes of life’s greatest trials, the truth of this verse does not change. That’s what makes it so challenging.
How is it possible to count it all joy when you go through this kind of trial?
Let me help you first by considering two key words and then pointing to the greater context. The first key word is “count.” Here, Pastor James is using an accounting term. In other words, when you put pencil and paper to this problem, the answer to this real-life math equation is joy. As you consider the overall picture of God’s plan in this, ultimately we recognize that this fits in the positive category of joy.
So then, what’s “joy?” Joy here is a state of being, not an emotion. Joy does not mean that you just paste a smile on and pretend that nothing happened or that everything is ok. Joy is not feeling happy. Here joy refers to a deep-seated contentment in God’s plan even in the midst of pain, heartache, and pressure. It is a thankful trust in God’s character and plan.
The context highlights God’s plan. James writes further, “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4). This trial or tough circumstance, in this case the death of our baby, as we go through the circumstance and its aftermath, is meant to produce spiritual maturity and growth. The trial helps give me pieces of my character that were formerly missing.
This is the reason why the math equation works. You and I can have joy – even in the midst of deep sadness – because we know that God even uses life’s hardest events to help grow our faith, our character, and our spiritual maturity. We trust God and His plan even in the middle of heartache because He will use this for His glory and our good. Joy – this deep-seated contentment – can rule me even when my heart aches and even in the center of this sadness.
Challenging Passage #2: Philippians 4:11
The passage in James leads me to another challenging passage by a different author in Philippians. Paul writes, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11).
How is it possible to be content with the death of a child?
First, it is only possible by the strength Christ provides. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). It is impossible to be content and to count it joy as you go through this life circumstance without the power of the Christ working in you. We do not have enough strength or ability to be content on our own. We must turn toward Christ and the strength He provides. We must depend upon Him, call out to Him, and desperately turn to Him for help.
Paul continues, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil 4:12). Paul does not deny the realities of suffering. The Bible does not pretend that everything is fine. The text does not say to live in a pretend world. It is even in the midst of deep suffering that we can turn to Christ who allows us to be content with God’s plan.
In the Midst of the Pain
Does this mean that the pain goes away? Do these passages suggest that I put on a happy face and pretend that everything is fine? Do I just pretend for the glory of God?
No. No. No. No.
What these passages do mean is that even in the heart of significant trouble – like our baby dying – we can trust God’s character and plan. In the middle of this circumstance, we can recognize God is using even our hurts, our tears, and heartache for His glory as we grow into Christlikeness. As days turn into years, we learn to focus on God and trust His character even as we visit a gravesite, celebrate birthdays in heaven, and miss all the opportunities of watching a baby grow up into a beautiful young lady.
For sake of space I will not rehearse all the ways that God has grown me through this trial. As today marks another birthday of our sweet little girl, I can say that God continues to grow me. I recognize I’m not the man I was back then. And with sadness I also accept the fact that possibly I would have never grown, never been humble enough, or never have paid attention to aspects of my character that have changed because of her short life and untimely death.
Can I be content in Christ? Can I consider it joy? Yes and yes. Does it mean that this day isn’t filled with hurt, tears, and a true recognition of loss? Oh no. It is. Real loss. Real tears. Real hurt. But as I type through tear-filled eyes, there is still contentment that God knows, God cares, God provides, and God continues to grow me through the trial.
In addition, I also know that the promises of heaven and eternity are sweet promises. We wait in anticipation.
Kevin Carson is the Pastor of the Sonrise Baptist Church in Ozark, Missouri. In addition to his pastoral ministry, he serves as the department chair of biblical counseling at the Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. He also serves as a counselor at Sonrise Biblical Counseling Ministry, is ACBC Certified, IABC Certified, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, author, and is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and seminars. He and his wife, Kelly, have four children.
You can follow him on Twitter at @pastorkevinc, on Facebook, and his blog.