Reflections – Beauty from Pain

Day Two

In the 1930’s the St. Louis Cardinals had a star pitcher who played with youthful personality and passion. His name was Dizzy Dean.

Dizzy Dean led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in 1934 when his pitching won them thirty games in one season. He was at the peak of his career and seemingly unstoppable until the 1937 All-Star game when a line drive struck him on the foot, fracturing his big toe.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Dizzy found a way to adjust his pitching motion to avoid landing hard on his injured toe. But in the process, he hurt his shoulder, losing his great fastball.

Dizzy Dean’s career ended, not because of his injured toe, but because of the shoulder injury he received while compensating for his injured toe.

Many of us, perhaps you today, have learned to compensate for injuries to our identity. These injuries are lodged so deep in your heart and over the years, they’ve shaped the way you live.

You’ve learned to compensate.

Conceal.

Adjust.

Adapt.

And something deep inside just feels off.

It affects the way you see yourself, your relationship with God, your relationships with others, how you live and how you act.

Whether it’s due to shameful words, shattered dreams or painful experiences, these injuries are so deep we often don’t even know they’re there. We’ve just become really good at compensating for them.

Somehow we have to find a way to move beyond the discomfort and pain to embrace something far greater. God didn’t create us to limp around, masking and covering up our pain. He created us to live differently – with wholeness, vitality and purpose.

The path to experiencing this begins by allowing his loving presence to change and transform our lives. He’s an expert at taking the brokenness of our life and building something beautiful.

In fact, it’s what He does best.

Paul says it this way in Romans 8:17-18,

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

The brokenness, the suffering and the injustice that we see and experience here on earth, pale in comparison to the glory that we will experience when we meet Jesus face to face. As his children, we can live with a confident hope that rises above all of our present pain, fear, struggles and insecurities because someday, we will share with Jesus in experiencing the complete freedom and wholeness of his eternal Kingdom!

The Greek word for glory in the above verse is dóxa, which means a most glorious condition. The glory spoken of in this verse relates to us, his children, and refers to the ideal condition in which God created and intended his children to live.1  

God wants you to become and do everything He originally meant for you to be. He wants you to embrace your True Selfie! In fact, that’s why He created you!

Even better news: his glory can begin to be revealed through your life, right here, right now. Even through challenges, even through suffering, you can live in a way that glorifies God by pointing others to the eternal hope that you have in Christ.

The past failures and the present difficulties don’t determine our future and can’t hinder God’s purpose from being accomplished in our lives. Nothing even compares to the glory that God will someday reveal in us—the fullness and completeness of total wholeness, restoration and freedom.

Amidst great seasons of joy and success, our lives will be checkered with moments of heartache, disappointment, failure and unfulfilled dreams. God wants to use those seasons of suffering to mold, change and transform us. Ironically, it’s often during the most challenging seasons in my life, when I’ve seen God do his greatest work.

If you continue reading the rest of Romans 8, you’ll find Paul build on this truth as he writes about an unshakable hope we can have as Christ followers. One of my favorite verses is found here in verse 28,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

All things . . . that includes the financial things, the bad relationship things, the family things, the school things, the depressing things, the past things, the job-related things . . .

You get the idea?

Your number one hurt, your number one problem, God can use to help mold and shape you so you will more accurately reflect the image of his Son and bring glory to him through your life.

Often, we limit “the good” we’re hoping to see in our life to temporal, material things. Much of the time, God wants so much more for us. He looks beyond our circumstances, his perspective extends into eternity and “his good work” usually involves doing something of far greater eternal worth and glory as He works in our heart.

Whatever you’ve endured or experienced, it’s my prayer you would know God is good, He is faithful and He can be trusted. He desperately loves you and wants the best for your life. You’re beautiful and precious in his sight, and He wants to use your current mess to make something beautiful.

This doesn’t mean He’s a fairy godmother-type who alleviates all of our problems and pain. In fact, it’s often quite the contrary. Difficult circumstances are a pathway to growth and maturity. God loves you so much that He desires to work deep in your heart if you’ll let him. Some of the innermost places of character are forged through pain and suffering.

Even the most ugly, horrible experiences can be an opportunity for God to make something beautiful, something good, in your life.

Don’t compensate. Don’t cover-up. Don’t conceal any longer. Allow God to do his even greater work of healing in your soul.

Think about it…

  • What injuries to your identity might you be compensating for?
  • How have you seen the eternal hope offered to us through Jesus sustain you during dark seasons?
  • Why do you think God uses suffering and pain to mold and shape us? Have you seen this true in your life? If so, how?
  • What aspect of your life are you trusting that God would to work to bring something good? What step can you take to grow in your trust of him?

 

1 Spiros Zodhaites, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament(Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992) p. 478 & Strong’s Concordance

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Your True Selfie – The Relentless Pursuit of Who God Created You to Be

Day Two

My meltdown years ago on that stormy night in the snowy Nashville parking lot was not the only time I’ve struggled as a mom to grasp my identity. In the midst of a new, changing or unfamiliar seasons still, with over twenty years of motherhood and marriage, I encounter situations and circumstances that rattle me, exposing fears, insecurities and weaknesses I didn’t even know I had.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience when you…

  • Started a new job
  • Moved to a new city
  • Sent a child off to college
  • Walked through health issues
  • Navigated an unexpected divorce
  • Had a baby

It’s during seasons like these, I have to continually remind myself to place my worth in the right places. Not to fix my hope on things that are inconsistent, unpredictable and constantly changing.

Perhaps right now, you’re finding yourself in an unexpected place where the sand is shifting beneath your feet, things as you knew them are changing, uncertain, unstable.

Dear friend, know that there is a God who desperately loves you and has so much more for you than you could ever imagine for yourself. He created you to experience a life that is rich, purposeful and fulfilling. And He is faithful to walk you through this.

God desires to give you something better than a neat, nicely coiffed, comfortable life. He offers you something stronger to anchor your life. Something stable. Something unchanging, sustaining and incredibly fulfilling.

In the book of Ephesians, we see a man named Paul, praying for his friends in the town of Ephesus. It’s one of my favorites and it’s my prayer for you as well.

Please read Ephesians 3:14-20 NLT.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Immeasurably more… God is able to do far beyond what we can ask or think.

Every good thing that you’ve experienced so far in your life…God is able to do more.

Every difficult thing you’ve faced, God in his infinite goodness and grace can use it and redeem it for his purpose.

Every dream that you can imagine for your life…God is able to do more.

Everything that is even beyond your ability to control, comprehend, understand or imagine…God is able to do more than that too.

In fact, Paul is struggling in such a great way to describe this concept that theologian Charles Spurgeon said, Paul constructed an expression that is entirely his own—immeasurably more. No language was strong or powerful enough to fully describe what God is able to do in and through our lives.

God is able to do immeasurably more… according to His power that is at work within us. Right now. We don’t have to wait to experience this in a few years when we get our life together and our life goals mapped out.

That includes YOUR life. Regardless of what your circumstances are right now, in spite of how hopeless your circumstances seem, God is able to bring increase, healing, restoration and do more than you could ever imagine.

However, I believe we often miss the most crucial part of tapping into this immeasurably more awesomeness that God has for us.

It’s a partnership, with him!

My prayer for you as you go through these short devotionals, is that you would come to know and grasp the immensity of God’s love for you, for you to be filled with the fullness of God and that God, through His power, would do immeasurably more in your life than you could ever imagine.

And for you to have the courage to let go of the insecurities, fears, weaknesses that are holding you back and replace them with the immeasurably more presence and power of God.

Take a moment…

  • What is your current “new thing” that has unearthed insecurity or inadequacy in your life?
  • Have you experienced frustration that comes from the realization that you’re feeling a little empty on the inside? Feeling that you were made for more than you currently see?
  • For what are you grateful? Take some time to thank God for all He’s done for you and all He’s given you.
  • What are some immeasurably more things you feel God stirring in your heart?

Don’t Give Up

Well, January has come and gone and we’re already halfway into February. At the beginning of the year I’m so motivated to make changes, to try new things, to reprioritize my life. With renewed vision and vigor I determine to…

  • Clean the closets
  • Redecorate the house
  • Eat healthy
  • Get back on budget
  • Exercise more
  • Read more, pray more, study more

And yet, by the end of January, I notice the dust beginning to settle on my dreams for the year. *Sigh*

The fire that motivated me so strongly January 1 is beginning to burn a little dimmer – at times flickering and gasping to stay aflame.

Funny how easy it is to be quick out of the blocks – to initiate change, start projects, take on new responsibilities. Yet over time I watch the energy I need to sustain the pace at which I desire to run dissipate.

I haven’t given up though. I’m determined to push through and approach this year with a different level of faith, an additional dose of tenacity. I don’t want to meander through the year, wilting under its heat and pressure, succumbing to its weight and burden.

I truly believe that God has a purpose and plans for me. I believe that He has wonderful plans for you too.

I don’t think I’m experiencing anything new – nothing you probably haven’t had to face as well.

In fact many years ago, we find the apostle Paul encouraging the Galatian believers as they began to waver under the persecution for their faith. He urges them not to allow their diligence and discipline to wane. He writes,

let-us-not-become-weary-in-doing-good-for-at-the-proper-time-we-will-reap-a-harvest-if-we-do-not-give-up-galatians-6_9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

There will be seasons when the heat is turned up and the enthusiasm we once had to initiate change fades.Don’t give up. Don’t grow weary. Don’t become discouraged in your efforts. Perhaps you aren’t seeing the results you desire in this season, but God created you to flourish. To move forward in what He created you to do.

Push through your weariness to experience the growth and reward waiting for you on the other side of your mountain. It’s his power working in you and through you that gives you the ability to overcome and reap the harvest you desire to see in your life this year.