How Letting Something Go Gives You Something Better

My friend Jayne recently discovered a spot on her leg.  What began as a spot was discovered to be a rare, aggressive cancer and within weeks she heard the doctor say, “The leg needs to go.”  Our town’s premier wedding planner was stunned at the news.  Jayne is a vivacious, positive thinking trooper, but this was a devastating blow.  The doctor admonished her, saying, “You will die if you don’t have the leg removed.  And soon.  Now don’t you be stubborn about this.”  “Stubborn?!” she exclaimed in her beautiful, way southern drawl. “I’ve got livin’ to do!  Set the date!”

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My friend David tells the story of having his second leg amputated.  Due to diabetes complications, the first had been removed years earlier.  Then the fevers came and the second leg burned hot with infection.  There was much more David wanted to do in life. But in his thinking, to be completely without legs and stuck in a wheelchair would make him an invalid…of little use to God or others.

So for seven years, he held on to his second leg.  Then sitting in a fast food drive-through line one day, David came to a place of surrender…a place of letting go.  “I was exhausted from recurring fevers caused by the infected leg”, he explains.  The encounter with God he had was undeniable.  He heard God ask,”Why are you holding on to a seven-year anchor?”  Suddenly he wasn’t afraid.  Immediately he made the phone call to set up the surgery.

Sometimes we need to let go of something so we can move to the next good thing. 

Maybe your spouse has left and you never thought you’d be here, starting over.  Maybe budget cuts at your company have caused you to lose your job.  Maybe a dear loved one has died and your life is suddenly far different than you imagined it would be.

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I don’t know what you’re facing, friend, but it seems to me in each of life’s storms, there is a common denominator…something we need to let go of.  And though our circumstances may be different from one another, the thing we need to let go of is the same. What is it? Control.

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As you relinquish your sweaty death grip on your circumstances, something beautiful begins to happen.  You are freed from the burden of trying to be God!  You realize that God is doing something in your storm…something you may not fully understand.  And you begin to sense that He’s at work for a good purpose in your life – and in the lives of others. It may not be the way you wanted your prayer answered, but there’s real comfort when you remember that His great love for you was settled on the cross.  And because of that great love, He’s working for His glory and your ultimate good.
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It was a Wednesday night at choir practice.  Hearts were heavy with the knowledge that David had lost his second leg that morning.  As the choir director, I asked, “Has anyone spoken with David today?”  A hand went up. “How is he?”  I’ll never forget the sagging shoulders, the downcast expressions as I scanned the room.  Everyone there loved David. The choir member replied, “He’s busy deciding how tall he wants to be.”

A gasp…then a collective hilarious belly laugh from everyone in the choir.

The evening of Jayne’s surgery, I dialed her number with a heavy heart.  “How are you, friend?” My beautiful, spunky, life-loving friend’s response? “I’m cancer-free! I traded my broken-down leg for LIFE, and before you know it, I’ll have a new, state of the art leg!” If I was stunned at the news of Jayne’s leg amputation, I was even more stunned at her victorious insight. Turns out the wedding director has a very important wedding coming up…that of her niece…and she is NOT going to miss it!

David and Jayne are two people that recognized it was time to let something go so they could move forward into something better. As David and Jayne each live life in their own bright, winsome ways, people walk away with this thought: “If someone with that kind of devastating loss can find hilarious joy in this life, maybe joy is possible for me, too.” They are making an impact for great encouragement in the lives of all who come in contact with them.

When David and Jayne relinquished control, they each lost a leg.  But they gained LIFE. And ministries that reach all kinds of people in all types of situations.

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David Duncan and Jayne Smith

I’d love to hear from you: What are you holding on to that God may want to exchange for something bigger?

Copyright 2016. Connie Carey is the author of “Falling UP”, a resource for grief and loss. You can reach her at http://www.conniecarey.com.

7 Ways God Works in Your Difficult Times

If you live in the South, you are enjoying the beauty of the Crepe Myrtle tree as its long branches are beginning to sprout.  This time of year, it seems to grow by the day and by June, the weight of it’s flowering blooms will drape elegantly while reveling in the full sun and heat of summer in the south.

But each February I marvel as gardeners take to these beautiful trees with saws and clippers, cutting back the statuesque tree down to a hat rack.  The first time I noticed this process, I thought, “They’ve killed these trees.  They’ve been cut back too much and they’ll never come back.”

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But, I was wrong.  In April, little sprouts began to appear.  In May, they were coming forth and by June, their blooms were in glorious splendor, whether white, purple or hot pink.

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In fact, the trees that were not trimmed are never as brilliant the following summer, looking spindly and with smaller blossoms.

Are you facing a time of pruning in your life?  Does it feel like God is too severe in His dealings with you?  I’ve certainly been there.  There have been seasons in my life when the trials I was facing caused me to say to God, “Look, I promise.  This is NOT making me more patient.  Or kind.  Or long-suffering.  I am becoming a WORSE person, not better! Don’t you see how terribly I’m holding up under this trouble?  Please. Stop. Now.”

But somehow, by His grace, He brought me through those unwelcome situations and later, I WAS stronger, more resilient, and eventually, even more joyful.

Can you see the goodness of God in the ways He makes His presence known to you in what seems to be a severe pruning in your life?  Here are a few examples:

  1. A scripture that you’ve read many times suddenly springs to life with new meaning.
  2. The kindness of a friend.
  3. Interesting circumstances you know were meant just for you that bring comfort.
  4. Gratitude for simple moments of joy that perhaps you didn’t recognize before.
  5. The new compassion you feel for others who are experiencing a hard time.
  6. Finding yourself reaching out to others during their difficulty.
  7. The platform you now have to bring comfort to others who are enduring a similar hardship.

Be on the lookout for God in every detail of your life, especially the difficult times.  He’s there – working for your good.

And like the Crepe Myrtle, it won’t be long before you’re blooming forth with new growth, a reflection of the Master Gardener’s loving skill and wisdom so that you can be a benefit to others and a reflection of His glory.

Copyright 2016. Connie Carey delivers fun, content-rich messages that lift your spirit and bring the house down! She is the author of “Falling UP”, a resource for grief and loss.  You can reach her at www.conniecarey.com.

Three Responses to Suffering

You can’t live very long without getting a few “dings” to the heart. By that I mean trials, loss, sorrows of various kinds.

And when it happens, we tend to have one of three responses.

  1. Ignore and Stuff.  One response is to stuff the painful event far away, as if you put it on the back shelf of the closet of your heart, hoping the painful emotions will just go away.  But they won’t.  The heartbreak becomes lodged in our hearts and, as a result, we ourselves become “stuck”.  Stuck in our woundedness, our lack of trust, our belief that “life is hard, and then you die”.  That wound needs lancing.  The way to release the poison is in telling your story – not to just anyone, but to a trusted friend. There is a cleansing that comes from confession to a trusted friend.
  2. Tell Anyone and Everyone.  Another response is to repeatedly shout our story from the rooftops to anyone and everyone that will listen.   Not with the purpose of cleansing our hearts, but rather to declare over and over (and over again) how we’ve been “done wrong”, either by God or by others.  This response keeps a person in victim mode, always the helpless casualty of a particularly painful event, long after the event is over.  When confronted with these destructive attitudes and behaviors, this person is fond of rehearsing his hurts, then concluding with something like, “And that’s why I’m the way that I am.  End of story,”
  3. Your Story for His Glory.  And then occasionally you meet someone whose painful event has caused them to surrender, abandoning all hope of solving the problem or healing the pain on their own, becoming ever dependent on God, and always looking expectantly for His glory in their unwanted circumstance.  It’s not all wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow.  They still have unanswered questions.  There are tears on occasion.  But their painful event now serves, not as a justification for their behavior, but as a testimony to God’s grace in their lives.  Through the tears, there’s a submission to His will resulting in a more tender heart, an outward focus, and a compassion for others who hurt.  There is brokenness, yes.  But there is also joy.  Why? Their story is for His glory.

So, in which response do you see yourself?  

We all have a story of having been hurt.  But some people surrender their stories to God – and He uses them for His glory.  They confess their tears to God – and to others.  And it is those same tears that give them a platform of credibility and hope for others who are hurting.  They don’t claim to understand loss. Nor do they pretend to have it all figured out.  What I hear in their words is this declaration:  “God, I don’t know what You’re doing.  I don’t understand it.  I don’t like it.  But I’m Yours.”

May you and I declare the same, walking forward and seeing God do for us and through us what only He can do.

From “Falling UP:  Lessons Learned on the Way Down”, available on Amazon August 8.

 

 

 

Lie #3: “There is No Purpose in This Trial”

Have you ever felt like Moses…on the backside of the desert?  Or Joseph, who sat in prison for thirteen long years?  I wonder if they struggled with Lie #3.

This is the third in a week long series, “When It’s More Than You Can Handle: Replacing Lies with Truth”.

Monday, we looked at Lie #1.  Tuesday, we debunked Lie #2: 

Today, let’s deal with

LIE #3:  I could handle my problem better if I saw some good coming out of it, but there is no purpose in this trial.

In some trials, God allows us to later see the golden, glorious plan He was working out for our good.  The job offer that fell through led to higher paying, more satisfying employment. The broken bone requiring the X-Ray that caught the cancer, resulting in early treatment and cure.  In that we celebrate, praise God and high five each other!

Other times we look back on a particular trial and have difficulty understanding why it was allowed.  No beautiful, storybook ending, no “aha” moment where God’s purposes revealed themselves.  Only the steady drip of suffering, like the slow, undignified and torturous decline of an elderly parent with Altzheimer’s.  Or years of trying to conceive that never come to fruition.

 TRUTH:  Mysteriously, these troubles that may seem pointless in the moment are anything but that.  They are actually producing for you an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Paul is not saying they are easy troubles.  He means that they’re nothing compared to the glory that is coming!  By momentary, he doesn’t mean that they last a moment.  He means that even if your trouble lasts a lifetime, there will be an end to it.   When the Christ believer’s life is over, God will make it right.  And you will have forever to enjoy how He made it right.

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory to be revealed to us”  (Romans 8:18).

Some problems seem pointless.  We may not see His purpose, but that doesn’t mean He’s not working out a phenomenal plan behind the scenes of our suffering.

He doesn’t explain to us all His purposes in this life.  But in the meantime, He does tell us  that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). There is comfort in knowing that He holds our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56).  In other words, He never takes our tears lightly;  not one moment of pain is wasted.  He is using our sorrows for a glorious, eternal future.

One thing is certain:  We’ll understand it better by and by.

Lie #2: “God Must Be Getting Back at Me For Some Past Sin”

“LUCY!  YOU GOT SOME ‘SPLAININ’ TO DO!”  Ever feel like that’s how God feels toward you?

This is the second in a week long series, When It’s More Than You Can Handle: Replacing Lies with Truth.  Yesterday, we looked at Lie #1: This trial is going to destroy me and I may lose my faith. 

Today, we deal with

LIE #2:  God must be getting back at me for some past sin.  

TRUTH:  God is not getting back at you; rather, He’s getting you back to Him! Yes, God hates sin, so much so that He put all of your sins and mine on Jesus, and then punished Him.  The full extent of God’s wrath was extinguished on His Son.  Just before Jesus died, He said, “It is finished”.  God is finished dealing with the sin of those who fully trust in His Son’s work on the cross.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  (Hebrews 8:12)

You may not feel forgiven.  But God calls you and me to hold in higher esteem what He says about your confessed sin over what you say about your past sin.

“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him” (Psalm 32:2).

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

“If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness, therefore You are feared” (Psalm 130:3).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

God’s forgiveness, however, rarely removes the natural consequences of our sins.  If you cross a busy street without looking both ways, chances are that you’re going to be hit by a car!  Is God angry with you?  No. You just experienced the consequences of not looking both ways before crossing a busy street.  Don’t make the mistake of assigning God’s anger to natural consequences, because Jesus absorbed God’s anger for you, once and for all.

When the accuser reminds you of past sins and failures, remind him that:

Jesus paid it all…all to Him I owe…sin had left a crimson stain…He washed it white as snow!