BLOG site of Amy R. Maxwell

I am the wife of B.J. Maxwell (married August of 1997) and mother of our four adopted children.
I am blessed with the awesome privilege to care for & love my husband, invest in & love our children, and keep our home.
May I steward these gifts well, for the glory and praise of Christ Jesus our precious Lord & Savior!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . sweetest name I know!

Monday, October 22, 2007

A New Woman, Part II


About a month or so ago, God brought a dear and beautiful sister into my life. Her name is Rachel. God has done an incredible work in my sister's life. He has brought her out of a cold, dark pit and into His glorious light! O gracious Father, indeed You are kind to shine Your face down upon us!

If you have read my previous BLOGs, you know that my heart has been in great despair and sorrow this summer. Yet, the Lord has been kind to revive and uplift my soul, especially through His Word. One specific area that He is increasing and training is my faith. At first I thought He was teaching me about faith in trusting Him with having more children, but quickly God has stretched this into something far greater. He is teaching me to live a LIFE of faith - in ALL areas. Hebrews 11:6 has made such a profound impact on my life this summer:

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Let it be known, in September of 2007, God began calling me to greater faith. By His Spirit, He began leading me down paths that were always there, but never seen. And this is where my friend, Rachel, comes into the picture. “Come and see the works of God”, and let me boast of His great mercy and power!

Before going on our summer vacation, I was skimming through Craigslist, looking through the "WANTED" section. I remember running across an ad asking for food and drinks. I did not respond. I thought that folks would surely see this cry for help and come to the aid of this family in need. We left for Corpus Christi and I was haunted all week by this need. Did anyone ever help?

When we got back home I decided to contact this family and see if they had received any assistance. Sadly, no one had helped. I was heart broken. I immediately got together some food and with great fear and trembling, Lydia and I ventured out into the unknown. I was terrified. Physical pain and emotional "baggage" had kept me at arm's length with people for such a long time. A part of me had become too fearful to serve and love anymore. To reach out into "the unknown" was difficult for me. I was comfortable in my safe, little world, and numb to the pain and poverty around me.

But do you know that I after we delivered those groceries (being as scared as I was), God changed my heart? I was no longer fearful. God began working in me a heart of mercy and love outside of my small, shallow world. After that day I began contacting every person I saw on Craigslist who had a need. I must have contacted over 10 families all in one week. And with all of them I assured them that their needs would be met. I remember thinking one day, "What if we CAN'T meet all these needs?" But God crushed those fears in the days ahead.

One need I responded to was a need for clothes. I kept asking this lady if she needed anything else, and finally she admitted that she also needed some food. BJ and I gathered some clothes and food (through the church) and proceeded to this woman's house on a Monday night. My life (and her life) has forever changed since stepping through her front door.

This is where we met Rachel and her precious daughter. When we entered her apartment is was completely bare. There was nothing. She gratefully invited us to see "her stuff" in her bedroom, and all that she had was a blanket to sleep on, a pillow or two, and a few other random items. She had no beds, no furniture, no food, no toys, no shower curtains or bath supplies - nothing. As Lydia and her daughter played, BJ and I were able to spend time getting to know the heart of our dear sister. How beautiful! After about an hour or so of talking and praying, we told Rachel that we would be back the next night and that we were going to believe God to provide for her every need. We left trusting God to provide a house full of furniture, dishes, bath items, food, clothing, and two months worth of rent.

And do you know what happened?

The next night, we had a caravan of cars, trucks, a trailer and a Hummer, heading over to Rachel's house and God blessed her beyond her wildest dreams. How I wish you could have seen and heard the excitement that night - not only with Rachel, but the WHOLE church. In less than 24 hours, God used our church to funnel His great mercy and love to Rachel. In less then 24 hours we were able to round up a house FULL of furniture, toys, clothing, food, gift certificates, bath & hygiene items, and $950 in rent money. Isn't our God so good? And do you know that within the next few weeks, Rachel would receive more money and even a car?

I have been so humbled to see how God has provided for Rachel, and for many other families we have reached out to. My faith has been stretched and pulled. He has called me to give away so many things that I held so close - my time, my money, my possessions, and my heart. And honestly, it has been painful. I have not always wanted to give it all away, but God has been kind and patient with my sinfulness. And I am learning that when I submit to God, deny self, and follow Christ - I am filled with greater joy. O, to TASTE the sweet, sweet joy of obedience and faithfulness!!

But - I have saved the BEST bite for last! When Rachel received all this "stuff", she knew who to praise. She praised the name of Jesus! With shouting and tears of joy, she proclaimed the goodness of God. A few weeks ago, Rachel stood up in front of our church and shared her testimony of what God had done in her life these past couple of months. How I wish you could have heard her . . . O, the goodness and mercy of God upon her life! She wept as she talked about the impact of a single dish, a bed to sleep on, or even a simple bar of soap. She challenged the church to look beyond ourselves and to see and help those who are hurting and who have nothing . . . You see, my friends, they are out there. Everywhere! We just have to open our eyes, our spiritual eyes, and see them . . . With a heavy heart (full of joy, and yet full of sadness), Rachel revealed that before we came into the picture (before my little email that I wrote in faith), she was wanting to kill herself so that her daughter could have a better life. The only answer she had for her despair and their empty bellies was death. But now she is living in the light and JOY of Christ Jesus!! God heard her prayers of despair, and used a small, simple ad on Craigslist to shine forth His love and grace!

This summer I sat in fear and sadness after having my surgery. I wondered if we would ever have anymore children. Would God allow us to leave foot prints on another child's life? Could I find the strength to step out in faith believing that God's will is more glorious than what I dreamed my life to be like?

The night Rachel shared her testimony God revealed something wonderful to me . . . Through the death of "self" God brought life and hope to a family. Through FAITH-fulness, He allowed us to be apart of His plan to save a child's life.

How I pray that you see the GLORY of God through this post in both mine and Rachel's lives. God has changed both of us for His glory and His fame!

"For we walk by faith, not by sight!" II Corinthians 5:7

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Grieving Process

Grief is a difficult thing. defines it as: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret

There are days, or perhaps even moments, when I grieve deeply over the loss of my womb. Indeed, it feels like a suffocating "sharp sorrow." This weekend has been one of those moments. I guess it all started last week. I woke up one morning feeling sick to my stomach, and my first thought was, "I might be pregnant!" I have lived almost 10 years of my life in those kinds of moments . . . wondering, hoping, and almost believing that I could actually be pregnant. But then the cold reality of my barrenness strangled every joyful thought. I am not pregnant, nor will I ever be pregnant.

Some moments it feels like a nightmare. Will I ever wake up? I can barely utter the word - hysterectomy. I cannot even look at my scar; and I am repulsed if I happen to touch it. What have I done?

War wages within me . . . Truly, I am so excited about the new woman I am becoming. God is (and has already done) such a work of grace within me. I am humbled at His transformation of my heart and home. Yet as much as I love the "new" self, I fear and mourn what could have been if I had not had the surgery. This frustrates me. I hate these feelings of regret and sadness because I feel like I am being ungrateful towards God and questioning His will. So when I have days (or moments) of intense sorrow, I feel guilty and sinful. How do you reconcile these conflicting feelings?

God is a good Father. I am grateful that He does not shield His children from pain and sorrow. I must praise Him for this process of mourning and the fruits of righteousness it will produce.

Psalm 119:28
My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your Word.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A New Woman, Part I

What Has Happened to Me?

I experienced many dark days following my hysterectomy. It is difficult to explain the great sadness that I was experiencing, but I see now that it was a time of trial and suffering specially crafted for my soul – for my sanctification. God knew exactly where to break me and where I needed the most refinement.

On July 7, 2007, I journaled the following passage of scripture -
“You shall remember all the ways which the Lord your God has led you into the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2

When I wrote down this verse, I had no idea how much this verse would hold true in the weeks to follow. God led me to a place where I was humbled and tested. It is there that I discovered what was really in my heart. My heart had become calloused over by sin -apathy, fear, pride, idolatry, and bitterness. There were days of great sadness and weeping as I wondered if I was even saved. How wretched! But though God held me ever so closely to the fire, illuminating ever crack and imperfection, He did not let go. And though the heat of His furnace may have felt unbearable at times, the beauty of His work in me (and my home) far outweighs all the pain and anguish.

July 14, 2007
“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” Proverbs 17:3

“He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3

That same day I journaled the following question:
“What impurities does God desire to remove from my life so that I might present pure offerings of righteousness (i.e. acts of obedient faith)?”

It is simply incredible to look back through my journal and see a common thread through all of my entries . . . FAITH! And though I had forgotten about this entry (and particular question), God has forever seared this desire on my heart. Sure, it was a big step of faith (for BJ and me) to have a hysterectomy. And I believed that if we surrendered this area to God He would bring fulfillment in our longings to have more children. But how little my faith was in my expectations of God . . . for He brought about floodwaters of faith and fulfillment that have overflowed into pure offerings of righteousness!!

And let me say - I literally feel like a NEW WOMAN since my surgery. I physically feel wonderful. (I have not felt this good since college or even high school.) And spiritually God has taken me to new, greater heights of Christ exalting FAITH! I am no longer entangled in fear or sorrow. But each day is a glorious opportunity to worship! How marvelous!

Journal entry on July 19, 2007
“I must persevere even when it does not make sense. When I have lost my life, for God’s purposes, I will find greater life!”

I pray that I will always remember the month of September in 2007. For it was during this month that I began letting go, losing my life for God’s purposes. It wasn’t that I got up one morning and decided to “lose my life”. In fact, I wasn’t even really focused on doing this. But the Lord awakened my heart, day by day, to let go. What did I let go of? I do not even know where to begin . . . fears, time, my home, my heart, money, possessions . . . Every day has presented a new opportunity to lose my life to Christ Jesus. I pray that I will persevere.

God alone as revived my soul. He has breathed a fresh spirit within me. As I once felt like Jonah descending to the depths of the earth, I can now proclaim, “but you have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving!” (Jonah 2:6, 9). It was not I that decided to walk by faith . . . but rather, it was God who reached down and plucked me up from the pit of my despair and placed in me the ability and desire to live in Christ Jesus! Oh, the depths of His love and mercy! Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him!

August 5, 2007
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6


**Upcoming BLOGS: Specific applications on how God has changed my heart

Monday, July 30, 2007

Life After a Hysterectomy (Week 5)

Physically . . . Every day I am getting stronger. I have days of shear frustration because I cannot do the things I want to do (which usually stems from not being able to lift or drive). I am tired of being confined to our house. I long to do what I love best - serving and caring for BJ and Lydia. And I am tired of wearing the same old pair of pants because my stomach is so bloated that I cannot fit into anything else :)

BUT - I am thankful that I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. My physical pain has turned into more of a “discomfort” as my body continues to heal; and I am hopeful that my days of fighting endometriosis are over, Lord willing. Every day I am getting stronger, and closer to being able to sleep on my stomach!! (That will be exciting!) I am looking forward to swooping Lidi up in my arms and just holding her for as long as I want!

Soon things will be back to “normal” . . . I just have to be patient and let my body heal. I have one chance to do this the right way, and I definitely do not want to go through anymore surgeries or complications in dealing with my reproductive health.

Spiritually . . . I have had an abundance of time in the Word. I have been journaling daily God’s promises and I have been greatly humbled to see how He has addressed specific fears and questions that I have been struggling through. I am learning a great deal about what it means to walk by FAITH. What a blessing it has been to spend such intimate time with the Father.

Emotionally . . . There are days where I feel as if I have been swallowed up in a sea of death.

I often think of the words of Jonah as he plunged to the bottom of the sea (2:5-6):
Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars {was} around me forever . . .

I cry a lot. I cry every time I think about what has happened – I had a hysterectomy. It seems like a nightmare. Surely this has not happened. Did I really make the decision, by choice, to have this surgery? Am I really void of all reproductive parts? What have I done? What is happening to my body? Would God allow me to make the wrong decision? Was the pain of my endometriosis really that intolerable? Surely it was all in my head. Perhaps I deceived myself into thinking I could no longer handle the pain anymore. What if the pain was really not even there? Can I trust my own heart and motives?

On our way home from church the other day, BJ asked me why I was crying? It was an obvious question, but not an easy one to answer. I began sorting through this question - why do I cry? What is it exactly that makes me sad?

Is it just my hormones, or am I really sad?
Is it because we cannot have biological children?
Is it because I will never get pregnant, or that I will never see God answer my prayer of opening my womb?
Do I cry out of frustration and fear?
Do I cry because I am lonely, or that I just want to be left alone because I fear that no one will understand my sorrow?
Do I cry because I fear that I have destroyed God’s most beautiful gift to women – being able to bear children?
Do I cry because of God’s judgment, or because of His goodness?

The other day I told BJ how beautiful it would have been to see our image in a child – and then I started weeping. So, am I hung up on having biological children? As soon as I said what I did, I realized how much we see ourselves in our adopted daughter, Lydia Grace. How humbling . . . and so marvelous! We have been given this wonderful gift, by God, to steward and train. I truly believe that I am not hung up on having biological children. So, am I deceiving myself? We never pursued fertility treatments because we were confident that God would provide the children He wanted us to have – biological, adopted, or spiritual.

I am, however, cautious about clinging to the hope that God will give us more children, as so many people have been encouraging us in this manner. I am reminded of Peter, when he rebuked Jesus for saying that He would have to suffer and die. And then Jesus said to Peter (a beloved brother), “Get behind me, Satan, for you have your own interests in mind, and not God’s.” I pray that as I mourn and deal with the loss of my womb, that I will not leap from one stronghold (the hope of getting pregnant) to another (the hope that God will give us more children through adoption.) The hope that God has given me has not been His promise to give me more children. Rather, the hope I have is that I am, and will forever be, satisfied in Christ alone. He is my hope and ultimate joy.

I do not have all the answers right now. In fact, I may never know the full extent of God’s will and glory in this situation. But I DO know that I am running “the race” (the imagery Paul so often uses in his letters to the New Testament churches); and I want to feel every ache and cramp along the way (and not just brush it away with a short afternoon cry). God IS at work in me. I am not at a standstill or even wondering where God can be found. He has been here all along and I feel Him at work within me every day. It truly feels like a wilderness experience . . . I know that the “promise land” is just ahead. How far do I have to go? I do not know. Perhaps the crying and sorrow will end tomorrow, or, perhaps not. I have a lot of growing to do and a lot of idols and selfishness to be crucified. I want to feel the sting of my tears and I want time to hurt. How much time (as folks often want to know)? I don’t know. I DO know that I do not want to miss a single drop of what God wants to teach me, and how He wants to comfort me as I mourn . . . for I feel His presence every day through this trial. The trials that have made the largest impact on my life have been those times where I have struggled long and deep.

So, why do I cry? Am I void of the peace and joy I had before my surgery?

I believe I still have that same peace and joy within me, for the Spirit dwells within my soul. And though I struggle with the temptation to think that God is punishing me for past sins, I know that He does what is best for His glory and for the good of His children.

Perhaps the REAL reason I cry is because self does not want to die.

A life in Christ Jesus can be GLORIOUSLY painful. And though I see with such dim, tear-filled vision at the moment, I know that one day I will see how all of this was indeed the most gracious, and loving gift my heavenly Father could give to me.

Lord, help me to proclaim the praises of Jonah (2:6-9):
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

God IS Sufficient!

For the past 9+ years I have been struggling with endometriosis. This disease causes a lot of pain and sickness, and it also contributes to infertility. We have tried both hormonal and surgical therapy, but the endometriosis keeps coming back. Our last treatment option is having a hysterectomy.

We have struggled and prayed for many years on what we should do. The endometriosis has not attacked my body in any way that would threaten my life, but it has certainly affected my physical and mental health. We have always believed that if God wants to take this disease away, He can. And if He intends for us to become pregnant, He will do the work of opening my womb. This is such a small matter for our BIG God . . . So, we have tried to be patient and long-suffering, seeking and searching to know His will for our family and what He may be doing through this trial as He continues to perfect us into the image of Christ Jesus.

This past month has been an especially difficult month in dealing with the pain of my endometriosis. (Some months, or days, are better than others, so I praise God for those times that I do feel good!) We had seen my GYN doctor last July and knew that our treatment options were getting fewer and fewer; which meant that we were clearing the forest of practical helps and solutions, and the inevitable was just ahead – a hysterectomy. After leaving the doctor’s office last week, we were left to make the hardest decision of our life.

In my mind, having a hysterectomy seemed like the faith-less thing to do. After all, my life is not in any danger, it is just a matter of how much pain I can tolerate. I know without a doubt that God CAN heal me. I know without a doubt that God can open my womb and make us fertile (which is why we have not pursued fertility treatments.) So surely I can tolerate the pain until then. It just seemed that I would be throwing in the towel if I opted to have the hysterectomy. I have prayed for so many years for God to show His faithfulness by healing me. And especially as I have read His Word on how He opened so many closed wombs of godly women, I was encouraged to keep persevering and placing my hope in God (and not in medical “remedies”). But God has proven Himself greater than any of my thoughts and presumptions about Him this week. He has humbled me and brought me to a most important question . . . Is God sufficient for me?

I had always thought that God was sufficient for me. For 9+ years I had trusted that He would heal me and that He would be the one to open my womb. Isn’t that enough? But I realized this week that I have been focusing more on “the blessing” (the hope that God would open my womb) than the “Blesser”. Perhaps I can better explain it with this analogy:

It is like being stranded on a deserted island. You have hope that one day you will surely be rescued. However, since there seems to be no way off the island, you strive to find contentment there. But, there is always the lingering hope of being rescued. That hope then becomes your end goal and ultimate satisfaction – nothing would be greater than getting off that island. So, I guess in the back of my mind I always thought that God would surely heal me and open my womb one day. My hope had become the idea that someday God would bless us with a pregnancy, instead of my hope being that God is all I need. He is my end all, be all. God is sufficient for ALL my needs.

I can choose to rejoice in what He is doing in me now (to make me more like Christ) - or I can sit around feeling sorry for myself because I think my life should have turned out differently. The trial of infertility has tested my pride, my selfishness, my trust in the Lord, and where I place my treasures and my heart. Is God sufficient for me? Or do I need babies, cars, homes, good health, and a large bank account to find fulfillment in this life?

This also comes down to another question: Is God sovereign over all things? Yes! God is sovereign over sickness, infertility, AND hysterectomies. If we believe God’s Word to be true, than we can believe that we CAN count trials as joy, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance and that endurance perfects and matures us so that we are not lacking in anything (Js 1:2-4).

Is pursuing a hysterectomy faith-less, as I once believed? No. Is God sovereign over my endometriosis? Yes! Does He answer the prayers of the upright and direct their paths? Yes! He has not abandoned me, leaving me without hope. Nor is He punishing me for bad behavior. But rather, He is leading me, as He has done all along, down the path of His GLORIOUS will for our family. So, we pursue a hysterectomy in FAITH, believing that God is sufficient for us. Praise God that He has brought us out of the darkness of fear and uncertainty and into the light of JOY and PEACE!!

My hysterectomy is schedule for Monday, July 2. It will be a great blessing to no longer, Lord willing, be in pain from the endometriosis. However, the thought of never being able to bear children is a hard truth to wrap your heart and mind around. Indeed, this has been the most difficult decision that BJ and I have ever made. But, we are trusting in God to be our ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction. Our end goal and hope is not having my womb opened (or even adopting more children), but our end goal is giving up all earthly gains and counting them loss - so that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering . . . (Phil 3:10)

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Is the Gospel Relevant?

This past Sunday morning I was at home with a terrible ear ache – thanks to the wonderful season of Texas cedar! I flipped through our half a dozen basic cable channels and was able to find 3 services (2 Baptist and 1 Catholic). I was horrified at what I saw. Church members looked bored, uninterested and joyless as they sang and worshiped through music and Scripture reading. I give them props for at least not faking it – but I was grieved on how this reflected the Gospel. What do unbelievers think and believe to be true of our God as they flip through the channels on Sunday morning and see Christians bored and unenthusiastic about worshiping what we call “a LIVING God”? And most importantly, if this is what the “outside of the tomb” (Matthew 23:27) looks like, what in the world does the inside look like? What does God see in us as we “worship” and “glorify” His Name? My heart was filled with sorrow, and even guilt, as I realized that I too, am one of those worshipers.

So, I find myself coming back to two very basic, yet essential questions:

Is the Gospel relevant in our lives?
Do we believe God’s Word to be true?

These are questions that my husband has challenged me with for years. But it has only been recently (within the past year or two) that I have really understood how essential they are as I strive to “reach forward to what lies ahead” so that I might attain the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:13-14). We must constantly ask ourselves these questions, especially as we confront self-complacency, discontentment, and even suffering. If we answer an honest “yes”, then our lives (and churches) should look radically different.

I love what Barbara Hughes has to say about the Gospel in her book, Disciplines of a Godly Woman:

A gospel that primarily focuses on man’s needs or guilt or feelings or wants or ambitions is not God’s Gospel. God’s Gospel is amazing news about what His son Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. It is about what GOD HAS DONE. Never lose the wonder of the Gospel! It ought to be the true center of our living – defining, motivating, and satisfying us. The Gospel is our first and most important discipline, for it is the source of godliness.

Does the Gospel define, motivate and satisfy us? Are churches defined, motivated and satisfied in the Gospel – in what GOD HAS DONE? Unfortunately, we tend to lean toward more of a man-centered gospel, and then we wonder why we become disinterested, bored, and unfulfilled in Christ. We get caught up in trying to figure out what WE can do to receive more blessings and assurance of God’s grace and favor.

We must discipline ourselves to love the Gospel – the TRUE Gospel! We must train our hearts and minds to love and know the Scriptures. In the book, From Fear to Freedom, Rose Marie Miller speaks of the freedom that comes from abandoning ourselves to the TRUTHS of the Gospel. She emphasizes the importance of believing God’s Word to be true in EVERY area of our lives, even in the most painful areas where SELF clenches ever so tightly.

Most of us want quick solutions to our problems. We have more interest in immediate deliverance from pain than in what God wants to teach us through the pain. But the Father does not let us escape; He lets us alone until we become fed up with our own self-centered attitudes. When a healthy despair of self sets in, then God begins quietly to breathe into us a new teachability . . . One of the most serious of human faults is relying on ourselves instead of relying on God. There is nothing we give up more reluctantly than the feeling that I CAN DO IT. When that doesn’t work, our natural impulse is simply despair.

How I pray that we would begin relying on God, believing His truths to be relevant and applicable in EVERY area of our lives – in our homes, at the workplace, and even as we worship! I pray that we would find despair in our own self-righteous efforts and that this would breathe into us a new teachability – a humble and contrite spirit that loves to worship and proclaim what GOD HAS DONE! May our worship of God and our love for the Gospel reflect great joy, value and satisfaction.

Father, thank you that You do not forsake us in our own self-centered attitudes, but that You continue to sanctify us more and more into the image of the Gospel.

Jesus, Jesus
Holy and anointed One
Jesus, Jesus
Risen and exalted One

Your Name is like honey on my lips
Your Spirit like water to my soul
Your Word is a lamp unto my feet
Jesus, I love You. I love you.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Trials and Temptations

Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
I Corinthians 10:12-13

Temptation and trials . . . O, the agony and pain that accompany these necessary means by which God perfects us into the image of Christ Jesus our Lord. Scripture constantly affirms the truth that trials are necessary – and are in fact, true marks of a believer (Romans 8:17, I Peter 4:12-13, Philippians 3;10, etc.)

But, what good can come from pain?
Why does God allow me to go through things so agonizing?
Why would God ordain such dreadful tribulation?
Where can hope be found in such events?
Where is the way of escape?

I was reading a biography today on Martin Luther, and I fell in AWE of what he said in regards to trial and temptation. Martin Luther says:

I did not learn my divinity at once but was constrained by my temptations to search deeper and deeper; for if one does not experience trials and temptations he cannot really understand the Holy Scriptures. St. Paul had a devil beat him with fists and with temptations drove him to study the Scriptures. Temptations hunted me into the Bible. God be praised I at length began to understand it.

Indeed, our Lord is good to do whatever means necessary to drive us into the Scriptures. O, how I pray that temptations and trials would hunt me into the Bible and swift to my knees in prayer. Teach me, O Lord, Your goodness and mercy!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Encouragement in Suffering, Part II

Some more great quotes by Fenelon that I could not resist!

Reflections on living by the CROSS and by FAITH-
I pray that God may spare you as much as possible in proportioning your suffering, not that God delights in seeing us suffer, but He knows that we need this as much as we need our daily bread. And only God knows how much we need to accomplish His purposes in our lives. So what we must do is live by faith and live by the cross.
Reflections on the beauty of the CROSS -
I am amazed at the power that comes to us through suffering; we are worth nothing without the cross. Of course, I tremble and agonize while it lasts, and all my words about the beneficial effects of suffering vanish under the torture. But when it is all over, I look back on the experience with deep appreciation, and am ashamed that I bore it with so much bitterness. I am learning a great deal from my own foolishness!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Encouragement in Suffering

It pains me greatly to see brothers and sisters suffer. Our human desire is to help (to do whatever we can to take away the pain), but as a Christ follower (and fellow sufferer), we know that God ordains trials and suffering for His greater purposes.

  • The goal of suffering is not how we will be sustained and kept alive, but how we are to give up and die. It is the realization that our help ONLY comes from the Lord - not within self.

  • Our suffering is also for the Church. What a blessing it is to share one another's burdens! We have much to learn about God (and ourselves) from the suffering of others. Our trials are not our own. We cannot endure them in our own strength, nor should we hoard the GOOD fruit that trials and perseverance produces.
I have already mentioned in previous BLOGS that I have been reading from a book called, "Let Go" by Fenelon. Below is an excerpt from one of his letters in reference to suffering and how important suffering is to each believer.
I cannot express to you how deeply I sympathize with you in your time of suffering. I suffer right along with you, but still, it cheers me to know that God loves you. And the very proof that God loves you is that He does not spare you, but lays upon you the cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever spiritual knowledge or feelings we may have, they are all a delusion if they do not lead us to the real and constant practice of dying to self. And it is true that we do not die without suffering. Nor is is possible to be considered truly dead while there is any part of us which is yet alive. The spiritual death (which is really a blessing in disguise) is undeniably painful. It cuts "swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are." The great Physician who sees in us what we cannot see knows exactly where to place the knife. He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up. And how it hurts! But we must remember that pain is only felt where there is life, and where there is life is just the place where death is needed. Our Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already dead. Do not misunderstand me; He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life. Don't expect God to deal with those vulgar, wicked desires which you renounced forever when you gave yourself away to Him. That part of you is already dead. But, He will deal with the parts of you that are still alive. He might even test your faith with restrictions and trials of all kinds.

Should you resist? Certainly not! You must learn to suffer all things! The death of self must be voluntary and it can only be accomplished as far as you allow. Anyone who resists death and repels its advances shows that he is not willing to die. You must be willing to yield to the will of God whenever He decides to remove from you all the props on which you have leaned. Sometimes you must give up even your most spiritual friends, if they are props. "What fearest thou, oh thou of little faith?"

Do you fear that He may not be able to supply to you from Himself that help which He may have taken away on the human level? And why does He take human help away, except to supply you from Himself, and to purify you by the painful lesson?

I know how confined you are, but I am convinced that God means to accomplish His work in you by cutting off every human resource. He is a jealous God, and He wants you to understand that what He is about to perform in you has been done by Himself alone, and by no other.

So give yourself up to His plans. Allow yourself to be lead wherever He wants to lead you. And be careful to not seek help from your friends if God is forbidding it. Your friends can only give you what He gives them for you. Why be so concerned about the dried-up streams when the rivers of living water are so available?
What a sweet reminder to keep persevering in trials and to drink from the SATISFYING rivers of the living water! I pray that I will share in the sufferings of brothers and sisters, but never try to remove the work of Christ Jesus that must necessarily happen as we die to self daily.

Leaning . . . leaning . . . Leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus!