3 Things I’ve Learned From Painful Seasons

PAIN.

Nobody embraces it.

We absolutely hate it with every fiber of our being.

We avoid it at all costs.

But because we live in a broken world, it is part of life on this earth…for now.

Broken relationships.

Faltering health.

Wounds from the past.

Horrible tragedies.

I’ve experienced what feels like unbearable pain. Seasons of life where I thought I’d never survive.

But because of God….

I did survive. I did get through. I found His light at the end of my dark tunnel.

I don’t know about you, but the more I look back on these seasons of my life, I can honestly see a purpose in those painful times.

You mean, there can actually be something good that comes from pain????

As crazy as it sounds, yes.

My painful seasons of life all have these common threads.

*Pain makes me desperate.

What’s so good about feeling desperate? Feeling desperate is not something we usually crave. It creates feelings of panic, worry, and anxiety. Like a weak swimmer who’s drowning in the deep end of the pool, we cry out for help because we’re going under.

I’ve been desperate in the midst of  broken relationships. A failed marriage left me feeling very desperate. With a newborn and an uncertain future, I lived in survival mode and swirled around in desperation quite a bit.

*Pain leads me to be more dependent on God.

When the familiar things of life suddenly become unfamiliar and I’m venturing out into the unknown, I’m always more ready to lean on God. And unfortunately, even the people we think will love us most will leave us disappointed and hurting at times. It’s in those times when I see how much others have failed me that I can truly depend on God’s unfailing love. In a strange way that is hard to describe, it’s during these painful seasons that my dependence on God is strengthened.

*Pain gives me deeper compassion for others.

Once I’ve trudged through a painful season of life, I always discover something I didn’t notice before.

I now possess a unique compassion for others who are in the midst of the same kind of pain!

Because of what I’ve gone through, I gain an understanding and perspective in the midst of my pain. I am then able to recognize this same pain in others. Or when I hear someone share the hurt they’re going through, my heart has an instant connection with them. And this is where the purpose comes in.

The wounds from my previous pain now become stepping-stones, allowing me to enter into someone else’s world. A world where they think there is no hope. A world where they feel trapped. A world where they think nobody could possibly understand.

Even if I’m still feeling the hurt from my painful experience, I can still offer words of hope. I can honestly tell them, “I know how you feel…I’ve been there.”

Part of my own healing from painful wounds comes when I walk alongside someone else who is hurting. The fragile threads of my life that unraveled in my soul are now knitted back together, forming a cord of hope that someone else can cling to.

Your pain is not ever wasted. It’s not in vain. It serves the purpose of becoming more intimate with your Savior and comforting others on the same path. Here’s a few that stand out to me…

My sister-in-law, Holly, has allowed God to do an amazing work in her life in this way. She’s a survivor of sexual abuse. She experienced heart wrenching pain that threatened to swallow her up and leave her bitter. Yet she cried out to God and He has healed her hurting heart. She tells her story often and reaches out to others who are caught up in the same kind of pain. God uses her pain for a purpose.

Dear friends of ours, Brian and Amanda, lost their 18-month old son in a tragic accident a few years ago. They experienced such horrific pain and their world was shaken to the core. But they surrendered their lives to God through the journey and now help encourage and comfort others who have lost young children. God uses their pain for a purpose. 

My friend, Stacy, lost her beautiful daughter who was born prematurely. She lived for about 3 weeks. She spent those days in the newborn intensive care unit, watching her baby hanging on for life. Although her heart shattered in pieces, Stacy has allowed God to do a beautiful thing through her pain. She quilts blankets for babies in the NICU. She reaches out to other families who are waiting to see if their babies are going to make it. She gives genuine comfort to others because she knows the pain they feel. God uses her pain for a purpose.

Be encouraged dear friends! No matter what pain you are experiencing, God is with you. He knows.

Allow your desperation to turn into a strong dependence on the one who rescues and redeems. And let Him do more than rescue and redeem just you. He longs to work through your life to bring comfort and encouragement to others.

Let Him use your pain for His purpose. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race

 

 

When you don’t FEEL thankful

This time of year everyone focuses on things they’re thankful for.  We post our thoughts on Facebook of what we’re thankful for. Our kids make crafts at school and proudly display what they’re thankful for. Maybe your Thanksgiving gathering will include a time for each person to express the favorite things they’re thankful for.

It’s usually pretty predictable what we’re truly thankful for: God, Jesus, our family, our friends, good health, employment, and of course all the food we will stuff ourselves with on Thanksgiving Day.

These are all wonderful gifts to be thankful for. I would be the first one to speak up that I am thankful for everything I just mentioned.

But what about those things we really are NOT thankful for? What about the things nobody would dare to mention on their top 10 things I’m thankful for list? What about those things that hurt deep inside us that we just couldn’t possibly imagine being thankful for?

*Your doctor grimly explains to you that you have cancer.

*Your boss informs you that you are no longer employed.

*Your check book balance is lower than the total amount of your bills.

*Your marriage is hanging by a thread and you are ready to call it quits.

*Your child does something that leaves you heart-broken and your stomach in knots.

*Your loved one is not here with you on this earth any longer.

*The sin that so easily entangles you continues to drag you down.

*Someone you thought was your friend has betrayed you.

*Your aging parents are needing you more than ever but it’s causing major stress.

*As a momma of young children you’re overwhelmed, spiraling into despair and depression.

Seriously….are any of these things on your top 10 list? Are any of these things gushing out of your mouth when it’s your turn to declare what you’re thankful for? I didn’t see any of these things on anyone’s Facebook status in the last 30 days. I’m pretty certain that nobody’s child came home with any of these things plastered on their Thanksgiving craft from school. Nope.

Why in the world should anyone be thankful for anything like this? Why would we even consider it?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read the following words from the apostle Paul: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Really, Paul? What were you thinking when you wrote those words? You’ve got to be kidding me! Who is he to tell us the conditions under which we should be thankful?

He was beaten and stoned multiple times. He was shipwrecked multiple times. He went without sleep and food. He was imprisoned. He even spent an entire day and night in the open sea.

Yet he could still pen those powerful words in his letter to believers.

I’ve read and re-read that verse countless times, it still says the same thing. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. It doesn’t say give thanks only when things are going your way. It doesn’t say give thanks only when your marriage is thriving, your kids are well-behaved, your bank account is full, your health is stellar and nobody is saying anything offensive to you. (It would be MUCH easier to give thanks if everything were perfect in our worlds!)

So what is the secret of expressing thankfulness in our worst circumstances? How can we really do this?

Here are two things I’ve gathered from this challenging command:

1. The verse does not say to be thankful for these things, but to be thankful IN them. What’s the difference? It’s just one little word. To be thankful IN something is to trust that God is still good no matter what. It’s not a feeling, but an attitude of surrender. It means that although my heart may be full of hurt, my spirit is still full of hope. I don’t deny the pain I’m feeling, but I take it to the foot of the cross and thank God that He is still in control.

2. If you back up to verse 17, just one phrase before this command, you’ll see something that a lot of people skip over. I missed this for years! Here it is: Verse 17 says to pray continually. I used to think this verse was only meant for monks and nuns who lived in isolation from the world and could be on their knees in a continual state of prayer. But it’s meant for all believers! For me. For you. When I am in a continual conversation with Jesus throughout my day, talking to him about everything and being aware of his presence moment-by-moment, then my heart can focus on him in every situation….the good and the bad.

I can focus on Him when I feel hope, but also when I hurt.

I can focus on Him for the victories throughout the day, but also when I blow it and can receive his grace over and over again.

I can thank Him for the blessings, but also for the challenges that drive me crazy at times.

This is not an easy thing to do! It is truly a process. A process that builds character in us. A process that brings us to our knees….bringing us closer to the heart of God.

I want to encourage you to truly search your heart and not only express the blessings you are thankful for, but to offer up a sacrifice of praise for those things you wish to be thankful in, and see what God will do. His love is overwhelming. His grace is powerful. His mercy is never-ending.

 

Crying

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Figuring Out Your Course

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

For most official races, runners can view the course online. You can view every single twist and turn. In detail, you can see the highest point of elevation. You know precisely at which mile markers the path will ascend to steep hills. You can sigh with relief knowing exactly where the path will descend, giving you breaks throughout the race. Some runners will even determine whether or not to register for a race based on the course layout. Too many hills! I want a flatter course. Better not run this race, the elevation is too steep towards the end. I’ll be too exhausted.

You can even view the places where water stops are located. Knowing this beforehand, runners can train to run specific lengths, spacing out their water intake. Mentally you can prepare for worst case scenarios, seeing exactly where medical tents are located. Most importantly, you can see exactly where the finish line is. You tuck the names of the intersecting streets in the back of your mind. That’s where I’ll finish the race. That’s where my family will meet me afterwards and congratulate me.

All of this information we are privy to is great!  Can you imagine how cool it would be to see the course of your real life? To actually see in detail what was in your future? You’d see every exciting milestone awaiting you. In wonderful elation, you could anticipate all those mountain top experiences in your future.

But if you examined the course a little closer, you’d also see the dark valleys up ahead. What?! Just around that corner you’d see a marriage crumbling, ending in divorce. The unexpected job loss—the one you thought was secure just a few miles back. Huh?! And when you keep looking further down the course, you’d find that one of your kids has broken your heart. And you don’t even see a medical tent anywhere in sight. What would you do?

Maybe you wouldn’t even want to continue your race of life any longer. I can’t bear the thought of these things coming. I want an easier course. I won’t be able to live this kind of life.

Thankfully, we don’t get this kind of information in our journey of life. That’s not how God designed us to live. While we don’t get to see the whole course of our lives mapped out in front of us, God does. We don’t know the details of trials and challenges headed our way, but He does. We can’t fathom the abundant blessings He has in store for us, but He knows and can’t wait to lavish them upon us.

He’s designed us to live one moment at a time, in total dependence on him. Our flesh craves to see an entire mile at a time. But God wants to lead us one step at a time. We desire to know how long a certain trial will last. But God wants us to trust.

When we register to run the race of faith with Jesus as our guide, we run with all our might. We run with boldness and perseverance. We run like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, we don’t know what a day will bring forth. We may think our course is quite long, but we don’t know exactly where our finish line will be. Whether it’s a quick 5K or multiple marathons back-to-back, we must keep on running. Keep on trusting. Keep on thriving.

So while we don’t know where our earthly finish line will be, we know who is leading us on the course. And we are promised that He will greet us at the intersection of time and eternity. Now that’s something to get excited about!

READY? If there was one thing you could figure out about your future, what would it be? Are you willing to surrender this concern to Jesus? Take some extended time to pray about your fears and worries and lay them at the foot of the cross.

GET SET. Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

GO! Lord Jesus, help me to trust you with every twist and turn of my life. I’m so prone to worry and wanting to know what’s up ahead, that I’m missing out on knowing you more intimately. Help me to let go of the things out of my control and trust you completely. Amen

coursemap

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

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View From the Top

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to New York City for a fast-paced, adventurous get-away with my mom. A popular landmark constantly being pointed out to us was the Chrysler Building. This skyscraper stands strong at 1,046 feet tall with 77 floors. Straining your neck to look at it from the ground, it towers over you with its monstrous stance. Insurmountable. Overwhelming. You can’t even fathom how tall it is.

The_Chrysler_Building.2  2ndCB

 

But just a few days later we ventured up to the top of the Empire State Building. Once we finally arrived at the observation deck, we peered out at the magnificent view in front of us. We tried to point out the landmarks we’d previously seen. Suddenly it came into view. There it was!

The Chrysler Building….

empirestateview

Really? Was this the same building we observed earlier?

The same building that appeared monstrous, insurmountable and overwhelming now looked much smaller! From the view at the top, you could see the entire building without straining your neck. You could see for miles! The view was breathtaking and spectacular.

The difference between the ground view and the top view was PERSPECTIVE.

As I looked out over the magnificent view of New York City, a powerful truth hit me hard:

From our perspective, the challenges and trials we face appear to be insurmountable, monstrous and quite overwhelming. But from God’s perspective, our challenges and trials are part of a magnificent and spectacular plan that only He can see all at once!

As humans, we will never have the top-of-the-observation-deck view of our lives. We will not be able to see the whole picture but only one part at a time. But we can trust our faithful God because He always has the upper view of everything.

We can absolutely trust Him with the things we can’t see.

The challenges that seem overwhelming.

The trials that threaten to strain our souls.

Yes. That is what true faith is, dear friend! Trusting God with the things we can’t see, knowing that He sees it all.

Where are you today? Are you looking up at something that seems overwhelming? Is there a challenge smack in front of you, crowding your vision?

I encourage you to run to your Heavenly Father to the top of the observation deck. Take his hand and let him lead you out to a place of rest. Let your soul soar with peace as you gaze upon the spectacular purpose He has for you.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is like a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.

Blessings to you, dear friend!

Lisa Preuett

 

Where Strength is Found

Sometimes I feel worn down. Extremely weak. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. All of the above. Strength seems far away. Non-existent. Yet I feel I must DO something to gain strength.

To gain strength physically I exert myself full force into a weight lifting session or a 3-mile run. After I DO those things, my physical body will gain strength, stamina and endurance.

To gain emotional strength I can DO something to lift my mood. Dive into a favorite book. Put on an upbeat CD to re-focus my attention. Or maybe even convince myself that something sweet like ice cream or chocolate will soothe my frail emotions.

But to gain spiritual strength, what is my first response when I feel weak?  I can DO some things that will perhaps make me feel better: Go to church. Turn on the Christian radio station and sing my heart out. Go to my Bible study. Call a trusted friend and unload my concerns.

These are good things, yet all of them involve me doing something. According to Isaiah 30:15, there’s a different message to those who are feeling weak and in need of strength:

In quietness and trust is your strength. 

I don’t see any action verbs that stand out in that verse. Shouldn’t I be doing something to gain strength? How can being quiet bring strength? And what about that word trust? How do you know someone is in the act of trusting? You can’t see it. Where is the action here??

The action is being accomplished by God Himself. When we are still and quiet in His presence, His strength becomes ours. When we truly trust God, our burdens are lifted from us. He takes them from us–in His strength. We don’t have to DO anything outwardly in our own strength. He does it all.

Quietness and trust go hand-in-hand. Being still before Him with a surrendered heart allows us to soak up His presence. And when we do that, it is easier to trust. When we know Him more intimately through His word and prayer, we can confidently trust Him. That is where our strength is gained. Not by anything we do, but by being in Him.

What’s that look like in day-to-day life?

I don’t always get this right. In fact, I frequently get this wrong and have to be humbled before I start to “get it”.

In the midst of a drama-packed melt down from my daughter, shouldn’t my strength come from yelling, lecturing or punishing out of anger?

In quietness and trust is your strength. (Lisa, pray for your daughter and trust ME with her short comings.)

In the midst of a disagreement with my spouse, shouldn’t my strength come from arguing, complaining or even taking things into my own hands?

In quietness and trust is your strength. (Lisa, let go of your pride and trust ME with your husband.)

When I’m sitting in traffic on Bardstown Road and only going two miles in 30 minutes, shouldn’t my strength come from honking my horn or mumbling ugly words under my breath at complete strangers who can’t hear me?

In quietness and trust is your strength. (Lisa, take a deep breath and accept the situation as it is. Trust ME to calm your anxious heart.) 

Because of my sin nature, I am prone to try and DO something to gain what feels like strength in the heat of the moment. Yet those things all lead to disappointment, discouragement and even defeat. But when I quietly come before God and trust Him, I gain peace, hope and ultimately……STRENGTH.

So where are you feeling weak, dear friend? From where are you drawing your strength? Are you trying to muster up strength by doing things you think are productive? Are you impulsively reacting to a situation in which you feel weak? How do you handle the inner battle of your heart to DO -vs- BEING QUIET? Feel free to leave a comment! We’re on this journey together.

May we all embrace the truth and power of these words:

Isaiah 30 15

 

God is Faithful

After trudging through the valley of unemployment for two and a half months, I praise God that my husband will be starting a new job this week! When the rug was pulled out from underneath us unexpectedly on June 23rd, we had no idea how many days, weeks or months it would be until God opened the door for a new job.

But God knew.

When we began walking this unknown  path, we trusted God to lead us one day at a time. Although we had no control of what was happening, we trusted that He was in control. To be honest, there were days our flesh struggled with this lack of control. Without control, we often feel helpless. Worried. Frustrated. Don’t we all just want a glimpse of what is ahead–a  little reassurance of what is coming? But God doesn’t always give us previews of the future. In fact, He rarely shows us what is around the corner.  That’s why it’s called faith!

The scripture I clung tightly to during this journey was Psalm 62:1-2: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my fortress; I will not be shaken.”

The day I posted my reaction to my husband’s job loss, we were most certainly shocked, but not shaken: https://reststopforthesoul.com/2014/06/24/shocked-but-not-shaken/

This was a true test of resting in God alone. Our flesh finds it much easier to rest when things are predictable, structured, and familiar. We grow accustomed to incoming paychecks. We feel secure when the savings account balance increases. But when the paychecks stop and the account gradually decreases, it is a wake-up call as to what your true rest is in. When our eyes were fixed on trusting God and not fixated on the numbers, we found true rest!

God was faithful and He provided.

The blessings showered upon us during this time were priceless. Here’s some of the highlights:

*The very day he lost his job opened up the opportunity for him to join us on a trip to visit our son.

*My husband got to spend the majority of the summer with his wife and daughter. How rare is that? Most dads and husbands only get a couple of weeks vacation at the most to spend uninterrupted time with their families.

*We enjoyed multiple boating trips that we wouldn’t have been able to take if he’d been working. He usually travels for his job and is too exhausted to do a lot on the weekends. (We got the boat just weeks before he lost his job!)

*He had time to start (and finish) multiple projects around the house that are usually put on a “wish list”.

*We went on a mission trip to Beattyville in the Appalachia Mountains through our church and someone anonymously paid the balance of our expenses.

*My mom decided to treat us to an unexpected vacation in Florida to wind down our summer.

*The amount of money he received from unemployment was more than enough to pay our mortgage payment.

*God blessed us through his previous job to be able to save money for this “rainy season”. (And over the years He’s given us wise advisers such as Dave Ramsey who encourages people to put away money in an emergency fund when job loss occurs.)

*God has strengthened our faith!

*This season of uncertainty has given us a front row seat to witness that God is faithful and can be trusted.

If you are in a season of uncertainty, I want to encourage you to trust God wholeheartedly. Surrender your frustration, worries and fears to Him. Rest in Him alone. You might not know what’s around the corner.

But He does.

And because He loves us, we can trust Him. We will not be shaken.

God is my rock

 

 

Resistance Builds Strength

Ephesians 6:10   Be strong in the Lord, in the power of His might.

These words from Ephesians are written on the wall of my fitness center. Sitting firmly lodged in place on a weight machine, I push with all my might against the resistance of the weights I’ve measured out. Breathing deeply and gritting my teeth, I attempt to increase the amount of weight my flimsy muscles need to get toned up. To get stronger.  As difficult as it sounds, that’s how it works. If you want your muscles to get stronger, there must be resistance or you won’t see any progress.

With sweat pouring down my face, I glance up and stare at the powerful words from Ephesians again. This is when I hear the soft, gentle whisper of God in my soul:

Just as your physical muscles can only be strengthened through resistance, your faith and trust in Me can only be strengthened through resistance.

As much as I know this is true, my flesh doesn’t like it at all. My flesh sometimes rears its ugly head and shouts back out of fear, worry or anger. What if God doesn’t come through? What will happen IF? Why did this happen to me and not someone else?

And then God in His patience and grace continues to speak lovingly to me in that still, small voice:

Trust me. Don’t worry. Don’t try to take control of things that aren’t yours to handle. The resistance you’re experiencing will make you stronger in your dependence on me.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes experience this resistance with my husband. With my children. With my own selfish thoughts that don’t line up with God’s. Or I’ll feel this resistance while sitting in a traffic jam that is making me late to wherever I need to go. Even the little things can cause resistance like dishes left out, clothes not put away, a mess not cleaned up, a dropped call in a no-reception area, or a computer not working the way it’s supposed to!

Seen through my own human eyes, these things are obstacles. Interruptions. Irritations. Frustrations.

But seen through God’s eyes, these things are opportunities….to trust. To be refined. To be strengthened.

If I will just turn down the volume on my inner fleshly shouting match, I can more clearly hear the gentle whisper of God in moments like these. And trust that these moments of “resistance” are making me stronger. Making me more like Jesus. And instead of responding with fear, worry or anger when He lovingly increases the amount of weights, I can trust that the end result is for His glory.

READY? Who’s causing resistance in your life these days? Spouse? Children? In-laws? Co-workers? Neighbors? Or What’s causing resistance? Finances? Job? Health? How are you responding to the resistance? Whatever it may be, I challenge you to see these things as opportunities to strengthen your spiritual muscles. Opportunities to trust God and deepen your faith.

GET SET. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

GO! Heavenly Father, it is hard for me to welcome resistance in my life because of my sin nature. Please open the eyes of my heart to see times of difficulty as opportunities to trust you and for my faith to be strengthened. Thank you for your faithfulness to me during these times even when I doubt. Praise you for your power in my life. Amen

 

resistance builds strength

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett