Why Isn’t God Blessing Me?

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My husband had a professor in college who responded to most, if not all, student questions with the same answer. If a student asked about grading requirements for an assignment, the professor would say, “Check the website.”  If a student asked about dates for tests, the professor would say, “Check the website.”

The professor’s frequent use of the phrase became somewhat of a joke in our home. If I inquired about something around the house or asked my husband a question, he would often look at me and say (in his best imitation of the professor’s voice), “Check the website.”

Although humorous, the professor’s intent in directing students to his course website every time someone asked a question was most likely that he wanted students to do what they needed to before they could expect an action from him.

Spiritually, we can apply this same “check the website” principle when we feel like we aren’t receiving God’s blessings. Although God isn’t as gruff as my husband’s instructor and wants us to come to Him and ask when we don’t know the answer in a situation, there are times that we can examine our actions against God’s Word and discover that we aren’t reaping what we want in a particular area because of what we are sowing.

In his devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers explains how we should all “turn up” or check the “spiritual index.” According to Merriam-Webster.com, an “index” is a device (such as the pointer, called a “gnomon,” on a sundial) that gives a particular value or an indicator that leads us to a conclusion:

Never say it is not God’s will to give you what you ask, don’t sit down and faint, but find out the reason, turn up the index. Are you rightly related to your wife, to your husband, to your children, to your fellow-students … Have I been asking God to give me money for something I want when there is something I have not paid for? Have I been asking God for liberty while I am withholding it from someone who belongs to me? … If we turn up the index, we will see very clearly what is wrong — that friendship, that debt, that temper of mind.”

The Blessing of Reaping and Sowing  

Essentially, Chambers points out that many of us are asking for a blessing when there is a reason we can’t have it. Although Chambers focuses more on the idea of our prayers being hindered by certain attitudes in his devotion, we can also apply his idea of the “spiritual index” to the principle of reaping and sowing in the Bible.

Just like the sun causes a shadow to fall across a sun dial when its rays hit the gnomon in order to tell the time, God causes our own examinations or “gnomons” to point to a particular problem in our lives when we subject ourselves to the light of His truth.

Obviously, there are times when we don’t receive blessing because it isn’t in God’s timing or He has delayed his response to work out our character or His answer is no.

However, I know I have been guilty of blaming God when I don’t get a certain outcome in a circumstance even when I haven’t exactly invested what I should to get the harvest at the proper time. As Galatians 6:7,8 tells us: “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. From the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap, but the one who sows to the spirit will from the spirit reap eternal life.”

Although this passage is talking primarily about those who spend their money on worldly pleasures while neglecting to support the church, we can apply this to other areas of our lives. As commentator Albert Barnes notes, “Every kind of grain will produce grain like itself.” If we are acting in ways that are corrupt in our relationships or our finances, those choices will eventually come back to affect us.

I don’t know about you, but for much of my life I worked mostly on my external behavior, making my outward actions look as good as possible for those around me, while hiding some secrets. But I hadn’t realized that this is essentially “mocking God” (v. 7). I can’t just pretend to be a good person. Merely assuming outward forms of Christian behavior does not deceive God. We may get away with our sin-hiding for a time, but the Bible is very clear that God notices our true motives even if we fool everyone around us.

In essence, Galations 6 reminds us that our actions do have an impact on our lives. While the lines cannot always be clearly drawn between our actions and the circumstances that come into our lives (sometimes bad things will happen even when we do what is right or vice versa), there is a correlation between our actions and spiritual blessings. Therefore, if we want a spiritual blessing in our lives or we know God has promised us one, and we’re not receiving it, we can check the “index” — and evaluate our deeds and what fruit they are producing in our lives.

God Blessed Me Financially When I Obeyed 

A perfect example of the principle of sowing and reaping at work in my life is when we were attempting to sell our townhouse and move into a bigger home. Our house was on the market for a year and a half, and we hadn’t had a single offer. I kept telling myself it wasn’t selling because of the location, the cramped floor plan, the plain master bathroom, or the lack of a basement. However, those were not the answers that gave me any peace; there was something else, and I knew it. What came to mind when I prayed about it was an unpaid sum of money I had promised to the church.

I had pledged a sum over a period of four years to help pay for a church remodeling project, and after making a few monthly payments, I had gotten lazy and stopped paying on the debt. A few years in, I still owed money to fulfill my commitment. When I received a check for some training I had completed for work and it was almost the exact amount I needed, I handed over the money to the remodeling fund and felt an instant sense of peace. One month later our “unsellable” house was under contract, and we were in the joyful process of looking for a new place to live.

Skeptics might look at this and say there was no connection between our house sale and the church payment — labeling what happened as coincidence. However, I have seen the principle of the index at work enough times in my own life to know that when I fulfill a pledge, I prepare myself to receive a blessing. Chambers affirms this idea when he says, “It is no use praying unless we are living as children of God. Then, Jesus says — ‘Everyone that asketh, receiveth.’ ”

Checking the index in this case was not too painful; I had to give up some money I would rather have used on something else. However, there have been other times I have had to step out in faith when I felt tired and didn’t feel like doing what God asked. Or, I felt God’s nudge to let go of anger and make an apology in a relationship when I just wanted to stay mad or blame the other person. Many times, I have not wanted to obey, but when I live as God prescribes and take His Word seriously, I benefit from the blessings He promises.

To be clear, God isn’t a genie waiting to hand out gifts when we earn His good favor. We don’t merely do the things we should do to somehow earn something from God. In addition, index-checking is not a ritual we do to earn salvation. Our right standing with God comes when we put our faith and trust in Him (Romans 3:20-25).

However, God does want us walk in faith and continually grow in righteousness after we are saved with the decisions we make. By reading His Word and spending time with Him in prayer, we can know those areas where God wants us to take or action or reminds us of an action He has already instructed us to take (Psalm 139:23, 24).

In my own experience, God has offered me more grace than I really deserve. A lot of times when I think I know of a problem in my spiritual life but am not sure, I’ll ask Him for confirmation, and He answers me. If we seek God intently, He will help us in the way to go. He will help us to know the areas we need to work on that are preventing us from receiving the blessing promised us.

I encourage you. Have you checked your index? What might Jesus be pointing out to you? If we already know of a directive God has given us, but we have gotten off track or grown weary in doing what He has asked, we can get back on track again. Many times, we want to obey God, but we let our own fears or doubts get the best of us.

However, we can push through whatever obstacles we have knowing that the work we do for God will not go unnoticed. As Ephesians 6:8 says, we will receive from the Lord the same good we do for others.

*Updated and adapted from post published May 29, 2015.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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5 Things You Can Do to Put Yourself on the Path to Recovery After Miscarriage

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Shortly after I had a miscarriage, my father-in-law made this comment to me: “What you went through was a big deal, you know.”

His remark struck me as being of one of the kindest things anyone said to me after the incident. I could only nod. The loss of a child at any stage is a big deal, and it felt really good to have him acknowledge that and acknowledge me.

I had support from other people as well. A woman at church gave me a small gift on my first Sunday back. Another woman who had suffered a miscarriage earlier that year came up to me and asked me if I wanted to talk. We both shared our stories. Two friends brought me dinner and pretended not to be horrified by the fact that I hadn’t taken a shower in a few days or vacuumed my floor.

But there were other people who treated me like nothing happened. The people who couldn’t handle hearing any medical details. The people I needed help from that didn’t show up.

However, miscarriage is a big deal, and the worst part about it is that miscarriage sufferers usually suffer in silence. A woman who has had a pregnancy loss may feel ashamed. She may feel that her body is defective. She may feel like no one else understands. Miscarriage sufferers need support.

Even if you have never suffered a miscarriage, you probably know someone who has. And what they are going through or have gone through is monumental for them. Although their reactions may vary, they want to be acknowledged, noticed. Some may not be ready to talk about it, but they still need to feel like people notice them and care.

If you have suffered a recent miscarriage or know someone who has, here are five things you can do (or help someone else do) to begin the recovery process:

1. Let yourself rest.

My first miscarriage occurred in my first pregnancy. It was an early miscarriage. I was probably around 7 or 8 weeks, but I still had excruciating cramping and pain and several weeks of “getting back to normal” after the miscarriage happened. Needless to say, I spent three solid days in bed. After being in bed for several days, all of the tissue passed, and the cramping stopped. However, the bleeding did not.

The recovery period was very similar to that which I experienced after my full-term pregnancies. I had light bleeding that occurred for several more weeks after the miscarriage, and then the bleeding stopped and my normal monthly cycle resumed another several weeks later. Even when I was able to resume my old activities and felt somewhat physically better, the grieving process was one that lasted for many more months.

I hadn’t told many people that I was pregnant, so I had the odd experience of returning back to church and work — and telling no one what had happened. While I pretended that everything was normal in my life, I felt very sad and depressed for some time. I eventually did tell some friends at work, and it felt really good to share what had happened. However, the recovery time, emotionally and physically, was more than I expected.

I have found this to be true of many women I have talked to: As women, we are so used to being the caretakers of other people, we often don’t allow other people to take care of us. If we have always been in optimal health, we assume that miscarriage won’t take that much out of us.

I had a friend who began miscarrying at work on a Friday and continued throughout her day teaching. She kept popping Advil, left at her normal time to pick up her daughter — had the miscarriage that night — and then returned to work the following Monday. Suffice it to say, she was not able to make it through the day and was given stern orders by our department head to take some time off.

As she recounted this story to me, I was in utter shock! Her body and emotions needed time to heal, but we as women often don’t get the luxury of taking a break. When a miscarriage occurs, however, time is needed to let your body and soul recover.

2. Be your own health advocate.

As I mentioned before, I was extremely naïve about miscarriage. Had it not been for online forums and articles, I would not have known what to expect because no one had ever shared with me about miscarriage. I assumed it was something that would never happen to me.

While I was able to stay at home and pass everything on my own in my first miscarriage, I realize that it could have turned into a situation where I needed medical help. A nurse from my doctor’s office called to let me know that a miscarriage was inevitable based on my low hCG levels but did not really give me advice on what to do.

I never scheduled a follow-up visit or anything to see how I was doing health-wise after that miscarriage. However, in retrospect, I would advise anyone going through a miscarriage to view it as the big deal it is in terms of both your physical and emotional health. I would advise staying in contact with your doctor’s office — really watching and monitoring your symptoms — and throwing aside any qualms about going to the hospital if you are excessively bleeding or feel you need extra assistance.

With my second miscarriage, I was further along (11 1/2 weeks) and had so much bleeding immediately that I had no choice but to check into the hospital. I was a little embarrassed by what a mess I was when I checked in, and quite frankly, I didn’t really speak up for myself like I should have. I had one nurse check me in and then several more rotate through my room to care for me.

I was also scurried off to an ultrasound room and then another room for an examination. No one person was keeping tabs on how much blood loss I was experiencing. Although the doctor mentioned to me that I had an extremely low red blood cell count, I didn’t think to say how many trips I had made to the bathroom or how much tissue and blood I had lost.

At one point, I even had a nurse scold me for passing out, and I was too dumbfounded and weak to even counter.

Shortly after that, I was wheeled into an operating room for surgery, and I thought that my ordeal would be over. However, that was not the case. After the procedure, I was released even though I needed a blood transfusion. I did not realize this until I returned home and began to have problems with dizziness and a racing heartbeat.

Even at this point, I called my doctor’s office because I thought something felt wrong, but they assured me that I was most likely experiencing side effects from drugs they had given me in the operating room. I deferred to their judgment even though something didn’t feel right in my body.

I figured I would get better in a few days. However, when we went to pizza on my birthday, and I nearly collapsed walking across the parking lot, I knew something was up. I went to the follow-up at my doctor’s and laid out my symptoms. It was then that they did a blood test and discovered that my hemoglobin levels were at a 7.1 (a 7.0 is blood transfusion level).

Moral of the story: If something doesn’t feel right, speak up about it! With medical personnel all around us and professional doctors in crisp coats, we assume that they will just know what is going on.

However, I found out that while doctors can tell a lot from certain tests and procedures, you can greatly help them by letting them know about your symptoms, your health history, how much blood you are losing, etc., so that they can truly help you.

3. Ask for and accept help.

My second miscarriage was different than my first because I accepted help. I didn’t try to be the stoic survivor I was after my first miscarriage. I was very open with people that I had a pregnancy loss, and I gratefully accepted the assistance. I know the fear in telling people is that it will be worse to get over or they will act awkwardly around you, but I actually found that not to be the case at all.

Yes, there will be some who say the wrong things that hurt more than help (we will get to that in a minute), but overwhelmingly, there will also be those people who genuinely want to help and can if you let them.

At the start of my most recent miscarriage, I told my husband that morning I needed him not to go to work that day. At first, he just assumed I was experiencing a little spotting, and it was normal. He figured I could just drive myself to the doctor later that day. But I insisted that he stay with me because my mama intuition was telling me that this was bad. I did not want to be left alone with my young children in the state I was in.

Once we ascertained the situation was such that we needed to just go straight to the emergency room rather than the doctor’s office, my father-in-law came to pick up the kids and take care of them. My brother-in-law came to sit with my husband while I was in surgery. We needed help.

And when we came home and I realized that I was not doing well at all in the recovery process, I asked my husband to stay home from work for the next few days. The booster club of his team set up a meal train for us. In the weeks following, I arranged care a few mornings a week for my son (with family members and a babysitter). I was in no position to take care of my kids or my household until my health got better, and I gladly accepted the assistance.

I found people were really relieved to be able to do something for us. People generally want to assist you, but you just have to tell them how they can best be of help.

4. Know that anger is part of the grief process.

People expect to be sad after a traumatic event. They expect to cry and be depressed — but another part of the grief cycle is anger. After my second miscarriage, a good friend of mine gave me a pregnancy loss study to go through. The authors devoted an entire section of the study to dealing with anger after a miscarriage.

When I read it, a lightbulb went off in my head because I realized that I was carrying around some anger, and I needed to deal with it because my unresolved anger was making me act in wrong ways to some people. If the truth be told, the person I was angry at was God, and the other people were just getting the brunt of that.

I could not believe that God would let me go through pregnancy loss two times. I felt absolutely humiliated the second time because I had been so confident that my miscarriage tragedy was in the past. Anger in and of itself isn’t sin, but anger that isn’t dealt with can turn into bitterness and resentment.

I was able to get rid of the anger when I poured out my feelings to God. I also had some trusted friends that I talked with. I told them everything I was thinking and feeling. Being open about my anger and grief helped to get the negative emotions out.

 5. Expect that not everyone will understand.

If you choose to share your tragedy (which I recommend because I believe it leads to a speedier recovery), there will be some people who can’t handle it or won’t know how to comfort you. With my most recent miscarriage, some people did not even acknowledge that I had gone through anything when I re-emerged into the public.

The mistaken assumption people have is that they will hurt you by bringing it up, but I found that it was worse to be ignored. Then there were other situations where I thought I would get support from individuals, but I found them to be too busy or too horrified by my tragedy to help.

In those instances, do not dwell on those hurts. Think back to the times that you failed someone or avoided someone because it was awkward and you didn’t know what to say. For as many people who don’t acknowledge you, there will be those who do, so expect both and know that some people don’t know how to help a person in crisis (especially if they haven’t been through that particular crisis themselves).

You can make it easier for others by just bringing up the topic yourself and showing others that you are in a place to talk about it. And, if you are the supporting friend, a simple “How are you?” after a miscarriage will put your friend who has suffered the loss at ease and open up the conversation to go in the direction the person is most comfortable with.

As women, we are used to being the nurturers of others. It is hard for us to accept assistance or allow others to take care of us. However, pregnancy loss is a time when you need to give yourself permission to slow down, ask for what you need from the people around you, and allow yourself to heal.

If you yourself have not gone through a pregnancy loss,  you can still serve as a valuable support to a friend or another woman in your community who has. You can serve her best by checking up on her, listening to her, and being there for her when she most needs support.

As a survivor of two miscarriages, I don’t relish what I went through. However, I did survive — and survive well, with God’s help. He is the binder of all wounds, and He knows just how to take care of you, whatever your loss. You need only let Him. His help may come through the many hands of the people around you.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Leave a comment below.

*Updated and adapted from blog post published January 8, 2016.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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What I Learned From My Miscarriage

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Miscarriage is an ugly word. I don’t even like to say it. It is too much like “mistake” or “miss” — as in “missed the mark.” The pain is a private, intense humiliation that very few can understand. There is grief for a child that you did not know, for a life that was but then wasn’t. For a beginning you thought was taking place only to discover that by some cruel trick of nature, the exciting debut has ended without fanfare or explanation. And you go on, although inside you feel blank — lost in a too-large gray sweater that has no arm-holes.

And then there is the problem with numbers. When I sit in a doctor’s office filling out paperwork and there is a question about pregnancies, I pencil in 4. Then there is a question of live children, and I pencil in 2. Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, hovers the number 3 as well — because even though it was my fourth pregnancy, my number of live children would have increased to 3. But there are only 2.

After my second miscarriage, there was a weariness in my bones following the hospital stay after the loss of that baby. A tiredness when I climbed into the SUV with the extra third row seat we bought to accommodate the baby. A heaviness in my arms, falling like lead to my sides, when I am startled by the baby’s name “Addison” scrawled on a bulletin board outside my older daughter’s classroom at curriculum night. A tiredness when I see pregnant women in Target, two children in tow, and I think that I might have been one of those moms — but I’m not.

Wrestling with grief in the days following my most recent loss, I asked God to help me see the beautiful out of the gruesomeness of the day I spent at the hospital, my insides emptying the life I had nourished for 11 1/2 weeks. I inquired very specifically, “Lord, how can this be anything but ugly?” And I realized that out of the anguish of my pregnancy ending early and my child not forming properly in the way she should have, there were four gifts that came out of my miscarriage.

1. Patience to Slow Down.

I am not a patient person. I don’t like waiting for anything. Consequently, I have a tendency to power through my day at break-neck speed, so intent on getting to the next thing that I don’t enjoy any one thing in the process. However, after my pregnancy loss, time slowed down in a very beautiful way for me. I began to notice small things, like the freckles on my daughter’s forehead and the new word in my son’s vocabulary.

After my release from the hospital, it was such an effort for me to even get anywhere, a trip to the grocery store unexpectedly took on meaning. In some of those first trips out to the supermarket, I shuffled slowly down each aisle, savoring sale signs and new products on the shelves. The grocery store (once just one stop in my busy day) became my day. Because I spent so much time in bed in the weeks after I was released, I became grateful for any trip outside of my house that even a trip down a pasta aisle became an interesting adventure.

I didn’t have to get exasperated when the new cashier took too long or someone cut in front of me in line. For the first time in a long while, I had all the time in the world. And it was OK to be interrupted and inconvenienced. I felt that the suffering I went through helped me to slow down the fast pace of my life and appreciate the ordinary moments I had once hastily rushed past.

2.  Compassion for Others.

In addition to helping me put the brakes on in my busy life, my miscarriage helped me find empathy for others’ suffering in a way I couldn’t feel before I went through my own painful ordeal. As my strength failed me, and I had to struggle through weeks of recovery, I suddenly was ashamed to remember how I treated the woman I had known who had experienced her sixth miscarriage. Rather than approach the awkward topic, I had simply circumvented it — and circumvented her.

I remembered rolling my eyes when reading about a friend’s bout with illness on Facebook — as this friend always seemed to be venting about a pain or malady. I recalled feeling very annoyed by another woman I knew who had limited her diet to just a few items in an attempt to not trigger her digestive problems. I had a total lack of compassion for these people because I had taken my own health for granted and couldn’t feel their pain without first experiencing my own. I hadn’t known what to say to the woman with the multiple miscarriages or the friend with the health issues or the woman with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Miscarriage helped me to remember what it felt like to suffer. I was surprised to find myself rushing over to my neighbor’s house to console her after her husband’s stroke — surprised to feel a surge of caring inside of me where before there had only been a selfish need to look out for myself.

3. Increased Spiritual Awareness.

Not only did I have an increase in patience and compassion after my miscarriage, I had an increase in spiritual awareness. As I mentioned, my miscarriage took a toll on my body, and I quickly realized right after my hospital release that I couldn’t walk without feeling horribly dizzy or weak.

At a follow-up visit a week later, I felt so horrible that I could barely manage the trek from the parking lot to the office. My hemoglobin level was at a 7.1 (a normal woman’s range is between 12 and 17).

Yet even in that depleted physical state, I felt God nudge me to speak to three different women at the doctor’s office within the same follow-up visit. I knew that I had a spiritual gifting in the prophetic and occasionally got a Bible verse or a few lines from God to share with someone, but those words came few and far between, and were usually for friends or family members. For whatever reason, right after my miscarriage, I began to get words of help or encouragement specifically for people in regards to their emotional or physical health. People I didn’t even know.

I had never considered that God might want me to minister to others in these areas. But out of my suffering was birthed an increased awareness in the spiritual realm and a desire to write these God experiences down.

4.  Dependence on Him.

One last gift that I felt came out of my miscarriage was a greater dependence on God. From the moment that I woke up and felt that something wasn’t right in my body to the moment I arrived at the hospital, I knew that I had nowhere to turn but God. On the way to the hospital I prayed, and felt peace. In the hospital, I prayed and had peace. And when I arrived home and faced the darkness of grief, I prayed and found peace. I really had no alternative. I was in a pit and knew that I couldn’t get out of it myself. I needed God!

Particularly, in the weeks following the loss, I was angry that this might be the end to my child-bearing story. The pregnancy had been unplanned, and I struggled to know why it had happened at all. What was the purpose? Why did it end this way? Would I ever have more children? I felt Him give me an answer, and it was a picture of His son dying on the cross: Jesus’ mangled, disrespected, sword-pierced body. I realized that God allowed His own son’s body to be abused and damaged for a purpose, and even out of that tragic event came the beauty of salvation for all mankind.

Although ugly to the onlookers at the cross, that body became beautiful and whole again once Jesus did the Father’s will and rose again. If God would allow His own son to go through such treatment, I could live with the suffering I went through in my baby’s death. He helped me get past those intense painful feelings of betrayal and hurt in the first few weeks after the loss, and even now, as I am reminded occasionally of my less-than-perfect circumstances.

God doesn’t really see things the way that I see them. While all I saw at the hospital was the damage of my baby’s not-yet-fully formed body, God saw something different: He saw who she was before she was even conceived. While I only saw a piece of her life, He saw the whole picture and still does.

I felt the imprint of her spirit on me that day in the hospital, and I wanted to see more. I asked Him if I could see a glimpse of who she was. I didn’t really expect to get an answer to my prayer, but for just a moment, I got a flash of a freckled-faced, laughing girl across the screen of my mind. I really felt for a second that I knew her.

Though I don’t wish that I had lost my baby or wish miscarriage on anyone else, as I look back, I am seeing the ways that God is bringing me good through a situation I once viewed as only bad. I am learning how God is bringing “beauty for ashes” and “a joyous blessing instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:3 — NLT).

Update: One year after my miscarriage, I got pregnant again and birthed a healthy baby girl in May of 2016. I was supposed to have an ultrasound at 8 weeks, but there was a mix-up in appointments, and I saw her for the first time in an ultrasound at 11 weeks — the exact age of the one I lost. Seeing her happy, bouncing little body brought me so much healing. She has been a happy, energetic girl since the moment of her conception. Our daughter Ansley is now a busy preschooler and will turn 5 this month!

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Here I am with my three children at my older daughter’s dance recital.

*Post updated and adapted from a post published July 24, 2015 on my friend’s blog at Running The Race Before Us.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Persevering to Receive God’s Promises

woman-1148942_1280“Call her back.”

I felt God’s nudge when I hung up the phone with the call center representative. After making an appointment, I had felt led to ask her if she needed prayer for anything. She gladly consented and shared her needs. I prayed with her on the phone and then hung up. I then heard God’s nudge to call her back.

I put my head in my lap and groaned in exhaustion. This woman hadn’t been the first one I had talked to that day. I had been on and off the phone for two and half hours, and she had been the fifth woman I had talked to. I had no idea I would be on the phone so long when I had called in the morning to make an appointment.

Yet, with each person I talked to I felt God’s nudge to witness, encourage, or pray for the person on the other line. Each time I got off the phone, I felt God’s whisper to keep calling. Therefore, I hadn’t planned to make appointments for my entire family, but I went ahead and scheduled appointments for the rest of my family that I had planned to do on a different day and listened to God’s voice with each new person that came on the line. I had had some breaks in between, but I hadn’t eaten lunch as of yet and needed to get my kids off the bus. When I felt His voice once more with the fifth person after a good portion of my day had been taken up already, I felt irritated. I was hungry, cranky, and tired. As an introvert, I found it anxiety-inducing talking to strangers on the phone just to make regular appointments — let alone have spiritual conversations with said strangers.

“Lord, why would you ask me to do this? Am I even hearing from you?” I voiced in disbelief. The verse “Not my will but yours be done” popped in my head, but I dismissed the words. Surely, God’s will for me on that day wasn’t to talk to the majority of the call center. I felt a resistance rising up in my heart. This had been a day in a series of days this week where God had asked more of me than I felt I had to give. While I often had God assignments in the course of my days that stretched me, the assignments that week had been much more relentless and time-consuming to the point that I questioned if I was even hearing from God.

Shortly after my pity-party, I read in the study I am going through how Lysa Terkeurst’s daughter felt led to fast and pray for a family all day long. Her mom — yes, Lysa, the Bible teacher — tried to talk her into only fasting a portion of the day, but she insisted. The all-day part got my attention when I read it. Yes, I knew God really wanted me to call the fifth woman back. So, after some grumbling, I picked up the phone once more the next day and called. I had to leave a message and missed her call. I called back once more and was told she would call me. I explained what I was doing to the woman on the line helping me and must have sounded insane, but perhaps she was the person that needed to hear the story.

Whatever the case, I finally felt a release when I just went ahead and did what God asked. However, I am still praying about some other assignments from that week because God brought me to my breaking point, and I felt that I left some unfinished steps. I wanted to do what He asked, but I didn’t realize that I had drawn up boundaries for Him. I had places that I didn’t want Him to go and lines that I didn’t want Him to cross. I didn’t even know I had those limits, but He showed me exactly where those were.

A Woman Who Perseveres Past Her Breaking Point

All of us have breaking points. Certain aggravating circumstances present themselves and we hit a wall and feel that we can go no further.

“I can’t!” we cry to the Lord. Yet, to get to our desired destinations requires that we push beyond our feelings of exhaustion, doubt, or discomfort in the moment.

In Ruth 1, Ruth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, faced an important crossroads. After their father-in-law and husbands died, they set out with their mother-in-law from Moab for Judah. However, after they travelled with Naomi some of the distance, Naomi urged them to go back.

The journey had been long and hard up to that point, and it had no promise of getting easier. If they continued with her, they would be traveling to an unknown place and would have to rely on the kindness of others. Notice the reaction of the daughters-in-law in Ruth 1:14-16:

Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. ‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.’

What can we learn from Orpah and Ruth’s different reactions when brought to their breaking points?

1. Getting to our promised land requires that we continually move forward, not back.

The point where Orpah parted from Naomi and Ruth was possibly at the Jordan River. To go forward meant to push into the land promised and given to God’s people, but to turn back at that point meant moving backwards into a land that stood as an obstacle between the Israelites and the Promised Land when the Israelites initially set out to possess the land. Orpah traveled some of the distance with Naomi and Ruth, but then she got to a point where she would not go any further. Her words indicated that she was a caring daughter-in-law, concerned about her mother-in-law and attached to her, but her faith did not sustain her past a certain point.

Therefore, though she cried tears when faced with the prospect of going back, she made no move to stay committed to the course she was on. Therefore, even though she had traveled some of the distance and may have even intended to travel the entire distance, she turned back and returned to her gods. Ruth on the other hand, as we discussed last week, “clung” tenaciously to Naomi and declared, “Don’t urge me to leave you to turn back from you. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God” (v. 16).

All of us have places that will be breaking points for us if we’re not careful. We may traverse a certain distance with God and even do it quite cheerfully, but then turn back when we face unexpected trials or simply lose steam in our walks with Christ. When we’re tempted to turn away from God, we can confess our struggle to Him, ask Him to renew our resolve, and ask Him to help us make it past the point that threatens to break us.

2. Pushing forward means pushing past the opposition.

Ruth not only persevered in her tough circumstances by travelling from Moab to Judah by foot and dealing with all the emotions she must have felt as a widow, she also pushed ahead when opposing voices told her she didn’t have to take such a difficult path. When God calls us to a particular course, we will have naysayers that urge us not take the course. These may be people who are not in close relationship with God or these may be godly people who may not know or understand what God is telling us.

Naomi urged Ruth to return to her people so that she can find “rest” once again in the home of new husband (v. 9). Although Naomi was a godly woman, she tried to persuade her daughters-in-law to return to their family and gods so that her daughters-in-law would avoid the suffering and hardship that would most likely be inevitable if they continued on with her.

In their day and time, a woman’s role centered around being a wife and mother; therefore, her daughters-in-law only hope of finding security and provision they needed would be in the home of a husband. Naomi was concerned that if her daughters-in-law travelled with her that they would lose all chance of finding husbands as she had no more sons and was too old to bear more. Ruth understood that the only rest she needed was that which she found in Naomi’s God. So, she maintained her insistence that she go with Naomi and Naomi relented. However, Ruth’s move was bold as she, a widow, had no promise of provision or protection in Judah.

Ruth not only had to firmly hold her own when Naomi attempted to persuade her to go back, she also had to maintain her position when Orpah decided to turn back. Orpah and Ruth were both Moabites. They could have helped and supported each other once in Judah, as they both would have been foreigners. They had developed a close relationship as sisters-in-law, and no doubt Ruth was disheartened and discouraged when Orpah decided she could go no further.

What can we learn from Ruth’s actions here? Godly friends are good, and we should seek out godly counsel. But our decision to follow God will be tested. At times, God will allow us to walk through circumstances where we feel alone and others don’t rush in to give us the support we need or may even draw back from us when we forge ahead with God’s plans. Even in those circumstances, as Ruth does here, we should not be discouraged from going on but keep walking down the path God has for us.

3. Our breaking points may not be far from God’s blessings.

Even though it appeared that Ruth would only find more tragedy in leaving behind promising connections in Moab and going to Judah, she, in fact, by choosing to follow God, walked straight into unimaginable blessing. However, she could not have known what awaited her down the road leading away from Moab. What if she had followed Orpah and turned back at the point when circumstances looked and felt the worse? What if she hadn’t trusted God in her bleak circumstance — and turned back to her gods?

Sometimes our biggest blessings await us on the other side of our pain. While it might appear that nothing but suffering and hardship await us when we walk in God’s way, we see when we fast-forward in the story (Ruth does indeed find a husband and bears a son in the lineage of Jesus!) that God can work in our most difficult situations and turn them not only for our good but His glory. A.A. Thomson says this in The Biblical Illustrator:

How unfit we are to judge of an unfinished providence, and how necessary it is, if we would understand aright the reasons of God’s ways, that we should wait and see the web with its many colors woven out! Three short months, during which those dark providences were suddenly to blossom into prosperity and joy, would give to that sorrowful woman another interpretation of her long exile in Moab. When the night seems the darkest we are often nearest the dawn. Begin to tune thy harp, O weeping saint and weary pilgrim! ‘The night is far spent, the day is at hand.’ Learn to wait. When the great drama of our earth’s history is ended … God will again pronounce all to be ‘very good.’

Conclusion:

All of us will reach places in our spiritual walks that threaten to break us. “I can’t take another minute of this, God,” we may shout. We may want to turn away, escape to worldly distractions and comfort. We can learn from Ruth, though, that a woman who perseveres is a woman who finds blessings on the other side of her pain.

While me may not always know or understand why God allows what He does or why we’re in the situations we’re in, we can trust that all works for good for those who love God and walk in His ways.

Update: A few months after writing this post, I got a better understanding of the reason God had me call the woman at the call center back. Some time after this day of phone calls, I called to make another appointment and recognized the woman’s name on the phone as the woman God instructed me to call back. I told her I recognized her name and reminded her of the conversation we had previously had. She ended up being a different woman with the same name, but our conversation opened up a door with this woman where she told me that she was Muslim. We talked for a few moments about Christianity, and I shared a little with her about my faith. She was very open to talking with me, and I believe that I planted a seed with her that day. God had her in mind all along, although His plans did not make any sense to me months prior.

Related Resources:

Ever been in a bad situation and it just gets worse? Check out the other posts from the this series “Hope When You’re at the End of Your Rope: Lessons From Ruth on Trust, Surrender, and Healing.” In the study, we look at the story of Ruth where will draw lessons the next few weeks on the hope we have when life gets hard, and we feel abandoned and in need of rescue.  This post is adapted from the second post in this series. Check out the other posts: Part 1: Why God’s Way Is Always Best, Part 3: The Blessings of Following God,  Part 4: Trusting God When It Doesn’t Make Sense, Part 5: There Are No Shortcuts to God’s Promises, and Part 6: Walking Into All God Has for You.

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 *Updated and adapted from post published November 21, 2019.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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