How God Strengthens Us in Our Journey

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Chicken Soup for the Soul has sold more than 100 million books in the United States and Canada and has been translated into more than 40 languages. After the first book was published 23 years ago, it was so successful that more were written. And now, there are over 250 titles in what has become a Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

The book was developed by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor, who used inspirational stories in their talks. When people repeatedly asked if the stories were written down somewhere, Canfield and Victor decided to compile their best 101 stories in a book. And they called it Chicken Soup for the Soul. Their hope was that they could help others by sharing stories and providing comfort and encouragement, much like a bowl of hot soup on a rainy day.

While the stories of others can be inspirational and motivational, and we connect to others through stories and can be soothed by reading or hearing what others have gone through, our souls need to be fed by the Word of God and time spent with God. Just as our bodies need food and water, our souls need spiritual nourishment that can only be found in walking with God.

The Bible speaks of receiving our “daily bread” each day (Matthew 6:11). When tempted by Satan in the desert to turn stones into bread, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4). In other words, Jesus pointed to the reality that man needs spiritual nourishment and that our souls are designed to feed on the sustenance God provides.

We Find Nourishment in the Way God Leads

Isaiah 49:9 says this: “[I will say] to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill” (emphasis mine).

Earlier in Isaiah 49, the Messiah (Jesus) is the speaker and is addressing the nations. He tells of His purpose in restoring Israel to Himself and being a light to the Gentiles. Here in this section of the passage, the verses speak further of His purpose in bringing captives out of their slavery to sin and into freedom in walking with Him. Certainly, these verses can speak of unbelievers becoming saved but also can be representative of our Christian journey when we have put our faith and trust in Jesus and follow where He leads.

However, this verse also speaks of the Israelites in captivity to Babylon and talks about how they will be led by a Savior back to their home in Israel. (Side note: Obviously, at this point in history, Jesus had not physically come to earth yet as the Messiah, but was still very much present in the story of the Old Testament.)

If we look at the history of Israel, the Israelites were taken from their homes and put into captivity in Babylon when they fell into idolatry and disobedience and broke the terms of their covenant with God. God allowed them to suffer the ruin of Jerusalem and their temple and be taken from their homes, but then, in his loving-kindness, after a time period of 70 years, He allowed them to return back to their homes.

We can further observe two things:

1. God strengthens us along the way.

The passage tells us that “they will feed beside the roads.” Here, the passage gives us a picture of the captives being led home. Like sheep following a loving shepherd, they were given nourishment and taken care of when they went the way that God led. In a similar way, we will receive nourishment when we walk the path God has for us. In some translations, it reads, “They shall feed in the ways” (emphasis mine).

We can’t miss that the food showed up alongside the roads. It wasn’t given beforehand. They were actually underway on the journey when they encountered the needed sustenance. As Alexander MacLaren points out, they were fed as they went. While we may hesitate to follow Jesus when His way looks hard and we don’t like what He tells us to do, we can be assured that we will be refreshed and strengthened when we make time to listen to His voice and follow Him. Though another way may look easier and more comfortable initially, if it’s not God’s way, it will lead to spiritual stagnancy and spiritual starvation.

Also, along those lines, as MacLaren also explains, the ways will feed us. Those things we do in obedience to Him will be those that give us strength:

If you wish to weaken the influence of any principle upon you, do not work it out, and it will wither and die. If a man would grasp the fulness of spiritual sustenance which lies in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let him go to work on the basis of the Gospel, and he ‘shall feed in the ways,’ and common duties will minister strength to him instead of taking strength from him. We can make the smallest daily incidents subserve our growth and our spiritual strength, because, if we thus do them, they will bring to us attestations of the reality of the faith by which we act on them.

2. We will find nourishment even in difficult places.

Secondly, not only will we feed beside the roads, we will find pasture on every barren hill” (emphasis mine). We can easily miss this if we don’t look at the words closely, but there is a contrast between the pasture and the barrenness of the hills in which they walk. In this particular terrain, the pastures in which the flocks fed were down in the valleys, or low parts, and not in the high parts. No grass or landscape grew on top of the hills or mountains.

What we can take away is not only will we be fed in the ways God leads, even when God leads us to a place that appears bare, like the hills in this verse, He will also provide for us in those places and keep us sustained. Though we all want our walks with Jesus to lead us to places that are trouble-free, that isn’t the reality of what will happen as Christians. In many ways, our lives may get more difficult when we become Christians because we will encounter more stress and trouble when we attempt to live out the counter-cultural mandates of the Bible. In addition, we live in a fallen world where we have sadness, sickness, and many trials.

Yet, even in those places of trouble and hardship, though God won’t necessarily take those trials away, God provides us strength and encouragement. He may lead us to barren places where we are in great pain, but in those places of pain, we will have the help of God. Though we may struggle every day to get out of bed, when we turn to God, we have a place where we can take our anxiety, depression, guilt, sadness, anger, frustration, or whatever bothers us. Scripture tells us that God is close to the broken-hearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18Psalm 147:3).

It is better to walk with Him in those hard places than look for the comfortable path where we may have all we think we want but lack what we need in our souls.

Drawing the Sustenance God Offers

Through our everyday trials, God is with us. He nourishes our souls in a way that only He can. And yet, we have to reach out and grab hold of the nourishment He offers. As MacLaren points out, “It is only an active Christian life that is a nourished and growing Christian life.”

We have to intentionally draw close to God each day and read from His Word and also obey His precepts. When we walk after Him and complete the tasks that He asks of us, He offers refreshment, strength, and instruction to us in the process. We grow spiritually dry and stagnant when we neglect to carve out time for Him and His Word and ignore His voice or don’t attempt to hear His direction for us at all.

And what if we are far away at the moment? We can turn to Him and ask Him to help us get back on the right path. We can’t miss that the Israelites led were former captives — captives because of their sin and rebellion. And yet, God freed them from captivity.

Just as the Jews are depicted in this passage as sheep led by a shepherd, we, as Christians, are also depicted as sheep elsewhere in the Bible (Psalm 100:3Luke 15:4-7John 10:11). When we allow God to lead us, He takes us to places where there is an abundance of “food” for our souls. This truth can give us hope no matter what place we walk through — whether fertile valleys or barren heights.

Related Bible Verses:

Psalm 42:1: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”

Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

Related Resources:

This article is the second in the series “Finding Hope in the Midst of Disappointing Circumstances.” Check out the other articles in the series: “Work That Truly Matters”“How God Helps Us Overcome Obstacles,” and “A God Who Loves Us.” These are all focused on helping us find meaning and purpose when we are disappointed in the place God has led us.

Podcast Notes and Corrections:

For more study on Isaiah 49, Biblegateway.com and Biblehub.com provide some great free commentaries. I referenced Alexander MacLaren’s, in particular.

In reference to Canfield and Victor, founders of Chicken Soup for the Soul, they used the inspirational stories of others in their talks — not their stories.

*Updated and adapted from post published February 9, 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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If You’re Struggling to Feel God’s Love

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I usually don’t do New Year’s resolutions. However, at this time of year, I see the value in reflecting on the past year and meditating on ways to do things differently in the new year or improve things that aren’t working (even if it doesn’t involve a list).

Just like some of you who may be reading this, I have got some areas of my life that haven’t been working so well for me lately. And thus, when I listened to a Christmas Eve sermon which centered on Revelation 12:11, I decided that I wanted my word of the year to be “overcome.” I know that there are some patterns of behavior that are holding me back.

Even as a blogger who writes about healing and spiritual growth, I am ever in process myself. And just from undergoing some healing these past few years, I know that I don’t have the strength to overcome these areas on my own. And so, I have been praying about these areas and asking God to help me.

Why We Don’t Always Feel Like God Loves Us

One such area I have been in need of an intervention in is in the area of God’s love. I know. I have written numerous blog posts on the subject. However, it’s been an area I’ve struggled with at different intervals of my life because of past events that like to surface, difficult circumstances that make it challenging to trace God’s hand, and lies of the enemy that try to tempt me once again as they have in the past. I’ll just be honest with you: I don’t feel God’s love in a tangible way all of the time even though I can point to ways He has rescued me in my life, comforted me, and come through for me.

Recently, I prayed, God, help me to feel your love. Why don’t I always feel it? I then went about my day and forgot I had even asked. On a whim, not even remembering that I had asked this question, I went by the bookshelf and picked up Breaking Free by Beth Moore. These were the words I read on the page I opened:

I continue to see this statement in my mail: ‘I have such trouble really believing and accepting how much God loves me.’ So I began to ask God, ‘Lord, why do we have so much trouble believing and accepting Your love for us?’ I offered God multiple-choice answers to my own question: ‘Is it our backgrounds? Our childhood hurts? The unsound teachings we’ve received? The unloving people who surround us?’ I would have gone on and on except that He seemed to interrupt me — and He had the gall not to choose one of my multiple-choice answers.

As clearly as a bell, God spoke to my heart through His Spirit and said, ‘The answer to your question is the sin of unbelief.’ The thought never crossed my mind. Since then, it’s never left my mind.

After reading these words, I almost fell over in shock. I received this book from a friend about five years ago. I read it then, but I had no recollection of the words that lay before me. In addition, I wasn’t searching out this section of the book or expecting there to be an answer for me within its pages. If anything, the fact that He answered me so readily testified to me of God’s care and love right then.

You see, I had been waiting to feel God’s love, and I do feel it at times. But Moore stresses rightly that His love is something we have to believe, not always just wait to feel. The Bible tells us this: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Most of us would have to think twice about dying for someone we love, let alone someone who didn’t even appreciate the gift. Jesus died knowing that some of us would be flippant about His act while others of us would reject His offer.

In addition, if that weren’t enough, Jesus didn’t come to earth by being born to a royal family in a palace. He downgraded from the splendor of heaven to dwell with us here. He demanded none of the prestige that was due Him — to offer a way out of the mess that we created.

And if you need one more example of His great love, we need only think back to the creation story where God made us as the climax of His creation. We weren’t an afterthought or on the same level as the animals and plants. He set us above them — to rule over them. We were made in the likeness of God; as one commentator put it, we were made to be God’s “shadow.” He saw fit to give us His own attributes and make us in His own image.

To Feel God’s Love, We Have to First Believe It

Many of us feel it’s impossible that God would love us because of how others have treated us or because we have have even rejected ourselves, but the painful truth is that when we don’t accept that God loves us, we are participating in unbelief. As Moore argues later in the chapter:

Unbelief regarding the love of God is the ultimate slap in His face. The world came into being from the foundation of God’s love. God nailed down His love for us on the cross. Can you imagine the grief of our unbelief after all He’s done?

On a much smaller scale, it might be like us presenting our child with a lavish gift and a position to work for us and them saying to us, I will take the gift and the position, but I still don’t feel like it’s mine. We would want to hit them over the head and say, Wake up! Aren’t you enjoying the benefits of this gift even as we speak and yet you deny it’s yours?

A stronghold is something we lift up and attach ourselves to — a thought pattern or belief — that opposes God’s Word. Unbelief of God’s love can become a stronghold. To demolish the stronghold of unbelief of God’s love, we need to tear down the lies that He doesn’t love us or that we are unlovable and replace those with belief in God’s truth declared in His Word.

What the Bible Tells Us About God’s Love

In a project I have been working on lately, this idea has continually popped up in the Bible stories I have been studying: the path of belief versus unbelief that God offers. Often, God surprises me with His answers. They don’t always seem that logical. Rather than 2 + 2 = 4, the answer is instead 23 or squirrel or the color blue. I wouldn’t think that belief is the key to feeling God’s love.

Eve, when tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden to eat the fruit, did so because she entered into disbelief. She stepped away from believing God had her best in mind (when He warned her not to eat the fruit) and believed that God was holding out on her by placing a restriction on that fruit, even though God had done everything to prove otherwise by placing her in a perfect garden with all of her needs met. It didn’t matter what she felt at the moment. The truth, whether she believed it or not, was that God did love her and had forbidden her from eating the fruit because He was protecting her. The truth remained even when she stepped out of belief and aligned herself with Satan and got out of alignment with God.

The Bible tells us that we are dearly loved by God (Eph. 5:1,2Col. 3:12). Dearly loved means that we can be rooted in a deep, unwavering belief of God’s love that permeates our every action. Ultimately, all of us need a conviction of God’s love to operate in His power and will because otherwise we will fall into unbelief on the days we don’t feel like His love is there.

How about you? Do you struggle to feel God’s love? Share with us in the comments!

Related Resources:

Never entered in a relationship with Jesus Christ and want to learn more about salvation? Check out this Know God page for a summary of how to enter into a relationship with Jesus.

*Updated and adapted from a post published January 15, 2017.

 

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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Can I Really Trust God in My Difficult Circumstance?

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As believers, there are certain truths that we can all agree on: God is good. He is for us. He made us for a special purpose. He loves us. These are foundational ideas of our faith, but certain circumstances can throw us for a loop to the point that we have difficulty hanging onto these ideas as tightly as we once did — or at all.

When we’re caught up in an unexpected circumstance — the unraveling of a significant relationship, a long-term health battle, the loss of a job or financial stability, the death of a close friend or family member, or other stressful circumstance —  we can sometimes react in ways that we wouldn’t have guessed we would.

In particular, our zeal for the Lord might run low after months of waiting for His intervention in a situation, or our overall faith in His goodness might be challenged when we encounter obstacle after obstacle in following Him. However, in those times, rather than rely on feelings that will lead us astray, we can turn to the immovable bedrock of Scripture to comfort and calm our runaway thoughts: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NKJV).

Two takeaways to remember as we navigate seasons that shake our faith and belief in the goodness of God:

1. There is no abundant life outside of Jesus.

When experiencing intense pain, we want to find immediate comfort and escape. Satan will try to lie to us and tell us that the abundant life that Jesus talks about hasn’t been so abundant in Him, so we should try to find this life of abundance in other ways. However, the passage is clear that behaviors and decisions we make to try to experience the life we find in Christ outside of Him won’t work in the long run.

We can build successful businesses, pursue relationships, and complete a myriad of accomplishments, but if it’s not God’s will for us, we won’t be fulfilled doing it. It tells us in the passage that the thief comes to steal and destroy. Living for any other purpose or distracting ourselves with other pursuits doesn’t provide us peace and joy — only in Christ do we find peace and joy.

I’ll be honest, I know how to hear clearly from God. I hear from Him when I spend time in prayer and His Word, fellowship with other believers, and listen intently for His messages to me in sermons and the studies I do with my Bible study group. But I know how to turn down the volume. Sleep in during my quiet time. Gloss over Bible study. Disconnect from other believers. But when I am not as connected to Him, I don’t experience real peace.

In my current season, I’ve let some distractions creep in, some things that I just don’t feel that good about doing. It satisfies for a minute, but I am left wishing I had never let myself go down that path. It doesn’t satisfy me long-term. What this passage is saying is that nothing quenches our soul thirst like Christ.

When thirsty, we might reach for a soda or juice, perhaps. But while these beverages might take the edge off our thirst initially, they don’t take our thirst away. They don’t refresh like water. Water is the only thing that takes our thirst away completely. Similarly, the abundant life can only be found in Christ — no distraction or habit can quench our thirst like Jesus, our living water (John 4:13, 14).

2. The Good Shepherd brings us good.

Elsewhere in the passage, Jesus identifies Himself as the “good Shepherd.”  In John 10:14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus always looks out for His sheep and leads them in the way that is best for them. That He can be trusted.

I think we can read those verses when we haven’t really experienced a devastating trial and we can say, “OK, that’s great. God leads me in all circumstances.” And we accept that. But when we’re in a place of trial and hardship then our trust in Him is truly challenged. His trustworthiness is harder to accept. Can we still trust Him to lead us even when we really don’t know the way — when we’re waking up wishing that we could have someone else’s experience?

Even in those places where we don’t want to be where we are and we can’t get out on our own, He is with us. If we look at Psalm 23, it tells that Jesus leads us not only in places that are pleasant, but He also leads us in dark valleys. Therefore, no matter what it feels like at the moment, those of us trusting and following after God can rest in the faithfulness and goodness of our God. He is faithful in how He leads us, and He is always good to us, even when it feels like He is not being that good to us.

Truth to Hold Onto When Life Devastates Us

Recently in watching the Olympics, I was so moved by Simone Biles’ struggle to fight against the pressure she felt in the competition. Named the “G.O.A.T,” or “Greatest of All Time” in gymnastics, she had much to live up to and prove as she competed in the Olympics for the second time. After a shaky qualifying performance, the pressure mounted when she competed in vault.

She sprinted toward the vault to perform like she had done hundreds — even thousands of times before — but instead of displaying her immense talent in a perfect series of tumbles in the air, she got the “twisties” instead. She lost her sense of where she was in the air, her eyes rolled back, and she fell through the rest of her tumble to land unsteadily on the mat below. I felt so sad for her as I watched. Even though I am not a gymnast, I could empathize with her experience of not being able to perform at her best because of overwhelming pressure and anxiety.

In the aftermath of her performance, I thought about the fact that we can go bravely through life doing the spins and tumbles that we’ve been taught to do, relying on the truths of the Gospel that help us ward off the lies of the enemy. We can do so well for a time, and then when devastating hardship comes, we get knocked sideways. We lose our sense of direction and balance. Doctrines that we once held onto so firmly don’t feel so firm any longer. Certain truths that felt so easy to believe feel impossible to believe any longer.

However, we can overcome our spiritual “twisties” the same way that gymnasts overcome theirs. As one article put it, gymnasts experience the twisties when they stop trusting their muscle memory. Stress or fear can get in the way of their training and make them less trusting. Therefore, they retrain themselves in basic skills and learn to trust again. And in a similar way, we can find our way out of what feels like a dark free fall by reminding ourselves of certain truths and refusing to let go of these truths (even when they are so clearly challenged) — truths like God is faithful and He knows what He is doing — when every shred of human logic in our being would tell us to do otherwise.

When we’re free falling, the pain may be so great that we just don’t care anymore, and we might have already tried to disengage God and engage in behaviors we know are wrong. But even if we have already started our exit plan to try and run from God and run to other things, we don’t have to keep running. We can turn right where we are and run to God and remind ourselves that He is a good Father and He can be trusted.

God knows why we are running and knows everything about our situation even before we tell Him. While we can only see the darkness that is all around us, the darkness is as light to Him. We can only find our way out of our dark valley by resting trustingly in His presence and holding fast to His truth even when the truths don’t appear to be working in our circumstances.

The bottom line: If we let them, circumstances can wreck our faith. Holding onto the truths that God is the good Shepherd and will lead us out is that which can sustain us when darkness surrounds us.

*Updated January 15, 2022.

Podcast Notes & Corrections:

Check out the movie Greater mentioned in the podcast. Greater tells the story of Brandon Burlsworth, an average kid with a more-than-average dream to play Division 1 football. Through the course of the film, his family learns to keep trusting God even when life is confusing and they don’t always understand.

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.

More Posts

Why Your Work as a Mom Is Important

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When I was growing up, my family took a two-week camping trip along the Oregon coast, and we visited many scenic parks and landmarks — including several beautiful lighthouses.

While these lighthouses were no longer functioning and had been turned into tourist destinations, I was enchanted by the idea of a lighthouse warning ships away from the rocks, helping captains pilot their crafts into safe waters.

The Job of Lighthouse Keepers

Due to electricity, most lighthouses are now automated, but years ago, a lighthouse keeper had to light the lamps punctually at dusk each night and keep them lit throughout the night. Just to get to the top of a lighthouse, a keeper had to ascend a flight of steep steps. Some of the tall lighthouses may have had as many as 200 steps! Note what I discovered about this process of lighting the lamps in reading about a particular lighthouse called Sea Girt Lighthouse in New Jersey:

Preparations for lighting the beacon began well before dusk. The keeper first inspected the Fresnel lens and its many prisms, which were cleaned that morning. The lamp that produced the light was checked and the supply of fuel refilled. The wick was trimmed and lighted. The weights, which dropped down the tower shaft driving gears that caused the lens to revolve, were unlocked, hand cranked up to the top and a new descent started.

To ensure lamps did not go out, keepers had to check the lights at intervals during the night. On stormy nights, they had to continuously ensure the light was beaming.

Keepers lived at the lighthouse and worked seven days a week. They were not only responsible for lighting the lamps, cleaning the lamps, and maintaining the lighthouse, they also had to take weather readings and document these, as well as maintain the house and grounds of the light stations. Keepers had to work through blizzards, hurricanes, and other storms — putting their own lives in danger for others. They also had to be prepared to respond to emergency situations such as fires (which were a constant threat) and shipwrecks.

Mothers Are Keepers of the Home

In looking at the job of a lighthouse keeper, we can gain a better understanding of the role of a godly wife and mom described by Paul in Titus 2:3-5:

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one can malign the Word of God.

How, you might ask, is a lighthouse keeper like a mom? In praying about this topic and asking God to help me understand the role of a mom, I was struck by a particular word that popped out at me when reading the verse. Although the word isn’t in the New International Version, you will find the word “keeper” in other translations, such as the King James Version. In the KJV, instead of saying that a woman should be “busy at home,” it says that a woman should be “keepers at home” (v. 5). In fact, in Greek, the word is actually “oikourgos” and means “keeper-at-home” or “housekeeper.”

What exactly does a “keeper-at-home” do? To understand this term, it is helpful to look at the definition of “keeper,” as given here by Dictionary.com:

a person who guards or watches, as at a prison or gate

a person who assumes responsibility for another’s behavior

a person who owns or operates a business

a person who is charged with the maintenance of something

a person charged with responsibility for the preservation and conservation of something valuable, as a curator or game warden

and a person who conforms to or abides by a requirement.

Wow! In relation to the task of mother, are you seeing how many of these characteristics are those that a mom does every single day?

As a “keeper-at-home,” a mother lives on the job (on call 24/7), must keep up with the maintenance of home and care of children, and sacrifices herself on a daily basis to ensure her family is protected and cared for. She, essentially, is the guardian of her children and her constant work and effort keep the household running, or “lantern beaming,” so to speak.

To clarify, being a “keeper of the home” doesn’t necessarily mean women can’t work outside the home. We understand from reading elsewhere in Scripture that the roles of women were varied, and we need to seek God for His will for our life. However, as women, we have been given the role of running our houses and taking care of our husbands and children. Therefore, we have been given abilities unique to our gender that help us in that role — whether as stay-at-home moms or working moms.

So, continuing on with this idea of a lighthouse keeper to describe what we do every day as moms, we can also draw a few other ideas related to this idea of being a “keeper-at-home”:

 1. We don’t all have to mother the same.

One of the ideas that stood out to me as I was doing some research on the job of a lighthouse keeper is that each lighthouse station was slightly different. Each lighthouse station had its own signature blinks to help mariners identify the light and was made unique from the other lighthouse stations to further help sailors determine where they were. Similarly, we, as moms, don’t have to all mother the same. As a mom, I often get caught up in comparing myself to another mom and feeling superior or inferior to another mom based on how I do things in comparison to how she does things.

However, we should draw a firm line on the principles that the Gospel outlines for godly wives and mothers (which I will get to in a minute), but we can execute tasks with our own unique style. One mom may be really active and connect with her kids through outings and trips to the park and museum. Another mom may prefer to connect with her kids through quieter activities like playing board games and reading books together.

One mom may cook home-cooked meals every night and another may have the pizza place on speed-dial. As moms, we often make up lists and create expectations for ourselves that the Bible doesn’t mention specifically. Instead of comparing ourselves to other moms, we can feel the freedom to mother our kids in our own unique style, consulting God about the ins and outs of our decisions, knowing that as long as we are looking to Him to lead us — that we don’t all have to mother exactly the same.

2. We have to follow the manual.

While the keepers had varied responsibilities depending on their station and each light station was slightly different, they still all followed the same manual given to them by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. As moms, we, too, though we don’t all have the same personalities or style as moms, have to seek God’s will for ourselves and our children not only by seeking Him in prayer — we have to live by the manual.

Quite interestingly, in Titus, when the apostle Paul instructs the older women to “teach the younger women,” he uses the Greek word “sóphronizó” which means “to recall to one’s senses, admonish.” Paul urged the older women to essentially call back some of the women who were just drifting along and living the way the world did, not considering what it meant to be a Christian. In addition, he was correcting some of their attitudes toward religion. They preferred to follow certain myths and rituals, rather than live out the guidelines of the Gospel.

We can be challenged by this in that we, too, as moms often will adhere to what we knew growing up, we emulate by seeing someone else, or we learn from the culture — but being an effective mom is, in fact, looking to see that we are doing what the Bible says in regards to motherhood and not simply drifting along with societal expectations and norms. Paul exhorted Titus to teach the elderly women (that they might teach the young women) what it meant to be a Christian woman in behavior and dress — that they might best represent the Gospel.

Similarly, for us, being the best mom we can means looking to the Word of God for our cues on how to raise our children — and not the world. Titus 2 tells us that a godly wife and mother looks like the following: loving our husbands and children, being self-controlled and pure, being busy at home, kind, and subject to our husbands. This is certainly not easy to read because it goes against the ideas of what it means to be a mom and wife taught by our society.

However, as commentator Paul Kretzmann advocates, these ideas that Paul was passing on weren’t merely his own ideas, but actually, the will of the eternal God communicated in this letter. And so, even though these truths aren’t necessarily those that are easy to live out or always fun to embrace, we see that they are those that are given to us as the guidelines by which to operate our “light stations.”

3. We have a duty higher than ourselves.

A keeper performed his tasks not just because he loved them, but because his job required it — and lives were saved when he performed his job well. As mothers, we, too, have a higher reason to do our job in that God calls us to love our husbands and children (v. 4).

The lives of our children, as well as those looking on, will not only be enhanced but possibly saved, when we take seriously our calling as mothers. The Bible says to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). The conduct described in Titus 2 is not only to produce a certain result in ourselves and our families but to display Christ to others and bring others to Christ (v. 5).

This isn’t telling us to put on a fake show, but it does point out that we may turn others off to the Gospel when we act in ways around our children that are not in keeping with its principles. While the verse isn’t saying that we have to generate perfect behavior from our kids to give others a good impression of the Gospel or act perfectly ourselves (we are going to fail at times, and there is grace for that), what it is saying is that our good treatment and training of them and their subsequent response to our love and guidance will show the world what can and will happen when we have Christ within us and put the principles of the Gospel to work.

In telling us that the older women were to “urge,” or as some translations say, “teach,” the younger women to love their husbands and children, we understand that the wives didn’t just feel a natural affection for their families all the time. This was a love that they had to learn. While loving our children will come naturally to us on some days, there will be other days when they frustrate, anger, annoy, and overwhelm us.

Even on those days, we are instructed to love them — and this love isn’t merely an affection, but a training in the right direction and desire to see them grow not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally. Proverbs 13:24 tells us, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” When we love our children, we do more than simply display affection towards them, we guide them in the right way to go.

The Important Role of a Mom

I love what a high-profile football coach said at a press conference on what he considered his greatest success in life: bringing his own three boys to salvation. What a perspective! Not his number of wins as a coach. Not his impressive salary. He considered his greatest accomplishment to be the investment of his life into his boys’ lives so that they could come to know Jesus Christ.

Obviously, he’s not a mom, but his words challenge us as moms: As mothers and keepers of our homes, what are we allowing our kids to watch, to hear, to talk about? What environment are we creating? What are we leading them towards?

Titus 2 admonishes us to love our families and watch over our homes — not only for their benefit but so that our conduct is in keeping with the Gospel. Similarly, Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us we are to teach our children about God and His Word when we sit down, walk along the road, lie down, and get up.

The mother of Charles Spurgeon prayed for her son and deeply impressed him with her own advocacy for him when he was a strong-willed young person of 14 and 15 who hadn’t yet decided to devote his life to Christ. In particular, he remembered her praying for the souls of her children, saying, “Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.” He later reflected, “How can I ever forget her tearful eye when she warned me to escape from the wrath to come?”

Spurgeon was moved by his mother’s pleading for his soul but did not accept Christ until one Sunday morning, drawn to a small Methodist chapel, he heard the simple words of a pastor declare that he could be saved by looking unto Jesus Christ. And, at that moment, Spurgeon put his faith in Jesus Christ. The words of the pastor inspired him, but his mother’s intercession for him lay the groundwork for his decision to accept Christ.

When we are tempted to doubt our own effectiveness as moms or neglect to pray for and guide our own children, they miss out. Just as a lighthouse keeper is essential to his lighthouse station, we are essential to our children and homes and have an important role to play in molding our kids and teaching them the truths of the Gospel.

In the wear and tear that comes with daily life and the care of children, we may forget the high and holy calling we have been given to love and guide our children — but Scripture reminds us of the important role of mom and “keeper-at-home.”

May we always remember the impact a godly mother has on her children and strive to be the best mother, or “keeper,” that we can.

Related Resources

Ever feel unappreciated, worthless, or overwhelmed as a mom? This post is adapted from Part 2 of the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” Part Part 3: What It Means to Train Our Children, and Part 4: Strength for the Stressed-Out Mom (updated from original version).

Don’t have much time to read, but would like to hear articles in podcast form? Check out Beulah Girl’s podcast archive for a complete listing of podcast episodes.

*Updated and adapted from post published April 20, 2019. Click on link to view original post and listen to accompanying podcast.

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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Strength for the Stressed-Out Mom

strength for stressed out mom

When my youngest daughter was born, we were relieved to discover she was such an easy, compliant child. We marveled over her sweet temperament. She played quietly with toys by herself. She gave sweet hugs to her brother and older sister when they were upset or cried. She went to bed without complaint. Generally, she didn’t demand much from us — but acted content on most occasions to “go with the flow.”

And then she turned two.

The year started off the same as the year before, but as the year progressed, we began to see a different side of her that we hadn’t seen before. And now, as we near her third birthday, we’ve seen “the terrible twos” more often than not.

Our once docile child runs away toward the street when we go outside; arches her back so we can’t strap her in her car seat; kicks at me and claws my face when I tell her no; takes off her clothes after I have dressed her; and locks herself in bedrooms for fun.

I know that this phase will pass. I struggled with her older brother and sister at this same age.

However, even though I’ve been through the toddler phase before with my older two, when dealing with my younger daughter’s antics all day long, in addition to dealing with the demands and needs of her older brother and sister, I can easily feel discouraged and not my best as a mom. As much as I love my children, I am finding it too easy in my current season to focus on the challenges of motherhood and the negative behaviors of my children, instead of focusing each day on the positive aspects of being a mom.

What the Word of God Says About Children

So, how can I change my perspective and find joy once again in the mothering of my children and not react in anger and frustration to their less-than-desirable behavior? Psalm 127:3 tells us: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.”

The psalm tells that children are both a “heritage” and a “reward” from God. While the meaning of both words is slightly different, they are both used here to indicate a blessing given to men by God. As John Calvin says, a “reward” can be understood as whatever “benefits God bestows on men.”

This idea of children being a blessing can be a difficult one to come to terms with for those who have not been able to conceive or those who struggled with infertility before becoming a parent. However, the passage isn’t saying universally that people who haven’t been able to conceive aren’t blessed. Certainly, we see godly couples struggling with infertility in the Bible. This passage is speaking in a general sense, reminding us that children are to be viewed as a blessing, even on days when their behavior is challenging.

As Calvin points out, the passage corrects the views of those that believe that children were born by “chance” or merely because of an “instinct of nature.” Many believe that once God put the universe in motion, He stepped back and let His creation take its course. Or some don’t believe in God at all and don’t attribute God as the Creator and Father of all children. However, as Calvin says, the psalm makes it clear that God had a direct hand in creating our children. Each one has been fashioned by God and has a purpose to live out on this earth (Psalm 139:13-16).

Therefore, just as it was God’s choice to send us the child that He did — and we can’t take credit for the child He created — God also has a plan for each child. We have a responsibility to steward and lead this child to accomplish what God intends for this child.

As Calvin emphasizes, when we know that our children are a gift and we have been given the honor of parenting our kids, we are encouraged not to be “careless and reluctant” when providing for them. In other words, knowledge of our kids’ value makes us better parents!

When we’re feeling frazzled and worn thin, reminding ourselves of how intimately God was involved in creating our children and entrusting them to us will motivate us to treat our children as human beings of great value and give us renewed energy and motivation as moms, not just in providing for their physical needs, but in providing for their emotional and spiritual needs as well.

God’s Word Sustains Us When We’re Tired or Beyond Hope

I read a devotional by Alicia Bruxvoort just this week about how she, as a tired mom trying to console her fourth child late one night, found comfort in the following verse: “For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]… ” (Hebrews 4:12). I had never read this verse in the Amplified, and with other versions I had read, I skipped past the first part to the rest of the verse which talks about the Word “penetrating” the soul and spirit like a sword.

For instance, in the NIV the complete verse reads: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In attaching my focus to the last part of the verse, however, I had only viewed this verse as a “stern” verse about how the Word of God will pierce us when we’re going the wrong way. And it does indeed assert that idea.

However, I realized, in reading just the first part of the verse, that the verse could be read not just as a verse about the penetrating work of the Word to convict us and get us on the right track. This verse also speaks of how this Word also works within us in another way in that it energizes, affects, and exerts influence over us. Wow! So, the verse in fact also says that the Word acts in different ways depending on our situation — and it can be that which empowers us when we’re tired and feeling less-than-loving to change our mindset.

When we start to feel irritated by our children’s bad behavior, we can be “energized” and “affected” by the truth of God’s Word in Psalm 127 that says our children are a “heritage and a reward” and shift our thinking. As Bruxvoort acknowledged in her post, her situation didn’t change, but her perspective did. That night, when she felt fatigued as a mom, Hebrews 4:12 lifted her up and helped to keep her going.

Though she was energized by a different passage of Scripture than the one we are discussing, we can apply this same idea in regards to our current discussion and remind ourselves of the truth of God’s Word in regard to the value of our children. We can look ahead to the goal of raising disciplined, godly children and push ahead through one more day of tantrums, clawing fits, or door locking incidents — knowing that, as Psalm 127 asserts, our children have been gifted to us by God.

For whatever season we find ourselves in as moms, we can find sustenance in the Word of God to get us through.

Related Resources:

Ever feel unappreciated, worthless, or overwhelmed as a mom? This is Part 4 in the series “Motherhood: Joys, Challenges, and Trials.” Check out Part 1: “Why Your Work as a Stay-at-Home Mom Matters,” Part 2: “Your High and Holy Calling as a Mom,” and Part 3: What It Means to Train Our Children.

Don’t have much time to read, but would like to hear articles in podcast form? Check out Beulah Girl’s podcast archive for a complete listing of podcast episodes.

*Updated from post published May 4, 2019. Click on link to view original post and listen to podcast.

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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4 Truths to Consider When God Closes a Door

when god closes a door

Several years ago, after a miscarriage and surgery, I went home and immediately felt something wasn’t right in my body. I called up the nurse, and she rationalized that I was most likely experiencing side effects from the drugs administered in the emergency room. But I still felt really funny.

My heart raced uncontrollably even when I was lying down. I felt so out of breath, foggy — I couldn’t think clearly, and my heartbeat pulsated in a painful way right at the top of my skull.

A few days later, I tried to make an effort to go out for my birthday — just pizza and shopping at a local outlet mall. “Something is wrong with me,” I told my husband as I struggled to walk the distance of the parking lot. I just didn’t feel good. My body felt so sluggish, my mind in a fuzzy cloud.

A doctor’s visit the next week revealed the problem: my hemoglobin levels had dropped very low, and my heart was working overtime to circulate oxygen. I couldn’t get out of bed without feeling like I would collapse. My doctor’s office offered to set up a blood transfusion, but when I discussed it with my husband, we decided we didn’t like all the risks.

We made the difficult decision for me to let my body heal itself in a slow process over the next few months. I rested at home for several weeks, and when I did finally get enough strength to go back to church, I was devastated. My first Sunday back corresponded with the release date of our church worship team’s first single.

My dream had always been to sing and write music. But I had walked away from the worship team a year before that to enroll in a Hope ministry training when God had asked me to give up music for a season. Not only that, another opportunity had already shattered and fallen at my feet.

I had been asked to volunteer to serve on a leadership team for a brand new women’s ministry for young moms. Comprised of many of my close friends, the team was a perfect fit for me. Or so I thought. I had been praying for a long time that God would open a door for me into ministry.

However, the women’s event was scheduled just a few weeks after my surgery. I kept praying and hoping God would let me get well enough to help. But that didn’t happen. I was too sick. I couldn’t stay on my feet for long periods of time, much less go anywhere without the support of my husband’s arm. The avenue that I thought God was opening for me wasn’t really an avenue at all. My health made it impossible for me to take part in the event.

As I left church early that first Sunday back, mostly to avoid sympathetic friends and suffocating stares, I drove home and went straight up to my room, fell on my bed, and cried.

I picked up the book I had been reading on my bedside table, Love, Skip, Jump: The Adventure of Yes by Shelene Bryan, and I happened to turn to a chapter in which Bryan describes the rejection of a pitch for a new show she had worked so hard to present to several prominent television networks. She relates: “I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t help but ask God, ‘Lord what was that all about? Why did You have me walk into all those networks and pitch this idea that you placed on my heart if it was going to be a Big Fat No?’ ”

I didn’t like the passage I was reading. I wanted Bryan to provide me the answer I wanted to hear, that I was going to be well and all of the hopes I had were going to come to pass. But as if to further pound the truth that God was moving me into the background for a season, I opened my Facebook to these words by Nikki Koziarz: “Sometimes we look to follow someone else’s path toward our calling. But maybe today God is saying, ‘Don’t follow them, follow me.’ His way is unique and unstoppable” (Psalms 32:8).

To be honest, I was angry. What kind of a God would let me lose a baby, miss out on important ministry opportunities, and stand on the outside while others lived out what I wanted to do?

However, as much as I could feel stuff breaking inside me as I experienced the pain of watching others get to joyfully participate in that which I wanted to be a part of, I felt some truths resonate in my heart:

1.  I don’t have the right to do anything but the will of the Father.

Jesus often said that He only came to do the will of the One who sent Him. This meant that He was selective in the choices and decisions He made. He didn’t jump into every opportunity that came His way, and He didn’t make decisions to please Himself or achieve His own selfish goals. He even asked on occasion for there to be a different way when He knew the path would be difficult, as when He prayed for the “cup to pass from Him” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

2.  What I give up, He may give back to me.

There have been times that I have passed up on a chance when I felt a “no” in my spirit only to find that God gives me the very thing I wanted at a later time — in a way beyond what I could have imagined or planned. Even though Bryan had to give up her dream of her reality show idea, she realized after some prayer that God was asking her to still implement her village makeover idea without the cameras. He gave her a “yes” in a way that was different than she anticipated, and she would have missed it if she continued to plow ahead with her reality show vision.

3.  All promotion comes from the Lord.

So many times, I am trapped into thinking that the doors are closed in my face because I am not liked by certain individuals, but God has continually shown me that promotion comes from Him (Psalm 75:6). If He truly wants me in a place of ministry, He will place me there in His timing, and He will show me the path He has for me to get there.

4.  When I’m stuck, I should do what’s in front of me.

By looking only ahead at my goal, I may miss the obvious opportunity or step I am to take right in front of me. As Bryan concludes in her chapter: “Sometimes I can get so excited to do something that I’ll bust down a wall in the name of Jesus. Then God kindly points out the door that He already placed for me to walk through. Oops.”

If you’re anything like me, I can get so overwhelmed looking at how far away I am from my desired destination that I start to panic and forget what I can be doing in the moment. I can miss the assignment that Jesus has put in my lap for today in my anxious desire to get to tomorrow. As Sarah Young says in her Jesus Calling devotion:

When things seem to be going all wrong, stop and affirm your trust in Me. Calmly bring these matters to Me, and leave them in My capable hands. Then, simply do the next thing. Stay in touch with Me through thankful, trusting prayers, resting in My sovereign control. Rejoice in Me — exult in the God of your salvation! As you trust in Me, I make your feel like the feet of a deer, I enable you to walk and make progress upon your places of trouble, suffering, or responsibility. Be blessed and keep trusting!”

Young encourages me that when the promise hasn’t come true, when I am not in the place I want to be, I need to do the task that is in front of me right now. It may have nothing to do with my calling or may not even be what I feel is the future God has for me, but it is what God is calling me to in this moment.

And the other truth I know is this: Deep inside of me a little voice whispers that some of His promises, particularly about music, haven’t come true yet because I’m not finished. He wants me working on something I would rather not work on — a different project that I’ve left undone. I’ve skipped some steps, pushed off some things for another day. And I need to complete God’s assignment in order to obtain His blessings.

Consider George Matheson’s prayer from Streams in the Desert:

Dear Holy Spirit, my desire is to be led by You. Nevertheless, my opportunities for usefulness seem to be disappointed, for today the door appears open in to a life of service for You but tomorrow it closes before me just as I am about to enter. Teach me to see another door even in the midst of the inaction of this time. Help me to find, even in the area of service where You have closed a door, a new entrance into Your service. Inspire me with the knowledge that a person may sometimes be called to serve by doing nothing, by staying still, or by waiting. And when I remember the power of Your ‘gentle whisper’ (1 Kings 19:12), I will not complain that sometimes the Spirit allows me not to go.”

Related Bible Verses:

Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Luke 22:42: ” ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ ”

1 Kings 19:12: “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

*Updated and adapted from a post published January 23, 2015. Updated January 15, 2022.

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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Finding Strength to Continue on in Life’s Darkest Valleys

railroad

A manager once told me I was great “out-of-the-gate” at the beginning of my shift but less enthusiastic as my shift wore on.

I had to admit the truthfulness of his words. As a coffee barista, I had to start early morning shifts that required me to roll out of bed around 4:30 a.m. Once I got through the first few hours of my morning shift, including the early morning rush of coffee-drinkers, I couldn’t wait to go home and take a nap. My eyelids and limbs felt heavy. The minutes ticked by so slowly. My manager observed me wind down energy-wise as my shift wore on.

Spiritually, I tend to operate in the same way. I am really good “out-of-the-gate.” I start an assignment God gives me with energy and enthusiasm. I have a lot of good ideas. I tell everyone around me what I am doing. As time goes on, though, I tend to get worn out, discouraged by trials and the opposition of others. I get frustrated and want to quit when the journey takes much longer than I expected and the hardships pile up. Maybe you can relate?

The Bible offers us guidance for those places where hardships have worn us down, and we can’t find the strength and endurance to continue on in the assignment God has given us. We can look to the example of Jesus to help us know what it looks like to keep going when our road is hard and long.

In Matthew 27:46, 50, Jesus had been hanging on the cross for several hours. During that time, he endured physical pain, thirst, and the sneers of onlookers below Him. Prior to that, he endured an unfair trial, a beating, and the humiliation of being nailed to the cross. In this moment, He was exhausted and in physical and mental agony. He said very little while on the cross, but when He spoke, His words revealed much:

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’). … And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

In looking at Jesus’ words and actions in His last moments on the cross, what can we observe about enduring difficult circumstances?

1. He held onto God, though it appeared God was letting go of Him.

We see in Jesus’ words, “My God, my God” (emphasis mine), the words of a man who obviously still trusted in God enough to hold onto Him even when He felt abandoned to a terrible fate. Jesus wasn’t merely left behind or forgotten at the cross. God deliberately led Him there. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew what He would have to do and why He had to do it.

Yet, even though He understood the reasons for why He had to go the cross, the human side of Him struggled with the agony of the moment. Even in the struggle, though, He did not let go of God. I love what one commentary I read suggested about His words. The word “lema” can be translated to mean “to what — to whom — to what kind or sort — to what purpose or profit.” Therefore, we might understand “Why have you abandoned me?” to mean something more along the lines of “To what have you abandoned me to?”

Those of us walking through fierce flames most likely might have asked this very question of God. We might wonder how or why God would allow what He has allowed. We might question or feel a sense of betrayal that God is leaving us to “fend for ourselves” against great odds and those that would harm us. It feels impossible in those moments to hold on tenaciously when we question why God would permit us to experience the terrible circumstances we are in. And yet, Jesus shows us what it means to hold on to God even when our flesh demands answers of God and rebels against the places He brings us to when we walk in obedience to Him.

2. He didn’t save Himself, though He could have.

The second takeaway we have here is that Jesus exhibited incredible self-control in the middle of this agonizing experience on the cross. Can you imagine creating the entire world and all the people in it and not saying a word when they put you on trial for crimes you didn’t even commit? How about when they crucified you on a cross? When He was hanging on the cross, people walked by and shouted at him to save himself and prove he was God. He could have come down from the cross, but He didn’t. As Chuck Smith says, “It was only by not saving Himself that He was able to save you.” Similarly, in our own trial, we oftentimes have the choice whether or not we will save ourselves from the agony we are in.

We can just stop serving God and give in to what others want us to do. We can compromise. We can just act like the world and agree with the world and find acceptance. Or, we can take the example of Jesus and remain in the fire knowing that His will has taken us there. By remaining, we will positively impact the lives of those around us and bring others to salvation. Jesus is the only One who could take the sins of the world. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Though Jesus is the only One who could take our sin, as Christ-followers, we have a cross we pick up in following Him. We experience a crucifixion of self daily in our lives when we follow Him. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” In other words, when we follow Christ, we allow Him to dictate our choices and no longer live to serve ourselves. Jesus shows us here that hanging on tenaciously means choosing not to get out of suffering or hardship that comes in doing God’s will.

3. Though He wrestled in His agony, He continued to do God’s work.

Right before Jesus died, the passage tells us that He gave out a loud cry and “gave up his spirit.” This last act of Jesus on the cross was significant because it shows us once again how Jesus never lost trust in His Father. He clung tenaciously on not only in His words but His last action — He “gave up” or surrendered His spirit to God. He never stopped doing the Father’s work because of the hardship He faced. He continued on until He breathed His last breath. Too often, we can lose our resolve in the process of following God, but God wants us to complete what He has given us to do.

I remember writing a few years ago a series on trials, and the main point in one of my posts was simply that we should continue on no matter what happens to us. I remember thinking when writing it that I would always push through in the work God had given me. I would never give up. And yet, I could never have imagined the types of trials that would come my way or how weak I would feel in the midst of those tribulations. I recognize myself in Peter who claimed he would never deny the Lord and did it the same night. And the question comes to me all the time when I am tired and worn out, waiting for me to answer: Will you still continue to follow me? Will you continue the work I asked you to complete still?

We most likely all believe we would stick through to the end, but we never could have anticipated how deep the betrayal would cut us, how tiring the chronic health problems, how humiliating the lack of success, how impossible the circumstances. And yet, even in those, we can hold fast to Jesus. Even in His final moments on earth, He provided an example for us, when He surrendered His spirit to God.

Remaining Strong in Our Trials

One last tidbit we can find in the passage is that Jesus called out “loudly” when he said “My God, My God” and gave a “loud cry” before He gave up His spirit. He wanted others to hear what He was saying. He could have muttered these words under His breath or kept His thoughts to Himself. I believe He said what He did loudly because He wanted us to note His inner thoughts and take courage in our own difficult valleys. Even in His worst moments, Jesus thought of us and left behind an example so that we would know what to do when our own journeys took unexpected twists and turns.

Friend, I don’t know where you are as you are reading this, but have you let the darkness of your circumstances overwhelm you? Are you loosening your once tight grip on Jesus? Not only do we have the example of Jesus to strengthen us, but we also have something else that is even better. We have Jesus’ very presence with us. When we are weak, we can call out to Jesus. We can ask Him for help in our struggle. We don’t have to turn away from Him.

We can accept that though the trial is fierce and we don’t understand, God is good and our trial will only last for a little while before God restores us once again (1 Peter 5:10).

*Updated January 15, 2022.

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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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 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 sundial 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 blessings 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, Galatians 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 a 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 to 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 an 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. Updated January 15, 2022.

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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