I Want My Life Back!

Count It All Joy

In my 20s and early 30s, I regarded life’s trials as intrusions that kept me from living real life. Oh sure, I knew that Jesus promised tribulation in this world (John 16:33), and I undoubtedly quoted it sanctimoniously to friends during their various times of difficulty. But deep-down, I resisted the idea that I should be subjected to hard times.

All too often, as I went through those hardships, I’d protest by declaring, “I want my life back!” In my estimation, adverse circumstances robbed me of the quality of life that I expected God to hand me. I equated ownership of my life with maintaining control of my situations.

It took years (far too many years, actually) before I understood that my trials were as much a part of my life as the things I enjoyed. They didn’t intrude on my life. They were part of life! Furthermore, they were meant as God’s instruments in refining my character to reflect Christ’s.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~~James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Having moved through a few more decades, I’ve learned that life fluctuates between good times and uncomfortable (even painful) times. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t give me the right to demand life on my terms. I belong to Him as His slave, and because of that fact, He has the authority to exercise full control over my circumstances.

This past couple years, I’ve noticed several friends respond to their struggles by declaring, “I want my life back!” So often, I’ve wanted to shake their shoulders and shout, “This is your life, honey! Grow up and stop being so self-centered!” Thankfully, the Lord has mercifully restrained me from making such a callous mistake, reminding me of the gentleness I desired from my friends when I was young.

Interestingly, I’ve been going through a variety of trials lately that have interfered with my schedule and how I want my life to proceed. A few weeks ago, I caught myself telling God, “I want my life back!” Almost immediately, I had to laugh at my self-centered attitude, and then I had to repent of my hypocrisy.

Like my younger friends, I still need to acknowledge that my life belongs to the Lord, Who will use my circumstances for His purposes and glory. I don’t have to like my trials, but I can take joy in knowing that He uses them to develop me into a woman who lives for His glory.

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It’s Not About Why A Good Man Suffers

God Answers

Of course I’d read the book of Job many times throughout my 47 years of being a Christian, so its story hardly surprised me as I read it this week. Yet this time I noticed Job’s attitude. During the course of his trial, it degenerates from trusting God to questioning Him to flat-out anger against Him.

Job knew that He’d initially done nothing to warrant the severe suffering that God allowed Satan to heap on him. When his three “comforters” asserted that God was punishing him for sin, he vehemently denied their analysis. Sadly, as they persisted in their accusations, Job slid into the sin of self-righteousness, eventually demanding that God answer to him!

As we know, God finally puts a halt to Job’s temper tantrum by reminding Job that He created heaven and earth. Therefore He has authority to act however He pleases, and His creatures really don’t have any right to call Him into account. Thankfully, Job then repents of his self-righteousness and receives a restoration of God’s blessings.

Let’s talk about Job’s self-righteous anger against the Lord for a bit. I’d never really noticed it until this week, but I believe it holds a key to understanding the whole message of the book.

In college, a classmate who categorized herself as an agnostic summarized the book of Job as an exploration of the question, “Why does a good man suffer?” I thought of her assessment this week as I read Job’s self-righteous protests of his innocence, and I realized the glaring fallacy of her statement.

God used Job’s suffering to reveal Job’s heart. For all his attempts at piety and obedience, deep down Job ultimately trusted in himself rather than God for his justification. God used the trial to confront Job with his arrogance. Although he’d done nothing to provoke God’s judgment when the trials began, his reaction to the unfair remarks of his “comforters” led him to express his deep-seated self-righteousness. And it was ugly.

God, in His grace, allowed Job to recognize his need for a Savior. He graciously brought Job to repentance, and then rewarded Job for that repentance. The book isn’t about a good man who suffered as much as it’s about a good God Who uses suffering to show us both our sin and His wonderful grace.

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It’s WHO We Know That Matters

Sometimes Christian bloggers, because we teach God’s Word, can come across as know-it-alls. Occasionally we even fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. Thankfully the Lord graciously humbles us when we get cocky, reminding us of our limitations before Him.

In particular, we have no idea why the Lord chooses any of us for salvation. None of us has done anything to attract Him to us — much less to merit His favor! Why would a holy God, Who has every reason to condemn the lot of us,  condescend to bring any of us to a saving knowledge of Himself?  If we’re honest, we see no reason for such mercy. It should baffle even the most astute Bible scholar.

But, as today’s hymn tells us, we can embrace this question by placing our confidence in Him. We don’t know all the answers, but we know Him. We especially know His faithfulness to His people. Maybe that’s all we need to know.

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Our Longings Have Been Granted In What He Ordaineth

Today I’m posting a hymn I’ve loved since my college days. It reminds me that, even when circumstances don’t go the way I think they should, the Lord still works behind the scenes for my good and His purposes.

Sometimes we lose sight of the truth that He is active in the details of our lives, and we need to realign our thinking about His great love for us. We forget how tenderly and intimately He arranges our lives as He cares for us and showers blessings on us. Interestingly, He does all these wonderful things as an expression of His sovereignty.

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The Unexpected Bible Scholar

OpenBible John 1Chronically, she was in her mid 30’s — just a few months younger than I was at the time. Her moderate intellectual disability, however, left her unable to read beyond a 7th grade level and unable to carry on a conversation that didn’t relate directly to her immediate circumstances.

She attended our Bible Study group primarily because she could walk to it from her home. Since everyone else had Bachelors or Masters Degrees, she never participated in the actual discussions, though she always had prayer requests and sometimes asked if we could sing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Did I say she never participated in the discussions? Typically, she didn’t. After all, we tended to get quite cerebral at times, pretty much excluding her by default (though not maliciously or deliberately).

But one night we hit a verse in Mark’s gospel that, for all our collective brain power, none of us could figure out. We must have spent a good ten minutes flipping to cross-references and asking the teacher what the commentaries said. He replied that none of them shed much light on the verse, leaving us puzzled and  frustrated.

Then she spoke, her voice betraying her surprise at our inability to understand the very obvious meaning of the verse. Using just one simple sentence and her limited vocabulary, she explained the verse with an accuracy that left us speechless. We followed her uncomplicated reasoning, amazed that she was right! Merely by relating the verse to its immediate context, she resolved the mystery.

Proud of our college educations, we’d cluttered our study of God’s Word with fleshy attempts to interpret it, whereas that simple lady read it at face value and rightly understood the Holy Spirit’s intent.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple; ~~Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

I share my favorite memory of this sister in Christ to demonstrate that, for those willing to believe the Word of God for what it plainly says, interpreting Scripture needn’t be arduous. The Lord gave us His Word in order to reveal Himself, not to play hide-and-seek or to increase our intellectual pride.

Sadly, we delude ourselves into thinking that the Bible is difficult to understand. And, while diligent Bible study definitely enhances our understanding of God’s Word by drawing out its richness, we need to acknowledge its clarity and simplicity. Even children and people with cognitive disabilities can comprehend it.

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A Woman With Birth Defects Looks At Abortion


Me and Mom on my wedding day

When doctors discovered that I had serious birth defects, they advised my mother to put me in an institution and forget she ever had me. According to them, I’d be a vegetable my entire life.  (Thus John refers to me as his spicy little tomato.) Thankfully,  Mom rejected their counsel, put me through college and lived to see me get married a month before my 49th birthday.

My mother didn’t raise a turnip, thank you very much!

All joking aside, I understand that the doctors sincerely believed they made a humane recommendation. Certainly, because they doubted that I had cognitive function, they concluded that I couldn’t possibly tell the difference between a loving home and an institution. And, more importantly (from their perspective), my parents would be spared the anguish of having a severely disabled child.

Mom knew that doctors aren’t God. They have limited powers in predicting an infant’s future. So she brought me home and proceeded to make my childhood as normal and happy as possible. When one teacher told her I’d never go to high school, she informed him that she fully intended for me to attend college. When my occupational therapist insisted that she tell me I’d never marry, she countered, “I can’t tell her something that I don’t know myself.”

Those chilling words, “Put her in an institution and forget you ever had her,” horrified my mother. They horrify me. They horrify everyone who hears the story, as well they should! Doctors have no right to predict a baby’s future and advise a new mother to put the baby away. Had Mom followed their recommendation, both of us would have suffered for the rest of our lives.

I praise God for His sovereignty in giving me a mother who refused to give up her dreams for me. Cerebral Palsy definitely has its challenges, I admit, but the Lord has blessed me with a joyful life.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them. ~~Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

Thinking about the doctors’ prediction 64 years ago makes me think about present-day doctors who, on the basis of prenatal tests, recommend abortion to women carrying children with potential birth defects. Typically, they reason that such children, in addition to imposing an enormous financial and emotional burden on the family, would needlessly suffer a low quality of life.

But how can anyone accurately predict the future of a baby who is still in the womb, even if genetic testing indicates birth defects? Perhaps a child will be nothing more than a vegetable, but even then, God might have a purpose for that life.  As a matter of fact, He used such a man to bring me to repentance of self-pity.

Usually,  however, children born with birth defects exceed expectations and live full, productive lives. Aborting them simply because of possible disabilities (especially when the extent of those disabilities couldn’t possibly be determined until well into childhood) seems both arrogant and cruel. Using potential disability as a rationale for aborting a child is horrifying to me.

Actually, the rationale for aborting any child is horrifying to me.


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Saturday Sampler: January 14 — January 20

Bell Sampler

The age of feminism seduces Christian women into thinking we have to perform monumental tasks for God, according to Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. She writes Ladies, no job is too menial and no sphere is to small to make a huge difference as an encouragement to those of us who feel unnoticed and obscure.

To help us understand the importance of patience, Clint Archer posts Waiting for God? Oh. in The Cripplegate. The English major in me appreciates Archer’s allusion to the play, Waiting for Godot, but I appreciate even more the Biblical application he brings out in this devotional piece. Each of us should take this message to heart.

What do you think The Easiest Sin to Justify is? I used to justify this one all the time, so I believe Tim Challies hits the nail on the head. See if you agree.

Once again, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life graces us with her wisdom in Do I Need a Special Experience in Order to Know God? It’s shameful that evangelicals still need teaching on this matter, but praise the Lord for people like Leslie who continually proclaim the truth and remain faithful to Scripture!

If, like me, you wondered if Hollywood’s protest against sexual harassment at the Golden Globes was disingenuous, Brett McCracken’s Will #MeToo Cause Hollywood to Rethink its Views on Sex in The Gospel Coalition Blog will confirm your suspicions. But it doesn’t just throw stones at the entertainment industry; it also challenges Christians to accept responsibility.

Guest posting for Unlocking the Bible rather than her own blog, Lara d’Entremont addresses the typical decline in maintaining New Year’s resolutions her article, Change of Plan: To Change Every Day. She strikes at the heart of Christian living, using Scripture to illustrate the practical principles she proposes.

Although Michelle Lesley repeats Answering the Opposition – Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections in Discipleship for Christian Women, reading it again sure doesn’t hurt! So many of the objections she addresses betray a lack of properly understanding Scripture in its context. This issue accentuates the critical importance of knowing God’s Word thoroughly.

Al Mohler’s article, Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is), raises a point that all too often gets overlooked. Praise God that Mohler brings it to our attention, handling it with balance and fidelity to Scripture.

Quoting the heartbreaking experience of a feminist who aborted her baby, Denny Burk writes A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness to remind us that the unborn aren’t the only victims of this horrible practice. What a needless tragedy.

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