Since I posted “Dating at Halftime” yesterday, I’ve had a gnawing question tumbling in my heart… “Did I say enough to offer God’s hope to someone who is walking in a dark valley of defeat, loneliness and discouragement?” At times, well meaning “encouragement” can feel like salt in a wound, when hugs are needed. That’s the last thing I want.
The impersonal, one-way nature of a blog makes it hard to address such deep heartache. I’ve been there, and I understand a taste of your despair. I have hurt so deeply that I wondered why God didn’t just take me — because I thought it was all more than I could bear. But that dark night of the soul came just before a break through in faith (most of us will have many in our journey to Him). From where I sit today, I wouldn’t trade those times — when I was keenly aware that I had nothing save HIM — for anything. They were necessary cornerstones of my faith, and are the very seasons I draw from today, when I’m under water, and need to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness.
Yesterday’s story of my dating life had a “happy” ending — the girl gets the great guy. I am thankful beyond measure, but the outcome isn’t the point.
There have been other times I have prayed earnestly about things equally pressing on my heart, and God’s answer has been no — he answered in ways I never would have chosen for myself. Ways that made no sense to me, or even seemed “bad” considering He is all-powerful and could make it all right. In my heart I was adding, ” If He wanted to; if He loved me…” My faith was barely a mustard seed. I still have other prayers that are not yet answered, at least not in ways that I can see. It almost seems He doesn’t hear me in these prayers, but now I know this isn’t true. I rely on what is promised in the Bible, and I draw from my personal experiences with Abba — I persevere. And it’s heart wrenching. Still, I trust God. With my life, my heart, my prayers, and in His outcomes.
The “good outcome” in my mind is not always “God’s best” in the timeless, all-knowing world of His Kingdom. I may never understand His ways this side of Heaven, but I can trust Him. He is listening. He is with us. He loves us perfectly, and whatever our moments contain or our outcomes become, He is using them for our good, when we trust in Him.
I don’t want to belabor this, for fear of sounding like Pollyanna. Or like I’ve arrived. I’m not and I haven’t. I struggle. I know real intense sadness and pain. The girl meets guy story didn’t solve everything. We live in a fallen world, and we will have troubles. I also know God, and He is bigger than the darkness. I am praying for you — the precious people who feel like their present situation will never end.
I was thinking about making an addendum to my post when I read today’s devotional from Michael Youssef — he says it well. God loves you; He is with you; and He is for you. Trust in Him.
March 15, 2014
Focus on Christ
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
One of the hardest lessons we will ever learn is how to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive experience. In Psalm 23, King David reminds us that it is all a matter of faith and perspective. He writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
David’s words are stepping stones to a great faith. In fact, if we practice the principle that he lived, God will develop a conquering faith within our lives.
David lived with adversity and, from time to time, we will too. This is part of living life in a fallen world, but we do not have to live with feelings of defeat, discouragement and criticism.
You may be thinking: But you don’t know my circumstances. There is no way for you to understand the pressure I feel or the discouragement that plagues my heart.
While we can’t truly know or understand the hurt another person may be experiencing, we do know that there is one person who understands perfectly, and that is the wounded Healer Himself, Jesus Christ. He endured unimaginable pain—rejection, betrayal, temptation, and an excruciating death—all for us. He entered into our suffering so that we could live in His victory.
If you are looking for someone to identify with the pain that you are feeling, do what David did—realize there is One who is walking through the valley with you. No matter how dark life becomes, He will lead you on to ultimate victory in Him.
Prayer: God, as I face trials and discouragement, help me to remember that You understand what I’m going through. Help me to focus on You and to remember that I’m not alone. Amen.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
If you too have experienced faith-building darkness, I’m sure a comment with words of encouragement would help others. It’s Sunday now — we sang this in church, and I wanted to add a link: Sovereign over Us — Aaron Keyes
It was late 2006. I had happily checked dating off my list in the 80s! I had never really thought about or planned on dating anyone at midlife… I didn’t want to be alone either. I was living on a bridge between two worlds, while being a part of neither. I was paralyzed, unable to move from defining myself as divorced to just me alone.
Then a friend invited me to a charity dinner, and offered me two tickets. Not one, to be a third wheel accompanying her and her husband, but two! She thought it was time for me to consider dating. The invitation was conditional and not too subtle — I had to invite someone to join me, to fill out her table.
My divorce had only been final for 4-5 months, but it took almost three years in process to get there. I hoped I would one day remarry, but I never really looked forward to dating. My limbo life was a weird “halftime” between relationships, with no guarantee of a second half. Turns out my adventures in dating would be part of the entertainment before the next half!
The prospect was scary, exciting, foreign, and hopeful — all at the same time. Dating had the potential of being beautiful — to consider the possibility of falling in love with the right man — but it was also dangerous in that there was the potential for the sting of hurt and rejection.
Romance and relationship were FAR from my mind; I was more panicked. I wanted to go to the event, to tackle this “first date” hurdle, but I had no idea how to find a date, just a companion for the night. Soon word got out, and through a friend of a friend type of deal, I was introduced to someone else with two tickets and no date to the same event. We trashed two tickets and agreed to go together. Problem one solved.
OH MY GOSH! I hadn’t been on a date in over 20 years! What would I wear? How would this work? Would he pick me up at my house? The logistics weren’t really the problem… this date wasn’t about my escort or the event. It was totally about how I saw myself. I had been living in a married world and seeing myself as a divorced woman, a misfit. An outsider in a familiar land. I had to shift, to leave behind my “scarlet D,” and rediscover who I was as a single woman.
The dress was more significant than for prom! It was a black tie event, but the importance lay more in the transitioning — how I chose to present myself. I found a dress with spaghetti straps that I liked. Not wanting extra wardrobe malfunction stress, I had them sew in the proper undergarments. I picked up the dress just in time. The children were out for the night, and I began to get ready. All was going well, until the dress… You would think that it wouldn’t be necessary to try it on after such a simple addition. Bad call. He was to pick me up in 15 minutes and the seamstress had missed her mark, twice. I looked like an alien with four breasts! Would I fall off the bridge?
I ran barefoot next door, where my neighbor was with friends, to see if it looked as bad as I thought. They confirmed that It did, and I’m sure had a great belly laugh! Thankfully, my date was late, because of a child’s band practice, and I was able to solve the problem before he arrived! The night went off without a “hitch” in any sense of the word! The first date was the most difficult, and it was behind me.
There’s no perfect way to date after divorce. I’m just sharing my experience in hopes that it might benefit someone else. At a minimum, it might give you a few laughs! I put myself out there, vulnerable, and it was worth it!
In dating, I learned to text (2006) and to shoot a gun (just skeet). 😉 I tried many new things like four wheeling, being the only ones on the dance floor, hunting, horseback riding, skyping and biking for miles. I wore high heels more often and learned to eat sushi. I had fun and laughed. I was set up by friends, family and even online. I got to know some nice men and learned a lot about myself.
I needed that season. God blessed and protected me with mostly good times with kind gentlemen. I’m sensitive to the fact that some women have bad experiences in dating. I was careful and clear about my own boundaries and motivation (getting to know myself and others). Other than that, I don’t know why I was so blessed, but I really feel God protected me and I am thankful. There was definitely some hurt involved, but there usually is with growth. I believe God did guard my heart from unnecessary pain and from falling in love too soon.
After a short while, this whirlwind of fun was beginning to feel empty. I appreciated all the new friendships, and I had needed to date, to have fun and to be desired. But it lost its allure fairly quickly. Then I actually met someone different from men I knew, and he possessed many qualities I wanted in a man. I was thinking more about a relationship now. We dated a short while. We both knew it wasn’t forever, and we needed to move on to whatever was ahead. I can’t really say why we parted ways, but I know God was involved.
All the pain and rejection of divorce flooded me again — compounded by every rejection, lost hope, and dream of the last couple of years, as well as twenty years of marriage. I went on a few more dates, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t just date anyone again. The bar was set high by my one, short “relationship,” and I wouldn’t spend time with men I knew I wouldn’t marry.
I was the one-date wonder! I would go out with great men, and feel nothing. I think it was usually mutual. Three men in a row, including the special one I dated for a while, met their future wife — immediately after we went out! They all joyfully told me about their new relationships. While I was excited for them, I couldn’t help but wonder, why not me? I’d see strangers holding hands, and I hurt. It felt like I would always be alone. I felt as if God was playing a cruel joke on me! In reality, I needed to fully heal, and this was all part of it.
It was a tough time. It was also necessary, and God was with me in the most wonderful ways. I learned He really was enough. I hoped to one day meet the man I dreamed of, but I knew that if I didn’t, I was ok. God, Immanuel, was with me. My faith, trust and my relationship with Him deepened. I was lonely in the world, but I was content in my deepest soul. And I came to accept that I really was loved by Him — personally.
My life was pretty good, and I was building it alone. In the strangest of circumstances, Rob and I were introduced. Before we ever met, I was drawn to his kind eyes and smile. We went out on a Friday, then again on Saturday. By that second date, I felt at home with Rob. There’s no other way to describe it. We mutually fell in love faster than we were willing to admit out loud. Rob was my real life personification of Ephesians 3:20. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Rob was far better for me than I could have asked for or imagined.
Ephesians 3:20 comes AFTER Ephesians 3:11-19, and that was true in my life too. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
These verses were read aloud by my daughter at our wedding! Jesus is first in both our lives. I am frequently overwhelmed with thanks to God for leading me to Rob, who is better suited for me than anyone I could have hoped for or dreamed of!
In a nutshell, nothing was possible unless I had ruthless trust in a worthy and BIG God. A God who loved me perfectly. Some observations I’ve looking back at that time:
I was willing to be vulnerable and to risk the fear of rejection and pain. Trust God.
I was committed to dating the way that I believed the Bible revealed God desired. Trust God.
I was eventually unwilling to date a good man, just to be with someone, to avert my loneliness. Trust God.
I was willing to say and believe, “I’m not entitled to earthly love, and God is enough. He is my portion, even if I don’t find love in a man.” Trust God.
I only wanted to marry a man who loved God first and foremost. Trust God.
I was willing to abandon fears from the past, and risk loving openly and trusting fully in marrying Rob, when it was clear God had introduced me to the one. Trust God.
I’m committed for life to trusting God.
This is just a little of my experience and what God accomplished in me during the awkward process of midlife dating. It’s not a formula for dating or successfully finding the spouse of your dreams. But trusting God is essential for living abundantly (John 10:10). Joy, Peace, and Love are His gifts to His children, regardless of our circumstances.
God used divorce and dating ( ROMANS 8:28) to teach me that I hadn’t fully accepted His perfect love as sufficient. He showed me that I still had major outside influences that I believed were necessary for my security, and He taught me what it meant to trust Him with and in all my life — regardless of outcomes. He’s still working on all that.
It’s an ongoing process… I give Him control, I give Him my burdens, only to find I have soon grabbed them back with clenched fists. Surrender is daily, and even more often sometimes. But I know Who He is, how much He loves me and that He alone can be trusted with my whole life — so I begin again. The Joy of surrender to Him is available to everyone.
I’ve been wanting to write a blog about how B-U-S-Y is today’s new, ugly 4-letter word. We love to exclaim, whine, explain, and boast, “I am so busy!”
I’ll start with a full confession: I’ve said it, and I’ve used it! I hate it, and I’m still drawn into it — the self-descriptor, “I’m busy!” and all the self-imposed activity I feel compelled to perform and profess — whether for fun, for others, for charity, for work, for family…or anything else. Please be sure to notice all the plural personal pronouns that follow. I am talking about my own busy self, and gently suggesting there might be a few other busy people out there who resonate.
When someone asks, “How are you,” it’s my observation that a meaningless “I’m fine” is no longer our top default reply. Instead we so often like to say something like, “I am sooo busy.” Sometimes it’s even, “I’m crazy busy!” That one’s probably reserved more for when we know we haven’t gotten to something that should have been a higher priority for us. In today’s culture, “I’m busy” can be a “valid” excuse for letting others down.
Whether I am saying that “I’m busy” or when I’m hearing it mentioned, I feel like all this reported busyness is possibly a touch of pride hiding in a harmless, little complaint. I know that sometimes I sort of enjoy saying “I’m too busy to…” because it gives me permission to be a little selfish in my choices without as much guilt. And as an added bonus, I simultaneously feel important and sought-after. All good, right? Except I hate living life at this busy pace! I also feel the consequences, the emptiness, the sin.
I’m big on clear definitions… four top ones for busy are: 1. engaged in action: occupied, 2. full of activity, 3. foolishly or intrusively active, 4. full of distracting detail. With these in mind, our responses to our busy friends, family and co-workers are almost as ridiculous as the ways we brag and posture with our busyness!
The stock response we like to give when someone tells us, “I’m soo busy” is sort of a congratulations! Sometimes it’s a longing for the busy person’s life — a somewhat covetous, “Wow! What (tremendously wonderful things like I see on facebook) have you been busy doing?” Or “that’s a lot better than the alternative.” Oh — heaven forbid, we have a day or two that we are not busy! Really? Or my personal favorite for its power and simplicity, “I know!” It subtely bonds us as it implies that I commiserate. I am also very busy, and certainly the goal we are all striving for is to be busy performing well, useful, distracted, occupied, tired, foolish, intrusive, tardy, aloof, overwhelmed… I know even my most well-intentioned and virtuous “busyness” has led me to all of these places.
The curious thing is that our lamented busyness is almost always self-imposed. Unnecessarily burdensome work schedules can often be included, and definitely our volunteer obligations, sports participation, classes, trips, decorating, family events and myriad other activities. We multiply all this busyness by encouraging our children and spouses to keep busy! We are busy because of our own ambitions, goals, desires or even our anxieties. Some of us stay addicted to busyness because we dread what we might feel in its absence. I sometimes wonder whether my slightly dramatic exhaustion from all life’s busyness is a way of covering up my fear that much of what I am doing really isn’t all that important? Going even deeper, am I so busy that I cannot be who God created me to be? Because BEING fully alive as God created me to BE in Him is the only way I can ever hope to do what God created me to do.
Do you see how screamingly distracting all that bold-faced busyness can be? Do you see how even being busy for awesome and worthy causes and people can be a distraction from what’s most important? When I am so crazy busy doing so many good things, do I have time for relationships? Do I really listen? Do I make God and my time with Him my top priority? When I am so crazy busy, how am I in tune to The Holy Spirit? How can I be available and surrendered to His prompting, when I am too busy to rest? When I am too busy for God?
Elisabeth Elliot said, “The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose. You either line yourself up with the Son of God…or you capitulate to the principle which governs the rest of the world.” I don’t want to conform to this world. I want to be transformed…
I found a blog post that is wonderful on this subject of “busyness.” In it, Tsh Oxenreider says so much of what I’ve thought about the perils of busyness, the value in slowing down — and so much more. I suggest you read it, and I’ll wrap things up with another closely related subject I’ve been wanting to write about: JOY!
We can all agree we want lots of Joy in our lives! Why then does it allude so many Christians? Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. It is God’s gift to us, but we must choose it. Choosing joy means I surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit. Joy transforms my life and therefore all those I influence, love, parent, etc.
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t important work to be done by each of us. The Bible says as much. One example among many is Ephesians 2:10 (AMP) “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” We must remember it is HIS plan, His work for us that matters.
Can I be too busy (doing things that I think I should or want to do) to know what His will is for me? He doesn’t hide it. It’s not a mystery, but it does require me to grow in my relationship with Him, to know Him better and better through concentrated, committed, loving, first priority time with Jesus. To surrender my will to HIm. To listen and obey. To slow down and to rest in Him. Time spent with Jesus is my Joy! My privilege!
In his daily devotional, Michael Youssef, Ph.D. asks, “Who is in charge of your life? Is it God—or is it you? When you say that Jesus is Lord of your life, are you living a life of submission to His lordship—or do you still try to manipulate events to your own advantage?”
My thoughts drifted to the acronym for JOY we’ve all heard: Jesus Others Yourself. It suggests the order our priorities should follow in order to experience JOY. This isn’t all wrong, but it feels as if it’s about me and up to me. It feels like I must acknowledge Jesus, sure, and then really focus on service, performance… others.
I recently heard a different sort of acronym, that I think more accurately reflects the Joy of Christ. The O in JOY becomes representative of zero or nothing. JOY = Let 0 or nothing be between Jesus and Yourself! When we make Jesus our top priority, without a close second, we will experience joy! And He will show us all the works He prepared in advance for us to do. Just don’t be too busy for time alone with Him.
Sometimes it helps keep Godly perspective when we say we have no time for prayer and reading the Bible today, to change the wording from “I’m so busy,” to “Jesus just isn’t my top priority right now, not today.” Ouch.
John Piper said, ”we must fight for joy. We must fight for the relationship that God has called us to. Fight to become the woman filled with joy.” Don’t be too busy to fight.
Matthew 6:33 says it this way, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV) We must not be too busy for God. We mustn’t put our desires or even our good works before Him. If our top priority is God, all the second things in life will be blessed. If God isn’t our first love and our highest joy, nothing else will be quite right.
More to come on Joy and busyness… I’d love to hear your thoughts on both!
If you missed it, this is the link to the great blog post by Tsh Oxenreider. I had never heard of her, but I saw this on Ann Voskamp’s blog! It’s about slowing down and refusing to be crazy busy. A very worthy read. It inspired me to tackle the subject and end “idle busyness” in my own life