Category Archives: Broken Dreams

The Fuel of Suffering

Family watching television, c. 1958

Family watching television, c. 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine if you will that we are in the studio audience for a game show.   Now look on stage at the three doors you and I could choose – consider this:

  1. 1.     Behind door number one – an extreme makeover for your house – your dream home right here.  It could be in the most wonderful, as they say in real estate, location, location, location.  It comes complete with choice of style, the most amazing appliances in a dream kitchen, a garage-workshop lined with the best power tools, and curb appeal to impress any and all guests.
  2. Behind door number two is the perfect family.  Everyone is on their best behavior, everyone gets along and they are your pride and joy.  Enough said.
  3. 3.     And behind door number three is a simple sign that says, “Suffering that you might grow closer to Christ.”

Our human natures wouldn’t let us to choose and open that third door.  We wouldn’t.  As much as we would like to think we would, none of us wants to suffer.

As difficult as it is to consider, here are some positive things suffering can do:

  • Suffering establishes a common denominator with others who suffer in different ways.  It might be health issues, an aggressive cancer, a financial reversal, a job loss, the loss of someone close to us through death, the end of a treasured relationship, the list goes on….but when we accept suffering, unjust as it may be, we “get” the suffering of others and can give and receive sympathy on a whole new level.
  • Suffering can make us more tender-hearted and compassionate and use the fueled energy for something good.  Many powerful society-changing movements are birthed out of suffering.  We are seldom moved to sacrificial action when life is easy.  It takes those circumstances that tear us apart inside to give us the courage, determination and energy to make a difference. 
  • Suffering saves us from living a superficial mediocre life. 
  • Suffering helps us understand what is important, and what is not.
  • Suffering shines the light on what position God holds in our lives.
  • Suffering helps us to identify with Christ with the realization that He suffered more and so He understands on a level of no one else.  What Jesus willingly took on in submitting to a crucifixion is described as excruciating mentally, physically and spiritually.  Jesus “gets” our suffering.
  • Suffering can increase our thirst to know Christ more intimately.
  • Suffering refines us.  It is a tough process, but suffering is able to burn away things like pride, a self-sufficient attitude, a tendency toward resentment and a host of other things that can cause war within our souls.
  • Suffering enlarges our ability to trust in God alone for our future.
  • Suffering makes us long for heaven.  Suffering helps us understand it’s not all here and now and that some day in His timing, God will have the final word on everything.

We would never in a million years choose suffering.  But when it chooses us we can purpose ourselves and encourage each other to search out those silver linings to the dark clouds on our horizons.  How grateful I am for the kind words, selfless work and encouragements given to me.  They have made many days endurable, comforting and even hopeful.  Maybe our suffering will be used – somehow in someway – to make a brighter day for someone else.   Just perhaps something significant will grow out of the unlikely soil of anguish.  That gives a sense of hope when we are deep in hurt.  We all want something that outlasts us and our suffering, painful though it is, is an oft-used vehicle for powerful positive change.

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How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Back in the day the Bee Gees sang “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”  It’s a question we all have to answer at some point in our lives.  I’m in the middle of a season of the broken heart right now.   I certainly don’t have all the answers and my strength and resolve fluctuates as I go through a grieving process.  I’m quite sure that is normal.  We can grieve many kinds of losses in life.  Sometimes it is not a person who dies, but very often it is dreams that die, and we have to face that reality.

Some things that have helped me tremendously so far on this particular journey are:  the support of family, the loving care of friends and community, my church, cards in the mail, having lived fifty-five years and having survived other heartaches, the counsel of wise mentors, prayer (this is a big one), encouragement, practical assistance, kind words, hugs, reading the Bible, and feeling the peace of God which passes all understanding.

It’s a long journey, these seasons of the broken heart.  But we have tremendous promises in the Bible to hold on to and know that the storms of life come, and at some point they dissipate.  The intensity of pain will not always feel the same as it might feel today for you and for me.  Hold on to hope if this is a season of the broken heart for you as well.

Here are some encouraging words from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman:

Poverty, hardship and misfortune have pressed many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulty challenges energy and perseverance.  It calls into activity the strongest qualities of the soul…Many a headwind has been utilized to make port.  God has appointed opposition as an incentive to faith and holy activity….If for you He has appointed special trials, be assured that in His heart He has kept for you a special place.

And some comforting words from Christ:

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  (John 16:33,  The Message)

 

 

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Musings on Troubles, Faith and the Goodness of God

Are you weighed down by troubles?

The journey of faith for a believer in Christ is, it seems, a series of mountains that we climb.  We would like to think that the life of “following Him” makes life easier and we sometimes find ourselves perplexed at having trials.  Or perhaps we are perplexed at the kind of trials we endure.  They seem random, or the perfect “non-fit” for us.  While we are promised that God desires to give us an abundant life, the implications of “full and meaningful” seem contrary to the troubles we sometimes experience.

FAITH

FAITH (Photo credit: cacigar)

To be sure everyone in the human race has ups and downs.  For the believer, the “mountain top experiences” can be so exhilarating that their memory propels us on even as we go through a season bombarded with troubles.  I don’t believe the only purpose of good times is to get us through bad times, but they often help.  They are memories of God’s faithfulness and what gets us through is not the going back in our mind to good and pleasant times so much but the reminder that  God was good to us then and He will continue to be good to us in the future.  We learn to think on a deeper level about what “good” means.  We would prefer an existence without anxiety, but we find it is very human to experience such.  Some chapters of life can become overwhelming, especially if our focus is on the problems without a vision beyond them.

God, the Master Artist is working out a Masterpiece in our lives not only for our benefit, but for those around us. Like the pain-staking work of Michelangelo, and infinitely more, sometimes the sculptor’s tools have to break off some sharp edges to make the God-given potential within us fulfilled.  His divine purposes, though often not easy, are infinitely good.  The building up of our faith has great meaning to Him, and vital to the final picture.  We cannot possibly envision the unveiling and that’s where we get caught up.  We just want to understand, but faith is not about understanding, it is about trust.

The author of Streams in the Desert quotes spiritual giant George Mueller in responding to the question as to the best way to have strong faith:

The only way to learn strong faith is to endure great trials.  I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings.”

A “severe testing” carries with it a temptation, and that temptation is to give up.  Giving up can mean many things.  It can be as seemingly subtle as becoming cynical, to forfeiting the hopes we have based our lives upon and worse.  Instead of placing our broken dreams in God’s hands we elect to hold it tight which can make us bitter.  At many levels giving up is dangerous to our souls.  If we believe our troubles serve no eternal purpose or of trivial meaning then we are in a fragile place that can cause us to give in to depression or despondency.

Madame Guyon said,

I entreat you, give no place to despondency. This is a dangerous temptation – a refined, not a gross temptation of the adversary.  Melancholy contracts and withers the heart, and renders it unfit to receive the impressions of grace.  It magnifies and gives a false coloring to objects, and thus renders your burdens too heavy to bear.  God’s designs regarding you, and His methods of bring about these designs are infinitely wise.”

It is in that infinite wisdom of God that we see colors that are true-to-life.  This requires the spectacles of faith. An intense focus on our troubles make them appear larger than life.  Large though the testing may be, within the scope of God’s purposes, personal pain can carve and craft our souls like an exquisite sculptor until every perfect detail is in place.  We cannot see the image in the Great Sculptor’s mind, but we can trust in His goodness, His vision, His perfect artistry and the promise of tumultuous joy after a long night of tears.  And that kind of joy is not trivial but magnificent.  For if we have been educated in the school of tears we see more clearly and have developed a capacity to experience joy and contentment on a level never before experienced.  Truly the storm clouds develop the most brilliant silver lining before our eyes when we least expect it!  When we see a glimpse of the purposes revealed, there is great cause for celebration!

Child of God, there is hope ahead.  As much as we would like it to, it is human to see our hope in the solving of our problems.  But when we experience the peace of God, right in the middle of the unsolved riddles of life, therein is a soul and rest with a capacity to receive all good ahead that God has planned.

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What is God up to?

Crossroads seem to abound on the highway of life.  We are presented with decisions and often the circumstance dictates that if we choose to ignore the reality of the situation and do not respond, truly, “not to decide IS to decide.”  It can be overwhelming at times.  If we take the mindset that we are the captain of our own souls there is incredible pressure, because the supposed outcome would be all up to us.  It is with a great sense of relief that I believe and know to the marrow that indeed, I am NOT the captain of my soul.  With an ongrowing trust I place that title on Jesus.  Ahhh, now that feels better.

The Bible presents the believer with absolutely amazing and life changing guidance if we would but grasp it and lean into what is available to us – consider this:

Then you will understand what is right, just and fair, and you will find the right way to go.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.  Wise choices will watch over you, understanding will keep you safe.”  Proverbs 2:9-11

Roads and Highways

Roads and Highways (Photo credit: ClaraDon)

Crossroads often provide those instruments God uses to direct us if we would open our eyes to the possibilities.  On the surface some of these crossroads seem like obstacles.  Mrs. Charles E. Cowman writes in Storms in the Desert:

It lies with each of us to choose which they shall be.  It all depends, not upon what these events are, but upon how we take them.

And the author also goes on to warn us:

The Lord cannot do much with a crushed soul, hence the adversary’s attempt to push the Lord’s people into despair and hopelessness over the condition of themselves, or of the church.

When at a crossroad, taking Bible in hand and approaching God with a heart of trust and obedience, we can find the seemingly “dead end” a new trail and new journey ahead.  What is God up to on this new road?

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The Strength of a Broken Heart

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ – His power of life over death.  That is truly good news in a world where death is a part of life and people we know and love are hurting from great losses.  That is reality.  Ruth Graham, daughter of Billy and Ruth Bell Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart.  We never know in our casual encounters with people how someone might be shouldering great hurt or loss underneath that smiling exterior.  Broken hearts abound.

As a former church counselor, I can look out over an Easter service of 1,000 and be very cognizant of the many broken hearts represented.  Many have been in my office as we have talked, listened, prayed, searched the Bible for direction and cried together.  How do we deal adequately with our broken hearts?

Tim Grissom, co-author of Seeking Him, with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, shares how his wife Janiece was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Laternal Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease).  When she died at age forty-one she left a grieving husband and four heart-broken children.  He describes the “earthly reality” of their circumstances as: painful, dreadful, overwhelming.   At the same time Grissom recognized a “heavenly reality” that gave them hope.  The awareness of God’s presence through this tumultuous time both “covered” and “carried” them.  He describes that during this time “He was escorting us through the grief and protecting us from being mortally wounded by it.”  Grief, with hope.

What gives hope to our broken hearts is that God is accomplishing something through our time of grief and loss if we will but allow Him to keep our hearts soft, and not becoming bitter, in the process.  A broken heart is a heart that swells with compassion.  A broken heart can attempt great things here on planet earth being driven by an inner push to help someone else so that they will not have to suffer in the same way.  A broken heart has the opportunity to be strong for others and giving hope in seemingly hopeless situations.  A broken heart can share the love of Christ like no other, for it by our suffering we enter in to an intimate communion with Christ.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude He had, and be ready to suffer, too.  For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin.  You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  I Peter 4:1-2 (NLT)

Suffering can purify, can clarify our callings and cause us to run our race with endurance, giving us great confidence to perform the work for which He has called us.  Is your heart being broken?  Then know that God has great purpose and plans ahead.

 

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Broken Dreams and Soft Hearts

When I was in Bible school studying Wisdom Literature, one of the assignments was to read the book of Job in three different versions of the Bible.  For my devotional times I am enjoying the New Living Translation which speaks pretty much like we do – with a certain casual cadence.

When we think of Job we think of broken dreams, and he had many.  The worst of course was the loss of his children.  It is said to be a parent is to forever have your heart walking around in someone else’s body.  We can’t control what happens to our children nor control what they do – but our hearts are so intertwined with their lives.  Job had a long list of things in his life to grieve.  Broken dreams can top most of our lists when it comes to grieving our losses.  It’s the “what could have been” in life that often sets us to plains of sadness.  What resolution is there for broken dreams?

Well, the last seven verses in the book of Job shed some light and give us hope.  After his time of great suffering Job found relief from his troubles.  It is important to remember our times of crisis have beginnings AND endings.  It won’t always feel so bad as it may feel today.  God directed Job to pray for his so-called friends.  They were the people who were great friends and grievers for seven days and then they started talking, which was their downfall.  All their advice was just salt in the wound of a hurting friend.  When Job was down his friends verbally beat him up.  But at the end, as part of His restoration of Job, God tells Job pray for his friends.  And as Job prays (it’s hard to be unforgiving when praying for someone) God restores Job’s fortunes.

The end of Job tells of the goodness that comes his way.  His life was blessed more than at the beginning.  There is an end to the story.  If Job had harbored any ill will against his friends, even though they were in the wrong, the happy ending could not have been accomplished.

As Job journeyed through his season of broken dreams he kept his heart soft, as difficult as it was, and lived to see great things.  In our season of broken dreams, keeping our hearts soft is sometimes the hardest thing.  It’s much easier to default to anger, depression or bitterness.  But this is not what God wants for us – He wants to “restore our fortunes” and heal our hearts.  The end can be better than the beginning, and the key to this is the condition of our hearts as we travel through some of life’s broken dreams.

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