Enduring Secret Pain

We’ve all done it—masked our pain with a smile. We force a lilt to our voices or answer a “how are you doing” with a fake “fine”. We suffer a private, secret pain that we’re unable or unwilling to share with anyone outside our closest circle of family or friends—and sometimes not even them— for any number of reasons.

Our hearts are breaking, but we have to carry on a life-as-usual façade to keep questions at bay and protect our own or someone else’s privacy. The time may come to share the struggle, but that time is not now. For now, we wipe our eyes and steel our hearts as we venture outside our homes and face the world beyond. We can only hope that we’re met with kindness instead of more difficulty.

Does it dawn on us that others may be doing the same? Especially during periods when heartache is not our companion, do we remember that someone we meet during the day may be struggling to keep her composure while walking on shaky emotional legs?

When we take a moment to remember that, a moment to look beyond the automatic smile for the public, we’ll want to be a little kinder in our interactions with one another. We’ll want to add an extra measure of warmth to our smiles or a soothing touch to our voices. We’ll want to make sure the people who cross our paths are met with kindness.

Let’s never forget the secret pains we’ve endured. Let’s remember and extend a loving touch—even if just for a moment—to those who may be in the midst of such heartache today.

And if you’re among those bearing a secret pain right now, know that God sees you. He cares. May this post be his loving touch to your hurting heart today.

“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” Luke 7:13 NIV

*Has anyone unwittingly touched you with kindness during a time of secret pain? How did he or she do it?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by seyed mostafa zamani, Creative Commons License

Sow in Tears, Reap with Joy

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

What does it mean to sow in tears? I’m sure there’s more than one way to interpret these verses, but one thing I think of as I read them is prayer.

We sow seed as we pray for those who have never come to faith in Christ. We sow as we pray for those who have drifted away from God and as we pray for the needs of our churches. But how earnestly do we intercede for these deep needs?

When was the last time our tears flowed or we experienced internal anguish as we prayed for a family member, a friend, or someone else’s loved one to give his or her heart to the Lord? Or to come back to him? When was the last time we wept over a people group deluded by a false religion? When was the last time we sowed in tears? I admit these questions convict me, and I wonder if they do you as well.

If we’re not careful, our prayers can be half-hearted or superficial. To sow in tears we must take time to care. We must open our hearts and love people. If we do this, their separation from God will surely drive us to our knees—and to tears.

So yes, when we care, we will feel sorrow, but the Word tells us we will also “reap with songs of joy.” And when it comes to the salvation or restoration of a soul, one song of joy will be worth a thousand tears.

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people . . .” Romans 9:2-3 NIV

*When have you reaped with songs of joy after sowing in tears for someone?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early November. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by MarLeah JoyCreative Commons License

Let Your Life Provide a Well-Paved Path for Others

Pain. Grief. Weakness. Limitations. None of us welcome these unwanted visitors—especially when they take up long-term residence in our lives. Each one causes distress in its own way. And let’s be honest. We all do our best to avoid distress whenever possible.

We don’t like to hurt. We don’t like to fail or find ourselves unable to do certain things. But as we live in these places of pain, we grow and learn lessons. We develop a deep empathy for others experiencing similar sorrows. Each of our painful places has the potential to become a well-paved path to another hurting soul.

In the New Testament, we see that the apostle Paul experienced pain, hardship, and limitations time and again. And while we may feel the chains of weakness and limitations in our lives, Paul dealt with literal chains during the times he was imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.

He didn’t give in to discouragement during those imprisonments though. While shackled and suffering, Paul saw the good that came from his chains. In his letter to the Philippians (1:14 NIV), he said, “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”

Surely our chains of pain, grief, weakness, or limitations serve to encourage others as well. Other struggling folks might very well be inspired to persevere through their own trials as they see how God strengthens us in ours.

Whether reaching out to hurting souls going through similar situations as our own or being a beacon of hope and encouragement through the witness of our lives, let’s allow our painful places to result in good. Let’s let our lives be well-paved paths.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

*When did someone provide a well-paved path for you? Our family is currently undergoing a trial that will certainly allow us to encourage and comfort others in the future. Our daughter Kelli is having surgery for breast cancer today. We’d be so grateful for your prayers. 

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out Feb. 2nd. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

The Constant of Christmas Plus A Blogging Break

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many. Heartaches hurt more, burdens feel heavier, and changes can be more challenging to accept. Loneliness looms larger and disappointment runs deeper. At times, Christmas joy can be hard to find. And of course, this year we have the added challenge of the ongoing pandemic impacting our lives—and our joy—as well.

Where do you find your Christmas joy? If you search for it in people—family and friends—those can change or disappoint. If in new possessions or extravagant treats, those can be stripped away or give only short-term fulfillment. If in well-laid plans for the perfect Christmas, a winter storm or unexpected illness can topple those in an instant.

Only in the manger can we find unchanging, unfailing Christmas joy. Sure, we can and do experience holiday joy with our families and friends, with our activities and traditions, with music and feasting. But the deep abiding joy of Christmas—and of our lives—that no circumstance or human failing can touch can only be found in the constant of Christmas. Only in Jesus.

Let’s look to the manger this holiday season. Let’s let Jesus anchor our Christmas joy. For he is a rock like no other. He is the constant of Christmas.

“‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:20 NIV

*What is most challenging about your Christmas season this year? How can you let Jesus bring you joy in the midst of it?

*Friends, I’ll be taking a blogging break until the first of the year. I pray that God will bless you with a joy-filled Christmas season and a hopeful and happy New Year. See you in 2021!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early February. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by jeffweeseCreative Commons License

Where Is God When Times Are Bad?

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

Nothing like a little gem from God’s Word to put things in perspective, huh?

Why is it, I wonder, we are so quick to thank God and acknowledge his presence and hand in the awesome blessings that come our way, but when something bad happens, we say, “Where were you, God? Why did you let that happen?”

When tough times come, has God really stepped away from us? When painful events descend, has he removed his hand from our lives?

If we believe the Word of God—and in particular the above verse from Ecclesiastes—no, God is not an aloof observer when our world is falling apart. He allows grief, hardship, and pain to touch our lives and will use those experiences for good in some way.

Romans 8:28 (KJV) says, ” And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The question is will we believe that truth and trust God when we are hurting?

Let’s remember that we are dearly loved children of God (1 John 3:1), and he stands ready, just as we do with our children, to help and comfort us through our bad times. Let’s not let our trials distance us from our Father. Let’s draw close to him and let him carry us, trusting all the while that he will not waste our pain.

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. ” Lamentations 3:32-33 NIV

*How has God used your pain to bring about something good?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo