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Faith and Healing: When God Says No

A few years ago, I learned that a beautiful friend of mine was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I was devastated to know that she was terminal, especially since she had two adolescent sons. She was far too young to die. She endured treatments and we prayerfully interceded on her behalf time and time again, asking that she would be healed and that she would survive. But she only lived for an extra year, and then she passed away.

At the same time, I had another friend who was suffering with this same aggressive terminal cancer. She also endured the treatments, but she lived. So one might ask the question, why did God allow one to live and the other to die?

We have all prayed for friends like mine who desperately need healing.  But there is faith in understanding that sometimes God says no. While we may not have any concrete answers for this, or guidelines to go by on why some people are healed when others are not, we do have faith. We can trust that God is a God who knows what He is doing.

I love the verse in Jeremiah 29:11, where it says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” However, it is so often taken out of context. This is what was actually happening at the time when this was recorded. The Isrealites were in exile as a punishment from God for their disobedience. They were listening to a false prophet named Hananiah who had “prophesied” that God was going to free Isreal from their Babylonian captors in two years time. God sent the prophet Jeremiah to set them straight – and right before this beautiful promise we read in verse 10, Jeremiah tells them in verse 7 to “work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I (the Lord) sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Do you think that was what the Isrealites wanted to hear? Not really. They wanted an easy way out, to know that there suffering would soon end and they would be able to return home. Instead, in verse 10, the Lord says, “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” What a blow that must have been – some of those Isrealites would live and die in Babylon before the time came for them to leave.

Does this mean that God did not have a good plan for them? No. It just meant that they would have a period of suffering first. The Isrealites would learn what we have also learned –  that God is ever present in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1),  and that suffering produces endurance and builds character (Romans 5:3-5).  In light of this, it is important to understand when reading Jeremiah 29:11 that like the Isrealites, this doesn’t mean we will live life without difficulties or illness. In fact, our hope and our future as believers isn’t intended for life on this earth. Our hope and our future are eternal – a life with Christ for all time.  If this verse were intended for our life on earth, then why would we endure illnesses – especially those that end in death?

But there IS hope in God’s plan for our lives. If you take a look at the verse mentioned above in Romans, it says this:

But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

Our suffering allows us to change and grow into the person that God wants us to be. Just like the Isrealites who suffered in captivity in Babylon for 70 years before God knew they would be ready to be whole again.

We suffered a great loss when my friend passed away from aggressive breast cancer. As she endured her treatments, her body changed. She went from a beautiful, healthy looking woman to a woman whose body was damaged and dying. But her soul soared. She taught me and many others just what it means to suffer in Christ. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says,  ‘“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”‘ I could see the power of Christ resting upon my friend. She was positive, loving, encouraging and thankful the entire troubling way through. A few days before she died, we had a quick conversation. She told me she wasn’t afraid to die because she was ready, but that she was sorry to go.  We were sorry to see her go too. I miss my friend.

Sometimes God’s plan for us is hard. Illnesses and disease are so difficult to navigate. Pain is hard to manage, and life can be heavy. But God’s plan is so good. When we aren’t being healed, and we are obedient in trusting in His plan, He uses our illnesses and disabilities to point others to Christ.

I can’t think of any greater blessing than being able to use my disability as a tool for His glory. What a gift! Sometimes God says no, but in saying no, He blesses us with more than we can ever understand. www.jerushaborden.com

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Chosen Last

It was a hot, sticky summer day. The kids in the neighbourhood were gathered around a net in the middle of our cul-de-sac choosing teams for the next exciting round of street hockey. I was watching from under the shade of a maple tree not too far away, not the least bit interested in playing hockey. The boys gathered round and someone made two team captains. And then the choosing began. One captain would choose a player for his team, and then the next. Until my brother and his best friend, equally lacking in sporty skills were last. The captains rolled their eyes and just pointed. They were chosen last.

Not too long after that afternoon in the summer sun, I was standing in a gymansium at school. Waiting to be chosen for teams with the two sportiest kids in the class as captains. As the kids were chosen I stood shuffling my feet, head down. I knew what was coming. When I looked up, all of my classmates were chosen and as always, I was last. Dead last. The captain sighed and turned their back, waving me over to join their team. It wasn’t hard to see they wished they’d not have been the unlucky ones to have had to choose me.

Being chosen last is not a nice feeling. I can understand not being chosen for sports teams as I am not in the least bit sporty. What is more difficult to understand is being chosen last for other things in life – big things. Chosen last for the work promotion, with my name at the bottom of the list. Last choice for that party invitation – only making the invitee list because the host was made to add my name. Chosen last to be seated at a special event.

When you are repeatedly chosen last, it can wear you down. Being chosen last can be heartbreaking. Because in the grand scheme of things, being chosen last leaves you feeling unloved, uninvited, and unimportant.

David was chosen last. In 1 Samuel 16, we see the Lord sending Samuel out to find a future King of Isreal among Jesse’s sons. Samuel looked at Jesse’s sons and thought for sure Eliab was going to be the next King. But in verse 7, the Lord says to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” How I love that verse. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it? Samuel continues looking for the King, meeting each one of Jesse’s sons. But he gets through the sons and hasn’t found the King. This is not what the Lord told him would happen, so he asks Jesse if he has any other sons. Jesse admits he has one more son, but says he’s busy tending the animals in the fields. David was forgotten. His father hadn’t even called him in when it was time to present his sons for such an honour.

I wonder what was going through David’s mind when he made his way back to the house to have a meal and be presented in front of Samuel. Did he know he had been chosen last and forgotten by his father? We don’t know. All we know is that he was chosen by someone far greater than his earthly father, for an important job that far exceeded anything his brothers would ever accomplish. My often unchosen heart loves this.

But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man whom God said, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” Acts 13:22

 

God chose Him first. God looked at His heart and saw it was pure. Even though his father dismissed him because of His age, God saw his potential and his character and He had a plan for him.

David – the shepherd boy – would go on to write many Psalms that we still read. Psalms that breathe life into our hearts. Psalms that we pray over ourselves and others.

David – the shepherd boy – would go on to be the most well known and revered King that Isreal ever had. He made plans to rebuild the temple, efficiently organized the Isrealite armies, and made worshiping the One True God the official law.

David – the shepherd boy – would be part of the family of Jesus the Messiah, who was a descendant of King David.

God could see all of that in the heart and life of a shepherd boy, caring for sheep in the wilderness near his family home. If He could see these plans for David, He can see plans for us as well. David may have felt unloved, uninvited and unimportant as he was tending the sheep. But it was when he was a shepherd that God chose him first.

We might feel unloved, uninvited and unimportant where we are in life right now. We may be chosen last for many things. But God sees our hearts and He has a plan for our lives. We might be chosen last, but the King of Heaven has chosen us first.

 

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5 Life Lessons from a House Mouse 

If there’s one thing I hate it’s bugs.  I have an irrational fear and dislike of all bugs, everywhere.  We’ve had a bit of a reprieve from those nasty creatures for a few months, but with winters end they are slowly returning. I’ve been so caught up on the issue of bugs that I hadn’t even considered a second dislike of mine, until it suddenly crept it’s way into my house – critters.

A few nights ago, my husband woke me up from a dead sleep asking, “what is that sound?” I couldn’t hear anything so I shushed him back to sleep. Perhaps a half hour later, I heard it – the scritchy scratchy of a mouse inside the walls of our home.  Our safe house, which I believed to be a safe haven was suddenly a terrifying place to be.

When you grow up in the city, there aren’t many bugs. At least, there aren’t such a wide assortment as there seem to be where I  live now. And I never saw a mouse in the city. In fact, I never even considered that mice could and would sneak into a house for warmth and food. Until it happened, the first time. My parents moved from a bustling city to a house in the country, and a year or so after we moved in my Mom noticed a half eaten apple in the pantry. She was about to interrogate us to uncover who’d left half an apple in the bushel when she saw the telltale sign. Little mouse droppings to the side of the half eaten apple. He was possibly the tidiest mouse ever to have lived, and certainly the cutest. My Mom set the traps and caught the sweetest, fluffiest and tiniest mouse I ever did see.

And then I promptly forgot about the house mouse. Until my ears reminded me and it suddenly dawned on me that I was now the Mom and it was my turn to take care of things. Catching a mouse in your walls is no easy task, however. And we still haven’t caught it. But in the few days it’s been here, it’s taught me a few things.

Purpose- this mouse is on a mission. He’s hungry. Since I  don’t make it a habit of storing food inside my walls, he’s on the hunt for something to munch. When I hear him in our bedroom, I can hear the crunching sound of those sharp teeth gnawing on something. I pray it’s wood and nothing electrical that will cost oodles to repair. But this house mouse is definitely into something. Every crunch strikes fear into my heart.

But then I have to wonder, when was the last time I was that hungry for something? When was the last time I was so hungry for God? As I was flipping through my Bible this week, I stumbled across a verse that stuck with me.

When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Jeremiah 15:16

The word devoured leapt off the page. Devouring something is to eat it up hungrily.  Typically, when someone uses the word they’re speaking of a time they ate out of true hunger. I’ve also heard the word used in terms of eating something out of sheer delight and enjoyment,  such as a slice of delicious chocolate cake.

Reading the word in this context within Scripture gave me fresh eyes to understand. It placed a longing within me to desire to read the words with a sense of desperation. Not just to read them, but to delight in them as well. To experience joy in my identity as a daughter of the King, and to purposefully seek out His words, just as my house mouse sought out a source of food.

Another thing this mouse has taught me is persistence – no matter what we do, we can’t scare it off. When we hear the annoying sounds of it crunching on unknown substances, or skittering its way from one place to the next we will bang on the wall and make lots of noise in efforts to terrify it away. While we may deter it momentarily,  it always returns.

If only I was as persistant as the mouse when it comes to sharing the gospel with other people. There are several times I have attempted to share what was on my heart, then been completely shut down so I just left it.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” Matthew 16:15-16

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that God called us all to action. I know I am a bit too much of a people pleaser, so I often will do what I can to make someone feel comfortable. If sharing the gospel with them makes them uncomfortable, I may just leave it on the back burner. But we need to be persistent in sharing the gospel with others, no matter what the cost.

It wasn’t too long before we realized that our house mouse was actually a house rat. Somehow it all came crashing down around me and I panicked. I couldn’t sleep well. I still can’t, knowing it’s somewhere in my house lurking. I feared going anywhere downstairs without someone with me, even my children. (Really, what good could they do to protect me from the rodent? They’d be screaming right along with me!) Fear gripped my heart as I heard it banging around in the walls. I’m so afraid of it, I don’t want to be alone at home knowing it’s there. I am a slave to fear.

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

What can a mere rat do to me? I don’t know what I am afraid of. I am bigger than it is. Just like God is bigger than any fear I may have surrounding it. The other night, the rat was in our bedroom. It was behind the wall, doing its thing. It’s hard to catch something when it is in the wall. It sounded like it was doing somersaults right by my headboard. I screamed. My poor husband jolted upright in bed. He tried to scare it away. I’m not ashamed to admit that I started to whimper and told him I was scared. I am a city girl, y’all. This was never something I ever imagined would happen. My sweet husband, at a loss of what to do started to sing a song I have sung to my children time and time again. A  Steve Green Hide ’em In Your Heart song, that basically takes this verse and puts it into a tune. Together we sang this song together, and when we were done – peace washed over us. We still heard the infernal banging of the rat in our wall – but we packed up our things and headed upstairs to sleep on the couch.  Peacefully.

Early the next morning, we discovered that the rat had shredded up our laundry. I wasn’t so hung up about a dish towel. Or even some comfy bed sheets. But when I realized it had completely destroyed my favourite shirt, I was dismayed.  That shirt was one that I loved – it made me feel pretty when I wore it. It was light and comfortable. It was perfect. And now it was ruined. I was aggravated, until I remembered…

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Matthew 6:19-21

Of course it was just a shirt. But sometimes it’s the little annoyances in life like destroying your favourite shirt and losing sleep at night that make you realize your heart needs some rearranging. After all, a shirt can be easily replaced. And there is room for a nap in my day. But when I rank the loss of a shirt as being completely devastating, I need to remember that my treasure is in Him – not my possessions.

Still, the rat in my room and the destroyed shirt prompted me to call in an exterminator.We were not messing around with this rat business. There’s just something about a rat that means business.  It was time to eradicate it from our walls forever. So the exterminator laid traps, and we wait. Waiting is hard – I still didn’t get to sleep well last night. But in my sleeplessness, I thought about what else we needed to eradicate in our lives. Essentially, we need to put away all things that are not good, and wholesome and pure.

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:7-9

Exterminating sin from our lives is not an easy task. It keeps coming back, like the persistent rat. But the thing is – rats like to live in the dark. And as Christians, we walk in the light. Light exposes the darkness. When the exterminator came in, he shone a light in the suspected areas and exposed some things I’d rather I didn’t see. He knew where to lay his traps to catch that rat. When Christ is in us, His light exposes our sins – sometimes sins we’d rather we didn’t have to see.

But He is faithful to forgive our sins. We can’t do that on our own. Just like I couldn’t get rid of the rat on my own and had to call in someone who knew what they were doing, God knows what He is doing in my life. He exposes things. It took a rat for me to understand my heart and life needed some adjustments. Perhaps he sent the rat just for me.

It’s easy to get comfortable in the Christian lifestyle. To go to church every week. To support ministries we feel are important. To offer hospitality to people. That kind of life can be comfortable, but we aren’t called to be comfortable. We are called to be active. We are called to be participants. We are called to be holy, and blameless and pure.

I’m not there yet. I’m not even going to be there when we finally catch that rat. But I am going to try to be better – because this rat has shaken up something inside me. It has taught me a few things that I needed to be taught. And it has reminded me that I am actively being called right now to share the Good News to others. What are you actively being called to do?

 

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Finding Real Joy 

Today I’m participating in a really great blog round up over at Joy Let Loose. A few writers, including myself, have written some personal stories about finding joy when life circumstances steal it away. I enjoyed reading these stories and was very encouraged by them. Check it out at http://joyletloose.com/2017/05/find-real-joy/

Check back here soon for another piece I’m working on about hearing from God in unexpected circumstances. 

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Taking on A Bold Identity

Today I’m sharing my story over at the lovely Rachel Britton’s blog. If you’ve never read my story before, I encourage you to check it out. It’s short, but sweet.

Here’s the thing – low self esteem can sometimes rob self worth. When people stare or make rude comments, it leaves me feeling like I amount to nothing. It temporarily strips me of my confidence in my identity – a daughter of the King.

Read more here: https://rachelbritton.com/taking-bold-identity/

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The What-Ifs

Sometimes the night can be cruel. As I write this, I am laying in bed and everything is silent. Silence can be exhausting sometimes. The steady drone of the heater running as fast as my thoughts in this darkened room. My husband snoring beside me, the steady rhythm of his breathing usually brings me comfort. But not tonight.

Tonight the what-ifs have consumed me.

Do you ever struggle with those pesky what-ifs? They creep up on you sometimes. The what-ifs that come and steal your contentment. The what-ifs that rob you of your peace.

Tonight I’m flooded with these what-ifs. Generally, I try to sail through life with a positive attitude, even though things are hard in my life. But the what-ifs tamper with that and taunt me as I toss and turn, restless and without sleep.

What if I die before my kids are grown?

What if my kids will never be able to be independent?

What if I end up in a wheelchair before I’m 40?

What if my kids never get married and find happiness?

Again, what if I die before my kids are grown?

And then the hardest what-if, the one that prematurely breaks my heart and causes me the most stress…

What if my husband dies and we have no one to love and care for us? 

That is the worst of all the what-ifs because my husband is rock solid. I understand he is not THE rock. But he is a rock. Or maybe a rock star. The truth of it is, we all depend on him. God knew how great our needs would be and all those years ago he sent me Stephen. And I can’t even begin to comprehend what life would be like without him. It’s my greatest what-if.

My heart is burdened by all these what-ifs. And in the dark of night I often forget that He is faithful. Didn’t I just say He provided me with a gracious, gentle and providing husband? He knew my needs before I did. And He arranged for them to be taken care of by giving me a husband whose love covers even helping me put on my socks and shave my legs. How much more will He provide when I ask?

Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Ask God for what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

There’s a reason why this is my life verse. Because I need this constant reminder. I need to remember to be truly thankful for His blessings. I need to remember to worry less and ask Him more often. I don’t know why this is so hard for me to do. After all, He loves to take care of me.

Matt 6:25-34

That is why I tell you not to worry about every day life  – whether you have enough food and drink, or clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Any why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown in the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers , but your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.  Matthew 6:25-34

This afternoon as I walked past the park on my way to pick up my son from school, I was distracted by two ducks. They were splashing and swimming in a pool of melted snow. Melted snow that just so happened to have collected in the kids wading pool. The ducks were happily bathing and playing in this water like it was there just for them. But then, maybe it was. God provides food for the birds, but He also provides a place for them to rest and play. If he cares about these little ducks enough to give them a special place to play in the spring melt, how much more does He care about me?

He cares about the things that worry me. But here’s the thing. He provides for my needs, no matter what they may be. As I was watching the ducks in the pond, a peace settled over my heart. At the time, I wasn’t sure why but now I know. As the what-ifs creep in during the night, I can claim that peace and let it settle over my heart again. Because if He tends to the ducks in the spring, He will tend to my needs if the what-ifs become reality. God has a plan for my what-ifs. And He has a plan for yours, too.

Quote ImageIt is hard to wrap our minds around the truth that we don’t need to worry. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a worrier. I worry about the small every day things. I worry about the big, scary and important things. Sometimes I worry so much I make myself sick. I’m constantly forgetting this passage of scripture. But He lovingly reminds me by sending me ducks in a wading pool.

So even when the what-ifs become a reality, my loving God will carry me through. He is the One who can transform the what-ifs to when-it’s. Instead of worrying what-if this happens, I can rest in knowing when it’s happening He will be guiding my steps, caring for my needs and holding my heart in His loving hands. And He will be doing that for you too.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received has brought about your adoption into sonship. Romans 8:15 .

We have a loving Father. He loves to care for us and provide for our needs. Just like we may have trusted our earthly father or father figures to care for our needs, we can trust our heavenly Father even more.

We don’t need to fear for our future. We don’t need to worry about the looming what-ifs that creep up in the night. We can rest in knowing that we are perfectly loved by a God who knows our needs before we do and who has a plan for our lives, no matter what painful what-ifs we may live through.

Sleep comes easier when you rest in Jesus. The next time those what-ifs creep up and steal your peace, remember the when-it’s. And sleep well, knowing that you are loved and cared for. Because even if the worst happens, He can resurrect the good from every situation.

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We are Winners 

A great discontent rolled in and settled over my heart tonight. My heart tossed like white capped waves on the sea. A friend of mine is dying.

I can close my eyes and remember a happier time where the sun shone as brightly as our future. Where happy hearts, free and unbounded reigned. I can smell the fresh grass and hear the birds singing. I can hear our laughter as we ran through open fields while being chased by her family’s donkey. Memories hold such power. Emotions do too.

My heart is heavy and my tears flow. These memories feel emptier somehow. These memories were from when we were carefree teens with a twinkle in our eyes and dreams as big as the clouds passing through that glorious blue sky. We didn’t know what was yet to come.

The next year she was diagnosed with MD. She dealt with it with such grace it made me proud to call her friend. That summer I moved away, but we kept in touch through the years as she she met and married her shy guy and I met and married mine. And then children were born and we rejoiced.

It was a few years later when we realized how much our lives mirrored each other’s. I had two sons with autism. Her second born is autistic. We supported each other through the distance, united in our cause. A bit later, she lived out my future as she built a ramp outside her house for her wheelchair. Two very different diseases. Two very different friends. Two very different lives. Yet so similar.

We each have loving, gentle husbands who support us daily. Both physically and emotionally. Practical hands on help, while still believing we are beautiful. As she loses her hair with cancer treatments, her husband tells her to look into his eyes to see her beauty instead of looking in a mirror. As I struggle to walk on my large, deformed legs my husband tells me my eyes are so beautiful it’s all he sees. Heaven sent husbands by a God who knew our needs before we could imagine what was coming.

And now we know. Cancer, on top of everything else she’s suffered. It’s so painful to think of a world without my friend. I was thinking about it tonight as I tucked in my oldest son. He could see the grief on my face, something he has worked hard to be able to understand. He asked me why I was sad, and I told him. I explained how desperately hard it was to be so far away and not be able to spend time with her before she goes. He took my hand and said, “you’ll see her again. You know you will, Mom. And Great Grandma and Wendy and all the people you loved who went home. And you might not even have to wait too long.” Such wise words from my sweet son, and fresh tears for his perception of my own condition which I almost wish he didn’t understand. I turned off his light, and before I shut the door, he called out again. “Mom? When your friend dies she will be perfect. She won’t be sick anymore. And neither will you. You can take her hand and both run together again.”

And just like I saw a picture of  us, like we were teenagers, in a grassy meadow on a summer day. Running hand in hand. Except we weren’t teenagers anymore.

And it brought me back to something my friend said about being winners. She said if God healed us, it would be a win. But if we died, we would be with Him. Either way, we’d be winners.

And so we win. And I’m thankful to have her in my life, even though it’s breaking my heart that she has to go. Because as a teenager had an influence on my life. And her influence coupled with the influence of others made me understand my deep need for salvation that only Christ can bring. My heart was restless until it found rest in Him. And that’s where I find my rest even now, when we hope and wait for His hand to intervene.

But even if He doesn’t this time, we’re still winners.

I love you my friend. Rest well, now. You are a winner.

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