Category Archives: Healing from Hardships

When Fear Makes You Want to Turn Back

“He [Moses] was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.” Acts 7:38-39

At some point in life, everyone struggles with something that makes them a less than best version of themselves. This can be a lot of different things – drugs, alcohol, food addiction, pornography, eating disorders, unhealthy relationships, and unhealthy emotions are just a few examples. Whatever it is, God always offers us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13), and points us down the path of healing and restoration. A path that offers forgiveness and transformational change.

But change is hard and, at times, downright scary. We can’t always see to the other side of it, and that makes us question our ability to keep going. We see an example of this with the Israelites when Moses lead them out of Egypt – out of the slavery that held them in bondage for four hundred years. For generations, the Israelites cried out to God to free them from under the hands of the Pharaohs. When God finally did, the transition was difficult and scary. The unknown path ahead of them drove fear into their hearts. So much fear, that it says in their hearts, they “turned back to Egypt.” They were afraid of what God would ask them to endure, so they thought it would be easier to just go back into slavery.

Fear of the unknown is a powerful enemy to our hope, and can cause us to turn and walk away from the path that would have healed us, and we go back to the comfort of what we knew. That familiar path may seem easier, but it only leads to death. Often times, a slow and painful one.

Tired One, I have been in this place. I can tell you from experience that once you know the truth, going back presents a more miserable and heart wrenching alternative than any unknown you may be facing. 

There is an old song by Sara Groves called Painting Pictures of Egypt. I remember the first time I heard the song. I was driving in my car, wrestling with what felt like a war over my purpose. The enemy was whispering lies about how much God was asking of me, and how easy it would be to let someone else do it and slip invisibly back into my comfortable existence. I turned up the music to drown out the enemy and the words of Sarah’s song pierced my heart:

“I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks.
The future feels so hard and I wanna go back.
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned.
Those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.”

When what lies ahead suddenly feels like too much, we sometimes look back on our past with blind nostalgia. We paint pictures of our Egypt, conveniently leaving out the pieces that caused us the most pain. 

Loved One, what is your Egypt? What do you search the sands for when life breaks you? Is it not your Father in heaven who loves you more passionately and more endlessly than all the grains of His sand? You only need to have the faith of a mustard seed to believe His promises that are yours. Allow His transformation to hold you and teach you a truth that will never again fit into that past life. 

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” Jeremiah 6:16

Be blessed,
C.K.

Forsaken

Paula sat down on the edge of her bed, gripping the envelope. Her heart raced and her fingers shook as she flipped it over and ran her thumb under the flap to expose the letter inside. She let the envelope fall to the floor as she pulled out the single sheet of paper, neatly folded in three parts. She could just make out the cursive writing that shown through to the unwritten side.

It’s from her. It has to be from her. She got my letter the agency sent and she’s responding!

Paula had spent years looking for her birth mom. The months she spent waiting for a response to her letter were finally worth it. In a moment, she would read her letter, and they would finally be able to meet and start the relationship she had only dreamed of as a child. She had waited so many years for this moment. Paula took a deep breath and tried quieting all the thoughts swirling in her mind as she gingerly opened the letter, an excited smile forming on her face. After a moment, her smile faded and her shoulders dropped as the tears welling in her eyes rolled down her cheeks and onto the paper.

There would be no joyful reunion. No cookouts forging new paths. No heart-felt tear-jerking embrace that would bring Paula the acceptance she so desperately desired. There was only more rejection.

She doesn’t want to meet me or my kids? Even now, she doesn’t want me. She never has.

Paula let the letter slide out of her hands and drift onto the floor next to the envelope. She stared down at both, fixing her gaze on the corner of the envelope which should have contained a return address, but didn’t.

***

I had asked my readers for blog topics, and there was one in particular that really tugged at my heart strings. It was about dealing with rejection from a parent or family member. I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing quite so painful as facing abandonment from someone who is supposed to love you, but doesn’t. Whether that person physically or emotionally abandons you, both leave wounds so deep, that there’s great risk of infection, and even death. 

The death I speak of is not physical, but emotional. And the kind of infection that causes it is the kind that grows in your mind and heart as a result of the pain that rejection causes. It damages your filter and can cause you to see yourself in an unhealthy light. It can also make you to see others in an unhealthy light.

If you have been the unfortunate recipient of a deep rejection – a parent or sibling rejecting you, a divorce, a hate crime, a lost job, or your child closing the door on you – then I want to offer you a new letter. Not like the one our fictional character, Paula, had in her hands, but something better.

One that has a return address.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

This might be a commonly known Scripture, but it’s also a deeply personal message. A love letter from God to you. For God so loved the world. He isn’t talking about the dirt or the trees or the sky. He is talking about you. You are His love, and He loves you so deeply, He sent His only child to face torture and death, so a way could be made to spend eternity together. He pursues you no matter where you go (Psalm 139:7-8). He leaves the ninety-nine other sheep to look for you when you’re lost (Matthew 18:10-14). The depth of God’s feelings for us is unfathomable. We can’t possibly wrap our heads around the unconditional qualities of His love and acceptance.

You might be hurting as a result of experiencing rejection, but consider the source. People are flawed and they will always disappoint on some level. The closer they are to you, the more it will hurt. But that hurt has a silver lining. To every ying is a yang, and to every example of imperfect relationships is the proof of love – the consistent, trustworthy, and all-consuming love of God.

Don’t focus on what is behind. Keep your focus forward. You need not look any farther to find the One who not only wants you, but loves you… exactly as you are. No strings. No conditions. Just His love. Of course, there is so much more available when we choose to love Him back. He gives us all an invitation to abide in Him (John 15:4), find rest (Matthew 11:28), and learn from Him (Mark 1:17). Best of all, is the invitation to spend eternity in His loving presence (John 3:16). An eternity where rejection leaves no wounds and acceptance is the sweet perfume of Heaven.

Cherished One, I pray you can feel the loving arms of Jesus wrap tightly around you as you drink in love letters from the King of kings. Forgive those who reject, and allow God’s love letters to heal your heart and give you hope of what is real for you today, and what is to come. He will be with you always, to the ends of the earth (Mark 13:27, Psalm 98:3).

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Be blessed,
C.K.

B Cells

I sometimes feel envious of those in the medical profession, who have had the opportunity to study the amazing complexities of our bodies in gross detail. Gross is probably a good word to use because all that study involves seeing and touching all the stuff on the inside. I guess someone has to carry that burden, and thank the Lord it isn’t me.

What I’m most enamored by, are all the amazing examples God has given us through those complexities, about who He is and how He works. Today, we’re going to take a look at one of those examples. B cells. I’ll ask all my medical friends in advance for their mercy as I oversimplify this, and hope we can all exchange the gory details for the spirit of the message.

When your body is fighting an illness, it’s fighting something called antigens, which are foreign molecules that don’t belong in your body. When an intruder is detected, your body’s alarm system goes off and sends special cells that fight those antigens. Some release enzymes that kill the foreign objects. Some turn on the body’s immune system and trigger our B cells to make antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to the antigens, rendering them useless. The picture that comes to my mind is someone jumping on the back of an intruder, wrapping their hands around their eyes, and watching the chaos ensue. I imagine the intruder stumbling around, trying to figure out what’s going on, until they find themselves crashing into a wall and falling onto the floor. The antibody sits on the intruder until help shows up and halls him off to jail.

I allowed myself some interpretational liberty there, but I think you get the point.

That whole process is amazing in and of itself, but here’s something even more fascinating. Those B cells have memory. That’s right. Memory. That means they now recognize that intruder and, if he ever comes back, they know more about him, and how to fight him off.

The difficult things we go through in life can be a lot like this process. We get hit with foreign objects we don’t understand at first. Things that threaten our spiritual health. The Holy Spirit is like the cells that trigger and turn on our spiritual immune system, and our faith is like those B cells that fight against the attack. The antibody? Jesus, of course. No attack is pleasant, but once we walk through it, we learn and grow and equip ourselves to not only recognize, but fight it off quicker the next time.

Sometimes the most inspiring part of getting through a disease is not the healing itself, but what’s happening inside of you during the good fight.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us not to be discouraged, because He’s already overcome them. I believe part of that story of overcoming isn’t just about overcoming illness – physical or spiritual. It’s about how you are overcoming amidst the pain of the journey, and that is what is truly inspiring.

Today’s writing was inspired by a couple I recently met, and I was deeply moved by their story. They took the terrible intruder, called Cancer, and turned it into a story of hope. Every day, since that journey began, they put out a Facebook post, “C the Good,” where they list all the ways God is good, and all the good things coming out of their trial. What an inspiration. They are vulnerably inviting people into the midst of their pain and turning it into hope for themselves and others.

Chose to be a lantern amidst your storm. Chose to be light to those around you. Be a beacon they can see and follow. In doing so, you’ll build your own spiritual immunity, and be more equipped to call on Jesus to calm the storms that come your way more quickly.

Be blessed,
C.K.

So You Tried to Speed Up Change, You Say?

It started with a simple idea. It always starts out as simple. Until you actually do it. Sometimes, you’re lucky and everything works out the way you saw it in your mind. Other times, it’s like watching your favorite ceramic mug fall off the counter, and you’re too far away to catch it. You simply have to watch it hit the floor and smash into pieces.

This bit of drama brought to you by the midlife crisis my hair seems to be having. My simple idea? Get a pixie haircut. “It will be fun,” they said. “It will look great on you,” they said.

My favorite mug lay shattered on the ground in a bazillion pieces.

I know I’m being dramatic, but that’s kind of how I felt for at least three solid minutes.  As a side note, I mean no disrespect or chiding to the woman who cuts my hair. I think she did a most excellent job, and nailed the picture I gave her to base the cut on. So after I stared dejectedly in the mirror for a couple of minutes, I gave myself a pep talk that hair grows, and it would all be okay in three to six months. Three to six months. That’s a long time. I needed a new plan, and a new plan is exactly what I came up with. I waited almost eight excruciating weeks for it to grow out a bit, and then I decided I was going to color it all. Platinum white. It would look spectacular. It would look so spectacular, I would no longer notice how much more I look like my brother. I would just be enamored by my cool hair color.

I made that appointment for Thursday. It was going to be fantastic. I could feel it. I’m not exactly sure what chemicals are used to lighten hair, but I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of hydrochloric acid and sulfur acid. Maybe a touch of gasoline. My scalp was on fire. But as my daughter used to say when she was in high school, “Beauty for pain.” I guess she was right.

After two rounds of the acid-like treatment, we learned the hard way that my hair is stubborn, and doesn’t like to lighten. So instead of the platinum white picture of perfection, I now had Ronald McDonald yellow hair with some white highlights.

I needed another plan.

I acquired something called a purple mask, which is a thick, purple cream you put into shampooed hair. You let it sit on your hair for five to ten minutes and then rinse it out. It’s supposed to tame the brassy/yellow color and restore it to platinum white. I packed it with the things I was taking to the boat this weekend, and headed to Door County. This morning, after my shower, I used the purple people eater cream, as directed, and busied myself for approximately seven and a half minutes. During which time, one of the marina dockhands stopped by with a question.

[look askance]

A few minutes after that embarrassing moment, Siri kindly told me it was time to rinse it out. I did so with optimism, and then ran to the mirror. I wanted to say abracadabra, presto change-o, but there were other words that made it out first. Now, instead of yellow hair with white highlights, I had yellow hair with purple highlights. No pictures this weekend, please.

One of the things I appreciate about God, besides His sense of humor, is His ability to show Himself in all the things around us. Hair is no exception. Here’s the moral of this story.

Sometimes, you just need to let your hair grow. Things happen in life that aren’t always pleasant, and we can’t fast forward our way through them. Sometimes, we just need to be patient within our present circumstances, while God is growing the things we are praying for. Trying to interfere and speed up the natural process can make the situation worse than before. And using purple people eater cream may only make you want to hide more. I should know.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

Trust in God’s plan, and be patient. Just let your hair grow. 

Be blessed,
C.K.

Forget the Former Things

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

We all have expectations and desires for our tomorrows, but we sometimes allow our yesterdays to get in the way. No matter what your current situation in life, I pray this leaves you excited about the great things our God has waiting for you, as well as a changed perspective about where you’ve been. I’m excited to look with you in Isaiah, where we’ll learn about the amazing power of transformation available to us, and how God encourages us to keep our eye on the prize.

Visualize a wasteland. Webster defines this as “an ugly often devastated or barely inhabitable place or area.” Imagine what would happen if a stream of fresh, clean water is planted right in the middle of that wasteland. Over time, the ground around it begins to absorb the water. As the water spreads farther into the ground, it’s the catalyst for new life. Slowly, the seeds that once fell on hard and dry soil now have soft dirt to cultivate in. In a matter of time, what was once ugly and barren is full of lush, green life. When you choose to call God the Lord of your life, you are choosing life itself. You are allowing His living water to be deposited into the deepest part of you.

Let’s look to a common scientific principle – water was meant to flow. As you read His Word and spend time with Him, increasing your understanding of who God is and His will for you, that repository of water begins to flow, not only into every part of you but, into the lives of those around you. That water changes you. It changes your heart and transforms your mind (Romans 12:2). Transforming your mind and heart will transform your life. 

What prevents us from embracing the change and walking in transformation? Often times, it’s because we’re too busy dwelling on our past. You know the phrase, “the best predictor of the future is the past.” There’s usually no shortage of people reminding us of our mistakes and shortcomings. After hearing these messages enough times, we begin to believe the limitations others set for us.

God takes a different approach on things. He’s telling us to forget the former things. One of the amazing gifts afforded to us through our relationship with Christ is the ability to wipe our slates clean. If you’re in doubt, look at Paul’s story (Acts 9), and the amazing works he was able to do for Christ afterthe years he spent murdering Christians. I sometimes wonder what self-deprecating thoughts Paul had to overcome after his own transformation. How many times did he have to tell himself God was bigger than his murderous rampage of the brothers that were now his?

I’m not saying it’s easy to forget our past, but we must reconcile the misgiving that our failures make us unworthy. Sweet One, our being human makes us unworthy, but the power of Christ’s death and resurrection created a way for us to forget the former things and set ourselves on a new path.

Don’t let Satan use your past as a means to limit your future.

Understand our mistakes only serve to glorify the One who can make all things new (Romans 8:28-30). I believe this glory comes in two forms. The first is simple – Jesus saves. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done – there isn’t anything the cross didn’t overcome. When Jesus hung on that cross, bloody and beaten, he bore the pain and shame of every sin ever committed and yet to be committed. Nothing was forgotten. No one was forgotten.

The second form of glory is more subjective, but equally valuable – your story. Think of survivor stories and how individuals use those to inspire and motivate others. In our Christian walks, it’s vital for us to relate to others in a way that makes faith real and even tangible. We do this through sharing our stories and triumphs of overcoming sin and hardship. People need to know and believe we’ve walked in their shoes before they will trust what we say to them.

Being real about who we were before Christ transformed us, and the ways we fall on our face amidst our Christian walks today, serves to fortify the hope available for those who choose to believe.

Dwelling on your past will lead you back to a drought. Don’t forget the lessons in them, but don’t let your past limit your future. We serve an amazing God – able to do immeasurably more than we could possibly ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If God believes you can, shouldn’t you?

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31, 37-39

Be blessed,
C.K.

Extreme Home Makeover

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

Do you remember the old ABC hit show, Extreme Home Makeover? Ty Pennington and his team would travel the nation, rebuilding the homes of people whose lives had been marked with struggle, illness, or the death of their loved ones. The families would be excursioned off for a week while the makeover team demolished what was there and put something incredibly beautiful in its place.

As Christians, we should take inventory of our spiritual houses. When you stand at a central point looking at the walls around you, what do you see? Do you see a clean and beautiful structure or do you see cracked walls and rotting boards? What in your spiritual house needs to be demolished and rebuilt?

What was the pinnacle or turning point in the lives of the families on this show? They either asked for help or someone close to them made a plea on their behalf. Sound familiar? I hope so, because this, my friend, is prayer. Whether you’re crying out to God for help, or someone who loves you is interceding for you, God hears the prayers of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

Some of us have developed in our spiritual maturity, and just need God to come in and renovate a few problematic rooms. However, sometimes we have too much damage for mere renovation. Our walls might be crumbling and, just as we can’t pour new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17), God won’t build a new home on top of a foundation that’s damaged. In these situations, we find ourselves surrendered and requiring all the trust we can muster as the walls are brought down around us.

Sweet one, I know all too well how frightening this can be. There was a point in my life when everything seemed to be crumbling down around me. Anything and everything that held significance to me seemed to get ripped away in some fashion. As I mentally and emotionally walked through the rubble, tears streaming over the broken items, it was then God picked me up and held me in His arms. He pulled me far enough away so my focus was no longer on the broken pieces, but on the crew that was waiting in the distance to clear away the rubble and rebuild. What I first thought was demise was, in reality, the hope for something better.

I love to redecorate rooms. I love finding one unique item and patterning everything else around it as a compliment. We all have rooms that need a little redecorating. As you allow God into those rooms, He places His Son Jesus inside as the unique centerpiece. Over time, He develops and adds pieces of your character that compliment your centerpiece. This is a life-long process that should never be stagnant.

If you were having guests over, would you be quick to make sure it’s clean? With your spiritual home, every time you interact with people, you’re inviting them into an open house. If it’s less than what God desires, I’d encourage you to see your cracks as opportunities to grow.

Take heart, for help is on the way! When you surrender your spiritual house to the Almighty Designer, He will come in and transform you room by room, until what’s left is your palace (Hebrews 11:10).

I’ll leave you with one more thought. Why did the families on Extreme Home Makeover trust the crew? They were familiar with the show and had seen the results time and time again. If these families can put their homes into the hands of a crew that existed for only a few years, then certainly, you and I can put our homes in the hands of an infinitely-existing, all-knowing, ever-present God, whose record of victories existed before time began.

Be blessed,
C.K.

Are You Struggling to Heal From a Hurt?

We all have scars. Some visible. Some not so visible. Webster’s Dictionary defines a scar as “a mark remaining after injured tissue has healed.” I want to look today at a verse in Psalms and share something beautiful that I hope makes you look at your scars differently.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

Psalm 147:3

This Psalm paints a comforting picture, but there’s much more here than meets the eye.

The Hebrew word for wounds is abatstsebeth (pronounced ats-tseh’-beth), which translates to “pain, wound, sorrow, affliction, grievance.” Pretty straight forward, right? I think we can all relate. But what I was struck by was the Hebrew word for binds, which is chabash. It means “to bind, wrap around, cover, envelope, enclose.” I hope that gave you the same goose bumps it gave me. When we’re hurting about something, it’s God’s desire to envelope us. He wraps His strong, faithful and able arms around us and provides not only comfort, but a cover of protection. When we allow God into a situation that’s causing us pain, God can so infiltrate our hearts and minds in that matter that He literally envelopes that pain and forms what you might say is scar tissue – He is, in essence, binding the wound.

I don’t believe God intended for scars to have a negative connotation. You see, scars don’t hurt – wounds do. If you have something that’s still painful, that means it hasn’t fully healed.

When I was six, I was attacked by a German Shepard, and ended up with 186 stitches in my face and neck. Most of the wounds healed beautifully, except for a large one extending upward from the right side of my upper lip. I was very insecure about it as a teenager. One day, a boy I had a crush on made fun of it, and I went home crying and felt completely devastated and ugly. I should mention that German Shepard was our dog. He was well trained but, for reasons unknown, snapped at the time of the incident – something I’m quite sure my dad felt beyond horrible about. I share this, because, after I came home that day feeling broken, I’m certain it’s the reason he offered to take me to a cosmetic surgeon to see about getting it removed. This would be an elective procedure and not at all in their budget.

We went to that surgeon for a consultation, and he explained how he would cut out the scar and re-stitch it so it wasn’t nearly as visible. Once I got home, I can still vividly remember sitting on my bed and feeling an immense sense of comfort. I don’t think I realized it was God speaking to me at the time, but after that moment, I went to my dad and said, “Dad, I really appreciate you being willing to do this for me, but this scar is a part of who I am and a part of my story. And if some boy thinks it makes me ugly, then that boy isn’t the right boy for me.” I can’t explain how such mature words came out of me, outside of God binding my wound. Today, I don’t even see that scar anymore, and if I do happen to notice it, I have zero hurt associated with it. To me, it’s as distinctive as my green eyes. It’s just part of what makes up my face.

Scars are merely the evidence of once existing wounds, each with their own, unique story to tell. Your scars are not for you. They are for someone else to touch, to see that you made it through – to encourage them and strengthen them to know that they too can persevere (2 Cor 1:4). So, the next time you find yourself encouraging someone else through a situation that you yourself once passed through, remember to praise God for your scars. They are evidence of His Glory.

Be blessed,
C.K.

*A special thanks to one of my readers for the topic request.

References:
Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Merriam-Webster.com. 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com(April 2019).

Hebrew translations are taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: New American Standard Bible. 1995. Updated ed. La Habra: Lockman Foundation. http://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/strongs-exhaustive-concordance/.