Recently in the car, one of my kids asked a question from a conversation starter app: “If you could go back 10 years, what would you change and why?” Now, my kids each answered quickly. Some of their answers were serious; others were humorous, like when my 7 year old realized that he wasn’t even born 10 years ago.
But it finally arrived to my answer. Now, a year ago, I would have had a fast answer with a list of things I would have changed to avoid pain and trials. But this day, I only replied that I would not change anything. My kids were shocked. “But Mom, what about this? What about that?”
You see, we have been through some challenging painful stuff and I used to often wish out loud to change the things of the past. My kids knew the list well. But God has taught me this past year some vital truths about trusting Him. I explained to my stunned car load that God had planned these events and they are for my good. Each step of the last three years has led me to be more humble, to rely on Christ, and to have more compassion for those around me. These lessons were taught in a way that was hard and often painful, but vital for my growth in Christ and dying to self. I have learned (and am still learning) to trust God with my life - whether easy or hard.
Maybe you are going through something super hard. Maybe it is a path that you didn’t want to walk, maybe it is due to health issues, marriage or work challenges. Maybe it is unknown - private - secret - embarrassing. Whatever challenges you are going through, I have one word to encourage you
Yep, immerse yourself. There have been three ways that I have immersed myself over the past few years and I see God’s blessings even if my circumstances have not changed.
Immerse Yourself in God's Word
Soak it up! The Bible should be your focal point, your foundation and your daily bread. We NEED to read daily. But amazingly, it is one of the first habits that I want to drop when things are going poorly in my life. Yet, reading and praying daily are actually what makes my heart rest and guides my questioning mind. I am so thankful for a group of ladies who have been reading and keeping me accountable to read for the past ten years. The group has changed and morphed over time. Some people have left to start new groups while others have just joined me this year. It has changed modes from emailing to texting. But these ladies have kept me reading. They have helped me with one simple truth: read your Bible everyday.
When I didn’t want to read because I was unhappy with God’s plans for my life, I did it anyway. When I was angry with God or upset with another person, I read anyway. Honestly? There were some days when I read to check it off my app so I wouldn’t lose my “streak”. Some days, I started with a hard heart and then God softened my heart to His will. He kindly showed me MY sin of a lack of faith in Him and where I needed to trust. The Bible reminds me in Proverbs 16:9 that man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. God had a plan for my steps and I needed this reminder …. daily!
Recently in my Bible reading plan, I came to 1 Chronicles 1-4. Uggh! It is just a list of names of which most I can’t even pronounce. But before I read, I asked God to show me a truth that day to cling to and He faithfully did! He reminded me that He cared enough to know each person’s name and have them listed. WOW! I was so blessed to remember that God knows my name, my husband’s name, my children’s names . . . He knows MY name. That is so encouraging. I am not forgotten. God knows my name, and even more, He knows my circumstances. He knows your name and your circumstances! What a way to immerse myself that day! It is a much better way to start my day than even my favorite cup of coffee. Okay, well, coffee helps, too!
Immerse Yourself in Today
When we are going through hard things, we can easily get self-focused. Because my heart and mind had become so focused on me, I need a new view. It is kind of like standing on a mountain top. Everything looks different from a different perspective. It is easy to start to thinking about what we are missing, what God’s has NOT given us and sometimes, what we think we deserve. Sometimes I think about how God should have changed my past or longingly look to the future towards what I think will be easier. I start to compare my life to someone else and easily become discouraged and irritated. When I do this, I don’t live for today. I must live for God’s glory today. Psalm 86:12 tells me, “ “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” Forever starts today.
So what does that look like practically?
- First, trust God in your situations and rely on Him only. Isaiah 26:4 tells me to Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Yep, He is a rock. . . MY rock. My situations didn’t change, but neither did my God.
- Second, be thankful. Start memorizing a few verses on being thankful! Make lists. Oh, how I love lists!! Make lists often. When I start writing things I can thank God for, I am always amazed at the endlessness of this list.
- Then, celebrate and be involved in each day. God has given us today to use for His glory. Do good works that honor Him. Serve God by serving others both formally and informally. Take your kids to the park. Make your husband’s favorite dessert. Make a pan of brownies to take to work - to share, of course! Visit a lonely friend. Write a note or text of encouragement to someone who needs it. Make it your goal daily to do ‘good works’ for those around you. Be sure to give glory to God for your ability to serve others.
Immerse Yourself in Your Church
It is easy when we are facing hard things to stop going to church. And that is exactly what the enemy wants us to do! Yet, God designed the church and calls us to fellowship with other believers. So we must be involved especially when we are walking through dark days. So go. Go weekly to Sunday services and Sunday School. Attend events like picnics or concerts. Serve in the children’s ministry or with the youth. My mom always taught me to be involved in the church. My dad used to say that we were there every time the doors were open. Perhaps he said that with some sarcasm. But looking back, this kept me often from sin and life's problems. Listen to those in authority and be blessed by faithful attendance for your future generations.
I remember a dark Sunday a few years ago when I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to worship or even think of God. I was angry that He had not answered my prayers exactly as I asked. But I knew this simple truth from childhood--to just go anyway. So I donned my dress, grabbed my Bible and headed off to church. My attitude that Sunday was not good. But I went. I heard God’s Word preached and my heart softened… a little bit. And guess what? Over time, it softened a whole bunch. God used the words each Sunday whether in Sunday School, worship service or Bible study to change my hard, stubborn heart.
Even a friend’s comments that morning in the church building overwhelmed my sinful, hard heart! I shared my sorrow over my situation. She cried with me and challenged me to “trust God”. She didn’t know my personal pain, but she shared her own pain. I was a bit surprised at her vulnerability. But I was so thankful because it helped me to see that I was not alone in these challenges. Satan wanted me to think I was the ONLY ONE going through a tough situation. Yet, God opened my eyes to see that each woman has challenges that have her name on them and He gives them to her for her good.
Are you going through something hard? Immerse yourself.
Immerse yourself in God’s Word. Immerse yourself in today. Immerse yourself in the Church.
Guest author Julie Van Wormer immerses herself in life. Whether she's walking through a local Metropark, enjoying the Toledo art museum, eating her husband's "famous" popcorn with her family around the fire pit, or reading a good book Julie throws herself into it. She is very active in the body of Christ the Word, most recently in the role of coordinating the annual women's conference, re:garding Him.