Hope for the the Future by Remembering the Past

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My siblings and me (in the diaper), circa 1961.

When you’re faced with your new struggle-problem-crisis of the week, what’s the first thing that runs through your mind? Where can I find some chocolate? How fast can I book a flight to Cabo? Why do these things always happen to me? We all have our go-to tapes we hit “play” when we’re interrupted with the inevitable issues of life.

We talked about this at our home bible study group this past Thursday night. We were reading the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, where Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, were left penniless after both their husbands died. In that culture, a woman with no husband or family to provide for her was in a precarious situation. Naomi felt like God’s hand was against her and changed her name to “Mara,” meaning bitter, because of the hopelessness of her heart.

What do we do when life seems hopeless, or at the very least, difficult?

When life is not awesome, I try to remember two things:

  1. A biblical story that mirrors my own situation, and remember what God did to help.
  2. A time in my own past where God rescued me (or a family member).

God’s word is full of stories of real people who faced real problems that are real similar to ours.

The Bible is a constant source of hope to me that God is involved in my life and has solutions that are infinitely more creative than anything I could dream up. In the story of Ruth, a distant family member of Naomi’s named Boaz comes to their rescue, marries Ruth, takes Naomi in, and redeems their hopeless situation. Boaz and Ruth have a baby who eventually becomes the grandfather of King David, and they live happily ever after.

Like Naomi, when I’m in a crisis, too often I can just look at my circumstances and get bitter. Because I can’t see how it will work out, I can doubt God. And if I get stuck there, I miss the story of redemption He’s writing.

In the picture above, taken in the same year that John F. Kennedy took office, are five of six kids. (The last, my brother Jeff, arrived a year later.) As siblings raised by a mother who loved Jesus, we all have stories of challenges, rescues from death, and blessings that I often refer back to as evidence of God’s faithfulness. Susan, the oldest who is looking down at me in the picture, has a story of God’s mercies in illness even as He led her home to heaven after battling breast cancer. She was the first to see Jesus face-to-face, and I know she looks down on me even today.

Bill and I have amassed volumes of our own stories of God’s faithfulness in crises. (I’ll make a plug for journaling here–it’s one of the best ways to remember the details of your history!) And when a new crisis presents itself, all I need to do is remember. Remember God’s faithfulness in the past. It gives me hope for the future.

What about you? What situation are you in now, where remembering God’s help in your past, (or someone else’s past), would renew your hope?

“Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:12

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Sex and the Bible: 2 Secrets to Help You (and Your Marriage) Weather a Crisis

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You’ve just been hit by a train, or what feels like a train: a serious medical diagnosis, a job loss, a kid that keeps you up all night with worry, maybe even something as devastating as the death of someone close to you. Besides the urgent list of things you need to do, what is going to help you weather this crisis?

If you’re married, sex with your spouse.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Something they never tell you in pre-marital counseling, or in most of the marriage books I’ve read, is the comforting value, the emotional glue, that being intimate with your spouse provides in times of crisis or grief. Sex = Comfort.

The first thing we might cross off our list—okay, maybe just me—when we’re stressed beyond rational thought, is actually the gift that can help us step back from the ledge. (There’s a biblical precedent for this, just to confirm I’m not making this up.)

Being close with your spouse reminds you that you’re a team; you’ll get through this setback together.

What else can help?

Spend time reading the Bible and praying together.

Bill and I didn’t always read the Bible and pray together. But somewhere along the line in our 34 years we started to sit down together for about 15 minutes before we begin each day. It’s not a big ordeal—we read a chapter of whatever book we’re in, and then pray. This prayer doesn’t have to be an oratory in King James English, nor does it need to be long-winded. We just get to the point and talk the same way we write on Facebook–or Twitter. Less is more.

Each day Bill and I pray for one of our children and their families. Then we pray for each other, whatever is going on that day, and whatever crisis we’re dealing with. We also pray for others in tough situations–it helps us remember we’re not the only ones going through a tough time–we’re in good company.

Praying together has provided us with an intangible comfort just by listening to one another share our concerns and burdens with God. We hear each other’s hearts. We have a sense of where the other is emotionally and spiritually. This engenders trust and reassures us we’re on the same page.

Reading the Bible and praying together has kept Bill and I connected to God and each other in each crisis we’ve gone through.* And trust me, there’ve been a few. Hundred.

It’s simple, but profound: Sex and the Bible. Two things that would help many marriages survive the weight of the crises that inevitably happen to all of us.

Try it. Sit down with your spouse and read a chapter of comfort from the Psalms. Then sneak off to bed and remind each other that you’ll get through this–together.

*For those of you who would like to read/pray but have an unwilling spouse, don’t get frustrated. Just pray yourself. God hears and acts. Who knows? Maybe by this time next year, things will be different. Be assured, your prayers are heard.

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Reader Survey Results

iStock_000031635048_DoubleThanks to all of you who responded to my reader survey!

Your responses helped me understand your needs, how you prefer to learn, and what I can do to improve this blog. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to give me your feedback.

Here are some things I learned about you:

  • You’re primarily women–most with college degrees.
  • Half of my readers are younger than 40, half are older.
  • You are organizers and leaders in your communities.
  • Faith is very important to you.
  • You’ve been reading my blog for awhile–some more than 2 years–and have recommended it to your friends. (Yay!)
  • You enjoy reading about faith, marriage, parenting and grief–in that order.  You’d like more posts about waiting, the transitions in life, and spiritual end-of-life discussions.
  • You like my down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is style.
  • Half prefer reading, half prefer watching video.
  • My blog posts build your faith as well as help you share it with others.
  • And…you’d like me to post more often.

Well, there you have it. Your input has already helped me narrow my focus, yet I still want this to be a place where we find God’s wisdom to help us in the big–and not-so-big–crises of our lives.

Keep that feedback coming, and if you’d like me to write about a specific topic that I haven’t yet, please shoot me an email and I’ll get it in the queue.

Thanks!

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Grief: 4 Years Later

Mom and young girl with disabilities

Annie and Mommy

 

Four years ago our seventh child, Annalee, died two weeks before her 8th birthday. Bill and I chose the verse on her headstone¹ because we believe Annie’s life was ordained and planned by God. C.S. Lewis refers to this concept in his classic book, A Grief Observed: Read More

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The First Question to Ask in a Crisis

istockphotoWhat am I going to do? is often our first question when we’re plunged into the middle of a crisis. Thinking of how many ways this sudden catastrophe is going to screw up our plans–or if horrendous enough–our lives, can be overwhelming.

Take, for instance, the crisis my mother faced when I was about eight years old. She hung up the phone Read More

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