Messy Presents: A Christmas Poem for All Seasons

We want our presents in pretty paper
All wrapped up in a shiny neat bow
We want our faith to be the same
So our doubts and struggles never show

Yet the greatest gifts aren’t neat and tidy
Like the manger birth steeped in blood
A child born like any other babe
With the addition of dirty stable mud

And Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross
After flogging caused welts and spit adorned
The bleeding brow of the King of kings
Ringed by crowds who mocked and scorned

Each trial and loss we face in life
Can draw us closer to the God we need
If we don’t bury the doubts that rise
But seek the gift each death has freed

Open the messy presents He gives
To find healing for all of life’s woes
Remember when you grieve the most
The Babe born to die for you knows

For more Christmas poetry, check out my latest poem on Anchored Voices blog. It’s called My Favorite Name.

Trials Come With Great Purpose

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NKJV

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

 Alan Redpath

“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.

Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.

This only reveals their brilliance. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.

The signs surrounding God’s nearness are available to each believer. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father.

Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.

Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you.

 

When Life Hurts You Terribly, Some Guidance

How you handle these fragile moments is pretty much key to the remainder of your life. It’s ok to feel abandoned or alone. It’s ok to be depressed. But let God know about where you’re at. I’m convinced He really wants to know.

I really hope that these thoughts might help. We face challenges and difficulties. Just maybe this post will strengthen your walk? I chose each thought purposefully and every one contains something helpful (I hope). 

These each speak wisdom as we try to understand what’s happening to us.

Quotes to Guide You Through Your Trial:

A.W. Tozer

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He’s hurt him deeply.” (Roots of Righteousness, Chapter 39)

Calvin Miller

“Hurt is the essential ingredient of ultimate Christ-likeness.” (Quoted in Christianity Today, July 2007, p41)

Larry Crabb

“Brokenness isn’t so much about how bad you’ve been hurt but how you’ve sinned in handling it.” (Christianity Today, A Shrink Gets Stretched, May 1, 2003)

“Shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece of a piece in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to first awaken, then to satisfy our highest dream.” (Shattered Dreams, 2001)

Alan Redpath

“When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him.” (Quoted by Gary Preston, Character Forged from Conflict: Staying Connected to God During Controversy. The pastor’s soul series, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1999)

Bruce Wilkinson

“Are you praying for God’s superabundant blessings and pleading that He will make you more like His Son? If so, then you are asking for the shears.” (Secrets of the Vine, 60.)

Charles Swindoll

“Someone put it this way, ‘Whoever desires to walk with God, walks right into the crucible.’ All who choose godliness live in a crucible. The tests will come.” (Moses, Great Lives from God’s Word, 285.)

“Being stripped of all substitutes is the most painful experience on earth.” (David, p70)

Elisabeth Elliot

“The surrender of our heart’s deepest longing is perhaps as close as we come to an understanding of the cross… our own experience of crucifixion, though immeasurably less than our Saviour’s nonetheless furnishes us with a chance to begin to know Him in the fellowship of His suffering. In every form of our own suffering, He calls us into that fellowship.” (Elisabeth Elliot, Quest For Love, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1996), 182.)

George MacDonald

“No words can express how much our world ‘owes’ to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were conceived in a wilderness. Most of the New Testament was written in a prison. The greatest words of God’s Scriptures have all passed through great trials. The greatest prophets have “learned in suffering what they wrote in their books.” So take comfort afflicted Christian! When our God is about to make use of a person, He allows them to go through a crucible of fire.”

Helen Keller

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Quoted in Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.)

Oswald Chambers

“God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.” (Chambers, O. (1993, c1935). My utmost for his highest : Selections for the year (September 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers.)

“No-one enters into the experience of entire sanctification without going through a ‘white funeral’ — the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crisis of death, sanctification is nothing more than a vision… Have you come to your last days really? You have come to them often in sentiment, but have you come to them really?… We skirt around the cemetery and all the time refuse to go to death… Have you had your ‘white funeral’, or are you sacredly playing the fool with your soul? Is there a place in your life marked as the last day, a place to which the memory goes back with a chastened and extraordinary grateful remembrance–’yes, it was then, at that ‘white funeral’ that I made an agreement with God.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 15, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1963).)

Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God…. If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 27, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1963.)

Charles Stanley

Does God purposefully allow suffering? “The comfortable, but theologically incorrect, answer is no. You will find many people preaching and teaching that God never sends an ill wind into a person’s life, but that position can’t be justified by Scripture. The Bible teaches that God does send adversity – but within certain parameters and always for a reason that relates to our growth, perfection, and eternal good.” (*Stanley, C. F. 1997, c1996. Advancing through adversity (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN.)

Invisible Pain

 

I posted this recently on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog. This post was inspired by a flare-up of my fibromyalgia. One of my fellow bloggers who has bipolar commented that the pain of bipolar is also a form of invisible pain. It occurred to me then that this is a perfect post for the encouragement of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.

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I didn’t want to write about fibromyalgia, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone who also struggles with invisible pain.

When someone breaks a leg, suffers a severe burn, or is covered with cuts and bruises it is easy for people to see what is wrong and to sympathize. But the pain of fibromyalgia is invisible pain. From the outside, the person suffering from the pain of fibromyalgia looks just fine, and so people don’t understand what they are going through.

It is also an unpredictable pain with no easily determinable cause or trigger. One day you feel just fine and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by a freight train. I’ve gone for months feeling fine, with very little pain, then suddenly every muscle in my body aches, and certain movements cause sharp pains in my legs, arms, and neck.

I try to figure out why.

I’ve had doctors give me conflicting theories of what causes this pain, and I have read conflicting theories as well. One doctor told me it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Another has told me it is caused by what I eat, by an inability of my muscles to process sugar that results in toxins in my muscles.

Another suggested it is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that stems from some early trauma. I had also read that there was a strong link between fibromyalgia and Epstein Bar Virus (or mononucleosis), which I had when I was in junior high. Finally, I have read that it is simply hereditary.

The pain of fibromyalgia is truly invisible.

There is no medical test that shows whether someone has fibromyalgia. There is a “tender point” test in which the doctor checks 18 designated tender points on the body and if 11 or more are tender to the touch a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. But even that test is somewhat subjective.

All my life I have felt pain in circumstances where someone else thought I shouldn’t have felt pain. I can remember saying something hurt when I was a kid only to be told, “That didn’t hurt.” This summer I experienced pain from something that didn’t seem like it should hurt. I was at my cousin’s house in Houston and his granddaughter was playing with three pine cones. She kept handing them to me to play with, but the sharp points started to really hurt my hands. I said I didn’t want to play anymore because it made my hands hurt. My sister looked at me and asked, “Does that really hurt?”

Invisible pain. It’s difficult to cope with sometimes.

But I know that Jesus knows how I feel, and that gives me a great deal of comfort. Although the pain Jesus experienced when He was scourged, beaten, and crucified was quite visible, He experienced an invisible pain, too. He experienced the pain of having the sin of the world laid upon Him and of His Father turning away as He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV).

If you struggle under the weight of invisible pain, take heart that you are not alone. Christ understands your suffering and your pain. You also have fellow Christians who understand what you are going through. The apostle Peter provided for us who suffer a wonderful encouragement in his first epistle:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV).

Satan would love to devour us in our pain, to make us fall and cease to be of use in God’s kingdom. But if we cling to Jesus, and cast all of our fears and anxiety on Him, He will help us to defeat Satan’s plans.

If you are struggling with invisible pain and feeling like you are at your wit’s end, leave me a comment and I would love to pray for you. It would be a blessing to me to be able to ask our Lord to strengthen you and give you peace and comfort so that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

ysic, Linda K.

 

 

 

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