Friday, February 27, 2015


“What, what would have become of me had I not believed to see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage, and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait and hope for and expect the Lord.” ‒Psalm 27:13 & 14

Perhaps you are very familiar with the last two verses of Psalm 27. They are one of many go-to passages for people under trial, who are hoping and waiting for relief. The rendition above is a little different though. It is from the Amplified Bible[i]

I really love this version of the Bible, because it gives such rich meaning to many of my favorite passages. As I meditated this morning on Psalm 27:13 and 14, I thought about how we are to get to that place where we are brave, of good courage, where our heart is stout and enduring. I have never considered myself brave, and often lacked courage in many areas of my life before I knew Christ. The reason I was so fearful is because I was relying on my own strength and abilities to accomplish the things I felt inadequate for, and to deal with the people of whom I was afraid. Since Christ has begun to live in me, I have learned to let Him take over for me in fearful situations. Passages like this one give me great courage. I do often wonder what would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness here, in my earthly lifetime. He has taught me to see many good and perfect gifts (James 1:17) in the trials and tests He sends, and as I have relied on Him to help me through them, I have become more brave. I'm not intimidated by very many people any more, and I am usually quite bold in defending my faith.

The second verse in this passage is especially encouraging in this Amplified Version. Here, the Psalmist tells us we are to wait, and hope for, and expect the Lord. When we do this, we will be brave and of good courage, and our hearts will be stout and enduring. There is a difference between waiting, and hopeful, expectant waiting. When we are waiting for something of which we don’t know the outcome (it may or may not happen, and it may or may not be good), we can be anxious, nervous, or full of dread. When we are waiting for something good, and it is a sure thing, we wait with eager anticipation. So, if we are waiting in expectation that the Lord is going to work in our situation, we don't have to be fearful. We can be brave and courageous, with stout-hearted endurance, because His presence and strength in the trial are a sure thing.

No matter what we are going through, we can be sure that the Lord will make us brave. John 16:33, in the Amplified Bible, says:

“In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer—take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted—for I have overcome the world. –I have deprived it of power to harm, and have conquered it for you.”  

Did you catch that last line? Jesus Christ has deprived the world of power to harm me, because He has conquered it for me. A conquered enemy is a powerless enemy. This world can do many things to challenge our strength and courage. It can bring illness, pain, persecution, and struggle. But it can never take away our position in Christ. That is a finished work (John 19:30).

Tribulation, trials, distress and frustration are all a sure thing in this life. But Jesus says that we are to be of good cheer, confident, courageous, and undaunted. Sound familiar? It sounds a lot like “brave, of good courage, stout and enduring.” That’s because the same God who bolstered David’s courage is the One who is speaking in the John 16 passage! Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) is the one from whom both David’s readers and Jesus’ listeners (you and I) are to get our courage!

Hundreds of years passed between David and Christ, and thousands of years have passed since Christ went to be with the Father. But no matter how much time passes, or how many changes we must meet, we can be brave because our loving heavenly Father has overcome and conquered the world for us. Because of this, we can bravely wait, with eager expectation, for Him to fulfill His good plan for us. Hallelujah! What courage! What a Savior!

[i] “The Amplified Bible (AMP) was the first Bible project of The Lockman Foundation. It attempts to take both word meaning and context into account to accurately translate the original text from one language into another. The Amplified Bible does this through the use of explanatory alternate readings and amplifications to assist the reader in understanding what Scripture really says. Multiple English word equivalents to each key Hebrew and Greek word clarify and amplify meanings that may otherwise have been concealed by the traditional translation method.” (From Bible Gateway)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Competent to Counsel

Compassionate, sympathetic, dependent, broken. These are words that describe most of the believers I know who suffer with chronic pain or disability. Because they suffer, they are able to relate to others who are suffering, and encourage them with the comfort they have received from God in their suffering. Interestingly, those first four words above also describe disciplers, or what some would call counselors. Broken people who know that they are dependent on God for everything are usually compassionate and sympathetic. Does this describe you? Have you ever thought of becoming a discipler or counselor in your own community?

Even if you do not want to do “formal” counseling, but would like to learn more about how to disciple others who come to you with their trials, some training can greatly improve you effectiveness with those you are mentoring. Romans 14:15 says,  “But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” So the Lord has told us that we are able to instruct, or counsel one another. Training in biblical counseling will help you to express the truths you have learned in a way that will get to the heart of the person you’re trying to help, and make your encouragement more effective.

Learning specific methods for comforting others with the comfort you have received can even help you to comfort and encourage yourself on difficult days. I can attest to this! I finished my certification last year, and I can honestly tell you that I am a different Christian than I was before my training. I have known and understood the Scriptures for most of my adult life, but what I learned in my counseling training helped me to apply those truths in ways I would never have come up with on my own. I especially learned how to ask good questions that get to the heart of the problem. Now, I ask myself these same questions whenever I begin to feel my own attitude going downhill. Much of what I’ve written on this blog is the result of asking myself good questions to redirect my thoughts whenever they are circling the drain.

So, have I convinced you yet to explore the possibility of getting some training? Good! Now, I want to tell you about an exciting opportunity for you to receive excellent training in biblical counseling. I believe this will appeal to you especially, as one who suffers from health problems or disability. Even if you have thought about getting training in biblical counseling, it can be difficult to sit through classes when every joint aches, and it is very frustrating to have to miss classes because of pain or exhaustion. Reigning Grace Counseling Center, where I was trained, now offers that same training online! The program is done 100% through the internet. There is no traveling or sitting for long hours in a classroom, and you can do the training at your own pace. If you’d like to learn more about it, visit their website at, or if you’d like a small sample of the program, go to

Nothing will get your mind off yourself like preparing to minister to someone else! Won’t you prayerfully consider this opportunity? I honestly do not know how I would be handling my condition now if it hadn’t been for the Reigning Grace Counseling Center training program. I learned so much about my own heart, and why I respond to trials the way I do. I gained an understanding of how my thoughts fuel my feelings and actions, and how to take those thoughts captive to Christ. I have learned to use my physical condition as a springboard for many discipling opportunities, both in and out of the counseling room. Since I started counseling, I have not become stuck in self-pity or depression, because I am constantly studying the Scriptures so that I can encourage that next counselee. Daily, I am amazed by the universal application of Scripture. No matter what someone is dealing with, there is a passage or principle of Scripture that applies to that situation.

Friend, there are so many believers who are suffering right now. They need the hand of someone a little further down the road of suffering to reach back and help them along. Could that be you? I hope you will prayerfully consider this opportunity to learn and grow. You will never regret learning how to come alongside a suffering sister and show her how to reach a place of peace and contentment in her heart, regardless of her circumstances. Our Lord is a mighty Redeemer. Perhaps He wants to redeem your pain and suffering by using it to encourage the sons and daughters of His kingdom!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

NOW How Much Would You Pay?

Have you ever seen one of those commercials promoting some fantastic new gadget for a ridiculously “low price?” The one I remember best is the Ginsu Knife. I remember the announcer’s voice like I heard it yesterday: “It slices, it dices…” What kept you tuned in was the fact that they didn’t tell the price. As they extolled each virtue of the product, they would interject the phrase, “But wait, there’s more!” after which they would show you another amazing aspect of the gadget. Following that, they would say, “NOW how much would you pay?” followed by yet another glorious attribute of this fantastic product, and so on. By the end of the commercial, the viewer would be convinced that the knife was worth much more than the “three low payments of $9.99 plus shipping and handling,” and would rush to the phone to make that call.

This commercial came to my mind as I read 2 Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 this morning.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. –2 Corinthians 2: 3 & 4

The phrase, “NOW how much would you pay?” echoed especially loudly in my mind, as I thought about how our suffering enables us to comfort and encourage other sufferers. This passage tells us that, as we suffer, God comforts us and, because God comforts us in our suffering, we are able to comfort others with the same love and comfort we receive from Him! What an honor to be a comforter who has been trained by the ultimate Giver of Mercy!

But what does this have to do with my Ginsu knife illustration? Well, I’ll answer that question by asking another one: What is the price of this comforter training? According to this passage, it is suffering. But how much suffering will be required? Can I get my training for the low price of just three easy troubles and be done with it? Well, maybe. But it seems to me that the level of expertise in comforting is directly correlated with the intensity and response to suffering. Those who have suffered much, responded biblically, and been comforted by God seem to be better comforters than those who have been spared such suffering, or consistently responded with self-pity, anger or bitterness.

We do not become comforters by taking a special training course or reading books. Even a thorough knowledge of the Bible won't do the whole job of making us merciful comforters. It is God’s comfort in our suffering that teaches us mercy, compassion, kindness, and wise words of encouragement. I have had excellent training in biblical counseling, and have learned a great deal about the mechanics of counseling and the process of biblical heart change. But it is the comfort and mercy of God that I experience in my suffering that gives me my passion for comforting others. Because I have suffered, those that I counsel know that I speak from experience. But more importantly, because I have been comforted with the comfort of God, I know that there is hope, and because He has spoken to me so clearly through His Word, I know how to encourage others with it.

So, how much would you pay to gain the ability to reflect the comfort of the Lord onto a broken and hurting sister? You could be used of God to change someone’s life! Now how much would you pay? But wait, there’s more! You could share your testimony of suffering with a whole room full of people, who would then go out and share that with someone they know, doubling that encouragement! NOW how much would you pay? But wait. There’s more! You could hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” from your creator when you meet him! There is no price too high for that kind of commendation, especially when you consider the price He paid to be your eternal comforter. I’d like you to take a moment and think about your own suffering. How has the Lord used it in your life? How are you responding to your trial? Are you responding in such a way that you are becoming a better comforter? Or are you moving away from the model of Christ, and more toward your own natural response?

I never bought a Ginsu knife because when I did the math, those three easy payments plus shipping and handling seemed way too high for a knife. But then I used a friend’s Ginsu, and was highly impressed with its sharpness and precision in cutting, and thought maybe it really was worth that price after all. As I think back on my suffering, and the skill in counseling I've gained, I would say it was worth the price. None of the payments were small or easy, but I do believe the price was fair, considering the price He paid for my training. And I hope that those who come to me for comfort will agree, and want to buy what I’m selling: The sweet comfort of the mercy of God in the midst of trial.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Forward, March!

Are there certain seasons of the year that are harder for you than others, as you deal with physical limitations? For me, the hardest is spring. The battle against my flesh is most difficult as the weather warms up, because my friends are dusting off their walking shoes and getting ready to go out and enjoy the hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities they love. This time of year always makes me long for things to be how they used to be, when my body worked as it was made to, and I could join my friends and family in their warm-weather pursuits. My memories of trails and walking paths are bittersweet, and springtime intensifies the emotions around those memories.

I have friends who struggle “seasonally” too, who don’t have physical issues. One is a single mom, whose hardest season is Christmas time. As her friends make plans with their husbands and families, she is often left alone with her kiddos, struggling to make the holiday season meaningful for them, as she mourns the loss of her marriage and the breakup of her family. Being a single mom is hard all year round, as is pain and disability. But, regardless of your particular challenge, some seasons will always be harder than others.

It seems we all have a time of year that is especially difficult. Maybe the time around the anniversary of the death of a loved one is especially painful; or, if your disability is due to an accident, you may have more trouble fighting off ungodly emotions when that anniversary rolls around. Whatever the issue, the question for us should not be, “How will I deal with that dreadful time,” but “What is the biblical response to this pattern?” I believe the best way to ease the pain of these seasons of despair is to be prepared for the battle.

No army commander, knowing the date of an attack, would just sit back dreading it and hoping for the best—at least no successful one! The same holds true for us. If we know that a particularly difficult season is coming, we should prepare for it. The battlefield is inside our own hearts and heads, so that is where we should begin to prepare.

But how do we get ourselves ready for a successful defense against our own emotions? Well, we begin by training our thinking. As an example, I’ll share with you a scenario that has been typical for me in recent springs: As I begin to see my neighbors out walking with their children, I recall the many wonderful days I spent walking and exploring with my own children. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about happy memories. The problem comes with the shift from thoughts of happy memories to feelings of sadness and despair that I will probably never do those things again. Next comes regret, mixed with anger and bitterness at myself and all the medical people who betrayed my trust. Before I know it, I’ve drawn the curtains on a beautiful spring day and curled up on the couch in tears!

My dear friend, you and I must train our thinking to avoid this! One thing I have found to be true, both in myself and my counselees, is that when we have not trained our minds biblically, we go from a thinking orientation to a feelings orientation very quickly. Notice how easily I slipped from thoughts of happy times with my children to feelings of regret and sadness. Once feelings take over, reason fades quickly and we begin to believe lies. In the example above, as soon as I began to be led by my feelings, I told myself I will never do those things again. This is a lie. How can I know that I will never do those things again? How do I know that the Lord will not heal me, or give science a new innovation to help or even completely cure my physical issue? Even if that doesn’t happen here on earth, I know that I will walk, run, and do all sorts of things in heaven. So, my sad feelings led me to believe and claim something that simply is not true.

This feelings-oriented heart is very prone to sin. Anger, bitterness and despair are never far off when feelings take over. These sinful attitudes are a direct result of unbiblical thinking. So, what can you and I do to prepare for these difficult seasons of our lives? It is mid-February as I write this, and today is an unseasonably warm, sunny day. As I drove home from a painful therapy session, I passed a runner on the street who was happily jogging along to whatever music was in her earphones. She looked to be about my age, and I started to have those regretful, envious, sad thoughts with which I’m sure you are familiar. And I knew that now is the time to begin to prepare my heart for spring.

I must begin now to plan my thinking when these moments come up, so I won’t be caught off guard. What will I think about at times like this? Two things come to mind: Gratitude and love. When I am tempted to be sad or jealous this spring, I will thank the Lord for the many years of excellent health I enjoyed. I will thank Him for all the provisions He has made for me through these last four years of struggle. I will thank Him for the beauty of spring, for the warmer temperatures that thaw my painful joints, and for the New Life in my heart that is symbolized in the tulip buds and green grass. In love, I will pray for that runner. Maybe she doesn’t know the Lord. If that is the case, she is in much worse shape on her best day, than I am on my worst. I will reach out to someone who is suffering more than I. Perhaps I’ll go and take my wheelchair-bound friend to the park to watch the children play, and help her with her spring thinking. Whatever I choose to do, I know that gratitude and love can overcome sadness and despair any time of the year.

What is your “season of despair?” As it approaches, march your thoughts to biblical boot camp and retrain them! You will find that difficult time to be much more bearable, and maybe even enjoyable, when you are prepared for it. Spring will be here before I know it, but this year I am planning a great victory! The lilacs and roses won’t be the only sweet smells in my neighborhood! As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:14, "Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Let's Go Camping!

 Are you in unfamiliar territory today? Is there a new pain or symptom that has you anxious, and fearful of the unknown? Perhaps you sense a flare-up of a chronic condition, and you dread the suffering it will bring. Maybe you've finally gotten to a place of peace with your disability as your “new normal,” and lately it seems worse. How will you manage? How will you get through it if your condition decides to rev up its attack on your body? All these thoughts and fears can lead to anxiety if we are not careful with our thinking. It is vital that we think biblically in these moments.

Psalm 34 is one of my favorite Psalms of David. The subtitle says that it was written “when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away.” According to my study Bible, “Abimelech” is a term for a king or royalty. David had already run away from Saul, who was trying to kill him. He ran to King Achish of the Philistines, but Achish, knowing that David was a great warrior and king, wanted nothing to do with him. So, having run in terror from one frightening enemy, David found himself in the hands of another threat. As we battle our bodies, we may find ourselves in a similar place emotionally. Just when we think we've escaped one terror, we find ourselves in another; only this time, we may be in unfamiliar territory. If we are dealing with something new, we may have no idea how to proceed.  

As I read Psalm 34, I thought of how crazy I get sometimes, dealing with the ups and downs of chronic pain. No need to pretend here! I often feel like I will lose my mind if one more thing happens! I wonder if David was a little crazy himself. Maybe it wasn't such a stretch for him to convince those people that he was crazy. Fear can do that to a person, and that is what David was: A person, just like you and me. If David actually did go insane, it must have been only for a moment, because when it was all over and he sat down to pen this Psalm, he wrote:

"I sought the LORD, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears."

David had a lot to be afraid of, but he says that the Lord delivered him from ALL his fears! Note that he doesn't say that the Lord delivered him from the things he was afraid of. He had many frightening dealings with Saul and others (1 Samuel 17,18 & 19). God did not remove David’s fearful enemies, but David knew that He was able to deliver him from the fear of those things. Like David, we may be tempted to fear the powerful forces that threaten us, but we do not have to give in to that fear. The Lord can take the teeth out of the scariest of beasts, and give us peace as we face the trial.

David spent much time in strange lands over the course of his life. He was often in danger unfamiliar territory, and we who suffer trials can glean much encouragement from his writing:

"The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them."

I love that word, "encamps". Our God knows that we are in unfamiliar territory wherever we go in this world, and that includes new pain, new symptoms, and new disease. No matter where this trial takes us, he will pull up stakes and go with us. In fact, our awesome God goes BEFORE us in this wilderness journey (Deut. 31:8)! We are always "camping" in this world, because it is not our home. But He is especially attentive to us when we are hurting, broken, or fearful along the way (Hebrews 4:16; 9:9; 23:4; 46:1-3; 119:50; 120:1 Psalm 147:3).

So, my dear suffering friend, rest assured that your God is near to you wherever you are. I have a friend who winters in a warmer state, and found out just after arriving there that she had an aggressive cancer and would have to begin her treatment there. She is far from her home and her church, but not from her God! She sends us frequent praise reports about how faithful and good God has been to her. She is an inspiration to me—in fact, she inspired this blog post! I hope that you and I, as we face various threats to our physical bodies, can imitate David and my friend by trusting God and sharing with others His blessings and goodness. The territory may be new and unfamiliar, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!