Struggling with the New Normal

Well, this month marks the year-date of our son and his family’s move to South Dakota, 1,200 miles away. It’s our new normal. Several other “new normals” have found their way into my life. I don’t like them either, but what do you do when you can’t change circumstances that you don’t like?

We have several options. We can allow those issues to darken our days and live in misery. Sometimes, that just happens—it can’t be helped. But when misery decides to stay indefinitely, you now have another new normal that is unacceptable! We need to move on… but how?

Generally, there are five steps to the grieving process, and we can apply these to other situations as well as to the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When our son moved so far away, a part of me died—the part that enjoyed seeing them often and at every holiday. It’s dead—not going to happen. The new normal is seeing them once a year at best. So, what do I do?

  • DENIAL: I lived in denial. It sounded like this: “Well, maybe this is just temporary. Maybe they’ll move back.”
  • ANGER: Sadly, I found myself unkindly barking at my dear husband for odd reasons. Somehow, it was his fault.
  • BARGAINING: I can see how the world would do this, but it didn’t make sense to me. Bargain with whom?
  • DEPRESSION: Yep.
  • ACCEPTANCE: Getting there… very slowly!

I don’t know how the world handles grief or deals with unlikeable circumstances, but for me, there’s only one place to go—the One who handed me these new normals! He allowed me to deny the situations for a while because He is kind and good and loving. He knows my weaknesses. But the anger had to go—it is sin to take your anger out on anyone for any reason! Besides, who wants to live like that? What a way to ruin any relationship you are in! Let’s make everyone around us miserable too!

Can we bargain with God? I suppose we can speak the words but it’s fruitless. He sets up “if—then” statements in His Word, but those are promises, not bargains!  And depression… it’s inevitable at times. Depression is a natural part of life, but like anger, we can’t camp there long. It’s a dangerous place to be. Depression allows Satan to whisper all sorts of nasties into our mind like, “This isn’t fair. God isn’t fair. If God really cared for you, He’d change things. He can do that! He’s just being mean. You deserve better.” On and on it goes until you yell, “STOP!” Remember the source of those thoughts! Once you take action to stop Satan’s flow of lies, it’s time to remember: remember past victories, past joys. Go to God’s Word and read about our wonderful Savior! Read the Psalms. They are such a sweet balm for a rankled soul!

Look at these:

2 Samuel 22: 31 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.

32 For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?

33 God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.

34 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.

35 He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

36 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.

Psalm 28: 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

Psalm 37: 4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 40: 17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Psalm 54: 4 ¶ Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

Psalm 116: 6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Psalm 118: 8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

(And just in case you didn’t get it…)9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put          confidence in princes.

Isaiah 41: 10 ¶ Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Hebrews 13: 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave that to you! Go and feast on the mighty, precious promises of God!

Prisoners of War

In every war, whether here or abroad, one tragedy is universal to every battle: prisoners of war.  In each conflict, soldiers are taken, no longer in the fight, but brought to a prison where they are kept indefinitely – sometimes detained long after the war is over.  Some are treated harshly, other follow the Geneva rules of conduct in battles; but no matter the treatment, all are held against their will and are no longer fighting for the cause for which they had signed up.

The Christian’s life is as well a battle – indeed, it is the battle of the ages!  Daily, we fight a real enemy that never seems to tire.  His weapons vary, the battlefields are vast.  At times, he wins the battle, but unlike any other war, we know that he WILL be defeated!  That thought gives us the courage we need to stay in the battle.

Unfortunately, as in any other war, there are prisoners of war: those taken in the fight and held captive.  They are good soldiers.  They handled their weapon, the Bible, well.  They even had several victories, but then it happened.  The enemy closed in, our Weapon is laid aside, we run on our own strength, and we are taken – captive by our Enemy!  He holds us in his cell of despondency or unbelief.  He daily feeds us lies and shackles us with deception.  The light is dim; we cannot see.  We slump and hang our heads, defeated, discouraged and dangerously close to losing sight of the cause for which we signed up.

In a physical prison, with walls and bars and locked doors, some prisoners are able to escape the clutches of the enemy through inventive devices or well thought out plans.  As the prisoner escapes, his heart is in his throat, knowing that at any time he may be spotted and taken back.  The joy and relief are unspeakable as he crosses over into his home territory, back to the safety of the army he loves!

Unlike a physically bound prisoner of war, we have a secret weapon that will release us from the enemy’s prison.  With one simple choice of the will, the prison walls are broken down, the chains of bondage are loosed and we are free to go.  The ward of our cell can only watch as we boldly break through the doors of bondage and walk confidently into freedom.  He cannot sneer at the look of anger in our captain’s face because we took so long to choose – it is not there. All he sees is the look of unspeakable love – something he has never nor ever will see on the face of his leader!

Dear soldier, I write to you as a fellow soldier.  I plead with you to make the choice and break through the walls that Satan has built around you – walls that only you can destroy, through faith in our Captain – because of your love for our Captain.  Please look to our Savior and see Him waiting there!  Choose well, my comrade!  

 

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life;

that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier

2 Timothy 2:3,4

 

Remember when…

sch-supp3-Rockwell3.jpgDreams are strange things.  It’s amazing to think that some people allow them to guide their lives! But recently a dream made me stop and think about how much life has changed. I don’t believe any generation has seen as much change as those born between the late 1800s and early 1900s. My grandparents went from a childhood with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or automobiles, to watching a man land on the moon!  That’s pretty drastic! With the risk of sounding like an old geezer…

 

Do you remember…

  • Waiting for Saturday morning to watch cartoons,
  • When the Wonderful World of Disney seemed so impossibly far away,
  • Cigarette commercials,
  • When you ran to the refrigerator during commercials, (maybe you still do that! We only watch Netflix!),
  • Dad popping popcorn on the stovetop,
  • Mom heating up leftovers on the stovetop,
  • Mom bringing in the clothes, stiff as a board because they froze instead of drying, then stringing a line in the house to dry them because she had no dryer,
  • Mom sprinkling the clothes with water before she ironed them after she took them off the line to dry,
  • Eating a MacDonald’s hamburger for the first time at this new thing called a “fast food restaurant,”
  • Sitting at the A&W Drive-in with the tray hooked to the window,
  • Sitting in the car at the Drive-in theater in your pajamas with the speaker hooked to the window,
  • Waiting for a letter from a loved one far away,
  • Sending your film off to Clark to get it developed (and throwing half of the photos away!)
  • Waiting until the weekend or after nine o’clock to call because rates were cheaper,
  • Trying to talk to your sweetheart in the kitchen while everyone else “lived” because it was the only place in the house with a phone,
  • Party lines (for those of you who don’t: several different rings would come across your phone and if you happened to have someone on your line who wasn’t home a lot, you had to put up with their ring ringing incessantly, as well as the nosey neighbor who would pick up and listen to your conversation!)
  • Rotary dialing,
  • Telephone operators,
  • Sears Christmas catalog,
  • Chalkboards, the purple ink of a mimeograph machine, and eating your lunch in your classroom because there was no cafeteria, or gym, or auditorium. (I went to a very small elementary school where we walked to the kitchen to get our lunch and the first-grade room had a stage.)
  • The merry-go-round on the school playground,
  • Playing “King of the Mountain” on the huge pile of plowed snow at the end of the playground,
  • Lunchboxes,
  • Book bags,
  • Typing a paper on a typewriter and using the little white sheets of correction paper,
  • Looking up information in an encyclopedia,
  • The ponies at Knobels. (Sorry, had to throw that one in even though it’s a local memory!).

I could go on and on. Times have changed—some for the better, some for the worse—but it’s good to stop and remember. It’s been a good exercise listing all the changes, walking down memory lane, perhaps a little bittersweet and certainly full of a myriad of emotions. Doing so can sharpen our outlook on the day and cut away some of what we think is so important but is as changing as the next model of cell phones! Carpe Deum—seize the day! We only have the promise of the moment. That thought will either drive you into a frenzy of “make-me-happy” activities or, hopefully, cause you to stop and consider the importance of making this day count for Jesus Christ. That translates differently for each of us, but may you find your task—the one Jesus has prepared for YOU to do—and do it! Simple. Well, maybe not, but definitely doable! One far, far greater ended his quest for understanding with this:

  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

That works!

God’s Timing

potiphars_wife-250w-tnJoseph is my favorite Bible character and is certainly a type of Christ. There is no record given in the Bible of any wrongdoing on his part, but he did do a lot of good. For example:

  • He was an obedient child, walking nearly sixty miles as a seventeen-year-old boy when his father told him to check on his brothers. (Just a side, I wonder about Jacob’s judgment. Certainly, he saw the envy and jealousy his older sons felt toward Joseph! Perhaps he trusted them more than he should have—a lesson within a lesson for us!)
  • God favored him with prophetic dreams. Twice, God predicts his future through dreams. Again, it may not have been wise to share those dreams with his brothers and father, but the fact that he did reveals a trusting heart.
  • As a slave in a foreign land, he does his work well, and God blesses even the heathen nobleman, Potiphar, because of Joseph.
  • He bears the flirtations of a married woman, never accusing her to anyone or setting a trap to malign her character, but flees when she seeks to trap him!
  • Now in prison, Joseph once again faithfully does what he is told to do—the work of another! He is not bitter with his God but proclaims Him when pharaoh’s butler and baker come with their dreams.

But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness,

I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:

For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews:

and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Genesis 40:14,15

However, the butler did not think upon Joseph or, if he did, he kept silent. I can understand his plight. He had offended pharaoh–so much so, that he was thrown into prison. I’m sure he was treading lightly. But two years later, hi confession tells us that he had forgotten Joseph.

Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day. Genesis 41:9

Have you ever felt forgotten? Does it feel as though your heavenly Father isn’t listening or paying attention? Ten years ago in March, Steam Valley Bible Church’s pastor resigned after 35 years of faithful service. In May, we moved into the area, but it wasn’t until November that we heard about the church’s need of a pastor. Within a few short weeks, we were called to this ministry. Through that time of wandering, we claimed this verse:

And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day. Exodus 14:13

 It seemed like forever as we worked in a factory and lived in my uncle’s cabin, waiting to hear God’s next marching orders, but when it came it came quickly!

I often wonder why we couldn’t have skipped the summer and just went straight into this ministry! I still don’t know but God does! Yes, I can see reasons why the waiting was good. God certainly sharpened our entire family. It was a very difficult time, but God was directing the whole thing! The question seems to boil down to this: can I trust God to do what is best?

This weekend our ladies had a retreat, and the theme was The God of the Impossible. We studied the attributes of God. While putting together the devotional booklet, I came across a list of God’s attributes which included a synopsis of each attribute and proof texts. Here is the information about God’s attribute of goodness:

One of the most intrinsic attributes of God is His goodness. God is not good because it is attractive for Him to be so, nor does He follow after some sort of standard for goodness. God is actually so good that He is the source of goodness; He alone is the rule and measure of what we truly know to be good. To the Christian, the goodness of the Lord is a security. The Christian knows well that he has been bathed in the death and resurrection of Christ and now stands wholly righteous before God; and this being so, he also recognizes all that God will work in his life will be for his own good — for a good God would never work circumstances to the peril of the righteous. Romans 8:28 tells that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This is the believer’s rest and assurance. But not so for the unbeliever: the goodness of God demands all circumstances to work together for the bad of those rebellious and hateful towards God. God’s goodness will manifest itself in a wrathful justice against those who are defiled of holiness, for True goodness cannot abide evil.

PROOF TEXTS:

  • Exodus 34:6-7 — The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.
  • Psalm 25:8 — Good and upright is the Lord.
  • James 1:17 — Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

(www.blueletterbible.org/faq/attributes.cfm)

Somewhere along the way, Joseph had learned this truth and it served him well. It will serve us well too, especially when the way is dark and dreary with no end in sight! God IS good, His timing is perfect, and all the He is doing is for my good. Can you believe it?