Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

When your faith is shaken

Encouragement for when your faith is on shaky ground

Life is hard. We all know that. But sometimes life batters and shatters us so severely that our faith is shaken. And we don’t talk about this enough in Christian culture. My faith has been shaken a few times during my 32-year walk with God. I’ve never once stopped believing in Him or loving Him since I asked him to be my personal savior as a 10-year-old, but I’ve had doubts and questions. Sometimes I haven’t understood what He was doing, and it bothered me. I have longed for justice that just doesn’t seem to happen. If I’m being honest, I’ve also said prayers that I wasn’t sure were making it to heaven, let alone to the Father’s Throne.

I can’t tell you all sorts of theological reasons for shaken faith or even list lots of Bible verses explaining how to handle shaken faith. But, I can share some of my experiences. God has used my shaken faith to draw me closer to Him.

What happens when your faith is shaken?

Unsurprisingly, we don’t usually have crises of faith when everything is going well. When life is going without major bumps and bruises, we find it easy to believe in a loving God who is with us. But during the difficult seasons, that can change.

I compare my faith to motherhood in this way. During the 11-1/2 years I’ve been a mom, I have questioned a few times whether I was qualified for motherhood. Surely all moms don’t struggle with the problems I do. I debated whether I was truly cut out to be a mom. Yet, at the end of the day, I am still a mom (and am so thankful to be!).

Faith is the same way. When all is well, I don’t have questions or doubts. I am confident and sure of who I am and Who God is. But on the difficult days and in the hard moments, things get shakier. I sometimes wonder whether God is full of love and blessings. I don’t see Him move. Yet, at the end of the day, I am still a Christian.

We may have doubts and questions, but just because our faith is shaken doesn’t mean we aren’t a Christian or we don’t love God. It simply means we are human. And we want a real connection with God. If we didn’t want a real connection with God, then our faith wouldn’t be shaken by missing that connection.

Going through the faith motions

During times when my faith is shaken, I learned I need to keep going through the motions. And sometimes I am quite literally just going through the motions. A few years ago, I went through a period where for the first time in my life, I was struggling for months to sing the music at church and couldn’t even listen to Christian radio. I was having a hard time. How could I sing praises to a God who was not showing up when I desperately needed Him to? My heart was too broken to begin to praise. That’s a hard place in which to be.

Then one Sunday, I made myself since along with the worship songs at church. My kids were in service, and I wanted to be a good example. For the first time in my life I truly understood the sacrifice of praise Paul talks about in Hebrews. (And take note that this verse reminds us that Jesus will give us the strength to praise continually. We can’t do it on our own!)

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

Hebrews 13:15 (NIV)

Praising God when you don’t feel like it and when everything is falling apart is difficult. While I didn’t immediately feel better and stabilize my faith that Sunday, over time singing, praising and worshipping got easier again. Sometimes we have to go through the motions (even when we don’t feel like it) until we get back to where we want to be.

Shifting our focus while on shifting ground

Just as worshipping and praising started to get easier for me, the hard time worsened. Honestly, I didn’t think it could get worse, yet it did. I was brought to my knees and broken. One week, in particular, was rough. I went to church that week numb and hurt.

I sat in service practically scoffing at God. How could He be good in the midst of all He was allowing to happen? Where was His justice? How could He be good? Where was His grace? I don’t know what the sermon was about, because the cross at the front of our church caught my attention. The cross was what mattered.

Whether God was good or just or full of grace didn’t matter. What mattered is I knew the truth that He sent His Son to the cross to die for me. When I had no other answers to anything else, I had the answer of Jesus and His love. And in that moment, it was enough. It was enough until the hard times eased down and I could see God’s goodness and grace. Jesus is always enough. Always.

I still struggle with justice. I still struggle in many ways. But I know God loves me. And just that is enough, because it is the foundation of my faith.

Talking to God when your faith is shaken

Just like in any relationship, when we are struggling we still need to communicate and work through it. Praying can be hard sometimes when we wonder whether our prayers are even getting through. Wanting to talk to God when you are upset with Him is hard. But we have to try.

The good news is we don’t have to have all the right words. We can be honest with God. He won’t get offended and leave us. He won’t forget us and He’ll be right there. And He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us pray even when we can’t quite get all the words out ourselves.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)

As I began to heal and my faith began to stabilize, I realized I still struggled to see God at work. I prayed for His help to see Him and His goodness in my life. I knew in my head that He was there and working, but my heart was struggling to believe it. He answered my prayers and opened my eyes to see His hand in my life. I prayed that prayer a long time, because I needed the reminder to look for God and His help to see Him.

Finding hope in the hurt

As I started seeing God at work again, I also saw how so many of my previous struggles prepared me to survive the struggle I was in. I saw how He’d been working on me for years so I’d be ready for this time. Recognizing that strengthened my faith and reminded me of God’s faithfulness, grace and power. God worked on me for years before I even knew about the situation. He is still working for my good for the future!

I slowly felt more hopeful, but I still battled increased anxiety and depression. Along with my prayer to see God’s goodness and work in my life, I started a gratitude journal. I downloaded an app and wrote three different things each day for which I could thank God. Even hard days and times have blessings. Some days the most I was thankful for was the breath in my lungs, food on the table and a roof over my head.

However, it wasn’t long before I found so much more than the bare necessities for which to thank God. Eventually I was able to discontinue the gratitude journal because I was back in the habit of seeing God and His goodness. I was back to thanking and praising Him. My faith had moved from shaky ground to solid ground. God’s faithfulness restored my faith to solid ground.

Making a choice

Dealing with shaken faith is difficult. We get a choice when our faith gets shaken. We can head down the path to find our way back to God and His strength. Or we can choose to give up on Him. No matter the situation, don’t give up on Him. Don’t question His blessings, His goodness or His faithfulness. Remember the cross. Remember how He gave His only Son for you to have eternal life with Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 (NIV)

While your faith may be shaken, your God is not. He is ever faithful and true. Talk to Him. Take a step toward Him and He will come running to meet you. It may take time, but He is working on and for you. He loves you, and He will help you move from shaky faith to solid ground.

Because you’re mine: Understanding God’s love for us

God’s love for us is constant, just like our love for our children.

I wrote this 5-1/2 years ago when my son was 2 and my daughter was 5. They are older now, but these truths remain. My parenting looks a bit different nowadays and their needs have shifted a bit, but my love and dedication to them, of course, remains.

“Mommy, come!”

“Mommy, come here!”

This is the little voice I hear calling to me most mornings and after nap times. Sometimes my son switches it to call for daddy. And sometimes he gets desperate and just sobs without even calling our names. For a couple of months, I’d hear this sobbing and crying for me in the middle of the night again after him having slept through the night for almost a year.

When I hear this voice and hear his plea, I go to him. Because he is mine.

We snuggle together to calm his fears. My hair falls over the top of his head and the two intermingle in exactly the same shade of brown. Because he is mine.  

We have had our fair share of battles — stubborn ones — throughout his learning to sleep or just to listen when we tell him not to do something. Because he is mine (he comes by his stubbornness fair and square).  

At the end of any given day, though, the things I have done for my son and for my daughter are because I love them. They are mine. I see bits of myself in them. My daughter has my sensitive heart and the shape of my fingers. She has my smile. My son has my brown hair and eyes. He has my love for music and snuggles.

I would do anything for them, because they are mine. I don’t ignore their pleas for help when they are sick or scared, because they are mine.

How God feels about us

God must feel that way with us. Because we are His, He doesn’t ignore us when we cry out to Him. He is there even when we don’t realize it. Just like I am never far from my son when he is afraid that I have left for good. I haven’t left. And neither does God leave us, even when we can’t see Him. God’s love for us is constant.

He comes running to us in our time of need because we are His. I think of this especially in the night. Things can be scarier in the night, especially for children. My daughter is old enough to get out of bed and come running to me when she needs me. My son is still in his crib and his only course of action is to holler for me.

Either way, I’m there, which is just how God is with us. Whether we can come running and meet Him or whether we need Him to find us in the darkest nights. God is there. He is waiting. He is loving us. Because we are His.

I’ve had many figurative dark nights in my lifetime. I have had times where I had no idea how I was going to make it through. There have been innumerable moments of frustration and pain. I have cried out to God about the unfairness of it all. I have pleaded with Him to take away difficult circumstances or painful ailments.  

Some prayers have been answered with a yes and a resolution. Others have been answered with a gentle no. No matter what I have faced, though, God has always shown up when I needed Him and cried out to Him. Because I am His.  

And no greater love can be found. I work to wrap my head around God’s love and how it can be even greater than my love for my children. It’s beyond comprehension, but the glimpses I get make me feel humbled and thankful.

What does God see in me?

I wonder what God sees when He looks at me. Does He see pieces of Himself as I see pieces of myself in my children? I know we are made in His image, but I also know it goes much deeper than appearance. I’m not sure God has a hair color or eye color. Maybe He does. I really don’t know.

But what I want my Father to see most is His character attributes being displayed through my life because I am His. And that is where it gets tricky. I have to battle my own self, my own desires and my own fallibility so that He may shine through. Above all, I want God to see Himself in me. I want to get out of the way so that He can work in my life. Because I am His and He is mine.

I don’t know where you are today, my friend. Maybe you’re in the deepest darkest night and scared to pieces, unsure of how you will make it through or how you can face another day.  

Perhaps you’re on a mountaintop experiencing the joy of life and of God. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Maybe you’re wondering how God shines through in your life.  

No matter where you are, no matter what you’re facing, wondering or thinking, just call out to God. He will come running to meet you, because you are His.

God is always faithful even in the midst of hard times

Finding truth in the Word of God

Each day, I send a note in my kids’ lunch boxes. We have come up with theme days. For example, on Motivation Monday I send an encouraging or inspiring quote. On Wacky Wednesday I send a joke. On Truth Tuesday I send a Bible verse.

The majority of the time, I am the lunchbox note writer. But sometimes my husband takes on note duty as we are divvying up tasks. This week, he wrote the kids’ Truth Tuesday notes.

He chose Psalm 55:22. I’ve read this verse in the NIV Bible many times, but this was my first time reading it in the ICB (International Children’s Bible), which is what I usually use for my kids’ verses.

The verse pierced my heart as I looked over it to make an image for the ongoing Truth Tuesday post I make of verses I send.

I was challenged by the last part of the verse that says: “[God] will never let good people down.” The truth is I have felt like God has let me down before when He was quiet in responding to my pleas or He said no to a fervent prayer that I thought was in line with His will.

The NIV Bible says it this way: “[God] will never let the righteous be shaken.” And again I feel challenged, because I have certainly felt shaken many times when life has tossed me a major curveball that not only pummeled into me but totally switched my reality in unexpected ways.

The infallible Word of God

However, I also believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. That means this verse is true whether I always feel its truth or not.

I have learned throughout my life and various struggles that God is ever faithful. He doesn’t always work in ways that make sense to me, but He is always there. God has never let me down, because He has never let me go.

My attention wanders away from Him sometimes, but He’s never taken His eye off me. During times when I felt like a burden was too much to bear, God has reminded me that He will help me carry the burden and even carry me when I need Him to.

I’ve also had times I have felt shaken, as the NIV Bible says. I have felt like a major earthquake has happened in my life, in fact. But I have never been shaken out of His hand.

The truth is in the midst of my hardest times when I was in utter despair and didn’t see or hear God, He was there. Always — ALWAYS — He has held onto me and reminded me of His presence if only I paid attention. He has brought me peace and comfort in the midst of days I thought would be the end of me. He has been ever faithful.

Who God is

When I ponder on Who God is in reality and in my life, I can say that He hasn’t let me down and He hasn’t let me be shaken from His grasp. He is ever faithful and always good. He is always working for my good, even when I don’t understand what’s going on.

And that, my friends, is why we don’t need to worry. We have the freedom to lay down our cares and burdens and place them on the shoulders of Someone who can not only bear them but is in charge of it all.

God didn’t make us to carry the load alone. He will hold us close even when we feel alone and keep us steady and safe even when we feel shaken.

He doesn’t promise that life will be easy, but He does promise He will be with us every step of the way. I am so very thankful for that.

The grumbles: Lessons I’ve learned from listening to my kids complain about cleaning

I learn lots of things from my kids like dinosaur facts I never knew and stories of Greek gods that I’ve forgotten. I learn things like trashcans lined with plastic bags come in handy when they’re sick. I learn things about myself like how little sleep I actually can function on and how much love my heart has in it. And I learn more about my relationship with God.

In my head I know the Bible tells us God’s love for us is so tremendous and more than any of us can fathom. I believe that, but since I truly can’t fathom it, I think it must be close to what I feel for my children. Sometimes my kids’ behavior shows me how I must look to God.

One of the chores my kids have is to clean their bathroom. When we moved into our new house last April, they got their own bathroom to share. I gave them the chore of cleaning it. I showed them exactly how to do it. I’ve given them follow-up lessons and set reasonable expectations. Their weekly chores are cleaning the sink, emptying the trash, restocking toilet paper and cleaning the toilet. Sometimes they also clean the mirror. I take care of the floors and shower/tub. Pretty straight forward.

When we were first getting started with cleaning, they didn’t mind it so much and set out with the idea that they’d rotate the chores so one person wasn’t stuck with one job all the time. They had a good attitude about it. But as time went on and they were putting those cleaning lessons into practice, I started hearing some bickering and some grumbling. They’d bicker about who was doing what chore, and they’d grumble about having to clean the bathroom instead of play.

As I was listening to them grumble and grouse a few weeks ago, I felt God prick my heart. Sometimes when He gives me chores or tasks or purpose, I set forth with a crummy attitude. I grouse and grumble. I huff and roll my eyes. Parenthood itself is a prime example. God has blessed me with these two beautiful children and trusted their care to me. However, how many times have I grumbled and complained (even just internally) about all the work involved in taking care of little humans? How many times have I felt angry about it even? So. Many. Times!

I am so far from perfect. I know that sometimes I whine and carry on like a child. Just as I don’t stop loving my kids when they grumble about doing a chore, God doesn’t stop loving me. I know that they are learning good lessons. They are learning responsibility. They are learning how to clean a bathroom, which will be a good skill to have once they grow up and have their own place. They are learning to work together, even though sometimes it’s a rocky partnership. I can tick all these reasons off in my head. I can even tell them to my children (and have mentioned a couple of them!), but they don’t really understand what I mean. They’re 6 and 9. They don’t have the life experience needed to appreciate these kind of lessons.

All of that sounds just like God and me. Each time I face a trial or have a task He’s brought me to, I’m learning lessons. I may grumble and not see the lesson, but He knows it all along and uses it for my best. I don’t have the life experience and heavenly perspective to fully understand what’s happening. That’s what I have to remember when I’m grumbling and grousing.

This past weekend, my kids taught me another lesson with this same scenario. I was cleaning my bathroom while they were cleaning theirs and could hear my son start singing while they were cleaning. He did a short rendition of “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Within a couple of minutes, both kids were singing together a few different songs, including “Count on Me” from Bruno Mars, which is a song my daughter is learning in music class. I smiled at their cuteness.

What a difference in attitude just singing some songs made. What a difference music makes! I’ve shared before how much music ministers to my soul. It reminded me that if I have the right song in my heart, my tasks and trials are easier to face. If I’m listening to music that reminds me to keep my focus on God, everything goes better and my grousing dies down.

Then, of course, the song they switched to spoke to me as well. “Count on Me” is not a Christian song, but it has a great message. I hope and pray that my kids can always count on each other. The song is a great reminder that no matter what is happening, life is easier with someone to help you along. God has blessed me so that I don’t have to go through trials and do chores alone. Not only is He always with me, but He’s also give me a great support system through my husband, kiddos and extended family. He didn’t just plop me here and tell me to get it all done alone.

Does all of this learning mean I’ll never have a bad attitude or grumble again? I’d love to say yes, but I know the answer is no. I’m human. I fall short so many times. I have bad days and days that I feel bad. My frustration levels rise, my patience shortens and I just get grumbly. But I’ll keep trying and asking God for His help through it all. And I think turning to Him is the greatest lesson of all for me to learn.

The heart of Christmas

Nine years ago, my thoughts on Christmas began to shift. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I love the story of the birth of Jesus. A pastor I had as a child always pointed out how Christmas was sort of pointless without the story of the cross. While that’s true enough, I think knowing the two stories together are what makes Christmas so incredibly special. I marvel at the thought of bringing a baby into the world knowing full well He was going to have to die a horrible death to save the very people who drove in the nails — both literally and figuratively. What a gift! What love! What a God!

This line of thinking has hit home to me more since becoming a mother. I’ve thought about how overwhelming it must have been for Mary as a mother. All new mothers are overwhelmed, especially with first children. If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying. I can’t imagine how much more Mary must have been overwhelmed knowing that the baby she was caring for was the Son of God. Talk about pressure! Add in that she had to give birth in a barn with only Joseph and animals around while she labored and delivered, and I can’t even begin to imagine how overwhelmed and terrified she must have been. 

I’ve also thought about more practical sort of things like whether Jesus cried. As a child, I was always told that He didn’t cry. As a mom, I think about that now and think how difficult that would be. How did Mary know when He was hungry? How did she know when He needed to be changed? How did He communicate with her before He could communicate with words? The logistics of it all seems so tricky. I’m not so sure that He wouldn’t have cried sometimes.  He was a baby.

And then I wonder what his toddlerhood was like as I remember my own kids’ toddler days and the joys of keeping them out of the trash and away from the scissors. Did Mary have to admonish little Jesus for getting into the trash or playing with Joseph’s tools? How does a perfect baby learn? How do you teach Him?

I don’t know the logistics. I don’t know whether Jesus explored and pushed boundaries and tried putting every single piece of lint he found into his mouth. I don’t know if Mary always maintained a patient composure when dealing with these trying phases or if she sometimes lost her cool. Or maybe those frustrating moments just didn’t happen. As the only perfect person to walk the earth, Jesus may have somehow innately knew not to do things like try and remove trash from the can or lick the dog.

What I do know for sure this Christmas season is that God sent His Son to save the world so that we might be free to love and live in Him. I know that I am more thankful for that gift than ever before because I want it for my children. I look at them and love them so completely and to the core of my very being and want them to know God’s love.

So many theological topics can trip people up. But, the one thing that remains and should always be the center is that God is love. He is the reason for the season. He is everything. And He is all that matters. The small details and the specifics don’t matter in the face of the great love of God.

Those are the things I’m thinking about this Christmas season. As you gather with your families to celebrate, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year!

In order to enjoy time with my family for Christmas, I won’t be posting a new blog on Monday as usual. Blog posts will return on Wed., Dec. 26. Thanks for your understanding!

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