Archives

“Dear Bride” (Part One)

Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. She recognizes that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a wedding event, as exciting as that is! Having been on this journey myself for over thirty years, I am happy to share some of the things I have learned (and still am learning) along the way.

Here are the first three questions:

Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?

Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?

I am honored that Kristen is sharing her questions and my responses in two guest posts on her personal blog, where Kristen encourages her readers “to think truthfully and live daringly.” The first article appeared on her website today, and Part Two will be published next week.

To read our Q and A exchange, continue reading HERE.

Blessings to you,
Tami

When You Love God but Can’t Trust Him

How can you trust God after He has allowed evil and suffering to tear through your life?

My friend Joanna has known pain that I cannot even imagine. She experienced horrific abuse for many years of her childhood. Today, she says that she loves God—and I know that she does—but she wonders how she will ever be able to trust Him.

Perhaps you have wondered the same thing. Perhaps your suffering causes you to feel confused about the goodness of God. If so, then my letter to Joanna is also my letter to you:

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

These painful pieces of your journey are like holy ground to me, and I take my shoes off here. I do not speak flippantly to you. 

I do not know the why’s of this evil. There are things in this battle that we do not understand. But I do know this: God will redeem everything that is given to Him. It is certain that this was egregious evil, but it is even more certain that the judgment of God will not fall short or be lacking.

These were awful things, but God will turn them inside out one day. He will satisfy the cry for justice, and He will satisfy your bewilderment. He knows something that we do not know.

trust God

How can God tolerate such incredible evil? I do not know how He can stand it. But I am confident of this: He is more tenderhearted than we are. He is more compassionate than we are. Our protest of evil is nothing compared to His.

Your suffering has exposed enemy territory—territory which God now purposes to overwhelm with His forces of victory. As you declare His ownership of these areas, God will push back the forces of evil and will powerfully advance the Kingdom.

Every hurt is a place for a promise, and ashes are the seeds of great beauty. You have many hurts that you can redeem for promises, and you have ashes that you can bring to Jesus. When ashes are allowed to smolder, they bring destruction and deformity. But overshadowed by the Spirit, those same ashes can be exchanged for beauty and glory.

We can pray, “God, I cannot imagine how You can do anything with this—it is such total devastation and heartbreak. It is death. It is beyond my ability even to speculate how You can transform any bit of this. But as Your covenant partner, I am holding on to Your promises. I do not know how You can create anything beautiful from this, but I am asking You to do that, all the same.”

God’s commitment to justice will include these very things from your life, dear friend—the specific deeds of darkness and the specific acts of evil that you have experienced. God’s desire and power to heal are greater than the deepest wound. He knows how to bring water from rock, and how to make the desert bloom. He knows how to bring life from death.

trust God

God has made immense promises to you. You see no way in which He can keep His promises, but that is okay. He will keep His promises. It will be more glorious than you ever hoped or imagined.

“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HCBS).

God is up to this. That’s how big He is. Marvel at Him. You do not have to know how He can do this. God just wants you to trust that He will do something bigger than you can imagine. He longs to dazzle you.

God promises you this, dear friend: whatever you give to Him, He will transform. The things you suffered will always be evil, but they will lose their power to destroy you. They will lose their power to make you destitute in spirit: God will make you rich.

The enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

It is easy to see how the enemy intended these things for destruction. But what does God intend? He intends to redeem! 

The LORD God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

It is far too trite to say, “You will learn some good things from this.” That would not be sufficient, would it? There must be more.

This is an evil that we cannot really measure; I know I can’t. It is too much. In the same way, I can’t imagine a “good” that would be good enough to redeem such pain. I can’t imagine a “glory” glorious enough to outweigh that suffering. But God can!

We can trust God because we are convinced that He knows something that we do not.trust God

You do not need to settle for pat answers and trivial assurances. Wait with expectation and confidence for something much greater. God promises something so incredible that it will be more incredible than the pain. We do not know of any such glory, so we are deeply grieved, and we despair of the goodness of God.

But listen: God does know. He does know of a glory that will satisfy your soul. He knows something that will be bigger and deeper, something so GLORIOUS—we do not have big enough words, but something so AWESOME—that it will cause you to fall at His feet and worship Him and adore Him and marvel at Him and love Him like never before.

You will not be disappointed. You will not say, “Lord, this glory—it isn’t enough.” You will say, “Lord, I didn’t know! I could not have imagined this! Yes, Lord, my soul is satisfied!” You will be well satisfied, fully satisfied, completely satisfied. You will never come to the end of your delight in Him.

“The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, NIV).

For God to do such a thing would be an absolute miracle, wouldn’t it? It would completely amaze us and take our breath away, wouldn’t it?

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

Are You a Burning Bush?

A Burning Bush

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied. (Exodus 3:1-4, NLT)

suffering

What an incredible sight! Out in the wilderness, Moses discovered a blazing bush that didn’t burn up.

It got Moses’ attention. He stopped. Intrigued, he moved closer. And then God spoke to him.

A Spectacle of Grace

Over 200 years ago, John Newton realized that this burning-but-not-burnt bush was a vivid metaphor for Christians as they go through fiery trials. Newton wrote:

Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses, ‘Why is this bush not burned?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace.¹

Newton called these suffering-but-victorious Christians “spectacles of grace.” Joni Tada uses the phrase “spectacles of glory.” Joni, by the way, is the perfect example of this! Not only is she a quadriplegic, but Joni has also battled cancer, and she lives with chronic pain. Despite immense suffering, she faithfully maintains a joyful, thankful spirit.

Perhaps you are a spectacle of glory.

At some point, God calls all of us to be spectacles of glory. When we walk through difficult circumstances without being destroyed, it grabs people’s attention. They say, “How can this be? What is going on here?” They turn their eyes from their usual focus. They stop to look. And as they gaze, still and attentive, God speaks to them.

Smoke or Spectacle: Your Choice

When you experience fiery trials, you can be badly burned, and your life can turn into ashes. You might become bitter, resentful, and stuck in grief. You may feel abandoned by God, and you might feel sorry for yourself. Discouragement and despair may overtake you. Your strength, your success, your usefulness—it all seems to go up in smoke.

suffering

OR … you can be a bush that is not consumed! 

You can be a spectacle of glory as the fires of suffering burn without burning you. Do you remember the young Hebrew men who were thrown into the fiery furnace? They were not consumed—not a single hair was singed. And when they came out of from the flames, they did not even have the smell of fire on them.

A Captive Audience

You can be a miracle that gets the attention of others. (It will probably get your attention, too!) Like a burning-but-not-consumed bush, you will create opportunities for people to hear the voice of God.

suffering

People will say, “What’s this? How are you going through these circumstances with a calm spirit? How are you going through all this without being bitter or belligerent? Why are you not anxious or angry or addicted?” Because  your response to suffering is unusual, they will stop for a moment and look away from their usual activity—like Moses turning away from his flocks—and they may hear God speaking to them.

We can yield to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. He will be our radiance—the blazing fire that fills us but does not consume us. We can let God turn us into spectacles of grace and glory.

Whose Suffering is This?

The Scriptures tell us:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are going through, as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice—be very glad— as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13, NLT)

Notice that we participate in the sufferings of Christ. Usually, we participate in our own sufferings, don’t we? We participate in our life, our pain, our worry, our frustration, and our feelings of being rejected. But when we live that way, we are like bushes burned and consumed.

Instead, we must give our lives to Christ. We must walk through hard times knowing that these are His sufferings. We can say, “This is God’s life. He can do with it whatever He pleases. I gave it to Him, and I trust Him.” All the pain, the weight, and the rejection is His suffering. It all becomes redemptive suffering, in which nothing is wasted. All of the pain is being molded into a container for glory, a vessel that will overflow with glory.

Redemptive suffering increases our capacity for joy.

Keep On Doing What is Right

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19, NLT)

What are some of the good things that we should continue to do? Here are several things that are always right to “keep on doing”:

  • Keep trusting that God is fully attentive to you, absolutely loving, and perfectly wise. Keep trusting that He is trustworthy!
  • Keep forgiving.
  • Keep praying fervently and without ceasing.
  • Keep your heart open and soft toward your spouse. (God often uses the hot coals of kindness to melt icy-hard hearts.)
  • Keep honoring the spirit of your spouse.
  • Keep your covenant vows.

God has given us this wonderful promise:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2, NLT)

If you are walking through fiery trials, I pray that God will sustain you as an amazing “spectacle of grace.” As you are filled with His Spirit, you will be like a burning bush, radiating with His spectacular glory!

Blessings to you,
Tami
 

_______________________________________
¹Quoted in A Spectacle of Glory: God’s Light Shining through Me. Joni Eareckson Tada. Zondervan. 2016. Page 7.

 

 

Cutting (self-injury)

You may not realize that 20% of high-school and college students engage in the self-injuring practice of cutting. As this becomes more common, it also affects more marriages.

Most of us have not purposely cut ourselves, but we have all experienced inner pain, and we have all searched for ways to relieve that pain. Although this is not my usual topic, I am sharing this today with the prayer that it will be helpful—perhaps to you or someone you know. 

The Cutting that Cures

God understands this pain
of cutting.

He knows this pain
that cries
with the voice of a knife.

He feels this pain too heavy
for words or tears
alone
to carry;
the flesh must join.

If only burdens
would flow
with blood.
If only blades
could strip sorrow
as well as skin.¹

This draining of the body
leeches life from the soul.

“Imago Dei”²
is written upon us,
yet we mar,
not knowing
the handwriting of God.

*

“Without the shedding of blood,
there is no remission of sin.”³
Without having heard,
we seem to know.
But we hope only
for the remission of pain.

Only God really knows
how great is the loss and
how deep is the pain.

Through the tearing of His own flesh,
He felt the torment of the whole world.
With the gushing of His own blood,
He marked the loss of love.

He carried the weight of our suffering
in His own body
that we would not
in ours.

cutting

Our pain became His pain,
and His wounds became our healing.
His brokenness
bought our wholeness.

There is, therefore, now
no cutting
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
for there is now
no condemnation and
no separation.

There is no loss
that He will not accept as His.
There is no emptiness
that He cannot turn
inside out
into fullness.

The only cutting
that will ever put things back together
was the crushing of Christ on the Cross–
the tearing of a veil,
and a new covenant cut.4

“It is finished.”

cutting

With lavish love,
He engraved our names
forever
on His palms.

The scars of Christ,
sealed on our souls,
mark us now
as His.

cutting

 

————————————————————-

1 In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp writes that she cut herself as if “you could drain yourself out of pain” (Zondervan, 2016, page 11).
2 This is the Latin phrase for “image of God.” Genesis 1:27 says that God created people in His own image.
*  By User:BardFuse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
3 From Hebrews 9:22. The Bible teaches that the consequence of our rejection of God (who is Life) is death.
4 In English, we say that we make a covenant. But in the Hebrew language of Scripture, a covenant is “cut.”

———————————————————

FOR HELP in overcoming cutting, please visit Focus on the Family’s website for a series of helpful articles.

 

 

Facing the Brokenness in Life

Do not be afraid of the brokenness in your life.


We all have to deal with broken relationships, broken promises, broken dreams, and broken hearts. All of us are broken by our own sin and by the sin of others.

But God says to us:

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

God meets us in those broken places, and He is the Restorer. He repairs and renews and redeems. That is what Resurrection is all about.

brokenness
Enter a Garden

We do not come just to the Cross, which is the place of forgiveness. We come also to the empty tomb, which opens into a springtime garden. We receive forgiveness at the cross, but we receive new life in the garden.

brokenness

When we open up to Christ our tombs of suffering, He speaks life into every place which is yielded to Him. Every deep wound becomes a place for deep healing. Every cruel piercing becomes a place for tender filling. Our pain can break the hardness of our hearts so that our spirits finally open up to His love and goodness. God longs to pour His power into our weakness,  and His peace into our distress. He knows how to fill our emptiness with His fullness.

Roll Away Some Stones

Do you remember the New Testament story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? These three siblings were close friends of Jesus. Several days after Lazarus died, Martha was hesitant to open the tomb of her brother to Jesus. We, too, can be reluctant to expose places of our heart. But we are safe with this God who has written love for us on His own arms.¹ He will not shame us, and He certainly will not violate us.

Jesus did not do what Martha expected. What He did was far greater than what she expected. It will be the same for you.

Trust God with the Seeds

Ann Voskamp reminds us that we are like seeds that are broken apart and completely undone, and then something mighty and beautiful grows out of that very brokenness.² Jesus said that unless a seed dies, it remains alone. But buried in the ground, it dies, producing “a plentiful harvest.”³

I am easily distressed by brokenness—the neediness, the failures, the suffering, the struggles, the lack. It is around us and within us. But I am learning not to be disheartened. I am learning—just a bit—to allow the Spirit to bring His peace to the core of my being. It’s something like “a feast in the presence of mine enemies.”¹¹

Hold and Behold the Hurting

We can feel great compassion for those who are hurting, and we can also feel utterly helpless to heal their wounds. But we can do something very powerful. While we cannot fix those who are broken, we can carry them to the One who can. We can “hold and behold.”

Sometimes we can actually hold others in our arms, but always we can hold them in
our hearts and in our prayers. And we can behold them. We can behold them as treasures, and we can behold their stories and their unique hearts. Holding and beholding, we can lift up those who are broken to the One who repairs and who makes new.

As we encounter brokenness, we need not sink down in despair. Instead, we can walk knowing that God meets us in these broken places. This is where He works His miracles. Jesus Christ is the God who stoops to make us great,²² who washes dirty feet, and who touches unclean lepers. Christ enters our brokenness with us, walks through it with us, and turns ashes into beauty.³³

Hold and Behold Your Healer

We are all walking through pieces of brokenness right now, but when the Perfect comes, then we will walk in glorious wholeness and beauty. Until then, we walk with the One who is Himself Glory and Beauty.

 

 

 

_______________________________________________
¹   In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (NLT).
    To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization dedicated to helping people who are struggling with self-destructive habits: twloha.com.
²   The Broken Way. Zondervan. 2016.
³   John 12:24, NLT
¹¹  Psalm 23:5, KJV
²²  Psalm 18:35, NIV
³³  Isaiah 61:3