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The God of Comfort

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I appreciate art because it has the ability to make us stop in the moment and give pause to what the artist is hoping to convey. Art arouses our visual awareness and powerfully evokes emotions undefined by words.

This statue by Albert György uniquely captures the feeling of emptiness that coincides with loss. Life may appear normal on the outside, but internally there is an all-consuming void. I have to believe that a great loss inspired this artist’s piece of work.

We all encounter loss and can relate to the giant hole it leaves in our innermost being. We find countless ways to preoccupy ourselves in an effort to fill that hole; but the void remains. Even God experienced loss when His son, Jesus, died on the cross.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18

Prayer for Today:

Lord, I know, you are the God of comfort and when my whole world shattered, you have been with me every step of the way. Continue to be ever near and my constant companion when the giant hole wants to pull into the depths of darkness and despair. In those moments, draw me ever closer to you and fill that hole with the knowledge that you are only a breath away and your arms of comfort are everlasting.

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The ‘Grieving’ Cocktail

griefPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.

 

The death of someone we love shatters our life in ways we never thought possible. When my dad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, I thought the foreknowledge of his impending death would help prepare me for the inevitable. I thought wrong.

Nothing prepared me for the overwhelming sense of void as I watched him take his last breath. Certainly Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt the same pangs of loss as she heard her son cry out, “It is finished!”

When a deep connection with someone is severed either through death, divorce or separation, grief kicks in. It’s a God-given defense mechanism that helps us cope with the crippling avalanche of emotions that put our life on hold.

So, what is God’s scriptural cocktail for dealing with loss?

  • Allow yourself to mourn. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time for everything, including death and mourning. Sin brought death to man in this life but the Cross of Jesus brought eternal life for those who accept its redemptive power.
  • Jesus understands the depths of human sorrow. He wept and was deeply moved when He saw Mary and Martha’s sorrow over the death of their brother Lazarus. Jesus already knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but allowed Himself to feel and express the crevasse of human sorrow.

“When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.” John 11:33, VOICE

  • God has instilled within the spirit of mankind a natural grieving process that defies race, language or cultural boundaries. He promises to lead us through the “shadows of the valley of death”.

“He was… a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3

Documented succession of the grieving process includes: Shock, depression, reality of the loss and recovery. It is no respecter of persons.

  • As a believer, God infuses your grief with faith. That’s powerful! God has promised to be with us in our darkest hours which include our times of grief. God longs to give us comfort, but we must reach out and accept it.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
II Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT

It has been nine years since I lost my dad to cancer and feel confident I am in the recovery stage of my grief. Moments of intense sadness have diminished and the emotional void is being replaced with cherished memories.

I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is intimately acquainted with grief, disappointment and heartache and forever with me in every season of life.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever  (forever with me).” Psalms 73:26 (NLT)

Know this: Grief will visit us all at some point but God keeps track of all our sorrows, He collects all our tears in a bottle and records them in His book. I’m not sure what book, but I can only assume it is the book of OUR life on earth.

That’s how much God loves us. He even keeps record of our tears. His love for us is amazing!

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalms 56:8 (NLV)

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The ‘Forgiveness’ Cocktail

forgiveness.pngThe indisputable truth about an unforgiving mindset is it can (and will) cripple our life spiritually, emotionally and physically. God desires us to be Christ-like in every area and since He has unconditionally forgiven us, I’m pretty certain He expects us to reciprocate forgiveness to others.

“But, you have no idea what he or she did to me and my family!” No, I don’t. I can only speak about my own life circumstances. I’ve had to drink the ‘forgiveness’ cocktail more than once.

Let me share:

Once upon a time I married my prince, or so I thought, but he was actually a toad incognito. Let’s call him ‘Dick’ to protect his identity.  Sidebar: This person is NOT my daughter’s father who remains a good friend to this day.

I gifted this prince my heart. In return, he gifted me a secret life of strip clubs, porn, drugs and lies. Imagine going to work and a co-worker shares, “I’m pretty sure I saw your husband at my in-home nurse visit today. He seemed to be living there.”

It all proved true. Dick’s out of town commercial paint jobs were really nights spent with the ‘other’ woman… or at strip clubs. Once his secret life was exposed, Dick never returned home and the IRS lien notices soon followed. My prince had defaulted on his quarterly business taxes and our home was about to go into foreclosure.

Call it bad choices, ignoring the obvious signs or being blind-sided. The truth is life happens and the ending doesn’t always play out like Hallmark movies.

In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go.” My translation would be closer to this:

I can ‘let go’ after you suffer alive as body parts are dissected for science; or, you experience a forever erection and acquire a disease that requires a lifetime catheter. Yep, you should get what is due you for my pain and suffering.

But then, there is God and His mercy. Hard to ignore when we look at the cross and realize we didn’t get what was coming to us.

“Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage; stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIRV)

God’s ‘Forgiveness’ cocktail doesn’t mean you condom the offense. God forgave King David of serious sins (murder and adultery), but David still suffered the consequences of his actions even after asking for forgiveness. We aren’t the judge and jury for how the actions of others impact our life.

“Let go of anger and abandon rage.” (Psalms 37:8). To partake and reap the full benefits of the ‘forgiveness cocktail’ we must let go.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis.

I had one brief encounter with Dick after he abandoned us. It was at his mother’s funeral. He gave no indication we had ever been married and shared an intimate relationship, but that’s OK. My decision to forgive rather than retaliate has yielded 23 years of marriage to a man who more than makes up for the guy I thought was my prince.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to remember Colossians 3:14:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Remind me that your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.

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The ‘Anti-Anxiety’ Cocktail

Overshare_HavingEverything_V1What triggers anxiety in your life? For me, it is stress that is self- induced by taking on more projects than I can possibly handle. It is difficult for me to tell others I can’t do that, be there, or help you solve your life dilemma.

A close second in the stress arena is being a passenger in a car on the expressway. Sounds crazy, I know, but anxiety grips every part of my being when I don’t have control of the driver’s seat. Your anxiety triggers may differ from mine, but the feelings of angst are the same and can have crippling effects.

Scriptures gives us the following solution to our anxiety woes:

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, 7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:5-7 (TPT)

“I can do that!” said no one ever.

It’s the application of the above scripture that proves problematic and challenging. Let’s take a look at what this scripture is really suggesting we need to do to overcome the anxiety issues we encounter daily with or without meds.

  1. Accept Jesus as your Savior is the first step. Without Him, you are powerless to overcome anxiety or anything else that impairs you to live life to its fullest.
  2. “Be saturated in prayer throughout the day…”
    Yep, that is what the scripture tells us to do. Really, God? Who has time for that when life is happening and I barely have time to put a meal on the table when the kids get home from school. Read these words carefully, you don’t have to be on your knees to pray. God is Omnipresent, He is everywhere you are. He is with you in your drive into work, at your kid’s baseball game, while cleaning the house or hanging a light fixture. ‘Saturated’ in prayer means talking to God on the go.
  3. …” offering faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude.” OK, so God is telling us to have gratitude and faith when pulled into the abyss of anxiety. It looks that way. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has determined that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  4. “Tell Him every detail of your life.” Are you suggesting I make God my personal therapist? Absolutely! As we communicate and admit to God that we need His help, He will orchestrate every detail of anxious moments. He will make the violins of our workplace and the flutes of our home life make perfect harmony. God’s wonderful peace transcends human understanding but only to the degree that we allow Him to work without our obstruction. The anti-anxiety cocktail is dependent on our dependence on Him.
  5. “Then, God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” WOW! That scripture alone should make us want to seek God in all things. For some, meds help with anxiety issues, me included. However, saturating myself in communication with God in daily prayer and seeking to find gratitude in all things helps me find peace when anxiety overcomes me.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? But you do God and for that I am thankful.

You stand ready to battle against every anxiety that seeks to destroy my peace in you. Help me to immobilize any anxieties as I talk to you in the moment. No one knows me better than you. I trust you to redirect every arrow of anxiety I experience to the throne room in Heaven.

Thank you, Jesus, for caring about every detail of my life.

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The ‘I am Your Provider’ Cocktail

GodsWordinUsPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.

Today’s topic is about our struggles with financial insecurity. Count yourself blessed if you are one of the fortunate few who haven’t been through financial hardships.  One of the biggest strains in life is lack of money to meet the monthly bills.

Maybe you lost your job, are going through a divorce, have over-extended your credit card, paying orthodontic or medical bills…there are a host or reasons that put us in a financial bind and limit our ability to stay on top of things.

I have experienced plenty of indigent times when standing in a line for food stamps or accepting State assistance was my only means of survival. I have never forgotten the shame I felt when walking into a local grocery store to pick up the free Christmas ham offered to those on welfare. It was humbling but at the same time I was grateful that there was a program that helped me through the rough times. As a single mom, it allowed me to pay my mortgage and put food on the table for me and my daughter.

We sometimes unjustly judge others without any knowledge of the where, what and whys of their financial circumstances. Thankfully, that isn’t God’s nature; He sees our circumstances through divine eyes and with omnipotent knowledge considers our daily needs.

Unlimited credit card expenditures are the popular trend. The buy now, pay later philosophy has become the acceptable norm. I’m fairly certain the scripture, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19] doesn’t apply to spend binging based on our wants.

God never promised us earthly riches but He has promised provisions for our day-to-day needs. In times of financial woes, we need to open God’s Word and allow Him to teach, lead and restore our trust that He will work all things to our good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God isn’t going to wondrously banish your financial misfortune simply because you open the cover of your Bible and click your heels together. He wants to be our provider, but requires a few things from us. God’s remedy to our financial issues are not as difficult as might think.

  • Acknowledge and accept Him as your savior. He can’t help if He you don’t know who He is and what He can do in your situation. He knows you, but He won’t invade your space unless you personally invite Him into your life.
  • If financial issues are self-inflicted due to overspending, then stop unnecessary spending and live within your income! If it means cutting up credit cards, then do it.
  • Seek the help of a professional planner to help guide and advise you in resources available to you. Financial instability leads to a feeling of a lack of control, which can increase anxiety and stress. Research1 reveals that financial insecurity can actually cause bodily pain.
  • Focus on God and what He is doing in you rather than your circumstances. Allow your current situation help you grow closer to God. There will be times of excess and times of need in our lives. Money and possessions aren’t included in our suitcase to Heaven, the only thing we have to carry through this life and into the next is our faith in and relationship with God.

God is full of wisdom but we need to be to listen and heed what He says to improve our financial situation. It’s unlikely a new job will drop in your lap while you’re watching TV. We must forth effort and on God’s end, He’ll give us favor, but we have to make the first step.

Prayer for Today:

God, your truth is more important than how I feel or what the circumstances say. You are big enough for every situation; free me from worry, anxiety and stress with the knowledge that you are in control and will provide for my needs.

“…we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 2:18 (NLT)

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The “Never Alone” Cocktail

girl-1245678_640Earlier in the week, I determined to post about different areas and seasons in our life that need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word, we experience divine liberation.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “We were all . . . made to drink of one Spirit.” Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

God is the Master of mixology and has deliberately provided the perfect biblical cocktail for every life situation. Today, I share the ‘Never Alone’ cocktail and examine God’s spiritual recipe for loneliness.

I consider a passage of Scripture found in the 102nd Psalm: “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop” (Psalm 102:6-7).

I don’t know about you, but I have experienced extreme bouts of loneliness at times in my life. There are many reasons for feeling alone; sorrow, sin, rejection, separation, low self-esteem to name a few. It has been estimated that as many as one in five suffer from loneliness.

So what does God tell us about loneliness?

First, let me make clear that no one fully understands what it’s like to be YOU except God. The fact that He knows us by name and our coming and goings reassures us we are never alone. He is with us always.

“I know when you rise up and when you sit down, your comings and goings and how you’ve become enraged at me.” Isaiah 37:28 (NIV)

Having a personal relationship with God changes everything; it is the answer to our loneliness problem. Not only that, but He understands what it is like to be a lonely human. Just look to the cross where He was abandoned by friends who even pretended they didn’t know him.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Scripture shares the story of a leper that sat by the roadside, an outcast rejected by society and forced to beg for food. He was ignored by everyone until Jesus passed by. The unsightly man ran to the feet of Jesus and fell to his knees.

“Lord, make me clean,” he said.

In that moment, Jesus reached out and touched him, yes, physically put his hand on a person who likely hadn’t felt the touch of a human hand in years and the leper was instantly healed. That one brief interaction with Jesus rocked his world. He still had no friends or possessions, nothing more than the rags on his back, but it didn’t matter; he had Jesus.

In our loneliness, we need to reach out to others and build a community of friends who care about us for the person we are, not for what we have or don’t have. When we connect with people who make us feel seen, heard, and valued without judgment, we see our life outside our own perspective.

No friend can save you from loneliness, but those relationships can sustain you in the down times and help you see you are not alone. God stands ready to be your BFF (best friend forever) in your loneliness. He is the solution that empowers us to find meaning, joy and comfort in a world broken by sin.

When you know Jesus as your savior, you are never alone. Do you know him?

Prayer for today:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you and experience your presence in my loneliness. I believe you died on the cross for my sins and want to invite you to take the reins of my life and lead me into a personal relationship with you. I ask that you become my new BFF. Thank you for never leaving my side and loving me in every situation.

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.