A Change of Plans

 

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A couple of months ago I decided to try posting more often than I had been doing. What I discovered is that I’ve been putting so much work into these almost-daily posts that I’ve been neglecting my other writing responsibilities. Since I believe that the Lord has provided these writing opportunities for me, I need to use my limited time and energy more wisely.

Starting this week, I’ll be posting three times per week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I’m very thankful for my contributing writers, which alleviates some of the time I dedicate to this blog. I come across many great blog posts from other sources and I’ll continue to share those with you too. God is doing some great things in my writing life this year and I’ll be doing my best to honor what He has given me to do for His glory.

Beloved, thank you all for sticking with me and being a part of my bloggy world! I appreciate each and every one of you!

To humans belong the plans of the heart,
    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.

—Proverbs 16:1-3

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Rejoice in God’s Will

Here is a great devotional that is a good addition to my JOY theme this year. I read this yesterday at Crossmap.com titledNot Simply to Endure or to Choose God’s Will but to Rejoice in it.” The author of this devotional is none other than L. B. Cowman of Streams in the Desert. 

I live with several chronic pain illnesses and have often pondered the subject of God’s will, especially during this particular season of my life. Is it really possible to truly rejoice in God’s will, no matter what our difficulties are? Yes it is, and Mr. Cowman’s devotional is a good reminder of this. I especially appreciate this part of the devotional: “the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.”

Not Simply to Endure
or to Choose God’s Will
but to Rejoice in it

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. (2 Corinthians 6:10)

A stoic person despises the shedding of tears, but a Christian is not forbidden to weep.Yet the soul may become silent from excessive grief, just as the quivering sheep may remain quiet beneath the scissors of the shearer. Or, when the heart is at the verge of breaking beneath the waves of a trial, the sufferer may seek relief by crying out with a loud voice. But there is something even better.

It is said that springs of sweet, fresh water pool up amid the saltiness of the oceans, that the fairest Alpine flowers bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes, and that the most magnificent psalms arose from the most profound agonies of the soul.

May it continue to be! Therefore, amid a multitude of trials, souls who love God will discover reasons for boundless, leaping joy. Even though “deep calls to deep”(Ps.42:7), the clear cadence of the Lord’s song will be heard. And during the most difficult hour that could ever enter a human life, it will be possible to bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you learned this lesson yet?

Read the rest here.

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Great is Your Faithfulness

Great is Your Faithfulness

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Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. —Lamentations 3:21-23

How often do we do things that disappoint the people in our lives?

Maybe we’ve made a promise that later we found we can’t keep. Perhaps we raise our voice in anger again even though we don’t mean to. And how about the times when a friend or family member tries to sympathize with our pain? They mean well, but you’re certain they just don’t understand. I’m sure you’ve wanted to tell them, “You have no idea what it’s like to be in this kind of pain every day.”

At this point, we have two choices: to dwell on our misery or get on with the business of life.

We can moan and groan about our circumstances so everyone is aware of how much we are hurting, or we can demonstrate God’s presence in our lives by rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful to be with us through our tough times.

I have a very close friend (you know who you are!) who is a good example of one who lets God shine through her in spite of her constant pain. She once shared her feelings about pain with me this way:

“It is just pain. It could be worse. I could be suffering with pain and dying. It is only pain. I can still live and make the most of my life, to extend myself as far as I can go, to reach for the stars, to do the unimaginable. The pain will still be there. So, why not celebrate?”

This dear friend is such an encourager. Her positive attitude is a beacon of light in the darkness of pain. Quite simply, she makes me smile no matter how awful I’m feeling.

Beloved, the Lord is our only hope! He knows exactly what our pain is like and He will help us through it “every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.” He understands how constant pain can undermine a positive attitude and make us feel hopeless. But He’s always with us, ready to offer His love and comfort: “therefore I have hope.” Won’t you please pray with me?

Heavenly Father, sometimes it’s so hard to be cheerful and hopeful when I’m feeling so rotten. It’s easier for me to just give up and let the pain take over. But, Lord, I know that You love me too much to let me feel this way. Thank You for what You are teaching me through these trials and for being with me always. Help me to let Your joy flow through me to touch the lives of others who may also be suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

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Please and Thank You continued

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My heart overflows with a good theme;
I address my verses to the King;
my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
—Psalm 45:1

Several years after Rick and I first moved to northern Arizona, I was trying to make money through my freelance writing. Psalm 45:1 was my writing goal, but still God dead-ended almost every one of my efforts. It took me some time to finally realize that even though I said I was writing for God’s glory, in fact I was not. I spent tons of time furiously trying to earn money through my writing but my ultimate goal was to become a well-known writer.

When I came face-to-face with that truth, I was appalled. How could I have let myself be pulled into such a different direction from when I first started writing? I immediately stopped writing for about two years while I spent more time in the Word.

A curious thing happened during that writing hiatus. God called me to contribute to a book titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. I’ve shared several of the prayers I wrote for that book here before. The daunting part of this is that the editor gave me only three weeks to write 30 prayer entries—yes, you read that right: 30!

There was a big problem with this. I was struggling through some massive migraines during all those three weeks. However, God walked with me through the whole thing because I not only got them all written and submitted on time, there was very little final editing that had to be done. And how interesting that the topics I was assigned to write about were “Prayers of Supplication” and “Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving”—in essence, please and thank you!

One of my posts last week was titled Please and Thank You, which was about my first time as a counselor at Royal Family Kids camp. During that week, I spent my days and nights in constant prayers of please and thank you. In the same way, my heart was constantly uttering please and thank you prayers while God supplied the stamina I needed to write those 30 prayers.

God used those three weeks to remind me of where He wants me:
close by His side, relying on Him alone to get me through
.

A long time ago I read some wise words from an unknown author. They went something like this:

Don’t get so involved with the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work.

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The Lord Brings JOY to My Soul

This is a story I wrote several years ago. It is pure fiction except for one thing: millions of people live with physical pain—or emotional pain or financial difficulties or _______ (fill in the blank)every single day…

The Lord Brings JOY to My Soul

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When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your love, O LORD, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought JOY to my soul.
—Psalm 94:18-19

“Good morning!” Sherri smiled and waved, then hurried to help Macy up the ramp.

“What’s so good about it?” grumbled Macy. She stopped and leaned hard on her cane as she struggled with her shoulder bag.

“Here, let me.” Sherri slid Macy’s purse strap up higher, then gave her friend a hug. “Can I help you with your shopping?”

Macy’s eyes filled with tears. “I’d be so grateful. Today has been a pile of things gone wrong.”

Sherri helped Macy into the store’s motorized cart and then pulled a shopping cart out for herself. They moved from one aisle to the next as Sherri tried to keep the conversation light. Macy just responded with grumbles or shrugs.

At the checkout, Sherri placed Macy’s items onto the checkout counter before unloading her own cart. In the parking lot, she stashed Macy’s grocery bags in her trunk and then turned to help Macy out of the cart.

“There you go! Do you need any help getting this stuff put away at home?”

Macy’s eyes widened. “How can you be so nice when I’ve been so rotten to you?”

“I figured this wasn’t a great day for you when you couldn’t even appreciate the beautiful blue sky,” Sherri replied. She lightly touched Macy’s shoulder. “The pain is pretty bad today, isn’t it?”

Macy nodded. “Yeah, but I had no choice. I needed so many things and I’ve been putting this off for days.” She struggled into the driver’s seat and looked at Sherri. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?”

“You know. You look and sound so joyful when you must be feeling so bad yourself,” Macy said as she gestured to Sherri’s leg brace and the splint encasing her right wrist.

Sherri smiled. “I just picture God’s comforting arms around me, holding me close. Just the thought of that brings joy to my soul.”

Macy regarded Sherri for several moments. “You know, I should probably try that too.”

Beloved, life is not easy! But I’m sure you already know that. Please understand that I am not saying that thinking differently will change your circumstances. What I believe to be true is that changing our thinking can affect how we perceive our circumstances.

Trying to find joy in our circumstances is not easy, but I can attest to the fact that it can be done. I fail at this a lot but I’m thankful that most times I remember to reach out to the only One Who can bring true joy into my life: my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

May I pray for you about this?  Please reply in the comment section below this post or shoot me an email: faithlhj777 at gmail dot com.

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To Those Hurting This Christmas [Repost]

So many of us are hurting, mostly in ways not easily understood by our friends and family because we put on a good front. We don’t want to bother our loved ones with the details of how much pain we endure each day. Or we’re so busy caring for others in dire physical circumstances that we don’t have the time or inclination to think about how much we go through as we care for these dear ones. Perhaps we don’t know how we’ll pay the bills this month. When or how will we get our next paycheck—or meal?

Oh, we may have a deep and abiding faith in God because we know He loves us and cares about every single little detail of our lives…but these days we are clinging to that faith by our fingernails.

We are understandably so focused on our own pain and suffering or that of our loved ones that we’re afraid to confront our frustrations about a situation that never seems to end. How do we get through this Christmas season of joy when everything around us is in shambles?

Beloved, I’ll be writing more about this in the next days before Christmas, but today I want to share something with you that arrived in my inbox this morning. I pray you will be blessed by this as much as I am, and I will be praying for each and every hurting heart who reads this.

To Those Hurting This Christmas

by John Knight | December 9, 2012

TheWorksOfGod-John9-3-desiringgod.org

I know some of you are praying you’ll make it through Christmas—just make it through—not anticipating anything good will come from gathering with extended family and friends. It has become a cliche—right next to the article on what second-graders are excited about for Christmas is the article on the rise in depression during this last month of the year.

You know the sadness is real. While you change the diaper of a teenager, or administer complicated medications, or prevent your non-verbal ten-year-old from hurting himself again, or explain yet again the complicated life of your five-year-old without a diagnosis for her disability, your nieces and nephews and young friends are playing and running and eating, happily talking about the toys they want or travel they’re excited about or things they are doing in school. They easily do things your child will never do, no matter how many therapies or medications or prayers are offered.

Or maybe the disability in your family member means you can’t gather with other loved ones, and the heartache is almost more than you can stand.

Jesus knows.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, italics added)

More than that, he endured and is victorious!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, italics added)

And there are some of you who can’t see it. There is still hope!

From Pastor John’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy,

It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness first.

Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his. Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian — and yet still be one. (216, italics added)

Jesus understands. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is the answer. May you find him, and in finding him, find hope and peace in these hard days.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/to-those-hurting-this-christmas

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Grateful in All Circumstances [shared from Abandoned To Christ]

Can we truly be grateful for every single thing in our lives? The good and the bad? Today I decided to share a wonderful post about this from Abandoned to Christ. It speaks about this better than I have read anywhere else. Thank you, Sunny Shell, for showing us that it is very possible to be grateful for all things in our lives!

Grateful in All Circumstances

What does it mean, to give thanks in all circumstances?
 
In First Thessalonians chapter five, the Apostle Paul closes with a list of things that every Christian ought to do (vv. 12-22), but can’t do in our own strength or by our own sheer will. Perhaps we can accomplish some, or all that’s on this list, but it would only be a temporary appearance of godly character rather than a faithful and continual walk. For we know if we do not abide in Christ, we will not bear His fruit. And any true godly quality we exhibit is a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit within us (1 Cor 2:5), not from our flesh that continually desires the ways of this world.
 
I often refer to my physical trials as a gift from the Lord and something He has seen fit to work in my life for my greatest benefit. And often, I get questions and comments from people who are outraged by my proclamation that a good and loving God would bring pain into my life. They tell me I’m rather foolish and audacious to claim God would do anything besides make me healthy, wealthy and happy. But that’s not what God says.
….. 
Read the rest here.

 

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Quality of Life

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Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 

So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:1-18 (NIV)   Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase “quality of life.” Here are some of the definitions of quality of life, also referred to as QOL:

  • Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.
  • The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]
  • Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.
  • BusinessDictionary.com: Dailyliving enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face. Where is God in all of this?

“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org

So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still be triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 5 or 6 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more joy than I ever thought possible. Joy-sm--AMP What is true joy? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:

 “The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE. “It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE).” (1John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2Corinthians 4:17)”

To me, the hope of joy = the joy of hope. I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the hope of joy because . . .

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! —Job 19:25-27

And I can also have the joy of hope because . . .

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. —Romans 15:5-6, 13

  Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our hope on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much joy that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.

Choose joy. Yes, joy is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain hope of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain hope, how can we be anything but joyful no matter what our circumstances? My Redeemer lives! Please enjoy this video of Nicole C. Mullin singing one of my favorite and comforting songs, “My Redeemer Lives.” I know it will fill you with as much hope and joy as it does me! If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.

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My Times Are in Your Hands

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But I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.” 

My times are in Your hands.
—Psalm 31:14-15

Once again, I struggled to unscrew the top from a jar but the stubborn cap refused to budge. Just as I was getting ready to call on Rick for help, it came loose.

I hated having to ask Rick for help so often, but the arthritis in my fingers and carpal tunnel problems with my wrists cause difficulties with the simplest tasks. Daily my frustration grows as I witness different parts of my body getting weaker and sometimes even breaking down. These days I can’t even get down onto the floor or up again without great pain and difficulty because of my bad knees.

Why do things have to be this way? I silently ask God, but I already know the answer: “Trust Me, child, I’m always here to take care of you.”

What would we do without the promises of such a loving God who faithfully guides us through the trials of life? He knows everything about us, which means He understands our limitations. He has intimate knowledge about how much we hurt and He is always with us to comfort our painful and grieving body and spirit. He holds us close to His heart in His ever-powerful hands.

I know my God takes care of me—I believe this without a shadow of doubt. I guess my real problems start when I focus on my problems instead of on God. He realizes my pain and frustration and provides the best comfort possible through His Word. How often I have been in despair and found in Scripture the very words I needed to calm my heart.

Imagine the strength in God’s hands. Now picture those same hands pulling you close in a calm and comforting embrace. His strength is our strength, and can get us through those frustrating times when nothing seems to go right.

Beloved, our times are in God’s hands because everything in our lives is under His control.

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Suffering According to God’s Will [Joni ​Eareckson Tada repost]

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Suffering According to God’s Will

​by Joni Eareckson Tada

“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

​All suffering is within God’s sovereign will. There is not a sparrow that falls without His knowledge or a soul lost for eternity without His tearful purpose being accomplished. In the midst of the expanse of the sovereign will of God is one kind of suffering initiated by us that God not only allows but rewards.​

There are many ways to suffer in this world, where things happen to us. But the kind of suffering referred to by Peter is suffering we experience by choice, through obedience. Such obedience may result in mockery, beatings, discrimination, trials, and temptations. It’s the price one pays for having our bodies in the world and our spirits in the kingdom. Like being on a rack, we can’t escape the torture.

My wheelchair is a suffering that came from the sovereign purpose of the glory of God. And since that time twenty-five years ago, I’ve also suffered things that have come upon my spirit as a result of being in the kingdom. I have chosen to flee temptation, to drag my body from church to hospital, to endure the scorn of those who don’t know God. And I have suffered as a result. Such is the will of God for my life.

​The common suffering He comforts. The godly suffering He rewards. Exchange neither for anything. We can “entrust our souls to a faithful Creator.”

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Lord, grant me strength to endure the common sufferings of life and the willful sufferings of Your kingdom. In all these, may Your presence sustain me and Your glory be made known.

Taken from Diamonds in the Dust.  Copyright © 1993 by Joni Eareckson Tada.  Used by permission.  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

http://www.joniandfriends.org/

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