When Death Shall Be No More

Claire Wineland is an 18 year old woman who is living with a chronic illness called cystic fibrosis (CF). Claire has a mission, and an admirable one at that. She aims to raise awareness about CF and raise money to help families affected by this disease.

If you keep up with current events, charities, or have been on Facebook recently you may be familiar with her message.

(here is a link to one of her vlogs if you’re not)

She has been fighting for her life since she was 16. She’s living her life with an incurable disease, but is making the most of what she’s been given.

She’s living an amazing legacy and has accomplished more in her first 18 years of life than many of us ever will. I admire her efforts to normalize death and ultimately teach coping mechanisms, but I want to take the opportunity to present a greater message.

The Normalcy of Death and Coping with Loss

Death is not a normal thing.

Despite our best efforts to live a longer, healthier, or even more *organic* life, death still happens. And it still feels odd.

On this side of Heaven, we must experience and learn to cope with death. It’s heart breaking when you lose someone you love and causes us to feel grief. When faced with death and our own mortality we are left with the decision to either give into despair or be propelled into hope.

Death is hard because I’m not sure if it was part of Gods original blueprint for Humanity. If that’s the case, then there’s a reason it feels so incredibly unnatural.

I’m not enough of a theologian to know if that last statement is definitively true or not. But I like to dream, and in my imaginative/uber nerd mind I see His original plan for death being a little like a scene from Lord of the Rings. I like to imagine that you would reach an age where you would board a boat that “retired” you to a place like Valinor…but we’ll leave that idea to my crazy imagination 🙂

(please keep reading if I just lost you on that one…lol)

No matter what passing into Eternity would have looked like before the fall, we must face the fact that in the here and now, it’s difficult. Much like our friend Claire, there are healthy ways we can help each other understand death and cope with it, but I long for the day that death shall be no more.

Live it Well:

This begs the question: In the here and now, with death being inevitable, how will you choose to live your life? Chances are you don’t have a disease that has limited your life span. Chances are that you have a long life ahead of you that will be filled with many blessings and a life that I hope will be lived of love.

Do not be afraid of death.
Death will be conquered.
Do not be afraid of that last breath.
While you are here, live of love.
Live as if every breath might be your last.
No one is promised tomorrow.
Only today,
and not even the rest of today.
We are only promised the PRESENT.

Live selflessly.

Live well.

Live each day like your legacy depends on it.

In His grand plan of redemption, death is put to death and will be no more when he comes to make all things new.

Though death is inevitable, so is its defeat.

Our Conquering King will return.

He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Death will be no more.

There will be no more mourning.

No crying.

No pain.

And behold,

He will make all things new.

I’m thankful for the message Claire is bringing. One that teaches us to cope with the inevitable. I feel that it’s a message that speaks hope into our fallen world. I’m not sure if she has a Christian worldview or not, but her approach to what we will inevitably face one day is a message of hope.

Claire, I doubt we will ever meet, but thank you for changing the world. Thank you for being a living example of what it means to make the most of life. Thank you for living selflessly and changing the lives of countless individuals.
May God bless you richly for your work.

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The Paradox of Pain

In this world, there is a great paradox that exist within the pain we experience.

The paradox  is this:
Though you hurt something good will come from it.

Would it be possible to experience the fullness of joy
without the tyranny of misery?
Would we know peace without tribulation? 

Hope without despair?
Acceptance without rejection?
Adoption without abandonment?

Love without heartbreak?
(and the list could be a mile long)

I’ve been more convinced than ever that the pain we experience exists to give us a greater appreciation for the good things that are to come or may even already be present. I believe that God uses the very pain we experience to draw us to himself. The enemy has hijacked pain to distract us from seeing the good things that Jesus has done and is actively doing in our lives.

I don’t know that I would have ever know the value of God’s unfailing love had he not broken down my perception/perversion of love that was only self-serving and not self-sacrificing. When He made me come face to face with the misery of failure, he was placing in me a scale in which I would begin to notice what love truly is. I wonder how many of you have that same exact story, and how many of you are on the brink of knowing this truth.

The Great Perspective Changer

Painful experiences have a way of placing us in an alternate reality. One in which hope seems unobtainable. It has the habit of minimizing all the good things that God is doing in our lives. There is however beauty within the sorrow.

When we change our perspective on pain and place our eyes back on the cross and boldly approach the throne of God in times of need, it opens us up to know and enjoy God in a way that prosperity may have never allowed us to do.

It opens the door to more clarity.

Since we live in a world that operates in pairs (think sweet vs. salty, light vs. dark, you get the point) the fact that God doesn’t only pour out blessings on us is a blessing in of its self. In this world, in order to fully experience the joys of life we must experience some of its pitfalls. There is no reason to fall into despair when you do. Use painful experiences as an opportunity to shift your perspective from temporal to eternal. From the here and now to Eternity.

We have to come together and fight against the voice of the enemy that says “you are worthless, you are the only one who struggles…” It’s a lie. Though the enemy wants to place you in an alternate reality where it is nearly impossibly to sees pain as a hidden blessing, we have to fight against this and worship through the sorrow. We have to encourage one another to remember the bigger picture that’s taking place.

So, despondent Christian, when you feel like the world is falling down around you when you find it easier to despair than praise, never forget these truths:

There is ALWAYS a bigger picture taking place.
Your destiny is greater than your past mistakes.
Keep pursing Jesus. He is producing in you an eternal weight of Glory. He is calling you to Himself. Worship through the pain. Cling to what is eternal.

I’m incredibly humbled and thankful that our loving Father refines us on this fallen earth. It makes the flip side of that coin, joy, so much sweeter. And what a glorious day it will be when we worship Him face to face and sorrow will be no more!


Scripture to Consider:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
-Romans 15:13 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
-James 1:2-4

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Romans 5:3-5

Future Glory

For the past year in a half God has completely redefined my world.
I’ve never lived with such an utter dependency upon His grace, His Son, and the Word for which we are given to know His will. This dependency wasn’t something that magically happened or popped up over night, It came through suffering.

There were many nights when it was hard to hold onto hope. There were many days I fell into despair and despondency. Fear, anger, and depression defined me, but God has a way of shifting our focus off of self and re-focusing us onto Jesus, where all hope is found.

So, as I write about suffering, it’s not an easy place for me. It’s not an easy place for anyone. But my hope is that you will be encouraged after reading this.

Before Jesus redeemed me, I was like a ship setting out for a journey without a sail. I would be tossed and turned by any wave that happen to come my way. Countless relationships were ruined because of this and I was too ashamed to turn to Jesus, but God in His great love and mercy took compassion on His wandering son.

For the first time in my life I was confronted with the ugliness of my sin. A growing cancer in my soul whispering the lies of the enemy. “worthless…you’ve strayed too far…Jesus doesn’t love you…anger defines you…un-redeemable…” But just as I was confronted with the insanity of my sin, I was confronted by the voice of Jesus calming those winds and waves.

This experience is so incredibly hard to capture in words. At the time I knew He was doing something special, but I didn’t know what. I feel as though, to use producer language, He was writing a new script in my life. He was painting over an old canvas and creating a new image, one that reflects Him. There was a bigger picture taking place behind the suffering I was experiencing.

The Bigger Picture

When any amount of suffering is taking place, it’s incredibly easy to neglect the good that Jesus is doing in your life. It’s incredibly easy to lose hope and see only the temporary circumstance, but there is no reason to fear or give into despondency because there is always a bigger picture taking place

Romans 8 does an incredible job of speaking life into this. There’s a section of it that reads like this:

…I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.. (Rom. 8:18-19)

Paul is letting us in on a big secret here.

Pain produces a peculiar glory,
one of which we may not see until we are with our savior in paradise.

He is introducing a concept called Future Glory. It’s arguably against the American (and millennial) culture of instant gratification.

What future glory begs us to to is to look beyond a temporary circumstance
into the eternal perspective. It invites us to look beyond our temporary suffering into a future in which the circumstance shaped us to be stronger and more fit for Kingdom work.

But that’s easier said than done.

Why is this so hard for us to do, even as followers of Jesus?

Culturally, it is very American to desire instant gratification. We love fast food. We love fast internet. Hate waiting in lines or traffic and love to express every bit of emotion on social media. You are in even more danger of falling for this if you are a Millennial. (because we barely had the chance to know anything different.)

It goes beyond our culture though. Romans was written around 57-58 a.d. and as someone who is reading as a Millennial I feel like Paul is writing this letter to me! The sufferings that the followers of Jesus were facing at that time were much more extreme than anything we face here in the U.S. (we can worship openly without worrying about death) but holistically we still struggle with this when pain hits whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental.

We have to know that God is working something good through our suffering.

It is inevitable that our peers may not understand why we are able to worship God through hard circumstances, but scripture makes it incredibly clear that we are not defined by a temporary circumstance, or even our response to the said circumstance.

When you look at life through the lens of Scripture,
it changes your perspective on suffering.
You begin to see there is hope found in suffering.

Paul continues to write in Romans 12

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is relevant to many situations we face as believers, but can be applied to how we process suffering.

Don’t give up hope.

Remember Romans 5? There is a cycle of hope behind any suffering.

Suffering produces endurance
Endurance produces character
Character produces hope
Hope does not put us to shame

What the flesh will try to dictate is your suffering is eternal.
It is not. It is temporary.

Shame?
Temporary.
Anxiety?
Temporary.
Fear?
Temporary.

Remember, behind every ounce of suffering is a future glory that is being revealed.
Hold onto hope. Keep pressing hard into Jesus. 


Scripture to consider:

“Through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:2-5 ESV

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18


A Helpful Song

 

Taming a Romantic Heart

I am a bit of a hopeless romantic. I often find myself thinking about love and what it means. I don’t think that being a “hopeless romantic” is a bad thing, but there are times when I have to dial it back a good bit (anyone who knows me probably certainly knows this). I am easily captivated by beauty.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much of my captivation is fueled by an appreciation of beauty, and how much is fueled by a desire to be loved. There is nothing wrong with attraction or the desire to be loved when kept in check. But these things can quickly cross over into the realm of idolatry.

I have to often step back and evaluate where I am in my relationship with Jesus when I feel lonely or when I find myself dreaming about the ideal relationship. All of these ideas come from a place of brokenness.

A major question that has been helpful in taming a romantic heart:

Is my longing to be loved overpowering the love that Christ has already poured out on me?

So, hopeless romantic Christians, Let’s take a step back together and evaluate where our concepts of love are coming from.

Are they worldly in nature?

Are they based off of our own ideal relationships?

Is what we’re longing for realistic?

Are we looking for the perfect man or woman to give us the kind of love that Christ can only give?

After that quick heart check, it may be time to go before God and repent. If you need to do this now, please take the time to talk to God. I’ll wait 🙂

We are fallible creatures, meaning that we are not perfect. Heartbreak will always exist until Jesus comes back. There will always be broken relationships and families. There will always be a longing for temporary satisfaction when there are pleasures forevermore at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11).

Let’s evaluate this together and become better about finding our identities in Jesus rather than some form of ideal relationship. I believe that God want’s us to be in healthy relationships one day , but I also believe that if our hope is set in a relationship and not in Jesus then failure is eminent.

Only from the overflow of Jesus love in our own lives will we be able to extend an unbroken form of love to a future significant other.

So, when you are lonely, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unloved, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unlovable, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired of being single, cling to Jesus.

He wants your identity to be rooted in Him, then it will be possible to tame the romantic heart and see through the noise to what God has promised.

Cling to Jesus.


Scripture to Consider:

Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Lament

Lamentations is an often neglected book. It was most likely written to be sung as confessions during worship gatherings and is full of nuggets of wisdom. Shortly after Jesus drew me back to Himself, I had a mentor, and great friend, point me to Lamentations 3 after he realized I had not been able to grieve a major loss in my life that wasn’t due to death. It holds some beautiful truth about God’s love through times of affliction.

Entering into the chapter you hear the writer’s grievous cries. He has seen affliction and tasted God’s wrath. You can begin to imagine that God hasn’t exactly made this man’s life easy to this point… I find myself relating to the writing…

The most poignant part of this lament comes around verse 18. Everything up to this point has been extreme depictions of suffering, ALL FROM THE LORD.

But then the beautiful happens….the words “This I call to mind…Therefore I have hope…”

“My endurance has perished; so has my hope in the Lord. Remember my affliction, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
BUT THIS I CALL TO MIND AND THEREFORE I HAVE HOPE: THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD NEVER CEASES; HIS MERCIES NEVER COME TO AN END, THEY ARE NEW EVERY MORNING; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS. “THE LORD IS MY PORTION” SAYS MY SOUL”THEREFORE I WILL HOPE IN HIM. It is good that one wait for the salvation of the Lord…for the Lord will not be cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love.”

Our endurance lays in the hands of a savior who is faithful. His mercies never come to an end. He is our portion. Hope in Him.

If you are going through a difficult trial, remember, The steadfast love the Lord never ceases. His mercies are new EVERY morning. Wait for His salvation.

Turn your sorrow into songs of praise, much like the writer in Lamentations.

The LORD knows you. You are his beloved and He is yours. You are valuable beyond what words can express and you are loved. Cling to Jesus, our Living Hope, and don’t let the enemy discourage you. He only comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

Jesus is Love.
Jesus is Hope.
Jesus is better.

 

Father,

Break me of my feeble mindedness. Search my heart and expose sin. Make me more like your Son. Remind me of your mercies which are renewed each day and are not contingent on my disbelief, works, or tendencies to fall into anxiety. Help my disbelief. Cast out any shadow of insidiousness fear and allow your Spirit to work.

-Your Servant.

The Power of Hope

In fighting despondency, hope is your greatest weapon. Since the fall of man (Gen. 3), we have been hard wired to find our hope in everything but God. These are temporary joys, broken cisterns, and not true joy. This produces false hope. Being followers of Jesus, we know the ultimate source of true joy. There is ultimate satisfaction in knowing God. There is ultimate hope in knowing Jesus.

Rejoicing in Hope / Rejoicing in Suffering

Very early on in my experience with suffering, a very wise friend/counselor pointed me toward Romans 5.

 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Rom. 5:1-5

This is part of a larger concept called future grace. Simply put, future grace teaches you to look beyond a temporary circumstance into the eternal perspective. Hope allows you to see beyond the fog of depression, anxiety, and fear. Hope gives you the courage to cling to what is eternal. The beautiful thing about depression and anxiety is that it is always temporary. It may feel permanent, it may feel like you are drowning in an ocean of fear, but it is a very temporary experience. Cling to Jesus. His perfect love is casting out fear.

Because what is written here in Romans, and what I have experienced in my own life over the past year,  I know that we serve a God who does not waste our suffering.

Look to the future, as distorted or foggy as if may seem, there is always hope.
Look to Jesus because He is our Living Hope.

Never forget:
Suffering produces endurance.
Endurance produces character.
Character produces hope.
Hope does not put to shame because of God’s love.

Hallelujah! Praise God, He does not waste our suffering!

Jesus is a Living Hope

Through Jesus, we have been born again into a living hope! (1 Peter 1)
Because our hope is alive, as we press hard into it, it presses back. it blesses back. it breathes back. It’s not a band-aid. It’s not a temporary solution. It’s not medication. It’s a cure.

The fight against despondency is a fight FOR hope.OUR ULTIMATE LIVING HOPE IS JESUS. Look beyond the fog of fear and press hard into Jesus. He will deliver you.

If you are having trouble finding hope in a “hopeless” situation, please seek help. You are not alone. There is no shame in reaching out, and i assure you, hope is to be found.


Scripture to Consider

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Lamentations 3:22-25
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.

 

Fear, Idolatry and Losing What We Love

There is a direct correlation between fear, anxiety, and idolatry.
You fear when your kingdom is being threatened.
You fear when your idols are being crushed.
I have ultimately been encouraged by the thought and knowledge that all things come from God and that he is working all things out for the good of those who work according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

If all things work together for my good, then that must mean feelings of anxiety and fear are working for my good.

How?

They are bright red indicators to what my hearts desire is.
I fear the most when I trust the least.
If perfect love casts out fear and I feel fearful, there is an area of my life that I am refusing to give over to Jesus.

Indicators of idolatry.
What do you fear most?
Loss of comfort? Then you love comfort more than Jesus.
Loss of a job? Then you love security more than Jesus.
Negative bank account numbers? Then you love money more than Jesus.
Relationships? You seek affirmation from something that is going to die instead of the eternal security and affirmation we receive through Christ Jesus.

Consider this.
When you fear seek the root cause and repent.
If He is working all things for the good of those who work according to His purpose and if from Him are all things, then though the enemy uses fear as a weapon, it is ultimately for your good.
Take the enemy’s weapon flip it and go on the attack.
Use fear to your advantage by pressing hard into Jesus.
Use it as an indicator and repent.
He is faithful to forgive and steadfast in His love.


scripture to consider
Romans 8:28
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.

Philippians 4:6-7
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 John 4:16-19

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us.