What would you think if your husband didn’t speak to you for days or even weeks at a time? What if your children talked about you but rarely spoke with you? What if your friends went to your house but didn’t talk to you while they were there?
Of course these situations sound strange and are probably pretty unbelievable, right? But when we don’t pray, that’s essentially how we’re treating God. Even if we read the Bible. Even if we go to church. Even if we sing hymns or worship songs. Even if we read Christian books. All of those things are great. They are all things we should do. But they shouldn’t take the place of prayer in our lives.
Why not? Because prayer is the way we communicate with God. It’s the way we tell Him how much we love Him. It’s the way we thank Him for meeting our needs. It’s the way we ask Him for guidance. It’s one of the ways we communicate with God in response to all the ways He communicates with us.
And it grieves the heart of God when we don’t pray.
Years ago my husband was filling in for our pastor who was away one Sunday. He began his sermon by telling how he was caught off guard by the amount of love in his heart for our first child when she was born. Of course he had loved Hannah before she was born, but when we welcomed her into the world, a whole new level of love filled his heart. An unexpected love that he never could have understood until our child was born.
He went on to tell how, as she grew, every little thing she did seemed so miraculous. Every milestone she reached made him so proud! Every noise she made sounded like music. Every smile lit up his heart and made him love her that much more.
And then, around the age of 15 months, things changed. Our sweet girl stopped talking. She lost the ability to understand speech. She no longer looked at her daddy with love in her eyes. She no longer laughed when he played with her. She no longer understood his instructions or tried to follow them. She no longer craved her daddy’s attention or sought his approval.
In other words, she no longer responded to her father’s voice.
My husband learned by experiencing Hannah’s lack of response toward him—Hannah’s earthly daddy—that God feels the same way when His children don’t respond to Him. And if we earthly parents grieve when our children don’t respond to our imperfect love, how much more must God grieve when we fail to respond to His perfect love for us?
Yes, prayer is important. It’s one of the ways we show God that we’re listening. It’s one of the ways we ask Him to help us understand His will for our lives. It’s one of the ways we thank Him for what He does for us. It’s one of the ways we acknowledge Him, communicate with Him, and respond to Him. It’s one of the ways we worship Him. But the most important reason to pray is simply because God desires a relationship with each of us.
God’s provision is such a wonderful, amazing thing! He provides for us whether we deserve it or not, whether we appreciate it or not, and even whether we know it or not!
Grateful for gratitude
I don’t know about you, but I really like it when I give my children gifts and they absolutely love what I’ve given them. And it’s even nicer when they are truly thankful for the gifts. It makes me feel great when they give me hugs and kisses or when they say a heart-felt “Thank you!” when they receive my gifts. There’s nothing nicer than being appreciated for doing something nice for someone.
But I often find myself wanting things I don’t have instead of being thankful for what God has provided for me. And when my children do the very same thing, it upsets me! I wonder how they could possibly be so selfish as to want things they don’t have when I’ve given them everything they need and many things they want. And then, without even recognizing it, I’m doing the very same thing!
Grateful for grace
But the wonderful thing is that God provides for us anyway. He doesn’t get angry and cut off our provision when we fail to thank Him. He doesn’t take away our provision when we don’t appreciate what He’s given us. He doesn’t even take it away when we’re ungrateful or when we fuss or complain wishing He’d given us something different!
One of my goals for this year is to start paying more attention to God’s provision in my life. I want to take the time to recognize it when He provides for me. I want to put forth the effort to thank Him when He provides for me. And I want to be grateful for whatever He provides without wishing for or wanting something different.
And to me, being thankful for God’s provision means being happy with what I have instead of always wanting more. In fact, my husband and my youngest child and I are getting ready to go on a mission trip to some very poor areas in Peru. This will be our third trip to Peru, and just like we’ve done the past couple of years, we’ll visit some areas where our team has previously ministered, and we’ll visit some places that will be new to us and some of which haven’t ever heard the Gospel message!
Grateful for the gospel!
As we visit these places, there’s one thing I notice more than anything else. In every single area where the people know Jesus, they have thankful hearts! Many of these people live in complete poverty, yet they trust God for His provision, and they are absolutely content with what He has provided for them. Many of these people literally live in huts made from whatever boards or pieces of tin they can find. They have no indoor plumbing, no running water, only one set of clothing to wear, and minimal food, yet they are joyful and happy people!
It’s so humbling to meet these people and see how happy and thankful they are when we have so much more than they do, yet we only see what we don’t have.
And that’s the difference the Gospel should make in our lives. We should strive to see all the times God provides for us each day. We should be thankful for His provision in our lives. Will He stop providing for us if we’re not thankful? No. He’ll still provide for us just like we provide for our children whether they’re thankful or deserving. But we will make His heart happy in the same way our hearts are happy when our children are thankful and when they recognize our provision for them. And that is reason enough for me.
It can be hard to have peace when you’re in the middle of difficult circumstances! I know for myself it’s hard to have peace when life is chaotic and uncertain. I’m a planner, and I like to know what’s going to happen and when. I like for things to go according to my plans. When that doesn’t happen, I don’t feel peace.
I’ve realized, though, that if I really believe God makes all things work together for my good, I should be able to have peace in my heart regardless of my circumstances. I should have peace knowing that God will take care of my family and me and that He loves us. Of course that doesn’t mean I have to like what’s going on or be happy about my circumstances! But I should still be able to trust God and His plan and therefore have peace.
A young woman from my church recently wrote about how God used a quilting lesson to teach her about peace. Her grandmother was giving her a quilting lesson. The grandmother explained how there are many choices a person must make when she’s creating a quilt. She must decide on the fabrics, the thread, how to put it together, what kind and weight of batting to use, how to bind it, whether to hand- or machine-quilt it, and so on. Even if a person is using a pattern, there are still choices to make. There will still be differences in the finished quilt that’s made by one person or another. The finished product has to do with the choices that are made by the person who is making the quilt.
Just as the quilter must make decisions about each fabric and each stitch as she sews her quilt, we must each make decisions in our day-to-day lives. We can decide to be afraid or hurt or anxious. We can worry and doubt or feel hurt or angry. Or we can choose to move forward with confidence even when we aren’t particularly happy about our circumstances. We can choose to trust God, to love Him, to allow Him to love us. We can choose to move forward knowing that God knows the outcome even when we don’t.
We can choose to accept His peace.
You see, God knows that the hard things we go through will contribute to who He wants us to be just like the wonderful things will! God sees the finished work even when we only see the pieces. He knows how they will eventually all work together to make each of us into exactly the person He wants each of us to be.
Will you allow God to take the pieces of your life and create a beautiful quilt out of them? Will you allow Him to take the mistakes and the victories, the good choices and the ones you wish you could change and make your life into what only He knows it can be? Will you accept His peace as he pieces together your life?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Have you ever been humiliated? Young children are great at causing us to feel humble, aren’t they? I remember when one of my children was very young, we walked past a woman at the grocery store who hadn’t had a bath and who wore dirty clothes. My daughter, not knowing any better at such a young age, loudly announced to the entire store, “Mommy, she stinks!” Yes, I was definitely humiliated!
But it can be a good thing to be humble. When we’re humble, God is able to use us to do His work! 1 Peter 5:6 says: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you.” In other words, when we are humble before God, He will exalt us!
Have you ever noticed that, when we feel like we’ve got everything under control, we tend to rely on ourselves and not pray or rely on God for direction? But when we’re humble, when we know we don’t know what to do, that’s when we pray. That’s when we admit that we need God.
If you’re like me, homeschooling is often challenging! It would be nice to have it all together and for things to go smoothly—according to my plans—without a problem. But I find that, more often than not, it doesn’t happen that way. But I also know that the times I rely on God, more specifically the times I have no choice but to rely on God, are the times everything goes the best! When I’m forced to humble myself, God is always ALWAYS there to guide me.
And the amazing thing is that, even though God knows we’re going to fall flat on our faces, He still allows us to make our own choices and choose our own paths. But He’s faithful no matter how badly we mess up to be there for us when we turn back to Him. All we have to do is humble ourselves.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that we are the most teachable when we humble ourselves! Many years ago, I tutored a young boy in reading. He was about 6 or 7 years old. He was having trouble learning to read because he simply refused to believe that the teacher at his school knew more about reading than he did. If the teacher said a certain letter made a certain sound, the little boy refused to believe her. He wanted to decide for himself what sound that letter made. And as long as he insisted that he knew more than the teacher, he wasn’t going to learn to read!
As you read about the young man in the situation above, you may have thought to yourself, “How in the world could that little boy have thought he knew more than his teacher? He was only 6 years old! Did he really think he knew more than an adult who has been reading for many years?” It just sounds silly, doesn’t it?
Do you know when that little boy finally learned to read? Yep, that’s right! When he humbled himself and realized that, no matter how smart he thought he was or how much he wanted to decide for himself what sounds the letters make, he didn’t have the answers!
So often we are like that little boy. We think we have the answers. We rely on ourselves. And I can just imagine God asking Himself when we’re finally going to humble ourselves so He can use us for His purposes and teach us what He wants us to know.
So remember on hard days and days when everything seems to be going wrong that those are the very days we need now and then. They teach us to be humble. To rely on God. To allow Him to teach us and make us into the best we can be. Into what He knows we can be.
Faith can sometimes be hard to come by. It’s hard to have faith when our prayers seem to go unanswered. When our children suffer from long term illness that God doesn’t heal. When we don’t understand why.
The truth is that I used to call my own faith into question when God didn’t heal my daughter of autism. It truly shook my faith and made me question God and His goodness. I simply (honestly) didn’t understand why God would choose not to heal her of her suffering.
Over the years, though, I’ve learned some things about God and our faith. And while I’m certainly no expert, I’ll share with you my thoughts.
Thoughts on Faith
- God knows better than we do. We can rest assured that, no matter what we think is best, God knows what’s best for each of us. Even though we honestly, sincerely believe what we want is good (even best) in a particular situation, only God truly knows best.
- Is it really faith if we only trust God when things go our way? You know, it’s easy to get along with people when they do what we want them to do, isn’t it? It’s easy to love our children, get along with our spouses or co-workers, and have faith in God when things are going along nicely for us. What isn’t so easy, though, is believing in God’s love and goodness when He doesn’t do what we want Him to do. Yet if we truly do have faith in God, we must have it whether or not we understand or agree with God’s plan for our lives.
- God’s grace is sufficient in all circumstances. Paul asked God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” In fact, he said he pleaded with God three times to remove it. Yet God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” So how did Paul respond? This way: “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- If we knew God’s plans for us, then faith wouldn’t be required. If things always went along as we wanted them to, according to our own plans, we might easily begin to think that we have everything under control and that we don’t need God in our lives.
I have to be honest and say that, if God were willing, I would have Him heal my daughter right now. However, I can also honestly say that my faith in God does not depend on His healing her. I choose to have faith in God and to believe in His goodness and His perfect plan for my daughter’s life whether or not He heals her. I choose to have faith.
Does it mean I’m not a Christian if I’m suffering from depression? If I lack joy?
This month’s topic is joy. As I considered what it means to have joy, I began to think back on the years in my life when joy was hard to come by. I dealt with depression off and on for many years, and as if I wasn’t already dealing with enough, I also worried that maybe I wasn’t a Christian (or at least I wasn’t a “good” Christian) if I was depressed. I mean, Christians are supposed to be happy all the time, right? Doesn’t God promise us joy right there in the Bible? So what’s wrong with me? How can I possibly be depressed if God has promised me joy?
Romans 15: 12-13 says:
12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”
13 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.
First, you need to know that Christians can (and do!) suffer from depression just like anyone else. It’s true that we have hope for the future because of our salvation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will always be happy or that we can force ourselves to feel happy. That we’ll never get depressed. That we’ll always smile and be cheerful and content with our circumstances. We live in a world that is imperfect, and as long as we live in this world, we have to deal with the effects of imperfection.
Many years ago, I went through a very hard time. My first child, now age 21, was diagnosed with severe autism. For about a year after that, I was extremely depressed. The only reason I was willing to keep on living was because I knew that my child needed me. Life didn’t seem worth living any more. I still had a husband who loved me and who took wonderful care of me and our child. I still had a place to live and plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear. But none of it seemed to matter very much any more.
I wanted to care. I wanted to feel happy. I wanted to have joy. But I didn’t know how.
I was ashamed
I was ashamed to admit how depressed I was to anyone else. I was afraid they would think I wasn’t a Christian if I was depressed. I was afraid my husband would think I didn’t love him or that I didn’t appreciate how he worked so hard to take good care of us. I was afraid the people at church would look down on me. I was afraid God would be disappointed in me. I was afraid that, if I admitted I was depressed, I would then be obligated to do something to get better, and I had no idea what to do.
One day I gave in and decided to seek out help. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself and my family! I saw a doctor and tried taking medication. It took some time, but after a couple of tries, we found one that worked well for me. (Yes, it’s ok for Christians to take medication to treat depression when we need it! Depression is often caused by a chemical imbalance, and it may be necessary for a few months or even years to take medication to get things back in balance. We don’t hesitate to take medications for other illnesses, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for taking medication for depression either.) I also saw a Christian counselor who helped me learn better ways to deal with stress. It wasn’t immediate, but I began to feel better and eventually felt like myself again!
I learned to feel joy again
All these years later, I can truly say that I no longer suffer from depression. I do have “down” days now and then, but I no longer feel hopeless and helpless. I can (on most days!) sincerely say that I feel the joy I once lacked. The joy that God promises us in the Bible. Through those years of depression, I learned a lot about relying on God, being willing to seek out help when I need it, being honest with myself and my family, taking medication when needed, not being so hard on myself, and taking better care of myself. I learned to hang in there during the hard times and to allow myself to feel happiness without guilt during the good times. I learned to feel joy again.
Years ago, the pastor of our church was away, so my husband preached the sermon that Sunday morning. I sat in the church listening to him and cried. The topic of my husband’s sermon was 7 Things I’ve Learned About God from My Daughter (Who Has Autism). Today I would like to share one of those things with you. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me!
My husband began by explaining that, just as he and I love our daughter, Hannah, in spite of her differences and difficulties, God loves each of us in spite of our imperfections and issues. You see, our daughter is 21 years old, severely autistic, completely non-verbal, and has very poor motor skills. The world might consider her less than lovable. But Scott and I love her simply because she’s ours.
For many years, my husband and I have taken Hannah to speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, doctors, neurologists, and more. We’ve worked with her in our home for many hours and many years. We’ve played with her, read to her, cared for her, and loved her for 21 years in spite of the challenges and difficulties.
Yet even after all of that work, Hannah still doesn’t speak. After all of our love and intervention, she’s still autistic. After all those hours of physical and occupational therapy, her motor skills are still very poor. And guess what? We love her anyway.
Does Hannah have to do anything to earn our love? No! We love her simply because she’s our daughter. Yet so often, we have difficulty understanding how God can possibly love us when we’re not perfect. When we say the wrong thing. When we do something we know we shouldn’t. When we fuss at our children, fail to keep the house clean, get impatient with our husbands, get frustrated and upset and angry at those we’re supposed to love the most.
But there’s good news!
Just like our love for Hannah doesn’t depend on her abilities or talents or recovery, God’s love for us doesn’t depend on our behavior or abilities or even our attitudes! We don’t love Hannah any less because of her imperfections, and God feels the same way about us.
He loves us unconditionally just because He created us! Just because we belong to Him!
So the next time you begin to worry that you’re not good enough or that you’re not worthy of love—of God’s love or anyone else’s–remember this. It’s ok. You don’t have to be worthy. But you’re still dearly loved simply because you’re the daughter of the King of Kings.
You’re loved because of whose you are—not who you are. And that is true love!
We hope this devotional series is blessing you in your motherhood and your walk with the Father. Please enjoy this printable coloring page, take a few minutes to slow down…breathe…remember. You are loved simply because you belong to the King.
So let’s get real. Do you ever have times when you just don’t feel like praising God? When you feel like God has abandoned you? When you feel like life is hard…really hard…not just that things aren’t going your way?
20 years ago when my first child, Hannah, was very young and was diagnosed with severe autism, I felt like that. I remember my pastor saying, “Wendy, you do know that God still loves you, right?” And all I could say in response was, “I don’t feel very loved right now.” In fact, I felt completely abandoned. All these years later, I remember that feeling and those words.
But I’m thankful that, in spite of my doubts and questions, God did still love me. He does still love me! So you may wonder how I made it from there to here. From wondering how God could allow such a thing to happen to, instead, knowing that He loves me no matter what my circumstances are. I’ll tell you. Praise.
It wasn’t easy. I didn’t feel like praising God when He had allowed such a tragedy to happen in my family. I was, to be honest, kind of mad at Him. But as I read my Bible, I kept seeing references to praise—in good times and bad times. So I praised.
At first it was half-hearted, but God knew I was trying to be obedient to Him. As time went on, I realized that praising God lifted my spirits. It made me feel happy. It helped me focus on the God who loves me no matter what my circumstances are. And then I understood. God commands us to praise Him because it’s good for us too! It strengthens our faith. It gives us joy. It helps us see past ourselves and our circumstances. It doesn’t change our circumstances, but it changes our hearts in the middle of our circumstances.
In James 4: 7-8 (NIV), the Bible says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.” What I didn’t realize all those years ago was that, by praising God even in my time of mourning, I was submitting myself to God. I was resisting the devil. I was drawing near to God! I simply knew that, even though I didn’t feel it in my heart, I was doing what God told me to do, and I was hoping (because I was having a hard time praying) that God would bless my half-hearted efforts.
And He did.
Of course there’s much more to my story than what I can share in this limited space, but I think the most important thing I can stress is that praising God doesn’t have to be something you feel. It can simply be something you do in obedience to God. He can take your praise, your attitude, your heart, and whatever circumstances you find yourself in, and transform them like He did mine.
So go ahead and praise Him, and let Him take care of the results. We serve a big God who can handle our attitudes and our problems. And we serve a good God who chooses to bless us—whether we deserve it or not—simply because we choose to be obedient to Him. And for that, I praise Him!