Faith in What We Don’t See

KODAK Digital Still CameraIt’s eleven o’clock Thursday night. I should be snuggled in bed. Instead, I’m trying to think up the right words and remember the perfect story to encourage you towards faith in Jesus.

The truth is, I’m writing this for me just as much as for you. At this hour, I need encouragement to keep believing in God. My faith feels a bit like a rubber band stretched to its breaking point. It isn’t because I doubt God’s ability nor his willingness to intervene in my present circumstance. I know He has the power to act on my behalf and I do trust in His good heart, for I’ve witnessed it in times past.

It’s having faith in this moment and how my current situation will work out that is tripping me up. What is God up to? Why isn’t he responding how I expect him to? He can give us what we need; why doesn’t he? I know He sees our pressing needs. Sigh :(.

Having faith in what I don’t see is where I’m at these days. I’m still hoping for restoration of family relationships. My heart has love ready for more little ones. Yet, here I wait to give a forever home to orphans while God gives me a different assignment. Everyday, I wait to hear news of how my family and friends have come to faith in Jesus.  And then there’s our Old Faithful van. She has issues. But we have to keep her.

I don’t see the answers I’m hoping for in any of these situations. But I trust God is working in each one.

I have faith in what I don’t see because my hope is in the God I know intimately. My faith does not rest on the hope of a desired outcome. For people and circumstances change. But God says in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change”. His promises, His character, His power, and His love in unchanging.

This kind of faith takes strenuous effort. It isn’t about believing when things are in our favor. Rather, it is taking God at His Word and trusting Him to the point of obedience. Even when we are challenged at every side and can’t see how things will turn out. It is easy to have faith in God when life is good. But we won’t discover what or who our faith is in until the twists and turns of life tests our hearts’ true devotion. Having faith in what we don’t see means we are fully committed to God regardless of our circumstances. We believe in Him for who He is, not what we can get from him.

Consider the important relationships in your life right now. Do you have the individuals in mind? Okay, here are some questions for you.

Are you committed to them only when they do everything to your liking? Do you stop loving them and quit the relationship when things are not going well? Relationships are hard. People change. They do hurtful things. But we don’t stop loving them. If we are fully committed to the relationships, we keep working things out. We keep praying. We keep hoping for better things to come. We do these things because we genuinely love them.

If we will do this for people, why wouldn’t we do it for God? Faith in God brings us into a one on one relationship with Him. We get to know Him intimately and understand his character. We know He can be trusted all the time. Even in turbulent times, we have faith in what we don’t see because we trust that God loves us deeply. We believe He has plans to bring us good and not harm because this is what he tells us in Jeremiah 29:11.

Having faith in what we don’t see makes the hard of life bearable. Because our faith rests in Jesus, the one who has overcome death to live again, we know there is hope in even the most impossible situation. If Jesus loves us enough to die for us, is there anything else he would not do for us? When we put our faith in Him, we have a living hope because he is a living God. In Him, we can be sure of what we hope for and certain of the things we don’t yet see as it is written in Hebrews 11:1.

So we keep believing. We have faith in what we don’t see. This kind of faith pleases God. As a result, He is working right now to do greater and grander things for us than we can ever imagine for ourselves. God will remove barriers, open doors, provide exceedingly, and perform miracles when we believe. In Him alone. 

 

Posted in Christian Living, faith, Suffering | Leave a comment

God! Where Are You?

IMG00357It is a Friday afternoon in late October, damp and chilly to the bones. I’m enjoying a brisk walk to the doctor’s office from work for my first ever prenatal visit. I am eager and anxious. How weird to think I’m going to be a mom! Will I know what to do? How will my life change? Am I going to get fat? How will my marriage change? Who will the baby look like?

My mind is racing as I wait impatiently for the midwife.

Half an hour passes. Then forty five minutes. Finally, my name is called and I follow the midwife to a room. Blood pressure is good. Weight is fine. Urine test done. She checks for the baby’s heartbeat on my belly. Nothing. She keeps listening a few more minutes. Still nothing. “Let’s try a sonogram”, she says. “It will give us a clearer picture.”

I watch the midwife’s face as she performs the sonogram. She is calm, but I can see her alarmed expression. I am uncomfortable. Something feels wrong. She continues the sonogram a little while longer before turning off the machine.

“I’m sorry. I can’t find a heartbeat. You don’t have a viable pregnancy.” said the midwife nonchalantly.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I have pregnancy symptoms so how can I not be pregnant?”

“Yes, I’m certain. Your body thinks you are still pregnant, but the baby has no heartbeat.”

And with those words she excused herself, leaving me in the examining room to swallow the news. I choke on tears (even now as I write). How can this be? Why is this happening? Am I dreaming? God? God? It can’t be true? God! Where are you?

The midwife finally returns and explains what will happen next. A procedure is scheduled to end the pregnancy. I can’t think clearly. Her lips are moving, but I can’t comprehend anything she says. I want to crawl into a corner and cry. Somehow, I manage to hold back screaming emotions because it seems ridiculous to break down right then and there.

A little later, I leave the doctor’s office and step out into the cold, uninviting rain. The scenes around me are blurred and foggy through ocean-filled eyes. I can’t contain my emotions any longer. Confusing and overpowering thoughts wage war in my mind until the rage within me screams, “God! Where are you? Why is this happening? The midwife must be wrong. Machines are not perfect. You can save my baby God! I know you can. Please. Please. Let this not be true!

I saw the midwife Friday afternoon. At 1:30 Monday morning, my husband rushes me to the ER where I would deliver my baby hours later. After receiving two pints of blood from the miscarriage and surgery, I stayed in the hospital for four days. My body didn’t heal properly, so I had another surgical procedure two months after the first. It would take over six months for me to recover physically. Emotionally, I am a wreck. I weep more and harder than ever. My faith in God is shattering to pieces with each passing day.

God! Where are you? Are you even real? Do you really care about me? If you are real, you could have kept my baby alive. Why didn’t you? Maybe, you are not as powerful as I believed, or you would have intervened and spare me the agony. I don’t understand. Why? Why did you not answer my pleas? Why?

You are not a good God! You are not real! You are powerless? I have believed in vain!

So begins my search for God and what it means to have faith. I wrestle with Him day and night. I thought I knew Him well. Turns out I am wrong. I can’t be comforted because I am angry with God. Strangely enough, I continue to pray and go to church. I wanted answers. I needed to understand why things happened as they did. In my pain and anger, I didn’t turn against God. In fact, I turned to Him more than ever before. I kept asking, “God! Where are you?”

I didn’t want to believe in God any longer, but I couldn’t stop seeking Him. Maybe it’s because He didn’t leave me alone. He kept sending Christians to show me His love. Every time I doubted, God would let me know He is present. A card, a call, or a visit from a friend comes at just the right time I needed hope. Hearing stories of others who have suffered or are suffering encouraged me to keep my faith. The evidence of God’s presence with me was undeniable. It sustained and carried me through my most unbearable pain.

I don’t remember when I stopped asking, “God! Where are you?” But eventually I did. Because each time I called Him, God showed up. He was with me through every hard moment in the following three years, before I conceived again.

Friends, you may be asking, “God! Where are you?” You may be disheartened by the suffering and seemingly unanswered prayers for yourself and/or the people you love. Maybe, you are questioning God’s goodness and power as I have. It’s okay. God expects us to have questions when we are hurting and suffering. He understands our unbelief and anger. He is not surprised by them. Actually, he invites us to come to him with our questions, doubts, and disappointments. For when we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him. This is God’s promise for you and me, found in the Bible from the book of Jeremiah 29:13.

So go ahead and ask the tough questions. But come to God, not yourself or others for answers. For only through understanding Him and knowing Him more intimately, will you find the peace and hope to move beyond pain and suffering when they come.

Posted in faith, Suffering | 3 Comments

If She Only Knew….

5795FC8A-7CDB-448B-BA2D-E37A66F7AC9CThis is the little me. She is timid and speaks little, for she doesn’t have anything smart to say. Her heart is honest and she believes it is a grave flaw, because it makes her naiïve. She feels gullible, even stupid because of her trusting heart. So she grows up thinking she doesn’t have much to contribute. There are many words inside her, but she is afraid to give them a voice fearing ridicule and rejection. Thus, she keeps them tucked away inside her soul and penned secretly between the pages of her diaries. They are her most trusted confidants.

If she only knew her Creator made her unique, she wouldn’t feel so awkward and inadequate in her own skin. She would stop striving to be someone she isn’t meant to be. She wouldn’t compare herself to everyone because she’d understand God made her just the way he desired.

If she only knew God made her in His image, she would love rather than loathe the way she looks. She would know He does not create anything ugly, but specializes in making all things beautiful. She would believe that beauty is not defined by the size of her body, or the color of her skin, or the shape of her eyes and nose, or even by the clothes she wears. She’d understand her God-given beauty begins deep within and radiates to her outer appearance. Instead of hiding her undesirable features, she would embrace her uniqueness and carry herself confidently.

If she only knew God made her for his special purpose, she wouldn’t be so confused about what to do with her life. She wouldn’t feel worthless for over three decades, because she isn’t doing the work that awakens passion in every fiber of her being. She would go after the dreams God put in her heart rather than pursue a vocation only for its income potential. She wouldn’t compare her abilities with others and believe she is not good at a single thing.

If she only knew God created her on purpose and declares that she is wonderfully made, she would spend more time enjoying life rather than being miserable because she wants someone else’s life. She would want to live more than to die.

If she only knew there is a God who loves her passionately and sent His Son to die for her, she would realize her life does matter. She’d know He loves her for who she is and not for what she can do. She would stop trying to “be good” and do good to earn his love. She would thrive under His love and choose to live right and do good to show him her gratitude. She’d stop following traditions and practicing senseless rituals. She would follow Jesus and obey Him because this is what He desires from her.

If she only knew Jesus can rescue her from a life of sin and destructive ways, she would give him access to her life sooner. She would not waste effort and time on empty and meaningless pursuits. She would trade her simple ways for God’s wisdom and arrive at success in following his lead.

Now she knows. She knows the truth about herself and her God. She knows He gave her immeasurable worth. She knows the purpose for her life and she has peace in her heart. She no longer lives with regret and isn’t drowning in the murky waters of self-pity. She readily tells about her foolishness and allows God to use her failures for the good of all. Now she lives to encourage people towards a life of faith in Jesus, so they don’t have to live a life of “If Only…..”

Posted in Growth & Maturity, Purpose | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Storm

IMG_20170910_132728230I came upon these herbs pots as we were preparing for hurricane Irma. “They need some lovin’,” says Caleb. Getting ready for the impending storm helped me to see how badly the plants have been neglected.

While pruning the herbs I smiled, thinking about our gardening days in Pennsylvania. Each summer, Scott and I spent hours planting, watering, weeding, and pruning the garden to yield a bountiful harvest in the fall. Those were happy times of building our home, growing our family, and dreaming of the future. We tended to each other like we did the garden and labored together to build our family.

Then, our building and dreaming came to a halt. We were moving south and the stress of moving and adjusting to a new place tested the strength of our relationship and our commitment to each other. It took a storm striking at our marriage for us to realize we had been neglecting each other. We had stopped dreaming and building together because we were busy leading separate lives.

As the storm in our marriage heighten and God gets a hold of my wayward heart, I am faced with a dilemma. I confessed to God, do I need to tell my husband about my emotional affair? I can move on without telling him. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!

But God won’t have it. I don’t have one ounce of peace about moving on in my marriage as if nothing had happened. I hate that God is right. I know I have to tell my husband every bit of the story. Especially since we just renewed our vows on Valentine’s Day. But how? I’m ashamed to talk about it. What do I say? Where do I begin? What will he think of me? Will he forgive me?

These thoughts are driving me nuts! I can’t sleep well. I don’t have an appetite. I have to muster up the courage to tell Scott what has happened. So, I get on my knees every day and ask God for wisdom. “I need you to prepare my husband’s heart, Lord. Help him to listen, understand, and forgive.”

I put off “the talk” for several weeks. Finally, the time is ripe. I am more determined to get it over with so I can be free. While I feel brave, I better speak now or forever lose my courage.

It is Saturday night, our at home date night. Boys are tucked in and quiet, presumably asleep. Now is my chance. I’m anxious and nervous. I’ve known this man for over twenty years, why in the world am I scared to tell him another dirty secret? He didn’t run when I told him about my jezebel days in college? Why should I be afraid now?

Awkwardly, I spit out the words. “There’s this guy who is interested in me and I had feelings for him. I seriously thought about leaving you, but God literally removed him from my sight. I’ve confessed to God and now I’m confessing to you and asking for your forgiveness.”

“I wanted to leave because I’m not happy in our marriage. I resent you for always putting your work before me and our family. You’re concerned about keeping your job, but not so much about losing your wife and family. If God hadn’t intervene, I don’t know what would happen to us. My mind had already checked out of our marriage and my heart was following, had Jesus not reeled it back. I don’t know if I still love you or want to love you. But God told me to love you with His love. So this is what I am trying my best to do.”

Scott listens patiently. Then he apologizes for neglecting me and our family. He doesn’t judge or question my actions. He acknowledges his failure to be present for me and the boys in the ways we need. He asks for my forgiveness and promises to do a better job as a husband and father. Huh? Is this man for real?

I don’t know what to think or say. Instead of being upset, he owns his issues and wants to work on it in order to fulfill his responsibilities to his family. I am utterly relieved. We had a good cry together and prayed for God’s help in rebuilding our marriage.

How grateful I am to have chosen the path less traveled back into my marriage, even though it was rough. I stopped at the crossroads of divorce and marriage and asked for the godly way and here are a few things God showed me.

  • I can leave my husband and go find happiness elsewhere, especially when things are grim. But other gardens have weeds too. I just can’t see it from where I’m standing.
  • If I can’t be true to my husband, how can I trust myself to be true to someone else?
  • Love puts others first. Following my desires into another man’s arms puts me first. Because I love God, I choose to put my husband and my boys first. Their lives would shatter if I quit being a wife and mom. My life would not if I stayed.
  • Leaving my husband won’t resolve my personal issues which contributed to the storm in our marriage. If I don’t deal with those issues and move into a new relationship, my issues will come with me.
  • God says the things I can see is temporary, it does not last. The excitement of being with someone new may be thrilling, but the newness will eventually wear off. If it’s not from God, it will not last anyway.

God helped me make the right decision to stay with my husband and keep my family together. I’d like to tell you everything has been smooth, but it isn’t true. We’ve had many bumps on the healing road. I’m continually working on loving my husband without conditions attached and he is doing better at putting me and our family before his work. We are dreaming and building together again. Slowly but surely, God is healing and moving us towards a good place.

Perhaps there’s a storm in your marriage right now. Maybe you’ve been unfaithful to your spouse, contemplating an affair, or considering divorce. I hope my story encourages you to turn your heart to God and your spouse. It’s never too late. Your family is worth keeping. Together your family can do more and better works for God, for one another, and for others. This is His purpose for your marriage and your family.

Jesus, the calmer of storms, will help you through your storm and bring it to a calm, if you’ll let him.

Posted in Emotional Affair, Marriage, storms | Leave a comment

Leaving Sin Behind

I don’t usually linger in the shower, but that Friday evening I did. Tears gushed out from my innermost places, as I let the hot water wash over every part of me. It felt like a cleansing of sorts. Just a few hours before, I admitted to myself and God that I had been an adulterous wife. Now, I couldn’t stop weeping as the filth of my sin came off with each rinsing.

Two days later, I walked into church filled with shame and regret. I longed to hear God’s voice tell me, all is well. That he forgives me. And He still loves me.

As we stood to sing, God addressed my shame.

“Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Jesus is calling. Come to the altar. The Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Leave behind your regrets and mistakes. Come today there’s no reason to wait. Jesus is calling.”

I walked to the altar, fell on my knees and wept. It felt as though God was stooping down to put his loving arms around me and whispering, “Leave your regrets and mistakes with me. Forgiveness is yours.”

The next song echoed more of His love for me.

“But, I heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night. And You tell me that You’re pleased and that I’m never alone. You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are. And I’m loved by You.”

I wept again, humbled by God’s mercy.

To be sure I got his message of love and forgiveness, God gave me one more encouragement. The husband of a couple who sits across the aisle from us every Sunday morning stopped over after the service to say, “It’s so good to see you two together. All is right in the world when I see you both each week.”

This couple greets us often, but neither one was aware of our marital struggles. I knew then, that those words came directly from God, to me. Because I needed to hear them.

I went home later that afternoon with a glimmer of hope. Knowing God was rooting for me made all the difference. It gave me the courage and motivation to begin the hard work of repairing my marriage. I didn’t know what to do or where to start, but I trusted God would show me. And he did.

About a month later, on Valentine’s Day 2016, our marriage hit a turning point in the healing direction when Scott and I attended a marriage event at our church. The counsel and encouragement we received was exactly what we needed in the time we needed it. Only our God could have arranged it so perfectly. For He knew the kind of help his children, Scott and Phuong, were seeking.

February 14, 2016 became another anniversary date for Scott and me, as we renewed our marriage vows before God and his church. I recommitted to my husband with my whole heart for my whole life. Hard work lies ahead of us, but I knew our God would not let us fail. The first and hardest thing I had to do was, to come clean with my husband. For he had no clue about where and how my heart had wandered.

IMG_20170830_143739447

By now you’re either on the edge of your seat, wanting to know how my reveal went down with my husband, or you think I’m vain for dragging out this story. I assure you, the reveal will come in the next writing and I promise you, this writing isn’t about me.

I’m intentionally sharing this story in bite size chunks to help you, who are in the midst of your own heart wandering or whatever sin you may be struggling with. God wants you to see the process by which sin can be overcome. He wants you to know there are benefits and rewards for not continuing in your sin. You can make the decision to stop polluting yourself and the people close to you, with sin’s poison.

It’s never too late to turn away from doing wrong and to start doing right. You can leave your regrets and mistakes in the open arms of the Heavenly Father. God is not down on you because of your mistakes. He offers you forgiveness if you will accept it. He is a good Father who will not leave you alone, but will be with you as you turn to him and away from sin.

“Come today there’s no reason to wait. Jesus is calling. Forgiveness is waiting for you. Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy. From the ashes a new life is born.”

Posted in Emotional Affair, Forgiveness, Marriage, Repentance, Sin | Leave a comment

The Break-Up of an Emotional Affair

Proverbs 28:13 says, “Anyone who hides their sins doesn’t succeed. But anyone who admits their sins and gives them up finds mercy.”

These were God’s words to me during my time of wandering. Over and over God brought them to the forefront of my mind. He was trying to get me to do the right thing. He wanted me to give up my sin. But I ignored him. Until he exposed my sin and I made a fool of myself.

In the end, God had his way. He moved my temptation into a different zip code altogether and sin found me out as my admirer confronted me about my marital status.

My heart sank. My hope for happiness was squashed to bits and pieces in what would be our final conversation together. It was the last time I saw him.

I had been certain God would somehow work this guy into my future. Surely he wants me to be happy. My feelings deceived me into believing God would give me what my flesh wanted because everything felt good and right. What a fool I was!

Yet God is full of mercy. He offered me a way out of sin because he loves me and my family, although it didn’t feel like love at the time. His correction felt like punishment. I questioned God’s goodness and believed he was withholding happiness from me. So I writhed in agony.

I wept hard that night and scribbled in my journal through swollen, sorrowful eyes.

emotional break-up

The next morning, I had a chance to see him one last time. But I didn’t take it. Not because I didn’t want to.

The flesh part of me desperately wanted to look into his eyes and hear his voice a final time. To have the memory of him edged in my mind. But the Spirit of God living in my heart wouldn’t let me go. He knew exposing myself to temptation again would lead me further into sin against Him, my husband, and the young man my heart had wandered towards.

I fought through the pain of my emotional break-up in the following weeks and months. I questioned whether I should have gone back to say my goodbyes.

Maybe things would have turned out differently if I hadn’t stayed away. Maybe not. I’ll never know.

But I’m thankful God steered me onto the right path. I don’t regret the decision to give up my sin. In doing so, I found God’s mercy and received a renewed love for my husband and my family.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Adultery, Emotional Affair, Marriage, Repentance, Sin | Leave a comment

An Emotional Affair – Part II

IMG_20151021_080007742No one is exempt from temptation and sin. Not even Christians. Even if we’ve accepted God’s forgiveness and are trying to live by his standards, we can still fall because we are imperfect beings. Just when we think we are standing strong, we must be careful not to fall.

This was me. I thought I was strong because I love and fear God. But I was not careful and fell into temptation. The flesh part of me was fascinated by the charm and magnetism of a man who is not my husband. So I pushed aside all moral reasoning and acted on my desires.

I didn’t run from temptation like God warns. I ran towards it because it made me feel good. Being around this guy made me feel young and desirable. So I fanned the flame of temptation and left my heart wide open for sin to come and settle in.

But God wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept replaying these words of 1 Corinthians 13:10 in my mind like a broken record.

“This temptation is no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. He will offer a way out so you can endure it.”

God was doing preventive adultery counseling while I tried to rationalize my sin. I’m just being friendly with the guy God. I haven’t acted inappropriately around him. We’re only talking. What is the harm in conversing with another man?

Well, the potential for harm was real because my motives weren’t pure. I wanted more than a friendship. I was enamored with the guy. But it was more than a physical attraction. I was drawn to his personality and character. He was present. He was interested. So was I.

Deep in my heart, I knew I was sinning. But I tried to convince myself that God sent this man because he wanted me to have him. Why else would He move us to Georgia? Maybe, God will set him aside for me in case Scott and I are no longer together.

It’s ridiculous. I know. But I did really have these irrational thoughts. I was trying to make sense of my crazy. To bring order into my chaotic thinking. Of course I couldn’t because sin is crazy and disorderly. My feelings and thoughts held me captive for I was too ashamed to tell anyone about my sin. Yet, I knew we needed help because our marriage was on the verge of breaking.

In the fall of 2015, I went searching for help. Out of desperation, I tearfully asked a pastor and his wife to be our marriage mentors as we were having lunch together. Well, I must have scared them because we never heard from them again.

But God didn’t leave us on our own. He offered me a way out by removing my temptation out of plain view, but not completely out of the picture. We still bumped into each other and my feelings for him intensified. I thought about him often and imagined what life would be like with him instead of Scott.

I was in a dangerous place and it scared me. How did I get in so deep? Should I leave my husband and my boys? I know God hates divorce. I can’t get a divorce. I won’t. But what do I do with these feelings I have for this man? Maybe God will save him for me in the future. Until then, I will exist in my marriage. I’ll stay married but my heart won’t be in it. Or maybe I can keep this fling on the side. We’ll keep talking and he doesn’t have to know I’m married.

Oh, this is crazy! How long can I live in hiding? My husband has no idea I have committed adultery in my heart against him. For God says when I look at another man to lust after him, I have already committed adultery with him my heart (Matthew 5:28).

What am I to do God? I need your help more than ever! If you don’t show up, I don’t know what will happen to this marriage. We are in trouble! Please show me a way out! I have never been so conflicted. I’ve never compromised my marriage in this way. I am so confused about how and what I feel. I need you to help me see things clearly God!

God was faithful. He did offer me another way out of my temptation. And this time, I had no choice but to take His way out. It was painful and humbling. But God was a good and merciful Father to me through it all.

Just as he is to all who admit their sin and turn from it.

Posted in Adultery, Emotional Affair, Marriage, Uncategorized | Leave a comment