Disappointing Grief that Rocks Your World and Changes Everything

Sooner or later we’re all disillusioned in life. Every believer will eventually face a dark night of the soul crying out to God. It could be over our own poor choices, the result of others or life’s circumstances. Conflict with another, loss through separation, or death, can lead to deep hurt and disappointment leaving us questioning God. I’ve experienced overwhelming loss with people I trusted. Perhaps you have too. You know, the kind of loss that cuts the heart so viciously that it forever redefined the lens you see out of. Be encouraged today friends. Trust God as He reshapes your lens and brings comfort to your soil. Read on as Lysa TerKeurst shares her journey.
Asking why is perfectly normal. Asking why isn’t unspiritual. However, if asking this question pushes us farther from God rather than drawing us closer to Him, then it is the wrong question.

Lysa TerKeurst, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl

I’m honest in my conversations with Him because I know He can handle it. ~ Lysa TerKeurst
When God Hurts My Feelings

I don’t know another way to say this, so I’ll just shoot straight.

Sometimes God hurts my feelings.

Now, hear me out. I don’t mean this in an irreverent way. I very much know my place, and I very much have a holy reverence for God. But tiptoeing around my gut reactions and pretending to be just fine-fine-fine with everything that comes my way doesn’t pave an authentic connection between my heart and God’s.

So, I’m honest in my conversations with Him because I know He can handle it.

Of course, when I’m completely honest with God, I have to prepare myself for His honest response back to me. Not that God would ever be dishonest.

It’s just that the bolder I am with pouring out my heart to Him, the bolder He is with His responses to me.

Bold Is Beautiful

I like bold. And I like bold responses from God because they help me know that it is His voice speaking to me and not my own. My own thoughts tell me to curl up my pity-partying self next to a big tub of chocolate ice cream and eat until I feel better. Or to arm myself with my credit card, head to Target, and throw caution to the wind. Sound familiar?

Though God has been bold with me many times, the situations I remember most are those when I’ve been disillusioned by a life circumstance — often a conflict with another person — and have taken my frustrations to Him. I would pray for God to change the situation and just make it better. But time and time again, God wanted me to learn how to look at things from His vantage point rather than my own self-centered perspective.

Deep Grief

Sometimes when hurts and disappointments come, they cause a temporary panic that rises and falls in a mini-tidal wave.

But other times the hurt comes in the form of a loss that cuts into your heart so viciously it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It’s what I call deep grief. The kind that strains against everything you’ve ever believed. So much so you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday could ever possibly stand up under the weight of your enormous sadness today.

I once stood beside a casket far too small to accept — the one containing my baby sister, Haley. Pink roses draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket, refusing to let go. How could she? Part of her heart was sealed within that casket, so quiet and still.

Just days ago we were laughing and doing everyday things, assuming that all of our lives stretched before us in spans of many, many years.

And then suddenly everything stopped. I was paralyzed.

In the flurry of funeral plans and the memorial service, we operated on automatic. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled the gaps that our stunned silence could not. And enough food was brought in to feed the whole neighborhood.

But eventually people went back to their own lives. The soft chatter dissipated. The food stopped coming.

And we were forced to carry on. Except that our deep grief was still wrapped about us, strangling our throats and setting our feet in thick mud.

I remember I tried to go to McDonald’s to order a Happy Meal. But I couldn’t. I sat in the drive-thru with the speaker spouting words at me I couldn’t process. The woman in the speaker kept asking if she could take my order.

Yeah, I had an order. Take away my bloodshot eyes. Take away my desire to hurt the doctors who couldn’t save my sister. Take away my anger toward God. And then take away my guilt for being the one who lived. I’ll take all that with no onions and extra ketchup, please.

I drove away sobbing. How dare they offer Happy Meals. No one should be happy today. Or tomorrow. Or next year.

This is the reality of deep grief. I walked away from God at that time. That is how many people process loss.

Disillusionment can break people.

It’s understandable, really.

We are told from an early age that God can do anything, and we’ve read the stories about Jesus helping people. But how do we process such beliefs in the face of loss?

Trying to come to grips with the fact God could have prevented this grief but didn’t is a bit like trying to catch the wind and turn it into something visible. It’s an answer we could chase our whole lives and never get. And sometimes this chase just simply wears people out. They turn and walk away, whispering, “I tried, God, but You just didn’t work for me. You hurt my feelings and I don’t want anything to do with You anymore.”

Asking the Right Question

Looking back on my chase after the loss of my sister, I can see the reason the answer seemed so elusive. I was asking the wrong question. I was asking why. Why did this happen? Why didn’t You stop this, God? Why were my prayers not answered? Why?

Asking why is perfectly normal. Asking why isn’t unspiritual. However, if asking this question pushes us farther from God rather than drawing us closer to Him, it is the wrong question.

In most situations, nothing positive can come from whatever answer there might be to a why question. If God gave us His reason why, we would judge Him. And His reasons, from our limited perspective, would always fall short. That’s because our flat human perceptions simply can’t process God’s multidimensional, eternal reasons.

God describes it this way:

‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ — Isaiah 55:8-9

We can’t see the full scope of the situation like God can; therefore, we must acknowledge that His thoughts are more complete and that He is more capable of accurately discerning what is best in every circumstance.

In the case of losing a loved one, love skews even the most rational parts of us. Our love for the person we lost would never allow God’s reasons to make us feel any better or to understand any more fully. We would still feel as though God had made a terrible mistake.

So, if asking the why question doesn’t offer hope, what will? The what question. In other words: Now that this has happened, what am I supposed to do with it?

Good can come from any loss if we make the choice not to resist the birthing process required to bring this good to life.

Good did eventually come from Haley’s death. I can stand here twenty years later and assure you of that. And I can assure you that good still comes in small, unexpected ways. Just last week my mom and I had the most amazing conversation we’ve ever had about Haley’s death. We both experienced a spiritual breakthrough I thought might never come.

I shared with my mom that Psalm 139:16 tells us every person has a certain number of days assigned to them:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Nothing we do or don’t do can add to or take from that number. She was finally able to let go of a lot of questions and guilt surrounding the medical problems that eventually caused Haley’s death. And I was able to see the beauty of God reaching my mom in a new way. But that conversation was twenty years in the making.

It Takes Time

Even when you love God and believe in His promises. Even when you know without a doubt that you will see your loved one again. Even when you know hope is still there. It takes time.

It takes wading through an ocean of tears. It takes finding a possession of your loved one that you thought was lost and realizing God did that just to comfort you. It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines. It takes being caught off guard when you catch yourself smiling, only to realize it’s okay.

It takes prayer. It takes making the decision to stop asking for answers and start asking for perspective. It takes telling people to please not avoid saying her name — you want to hear it, over and over and over again.

Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate it or resist it. For underneath it wondrous things have happened.

The why questions have been replaced with truths from God’s Word. Verses that stung to read at first have now become the very lifeline you cling to. God’s presence has fallen softly upon you and helped you see that good can come and will come in you and through you.

Yes, in time things have happened. Wondrous things. Things that could have only come about because divine hope still intersects with our broken world. The secret is letting God’s Word get into you to achieve the purpose He intends.

Then you can lift up your despair, your doubts and questions, your feelings of being hurt by God. And with open hands held high, you let the wind blow them all away.

And, finally, you will see years stretching before you once again. Hope stretching before you again. New perspectives even when others hurt you again. Possibility stretching before you again. And more honest conversations with God stretching before you again.

Excerpted with permission from Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Zondervan.

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Your Turn

Have you suffered a loss in your life that has led you to question God. “Why why why?” Have you come to the place of asking the what questions? Has your faith been derailed by a circumstance in which God hurt your feelings? Have you grown to see the good that God can and does bring out of terrible and painful situations? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear your story! ~ Faith.Full

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Drawing from her own remarkable story of step-by-step faith, Lysa invites you to uncover the spiritually exciting life for which we all yearn. With her trademark wit and spiritual wisdom, Lysa will help you:
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Identity crisis is everywhere!!

Everybody struggles with identity issues and insecurities regardless of how confident they appear. The answer to our identity crisis is not first and foremost focusing on who we are, but focusing on who God is.  In the face of Moses’ insecurity and identity crisis, God doesn’t say,” Moses your great. You’ve got this. You’re smart, and you’re educated, and you’ve got a beard. You will be fine.”  To solve Moses’ his identity crisis, God reminded Moses who God is. Read on FB friends!
“God simply is. He is in the present, He is in the past, and He is in the future.” — Judah Smith, from Life Is
Devotionals Daily
When Jesus Said, “I Am”
by Judah Smith, Life Is :God’s Illogical Love Will Change Your Existence

Meet Judah Smith

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I want to take a look at that little phrase, I am. This isn’t the first time Jesus had said something like this.

In John 8, Jesus was having a heated discussion with the religious teachers of the day, and naturally He was winning. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus acted and talked a lot like a divine Savior, so finally, in exasperation, they asked Him, “Do you really think you are better than our forefather Abraham?”

Jesus replied: “Before Abraham was, I am.”

At this point in the narrative, English majors everywhere want to call a grammar time-out. “No, no, Lord. Grammatically speaking, that is wrong. That’s confusing. I think you meant to say, ‘Before Abraham was, I was.’ Was and am, they don’t go together. You either are or you were. What are you talking about?”

Academics weren’t exactly my strong suit. But I think if an infinite, infallible God chooses to use bad grammar, he’s probably making a point. Grammar police, stand down. It might be awkward grammatically, but it’s the only correct way to express God’s timeless, limitless availability and sufficiency.

God simply is. He is in the present, He is in the past, and He is in the future.

He always exists in present tense because He is outside of time and space. Wherever you look on the time line of humanity, God is present and active. He isn’t just a memory from the past or a promise for the future: He’s a real-time, present-day God.

Jesus was actually quoting from one of the greatest stories in Scripture. It’s found in Exodus 3. It is the story of how a man named Moses delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt some fifteen hundred years earlier. Moses was an Israelite who had been raised in the Egyptian palace, but he fled into exile in the desert after killing an Egyptian guard who was mistreating an Israelite. He was hated by Egypt and mistrusted by Israel. He wasn’t exactly a prime candidate to broker the deliverance of a nation.

One day he is out tending sheep in the desert, and God speaks to him. Actually, a random bush that is on fire speaks to him, and it  in the face of most this is identity crisis, God doesn’t say Moses your great you’ve got this turns out to be God. Odd, but God likes to stay unpredictable.

God simply is

So God tells Moses, “I want you to go back to Egypt and rescue your people.”

Moses starts to freak out, and frankly, I can see why. Not only is he on the Egypt’s Most Wanted list, but there is no way Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, is going to let his workforce go. Someone has to build those pyramids and sphinxes and tombs.

Moses is like, “What? Who am I to do that? Besides — I stutter. You’ve got the wrong man for the job. This isn’t going to work, and I’m going to look like a dork.”

Moses is having an identity crisis. He feels insufficient. He feels like he doesn’t have enough. He can’t pull this off.

Notice God’s answer in Exodus 3:14. This is His antidote to Moses’ anxiety. He says,

I Am who I Am.

I’m sure Moses is thinking, Oh, that clears up everything, doesn’t it? Like not at all.

“Moses, this is all you need to know. I Am who I Am.”

In the face of Moses’ insecurity and identity crisis, God does not say, “Moses, you’re great. You’ve got this. You’re smart, and you’re educated, and you’ve got a great beard. You’ll be fine.”

To solve Moses’ identity crisis, God reminds Moses who God is.

I love that. The answer to our frequent identity crises is not first and foremost focusing on who we are, but focusing on who God is.

God is essentially saying, “Moses, I’ve got you covered. I am here. I am available. I have all the supply and surplus you could ever need. I am self-existent. I have no beginning and no end. I just am.”

That changes everything.

When Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He is reminding her that He is all she really needs. In her grief and desperation, Jesus is the answer. His “I am” is more than enough for her “I need.”

Excerpted with permission from Life Is, by Judah Smith copyright Thomas Nelson.

* * *

Your Turn

What is your “I need” today? What crisis needs to be brought to the great I Am?Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you about finding all you need in Jesus! ~ Devotionals Daily

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God’s role is not a job. It’s a relationship!

Max Lucado, great teacher and wordsmith, reminds us that God’s role is not a job, it’s a relationship. In other words, when it comes to His children, our relationship with Him as a loving Father trumps everything else. It’s the sole purpose we are here; to know God through His Son Jesus Christ, and to grow in relationship with Him. Take time to spend with God your Father today and let your heart feel the happiness and peace it brings.

God’s role is not a job. It’s a relationship
Devotionals Daily by Max Lucado, from Dad Time

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. — Proverbs 14:26

No one can teach your child like you can. No nanny, Bible school teacher, aunt, or uncle has your authority. What a phenomenal privilege is yours. — Max

God Is Your Child ’s Father Too

God Himself is a father. What parental emotion has He not felt? Are you separated from your child? So was God. Is someone mistreating your child? They mocked and bullied His. Is someone taking advantage of your child? The Son of God was set up by false testimony and betrayed by a greedy follower. Are you forced to watch while your child suffers? God watched His Son on the cross.

In addition, we are God’s children, suffering in a world of sin that wreaks havoc on our bodies, twists our minds, and severs our relationships. Does God shrug His shoulders and say, “Oh well, that’s life”? Of course not. Why would He go to all the trouble of introducing Himself to the world with the title of Father? Curator, Manager, and Overseer are colder titles of indifference.

God’s role is not a job. It’s a relationship.

So God chose a relationship title you can identify with. Now you understand His heart when His children are in pain.

So whatever emotions you feel about your child, God feels about your child. Maybe more. I know that’s hard to believe, but God has known your child longer than you have. He hurt for your child before he was born. You’re not alone. Your Father weeps right by your side.

God is your child’s Father too. Just as you’ll do everything to help your child during his pain, so will God. —Max on Life

When I think about someone wiping away my tears, I think about Dad. His hands were callused and tough, his fingers short and stubby. And when my father wiped away a tear, he seemed to wipe it away forever. There was something in his touch that took away more than the drop of hurt from my cheek. It also took away my fear. —The Applause of Heaven

Excerpted with permission from Dad Time: Savoring the God-Given Moments of Fatherhood by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.

* * *

Your Turn

Happy Fathers Day from all of us at Devotionals Daily! Isn’t it amazing that God the Father gives us perspective into His own heart by allowing many of us to parent kids, too? Or maybe He’s brought kids into your life that you foster, lead in Bible study, or coach, or mentor, or advocate for. How we feel loving towards, protective of, and at time heartbroken for those children is a gift from the Lord to show us how He feels about us. Join the conversation on our blog! Come share with us how God has opened your eyes to how He cares about you through parenting, grandparenting, coaching, or leading! ~ Devotionals Daily

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Dads are a one-of-a-kind bunch. They can be strong and stern, yet heartfelt and gentle. They may be out of touch with today’s Top 40 Hits, but know just the right word to say in a quiet moment. They are always there to provide, lend a helping hand, or be our biggest cheerleader.

Max Lucado perfectly captures the heartfelt sentiments that millions of readers share on what it’s like to be a dad. Filled with quotes and stories compiled from books by Max, this gift book is brimming with inspiring thoughts on fatherhood from one of America’s favorite authors.

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Struggling to Forgive….Nothing Heals Like Grace

Who is that someone you’re struggling to forgive?
Are you spending time rehearsing all the events and conversations that hurt you? Are you denying the wall around your heart and holding on to unforgiveness? Well nothing heals like grace and we all need it. We have all failed and will fail in our relationships. Love doesn’t mean we deny the problems or hold people hostage until they make things right. Love covers the problem by giving us the grace to work it through directly or indirectly, accepting what we can’t change, and surrendering to His love working through us, toward the other. That is the miracle of grace. Read on as Lee Strobel shares his story about his relationship with his father.  Let it go FB Friends, taste freedom today.

Overtime,, I found that nothing heals like grace.” — Lee Strobel, from The Case for Grace

Devotionals Daily

God waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain. — A. W. Tozer

He was leaning back in his leather recliner in the wood-paneled den, his eyes darting back and forth between the television set and me, as if he didn’t deign to devote his full attention to our confrontation. In staccato bursts, he would lecture and scold and shout, but his eyes never met mine.

It was the evening before my high school graduation, and my dad had caught me lying to him — big-time.

Finally, he snapped his chair forward and shifted to look fully into my face, his eyes angry slits behind his glasses. He held up his left hand, waving his pinky like a taunt as he pounded each and every word: “I don’t have enough love for you to fill my little finger.”

He paused as the words smoldered. He was probably expecting me to fight back, to defend myself, to blubber or apologize or give in — at least to react in some way. But all I could do was to glare at him, my face flushed. Then after a few tense moments he sighed deeply, reclined again in his chair, and resumed watching TV. That’s when I turned my back on my father and strode toward the door.

I didn’t need him. I was brash, I was driven and ambitious — I would slice my way through the world without his help. After all, I was about to make almost a hundred dollars a week at a summer job as a reporter for a rural newspaper in Woodstock, Illinois, and live on my own at a boarding house.

A plan formulated in my mind as I slammed the back door and began the trek toward the train station, lugging the duffel bag I had hurriedly packed. I would ask the newspaper to keep me on after the summer. Lots of reporters have succeeded without college, so why not me? Soon I’d make a name for myself. I’d impress the editors at the Chicago papers and eventually break into the big city. I’d ask my girlfriend to move in with me. I was determined to make it on my own — and never to go back home.

Someday, there would be payback. The day would come when my father would unfold the Chicago Tribune and his eye would catch my byline on a front-page exclusive. That would show him.

I was on a mission — and it was fueled by rage. But what I didn’t realize as I marched down the gravel shoulder of the highway on that sultry June evening was that I was actually launching a far different quest than what I had supposed. It was a journey that I couldn’t understand back then — and which would one day reshape my life in ways I never could have imagined.

That day I embarked on a lifelong pursuit of grace.

Grace Withheld, Grace Extended

See to it that no one misses the grace of God. — Hebrews 12:15

I always wondered: Would I cry when my father died?

After the confrontation in which my dad declared he didn’t have enough love for me to fill his little finger, I stormed out of the house, determined never to return. I lived for two months in a small apartment nearly forty miles away as I worked as a reporter for a small daily newspaper. The publisher agreed to hire me beyond the summer. My future seemed set.

I never heard from my father, but my mother kept urging me to return. She would call and write to tell me my dad certainly couldn’t have meant what he said. Finally, I did come home briefly, but my father and I never discussed the incident that prompted me to leave. I never broached it, and neither did he. We maintained a civil but distant relationship through the years.

He paid for my college tuition, for which I never thanked him. He never wrote, visited, or came to my graduation. When I got married after my sophomore year at the University of Missouri, my parents hosted the reception, but my dad and I never had a heart-to-heart talk.

Fresh from Missouri’s journalism school, I was hired as a general assignment reporter at the Chicago Tribune, later developing an interest in law. I took a leave of absence to study at Yale Law School, planning to return to the Tribune as legal editor.

A few days before my graduation, I settled into a cubicle in the law school’s gothic library and unfolded the New York Times for a leisurely morning of reading. I was already prepared for my final exams and was getting excited about returning to Chicago. Then my friend Howard appeared. I folded the newspaper and greeted him; he stared at me as if he had something urgent to say but couldn’t find the right words. “What’s wrong?” I asked. He didn’t answer, but somehow I knew. “My father died, right?” He nodded, then led me to the privacy of a small alcove, where I sobbed inconsolably.

Nothing heals like grace

Alone with My Father

Before my father’s wake began at the funeral parlor, I asked for the room to be cleared. I stood in front of the open casket for the longest time. A lifetime of thoughts tumbled through my mind. My emotions churned. There was nothing to say, and yet there was everything to say.

So many times in my life, I had rationalized away my need to take responsibility for the role I had played in our relational breakdown. He’s the one who should be apologizing to me. Or pride got in my way. Why should I go crawling to him? Or sometimes I’d just put it off. I can always handle that later.

Finally, after a long period of silence, I managed to whisper the words I desperately wished I had spoken so many years earlier: “I’m sorry, Dad.”

Sorry for the ways I had rebelled against him, lied to him, and disrespected him over the years. Sorry for my ingratitude. Sorry for the bitterness and rancor I had allowed to poison my heart. For the first time, I admitted my own culpability in our relational strife.

Then came my last words to my father: “I forgive you.” As best I could, I extended him grace — too late for our relationship, but in so many ways liberating and life-changing for me.

Over time, I found that nothing heals like grace.

Unexpected Words

Soon business associates, neighbors, golfing buddies, and others arrived at the wake to offer condolences to my mother and other family members. I sat by myself in a folding chair off to the side. I was dealing with deep and conflicted emotions and didn’t feel like interacting with anyone.

One of my dad’s business associates walked over and sat down beside me. “Are you Lee?” he asked.

“Yes, I am,” I said. We shook hands.

“Well, it’s great to finally meet you after hearing so much about you,” he said. “Your dad could never stop talking about you. He was so proud of you and excited about what you’re doing. Every time you’d have an article in the Tribune, he’d clip it and show it to everyone. When you went off to Yale — well, he was bursting with pride. He was always showing us pictures of your kids. He couldn’t stop bragging about you. It’s good to finally put a face with the name because we heard your name a lot from your dad. ‘Lee’s doing this.’ ‘Lee’s doing that.’ ‘Did you see Lee’s article on the front page?’ But then, I suppose you knew all that.”

My mind reeled as I tried to conceal my astonishment. I couldn’t help wondering what might have been different if those words had come to me directly from my dad.

When I became a follower of Jesus several years later, I saw the stark contrast. Here, there was no concealing how my Father felt about me. In direct declarations, the Bible shouted over and over: God’s love for me is unrestrained and unconditional; His grace is lavish and unending. I am His workmanship and His pride, and He couldn’t stand the thought of spending eternity without me in His family. And as God’s grace utterly rocked my life — forgiving me, adopting me, and changing my life and my eternity — something else became clear: how tragic it would be to withhold the news of that grace from others. How could I revel in it myself but never pass it along to a world that is dying for it? As atheist Penn Jillette said, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

As the apostle Paul asked, how can people believe in Christ if they have never heard about Him?

“[God] dispenses His goodness not with an eyedropper but a fire hydrant. Your heart is a Dixie cup and His grace is the Mediterranean Sea. You simply can’t contain it all,” said Max Lucado. “So let it bubble over. Spill out. Pour forth. ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’”

Writing about my journey of grace in this book has only strengthened my resolve to emulate the apostle Paul. “What matters most to me,” Paul wrote, “is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.”

That is the joyful task of every follower of Jesus.

Someday may it be written about me on my tombstone: He was so amazed by God’s grace that he couldn’t keep it to himself.

Excerpted with permission from The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel, copyright Zondervan.

* * *

Your Turn

If your relationship with your father is broken or strained, pause today and ask the Lord to show you what your part in the conflict is. Reach out, call, write a note. If your father has passed away and that’s not possible, spend time today talking with God about your dad, ask for forgiveness, pray for the strength to forgive, and thank God for whatever positive things you can remember about your father even if it’s just that God used him to give you half of your DNA. Think about God’s grace in your life and share it with others today! Overflow with amazement at His extravagant generosity and tell your story of His goodness to others! Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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Prayer is Accessing the Limitless Wisdom Of God

Friends whether we like it or not we are involved in a heavenly conflict and this battle is real!

Prayer is the answer. The soul delights in prayer. It is how it breathes. Prayer battles by pushing back the agenda of darkness to establish the kingdom of light. This is the purpose and focus of prayer.

Remember the battle is not won on the sidelines. It is won on the field. Take time to pray today and read this devotion by Jurgen Mattesius. And remember, greater is He who is in you, then he who is in the world.  1John 4:4

“Prayer is accessing the limitless wisdom of God.” — Jurgen Matthesius, from PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens
Devotionals Daily

Prayer does not change the purpose of God. But prayer does change the action of God. — Chuck Smith

Prayer is a battle. Sometimes it may not feel like it; other times it is all battle and little joy. The soul delights in prayer. It is how it breathes. The spirit is invigorated through prayer. It is how it gets recharged. The flesh… well, it’s not too keen on prayer at the best of times. Prayer interrupts its lusts and agenda, putting the things of God ahead of the things of self. The flesh behaves like a small child wanting candy in the checkout line at the grocery store, throwing a tantrum when it’s told no. The child doesn’t like to hear no, and neither does the flesh. So the first battle of prayer is within us. It becomes a discipline. The dividends of persevering and building to a disciplined prayer life will outweigh almost every other endeavor.

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare. — 1 Timothy 1:18

Prayer is primarily about conflict. There are two dimensions operating simultaneously, with each seeking to dominate the other.

Paul in the above verse beckons Timothy to war in prayer to have his life line up with the prophetic words of God spoken over his life. Even though these words are the words of God, Paul is reminding Timothy that the Word of God and His will inherent within it do not happen automatically but must be pushed into the place of dominion by our engagement of prayer.

There is a constant battle going on over our heads in the spiritual realm. It is in conflict with angels and demons battling over the souls of mankind. We read words like strongholds in the Bible. Strongholds are always associated with warfare. The enemy has “built places of fortified resistance” (the Oxford dictionary definition of stronghold) in the earth to resist the will of God.

If we were honest, the battle and conflict are not limited to above our heads but rage within our heads and our hearts also. I used to love the old Donald Duck Disney cartoons where Donald is in a conflict and has a small angel Donald sitting on his right shoulder, but a small devil Donald sitting on his left. One is telling him to do what is right, while the other is telling him to do wrong. Whichever one he obeys determines what happens next in his life. I think Walt Disney captured this truth perfectly.

Battle on a Global and Cosmic Scale

The Bible says in the book of Joshua that after the death of Moses, God spoke to Joshua and told him to cross over the Jordan and walk through the land of Canaan and that all the places the soles of his feet shall tread was his divine portion and inheritance. Walking on the ground has to do with dominion. Moses is instructed to take the sandals off his feet because the place where he was standing was “holy ground,” literally “belonging to God,” and he needed to acknowledge and reverence this fact. When Joshua came to face the fortified stronghold called Jericho, God commanded him to walk around it. This is warfare. Now look at this scripture in the book of Job:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” — Job 1:6–7

Satan tells God he has come from the earth, that this is his dwelling place. But look at what activity the devil is engaging in. He is walking back and forth, to and fro, on it! Satan is doing this to claim the territory as his own. He has sought a place where his will is done, where he sits on his throne, where he rules. We are caught in the middle of this battle. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in a cosmic conflict and there are eternal consequences at stake. Prayer battles by pushing back the agenda of darkness to establish the kingdom of light. This is the purpose and focus of prayer.

Nothing Comes Easily

As the apostle Paul said when he was strengthening and encouraging the church,

We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. — Acts 14:22

The battle is not won on the sidelines. It is won on the field. Each one of us is called to take the field and establish the kingdom. This only happens through PUSH kind of prayer. It must be forceful, focused, and effective prayer. We push to see the kingdom come first in our own hearts and lives. Then it flows into our families, our communities, and throughout the world in which we live.

Because the kingdom of darkness really exists, spiritual warfare will be encountered. But fear not, for

greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. — 1 John 4:4

Prayer is the weaponry we have been given to push back the powers of darkness and thwart their wicked agenda. Through the medium of prayer we are able to rise triumphantly in each and every circumstance:

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. — 2 Corinthians 2:14

Many would prefer to believe that prayer is nice but not necessary, much like sequins on a motorcycle helmet. So many see prayer as a nonchalant activity rather than powerful productivity, as incidental as opposed to intentional, kind of an “In case of emergency break glass” approach when it comes to prayer.

Yet Jesus “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16). It is the only thing the Bible mentions Jesus doing “often.” With just three years of public ministry from His launch to His crucifixion, the clock was ticking, and He didn’t have a whole lot of free time to kill. He prayed in solitary places often because it was the most productive activity for Him to engage in, fueling and clarifying all that He did.
Prayer is accessing the limitless wisdom of God

A Toxic Culture

We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results. — R. A. Torrey

Christianity has very much Westernized during the last few hundred years and has developed a somewhat dysmorphic perception of war and battle that is not consistent with the teachings of the Bible. Our very anti-war culture believes that peace can be obtained without the use of force or the exercise of authority. If we could just gather enough beauty pageant finalists to declare their devotion to “world peace” and enough Prius drivers to bear bumper stickers stating “Coexist” and “War Is Not the Answer,” then surely we could have a world without war. But back in reality, life teaches us that bullies don’t quit their bullying antics for your lunch money simply by you giving them all your money before school begins.

It requires an intervention of authority and justice to rein in the antics of the bullies and neutralize their negative influence.

Jesus describes the devil as a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Amazingly, many twenty-first-century believers think Jesus was using hyperbole here to describe Satan and his agenda. But Jesus is not given to exaggeration or lies, as He is the personification of truth. He is describing for us perfectly the character of Satan, who is described by the apostle Peter as an adversary (one who actively opposes) in 1 Peter 5:8. Left unchecked, he will break into your world to steal, plunder, kill, and destroy all the things God has brought into and blessed your life with. He must be resisted. He must be pushed out!

The Battle for Connection

The greatest battle you will face in this life is connection with God.

Jesus had to leave the crying of the crowd, the demands of the multitude, and the solace of His companions in order to keep His connection with God the Father strong. Prayer is the greatest gift extended to us from heaven because it is direct access to and complete fellowship with God, the Creator of the universe.

Your flesh does not like prayer because it is not used to prayer.

You have fed your flesh and its desires from the time you were a nursing infant, so a spiritual appetite must be something that is developed. You will never find so many distractions as when you set aside time to pray. But you must battle daily for connection — this is how we get our daily bread from heaven. Remember, man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Prayer is accessing the limitless wisdom of God; prayer is an invading of the impossible; and prayer is the way your spirit recharges, confidence and courage replenish, and vitality is restored to your soul.

Fight the fight to get connected. It’s worth it!
Excerpted with permission from PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens by Jurgen Matthesius, copyright Thomas Nelson.

* * *

Your Turn

The first rule of this Fight Club: talk about prayer! The second rule of this Fight Club: you MUST talk about prayer! We cannot war alone! Are you engaging in battle in prayer? What prayer battles are you fighting? Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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The natural struggle for faith in something intangible can be compounded by incorrect teachings and contradictory explanations of the workings of God in our lives. How does “free will” really work? What does it mean to ask for God’s will? When things happen in life, how do you really know whether that is God’s will? Is there really any point in praying for His will if we can’t influence it?

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What Others Are Saying About PUSH

“Jurgen is one of the world’s great young leaders. In his book PUSH, Jurgen instructs and inspires us all to believe that God has more planned for us than we could ever imagine and to not give up until we see all that God has in store for us.” — Benny Perez, lead pastor, http://www.thechurchlv.com

“PUSH: Pray Until Something Happens is an important book that encourages us all to embrace the true power of prayer. This is a book that will push YOU to take action and keep praying to become the blessing you were meant to be.” — Pastor Tommy Barnett, co-pastor, Phoenix First; founder, L.A. and Phoenix Dream Centers

“One of the greatest challenges of our day is how to present timeless orthodoxy and truths to a somewhat seasonal and transient generation. Jurgen Matthesius has not only taken that challenge but has risen to the occasion! Not everyone can cause the new believer and the Gospel veteran to take a fresh look at prayer in such a way that both are inspired, challenged, and changed. If God is talking to you about prayer, or if you are talking to others about prayer, PUSH is your book and this is your time.” — Michael S. Pitts, founder, Cornerstone Church, Toledo, OH; bishop, Cornerstone Global Network

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Relationships can be Painful but Love Conquers All.

Whatever the hurt or the wound, love really does conquer all. Nothing rises to it. The darkest side of our character has no weapon  against it. It’s our trump card, and I think it’s the only one we have in the deck. Love is the key. That tether of love is the key to everything.

This is a great read FB Friends by Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family.

“We can’t forget that, whatever the hurt or the wound, love really does conquer all.” — Jim Daly, from The Good Dad
Devotionals Daily

The Good Dad: Pain Is Part of Relationship
by Jim Daly, The Good Dad

Meet Jim Daly

“You always hurt the one you love,” the old song goes, and it’s sadly true.

The moments will come when you hurt your kids. You’ll say something you shouldn’t have. You’ll do something that embarrasses them. You’ll break a promise.

None of us are perfect. And even when we say we’re sorry and admit our faults, we can’t erase what happened.

Our kids can hurt us too, sometimes accidentally and sometimes on purpose. They can lie. They can scream insults. They can slam doors or smash things or even hit us. And when they get older, sometimes the hurts can grow far worse. They can rebel. They can reject everything we tried to teach them. They can get into drugs or alcohol or promiscuity, and we’ll feel powerless to help or protect them.

When we look at the Bible, we see a depressing number of hurting families and grieving fathers. How grieved would Isaac feel when he learned that Jacob had tricked him and stolen his brother’s birthright? How many nights did the father of the prodigal son wonder, with a heavy heart, whether his boy was safe or even alive? I think about David grieving over his rebellious son, Absalom, after his boy died. “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!” he cried over and over (2 Samuel 18:33).

I wonder: Did he grieve much less when Absalom forced his own father out of Jerusalem? Wouldn’t every father grieve?

This all brings us back to the importance of making moments with our children. These moments serve so many purposes. They’re memories to cherish. They’re teaching opportunities. They’re fun. But most importantly, they’re monuments that father and child alike can hold on to, monuments to your love and reminders of those bonds of affection that tie father and child together and keep them forever connected.

We can’t forget that, whatever the hurt or the wound, love really does conquer all. Love is irresistible, irrefutable, undeniable. Nothing rises to it. The dark side of our character has no weapon against it. It’s our trump card, and I think it’s the only one we have in the deck. Love is the key. That tether of love is the key to everything.

The tether of love, if you have rebellious children, becomes paramount to your relationship. Your kids can irritate you, frustrate you, and drive you to stop talking to them. That tether can fray, and fray badly, in the heat of anger, hurt, and heartache. But you can’t allow those frustrations to overwhelm your love. You must hold on to those moments you’ve built.

You have to hang on to that tether, even if it’s just a thread.

Because when your rebellious son or daughter turns twenty or twenty-five or thirty, they may remember those moments and long to see you and hear your voice and maybe even say they’re sorry. If that thread exists, they can find it and follow it back to you.

They know that, despite how much they hurt you and disappointed you and damaged their relationship with you, the thread of love continues to exist. They see it. They know the tether has never completely snapped. And then the two of you can begin to make some new moments, some new threads, to strengthen that bond once again.

Love is the key

To Forgive Is Divine (And Very, Very Hard)

But what happens if the tether breaks? What if the relationship gets truly severed? Is it too late then? Is there truly no hope?

There is hope, I believe. It’s never too late – as long as both father and child are still living.

But I don’t want to think simplistically about the process. If the tether breaks, it’s very, very difficult to tie it back together.

And forgiveness has to come in torrents.

If our love is a tether, then forgiveness is the knot that can mend the two pieces back together.

If we don’t have someone willing to forgive, and sometimes forgive a lot, we don’t have a lot of hope, in my opinion. But here’s the good news: If we do have forgiveness in such situations, then I think the tether can wind up even stronger than before.

We see it often in marriages when a serious failure or breach of trust has occurred – lying, adultery, or any number of behaviors. Once everything has come out in the open, those involved in the relationship may be able to save it and even strengthen it. Renewed honesty allows the level of trust to rise.

Forgiveness from one party can boost gratitude from the other. Where there is trust and gratitude, the love and affection two people have for each other can grow again – even stronger and in deeper and healthier ways. It seems counterintuitive, but I see it time and time again. Couples who fight through those situations come out on the other side healthier and even happier. And now they have nothing to hide. It again reflects that simple truth Paul outlined in his letter to the Romans – suffering can lead to hope.

In the same way, honesty and forgiveness can heal relationships between fathers and their children. But man, it can be hard to forgive! It’s much easier to bury our hurt in a pile of complacency and fool ourselves (or pretend) that we’ve forgiven.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy to us. It’s not natural.Revenge is easy, while forgiveness comes primarily through faith, by the strength that comes through Jesus.

Anytime you say, “I’ve forgiven you,” even if you say it in your own mind, you should question yourself: Have you really forgiven this person? Or have you simply turned your heart off to the pain?

A good test to know your true feelings is to imagine if something happened to the person you’ve “forgiven.” If they died or were seriously injured, what would you feel? Joy? Pain? Indifference? That little test can provide a view into your own heart.

Sometimes what we call forgiveness is really nothing more than a mask, one more tool we use to hide the pain from others and ourselves. Forgiveness is hard. I struggle with it to this day. I don’t hold grudges. If I saw Hank or Mr. Reil today, I’d shake their hands. But have I truly forgiven my failed fathers? Or do I just not care anymore?

I think I have forgiven my father. I found that path to forgiveness easier, because I knew he loved me. While in many ways he was a horrific father, I still felt his love. And even as a child, I could distinguish between his love and his mistakes. I think I’ve forgiven Mr. Reil, just because I feel sorry for him, a sad, confused man. Perhaps what he did to me wasn’t exactly his fault. And in a way, perhaps that means I have nothing to forgive. You don’t forgive the rain for ruining your picnic or for flooding your basement. I saw no malice or purpose to Mr. Reil’s fear of me. He didn’t know reality. I just felt sorry for him because a grown man should know better, and he didn’t.

But if I’m being honest with myself, I doubt I’ve forgiven Hank. At times it feels as if I have, but disregard is not forgiveness. I don’t care, just as he may never really have cared for me. It’s sad to say that, and I’m embarrassed to say it, but I think it’s true. Hank is in God’s hands. But emotionally I can’t expend the time.

About a year ago, I visited my mom’s gravesite – the first time I’d gone there since I was ten. Hank had bought two adjoining plots when Mom died, one for her and one for him. He imagined at the time, I suppose, that the two of them could lie there side by side until the world stopped spinning.

I expected to see Hank there too, beside my mom as he imagined. I hadn’t seen him since the day of the funeral, and I braced to “see” him, albeit in a much different form, for the first time in forty years. Maybe for the last time.

I remembered as I walked to the grave his last words he ever spoke to us: “I can’t deal with this.” And when I got to the gravesite, those words struck me anew. In front of me lay more evidence.

A stranger – some other woman – now lies beside my mother’s body. Hank must’ve sold the gravesite. He ran away from us, and in the end he ran away from her. He scrubbed us all clean from his life.

I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I do wonder, though, whether he ever looked back on those two years he spent with my mom and wondered if he could’ve, should’ve, done things differently.

Could he have become a better stepfather? Did he have it in him even to try? Did he ever feel regret? Did he ever have the urge to find us again, to call one of us Daly kids and apologize? Or, for him, was it just too late?

It’s Never Too Late

I know I’m not alone in wondering. Some men reading this live with the pain of a damaged relationship. Others still wake up with a hurt inside them. Maybe they had a hard relationship with their own father, a story that sounds a little like mine. Maybe their dad drank too much or abused drugs or doled out abuse. Maybe he was a workaholic. Maybe he landed in jail. And the pain, after all this time, lingers.

Maybe you hurt your father. You left home in a huff, turned your back on your dad and family and went as far away as you could. And now that you have children of your own, you long to reconnect, but you don’t know how.

Maybe I have some readers like Hank. They never took the time to know their children. Perhaps they’ve never even seen them. But sometimes they wonder about them. Do they have families of their own? Have they moved on? They wish they could’ve done things differently. But they wonder – is it too late?

It’s never too late, not as long as we have breath in our bodies. Our relationships may have bent. They may even have broken. But with time and effort and a whole lot of forgiveness, we can mend them. There is hope!

There’s still a chance to make a moment or two. Or twenty. Or two hundred. There’s still a chance to reconnect with your father.

There’s still a chance to be a good dad.

Watch the Video for The Good Dad

Watch the Video
Excerpted with permission from The Good Dad by Jim Daly, copyright Zondervan.

* * *

Your Turn

Love really does conquer all. Do or did you have a painful relationship with your dad, stepdad, or father figure? Did your dad mess up? Did you? Are you longing to repair the damage but don’t know where or how to begin? What about your relationship with your kids? There is hope! Join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you about rest! ~ Devotionals Daily

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It’s never too late to be a better father.

Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, is an expert in fatherhood—in part because his own “fathers” failed him so badly. His biological dad was an alcoholic. His stepfather deserted him. His foster father accused Jim of trying to kill him. All were out of Jim’s life by the time he turned 13.

Isn’t it odd—and reminiscent of the hand of God—that the director of the leading organization on family turned out to be a guy whose own background as a kid and son were pretty messed up? Or could it be that successful parenting is discovered not in the perfect, peaceful household but in the midst of battles and messy situations, where God must constantly be called to the scene?

That is the mystery unraveled in this book. Using his own expertise, humor, and inexhaustible wealth of stories, Jim will show you that God can make you a good dad, a great dad, in spite of the way you’ve grown up and in spite of the mistakes you’ve made. Maybe even because of them.

It’s not about becoming a perfect father. It’s about trying to become a better father, each and every day. It’s about building relationships with your children through love, grace, patience, and fun—and helping them grow into the men and women they’re meant to be.

Shop now and save 30% off for one week only!

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Do you Trust God with your Pain?

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “come close to me. “When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to persevere for you a remnant of on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Devotional:

Most of us resist remembering and feeling the pain and hurt of our past. It can feel like an abyss that may swallow us up. You can wonder if you are only getting worse. Yet Joseph wept repeatedly when he reunited with his family. In fact scripture relates that he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him. (Genesis 45:2)

Joseph did not minimize or rationalize the painful years of his life. He could have destroyed his brothers in anger. Instead out of the honest grieving of his pain, he genuinely forgave the brothers who had betrayed him, and was able to bless them. Joseph was able to discern that God had sent him to Egypt to save his brothers lives by a great deliverance. The question is, “How did he do it”?  Joseph clearly developed a secret history over a long period of time in his relationship with God. His whole life was constructed around following the Lord God of Israel. Then, when the moment came for him to make a critical decision, he was ready. He took leadership of his family and continue to the end of his days providing for them financially, emotionally, and spiritually.

What pain in your life are you waiting to be acknowledged and grieved?

Prayer:

Lord lead me through the process of grieving and healing that I might offer genuine kindness and forgiveness to those who have not been kind to me. Help me like Joseph to join with you to become a blessing to many other people. In Jesus name

Amen

Devotion by Peter Scazzero; Emotionally Healthy Spirituality