Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding the Treasures in Suffering

One of the hardest things for me is to watch someone I love suffer. Years ago, my beautiful sister Crystal fought a terrible battle with cancer. It was such a painful time in our family as we watched her suffer and could not prevent the pain.

Not only did I pray for Crystal but I also prayed for my family. I pleaded with the Lord to have mercy on her and on our family. I asked him to take this cup of suffering from Crystal and heal her. He chose to heal her on the other side of eternity.

In the days that followed, I saw the pain in my parent’s eyes as their youngest child slipped from our lives. I watched Crystal’s young son as he tried to make sense of life without the most important person in his life. Feeling lost and alone he closed himself off and all I could do was love and pray for him.  My sister Diane suffered deeply as she faced the death of yet another love one. Diane and Crystal had already lost so much early in life when their birth mother had been tragically killed. I knew Diane felt alone, hurt and angry. Hurting myself, I begged the Lord to give me strength to minister to my family.

We had no idea that we would face the same giant four years later when cancer attacked Daddy. Once again, I prayed for mercy and asked the Lord to intervene and heal him. He chose to heal him on the other side of eternity.

This time I watched my precious mother as she faced the pain of life without Daddy for the first time in over fifty years.

Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. We don’t always understand why the Lord allows pain to come into our lives and into the lives of our love ones. What I have learned is that the Lord never allows us to go through our pain alone. Not only is He with us during our greatest needs but He also sends help through others.

When Daddy was sick, the Lord brought Nancy, a new friend and prayer partner into my life.  Our mutual friend, Sue recognized that Nancy and I shared the same faith in Jesus. She knew that both of our dads had cancer so she thought we could help each other. She had no idea how the Lord was using her.

Nancy and I began a deep friendship as we called each other. We prayed, cried, read scripture to one another and poured our hearts out to the Lord together through the telephone When Nancy’s strength was gone, the Lord used me to strengthen her. When my strength was gone, Nancy was there for me.

Just before Thanksgiving Nancy called to tell me that her dad had passed on and was now with the Lord. We rejoiced that he was with the Lord and thanked the Lord that his suffering had ended. Yet, I knew that Nancy and her Mom were still in pain. As I planned to attend the wake I realized that I didn’t even know what Nancy looked like. She said, “Ginger, you’ll know me when you see me. I’m tall, thin and blond.” As I walked into the wake, I spotted a petite brunette and instantly knew she was Nancy. I walked up to her and said, “Nancy”. We embraced, laughed and cried.  It was only two months later that Nancy was there for me when my dad stepped in the loving arms of Jesus.

Although, still to this day Sue has never accepted the Lord, she was instrumental in bringing Nancy and I together during a time when we needed a friend and prayer partner who would understand our pain. Not only did the Lord comfort us with his Holy Spirit, He understood we needed a friend to walk along beside us during a time of great suffering.

The Lord has not promised us a life without pain and suffering. However He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

As we go through each day, the trivial challenges can seem larger than they really are until our life is interrupted with a pain of deep suffering. It’s during these times we readjust our priorities and realize what is truly important. It is during these times we allow the Holy Spirit to shine His light on our journey of pain. Then we can discover within the silver lining of pain and suffering nuggets of Truth and treasures we would never have known had we not traveled this path.

Ginger O'Neill

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

No one likes to be criticized, judged or rejected. The Lord has put within each of us a need for acceptance. Everyone wants to be loved and valued.

This is not hard to understand when you are the one who feels judged, criticized or ostracized. The injustice rises up in us and we often react in our human frailty. Our personalities can influence how we react.

There are three ways to handle criticism, judgment and rejection from others.

Some people are ready for a fight when they are criticized, judged, or feel left out. They go into attack mode. The anger rises up with explosive words that can never be taken back. Sometimes their anger can be so extreme they vent their rage with physical violence against property or even another person.

A second way people react when hurt by others is to flee and run away from the pain. Some people run to something that will make them feel good temporarily. Perhaps that is why we live in a world with so many addictions to food, drugs and alcohol. Other people try to soothe their pain with material possessions. Although we know that these are only temporary fixes, we often run to them. Sometimes we aren’t running to a quick fix but rather we are just running away from the pain. We seclude ourselves to nurse our wounds and suffer in our injustice. In other words, we run away and internalize our anger and hurt.

The advertising and marketing industries as well as the pharmaceutical companies have prospered greatly as a result of these choices of fight or flight.

What then can we do? How can we avoid situations that cause us to be angry? The truth is we can’t. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. The Lord tells us, “ Be angry and sin not”. Rather than fight or flight there is a third and better choice.

When we are hurt, rejected or disrespected we have the third choice: faith. Not faith in ourselves to have self-control over our anger or faith in the replacements that give us a temporary relief to soothe our pain. But faith in God who promises to be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

He will always be there for us when we are hurt, disappointed or angry. He promises to never leave us or forsake us.

Rather than running away and hiding in our anger or running to a replacement, have faith in the Lord God, our refuge. When we are angry and about to explode in words or actions we can trust the Lord to be our strength. He will uphold us with His righteous right hand.

As we choose faith in the Lord, He will give us the ability to forgive others just as He has forgiven us. He will also give us the wisdom we need in each situation. He has promised to turn our mourning into dancing and weeping into laughing. He has promised to show us the path of life: In His presence is fullness of joy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to Live the Life God Created You to Live

Have you ever wondered what life would look like if you lived the dreams and passion within you? Years ago, I attended a conference and the speaker said, “ Imagine dying, going to heaven and watching a video of your life. Not the actual life you lived but the life you were created to live. What if you watched and saw an amazing person and thought, Lord let me go back and try again”.

Each of us is given one life to live and someday we will stand before the Lord and give an account to Him. We will not be given a do over. Our time is now.

Within each of us, our creator has placed a unique combination of talents, gifts, personality traits, and abilities to fulfill His purpose for our life. What we do with them is up to us.

I’ve heard it said, “If you can dream it, you can live it.” Has the Lord put a passion inside of you that does not go away? Do you find yourself revisiting this dream in your mind? When you take steps toward this passion, do you find you are revitalized and excited? Maybe you can’t see the details clearly but you know that this the life the Lord planned for you. So how do you live this life?

First, thank the Lord for entrusting you to fulfill His purpose. When we thank Him, we are also acknowledging to ourselves that the passion stirring within us is from Him.

Second, start living this call immediately. God’s Word encourages us not to despise the day of small beginnings. Each step in the right direction strengthens and prepares us for the next step.

Third, stay connected to the Lord through prayer and time in His Holy Word the Bible. It is vital that we stay connected to the Lord so we can hear His Holy Spirit teaching us the way. Dr. Henry Blackaby says, “Watch and see where God is at work and join Him”. He will not lead you away from His purpose.  Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and Light unto my path”.

Fourth, stop making excuses. Each person has unique life circumstances that present the challenges of life. We may not be able to side step responsibilities in our life but we can continue to persevere toward the call the Lord has placed in our lives. Most of the time it is not the unique challenges in our lives but rather it is the obstacles we place in our lives.

Fifth, remove the obstacles within. If you struggle with perfectionism then acknowledge that to the Lord and ask Him to help you not to procrastinate because of your perfectionism. If you are unorganized, seek help in organization and ask the Lord to help you with self- discipline. If you cannot say no to things that are robbing your time and energy, make a decision to pray before you make any commitments.

Six, persevere and don’t’ give up. Philippians 4:13-14 says, “but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to wind the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.

Seven, the day will come when you stand before the Lord and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant’.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

You Make a Difference

   In our fast paced world, how often do we miss an opportunity to let someone know how much we love them or how they have been a positive influence in our lives.
As I look back over my life there have always been people who have lifted me up, encouraged me, and shown unconditional love. My dear friend, Carol Kent says that we often have people in our lives that are our “stretcher bearers”. They are the ones who carry us to Jesus when we are wounded and unable to take the next step.
      Often the influencers in our lives are the faithful who demonstrate the love of Christ consistently even through the difficult times of their lives. How blessed I have been to have so many godly influencers in my life. People who have no fame, wealth, great worldly accomplishments, and many of them have suffered great lose. However, they are consistent in their Christian walk with the Lord.
      I have lost contact with many of my influencers but love for them is still as strong as it was the day they stepped into my life and made a positive impact. Some of them have gone to be with the Lord Jesus in Heaven.
      As I reflect on the influencers in my life, I see how the Lord has used each one of them as a unique thread that weaves through the tapestry of my life. Some of the most beautiful colors that have helped shape me into the woman I am today. These dear friends are a beautiful and fragrant bouquet of flowers of every kind and color.
      Opportunities to let them know the treasure they have been in my life may have passed for many of them. However, for those whom I can still let them know, I resolve to seize the opportunity while I can.
      Each day and each moment, I have the opportunity to be a positive influence on the lives of others. My heart’s desire is to be one of the threads that weaves through someone’s life and makes a positive difference.  My heart’s desire is to be the fragrance of Christ in the bouquet of someone else’s life.