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“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” Hebrews 11:13 (NIV)

Last time we were together we talked about some of the differences between Joseph and Job found in the Bible. I also shared my first situation where I could have reacted out of fear or faith.

The second situation occurred just two days later. I was driving to a friend’s house for a playdate with my kids and life was good. Not two minutes from their house, our check service engine light came on. My first thought was to panic because I didn’t want to keep driving if I was going to ruin the engine. That has happened to us with two cars, so I know it was fear based in reality. I called my husband and he said I would be fine to stay and visit, then drive it to get it looked at.

I went to visit with my friend, mentioning to her about the car problems and right away her response was, “We’ll pray about this before you leave.” In the past, when something like this would’ve happened, I would’ve been distracted the entire visit, worried over how much it was going to cost, is my husband upset, did I do something to break the car, etc.? This time, we originally were only going to stay for two hours and at two and one half hours, I finally said, “I better get going since I have to get the car checked out and still have work waiting for me.” I had a peace that in the past wouldn’t have been there.

My friend prayed a wonderful prayer for our family and I was reminded that trusting God was the best choice. I left there prepared for the worst (a huge car repair bill) but trusting God that whatever the answer we received, He had it covered. He would find the money to pay for the bill or it would be minor and we would go about our day.

It ended up being something very minor with no cost to us! It was something that happened to our other (older) car, so I was familiar with what the technician was telling me and could explain it to my husband without getting the facts mixed up. In addition, this technician gave us a cheap solution instead of just living with it as we were doing with the other car.

 

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Now…you’re probably wondering if I’m saying, “Okay, so if we just have faith in God, everything in life will turn out perfectly.” I wish I was saying that, but nope, I’m not. There have been plenty of times I’ve trusted God for a good outcome and our family has had to walk through a trial or two first before God supplied the answer.

You see…God always supplies the answer and when His children are obedient and truly seek His will and His outcome for the problem, the final answer will knock your socks off. Sometimes we don’t get the final answer until we reach Heaven, as shown in the verse above. Other times we’re blessed to get the answer while still here on Earth.

However, I’ve learned this. God rewards faith. He is patient and understanding about fear but fear is not from Him and He doesn’t want us to live our lives in fear. When we get to the realization that we can trust God, that He does know what He’s doing, and if we wait patiently for His answer, He’ll show us blessings we never would’ve imagined. Just because that’s the kind of Father He is – good, loving, and generous. More of His blessings are released when I stand in faith than when I cower in fear.

Job wasn’t punished because he feared. He also received double blessings for his obedience when the trial was over. However, Joseph was rewarded for obeying, not complaining, and keeping the big picture in mind. He focused on God’s view of the situation and how even the trials would work for God’s glory.

I used to be Job. I am still, at times, Job-like. Job wasn’t a bad guy and God referred to him as blameless and upright. Joseph, however, was described as a man who was given God’s favor. Even though Joseph’s life wasn’t easy, in fact far from it, I want to be Joseph. I want God’s favor on my life and that of my family. It’s my choice which person’s footsteps I will model.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 

 

 

 

“Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”  Genesis 39:20-23 (NIV)

I was having my devotions the other day and read the above passage. I’d heard the story of Joseph many times so read it quickly and continued on without giving it much thought. A few days later God drew my attention to Job. Last year I’d read an interpretation about him regarding the passage below. “His (Job’s) sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.” (Job 1:4-5, NIV).

I can’t remember where I read the interpretation, but it was someone’s opinion that one of the reasons God allowed Job to suffer the trials he did was because he lived in fear, not faith. If you read the above passage, it talks about how Job worried when his children got together regularly to feast and sacrificed burnt offices to purify them. The passage seems to imply that Job lived with the mindset of fear of disobedience, not necessarily knowing the facts but fearing the worst.

However, if you read the above passage regarding Joseph, he was described as someone whom God granted favor to. In “I Do Want to be Joseph, ” I describe two attributes, I believe, Joseph possessed that pleased our Father. The first was Joseph never complained about his circumstances – never! The second was that Joseph kept the big picture in view. He didn’t think about the temporary discomfort but instead focused on what God was doing for the good of everyone, caring more about God’s glory than about his personal comfort.

I wondered which person I was…which person I used to be more like…and which person I continued to model. August 2013 started the shift for me from a Job perspective to a Joseph perspective. In the past, when trials would enter my life, I would react out of fear. However, God worked patiently with me for months, helping me to shift my focus off of myself and instead place whatever circumstances we were faced with into His hands…with faith.

 

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This past week I was given two different opportunities to make a choice when faced with a situation. The first situation involved household supplies. We were running low on a certain household item and I just needed to make what we had left last until payday. I was reminded of the story in I Kings 17 when the widow fed Elijah, God’s prophet, from her meager supply and God blessed her by never letting her supply run out. I’d heard many other stories about people who had thanked God specifically for what they needed and He delivered, down to the very color of what they had asked for. I decided I was going to ask God in faith for our household item and trust He had it taken care of. I prayed, then moved on, watching to see how God would supply. I found a coupon the next day for a buy one, get one free of that item. I thanked God, thinking this was my answer and figured He was using the coupon to get us through until payday and I could stock up again.

However, I know better than that. When God answers, He doesn’t just “get us by.” He supplies. The very next day, after I had used the coupon, we were gifted three times the amount of what I had purchased “just because.” Immediately I knew that was God and thanked Him right away.

Next time I will tell you about the other situation where I was given a choice to fear or have faith.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 

 

 

 

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1 (The Message)

 

I was having a conversation with the youth pastor at our church, Pastor Justin, several months ago.  We were getting to know each other and I happened to describe myself to him as an introvert.  He asked me why I would say that and then stated he used to describe himself as an introvert, but realized that in Christ, we are whatever we need to be – outspoken, quiet and observing – whatever God calls us to be at that time because in Him we find freedom.

At the time of our discussion, my gut instinct rebelled.  I understood what he was saying, but  I’d finally found freedom being able to declare myself an introvert instead of having to be everything everyone else wanted me to be.  I’ve shared here before, that I grew up with strong perfectionistic tenderness.  I falsely believed I was expected to be certain things, act certain ways, do certain activities.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy what I did or that I was living a lie all those years.  However, the older I got, the more I realized a few things.  I didn’t always like being out in front – I also enjoyed being behind the scenes, going home and recharging my batteries, and needing time alone to reflect, process, and be still.

I had a similar conversation with my sister a few years back when we were talking about introverts versus extroverts.  She was reading a fascinating book and we were discussing it. She was shocked when I told her I thought I was an introvert.  “You always have liked being on stage, out in front, and around lots of people.”  My answer was, “To a degree…but when we all get together, like at family gatherings, aren’t I the one who sits on the sidelines holding the baby, or washing the dishes listening to the conversations around me instead of participating?” Her daughter piped up and said, “Exactly – I’m the same way!”

 

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All those conversations led me to this conclusion.  I completely agree with Pastor Justin – when I became a Christian, I found a freedom in Christ that erased the need for all labels.  When God calls me to do something, He equips me with what I need in order to complete the task He has asked of me.  However, my line of thinking is also correct.  Because of that same freedom in Christ, I’m free to admit my tendencies and not have to prove to be something that goes against the genetic makeup that Christ created in me.  I am free to erase all labels and do the job God asks, and I’m free to stand up and not be ashamed of having introverted tendencies in a sometime extroverted world.

That my friends, is what real freedom is.  Embracing the way God made us and realizing that sometimes He will equip us with “more” in order to complete the very special task only we can accomplish for His glory.  I want to thank Pastor Justin.  If we hadn’t had that conversation, I may not have realized just how free in Christ I really am! In essence, we were saying the same thing, just coming at it from different angles.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

“There are so many things I won’t understand on this side of heaven. I just won’t. There are some things that we will never understand. We just have to trust that God has a plan and that He is working it out for our good. Even if that good isn’t felt in the moment.” (Mindy Sauer)

Last time we were together we were talking about how choosing God’s way versus choosing our own way helps to answer the question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people…especially to little kids?  The sin of this world was not God’s original plan.  However, since man chose to allow it to enter through our free will and choosing the wrong path, God then spent the history of mankind showing us the only way to eternal life with Him which is through accepting His Son as the payment for our sins.  However, because of the love God has for us, He doesn’t force Himself on us.  He instead offers us the choice, until we take our final breath, wanting us to choose Him.

While we may not understand all that happens in this life, the bad is a result of sin, not part of God’s original plan.  If God’s master plan was for evil, then evil would exist in Heaven.  Instead, evil is part of Satan’s master plan, to turn people away from God by having them depend upon themselves or others instead of trusting in Jesus Christ as the only way.

It’s not our job to understand why bad things happen.  It’s not our job to try and actively avoid bad things from happening.  It’s our job to trust in our Heavenly Father and His plan when bad things happen, not knowing how but knowing that eventually He will win.  Sometimes that triumph occurs as in the case of the Sauer family.  Their son, Ben, was healed by God lovingly bringing him to Heaven sooner than his family members would’ve wanted.  Other times the healing takes place here on Earth.  However, while we aren’t in charge of how the grace will look, it is our job to trust that our Heavenly Father knows what’s best and has it under control.  It’s a much more peaceful journey when we keep our focus on the fact that for every child of God, this life is temporary and we will be reunited with our loved ones who also have a relationship with God, forever in Heaven, where death, disease, sickness, trials, and sin will be nonexistent.

 

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There is still pain…sadness…anger….grief.  However, for the life of a believer, those emotions are overridden with hope.  Even though our hearts may ache when we’re going through difficulties or when we’re empathetic with others who are hurting, we have hope knowing the pain is temporary.  We know that one day it will all be over and be replaced with joy.  Until then, sometimes when there seems to be no answers as to “why,” all we can do is cling to the knowledge that we can trust God.  He’s in control, He knows what He’s doing, and even though we will never see the big picture, He does.  He knew what we would face before we were even born and He promised we would never have to face the difficulties by ourselves.

I find, for myself, that Truth cements itself into my life deeper when I’ve experienced the pain versus watched from the sidelines someone else’s pain.  It is then, when I’ve crossed over to the other side, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can trust God and He extends His grace to all His children, without showing favoritism.  And it is only then that I can say with confidence, even when I can’t see the answers, “I know that I know that I know” that God has it under control. And even if I’m saying it with tears streaming down my face, it’s the most peaceful place to be – inside His strong arms.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 

I LOVE How God Works…

October 2006:  My husband and I were married for seven years and we were blessed with two wonderful children.  In October I found out God had different plans for our life.  We were pregnant again with a third.  We had a great time telling our family at Thanksgiving and by the last week of my first trimester, early in December, we figured we were safe to begin telling our friends too.  One day shy of 12 weeks, our baby went to Heaven.

An avid reader, I searched for months afterwards for the “perfect” book that would offer me hope.  I wanted to hear in someone else’s words that I would someday smile again.  Despite reading numerous books, none of them offered that hope I was seeking.  I remember vividly having a conversation with God and promising Him this: “Someday, I’m going to write that book that I so desperately wanted when our baby died.”  Despite the fact that writing wasn’t even on my radar as a career choice (or hobby)

October 2011:  It was during a writer’s conference when God reminded me of the promise I had whispered to Him years earlier.  I told God, “If this is what you want, I will work hard.  Please lead me to the people you want to share their heartaches.”  I came home and began asking courageous men and women if they would be willing to tell their personal stories of heartache, in their own words, while offering hope to others who are or who have walked that path themselves.

 

EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT AND SNEAK PEEK

 

In October 2014, Hope During Heartache:  True Stories of Emotional Healing from Infertility, Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Death of a Child will be released.

 

Hope During Heartache

By September 2014, the only thing missing for the book to be published was the perfect picture for the cover.  I had been searching for a picture which would depict a message of hope during one of the darkest times in a parents’ life.  I was getting frustrated, yet, I should know better.  God, my Father, who is always personal, also always has perfect timing.

September 2014:  While browsing Facebook on a Friday night, after a terrible storm had rolled through the Midwest, my husband found the perfect picture. I messaged the woman who took the photo and explained to her why I was asking permission to use it. She responded immediately with a “yes” and then shared with me that her family has been touched personally by the topic of the book.  I believe that God allowed our paths to cross for a reason.

I shared with you some of the background behind the creation of this book in order to show that God works in some of the most incredible ways.  May this book be a blessing to those who need it, those who read it, and those who share it with others who are searching for hope during the heartache in their lives.

Stayed tuned for details on where to purchase the book when it’s officially released.

 

Cover Photo:  Sarah Herr

Cover Design: Emily Lam

“God has a plan…And everything does happen for a reason. In fact, Paul tells us to ‘know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’…His promise isn’t that bad things don’t happen…His promise is that God can turn every circumstance into something good. Every circumstance. Sometimes we just need to look….Sometimes it takes a lot of time to see it. Sometimes we don’t get to see it all – but somehow our suffering aids others. The key is trusting the Master through it all.” (William Sirls, The Reason)

 

I just finished reading this great book, The Reason, by William Sirls.  It was great because it tackled the age old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” At the same time, I’m reading another book, nonfiction this time, titled “The Grace of God,” by Andy Stanley.  Both books, even though talking about different subjects, intertwine to reinforce the answer to the above question people have grappled with for years.

In fact, even though I thought I’d come to terms with the answer myself, this past spring I again found myself struggling.  I was introduced to the Sauer family through my cousin and her Facebook page.  Ms. Sauer had been writing a blog for years and this past February, her four-year-old son, one of a set of twin boys, was diagnosed with cancer.  BlueforBen was created and their family’s story spread almost overnight.  I didn’t begin reading about this extraordinary family until April, I believe, but they’ve had a profound impact on my life ever since.  They stood rock solid in their unwavering belief in a loving and good God, when I myself was guilty of sobbing and crying out to God for them, “Why???  He’s only four, almost five, and suffering so much.”  Looking into the eyes of my four, almost five-year-old energetic, full of life boy brought the reality of their situation too close to home.

 

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As God always does for His children, He leads us back to the truth, using as many opportunities necessary until we “get it.”  Both of the above books plus the sermon series we just finished up at my church reminded me of the Truth.  God’s original plan for His children didn’t involve pain, sickness, death, or anything evil.  Genesis 1: 26-31 describes that when God created the Garden of Eden, it was for humankind to enjoy.  He didn’t have to create brilliant colors, the huge variety of fruits and vegetables and animals or the different landscapes.  No, He created all that for our pleasure.  God is all about love.

However, it didn’t take long for humans to mess up perfection.  With the creation of free will, Eve chose to sin, dragged Adam down with her (however, he had free will to resist or not), and then they both decided to blame God and Satan for their wrong choices.  Even though they messed up and chose sin, God still showed them grace with His consequences.  Even God giving them morality was a gift of grace – allowing their time of suffering here on Earth to end in exchange for life in Heaven with God, but only after they confessed and reestablished that God was the only way to live in Heaven forever.

You may be asking…what does all this have to do with God allowing bad things to happen to good people…especially to little kids?  Come back next time and I’ll explain what I mean.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

 Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,” He said, ‘everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.’” Mark 14:35 (NIV)

My journey with fear hasn’t been a secret to anyone who has read my blog…ever. I have dealt with fear most of my life in one form or another and I can report I only struggle from time to time now instead of daily.

While watching Son of God with my family, fear crept in once again. I watched the disciples and realized something important. God allowed them to be born at that moment in history for a purpose. Their purpose was to walk with and live beside and learn from Jesus for three years while He performed His ministry…and then to go and continue the ministry in His absence, after He ascended into Heaven. My thoughts went something like this: “What a privilege! But many of them were persecuted for their faith and died as a result. I’m happy John only had to be exiled to an island, not killed. But, wait, poor John. While all his friends were having a reunion with Jesus in Heaven, he was stuck alone on an island waiting to die.”

Around this same time, I started reading a book titled, “Face to Face with Jesus,” by Samaa Habib, Bodie Thoene. What an interesting book! I’m not done with it yet, but she talks about the persecution that happens in her country and how she isn’t afraid of dying for God.

I again started to feel badly about myself. Why was I so afraid – what was wrong with me? Then I remembered the verse above and even Jesus didn’t welcome the pain associated with dying on the cross. He pleaded with God to take away the responsibility from Him if possible…however, if that was what God desired, He would do it. So while my fear may not be something to be proud of, I’m not the only person who has experienced fear of persecution.

 

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I love how God meets each of us where we are. I came to a few conclusions from our sermon series, the movie, and the book, and this is what they are. First of all, I was born during this period of history for a reason. I don’t know what the reason is but as much as I wished to have born in the Little House on the Prairie era, God chose me to be born now…and I am going to be faithful to complete the purpose that He chose for my life, willingly. Second, if/when I’m called to take a stand…even if it means getting hurt, God is right there, ready to step in. He has proven that in big and little ways in my life and therefore, even though my default button is fear, I can still choose to do what is right. I can step out in faith because God is right here, helping me every time. I may not enjoy the circumstances I’m called into, but they won’t last forever. And, lastly, my purpose in life continues to be to share God’s love with others. Those of you who knew me before, I’m not suddenly different from the girl/woman you always knew. I’m still me and I still do life as I always have. I just have a better understanding of why I’m sharing God’s love with you. I won’t start lecturing or bribing or manipulating. I’ll just continue to lovingly show you how important God is to me and why…inviting you to experience His love for yourself if you choose.

That is how God’s love motivates me. Without Jesus’ strength, I would still be the child scared of God punishing me or wanting to hide so no one would hurt me. But, the deeper our relationship grows, the more I understand His motivation behind what He does and the more I want to share that with those I love…and even those I don’t know yet.

© Cheri Swalwell 2014

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