by Colleen Swindoll Thompson
I never expected what happened while running errands the other day.
The plan was to check some things off my to-do list while my husband and sons were home watching football. Being alone is a rare event, and the quiet always speaks to my soul . . . if I’m willing to listen. I had planned to run by the grocery store, craft shop, and my parents’ house because they were out of town; my sister and I tag-team watching their place when they travel. This time she was gone, so I was on my own. I had to check the pool level, grab the mail, and check their security system, ensuring all 9,012 cameras around the place were in working order. (Okay, maybe not THAT many cameras, but it’s close.)
I checked the pool first since the heat index was 108 degrees, literally. The pool needed water which meant I had to wait as it slowly filled, so I checked everything else and went inside the house. Everything was silent.
Typically, there’s a hubbub of hurried activity in their home. With everyone gone, the stillness opened my soul. I checked my phone, sent a few texts and emails, checked the water level again, put my phone down, and finally decided to just be still.
In 2007, my parents were finishing building their home. It’s the place where my kids and I landed during a horrible divorce and broken friendships. So many assumptions of what had happened to my marriage lingered, and the smear campaign was everywhere. It’s shocking to learn how many people believe they know what’s happening inside a home they don’t live in, and it’s deeply painful when those people choose to share the rumors with anyone who will listen. Tragically, I have been arrogant enough to do the same: make assumptions and believe opinions as if they were God’s truth. I’ll never forget the countless lessons learned as we endured malicious rumors and character assassinations.
Feeling hunted and horribly alone, my parents’ home was our refuge, our place of shedding tears, sharing pain, and showing up as we were . . . shattered to pieces.
In the quiet, as I waited for the swimming pool’s water level to rise, I walked upstairs and sat in the room I had previously shared with my son Jon during those first few months of grief. Flooded with memories, I spent an hour walking through each room, remembering conversations and recalling experiences that carved my soul and created much of who I am today.
In one room, I found two quilt-like blankets I had made when my kids were little. I opened them to see the kids’ hand prints and colorful squares representing what each child loved. The quilts were faded in color, but my folks continue to use them when the weather is cold. Little hand prints made long ago continue to provide warmth . . . like hugs from afar.
The walls echoed with laughter as I recalled my kids playing with their cousins on hot summer days. They went from the pool to the kitchen to the pool, playing hide and seek and running barefoot with Popsicle stains around their mouths. Their laughter lightened the heavy weight of loss. In those days, laughter sprinkled my soul with just enough hope to keep it soft.
STOP BELIEVING LIES
Emotions surfaced as memories emerged in each space I walked through. I recalled the feeling of despair. When we’re shattered, our feelings lead us down dark roads. We often think:
* “Jesus doesn’t care.”
* “So this is where faith has brought me . . . no thanks.”
* “Lord, you are a complete liar.”
* “God, where are you?”
The worst was feeling that the Lord I had trusted was thoroughly indifferent and didn’t care how much pain my family was enduring. One of the biggest reframing choices you and I must make is to stop thinking these lies; you must force your mind to replace the Enemy’s voice with God’s truth. It’s an act of faith that will save your life. I promise!
I remember appealing to the Lord for this kind of faith. It was January 1, 2008, when I sat in my dad’s big leather recliner. I journaled about feeling lost and crushed. I was helping my daughter through recovery from depression and self-harming, trying to find doctors and therapists for my son with disabilities, and seeking godly men who would mentor my middle son, who was grieving his biological father’s abuse and absence. I pleaded to the Lord for a morsel of something . . . anything that would sustain and protect us as we healed. I opened my Bible to Psalm 91-92 and began reading:
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Only a simpleton would not know, and only a fool would not understand this: Though the wicked sprout like weeds and evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever.
But the godly will flourish. . . . They will still produce fruit. . . . They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
(selections from Psalm 91 and 92)
The tone of these passages is personal warfare, involving individuals on the front line facing a malicious enemy. Because the world is broken and evil reigns, the Enemy never ceases his attempts to destroy followers of Jesus. In order to survive, we must “reframe” our perspective in many ways. We must examine and solidify our core beliefs, keeping them founded on God’s Word. The Enemy loves to shatter those with shifty theology. A few flawed beliefs can be the ticket that hurls you miles away from Jesus. But crisis also sifts our faith like few other experiences.
FIGHTING THE BATTLES
Without question, I know you are fighting something. It may not be a bad divorce or disabled child, but you are giving yourself to something bigger than you can manage on your own. At the root of all things that tear us down is the Enemy. We must remember the biggest battles have to be fought on our knees, not in the courtroom or classroom.
If you’re longing for God to intervene or if you’re questioning His character and promises, let me share four distinct strategies of the Enemy to destroy your faith. He uses:
* Difficulty: Worn down by life’s difficulties, you may feel like giving up. Scripture repeatedly tells us life will be difficult, but when we cling to the truth God provides perseverance and power to endure. You cannot do it without Him.
* Distractions: We live splintered, distracted lives. Social media, daily business, and continual demands for our attention can keep us distracted, leading us to believe our lives are impossible. When in battle, your social media feed or next week’s party will leave you empty. Armor up with God’s Word; stand on the foundation of His eternal truth.
* Distress: You may be attempting something you cannot achieve on your own, yet you keep trying to accomplish the task by your own strength. This futile effort might affect your physical health and emotional stability. Worry is distress in action. STOP the rumination and call out to God. Stay in His Word.
* Disappointment: You never could’ve imagined _________________ (insert surprise circumstances) would happen in your life. Maybe demands grew as the finances dried up. Maybe you wanted to lead, teach, practice; or maybe you have a position that has completely fallen apart. Disappointment is one of the Enemy’s worst weapons because we don’t realize so much often rests on our expectations. Examine your expectations, and go to God as you grieve what’s lost.
While alone in my parents’ beautiful home, I met the silence and realized Reframing Ministries began when my life as I once knew it was ruined. Through difficulties, distractions, distresses, and disappointments, I was forced to examine my beliefs, release false hopes, and start fresh in my faith.
Where are you running to find a refuge? Will you trust and believe that God can renovate your life if you allow Him to? Where can you REFRAME your thinking and move forward with confidence? Remember: the battle is His, and He’s got you.
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