The Weakness

by Rhonda, June 30, 2024

"Its my pain," he said.  

I could feel the intensity of it when he said it.  A friendship of many years had come to an end, and he was mourning the loss.  I didn't have the right words in the moment for my friend, but I could relate.  I wasn't mourning the loss of a friendship, but I knew the weakness he felt in his soul.

My divorce left me feeling gutted and inadequate.  I woke up every day for several years feeling completely terrible, dreading the day ahead.  The loss of close relationships can bring us into a state of absolute weakness.

Paul talked about weakness in his letters to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12).  Perhaps you've heard this sermon before followed by the tagline: In our weakness, God's power is made perfect.  But, I don't think I ever truly understood what weakness means.  I thought it meant God would help me with my fear of public speaking, every time I needed to speak in public.  Perhaps He would help me choose healthy food when I felt like downing a bag of Cheetos.

While God will do those things (I'm not sure how he feels about Cheetos), I don't think enough emphasis is given to the true meaning of weakness.  I'm talking about when you don't know how you're going to get out of bed in the morning.  What about when you receive the phone call that says a loved one (or you) has cancer?  How about the absolute knockout punch of the death of someone close to you?

Things happen in life that are so difficult, we wonder how we'll have the strength to stand let alone breathe.  This, dear readers, is true weakness.  

How on earth could Paul want to brag about such circumstances?  I wonder what would happen if I bragged about one of my weak days.  It would look something like...Well, today I didn't want to get out of bed because I woke up angry over my divorce and my son's cancer.  I spent the next few hours thinking about everyone who had ever said anything to me that wasn't nice and determined they needed some form of revenge.  Then I ate a box of chocolates.  Later that afternoon, due to my excellent mood, I was rude to my kids and ran two red lights.  Then I swore at the people who honked at me for doing so.  God, be glorified!

But, Paul was a radical thinker.  He basically said he will boast in anything that brings him closer to Christ.  He surmised his weakness was a backdrop for God's strength. Weaknesses reveal our need for God.  Strengths reflect a reliance upon ourselves.  So, he chose to brag about his weaknesses instead of his strengths.  Weakness is our biggest strength if it leads us towards God.  Paul's motto was if God can be greater in my life, then bring on the weakness.  

Do you know what else is interesting?  Faith is strengthened during weakness.  There is something that happens when we can no longer depend on ourselves and we must rest in the power of God.  Faith is what carries us through uncertain times, and like any muscle, it is strengthened when it is used.  At a time when we are feeling most inadequate, our faith is actually growing.

We were on vacation last week in Florida.  I don't know if I've mentioned this to you, but I am afraid of sharks.  Really, I'm afraid of all large things in the ocean, but sharks are high on the list.  We went snorkeling in an area where there had been shark sightings.  Now, mind you, I am in an area that I can still stand up in the water and not be over my head.  But, I had this irrational fear that a Great White was going to appear at any minute and swallow me whole.

The first time I went into the water, I didn't stay in for very long.  I just couldn't get comfortable.  But, the next day, I realized my fears were irrational and I stayed in the water for a while longer, and I swam out a bit further.  I was gaining faith there was no Great White around the corner (and if there was, I reasoned, what a way to go!).  

By the last day I was there, I was snorkeling all of the place.  Yes, I was still afraid of a mega-shark coming for me, but I had gained trust that God was going to protect me from any ferocious ocean creatures.  

Weakness does the same thing with our faith.  At first, it is incredibly difficult to have any faith at all.  But, once we trust God in a few weak moments, our faith begins to grow.  Over time, trust in God becomes automatic, and our faith gives us more and more courage to trust God to take us further and further.  Over time, we've learned how to rest in the power of God and our faith is thriving.  

This is why Paul bragged about his weaknesses.  His weaknesses grew his faith and brought him closer to Christ.  Bragging about his strengths brought glory to him, but bragging about his weaknesses allowed the message of God to shine through his life.  

If you think about it, the same goes for us.  Its OK to share our weaknesses with others.  In fact, sharing our own weaknesses against God's strengths leads to a moment of showcasing God's glory.  Paul would rather showcase God's glory rather than his own, and if we had the same mindset, we would view our weaknesses differently.

Instead of shame, we'd simply be honest about weaknesses.  Instead of guilt, we'd rejoice in the glory of God to bring us through our problems that were too much for us.  Instead of self hatred, we'd have gratitude for a Savior that not only saves us from hell, but saves us from ourselves.  This certainly seems like a better way to live to me.

Sign me up.

The Rest

by Rhonda, June 22, 2024

The house is quiet.

We are going on vacation next week, so all morning everyone has been packing and chatting with a busy excitement.  My kids finished packing and they're off running errands.  Without the noise of the excitement and chatter, I can barely stay awake.  I'm exhausted.  I actually feel too tired to go on vacation. 

I think all Moms with kids at home, single or not, are exhausted a majority of the time.  Adrenaline carries us more often than it should.  When Jesus says come to Me and I will give you rest, I think for us Moms, He means literal rest.  We are an exhausted bunch, with bad hair and bags under our eyes.  

There's a lot of things in this world that offer rest.  One could get a massage, a pedicure, or even a day at the spa.  A nice trip to a favorite restaurant means a night off from cooking.  Soft sleep masks help with sleep.  Shopping for new clothes can be a fun hobby.  Vacations can be helpful.

While there's nothing wrong with any of those things, my problem is that I'm not just physically exhausted.  Physical exhaustion has an easy fix, a great night of sleep.  No, my exhaustion comes from anxiety, managing competing priorities all day long, worry about everything under the sun, and feeling overwhelmed because there's always more to do in a day than I can accomplish.  No amount of polish on my toenails is going to fix my mind's attempts to keep up with the demands of this world.

If Jesus promises us true rest, how do we take Him up on His offer?

Stay Close to Jesus.  Your body needs sleep to recover.  Your mind needs rest, not manipulation, and the opportunity to peacefully wind down.  Jesus allows for the mind to rest along with the body.  I promise you that whatever you are worried about, it does not justify your level of stress.  Do not waste your peace on this.  Stay close to Jesus and stay in His ways and He will see you through this.  In all things, He goes before you.  Bring your decisions in line with your beliefs, and allow God to take the wheel.

Remember, Jesus is working all situations.  Simply do as He asks of you and do not worry about anyone else.  No one else has solutions for you because no one else understands you like He does.  No one else loves you like He does.  Follow Him and His ways so your problems don't take you under.  

Take a Sabbath.  Taking a true, proper sabbath requires time.  That's something most of us don't feel we have.  But, a true sabbath is an entire day.  It is a day of rest and worship.  It is a day of listening to God's truths rather than the noise of the world.  It is rest for your mind, not just your body.  It is a time to soften your heart so you can hear His voice.

God doesn't need for us to take a sabbath.  A sabbath is for us.  I personally struggle to take an entire day for a sabbath.  Inevitably there's at least one place I need to be every day of the week.  But, then God reminds me that I control my schedule, not the other way around.  I pay the price when I don't schedule my time with Him, and my levels of anxiety are significantly increased when I don't spend time listening to what God has to say.

Ponder on God's Love.  Whatever you are facing, you are not alone.  His love for you is unlike anything else you've ever experienced.  You don't have to impress God.  There's no image required (in fact, He really doesn't like images, He likes YOU).  One thing I love to do is think about what He did specifically to show His love today.  

Did you see something that was an odd coincidence?  It wasn't.

I was traveling in Chicago once, and I was struggling with feeling bad about myself.  Thoughts of self hatred were bouncing around in my head.  You're not a good mother.  The divorce wouldn't have happened if you were better.  You're a fraud, a fake.  You know, all the fun stuff the devil likes to tell us Moms, especially single Moms.

I was walking around downtown, and crossing the street.  Directly in front of me was a sign was on the lightpost.  It said, "Jesus loves you".  I looked at more closely, thinking about how much I needed to hear that message in that moment.  In small print at the bottom, it said "Yes I am talking to you."  It was just a random piece of paper taped to a lamp post.

But, it wasn't random.  It wasn't a coincidence.  It was God reminding me that His love is greater than all of those terrible things in my mind.  His love is so thoughtful, so sensitive, that He orchestrated a piece of paper to be taped on post because He knew I would be crossing the street on a particular day, and that I would need to see it.

What kind of God is this?  What kind of love is this?    

He goes out of His way to show us that He loves us.  Our minds are constantly searching for this love, and we have to take the time to ponder on it when we see it.  It calms our heart, makes us smile, and reminds us that we're never alone.  

In the end, He's what we're looking for.  He's the calm in the storm. 

Jesus, and only Jesus, provides true rest.  

The Dinner

by Rhonda, June 16, 2024

I sat at the table with three other couples.  

It was a work event, an evening at a steak restaurant to thank us for long hours on a difficult project.  It was a lovely evening, with good food and good company.  I am usually fine attending events solo, but for some reason, this one bothered me.

Perhaps it was because I met with another set of friends the previous evening.  They introduced me to a few of their friends.  All were couples.  Several seemed to have no interest in talking to a single mom with two kids.  I might have read the room wrong, but again, it bothered me.

I used to fit into these groups, because I fit the mold.  I was married with two kids.  From the outside, we were a perfect little family of four.  But now, I don't fit in anymore.  I'm still me, but the perception of me has changed.  

But, let's face it.  Does anyone ever really "fit in" to the crowd?  Isn't there something different about all of us?  Aren't we all dealing with something?  It may not be divorce, but everyone has their own stuff in life to deal with.

Trying to fit in with the same old crowd when life has changed can be really difficult.  Its like trying to find your place all over again.  The truth is, our place is with God and nowhere else.  We can search for acceptance and comfort within our circles here, but true acceptance comes from God. Aren't we glad that we never have to find our place with Jesus?  Our place is secure no matter our circumstances, no matter what's happened.  He is loyal, faithful, and true to us through eternity.

If you're like me, and you are sometimes finding your place after a major life change, here's a few thins to keep in mind:

Your value didn't change with your divorce.  You have probably changed.  Your friends might have changed.  Your financial situation might have changed.  Even your home address might have changed.  But your value in the eyes of your savior did not change.  Not even a little bit.  Your value was placed by the One who created you, not by the one you married.  Remember, you were made in God's image, according to His likeness. 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)

Our Savior didn't go to the cross for someone whose value changes with their circumstances.  He already knew your circumstances and still believed you were worth dying for.  No higher value can be ascribed.

You don't have to fit in with the old crowd anymore.  You're stronger, wiser, and more experienced than you used to be.  Some of your friendships will last the test of time, and some will fade away.  Remember, the constant that must remain in your life is God.  Everything else through divorce gets thrown into a state of flux.  If friends aren't being kind, or they're not interested in a friendship anymore, perhaps you're being led in another direction. True friends remain through turbulent times, but others may need to go on their way.  With God guiding you, you will be able to discern the difference.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  (Prov 17:17)

I can remember meeting up with an old friend after we hadn't seen each other in about five years.  We enjoyed our time together in our prior lives, but since I'd seen her, I'd gotten married and had two children.  As we reunited over lunch, I learned she was in a similar place as she was five years ago.  She was still in her same job and her life was mostly the same, and she was actually somewhat angry and bitter about it.

There isn't anything wrong with that, but about halfway through our lunch, we ran out of things to talk about.  She really wasn't interested in hearing about my kids, and I didn't have a lot in common with her professionally anymore, because I'd changed jobs. I had also begun a much deeper relationship with Christ, and she wasn't on that road.  Our friendship had run its course, and it slowly faded away with a lack of communication.  

I'm still grateful for her friendship, but it wasn't one that was going to be with me for life.  I had changed, and so had she.  Our friendship was based on our circumstances at the time, not necessarily a true connection that bonds friends for life.

When no one else sees you hurting, God does.  Perhaps you were at a similar event as me, and you smiled through the evening while you were hurting inside.  God saw that.  Maybe you went through your first Christmas by yourself.  God was watching.  I can remember the first time I had the courage to go to church as a single Mom, not knowing what to expect.  God was there.

You are never going through this alone.  Dealing with a new normal is not easy, and the road through change is often filled with pain.  Our God is ever-present, and He sees the courage it takes to face a new life.  He doesn't take it lightly, and He is proud of his courageous daughters who stay true to Him while facing some of life's biggest challenges.

These are not small things.  These things hurt, and anytime we are hurting, we have our Savior's attention.  He doesn't leave his daughters alone through these battles.  The Bible even tells us, God is with us, and we will not fall.  

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (Psalm 46:1-5)

At the end of it all, the only thing that matters is Jesus.  

We always fit in with Him.  

The Shirt

by Rhonda, June 09, 2024

I opened the bag with the gift she gave me.  It was a shirt, from Ukraine, and it had been embroidered up and down the sleeves.  The shirt was a beautiful shade of hunter green (my favorite) and the embroidery was done in gold thread.  It was, well, perfect for me.  She knows me well.

Yet, we still don't speak the same language. 

Crazy how that doesn't matter.

Sometimes it feels as if I've awaken from the nightmare of my divorce to this beautiful new life God created for me.  I am so grateful.  I love Him so much.  He cares so much about me, enough to craft a new life for me that I am in love with.  How can God love me so much?  How can he be so good to me, in spite of all my faults?

Funny how the story unfolded, now that I'm looking back on it.  I'm sure my family thought I was losing my mind when I was fresh off of a divorce, and God asked me to sponsor a family from Ukraine (then another one).  I brought a family into my house that I'd never met in person.  But, here we all are, united as family in a way only God could have created.  They're living in their own places now, but we are as close as ever.

I was thinking back to nearly a year and a half ago, when we picked up this sweet, exhausted family from the airport.  They had been held in customs for hours.  We loaded them into our church van and drove them to our home in the middle of the night.  How terrifying it must have been for them, as they had their two young sons with them.  How crazy it was for all of us.

Now, the bombings and attacks on Ukraine continue.  I am not the greatest at always knowing what to say.  Sometimes I just ask God to help me push through it.  A few months ago, one of their family members died in the attacks.  How are there words for this, especially when you don't speak the same language?  There's not, so I just show up with flowers in-hand and try to convey they are loved.

Life goes on, the news continues to roll in, the politicians argue, and all I can think about is how much the world needs Jesus.  There are real people on the other side of these tragedies, and God asks us to see them.  To love them.  To do what we can, given our abilities.  Sadly, so often, love gets lost in opinions.

A few weeks ago, my sponsored family gave me a pin with an American flag and a Ukrainian flag intertwined.  It was a heartfelt gesture depicting their journey.  I was so humbled by it.  They have no idea they helped me as much as I helped them.

But, isn't that how God works?  He brings two families together from across the globe who need each other.  He creates victory out of the impossible, and in the midst of it, we have the privilege of watching Him work.

How great is our God.

The Moment

by Rhonda, June 02, 2024

I've been reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and I came across something that really hit home with me this week.  I'm adjusting the wording a bit from his letters (written from the POV of our enemy), but here's the gist of the idea pulled from several different paragraphs:

The Present is the point at which time touches the present is the voice of the conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.  The business of our enemy is to get us away from the Present.  Even the Past is of limited value, because we can be grateful for the past.  The best place for our enemy to keep our minds is the Future, because here he can keep us in fear.  Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.

Isn't it true that anytime we're in fear, we're thinking of the future?  Perhaps one of our greatest weapons against fear is to remain in the present moment.  In today's world that seems more difficult than ever to do.  But, God already tells us what's going to happen in the future.  He says our bodies will be transformed from perishable to imperishable, we will go from dishonor to glory, from weakness to power, and from natural to spiritual.  (1 Corinthians 15)

Knowing this, we can tell ourselves confidently we have nothing to fear or worry about.   Everything else really is small stuff, even though it doesn't seem like it.  We can live in the moment, enjoying God's current mercies that are bestowed upon us lavishly. 

This concept is hard to live out, but it is possible.  Divorce is such a trigger for fear, because it creates uncertainty about the future.  I couldn't believe the depth of fear that came upon me immediately after my divorce.  If you struggle in this space like me, here are a few things from my journal regarding fear and the need to live in the present moment:

  • If the devil cannot get to you with fear, he will come after you with temptation.  Some of the biggest areas of temptation are anger and the need to take control.  Both of these are reactions to living in the past or in the future.