“If Only” takes you to the past and leaves you there. It makes friends with “Would have”, “Should Have” and “Could Have”. I am quite sure that you have met them as well. Click and listen to this quick devotional from Coming Out of the Valley: Devotions for Thriving.
Have a blessed Sunday in the Lord!
If Only Meditation Verse
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
How many of you have ever been given the title, “The Biggest Loser”? Well, unfortunately I hadn’t either until I played Bunco this weekend with a group of ladies. A few days leading up to Bunco night had been filled with grief and trauma symptoms. So, when I received a text from a friend inviting me to go to Bunco night, since they were in need of an additional two ladies, I hopped on board.
My eyes honed in on the words”filled with laughter” in the text. After listening to the pitter patter of the rain, and having an emotional Saturday, I knew that Bunco was calling my name. I got a chance to play with ten other women, who, like myself, were needing a break. As God would have it, I knew one of them.
The game got pretty intense, and surprisingly, I couldn’t seem to leave the Losers’ Table. Finally, after eight losses, I moved to the Winners’ Table, and I stayed there the rest of the evening. Although I made it to the Winners’ Table, it wasn’t soon enough. Before you knew it, the game was over, and I was given the title “The Biggest Loser”.
At first, I was a little sad that it was my worst ever Bunco score. That was short-lived because I soon found out that the “Biggest Loser” was actually the “Biggest Winner” in my book. The “Biggest Loser” was celebrated just as much, if not even more than the winner in my opinion. I received a sandalwood and amber candle, shea butter hand cream, and foaming hand soap. I smiled to myself, and I told God that he had a sense of humor.
In Luke 15, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were fussing and complaining because Jesus welcomed the tax collectors and sinners who came to hear him speak. This is the parable that Jesus told them, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shouldersand goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15: 4-7)
That night, I was the little sheep. The ladies had joyfully placed me on their shoulders and celebrated my loss.
Years ago, when my kids were little, I worked in the financial corporate world of the IT department. I absolutely loved my job as a computer technician. As a matter of fact, there were several things that I liked about my job in general: flexibility in your schedule, the ability to talk to people as you worked on repairing their issues, whether it be computer, networking, or printer. Last, but not least, I liked the whole idea of getting to listen to the problems that the end users were having, and then the challenge of recreating the problem in order to come up with a solution.
While working at this financial institution, I decided that I would get my Masters Degree in Information Technology. The degree was a 14-month intensive online program. Although I had two small children, I was up for the challenge. I also had the idea in the back of my mind that this degree would increase my value and my salary.
After obtaining the degree, I spoke to my supervisor, who in turn stated that she had to talk to her boss. I was told that the raise wouldn’t happen, and that they were on a hiring and salary freeze for the entire company. What made matters worse, is that I found out that what was said was not the entire truth. They were giving raising. Specifically, significant salary increasing to non-minority employees without degrees. I was disheartened and discouraged because I felt that I had done all of this hard work for nothing.
What I didn’t realize then, but do now, is that I felt that I had no worth there because of this incident. In their eyes, I didn’t qualify to sit at the same time with other individuals with my qualifications.
One thing that I now see is that when it comes to God, even in all our brokenness, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we will always receive the “exempt” stamp of condemnation. There is always room at God’s table of executives.
Ephesians 2:4-7New King James Version (NKJV)
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
There are times in all of our lives, when we hit a brick wall due to a trial that was unexpected. During this time, the first thing that we often do is to panic instead of getting on our knees to pray, asking God for wisdom, discernment, and direction. The second thing that we usually do is to seek the advice of our friends. Some of this advice can be like gold, while other advice can be foolish, which is where prayer and discernment comes in.
When it comes to getting advice from others, there are three things that are possibilities: we can learn things from people who are behind us in years, we can learn from the people who are beside us in years, and we can from the people who are ahead of us in years. God has blessed me to be in small groups where all three of these are going on at the same time. I am thankful for learning from all three of these groups. However, the most growth that has taken place have been from the women who are way ahead of me in years. They are old enough to be my mother, but they are my friends. Titus gives us instructions on how the mentoring process for women should go:
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
King Rehoboam was approached by the spokesperson Jeroboam to reduce the workload of the Israelites. They promised that they would serve him for the rest of their lives if he obliged. King Rehoboam had the blessing of seeing his dad, King Solomon, both fill himself with the wisdom from God, and surround himself with wise people. He went to the wise older men who gave his dad advice, to see what they thought that he should do:
2 Chronicles 10:3-8New International Version (NIV)
3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and all Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him:4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
5 Rehoboam answered, “Come back to me in three days.” So the people went away.
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
7 They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.
You would think that his father’s example and entourage would have been a clue. But, it wasn’t. Rehoboam listened to the young men growing up with him, and in turn, causing an uprising, and he himself had to flee for his life:
2 Chronicles 10:10-19New International Version (NIV)
10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “The people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”
12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.”13 The king answered them harshly. Rejecting the advice of the elders,14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God, to fulfill the word the Lordhad spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
“What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!”
So all the Israelites went home.17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem.19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
This serves as a reminder of how important it is to truly seek God for wisdom in making decisions, along with seeking the wisdom of other wise individuals who may be well ahead of us in years.
Thank you for your advice being the best advice. We pray that we will use discernment when getting wisdom from others when we are faced with our unexpected trials. Please help us not to be filled with pride when it comes to taking advice from older adults, remembering that they have already been where we are trying to go.
You can always tell what things are important to Jesus. That is why his last three words on the cross summed up everything: “It is finished.” He already knows the things that keep a high level of stronghold on us. Shame and rejection are just two of them. Shame is when we are perceiving ourselves as bad. This perception can be due to issues playing out in any of the following areas: financial, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical, and mental. Because we are all broken, we dump shame on ourselves, and then unfortunately we dump shame on others. Last week, we discussed the shame aspect of trauma here. When we wallow in shame, then we see ourselves as unworthy. We become deficient in self-worth. What did the scripture say about our actions in regards to shame? “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Rejection: It is Finished
Rejection hits the same brain wires as when we experience physical pain. When rejection plays out, we receive the hidden message, “You are not good enough”. You need to prove yourself. The next natural response to not being “good enough”, is trying to figure out what we need to do in order to qualify. Unfortunately, depending on our background, this could turn into a dangerous ground for Satan to get a foothold. Jesus was despised and rejected as he planned to take his place on the cross. He didn’t need to prove himself, or figure out how to get someone to like him because God, his Father, was all the approval that he needed, and Jesus is all the approval that we need. His life in exchange for our freedom: He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Isaiah 53: 3
We can finally release all of the shame and rejection on the cross by remembering the last three words that Jesus said, ” It is finished”.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to literally run for your life? I have, and I tell you, it is no joke. I had to run to safety. I was right in the middle of going through a divorce, and there was an issue that came up for visitation to be ceased for a few days. Unfortunately, the order was ignored. My daughter and I continued to get call after call, and doorbell ring after doorbell ring. I told her to stay away from the door as both of our nervous systems went into hypervigilant mode. There is more on the hypervigilant mode of trauma here. And if you have been through any type of PTSD/trauma, you know this moment is like fear on steroids X 100 with you watching and waiting for when and where something will happen.
My dear friend called me while this was taking place. I was supposed to be attending a Divorce Support Group that night. There was no way that I was going to leave my daughter at home to deal with this situation. I texted two members of the group, telling them to have fun, and that I had serious situation going on at the homefront. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the fear. My system was jacked up with adrenaline, anxiety, and fear. That’s when my friend advised that I spend the night at her house. She said that I could have trouble on my hands all night if I didn’t. At this point, I was tired of getting the police involved.
I packed up our night clothes, my important papers, and clothes for the next day. I also had to call my son and get an okay for him to spend a night at a friend’s home. I told him that he was not to return home for any reason.
My friend pulled up to the garage, and my daughter and I ran to get into her jeep, and as she sped off, the three of us quickly glanced to the right, noticing a figure hanging over pretending as if it were limp.
We didn’t get much sleep that night because we were in hypervigilant mode, waking up every 20 minutes or so, having to both shut our phones down from the incessant ringing.
Like myself, David was on the run for his life. Saul’s jealousy turned into anger, and his anger turned into madness: “And Saul was furious and resented this song. “They have ascribed tens of thousands to David,” he said, “but only thousands to me. What more can he have but the kingdom?” 9Andfrom thatdayforward Saulkept a jealous eyeon David. “1 Samuel 18: 8-9
However, David wasn’t able to stay there long. He was advised to leave, running from place to place, cave to cave for safety, but God was with him: Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Do not stay in the stronghold. Depart and go into the land of Judah.” So David left and went to the forest of Hereth.…1 Samuel 22:5, BSB
1 Samuel 23:7-14King James Version (KJV)
7 And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.
8 And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
9 And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod.
10 Then said David, O Lord God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.
11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the Lord said, He will come down.
12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up.
13 Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth.
14 And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.
Even when we are at our lowest point, and in the depths of fear, God is with us.
We thank you for being our refuge when there is nowhere else to go. We pray that during times of crises, we would seek you like never before, knowing that you have an angel of armies running with us.
When we’re waiting for something to happen, there are several things going on:
We want to know when things are going to take place.
We want to know where things are going to take place.
We want to know how things are going to take place.
We want to know if there is something we can do to make things move faster.
After all of the above happens, then we usually go back to the first thing on the list: We want to know when things are going to take place. Sometimes when we are in the waiting process, there are tangible things that we can do, but we find ourselves just sitting back and saying, ” Well, I’m just waiting on God.” There are other times when there isn’t a thing that we can do, except pray and know that God is in control, he loves us, and knows what’s best for us.
Rushing also involves several things going on:
We can’t focus.
We react instead of respond.
We do things out of character.
We forget about involving God in the matter.
We make things even worse.
We suffer severe consequences.
God promised Abraham at a very old age that he would have a son. When Abraham thought that this son would come from one of his servants, God reassured him that this is not what was going to happen:
Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This one will not be your heir, but one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” And the LORD took him outside and said, “Now look to the heavens and count the stars, if you are able .” Then He declared, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:4-6, Berean Study Bible
After waiting for so long, Abraham and Sarah, his wife, went from the waiting stage to the rushing stage. Sarah decided to take things into her own hands, and have her handmaid to sleep with Abraham to have God’s promise come quicker:
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar;so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said.So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
Genesis 16: 1-4, NIV
I wish at this point there was some good news to tell, but there isn’t. Things went from bad to worse. Hagar got a little too close for comfort, and Sarah began despising Hagar for her pregnancy. Not only did she despise Hagar, but she blamed Abraham for the plan that she came up with on her own:
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
The exciting part about it is that we got a chance to ride the school bus to 55th and Cottage Grove, and race on the track there. All the kids from the projects in my area were going to be there. Three weeks before the race, my mother bought me some new gym shoes. On the morning of the race, right before my mother left to go to work, I was so excited, that I decided to try the gym shoes on again. To my surprise, they didn’t fit. They were so tight, that I was in excruciating pain.
My mother told me that she would have to take the shoes back, and that I would have to race next time, and that there was no point in me going since I only had sandals to wear. Next time meant next year. I wasn’t going to wait till next year.
As soon as all the kids got on the school bus, I hopped myself on too. My mother was gone to work, and I figured I’d be fine racing in sandals. When we got there, they grouped all of the kids according to age. The announcer called out. “Get on your mark. Get ready. Get set. Go!” I took off running like crazy in my sandals. I didn’t get far before I fell and injured myself. My knees were cut open and bleeding. My arms and hands were bleeding. the inside of my wrist was cut and bleeding, since when I fell, I used my hands to protect myself. My older cousin came over and walked me off the track as I was crying and humiliated.
This story of my race wasn’t so triumphant at all. I disobeyed my mom. I hurt myself. I suffered a permanent scar on the inside of my wrist as a reminder today of the sacrifice that I made. Praise God for his mercy and grace, and the redemption that he has for every one of our lives!
We praise you for who you are. We ask that you would help us to consult you in the waiting, and to pray like never before for endurance and perseverance. We know that your plan for our lives is the best plan. You are God alone, and you don’t need our help for you to give us what you have already promised us.
In your name we pray,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Have you ever been in such a rush to leave out the door that you left your belt at home? I have done it before, and it’s not a pleasant thing. Nine times out of ten, you are constantly pulling up and tucking in for fear of your bottom layer falling down, or your top layer coming out. Wearing a belt helps to prevent this from happening. Let’s say that we decide to put the belt on, but the buckle is broken. Well, then it makes no sense to even wear the belt at all.
There have been times when I’ve been invited somewhere. I was so excited getting ready for “women fellowship” time. Then, upon arrival, the devil started me up with the comparison trap. I started worrying about whether or not I am overdressed or under-dressed, or if my life is such a mess that I shouldn’t even make myself vulnerable enough to talk about it. After having the tape playing in my head like crazy, I have to talk myself down, and then tell myself, “My identity is in Christ. I am free to be who God created me to be.” Sometimes I calm down pretty quickly. Other times, not so much.
We are all broken, and in our brokenness, we need to build each other up in love, and remember to not leave ourselves exposed leaving out the door. God’s belt of truth is a buckler. It shields and protects. It keeps us together.
There are times in our lives when situations come up that are completely out of our control. When things get this intense, we know that it will take the hand of God to literally turn things around. I find myself laying out prostrate praying to God, waiting for him to deliver. A lot of times God would answer right away, almost before I had finished praying or right after. I would call my friends up and say, “You’re not going to believe what just happened!” There have been other times when my physical body was so wrecked with trauma, and I would literally be at the point of passing out from an acute whirlwind trauma panic attack, as I call it, and I would place my hands on myself, and zone in to prayer, and God would deliver instantly. I love these moments.
But then there are the other moments that we all know about. Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, and months turn into years, and God still hasn’t answered. Can God Deliver? Yes, he can. Will God deliver? We don’t know. We know God is sovereign, all powerful, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. As he told Moses, he is the great “I AM”. He is a present tense God. What we don’t know is if he will deliver us from our situations here on earth, right now, later, or in heaven.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew God could deliver them, but they didn’t know if they would be delivered from the fiery furnace:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Will He Deliver?
About three years ago it was time for me to renew my state sticker. I couldn’t renew the state sticker without having an emissions test done. To line up with how things were going at the time, my car didn’t pass the emissions test. We received an extension on the sticker, but to no avail. I was in one of the worst situations of my life financially. The worse. I had no money to get another car. I barely had money to buy food. The next thing we knew, we accumulated six tickets on the car because of the situation. I had it all figured out. God would answer my prayers through a certain situation. He didn’t. The depression from the trauma dropped even lower. God had us to wait ten months and then he came to deliver. Just like he delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace.
God gave me a sneak peak of how he would deliver. The night before he delivered, I had a dream. In the dream my friends handed me about four different turquoise colored gifts. One of these gifts was a sewing machine. I woke up thinking that maybe I would be blessed with a sewing machine for my craft table, and I could finally learn how to use one. I felt God’s Spirit, but I didn’t want to overthink the situation. I also asked God if he was trying to tell me something. I went to my small group that morning, and one of the members handed me an envelope with a note and check attached, saying that the Holy Spirit told her to give it to me to help me get a new, used car. I had my timing of deliverance and God had his timing of deliverance.
My mother loves perfume. She absolutely loves it! The funny thing about it is that ever since I was a little girl, she has been in love with perfume. As a child, we had special days when we would go downtown to look around. I liked window shopping, but my mother took this to a whole different level. To be honest, I wanted to look around for a little bit, and then get to the fun part: going to Beef N’ Brandy on State Street for a lunchtime sandwich and french fry special.
We usually looked around for a good three to four hours before she decided that we would eat lunch and head home. Those four hours entailed several makeup counters, jewelry counters, and finally the perfume and cologne counters, making sure that she had several samples of facial products and cologne by the time we finished shopping. Every blue moon, she had saved up enough money to buy herself the fragrance that she had been smelling for months. My mother has smelled so many fragrances over the years, that believe it or not, she has become a specialist at knowing her colognes. Whenever we are out and about, and she smells a familiar scent, she might strike up a conversation with a person, and then ask them, “Oh, is that such and such? I love that fragrance.” There are very few fragrances that she is unfamiliar with.
“The Christ Fragrance”
As Christians, we are supposed to be a fragrance of Christ. What fragrance are we giving off? Do they ask us what cologne we are wearing? Or, are we giving off any scent at all? Do people stand next to us and want to run because of our attitudes or behaviors, or do they want to stay and “smell” a while, because their noses are filled with the overwhelming fragrance of Christ?
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 2 Corinthians 2:15