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Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Dena Johnson Martin

Crosswalk.com blogspot for Dena Johnson of Dena's Devos

Recently, I was reading an old blog post from when Roy and I were first married. In case you don't know, our first couple of years were HARD...and that might be the understatement of the year!

As if marriage isn't hard enough, remarriages are even harder. When you take two people who have baggage from previous relationships, the death of one's father, children who are grieving loss and trauma, and a house that is way too small to hold everyone, it is simply a recipe for disaster.

Now--just for good measure--take a severely disabled child who is reeling from overwhelming changes in her life and toss it into the mix.

Yep. That was our lives for the first two years.

In the midst of this new season of life as we were attempting to navigate the changes and the trauma, I wrote a very vulnerable blog post about the trials we were facing. I asked for prayer as we sought God's wisdom on our next steps.

And someone had the audacity to inform me that it was obvious we had not followed God's will in marrying one another.

You know those people. The ones who are WAY more spiritual than I am. The ones who understand God's ways MUCH better than I do. The ones who tout their credentials to prove they know FAR more than I do. The ones whose ways are higher than my ways and whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts.

Over the years as I've walked through many trials, I have come to understand just what a warped brand of Christianity many of us cling to. We may openly condemn a healthy, wealthy, wise brand of Christianity, but if we are truly honest with ourselves we will find areas where we actually believe the very belief system we condemn.

In this situation, the person who made this comment on my vulnerable blog post was convinced that if we had followed God's will for our lives, we wouldn't the difficulties we had at the beginning of our marriage. But where do we find this belief in scripture?

This morning as I read my daily Bible reading, I came across a scripture I've read many times--but today it was fresh and alive. Isn't that the beauty of the Word of God that is alive and powerful!

The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. Psalm 34:19

What?!?! Scripture doesn't say, "The one who misses God's will faces many troubles." It clearly says, "The righteous person faces many trials!" It doesn't say, "Roy and Dena got married against God's will and the first years will be incredibly hard." It says, "Even though Roy and Dena have hearts desiring to do God's will, they will face many trials in their lives and marriage."

And this area is but one where we so often buy into the healthy, wealthy, wise false narrative.

I'm sure you have heard it before, but God never promised us an easy life; He only promised to walk with us through the trials of this life. Even Psalm 34:19 says it clearly: the Lord comes to the rescue each time. His rescue may not look the way we expect it to look, but He always rescues us. In our situation, our rescue has been heart-breakingly difficult--especially for Roy. Although our home is filled with love and peace and security and a beautiful portrait of God's redemption, it has come with an incredibly high cost. The Lord rescued us, but it was in His way--not ours.

As I contemplated the truth of God's Word this morning, I was reminded of five reasons this life if filled with trials.

We live in a fallen world. It doesn't take any advanced degrees to see the sin in this world. Division. Hatred. Greed. Lust. It's all around us, reminders of our choice to walk away from the perfect plan God created for us. Because of sin, hardships entered this life. But again, He came to our rescue. He sent His perfect Son to walk this earth, to die on the cross, to rescue us from eternity in hell. It doesn't look the way we in our finite minds think it should, but it truly is a beautiful rescue.

Trials often bring us closer to God. I want to say trials always bring us closer to God, but the outcome of the trial is really dependent upon us. What do we want from these troubles? Do we desire to know God, to draw closer to Him? Are we willing to surrender our will to Him and ask Him to use this pain in our lives--whatever the cost?

When my marriage fell apart, I ran from God. I was so angry I didn't want anything to do with Him. Until I heard Him gently whisper, "Get your security from me." As I fell on the floor of my bathroom, I cried out a prayer of surrender--and my life has never been the same! My trials brought more intimacy with God than I ever dreamed possible. I saw Him use my trials to do a work in my life (James 1:2-4).

Honestly, I love when I see little correlations in scripture. Read the verse before Psalm 34:19. The Lord is close to the broken hearted. Before He ever tells us we will face many trials, he tells us He is close to those who are broken hearted. You can't separate these two verses.

Trials can give us purpose in our lives. God never wastes our pain. He tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that we are to use the comfort we receive in our trials to helps others. On that fateful day when I fell to my knees in the bathroom, I begged God not to let my pain be in vain! It has not been! Honestly, one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life is the joy I receive from helping others walking through the pain of this life. Whether it's a simple word of encouragement or an extended relationship that grows from our shared pain, using the trials of this life to help others has given me a purpose in this life like no others!

Again, it's a choice. Will we allow God to give us purpose through our trials?

Trials show us the condition of our hearts. Honesty. Jeremiah tells us the heart is deceitful above all else. I didn't believe it about my heart, but the trials of this life proved it true. Oh, how horrified I was to see the pride and deceit I had hidden so deeply! As I walked through the trials of life and surrendered my will to His, I began to see things through His eyes. I began to desire His way over mine. I began to see the hand of God providing for my every need, and I saw the true condition of my heart (Deuteronomy 8:2). It wasn't pretty, but it allowed me to become who God created me to be.

Trials show us the goodness of God. Have you ever had something happen in life and you could clearly see how God had been preparing you? About two weeks before my ex-husband died, I happened across Hosea 6:1-2He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Truthfully, I'm not sure I was convinced of God's goodness until I experienced His healing, His gentleness in the midst of the trials of this life. It was the way He tenderly cared for me as I walked through the darkest days of my life that showed me just how good He is. It was His relentless pursuit of me as I turned my back on Him that showed me the depth of His love for me. It was my own choices, my sin, that revealed how much I needed the gift of His forgiveness given to me on that cross all those years ago.

You see, without experiencing the pain of this life, I would never have the joy of experiencing His tender mercies in such a profound way. It may seem like an oxymoron, but it is the trials of this life that show us just how good He is.

Where are you today? Are you in the throes of the troubles of this life? Take heart! It won't last forever (1 Peter 5:10). And if you face these trials with the right mindset, you will find the blessings are far greater than any pain this life can throw at you!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? I have no idea what has happened to this year.

I have actually been taking a little break from my blogging as I try to take a deep breath and get my feet underneath me again. I am beyond exhausted. And dry. And burned out. I feel like the weight of life has really gotten me down, and I'm just coasting through life right now.

Have you ever felt that way?

I can't pinpoint any one thing. I do know I haven't had any measurable time off work in nearly two years since Covid hit. I have changed jobs a couple of times and simply haven't been able to build up any vacation time. That takes a toll on one's mental state.

It's also been an incredible time of transition. Both of my boys graduated high school. My daughter is now a senior in high school. What we assumed our lives would look like right now is nothing what our lives actually look like. Doesn't God have a sense of humor?

My oldest moved back in when Covid hit and his college shut down. We expected it to be a few months, but we are going on nearly two years. He actually decided to forgo his senior year of college and go to flight school. He is officially a private pilot and expects to have a commercial certification and be a flight instructor by May. How cool is that?!?! And it has been so much fun to watch him find something he loves and really pursue his dreams.

My younger son was actually a 2020 graduate. Yes, Covid robbed us of the end of his senior year, graduation, and so many special moments. But, it has been so much fun watching him find his passion! He had scholarship offers from across the nation for his work in livestock judging, and he decided to forgo college to become a firefighter. He has earned his Advanced EMT and feels like he has found a job that gives purpose to his life!

My baby girl sings. A lot. And really well! She just earned All-State honors for the third time making her the first three time all-state from her school in the history of forever. We are waiting for the results from the National Honor Choir and are hopeful she will be a two-time national honor choir member (Covid means only two years because it was canceled last year). I am truly trying to savor every single minute with her before she moves off to college next year.

It's funny because I assumed she would be the only child at home right now. Instead, we have all three living at home! There is absolutely no complaining from us, but it's funny that it's certainly not what we expected. I have this overwhelming feeling that next summer we will go to an empty nest overnight.

Life is funny that way. It may not look how we expected, but it is good. Really good if we have the right mindset.

And can I tell you about my sweet hubby? It's been over four years since we married, and he is still as wonderful as ever. Maybe even more wonderful. He is kind. Compassionate. Caring. He loves deeply and he loves well. He serves with all his heart. For those of you who have been burned by someone who hurt you, let me just assure you that there are still good people out there. There are no words to describe what it is to be loved as Christ loved the church.

I guess I say all of that to say that life is busy. And full. And overwhelming sometimes. And exhausting.

In the midst of beauty and savoring every moment, I also feel like I am losing part of myself.

Drained.

Burned out.

Dry.

Exhausted.

Apathetic.

Complacent.

Pick your adjective. They all describe me right now. I would give just about anything to win the lottery so I could just step back and focus on my Savior. Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen (especially since I rarely am willing to part with the few dollars it requires to play the lottery).

So what now? How do I move from where I am to where I want to be--alive and thriving again, intimately connected with my Father, relishing every moment of this journey called life?

It's a really good question. I know scripture encourages us to throw off everything that hinders us (Hebrews 12:1). How do we do that when the things hindering us are necessary for life? Like every responsibility  entails.

That's the question I face right now. Am I alone in this exhausting marathon? Are there others who are facing the same struggle? I certainly hope I'm not alone. Maybe it's time we lock arms and journey together to a place of connection with one another and the Father. Maybe we should create some group where we can come together and honestly share the struggles of wanting to live intimately with our Father when there are so many hindrances.

For me, I look back at the time when I was closest to my Father. There were a few things that characterized my life: Release, Rest, Tribe (ugh, I tried to find a synonym for "friend" that starts with the letter R?).

Release - Running was my release. I had to have a spinal fusion a couple of years ago and am now unable to run. I miss the solitude.

Rest - I used to work three long days a week instead of the normal 5 days each week. I miss the extra days off and taking time to play with my kids.

Tribe - My community is different, and Covid had a huge impact! I know we need to develop some close friends to do life with, friends who have the same heart for God. It's so hard when you are either busy or exhausted. Either way, a tribe that walks the Christian journey with us is essential.

Will you hold me accountable? Accountable to finding a new release for the stress? A new way of finding solitude and connection with the Father? Accountable to find ways to play, to create moments of joy within in our lives? Will you be my tribe, encouraging one another on this journey? I firmly believe we need each other, that God never intended for us to do life alone?

Or maybe you have some other ideas. How do you find the connection, the energy, to keep on keeping on in this life? I would love to hear how you keep your life alive!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have you contemplated those things for which you are thankful? I know I have many things.

My health.

My family.

My job.

Redemption.

Purpose.

Relationships.

And, of course, my Savior whose love and forgiveness and faithfulness is the one constant in this life. Where would I be without Him?

Today, though.

Today, I am thankful for my Father who knows exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.

Today, I had a work meeting. I expected a regular, nose-to-the-grind, business meeting. Instead, my co-worker arrived overflowing with emotions. It had been that one last issue that pushed her over the edge. As she apologized for her emotions, we stepped back and just spent a few minutes connecting. Sharing our hurts and pains in this life. Sharing our hearts and our pasts. Talking about the similarities in our lives.

Sometimes, work can wait.

I was reminded of several important pieces to living a successful and purposeful life:

Relationships are key. It was SO good to connect with another individual, to sit with someone and have a deep, meaningful conversation. I love my job these days--the ability to work from home and have more availability to my family. At the same time, I realize it is easy to become isolated from the outside world.

I'm not sure I realized just how isolated I have been. I have my incredible family right here, and we talk and connect every single day. But since Covid hit, our connections with the outside world have been severely impacted. I just didn't realize how much it affected me.

God has a purpose for each of us. I was reminded today that God gave me a purpose. I was reminded that He gave me a story and a heart to help hurting people. I was reminded of how He carried me through the hardest season of my life so I could help others as they walk a similar journey.

These last few months I have really struggled to get my feet underneath me. I have questioned my purpose, if I should continue on this journey. Today, I was reminded that God's purpose is far bigger than I am.

Even when it seems He is late, His timing is always perfect. So often it seems God is late. Where is He? Why hasn't He come through yet? The truth is that He is working. We can't fully understand his timing, but He sees from eternity to eternity. He understands all the intricacies that we don't. He knows the consequences of poor timing. He is working for our good in all things (Romans 8:28).

I don't know about you, but I needed this precious reminder of the faithfulness of my Father today. What a way to enter Thanksgiving--filled with gratitude for my Father who sees me and knows me and knows what I need--even when I don't.

How about you? What are you thankful for today? How have you seen His presence in recent days?

Praying you all have an amazing day of gratitude! God bless!

 

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