There is Promise in Pain (Week One)

Week one study overview: Today, we will discuss the uncertainty surrounding what we know about Job, and then jump into chapter 1.

Key Point of Struggle: How can a just God allow such unjust circumstances?

Key Proof of Comfort: Romans: 8:18

Have you ever felt like Job? After my stepfather died, suddenly at the age of fifty-eight, I remember having a day where the anxiety from grief was so tortuous I thought I might jump out of my skin. I laced up my tennis shoes, walked out my front door, and took off running. I’m not a runner, so you can only imagine the burn in my lungs mixed with persistent urges to vomit along the way. Grief attached to my soul like super glue and was relentless in the fight of letting go.  I felt a little like Job that day.

Believe it or not, there is a benefit to experiencing grief. It has potential to drive us straight into the arms of Jesus. Through my own experience with grief, I’ve learned that God is for me. As a result, nothing else has a chance against me. I make my residence on victorious ground. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a battle taking place, but it does mean the cross already declared victory. Nothing has the power to steal it from me. And nothing has the power to steal it from you, either.

Job’s struggles were very different from ours. As much as I’ve felt like him at times, and I’m sure you have, too, there is no comparison. Jesus has always existed, but in Job’s time period in history, our Savior hadn’t yet come wearing flesh into the world. The resurrection and ascension hadn’t happened yet. Our Father God is a good Father, a merciful and loving God, so I have no doubt Job knew what it was to be in relationship with his Father. We see that in the text. However, I also know hope doesn’t hold the same definition when the cross is absent. Because of this, Job had it much, much tougher than us.

From the get-go, there’s a whole lot of uncertainty swirling around this man named Job. There is no genealogy at the beginning of his book and the brief mentions found in Genesis, 1 Chronicles, and even James do not give us much insight as to the stock from which he came.  Scholars argue over the true meaning of his name, and there is no conclusive evidence as to where his homeland of Uz was located. In addition to all that, we have no real, sufficient answers as to who wrote the book bearing his name. Job is a bit of a mystery.

Spiritual knowledge tells us the Holy Spirit inspired someone, and that someone wrote a story full of lessons that would teach generation-after-generation to have mighty faith in a God who holds everything together. Job lived through trauma like none other only to come out whole on the other side.

It appears to me that the author, whoever he was, grappled with the idea of a just God allowing unjust circumstances. He couldn’t understand how a man, who was faithful to make atonement not only for his sin, but the sin of his ten children, would have to endure such hardship. And, friend, don’t we all wrestle through seasons with that very same question in mind? Sometimes it seems as if God just stands there and watches us suffer. We beg for intervention only to receive the loudest silence we’ve ever heard. In the weeks ahead we will learn all about suffering, silence, friendship, faith, trust, and hope. We will examine the words God spoke to Job, and hopefully, through His word, we will hear Him speak to us.

Let’s get started.

In the beginning of chapter one, we learn Job was an upright man. The text actually says he was blameless, feared God, and shunned evil. The writer goes on to tell us he had ten children and a very large household including much wealth. But then something peculiar happens in the story; it shifts to the throne of God and those who were present there.

The Bible says the “sons of God”, who were angelic beings, were gathered. The interesting part is that among those godly beings, evil lurked. Satan stood in the midst.

We are going to investigate this section of scripture and when we do you’ll see that God asks Satan a question. This is intriguing to me, because God knows all things, which means He already knows the answers before He asks the questions, but He still asks. And that particular characteristic of God doesn’t just show up in the book of Job, we see it all through the Bible. Let’s take a closer look at this conversation.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

-Job 1:6-12

It’s almost as if Satan is taunting God, and God responds with certainty knowing that above all else Job will be faithful. God was proud of the humble and upright man Job was.

This is very difficult to understand because if the Bible says God is for us, then why would He allow a righteous Job to endure such suffering? I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this: “My Servant” is a title of honor. I believe God wanted the opportunity to brag on Job’s character, letting the enemy know that not everyone falls for his schemes. James the half-brother of Jesus has this to say:

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

-James 1:12

The truth is we live in a sin-soaked world, and because of Adam and Eve’s first bites in the garden we will endure affliction. Not because we did anything wrong, but because evil lurks. Whether we realize it or not, we are at war with that same evil every day. The big difference between Job’s life and our lives is that our hope comes from a place of grace. The shed blood of our Savior flows down in the form of grace giving new life and hope to grief-filled places.

In all this, we must recognize that God is God. He gives and He takes, but it’s never for nothing. He doesn’t just stand by and watch us suffer. We will find proof of this as we deepen our study of Job.

I know this is a tough section of verse to comprehend. Because of that, we are going to stop here for today. If you are a subscriber, you know I’m taking what we are learning each week and expanding it in something we call “Word for Your Weekend.” If you want access to this, consider subscribing to the blog. This Friday, I’m going to tell a story about a time in my life where I had to tell myself day-after-day that God was bragging on me. If I didn’t, I don’t think I would have made it.

  • As a faith building exercise, please read Romans 8:18 and write it in your journal. Consider committing it to memory as a reminder that whatever it is you are enduring isn’t for nothing. it’s never for nothing, friend! Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:18 helps focus our eyes on the future He has for us.
  • Please finish reading Job chapter 1. Next time we will step into his world and watch what happens as his suffering begins to unfold.

 

Love,

Jennifer

Sunday is Here to Stay!

Sunday is Here to Stay!

I often wonder what it would have been like to occupy earth with Jesus before the cross. Would I have followed Him or turned away? In my mind, when I place myself in the multitude, I’m no more than a woman intrigued by a man who looks familiar, yet different. In the middle of my wondering, healthy fear begins to rise because of the uncertainty of who I would have been. I’m overtaken by what ifs…

What if I was overly sensitive or easily offended? What if my very existence defined the word skeptic? What if I didn’t like what I heard, turned around and walked away? What if I never looked back?

Once again, in my mind, I see Him there in the midst of the multitude. He’s preaching and teaching, giving away everything for every soul. I’m still there hanging onto every word while peeking behind a tree, hoping not to make eye contact, because what if He decides to speak directly to me, and what if I don’t want to accept His truth? The next thing I know, my wondering walks me straight into Peter’s shoes. What if three steps on water turned into a three time betrayal of everything holy? Here’s the question: if I were there, one of them, would I have believed?

After the resurrection, there was evidence of an empty tomb and full hearts. To this day it remains. However, we are living in a world wanting to omit what we should amen. Truth can’t be changed and yet we’ve practically made an Olympic sport out of trying.

Today is the Saturday before Easter. Two thousand years ago on this day there was a heaviness of grief that tried to choke out life and hinder hope. But little did those believing souls know what would happen only one day later. Throughout the in between time, inside the solitude of a lonely Saturday, there was a baptism happening. The heavy tears of grief baptized every heart of those who would forever stand for the peasant king, once dead yet coming alive, in preparation of purpose, second chances, and the hope of living holy.

I want to believe that had I been there, I would have given my heart while standing in the multitude, and I would have followed Him to the cross, been dumbfounded by an empty tomb, and baptized by grief in waters of tears so deep that I would have used every last breath in my mortal body to share about the immortal Savior.

Dear friend, Sunday isn’t only coming, it’s here to stay. There will be no more darkness because Light has resurrected. May you amen the hard words in His book so the sweet ones can be sweeter. May you live and love and find freedom in the midst of a world who wants to live for themselves rather than for a God they cannot see. May you know that when deep grief wants to settle inside your bones, you can be baptized by your tears because your Savior lives and breathes. He’s working for you, and He will never stop working for you. But make no mistake, He already won, which means you’ve already won, because Sunday is here to stay.

 

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

Do NOT Lose Heart

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.-2 Corinthians 4_16

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

-2 Corinthians 4:16

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.” The apostle Paul was a very matter-of-fact kind of guy and when it came to faith in Christ, there was no arguing anything the Holy Spirit guided Him to write. “We do not lose heart.” Translation: there’s no other option but to march full steam ahead in faith.

In the middle of life’s upheaval, that command isn’t easy to follow. This is why so much of our faith in Christ must be rooted in discipline. After all, the word disciple comes from the word discipline. We must discipline ourselves to follow Christ. So, how do we not lose heart? How is it possible to live victorious in the middle of trials and tribulations? It’s a faith journey, friend, and we are all on one.

Faith comes by hearing the word of God. (See Romans 10:17) Hearing, and hearing, and hearing some more! Over and over again we must discipline ourselves in the word of God that we might gain faith by connecting to His message on the pages. (As a side note, I believe in reading the Bible out loud whenever possible. It helps!)

Whatever it is you’re facing today, it’s part of your faith journey and the story of that journey is being written each day as you take steps in confidence that God is big enough, strong enough, and capable enough. He is enough.

Listen, I know it seems ridiculous that my answer to your trouble would be to hear the word  of God and actively pursue a faith journey. But I have no regrets in saying it. As absurd as it sounds, we have no other choice. There is no other road or way that will lead us to peace. There is no other form of healing or help. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.

I love the way it’s phrased in the King James Bible:

My Help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

-Psalm 121:2

There’s no doubt about it, right? My help cometh! It’s coming!

Think about this: What if we all allowed our tragedy to fuel our trajectory, leading us to deeper faith and complete peace regardless of the circumstances?

Therefore, we do NOT lose heart.

Love,

Jennifer

I Didn’t Know What to Say…

I Didnt Know What to Say._

For two weeks I contemplated a Mother’s Day post. I desperately wanted to write something encouraging mothers to continue seeking Christ for their children. I needed to convey they can climb mountains steeper than the steepest on record. I think I felt stirred to say this because there’s a lot of writers out there trying to pound the following thought in our heads: We can do hard things. Yes, of course we can, but in all honesty, we don’t really have a choice, do we? We are often forced to face challenges we never thought possible. When I was newly married, I remember hearing sad stories about events that rocked the worlds of other people, but I never thought that level of suffering would ever touch my life. Until it did…

Paul and I have been through some tough stuff and we live to tell the story. That’s how I know there’s a God, by the way. There’s no way to endure the kind of grief capable of hollowing out the entire heart without Jesus. No one can change my mind. Jesus saves and He’s skilled at healing the hardest of hurts.

The reason Mother’s Day posts are always difficult for me to write is because when I was practically a baby myself, my husband and I welcomed our first baby, a healthy son. After that, we endured five miscarriages and stillborn baby girl. Obviously, my heart is bent towards women who suffer miscarriage and stillbirth. It’s not only the death of a baby, it’s the death of dreams and hopes for the future. It’s hard. However, Mother’s Day travels a course that covers quite a massive expanse of the heart. I have to be honest and say that even though I know what it is to suffer loss, and years of secondary infertility in between, because of the word secondary, I don’t fit in the traditional category of infertility. There are lots of women out there waiting to become a mother for the first time, and even though I know more than I like about loss, I really don’t understand their pain.

Many of you who read my blog are Jesus loving women who serve tirelessly, love wholly, and give more than you have to help others. Yeah, God sees it.  And because I know we’re on the front lines of ministry together, let me pass on something I’ve learned throughout the years… One of the first lessons we all need to comprehend as we begin ministering out of past grief is that it’s okay not to understand someone else’s pain.  And, guess what? it’s even more important to admit it. That’s when the real ministry begins.  Pretending we can identify won’t get us anywhere. Some of the wisest words to ever leave our lips are, “I don’t know; I don’t understand.”

Some of the wisest words to ever leave our lips are, “I don’t know; I don’t understand.” (Tweet that.)

Here’s the good news: God does know; He does understand.

The Bible tells us God is love. He actually is love. Crazy, right? And because God is love and we love Him, that means our willingness and obedience to minister to hurting hearts is enough for His love to bridge the gap between what we don’t understand and what someone else is living through.

For many, Mother’s Day isn’t all brunch and beautiful sentiments. Instead, it’s sorrow and suffering. Friend, if that’s you, then I’m sorry and if your pain comes from a place I cannot identify with, then I want to tell you this: I don’t know and I don’t understand, but God does and He wants to heal you. And if you’re wondering how and when? Again, I don’t know. But you have to believe. You have to. Really.

I don’t know if sharing this might help or not, but the other day I was talking with my oldest son, who is now twenty-three, and all I could think about during our conversation is that He’s my unsung miracle. We tout the twins as our miracles because of the fifteen years of pain that produced the story of their lives, but my oldest son lived in a womb that ended up to be anything but a safe place. After he was born, the babies conceived there didn’t stand a chance. My body rejected them. My oldest son is a true miracle.

What does this have to do with you? Well, regardless of the specifics of your battle and the emptiness you might be facing, I believe there is a miracle living and breathing around you that you don’t even recognize as such. We are often so focused on what we need that we forget to give thanks for what we have and would never want to live without.

Every care we have is being cared for by our Creator. Let us give thanks.

Yes, we can do hard things; we can climb the steepest mountains, but only because He gives us the strength to do so. There’s no other choice. We cannot give up; we have to fight. And we will. So whether you’re enduing something hard or ministering to someone who is, it’s okay not to have the answers. It’s okay not to understand, because we serve the One who does.

And sometimes, it’s okay for an encourager not to have words for her readers on Mother’s Day. Some of you are hurting, and I didn’t know. I just didn’t know what to say…

I love you,

Jennifer

 

 

Two Pieces of Wood…

JenniferKostick.com

Lately, I’ve been traveling from point A to point B without knowing how I arrived there. The last couple months of my life have been insane.  The journey of seminary has been beautifully overwhelming and Lord knows this blog has been quieter than ever before, but through the mountains and valleys, I’m finding peace by learning how to manage chaos and embrace a new normal.

Good Friday would have been Dominic’s 60th birthday. As much as I wanted to share with you what God’s been doing, pressing my fingers to the keyboard to type just didn’t seem appropriate. Sometimes we need to be emptied out to fill back up. I’m full again.

Like most of us, I spent Good Friday feeling grateful for the work of the cross. I’m still amazed that two pieces from a tree were large enough to build a bridge to heaven. As I pondered the agony of my Savior, I was able to thank Him for making this world connect to the next.  Because of Jesus, death is never the end, it’s only the beginning.  Yet, even though I’m fully aware of the hope He suffered to give, I’m also aware that in the name of grief, the enemy tries to block hope. And the more I work to process this, the more I realize it’s because tragedy usually chases us to seek Jesus like never before. If grief keeps us away from Him, then hope slowly dies, but if we allow it to pull us closer, then hope becomes the great resuscitator. And, Lord knows, I often find myself in need of serious hope resuscitation!

I know it sounds strange, but losing those we hold dear awakens us to the eternal hope of what lies ahead. If we never faced adversity we might not ever experience dependence on Him, or desperation for Him. Listen, I firmly believe we need to need God through the best of times as well as the worst. And I believe many of us do praise Him in all seasons, but pain tends to show us how much deeper we can trust and how much stronger we can reemerge.  It doesn’t even have to be a major tragedy, one minor disturbance in life and the next thing we know our pull to faith and holiness is magnetic. We are quickly connected to the Father without any realization of how we got to Him so fast.

I was in the word constantly when Dominic was taken suddenly to heaven, and I still found myself gripped by the magnetic pull of seeking Jesus more than ever before. This leads me to believe that hope is found in the darkest of places, not just when things are better than ever and life is going our way. The very best parts of hope are found in the dirtiest, ugliest, and most unexpected places. Real hope is found in the grimy bits underneath the grossest garbage. And isn’t it something, that’s where treasure is found too!  Priceless finds are usually covered in dirt. Friend, when you choose hope, you choose life. When you hold hope, you hold everything!

Good Friday should have been a very bad day for my family. Instead, we rejoiced, each in our own way, because we believe firmly in the hope and magnetic pull of a God that says, “I want you closer, closer, closer still. “ Hello, Romans 8:28! And, in the middle of all my daily chaos and uncertainty surrounding how I’m making it from point A to point B within life’s responsibilities, I want to be overwhelmingly aware of what it is that leads me to my Savior.

Maybe today I can challenge you to do what I’m working hard to do myself. I never want to live one day void of hope, and because of that, even in tragedy, I’m learning to find my voice of praise. It seems to speak loudest inside dark places. Yours will too!  I’ve also been focusing on the vows I spoke to my husband so many years ago at our marriage ceremony.  I believe they should be what we think of when it comes to our commitment to Christ. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness in health, Dear Jesus, I do.

Never have I ever been so grateful for two pieces of wood.

How was your Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

Love,

Jennifer

 

Casting A Vision Through Darkness

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.-Romans 8_18(1)

When did you stop dreaming? When did you give up your vision?

If I’m not dreaming, I’m not happy. These days, I spend a lot of time turning my face to the heavens smiling at the One who changes impossibilities to possibilities. I praise the God who writes my name on tasks the world says I’m unqualified to accomplish. I stand expectant while respecting His will and knowing it’s ultimately the best plan for my life.

Bottom line: If I can’t cast a vision I feel trapped.

Without a sense of vision I might as well die. I know it sounds dramatic, but I need vision to live an abundant life. In my younger years, it was as if there was a cap closing off the flow of vision. There were days I wasn’t sure I would ever dream again. I lived through five miscarriages and a stillborn daughter. I learned that sometimes dreams die. Literally.

I was twenty when I had my first miscarriage, and I liken it to Eve standing in the garden eating a bite of that irresistible fruit. Unlike Eve, I didn’t do anything to cause the eye-opening effect of seeing the harsh realities of a world filled with not only good but so much evil. However, ready or not, I was faced with the shocking fact that bad things happen to good, godly people, and I was no exception.

It took time for hope to rise high enough to unhinge the obstruction hindering my dreams. I had to learn to muster faith in a brand new way. Overtime, I took back my dreams. After all, they were mine and there was no way I was going to allow the enemy to rob me of my faith in the God who can do ALL things.

When my daughter Courtney was born still at thirty-five weeks, we prayed over her asking for a miracle. As we held her sweet yet lifeless body, we wanted nothing more than for her tiny lungs to fill with breath, begin crying, and stun the medical staff at the hospital. She didn’t. We told God it would be for His glory and tried to convince Him through tears that He should give us this miracle. He didn’t.

Sometimes when you believe in the God of miracles and then feel slighted when you don’t get the one you think you need most, it’s painful and your perception of this great, big God changes.

For a very long time, I allowed my problems to be bigger than my God – The God who created the universe, which includes a sun that shines from 92.96 million miles away and still burns the skin. How could I ever have believed His design was faulty? How could I ever have believed He was smaller than the mountains I faced?

I tell you all this about my life only to encourage you. Friend, you must stand firm on the foundation of faith in a God who knows all, sees all, and has a plan for all things! You must continue to cast a vision for your life even when it seems too hard to think beyond today.

You cannot allow pain from your past, or even present, to dictate the abundance of your future. You have a purpose here regardless of what this evil world, and the enemy trying desperately to rule it, throws your way. And better than that, you serve a God who created you, loves you, and wants a relationship with you. He breathes dreams deep down in your soul and those dreams and visions for your future have the power to restart your heart regardless of the attacks you face.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

-Romans 8:18

God wants to reveal Himself in you and through you! That scripture tells you how much worth you have! You are so valuable to the One who created you.

There is much that can be stolen in this life, but your faith in God is yours alone. No one can take it. Stake a claim to your dreams even in the face of adversity!

Don’t give up; cast your vision!

Love,

Jennifer

I’m thankful to share my words along with many others today at #TellHisStory with Jennifer Dukes Lee.

 

 

 

 

 

Uniquely Loved

Uniquely

I was Christmas shopping Saturday night when I came in direct contact with a rack of flannel shirts. It took less than two seconds to dissolve in a hot mess of streaming tears right in the middle of JCPenney’s.

Dominic loved flannel shirts, and every Christmas I bought him one to add to his collection. I was thrilled a few years ago when they came back in style because there was, all of a sudden, a plethora of trendy plaid from which to decide.

Oh, friend, sometimes I wish God picked me to write about humorous, lighthearted bits of life. The kind that make you laugh out loud with impressive anecdotes. I long to have you feel joy while visiting this online space. Instead, He keeps calling me back to encouraging through the muck and mire of the everyday, hard, and tiring valleys we find ourselves trudging through.

To be honest with you, and I always am, I need to say that as much as I’m choosing to focus on the hope of my savior, death sucks. I’m sorry, there’s just no nice way to say it.

I hate death and grief, and I hate crying in the middle of Penney’s. I don’t want to be fragile, and I don’t want an empty place setting at our dinner table, but this is my life and the only one I have to live, so I’m choosing hope.

Hope is a choice, believing in Jesus is a choice, joy is a choice, and peace is a choice. So much in life comes down to choice. I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose how I live among them.

The last few days have been tough.

To feel loss over someone who has gone to their eternal home is to miss unique love. Every person born loves in his or her own way. Unique love is incomparable and cannot be duplicated.

Dominic loved me uniquely and he was a stepparent, meaning he chose to love me even though I wasn’t his biological daughter. We should all be so blessed. And guess what? When it comes down to it, we are.

When we choose to believe and accept Christ as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God. From the begin inning we were chosen, and all of our days He pursues us and runs hard after our souls. He is always rooting for us to choose life in Him.

I’m thankful for a reason to cry because God placing Dominic in our lives was just one of the many ways He’s shown me love. And, in a strange and crazy kind of way, God taking him home reminded me of how loved I really am. Uniquely loved.

God is mysterious and as long as we are wearing the skin we were born in, we aren’t ever going to figure Him out. He’s God and we’re not. And so I’m choosing hope in the midst of today’s sorrow.

I will continue to walk down mall aisles with flannel shirts on display. Maybe I’ll cry; maybe I’ll smile. I guess it will depend on the day. However, I’m sure of this: regardless of whichever emotion I’m overcome with, I will always know love is the driving force.

God made me to feel things and that’s okay. It makes me who I am.

And God made you – uniquely to love and be loved. No matter where you are, you are not alone.

Choose joy.

Choose peace.

Choose hope.

Choose Him and you’ll choose life.

Hope is coming!

Love,

Jennifer

 

Facing Christmas After Loss

JenniferKostick.comIt’s not easy to discover the silent hush of Advent inside a world overflowing with commercialized Christmas Chaos. Advent is the beautiful anticipation of the coming King, but society makes it hard to find time to ponder the hope awaiting us.

We can’t escape the rush of the season, but we can discipline ourselves to take a moment each day to become reacquainted with the hope that came to this world when our Savior came down in flesh to reside within it.

It seems that anything good for us takes a certain amount of discipline. I believe Advent can transform our hearts when we take time to acknowledge the expectation of His arrival.

Part of the problem is that many of us would love to skip this season altogether.

Friend, Christmas is tough for me and if you’ve lost someone in the last few years, I’m guessing you can relate. Last year was the first Christmas without my stepfather. It felt empty and grief-filled. I couldn’t wait for it to be over, but I’m realizing something: Last year, I was focusing more on the death of my loved one than on the hope of my Savior.

It’s completely natural to grieve intensely throughout the holidays. Losing someone to death changes the rhythm of how our families work. It interrupts our lives in ways we cannot prepare for. Since my recent epiphany, I began to contemplate the idea of how much I cling to Jesus on a daily basis, and yet find myself losing sight of Him throughout the season of His birth.

I’ve always thought that distraction is one of the enemy’s greatest tactics. If we have an issue in our lives and lose focus of Christ in the midst of it, then it’s easy to find ourselves farther and farther from His truth.

It seems to me that distractions throughout the Christmas season is a ploy to pull us away from the hope we all need. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to grieve, but how we grieve plays a big part in the process of healing. Focusing completely on the hope of Christ can jolt our spiritual lives right back into perspective.

As we anticipate the birthday celebration of hope, let us discipline ourselves to keep our eyes on Him. Through grief, fear, and tears that pour from the pain of loss, we cannot be distracted. We must be disciplined to keep our hearts bowed toward our Father.

It’s okay to grieve, but please don’t forget that hope is coming.

You can do this.

Love,

Jennifer

Not If It Were My Child…

Not if it was my childHope is comingJenniferkostick.com

And then there was a young man named Joseph. Yeah, we can all relate to him – the rejection and scorn from those who were supposed to love him most – from those with the same blood running through their veins.

This abandoned boy, turned ambassador for the people of God, had a heart of hope. It was so tightly woven into the makeup of who he was that not even neglect, prison, or the grief of missing his beloved father could stop him from the mission he was called to fulfill.

Joseph was filled with a tenacity that could only be fueled by hope.

After their father’s death, his brothers worried Joseph would seek revenge on account of their past evil towards him.

Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid for am I in the place of God? But as for you. you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

-Genesis 50:19-21

Joseph’s heart was so full of hope that he knew trust in the creator’s plan was the only way. And so he offered forgiveness – not so much for the sake of his brothers, even though they would benefit, but for the sake of his God.

This morning I sat watching images on display from the news thinking… If it were my child, my husband… I don’t know, Lord. I don’t know if hope would fuel me to keep on living and serving and trusting in your plan. How will the families of the victims survive Christmas? How will they survive in general? Why, God?

And then I remembered something: Upon the traumatic realization that God is the only One who can help, then to God is where one turns. He holds the universe in His hand and knows the stars by name, He sees every broken heart and never fails to comfort, and He converts grief into hope by showing us glimpses of Himself in the worst of times. I don’t know how He does it, I just know He does.

Oh to have the hope-filled tenacious heart of Joseph – to have the perseverance to withstand the peril and still be kind – to still forgive.

I have a long way to go, friends. But I rest my weary heart in this: Hope is coming.

… so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

-Acts 17:27-28

He is not far.

Hope is near and is coming for us.

Let us continue to grope for it so, when hope arrives, we won’t miss it.

Love,

Jennifer

PS: The winner of the Ann Voskamp book is Linda Hughes! Congratulations!

So Much of the “Still Life” Boils Down to Choice

The Struggle to Live a Still LifeWith only five days left in this series, I think it’s important to spend some time considering not what stillness is according to formal definition, or even what we’ve searched thus far, but to look deeply inside our own hearts and search for ourselves what stillness means in this very moment -not what it meant yesterday or even five minutes ago, but what it means right now.

There’s an element to stillness that calls for finding the very best in everything. We need to Look for God’s fingerprints. The problem is that it’s often difficult to be aware of what God is doing in situations that are the hardest of hard.

In John’s gospel, he recalls the story of when Andrew approaches his brother, Simon-Peter, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” After this, Andrew brings his brother to Jesus. The text tells us that when Jesus saw Peter, He looked at him, identified him by his given name, and then named him Cephas.

I know we’ve talked previously about how Jesus saw Peter for who he was to become, not who he was in that moment. However, this particular verse gives proof, so I want us to take a look at it.

In John 1:42 when the Bible says Jesus looked at him… that word looked in the Greek is emblepo. Emblepo actually means to consider or look at with the mind. So when Jesus looked at Peter in that moment, He considered him.

And we know from 1 Samuel 16:7 where God looks concerning man…

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Later on, after Peter denies Jesus for the third time, Luke tells a similar story using this same meaning of the Greek word emblepo. Peter makes eye contact with Jesus in the garden and once again we find Jesus considering the heart of Peter.

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!” Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

-Luke 22:60-62

While that moment had to have been heart crushing for both the Savior and dear friend of the Savior, Jesus knew that Peter’s story was just beginning. And it’s amazing to consider that the blood, which was shed on the cross, covered and redeemed the life of Peter, that He might be the cephas (stone/living stone) that he was meant to become.

So, right now, as you evaluate the present circumstances of the moment, can you look inside and consider the grace you’re living? Do you see His fingerprints on your situation?

To define stillness in each individual moment takes a concentrated effort. It means casting off all the bad and accepting that God has a plan in everything, even when it hurts.

Friend, I have things on my plate that I don’t make a practice of sharing because for me, lips cannot utter the bottom layer of grief over situations that seem unending. So if you feel the same, I get it.

And so along with you, I’m considering the moment and wrapping myself in His grace. I’m choosing to cast off that with which the enemy wants to destroy me, and move towards the person whom Christ knows I can become.

He considered Peter, and He considers us, too.

He looks deeply at the heart, and so we must look deeply inside each moment and choose “the still life” we are meant to live.

Love,

Jennifer

If you’ve missed any part of my October Series, The Struggle to Live a Still Life, click here and scroll down for links to previous posts.