There is Promise in Pain (Week Eleven)

Week Eleven Study Overview: Today, we will discuss the manipulation of the enemy while enduring crisis as we study Job’s discourse on the wicked.

Key Point of Struggle: Why does it seem that people who reject God live without scars?

Key Proof of Comfort: Psalm 118:19

We have finally hit the halfway point in the book of Job! The story of his life is so alive to me, and though I look forward to progressing through the study, I’ll be sad when we turn the last page.

  • Today’s reading is Job chapters 20 and 21. If you haven’t read those, now would be a great time!

In chapter 20 we see Zophar give his second argument, which once again condemns Job, declaring him guilty of wickedness. There was no consideration for anything Job said to defend himself thus far. After this, in chapter 21 Job speaks about how he feels regarding the wicked, and then it seems he goes onto mock them for their belief systems.

There are two verses in particular I want to pull out of chapter 21.  Let’s discuss the first.

Why do the wicked live and become old, yes, become mighty in power?

-Job 21:7

This is definitely a key point of struggle for me. I’ve watched family members, who know and love Jesus, leave this earth way too soon. I’ve sat in the middle of tragedy watching others who reject God live seemingly unscathed. The truth is, no one lives unharmed by the evil of this world, and it’s not for me to judge hearts. It’s also not my job to critique God’s decisions. Only God knows why. In my opinion, the question Job presents as he’s replying to Zophar’s views is a fine line to walk. The enemy is a master manipulator, and he wants nothing more than for us to question God’s wisdom in all circumstances. He wants us to feel rejected without cause, not only by people, but also by God.

Just yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend about this very subject. When we are hurting, it is way too easy to look at the circumstances of others and judge their lives based on our own insecurities and despair. We want what they have, and so we rationalize why we deserve it more. It’s rather scary, because many emotions, especially rejection, can evoke these feelings. From dire financial needs to needing healing, wanting a child, marriage, or even a best friend can take us down roads leading to sin. If we aren’t aware of the enemy’s manipulation, we won’t even recognize we’re heading there until we arrive. In our own battle to defend ourselves against rejection, we only end up rejecting others, and ultimately hurting ourselves.

There are two more questions posed by Job in verse 15. In this verse, he is actually mocking the wicked by quoting how they might think.

Who is the Almighty that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?

-Job 21:15

I believe it is perfectly okay to ask God questions, as long as we don’t stay in that place expecting to receive and understand all the answers. Sometimes, peace comes through whispers of promise inside pain. It’s about learning to breathe in the scary spaces rather than receiving direct, definitive answers as to why we landed there in the first place. At some point, “faith mode” must override “question mode.” When we stay overly inquisitive for too long, the possibility of asking questions like we see in verse 15 grows greater and greater.

Our questions should be designed to lead us closer to God, not further from Him.

We live in a society where everyone’s lives are on display. If we aren’t very careful, social media statuses and the pictures that go along with them can leave us hungry for what others have. And here’s the thing you might not want to hear: what we feel as a result of what others seem to have, or how they live their lives, very rarely has anything to do with them. It almost always has everything to do with us! Ouch. I know. We all have issues to work through, so let’s start working.

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord

-Psalm 118:19

I memorized this scripture last year. The Psalmist’s words in this particular passage bring me great comfort. I refuse to allow unfit emotions, which usually prove nothing more than manipulation from the enemy, dictate my life. I reject self-pity and accept God’s best for me.  I will continually ask the God who I know sees me to open up His gates of righteousness that I may walk through them with praise on my lips. It is within that space where I will find my comfort. And, friend, you’ll find it there, too.

  • Please read Psalm 118, and in your journal, write down the parts of this chapter that speak to you regarding whatever situation you find yourself battling.
  • Next week’s reading is Job chapters 22-24.

I’m looking forward to discussing this further on this week’s #WordforYourWeekend subscriber only content. If you’ve not subscribed yet, you’re only an email address away from deeper study!

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Calling…

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Calling...

I had the opportunity to livestream some of the IF:Gathering conference last weekend. I enjoyed the speakers, and this week there are many quotes floating around social media. In case you missed it, here is a quote by Jill Briscoe I want to share with you:

“You go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you’ve got”

-Jill Briscoe

Friend, that preaches.

It’s not a finger pointing, fire and brimstone type of quote. It’s not meant to guilt you into volunteering at church, or change you into someone different than who you’ve been designed to become. It’s meant to make you think about your calling. It made me think. I began asking myself the following questions:

  • Where am I sent?
  • Am I willing to go to that place?
  • Am I willing to stay there once I arrive?
  • Am I willing to give so much of myself, that I become emptied of everything I have when I’m there?
  • Can I fully depend on who He is, and allow Him to work in my life, even when it doesn’t feel good?

Let’s take these questions and quickly break them down. We will begin with the first two:

  1. Where am I sent?
  2. Am I willing to go to that place?

If you are a church goer, this is usually the easy part, because we all have gifts leading to passions and desires placed by the living God. Most of us want to use them, and the local church usually provides a place, or platform, for that to happen. It’s when we become active in that space that the difficulty begins…

It’s all too easy to become distracted by our gifts rather than stay focused on the giver. People quickly praise what other people have to offer, instead of praising the One who freely gave the greatest offering on the cross. And, if we aren’t careful, finding ourselves swept up inside the calling rather than the One who called us in the first place, will happen before we know it.

Guilty or not of the above statements, we will all come to a place where ministry hurts. I know this is a real shocker, but people don’t always agree! I know, right?!? It’s in those times that scriptures warning us about powers and principalities seem to be erased from memory, even if the pastor just preached his best sermon on that topic only five minutes before. The defense of an eye for an eye is at the forefront of our brains, conveniently allowing us to forget what follows in the next passages. (You know what I’m talking about, that whole turning the other cheek thing…) Let me be very honest about something concerning the enemy: he’s the master manipulator of the Word of God. Manipulation of God’s Word is the only weapon the enemy of our souls has ever used; beginning way back in the Garden of Eden, and unfortunately, it’s still working to this day.

  1. Am I willing to stay there once I arrive?

Staying where we are called is tough, because when we are emptied of giving everything we have, we feel hungry and hunger pains hurt. The Bible instructs us to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Guess what? Hunger pains and dehydration can end life. Yes, when we seek God we will find Him and He will fill us. That’s not the issue. (See Matthew 5:6) The issue lies in the following questions: Are we willing to humble ourselves when others have wronged us, or when we feel wronged, so that we can be filled? Are we willing to fight for the place we’ve been called to occupy? And I’m not talking about fighting people, although it sometimes feels like that. Our callings often attach us to roles within the local church and we tend to grip those roles tightly. WAY TOO TIGHTLY.

From the perspective of attachment to our roles in the church and how unhealthy that can be, Lisa whittle in her book, (W)hole, said something that blew me away. she penned the following thought:

“Losing our dependence on a role is the birth of true identity.”

-Lisa Whittle

Now that’s some solid preaching! I don’t believe we can fully live our purpose when we depend on the design rather than the designer. Living out our calling doesn’t make us who we are. It’s the God we serve with our callings – He makes us who we are. When we grasp this concept, we begin a life-giving process of transformation. Lisa Whittle, through pain and family devastation that was no fault of her own, had to come to this conclusion early on in life. It wasn’t her role that fulfilled her; it was being God’s child that fulfilled her.  We ALL need to arrive at this same conclusion in order to grow.

  1. Am I willing to give so much of myself, that I become emptied of everything I have when I’m there?

My personality, when hurt, is to construct walls. I want to build them tall, all the way around my heart, and then take pride in my own personal fortress. And God, in the entire forty-four years since placing me on this earth, has had the audacity to keep making me tear those walls down. It hurts every single time. After all these years, you would think I would have learned my lesson and quit building them, but it took this quote from Rebekah Lyons, which practically punched me in the gut, to help me understand:

 

“You cannot self-preserve and give freely.”

-Rebekah Lyons

He uses others who have gone where they were sent, stayed there, and given everything they had until they were emptied, just to reach me and so many like me.

  1. Can I depend fully on who He is, and allow Him to work in my life, even when it doesn’t feel good?

Most of us are broken women with whole callings. That is not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s part of the Designers design. It’s learning how to tap into that brokenness from a place of humility that honors God and allows wholeness to flow. Our pain causes us to connect with others and minister genuinely from one broken life to another. Through this, He makes a way for us to live wholly and freely, giving everything we’ve got for His glory. And, yes, sometimes it will hurt. My advice: Go anyway, stay anyway, and give anyway. I know I will.

My new prayer:

Father, God, because I’m being honest and know I have many years left to live, there will probably be another time in my life when I’ll forget all this and start construction on another wall around my heart. When I do, please knock it down swiftly in Jesus name.

And all the self-preserving women shout, “AMEN!”

Love,

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

Where This Blog is Going, and What I Need From You…

Jenniferkostick.com(10)

As of 7:30 this morning, summer at the Kostick home officially came to an end. The kids entered their little, yellow school bus carrying new backpacks heavy with classroom supplies. This is true evidence of fall, and it’s already nagging me to burn candles, and decorate with auburn colored leaves and pumpkins.

It’s hard for me to comprehend the movement of time. I often don’t realize how fast it’s ticking until my children’s pants are too short or new laugh lines on my face beg me to purchase a more effective night cream. Those are bitter-sweet truths I can count on. And speaking of the ever persistent tick of the clock, on September 19th, my blogging journey will hit the four year mark.

Over the last four years, we’ve talked aging, miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, and grief on so many different levels. I’ve shared what God speaks to me and how I’m working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I’ve given you glimpses into my marriage, children, seminary journey, and book writing process. I’ve allowed walls of embarrassment to crumble and have been baptized in newfound freedom, which has come from exposing the tender pieces of who I am.  And, even better, I’ve been able to learn about your tender pieces, too. Those of you who email, send messages, and leave comments in this space have blessed me with your very own stories. I pray for you regularly.

God made us to be relational; we need each other. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed all over the great, big blogosphere, talk about community and benches. We’ve been encouraged to sit with each other and talk openly from one heart to another. We’ve been told we’re enough because God is enough. I’ve spoken that truth myself. However, there’s something else I think we all need to recognize: we must do more than listen to each other. We need to listen to God. We have to start opening our ears to the God who wants to speak from His Spirit to our own. How do we do that? Through His word.

As we move forward together, more than anything, I want this space to be a place to rediscover the word of God. I want us to seek Him with determination. With my whole heart I believe that the only way to fight battles in this life is to learn who our God is, intimately. We can’t do that if we don’t know His word.

The word of God will change everything about who we are and how we determine our circumstances.

I’m preparing for an October series based on finding purpose through the word of God. Friend, I don’t want to do this by myself. I want to hear from you. What questions do you have concerning purpose? What passages of scripture do you want to study? What do you want to know about who God is? I’m not saying I have all the answers. There’s very big wisdom in three little words: I don’t know. BUT, I believe we can dig inside the Bible, together, and do our best to discover what we are seeking to find. I believe we can learn to listen to a God who wants to speak peace in areas of anxiety.

I would love it if you would leave a comment on this post with questions you’re hoping to find answers to, as well as biblical topics you would like us to study. What do you want to know about God? And, what are you longing to find out about yourself? If you don’t want to leave a comment, you can email me at jen@jenniferkostick.com, or message me on Facebook.

We are going to work on uncovering spiritual truths. Through it, I believe we will learn who God is, and in turn, learn who we are.

I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.

-Psalm 119:11

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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!

Our Questions and His Answers…

make a way where there is no way 3_nWe move through battles – all of us. No one walking this earth can escape them, and so we do the best we can as we set our pace through life. We set our pace. That means we decide how we are going to handle our trials and tribulations.

If you want to know how I’ve endured past, as well as current, struggles I can tell you this: I’ve stopped asking why and I’ve started believing in the how? I say things like, “Okay, God. I understand that you won’t reveal why, but I trust that you know how I’m going to get through it. What can I do today to give you glory inside the pain?”

Yesterday, as I was missing my stepfather, this thought came to mind: Death seems final until we realize Jesus is eternal.

This world is not our home. It’s hard to wrap our brains around, but it’s so true.

See, we tend to think that because we walk in this world every single day that we somehow have permanent residence here. We tend to take ownership in what we see around us rather than trusting in what we can’t see. In the midst of all the questions, and trying to find my footing to set a proper pace from this side of heaven to the next, I’ve learned obedience to be the only sure path leading me through suffering.

… who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…

-Hebrews 5:7-9

 

Even Jesus learned obedience through suffering. This is why I’ve fallen so deeply in love with my Savior. He understands me. He knows what it is to hurt and hope for rescue. He knows not only the blessing of obedience, but the pain of it.

And the answer to my how question is held tightly in the truth of the above passage: He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.

We need to stay focused on Christ and His plan. We must align our will to His. He is the Author of salvation. He WILL save us. As long as we believe that He knows the how, then we don’t have to worry about the question. He already has the answer.

And so as I leave you to ponder this today, I want to pray for you.

Dear Jesus,

May we trust in your answers rather than waste breath with our questions. May we look to you in every hurt, every joy, and every step we take. May the pace we set for ourselves be one of obedience and wisdom, which can only come from you. May you give us peace and help us to rest in Your promises.

Amen.

Set your pace with obedience, friends!

Love,

Jennifer

To read my book Nothing to Hold but Hope, click here.

 

 

 

 

I Need to Ask You a Very Difficult Question…

fall road_nThe other day I had my first television interview for my book Nothing to Hold but Hope. The interviewer asked me about a question I posed in the introduction: “Are you ready to hear what God is speaking to you?”
It’s amazing how after enduring a trial we can look back and see the fingerprints of the Father on the situation. I remember that girl all covered up in grief – the one who wasn’t sure what God was doing. She didn’t really know if she wanted to hear what He was speaking, because , after all, what if she didn’t like it?
It becomes very difficult to submit to His will when we have our own agenda. (You can tweet that.)
In the midst of suffering and begging for God to intervene, we often have our minds set on one thing: The answers we want. We find it cliché that He knows what is best and His timing is perfect. We become so wrapped up in the answer we desire, that we stop desiring God. When it comes down to it, we are often begging for a magic wand. “Just give me what I want! Just give me what I need! I’m desperate.” We need to become desperate for Jesus, rather than desperate for the answers we need from Him. (Tweet that.)
Remember that old worship song that says, “And, I, I’m desperate for You. And, I , I’m lost without You.” Let me ask you something: When you sing those songs in the middle of your deepest needs, are you focused on God or on the outcome? It’s a difficult question, I know.
I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you from my own experience that many times I was desperate for what I needed. And though I loved God, I wasn’t focused on needing Him as much as I was focused on what He could give me. It hurts to type those words. I can literally feel my chest burning as I think about it.
Sometimes, we need to regroup. We need to look at our situations and work to align our will with His. We have to choose to be ready to hear what He wants to speak. It’s discipline. Just like we make a conscious effort to eat right, exercise, or ___________ you fill in the blank, we need to be disciplined enough to say every single day, “Speak to me, Lord. I’m ready to listen.” We must stop looking for giant signs and start listening for the still, small voice.
If you want freedom, listen for Jesus. Through His word, He actively speaks to hearts every second of every day.
After my fifteen year struggle through miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility, I can tell you this: I wish I would have started listening sooner, because once I did, even though I still felt pain, the door to freedom blew wide open.
Today, I want to urge you to condition yourself to hear the still small voice of God in your life. You’re going to get through this!
Love,
Jennifer

What Your Life Depends On… (Some Sunday Encouragement)

boots_nHi Friends! On this second Sunday of the new year, I want to give you a word of encouragement. I’m amazed at the fire God has lit inside me for His word. In regards to speaking, writing, and teaching, I would have never thought that Christ would choose to use me in this way. And as I study the word of God, I’m more and more aware that many of the great Biblical heroes we have to learn from never thought they would have lived the stories they did.

When God tells us to do something, we often question it. At least I do. I constantly worry if I’m hearing God, or myself, as I continue along the paths of this life…

Here’s what I’m learning: When we reach out to do something for God, there is nothing to question. when our intent is to please Him and sit in obedience under His will, then it’s time to shove the questions out of our hearts and heads…

  • Am I good enough?
  • Am I smart enough?

And here is the big one…

  • Am I Christian enough? (ouch)

Let me answer all those questions for you.

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 – “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” This means that He will qualify you to do whatever it is He has called you to do. You are good enough!
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 – “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” He will give you all the wisdom you need to accomplish your task. You are smart enough!
  • Romans 3:23 –  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” None of us are perfect, but God chooses to use us anyway. He loves us. He longs for us to seek and serve Him! You are Christian enough!
  • When you long for Holiness, you’ll be victorious.” (Tweet that to encourage someone!)

When God calls you to do something, do not be discouraged. Be encouraged. Yes, the terrain will be harsh and cold at times. You’ll climb mountains and fall hard into valleys, but wherever you are, He is there too. He will provide. Don’t forget, we serve Jehovah Jireh!

Go. After. God.

Run hard and run fast. Your life in Him depends on it!

Love,

Jennifer

For When You’re Forced to Rest…

Rest_nI’ve been fighting sickness for the last four weeks. On Thursday, I decided to finally see the doctor only to find out I have bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. Antibiotics are a miracle to the person who needs them. I’m feeling so much better.

Over the last weeks as I’ve struggled with the loss of my voice, which has caused me to cancel teaching my Bible study and also successfully kept me from sitting at my piano singing my heart out, I’ve been asking God the question why a lot.

Okay, Lord, why am I not getting better?

Why can’t I have my voice to teach and worship?

Why, why, why?

Yesterday, while lying in bed and feeling the sickest I had felt thus far, I noticed the all too familiar pang of conviction. I should have been asking, “What do You need me to hear during this time?” What do You want to speak to my soul?” But for some reason, I allowed the whys to drown out the moments that could have been still and sweet.

I often find myself more comfortable in “go mode” rather than “still mode.” That’s not always a good thing. It’s important to be ambitious and swift to the call of the Lord, but I think we aren’t always comfortable with being told to rest and slow down. We assume we are being punished and are fast to ask why before we decipher that maybe we need to rest, be still, and listen.

Last night, as I wrestled with these notions, I began to pray that I would become quick to listen to Him rather than cry out the question why when I don’t understand.

I often ask what God is trying to teach me when I’m in the middle of frustrating circumstances, and what I’m learning is that He doesn’t always want to “teach me.” Sometimes, He just wants to speak words of wisdom and comfort to my soul. Ailments or anything else that may force rest isn’t necessarily a punishment, sometimes it’s a gift – a chance to hear His voice in the middle of a raging world.

If you’re like me and find yourself forced into rest this weekend, then maybe take a minute to stop asking why and just listen to the Lover of your soul. Let Him sing sweet songs of comfort and joy over you.

He is constantly whispering His love, and He longs for us to be still enough to actually hear it.

Have a beautiful weekend, friends!

Love,

Jennifer

I Have Some Questions for YOU!

Desert Photo blog picture (Small)Dear Friends,

Last October, I took part in a 31 day blogging adventure. It was a writing challenge that The Nester initiated on her blog. I entitled my series, 31 Days to Surviving the Battle. The picture and quote above is from that series.  If you’re interested, you can check it out here. This year, I’m doing it again. I’ve been working on something new, which I’ve titled, What Makes You Beautiful?

I’m really hoping this series will spark conversation and cause us to get to know each other a little bit better. I’m looking forward to hearing if you connect with this topic, and how it might relate to how you feel about yourself.

I will be posting the winners of my second anniversary giveaway on Monday, but other than that, you won’t hear from me regularly until October 1st. I am busy writing and finishing up this series.

And, since I’m not quite finished, I would like to ask if there is anything you would like to hear about regarding the topic beautiful? How do you identify with the word beautiful? What does it mean to you? And finally, do you consider yourself beautiful? Why, or why not? I would love to see some bold and brave answers in the comment section! Answer whatever comes to your mind and is in your heart! Your words are welcome here!

Talk soon!

Love,

Jennifer