Monthly Archives: January 2012

Predicting the Future

Raise your hand if you’d like to be able to predict the future.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know how the story’s going to unfold?  Whether you’re going to conceive – and when?  Or whether you’re not?  Whether you’re going to adopt a healthy, beautiful baby?  Or whether, at some point, you’ll move on to live life without children?

What will happen?

Wouldn’t you give anything to know?

You’re not alone.

A friend confessed to me that she’s begun seeing a psychic.  Her need-to-know overcame her initial unease, and she made an appointment.  Reassured by the predictions she was given, she quickly became addicted.  She’s now a regular, allocating portions of each week’s budget to psychic predictions.

The “need” to know can make us all do crazy things.

This morning, I read about a king turning to his captive for dream interpretation. It seemed crazy to his royal counselors, but threatened by a dream he could not understand, Pharaoh called on Joseph to tell him what it meant for the future.  Generations later, Nebuchadnezzar asked the same of Daniel.

These rulers were used to absolute power.  But, they knew they were at the mercy of an unseen, unknown future.  They needed to know what was coming — and God’s followers knew Someone with the answers.

When Pharaoh called for Joseph to explain his dream’s meaning, Joseph responded, “I cannot do it, but God will….”  Daniel had a similar exchange with Nebuchadnezzar.  He said, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who can….”

The prideful arrogance of both kings made them want to resist God, but their urgent need to know caused them to humble themselves – briefly – and admit, “I need to know what God has to say to me.”

There have been times – especially recently – when sobering statistics have made me want to know the future with certainty.  The doctor has told me the odds of a particular outcome and I’ve felt a surge of fear.  And a need to know.  In the moment, I’m tempted to attribute god-like powers to the doctor so that he can tell me what will happenBut he can’t really.

He can speculate, based on the available test results and those who’ve covered this same ground before us.  He can make an educated guess.  He can even pretend to know (like my friend’s psychic).  But the truth is, he doesn’t know.  Only God knows.

And only God can tell me, if He so chooses.

If He doesn’t?  Then, like my friend, I can create false gods.  I can resort to substitute sources of information — people who believe in their ability to predict my future (especially if I’m paying them).  I can tell myself to trust them, and project onto them a level of knowledge and understanding that they don’t actually have.  I can choose to believe, “now, I know” and put my energy into proving them right.

But experience has taught me, none of that will bring peace.

Or, I can follow the kings’ example.  I can recognize my limitations – and those of the people I typically consult as I try to anticipate what’s coming.  And then, I can give God my undivided attention:  “What do you have to say to me, Lord?  What do you want me to hear?  You’re the only One who knows what’s coming… and I’m listening.”

With those words, I fling open the door, welcoming Him into my story and the future that only He knows.

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The Battle for Peace

“Praise and thanksgiving in all things is a powerful spiritual weapon.”  Those words leaped off my calendar yesterday.  As always, God’s timing was perfect.

Let me explain…

I am currently making my way through the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face.  Like many of the challenges that have come before it, this journey involves living into what I’ve written – both in this blog, and in my book:  trusting God, letting go, patiently enduring suffering, nurturing hope despite discouraging statistics, and more.

It has been a joy to discover that I have grown spiritually since I last covered this ground.  Don’t get me wrong.  Fear and doubt have their moments.  They rush at me like tidal waves and threaten to drag me under a turbulent sea of uncertainty.  But then, I remember what I’ve learned – and what I’ve tried to teach you:  give up the illusion of control, take fearful thoughts captive, claim God’s promises, and speak words of confident hope over your circumstances.

When I do these things, I find myself strengthened and encouraged.  I discover that I’m able to swim to the surface of the anxiety and gain a new perspective – one that sees things very differently and recognizes there is more to reality than what I feel.

Those feelings are deceptive.  I know.  I remember.  They mislead me into sensing God’s absence, or worse, a lack of concern for my struggles.  Of course, that is a lie whispered to me by the one who hopes to deceive me into despair – and ultimately, into a sense of separation from the God who loves me.

That’s why words of praise and thanksgiving are a powerful spiritual weapon.

Jesus’  last words before leaving this earth were, “I am with you always.”  Always.  In fear.  In darkness.  In uncertainty.  In despair.  In confusion.  In grief.  In a sense of separation from the love of the Father that is only an illusion, an attempt by God’s enemy to trick me into grieving something that can NEVER be lost.

God has not abandoned me!  Christ has not forgotten me.  The Holy Spirit has not left me.  “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”  That is the Truth.  That is the life raft I cling to whenever waves of fear wash over me.

Last week, I made my own journey to the cross.  I brought my hope for the outcome I want and laid it at the feet of the God I trust.  I poured my heart out, along with my tears, and confessed my deep desire to control things I cannot control and force an outcome I cannot force.  And then, I let go.

I acknowledged the very real possibility that this will end differently than I would have scripted.  I grieved that possibility – and then I opened my hands and said, “Your will, not mine.”  My whole heart has chosen trust and obedience.  I accept whatever is coming with praise and thanksgiving.

I genuinely believe that, even if I can’t see it, God’s will will be His best for me.  And I choose to claim that now.  Confident that He will not fail me.  He will not leave me or forsake me.  He will not forget me or neglect to bless me.  Despite the fear that uncertainty evokes, I believe.  And therein lies peace.  The ultimate spiritual weapon.

Whatever the outcome of this particular medical battle, I have won in the way that matters most.  Thanks be to God.

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How to Pray During Infertility

Periodically, I get emails from readers of Pregnant with Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples.  The most common question is “Will you pray for me?”  But this morning, I got a different question about prayer.  Jovita wrote to say she’s worried that she isn’t praying “right,” and she asked for guidance.  Here’s what I wrote in response….

The only wrong way to pray is without humility and honesty.  Those two components are essential to effective prayer.  Without them, your prayers are offensive to God because they are a charade.

Here’s what I mean.  Scripture says “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  A humble heart is an acknowledgement that you need God; you cannot succeed without Him.  It’s an admission that you cannot force a heartbeat into the womb.  You cannot force a birth mother to choose you to adopt her child.  And, you cannot force God to respond to your agenda and your timetable.

Prayers without humility are often thinly-veiled attempts at arm-twisting, sweet-talking, or otherwise manipulating God.  They are typically demanding, selfish and short-sighted.  They are often prayers for instant gratification, rather than prayers of patient faith.  Does that seem at all familiar?  It was for me at the beginning of our infertility journey.

As for honest prayers, scripture makes clear that part of what God loved about David was his honesty.  David voiced his hopes, his remorse, his grief, his anger, his fear… all of it without censorship to the God He loved and trusted.  In response, God gave him a life beyond what he could have asked or imagined.

The same is true for us.  God wants an intimate relationship with us based on complete honesty.  He already knows our deepest thoughts, fears and hopes.  When we voice them to Him in prayer, we are owning the truth of who we are, how we think, and what we feel — and asking Him to love us in the midst of all that.  In spite of all that.  Doing so risks trusting Him completely.  And that delights and honors Him.

So, if you are praying with a humble heart and speaking the truth of what you feel, you’re praying the “right” way.

Beyond that, the most valuable, hard-earned wisdom I have gained about prayer is that telling God what I want and how I want it limits what He can do in my life.  The most truthful and humble prayer I can pray — and consistently the most effective — is “Lord, Your will be done.  I ask for Your best in this situation, whatever that may be, and I trust You to give it to me when the time is right.”

When I pray this way, I surrender (the illusion of) control.  I defer my will to His wisdom and choose to trust His judgment completely.  As a result, I begin to experience peace even before I know the answer.

Scripture says “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” and I am “made righteous by faith.”  So, even if I don’t know when or how God will answer, I KNOW that He will.  It may be in a different way than I ever could have imagined.  Or, it may be just what I would’ve chosen.  Either way, it will be God’s best for me.

In hindsight, that will become clearer… and clearer… and clearer.

It always does.

So, pour your heart out to God.  Trust Him with the truth.  Acknowledge your limitations, praise Him because He has none, and rejoice that He can do ANYTHING.  Tell Him what’s weighing on your heart, ask Him to give you His best, let go, and allow Him to flood your heart with peace.

If you do, I can promise that — in His perfect timing — He will answer your prayers, to His glory.

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