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Holding Grief & Joy…

Is it really possible to hold grief and joy at the same time?

Yes, I do believe it is.

November is a precious month to me because of what happened two years ago. I learned to hold grief and joy, together in my heart, like a mother would hold two newborns in her arms. You cherish both, you learn from both…one does not have to win out over the other. But man, it’s so hard to hold them both.

Our oldest daughter got married two years ago at the beginning of November and it truly could not have been a more perfect day! After three days of torrential downpours (which in SoCal is always a shock!) Saturday dawned with a freshness in the air, a promise of the joy to come that day! The blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds, no sign of rain at all. Watching your child get married is a surreal thing. It brings you back to your own wedding day. I was keenly aware of this man who was marrying my daughter, I knew him before I knew him because I prayed for him for 24 years. I trusted that the Lord was watching over this man who would one day capture my daughter’s heart. What tremendous joy!! I get teary every time I think of this fantastic privilege to see a prayer come to life. It was a perfect day.

The weeks that followed however, I would not classify them in the “perfect” category. I think this is when I began to learn how to hold grief and joy in the same embrace.

The Friday after the wedding, my husband was struck with a terrible case of shingles…on…his…face! It was awful and painful and a bit terrifying. He was on medication and had many doctor and ophthalmologist appointments to make sure the virus didn’t affect his vision. It was so painful to watch him go through it all.

We had just come from such a high high and now experiencing a tremendous low.

On top of that, a few days before the shingles hit my honey’s darling face, I discovered why my neck had been hurting for a few weeks. I had somehow popped the top right back rib out of place. I would seriously rather give birth without drugs (because I have!) than feel the pain of having a rib put BACK into place several times before it finally stayed in place. Oh, the tears and the ugly-cry that happened in the chiropractor’s office for the first week or two of treatment! Thankfully it was where my now married daughter worked, so she was a bright spot in my day!

So, in the span of a few weeks, we’ve got…wedding…popped rib…shingles…we had enough riding on the emotional rollercoaster of life and were looking forward to things settling down.

At the end of November my father-in-law, Jim, passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it’s still never easy. My husband and I were able to be there the night before and have our time with him and we knew that was a huge blessing.

As I sat at the funeral home with my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law, my own mom called and said that I should make my way to my grandmother’s apartment as soon as I could. Again, not completely unexpected, but still came as a shock. Her goal was to make it to her great-granddaughter’s wedding and we’re so thankful she was able to!

As I drove the hour from Orange County to Burbank, I cried and pleaded with the Lord to give me one more day with my grandma. I knew our little family couldn’t handle two deaths on the same day.

God was so gracious and there was my sweet grandma Marie, fully dressed with her shoes on, resting comfortably in her lift chair. She was sleeping, but she had changed so much. My grief took over, and I bolted from the room. In the midst of my own mother’s grief, she comforted me in mine. I knew my amazing grandmother was so close to heaven and I didn’t know how I could deal with it all.

But let me tell you part of the secret of holding grief and joy together…it’s what my grandma said to me when I went back into her apartment.

I sat down next to her and held her hand. She opened up her eyes, that were still sparkling with all that grandma love, and said how happy she was to see me and patted the back of my hand. But she could see the grief in my eyes. Her next question, “How’s Jim?” She had closed her eyes after asking for a just a bit, long enough for me to try and pull myself together. When she opened her eyes and say the tears streaming down my face, she just said, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But we know where he is.”

This is how we hold grief and joy at the same time.

She knew was she was not far from seeing the Lord face to face, something she was joyous about, but she was still able to have a tender heart toward my sadness.

We cannot press down and suffocate the grief.

We have to face it.

We cry and we are sad. Maybe we are confused or mad.

Those feelings must both be experienced fully to come out of pain on the other side and be okay.

But in the grief, there was joy knowing that all the pain and suffering my father-in-law experienced was completely gone. He was wholly healed and I love to imagine my staunch Missionary Baptist father-in-law, dancing and singing praises in heaven to the King of Kings. That is joy!

I spent the rest of the day with my grandmother, and much of the family began to come in. We gathered around her chair and celebrated her. We told stories and every now and then, she would too. When she finally needed to rest in her own room, we were able to go in individually, and have some time with her. And I treasure the knowledge that she prayed for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren every single day! What a legacy of faith!

Those moments too were held together by grief and joy.

None of us wanted to leave that night because we knew what was coming.

The next day, I arrived and checked in with my parents who’d gotten there a while before me. We thought we had a few more days. But as quickly as the hospice nurses arrived to do their assessment, days became moments. They rushed us in, my parents and I, and we had the honor of singing her into heaven.

Another moment held together with equal parts of grief and joy. 

Yes, equal parts.

The next few weeks were a bit of blur as we had services for both my grandmother and my father-in-law. And all of that in the midst of preparing for Christmas. Family coming into town, hosting dinners and being together as much as we could. Even in all of this, the experiences are different for everyone. Our oldest daughter was a newlywed. Our middle daughter lives out of state. Our youngest daughter was navigating her Freshman year of college. My husband was still dealing with the effects of shingles. And I could now get dressed without wincing in extreme pain.

The physical and emotional pain. The grief and the joy. 

They don’t always take turns.

Sometimes they arrive at the same time.

But here’s the best part, as I believe we are created in the image of God, He orchestrates our life and helps guide us through those times when we are required to hold grief and joy at the same time. He is in fact an expert at this.

That moment on the Cross, when His beloved Son took upon every single sin and all depravity of every human being that had been born and was still to be born, He had to look away. The grief that God the Father had to sit with is unimaginable to me. But He did it because of the magnitude of joy that was brought on by Jesus’ death and resurrection ~ the joy that we now had the free gift of reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

Here’s a passage from Matthew 27:45-54 ~ take some time and ponder this in your heart of how God the Father had to hold grief and joy at the same time…

45 “Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, [j]Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 When some of the bystanders there heard it, they began saying, “This man is calling for [k]Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, soaked it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him [from death].” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud [agonized] voice, and gave up His spirit [voluntarily, sovereignly dismissing and releasing His spirit from His body in submission to His Father’s plan]. 51 And [at once] the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was [l]torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints (God’s people) who had fallen asleep [in death] were raised [to life]; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many people. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Lord has felt it all ~

Every feeling.

Every emotion.

Every hardship.

Every trial.

Every joy.

Every happiness.

With Him, we can do the same. We can experience grief and we can celebrate joy.

And we can do this at the same time.

We can hold grief and joy together.

Blessings,

René

Holding Together Grief and Joy - blog pic

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Shattering the Darkness…

This past week, there has been so much tragedy in the news.  Which, honestly, that’s why I don’t watch the news.  I used to watch the morning and evening news every day, but it became overwhelming for me.  All the bad news just lingered in my brain and brought on unrealistic fears and anxieties.  I know that the Lord is my protector and that I can turn my worry over to Him, but I was spending so much time allowing the darkness of this world to permeate my mind, it was becoming a real problem for me.

I mean really, what are the odds that the convict on the run from a prison (that was is an eight hour drive from my home) would actually be hiding in my backyard?  Or the ring of burgler’s, two hours away from our neighborhood, were going to arrive in the middle of the night choosing us as the next targets?  And the list went on and on.  It’s probably been a good seven years since I’ve watched the evening news, and that has made a huge difference.

But some stories, it doesn’t matter where you turn, you will hear of great tragedy.  You will see desperately sad stories unfold before your eyes.  You will see unexplainable sorrow in the wake of vicious attacks.  It can very quickly seem all together too much to take in.

There is still ~ HOPE~

The darkness will never completely take over the light. 

Have you ever walked into your house late at night and quickly realized that you forgot to leave a light on?  I hate that….totally freaks me out!  But in that moment that you turn on the hall light, or the “flashlight app” on you iPhone, the darkness is pierced and the fears of the unknown vanish. Why?  Because you can see what’s in front of you; everything becomes clear.

Just look at how the Old Testament starts out in Genesis 1:1-5, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

God created the light of this world and we have the Light to this world, Jesus Christ His Son, to pierce the darkness that begs to permeate our lives.  We have the victory over darkness my friends!

John 1:4-5 is a proclamation of a wonderful promise from the Lord for us ~ In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Another promise of victory over the darkness of this world from Jesus is found in the latter chapters in the book of John.  These are His words as He speaks to the disciples before He was crucified.  He was preparing the disciples and had spent time instructing them with the knowledge of God the Father.  I used the Amplified Bible Version below, because I love how striking the verbiage is here.  Jesus gave the disciples, and us today, a cautionary warning of what we WILL indeed face in this world; followed up by a magnificent promise to remind us that we do not need to cower in the face of the trials.  Jesus does not state that His victory might happen or that it could possibly take place….it HAS been accomplished!

John 16:32-33 (AMP) “Take careful notice: an hour is coming, and has arrived, when you will all be scattered, each to his own home, leaving Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have[perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]”

Jesus wanted them to have everything they needed ~ “And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].” (Philippians 4:7).  And He wants US TODAY to have this same peace.  But that cannot come to us on our own.  It is HIS peace that He gives to us ~ all we have to do is ask for it.

Here in John 14:26-28, we find that promise from Jesus as to where we will find peace ~ But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

My friend, be encouraged that you are not just dangling out in space.  You have not been left alone.  You have a grand purpose and calling on your life.  You have been given identity from the King of Kings.  The Creator of the Universe wants to be in relationship with you because you are precious to Him.

The Lord can erase fear and anxiety from your heart and mind because His love is perfect and perfect love drives out fear (I John 4:18).  Sometimes this looks like a period of time in devoted prayer for issues that are surfacing in your life, or simply from a horrible tragedy that is going on in the world.  However, there are times when we need to call out to another person to help us bring those fears and anxieties to the surface and get them out of our life.  There is nothing wrong (or non-Christian) about seeing a counselor.  My only personal recommendation would be to make sure that you see a counselor whose guidance comes from a place of clarity in scripture, so that you are not led astray.

This world is run by the prince of darkness and the Lord warns us about this.  It is this way because of the Fall of Man when sin entered the earth.  This is NOT what the Lord intended! BUT Satan (prince of darkness) has not won; he has not ever nor will he ever, overcome the Son of God. {John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11}

Do not be distressed my friend when fears arise ~ because as I have shared in the many verses above, Jesus Christ has already won the mighty victory!  We win in the end!  We were not created to live in state of fear, but in a place of victory and freedom from eternal death through the resurrection of Jesus!!!

From the Old Testament, Isaiah 9:6-7 blesses us with this promise of the coming of Jesus Christ to earth,

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Be strong today. Have courage for tomorrow.  Settle into peace during trials.  Trust that you belong to the mighty King.  Believe in the Prince of Peace who came to bring you Hope!

Blessings,

René

John 1 verses 4 and 5

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Plastic Promises vs. God’s Truths!

Today, Good Friday, I’m filled with the truths of God’s Word and with His promises.  All of the things that He promised to do, all of the things He said, “I will.,” He has done!  God is not a liar.  My Father does not play games or make me work for my reconciliation with Him.

As a society, we are constantly bombarded by a variety of advertising channels of all the promises that people and things, that assure us our life will be so much better if we “buy this ~ wear that ~ use this ~ vote for them ~ eat this” and on and on it goes.

Credit card slogans alone are absolutely filled with verbage that lull the customer into thinking their life will be made whole if they just have the credit card (or let’s be real here…multiple credit cards): Don’t Leave Home Without It. It pays to Discover. I own the high score. Is your debt to heavy to carry. It’s Everywhere You Want To Be. Live richly. The Card is Key. There are some things money can’t buy. What’s in your wallet?  All you need.*

Do you see the truth in these statements above?  The world says we will “have it all” when we put our trust in credit cards, debt, or in “keeping up with the Jones'”!  So backwards and we fall for it so easily!  In today’s writing, I actually want the truth of God’s Word to stand on its own, and speak to your heart, mind and soul today.  I don’t need to expound on the merits of scripture because there is nothing in God’s Word to defend.

If you disagree with His Word or you don’t like something He has put in written form through scripture, it doesn’t change the simple fact ~ It. Is. Truth.

Let’s compare scripture now to the above phrasing from these credit card slogans and be encouraged as to what God says is the truth!

Don’t Leave Home Without It. ~ Jesus, the Son of God, left His heavenly home to live among us here on earth.  He didn’t leave without taking His God-ship with Him.  He became fully man and fully God, in order to reconcile us back to Himself. John 14:26-28, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

It pays to Discover. ~ When we take the time to discover who God is, we find that He is trustworthy! Proverbs 16:19-21, It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LordThe wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” And Lamentations 3:24-26, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

I own the high score. ~ There is no higher a price than can be attained as the one that Christ Jesus paid when He chose to sacrifice Himself for the sake of our salvation. I Corinthians 6:19-20, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is within you, whom you have [received as a gift] from God, and that you are not your own [property]?  You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.”  And, Deuteronomy 26:18-19, Today the Lord has declared that you are His people, His treasured possession, just as He promised you, and that you are to keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all the nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor: and that you shall be a holy people [set apart and consecrated] to the Lord your God, just as He has spoken.””

Is your debt too heavy to carry? ~ This is really a tagline used by a credit card company! Pardon my attitude here…but….DUH!!!  The person has incurred debt by purchasing items they feel compelled to own because “then they will be worth something” as our society feeds the void felt by so many that ‘stuff’ is necessary.  The promise this card company is touting is that you can transfer your heavy debt to their card which has lower fees.  Do you see the twisted lie here? That person will STILL be in debt!!  In terms of our relationship with the Lord, our debt of sin is way too heavy for us to carry.  We cannot ever come out from underneath this kind of debt on our own.  Only the Lord can carry that burden and remove it from us permanently.  Hebrews 9:27-28, And just as it is appointed and destined for all men to die once and after this [comes certain] judgment, so Christ, having been offered once and once for all to bear [as a burden] the sins of many, will appear a second time [when he returns to earth], not to deal with sin, but to bring salvation to those who are eagerly and confidently waiting for Him.”

It’s Everywhere You Want To Be. ~ Every place that we are to go, in order to bring honor to the Lord, that is where we should want to be. The road isn’t promised to be easy, but His path for us brings life.  Psalms 119: 104-106, “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.” And, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “ But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;” 

Live richly. ~ The way to life a truly rich life is to place our life, and the control of our life, into the incredibly capable hands of the Lord.  He will always guide is in the way we should go. Proverbs 22:3-5, The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.”

The Card is key. ~ The only key we need to maintain our security, is found in the Lord.  He is Who He says He is!  Isaiah 33:5-6,The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. And He will be the security and stability of your times, A treasure of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the Lord is your treasure.”

There are some things money can’t buy. ~ Romans 3:23-25,For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.”               The salvation of our life has come at a great price.  One in which we could never afford.  Christ did not come for just one weekend, to die and rise again.  He LIVED a whole life on earth as God and man.  He came to show us how to live as He did.  How to care for and love others as He did.  He showed us how to love God the Father as He did.  Christ showed us how to worship the one true God. And then….he finished what He came to do in His earthly body.  He CHOSE to be betrayed by a friend ~ one of His disciples.** He CHOSE to be unjustly tried and convicted.  He CHOSE to be crucified because He KNEW that He was going to rise again and defeat death once and for all!  Can I get an AMEN people!!  You didn’t put Jesus on the cross as much as you cannot do anything to earn or deserve salvation.  It is His grace to us in that He loves us so very much, He planned and executed a perfect plan of redemption.  Isaiah 55:1-3, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.”

What’s in your wallet? ~ Let’s rephrase this a little by saying, ‘what’s in your heart?”  What is it that you are carrying with you everyday to remind you of the gracious life you live because of what Christ did for you?  Are you reading scripture everyday, meditating on it, and making an effort to keep it in your heart?  Do keep it at the forefront of your mind?  Our mind is constantly “on” and if we want to maintain some sense of sanity, everything we do and say needs to be filtered through the truth of God’s word!  I Samuel 12:23-25,As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.””               And Luke 12:28-30,If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.”

All you need. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:21-22,Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  Notice here that the above verse talks about how GOD is the one who helps us stand firm in Christ.  We do not have anything to do with that standing ~ except to come humbly before the Lord and ask Him to be the Lord of our life!  This doesn’t mean that we will never experience trials (that’ll be another blog for another time), but we are reminded of God’s goodness to us in Philippians 4:11-13, I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him[a] who strengthens me.” 

We can live a rich, abundant, grace-filled, and satisfied life because we have all we need in the Lord.  This life on earth is temporary, but that doesn’t mean that we simply float through life.  God has called us to be witnesses of His grace in our life to those around us.  Whether it’s smiling at random people in the grocery store (this is actually really fun…totally freaks people out!), sharing a meal with a friend going through a tough spot, handing a bottle of water out your car window to the homeless man on the corner, or sharing your testimony with someone about how God has saved your life.

Live fully in God’s truth ~ your debt has been paid ~ He will never leave your side & you will never be disappointed in a life lived for Christ!

Blessings,

René

Romans 3 verse 23-24

Research found in:

** You can read more about Jesus choosing Judas (His betrayer) in one of my earlier blogs entitled, “Jesus Chose Judas on Purpose.”

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Jesus Chose Judas…on Purpose!

Have you ever thought about this fact?  I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old….almost 40 years….and it has only been until recently that I’ve truly pondered this truth.  And I’ve truly marveled at this idea!

Jesus. Chose. Judas. On. Purpose.

ON PURPOSE!!!

When Jesus began His public ministry, we see the journey He took in choosing the 12 disciples.  Throughout the first four gospels of the New Testament, each author introduces the disciples at various intervals, but they all follow the same path.  John the Baptist had been preparing the people for years, during his public ministry, declaring to them that the Messiah was here and coming to save them all.  Remember now, that John and Jesus were cousins….John’s mother, Elizabeth, was visited by Jesus’ mother Mary while they were both pregnant.  John lept in his mother’s womb at the sheer nearness of the Savior that Mary was carrying (Luke 1:41).  God ordained even in that moment to prepare John spiritually for the ministry he would have in proclaiming the good news that the Messiah was on His way!

One more thing that had to happen before Jesus began His public ministry was that He was sent into the wilderness by God the Father, to endure various temptations brought on by the devil.  Let me be very clear here ~ Jesus cannot give into temptation because He is fully God.  And as fully man, Satan tried to tempt His earthly flesh, but Jesus was never in danger of giving into any of those temptations because He is fully God.  This part of scripture shows us a few things.

One is that, God will always give us a way out of any temptation we face in our lives.  ALWAYS!!  (I Corinthians 10:13).  Secondly, Jesus wanted to show us the key principle to use when the enemy is trying to tempt us is to go to scripture.  Speak the truth of God’s Word into whatever the situation might be and keep the devil out of our life.  There is nothing Satan can say that will ever trump the truth of what God’s Word says.

Satan tried to tempt Jesus three times and each time, Jesus reminded Him what the truth was.  Satan’s job is to distract us from what God says is true; to try and manipulate God’s Word to make us think God is wrong and that His word doesn’t apply to our life.  Everything Satan used to tempt Jesus, were things that already belonged to Jesus as the Son of God.  There was nothing Jesus would gain from giving into temptations.  We need to remember this because we are God’s child and as such we have been given the same authority over the principalities of the earth.  We can tell Satan to hit the road and never come back!

After going through the 40 days in the wilderness and being tempted three times, Jesus didn’t jump up on the proverbial stage and declare His power and demand to be listened to.  He went to find his cousin John the Baptist, and asked to be baptized. So John did just that ~ Jesus of Nazareth was baptized in the Jordan river and,  we read in Matthew 3:16, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”  What a powerful sight to behold that must have been!

Now, Jesus was ready to choose his disciples.  The 12 men who would become the cornerstone members of the Christian church.  Just. Twelve. Men. Not perfect men, not special men, not men with high ranking jobs….just human beings who were willing to follow Christ when He called them.

You can read all four gospels to get a unique perspective on who was chosen and how they were chosen, but for today’s blog, I’m going to be primarily using the books of Matthew and John.

In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus begins by choosing Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, then James the son of Zebedee and his brother John ~ all four were fisherman and do you know what their response was, vs. 20, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” and in vs. 22, “and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

There was absolutely NO hesitation!  I love that and wish I was more like that!

In Matthew 10:1-4, we read how He sent out the disciples to begin their ministries along with Jesus and look what He does, Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

So you can see ~ these were just ordinary men.  Fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot….and a betrayer.

He taught these men all that He knew and unfolded parts of the mysteries of heaven (healings, preaching, casting out demons) to them in order to give them authority to preach God’s truth throughout the lands.  

This all included Judas.

Why would Jesus do this?  Because He KNEW what Judas was going to do and He knew that it needed to happen.  Jesus chose this disciple, this friend, knowing Judas would betray Him.  Jesus had to make sure that His disciples, and all of His followers, would realize that it HE wasn’t caught off guard by His arrest and subsequent crucifixion.  One of the ways that Jesus made it clear He knew what was going on and what was about to happen, is these passages in John 13 ~

vs. 18-20 ,“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.””

vs. 26-30, Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.  So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.”

Look at the parts of these verses above that I put in bold ~ JESUS KNEW WHO HE CHOSE AND WHAT JUDAS WAS GOING TO DO!

There is no question about it.  This is further proof that every part of Jesus’ life was determined only by God the Father.  Human minds did not bring God the Son, Jesus, to earth.  Human minds did not determine where and when Jesus’ public ministry began.  Human minds certainly did not dictate the why and how of His crucifixion.  And most importantly, human minds did not and could not comprehend the beautiful resurrection of Jesus, completely the plan that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, devised to bring about restoration and salvation!

One last piece to today’s writing that I feel cannot be missed, is a simple but an impactful fact. Jesus was betrayed by a friend. Just like Jesus knows hunger, exhaustion, delight, sadness, and the joy of obedience to the Father, Jesus knows the pain of betrayal.  I’m sure like me, you don’t become friends with someone knowing they will betray you. Why on earth would we put ourselves through that kind of pain from the beginning of a friendship?  Sometimes we are betrayed by someone we may have had an inkling was not a good influence on us, but most often the experience is one of the friend who chooses at some point in the relationship to turn against us ~ to betray our confidence, our trust, or the sincerity of our heart.

Rest assured my friend ~ Jesus knows this pain all too well.  Cry out to Him and He will hear you.  As with Judas, there was a purpose in his relationship to Jesus. May I suggest that the difficulties in friendships you may have had in the past, or may be currently having, have a purpose.  It doesn’t matter your age, a betrayal of friendship can cut to the heart.  At a recent women’s retreat I attended, the speaker made it very clear that forgiveness of a betrayal (no matter how big or small) does not mean that you have to automatically trust that person again. Forgiveness can be freely given ~ Trust must be earned.

Betrayal may feel like a wound that is impossible to heal ~ and you’re partly right…you can’t do it on your own.  Only our Comforter, the Holy Spirit can come in and bind that wound and heal it in order to make us stronger for what’s coming next.

Jesus is the best friend we can ever hope to find.  He will never betray you.  He will never use your vulnerability against you.  He will never sell you out.

He will always have your back. He will always care about your feelings.  He will always have time for you.

Jesus will always love you.  

Romans 8:38-39 declares,For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Oh, and one of my absolute favorite reminders of God’s love for me ~

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Blessings to you my friend,

René

2 Thessalonians 2 verses 16-17