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To the Sister Who Wants to Say YES

To the Sister Who Wants to Say YES

To: The sister who wants to say YES, but fear is whispering in her ear.

“Start a Bible study in your home…Oh, I’m not sure my house is big enough.”

“Serve at the local food bank…It costs too much to get a baby sitter for my kids.”

“Join a women’s group at your church…I feel bad for leaving my husband with the kids after work.”

“Apply for the job…My resume isn’t very good.”

“Give the waitress a large tip…I can’t because I need to save money.”

Oh how guilty I am for getting an idea, a nudge from the Holy Spirt, or an invitation to say YES to God, but shut it down quickly.  But why? Fear. The fear of thinking I heard wrong. The fear of not being good enough. The fear that I won’t be able to handle it or mange the details, and the fear that I will lose control or be labeled as a failure for starting something and not finishing.

Fear. Fear. Fear. We all have it.

Do you know what else we have? Desire. Desire to do things that make us come alive. The desire to seek, hear, and walk in relationship with our Creator. The desire to say “YES” to God. Saying YES to Him doesn’t mean we won’t have fear, but saying YES draws us into a relationship with Him. An invitation into an adventure we just cannot pass up.

We find in Joshua Chapter 1 a beautiful example of yielding to God’s plan, expecting His faithfulness, and seeking Him while stepping out. God commands Joshua to seek Him so he can make wise decisions, be strong, be courageous, and trust that God is with him as he goes. We see in this passage that God is the great planner, faithful in His promises, and trustworthy. So, of course we can give Him our YES, but how?

Think of your “YES” in three categories: Yield to Gods Plan, Expect His Faithfulness, & Seek Him and Step Out.

Y: YIELD TO GODS PLAN (Joshua 1:2)

God called Joshua to “ARISE” or get up and go. God had a plan to bring His people into the land He promised and needed Joshua to yield to that plan. I think it’s important to note the word “yield.”  When you come to a yield sign, you slow your vehicle and look around for other traffic that could come from another direction. To give our YES to God, we must yield to His pace. It can be tempting to rush ahead and take matters into our own hands, or kick our feet questioning if we really should step into this opportunity. So, where do we start? We ask. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call on the Lord and He will answer you, and tell you hidden things that you do not know.” Prayer is not just a monologue, but a dialogue. We must come to Him with courage to ask, “God, what are you inviting me into?” He promises to answer.

E: EXPECT HIM TO BE FAITHFUL (Joshua 1:5)

He said to Joshua, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” I love how God promises and reminds. He promises Joshua that his journey will be successful, that He will go with him, and He will not leave him. He reminds Joshua of His faithfulness with Moses. Joshua had walked with Moses and learned the ways of leadership and had seen God’s  faithfulness to him which encouraged him to step into his new role. Just as God promised and reminded Joshua, He does the same with us and we can expect it.

S: SEEK HIM AND STEP OUT (Joshua 1:3)

The vow to receive the land was part of God’s covenant with Israel. God would keep this vow, but the Israelites had a working part in receiving the land. He told Joshua, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.” This means Joshua and the Israelites must “set foot” in the land and war for their inheritance. As was noted by Moses when passing on the Word of the Lord, “See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers — to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — and to their descendants after them”.  The Lord had given Israel the land, but they would have an active part in taking possession of the land themselves. God worked on their accounts as they STEPPED OUT in FAITH to take an ACTIVE part in taking possession (Deuteronomy 1:8).

We gave God our YES 9 years ago. We hope our story encourages you!

On Oct 2014, Amanda felt God put the word podcast on her heart. This vision was to encourage women in their faith, as wives, moms, sisters, daughters, and friends. Her response was,  “Me? really? I do not know how or what to do to start that.” She didn’t share this with anyone. She kept praying about it every time God brought it to her mind and heart. Amanda and Alley soon met and their friendship grew quickly. They learned they had a huge passion to encourage women in their faith. One day in April, Amanda woke up with the podcast and Alley on her mind. She couldn’t stop thinking about it. She asked God “Is Alley suppose to do this with me?”  She immediately shared her vision with Alley. Meanwhile, they were helping prepare for a women’s gathering. At the end of that women’s conference, they were all challenged to write on a stone a “step of faith” God was calling them to take. Alley and Amanda were talking after the conference and shared that they had both written “podcast” on their stones. They did not want to write it down at the time, but knew God was calling them to take that step of faith. The scripture Joshua 1:3 “I will give you a place for every step you set your foot, just as I did Moses” became so alive in God guiding their steps. They said “Yes, we do not know what to do, but we say yes to you Lord!” The next day, God gave Alley the name ”Living Out Loud.”  They knew God had given them the two words “Transparency & Encouragement.” That week, God opened more doors confirming that this was His will and gave them a platform through a local well-known website.  God began to reveal that this podcast was to be a platform for women to be able to share their stories. God saw two women who had a passion for Him and passion to encourage others. God heard their prayers and so sweetly brought them together to glorify Him.  

Our ministry verse is Revelation 12:11 “For they will conquer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” We desire to encourage others to share their story and truly believe it brings healing to their hearts as well as the hearts of those who listen. Our podcast is a platform for women and men to share what God is doing in their lives and how He is faithful. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, but in the end, it’s always encouraging. 

What is God inviting you into and will you say YES? 

XOXO, 

Your sisters Alley Bell & Amanda Reed

Have a story to share? Is God calling you to share? Visit our website and submit the form under the “Share your story” tab.

Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram or visit our website www.livingoutloud.today 

Also, we just published our first devotional. Join us for 30 days as we share truths from God’s Word, personal stories from our lives, and encourage you to reflect and journal as you spend time with the Lord. Click here to purchase! 

When You’re Scared to Pray Boldly

When You’re Scared to Pray Boldly

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b (NIV)

I have to admit I’m sometimes scared to pray boldly.

It’s not at all that I don’t believe God can do anything. I absolutely do. I’m a “wild about Jesus” kind of girl. Wild in my willingness. Wild in my obedience. Wild in my adventures with God.

So, my hesitation isn’t rooted in any kind of doubt about God.

It’s more rooted in a doubt about myself and my ability to absolutely discern the will of God. The reality is sometimes God chooses not to do things. And if His will is no, while I am boldly praying for a yes, it makes me feel out of step with God.

Can you relate?

I so desperately want to stay in the will of God that I find myself praying with clauses sometimes. Like, “God please heal my friend but if it’s Your will to take her, I will trust You.” I wonder why I don’t just boldly pray, “God, please heal my friend.” And then stand confidently that my prayers were not in vain no matter what the outcome.

The reality is, praying boldly boots me out of a stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God Himself.

Prayer opens my spiritual eyes to see things I can’t see on my own. And I am convinced prayer matters. Prayers are “powerful and effective” if prayed from the position of a righteous heart, like James 5:16 says.

So, prayer does make a difference – a life-changing, mind-blowing, earth-rattling difference. We don’t need to know how. We don’t need to know when. We just need to kneel confidently and know that our simple, short prayers extend far wide and far high and far deep.

In case you’ve been wrestling through some unanswered prayers recently, lean in here: Keep pressing into God. Keep praying. Don’t pull away. He isn’t ignoring you; He is listening. He loves you too much to answer your prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way.

Letting that truth slosh over into my soul, snuffs out the flickers of hesitation. It bends my stiff knees. And it ignites a fresh, bold wildfire within me. Not bold as in bossy and demanding. But bold as in I love Jesus with all my heart, so I want to show up and try again. Pray again. Ask again.

Look at these words from Jesus:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your father knows what you need before you ask him,” (Matthew 6:6-8, NIV).

Friend, what do you need to pray boldly about today? Don’t listen to fear – go ahead and ask. And ask again. Not so that we can cause God to move, rather so that we can position our souls to be able to see Jesus move in any which way He pleases.

Dear Lord, I believe that You are the giver of life and Lord over all things. Thank You for providing me with exactly what I need, even though it isn’t always what I may want. I trust that You have my best interest in mind today. I need You Lord. Show me Your way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If we’re honest, when we’re already in a difficult season, connecting with God through praying and reading our Bibles can feel overwhelming. Lysa TerKeurst understands this struggle and has teamed up with other authors at Proverbs 31 Ministries to bring you a new devotional, Clear Mind, Peaceful Heart: 50 Devotions for Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry. Written by busy women for busy women, this devotional is filled with 50 encouraging devotions, scripture verses and guided prayers, making it easier than ever for you to simply show up and spend time with God at the end of your day. Order your copy today!

When It Feels Too Heavy to Carry

When It Feels Too Heavy to Carry

“Detergent and creamer. Detergent and creamer.” I reminded myself. Not that this was something I was trying to remember and recall – it was actually something I was trying to remember and not venture off from. You probably know this well: go into a store for one thing, leave with several additional items. Yeah, me too. You don’t know you may need it until you see it sometimes. Not every time but the treat of picking up a bouquet of flowers for your table, the treat to surprise a child and “she just had a baby so I’m sure a ‘pick-me-up’ from the bakery would be a sweet gesture”. Then, there’s the gum at checkout, the yogurt that was on sale that you know someone will eat and the peanut butter you remembered you were actually out of and should have been on the list in the first place. Before you realize it, your arms are full and now you’re regretting you didn’t grab a grocery cart when you first walked through the doors.

You cheer yourself on by saying “let me re-situate the groceries” and “ten more steps and then I’m at checkout” and “oh gosh, my fingers is going numb from holding the bag of grapes on my pinky” while tossing up a prayer that you don’t drop something.

How did detergent and creamer turn into this? Do I need it all? 

I really wish I could say grabbing more than I originally needed and trying to make it without dropping anything doesn’t happen that often but I confess it does.

I’ll go even a little further and say that this goes beyond my grocery store experiences.

It happens in the way I manage my time. “I can make that happen this afternoon and pull it off.”

It happens with the way I view life. “If I can just make it through this season, I’ll be okay.”

It happens with the way I take on responsibilities, volunteering for positions, adding more to my plate than I know is possible.

Before I know it, my arms are full (and not in the best way). There are some things I need to be carrying that I know I came for – like the detergent and creamer. But, let’s be candid – there’s a lot I’m carrying that wasn’t on the list. Some of which I can, and need, to put down. And others, I don’t have the option other than to carry.

And that’s life. Carrying around things, picking up, dropping off, switching posture to make things more comfortable, grabbing what we think might be fun, trying to swap for something better every once in a while. Isn’t it?

To put it plainly, we’re all carrying things in our arms. For some of us it’s a job, a family, a dream, grief, difficulties, celebrations, expectations, fill in the blank. Some are light, some heavy, some clunky. 

You know what these are for you best and I pray you take a moment to name them. As they come up in your mind, hold them for a moment. Imagine them being in your arms, sharp edges uncomfortably resting on your forearms, fingers bending to hold the weight. It might not even look like a lot at first but the longer they’re held, the heavier they feel.

I’ve been curious, constantly intrigued because you and I have a lot in common: what we’re carrying is heavy. Now that I know this to be true and we’re on the same page about some of the truth of what we’re carrying, can I propose a solution? 

Maybe the idea of “freedom” from these things doesn’t come from carrying them differently or solving the worlds biggest problems or learning how to cope and numb so we don’t feel them at all. Maybe the “freedom” comes from putting them down.

I’m not suggesting we become all of a sudden irresponsible and neglect what’s ours to hold. The heaviness of life does not come in a packaged board game box with a “get out of jail free card” when the dice you roll look different than you’d hoped. I just don’t want you to begin to think and eventually believe your only way to lighten your load is to “get out” and “jump ship.”

Through the messiness, there’s something for you here. And if you’re used to holding it all, more than you need, believing that the only way to be able to see the joy is to stop carrying it all – I have an idea for you.

What if the “freedom” we keep talking about doesn’t look like solved problems but it looks like supporting it all differently than holding it with your bare arms.

Grocery stores have grocery carts for a reason. To carry it all for us, to take it from aisle to aisle as we put stuff in and the physics of it all disperse the weight and make it all a bit more effortless.

That’s “joy.”

It’s the gifts that God gives us to see life as fun and enjoy what’s around us even though we’re pushing heavy things around.

It creates more margin to focus on the tasks at hand.

It’s the levity to survive our hardest days.

For the things you don’t have a choice to carry or not (like the child with special needs, the messy divorce, the grief from the one you lost, the heartache you’re left with when harsh words were said, when the dream isn’t on your timeline) – may I suggest you place them in the cart?

Jesus invites us to set these things down and trust his mechanics over our ‘muscling through’. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

So not only is it available to us, it’s an invitation.

My prayer for you is that ‘joy’ becomes so natural, so easy, a disciplined habit that it is just something you do and that you don’t know any other way to grocery shop than to push a cart and set the heavy things inside.

God is at work in our lives and would do anything to get our attention and bring us back to Him. The beautiful, show stopping moments that take your breath away, the glimpses that make you tilt your head and wonder how it worked out so perfectly that you were able to witness the beauty – let’s have the room to see it.

Rachel Awtrey is a trailblazing influencer and podcaster who defies conventional norms by inviting her audience to peek behind the curtain of her life. Rachel is a mom of two little boys, a military wife and after moving 9 times in her 8 years of marriage, she knows a thing or two about making community wherever she is!

 With an unwavering commitment to transparency, Rachel shares her personal journey, triumphs, and challenges, breaking down barriers and inspiring others to embrace their own authentic selves. Through her empowering content, she provides a unique blend of encouragement and practical tips, empowering her followers to navigate life’s obstacles with resilience and grace.

In a culture that often encourages surface-level perfection, Rachel stands out by embracing vulnerability and embracing imperfections. Her refreshing approach creates a genuine connection with her audience, fostering a sense of community and reminding everyone that they are not alone in their struggles. With over 1.5 Million downloads, her chart-topping podcast, Real Talk with Rachel Awtrey (formerly Behind the Bliss Podcast) and social media platforms, Rachel is changing the game, dismantling societal expectations, and encouraging others to embrace their true selves while equipping them with valuable tools to thrive and find joy in every aspect of life.

The Hidden Years

The Hidden Years

When I was in my 20s, I almost opened a tiny art gallery and gift shop once to showcase my work in an empty loft space made available to me. It felt too daunting at the time, so I didn’t pursue it. Instead, I spent my days off from a retail job watching Oprah grant wishes and make dreams come true from a small television screen. I felt simultaneously so happy for those who were about to realize their dreams and yet so defeated, wondering if my creative pursuits would ever come out of hiding. I was twenty- four, newly married, with a fine arts degree and an unfinished seminary degree.

A few years later, I was in full-time ministry with Troy and expecting our first son, kicking off that ambitious decade-plus of bootstrapping, kickstarting, and ministry-building in the Simons household. I was honored to stand with and work alongside Troy in all our public endeavors, but I couldn’t help seeing the glaring disparity in our realities: his life was full of visible ministry while my life felt entirely hidden.

Hidden from public ministry, hidden from my potential, hidden at home with laundry and meal prep, hidden by the limitations of a season that felt like closed doors instead of big opportunities. Sure, I had giftings. And, oh, did I long to see them flourish in big ways for God’s kingdom. Missions! Leadership! The arts! Business! I was ready to pursue that tiny art gallery and wished I had when given the chance. I had big ideas for impacting the world with my passion and skills, but the opportunities God was giving me at that time were ones in obscurity, away from the limelight, grand openings, or the internet success I imagined as meaningful.

Perhaps your hiddenness stems from an unending list of tasks: perpetual meetings, clearing emails, filing taxes, driving in traffic, doing your job, and all the domestic to-dos that pile up day after day. Some of us feel hidden due to caring for elderly parents or young children who require most of our time and energy. Maybe you’ve experienced health limitations that leave you feeling benched. Or perhaps your life story just isn’t turning out the way you hoped or expected, and the hidden season you’re in feels fruitless.

But what if the hidden years—the seasons when we think our labors go unnoticed, when we feel benched by our limitations, when doors we expect to be open are shut instead, or when our giftings seem forgotten, wasted, or entirely invisible while our contributions feel small, insignificant, and simply hidden—proved more purposeful than we could ever imagine? What if we embraced the hidden years?

What if we welcomed hiddenness as much as we pursued visibility?

Visibility, multiplication, and platform aren’t the only roads that lead to impact. Embracing hiddenness may seem like a countercultural and counterintuitive path toward significance in our present age, but God has regularly used hidden years as a tool for his redemptive purposes in the lives of his people.

It’s easy to believe that, in order for God to use us, our trajectory must go from small to big, from unrecognized to widely familiar, from obscurity to fame. And if we believe that large followings, big stages, or bestselling books are required for a life of impact, we’ll spend our days trying to pull ourselves out of hiddenness and into the limelight.

This brings me back to the question: What if we embraced the hidden years because our lives are hidden in Christ? What if we welcomed hiddenness as much as we pursued visibility? What if God is raising up leaders who will influence and change the world without the biggest stages, away from the bright lights, and unaided by social media platforms, viral content, or attractive skills and talents because their lives in Christ set them apart? What if God can accomplish all that he wills without bowing to algorithms, the best hair and makeup, or a bajillion subscribers?

At this point, maybe you’re thinking, That’s a beautiful perspective, Ruth, but I get so discouraged when I’m not getting anywhere with my endeavors, when I feel like my work doesn’t matter, and when I feel like I have to play the social media game to get my message out to the world.

Friend, it may not seem like it, but I’m preaching to my very own heart here as well. It’s not lost on me that I’m sharing these thoughts in a traditionally published book that will be distributed across the globe. Or that I have influence through the social media and internet platforms I’ve created. I see that and understand the irony of talking to you about hiddenness when a part of my life is known and public.

But don’t misunderstand my point. I’m not trying to convince you that visibility is wrong or that obscurity is some- how more holy. I’m not encouraging us to forfeit God-given opportunities for an elusive “greater reach.” I’m simply suggesting that if we’re hoping for our lives to have true impact, there’s a place for both visibility and obscurity—in the big picture and sweeping seasons of our lives and in how we steward the daily rhythms of our day-to-day lives.

Here are a few questions I ask myself regularly that might help you too:

1. Am I intentionally cultivating the hidden places of my life as much as I am cultivating the public places?

2. Do I worship in secret through prayer and study of God’s Word, or am I only worshiping in public?

3. Do I invest time in soul care or care only for my physical body?

We must view hiddenness and visibility the way God does—as equally fruitful in the capable hands of a God who doesn’t need human resources or cunning moves to accomplish his work. God may choose to use obscurity on the path to raising up leaders, voices of influence, and great men and women of God, but he may just as purposefully employ the faithful and quiet work of Christ followers whose names we’ll never know this side of heaven. Since God accomplishes his will through both the visible and the invisible, we need a paradigm shift in how we see and embrace the hidden years of our lives.

Taken from Now and Not Yet by Ruth Chou Simons. Copyright © 2024 by Ruth Chou Simons. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

Ruth Chou Simons is a Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning author of several books and Bible studies, including Now and Not Yet, GraceLaced, Beholding and Becoming, When Strivings Cease, and TruthFilled. She is an artist, entrepreneur, podcaster, and speaker, using each of these platforms to sow the Word of God into people’s hearts. Through social media, and her online shoppe at GraceLaced.com, Simons shares her journey of God’s grace intersecting daily life with word and art. Ruth and her husband, Troy, are grateful parents to six boys—their greatest adventure.

Can’t Rest, Everything Matters

Can’t Rest, Everything Matters

Some years ago, I experienced my first significant fall with fatigue.

I’d just finished the edits on my first book; my kids were eight, seven, six, and two. Our other baby, our church plant, was one year old, and like most one-year-olds—it was fussy, hands-on, and making messes as it found its feet. My online print shop had a team of three women, and the profits from our sales funded three church plants: ours in Charleston, South Carolina, one in Pakistan, and one in Amsterdam.

In that season, I hadn’t yet reconciled that I was a working mom. I was convinced I could be the “room mom” in all the elementary classes, be present for every naptime cuddle, and I was still convinced I should be making every meal. I wanted to be everything to everyone, and I wanted to make it all work.

Spoiler alert: Wanting to be everything to everyone is often the preamble to a breakdown of epic proportions.

I had also just begun to travel to teach and preach at conferences, which felt like a great way to use my God-given gifts and empower other women.

But because I didn’t love being away from my kids, I’d load up on family time before and after being away—trying desperately to make sure that no one felt my absence, that no one else paid for me stepping into my calling.

You can imagine who did pay in the end.

What really tripped me up was that I wasn’t trying to be all things for the approval of others; rather, it was the recognition that everything mattered.

I was driven by a deep-seated belief that my work was important, my family was necessary, and for me to steward it well—I had to do it all. I had this much right—yes, all of it mattered deeply! But it wasn’t all on me, and I was struggling because I believed the subtle lie that it was. People needed the finances from our business; they needed their salaries . . . so I had to keep pushing.

My kids needed a loving, present mom . . . so I had to keep pushing.

Our church needed attention, care, prayer, and shepherding . . . so I had to keep pushing.

There weren’t a lot of warning signs, but if I’m honest—there also wasn’t anyone telling me, “You don’t have to do it all.” Because I didn’t express my exhaustion and because I was working under the assumption that if it was hard, it was my fault: no one knew I was struggling.

Pretending like you can handle everything, even when you’re exhausted, is the surest way to burn out fast.

Looking back, I have so much compassion for that woman, desperate to keep going. She was convinced that she was the problem, that she’d let everyone down with her weakness, and that her fatigue was a failure.

I was still buying the lie that I had to push through, that somehow exhaustion was a badge of honor, and that this is just the way it was. I thought it might be better, the constant fatigue, in a different season. I wasn’t ready to change my life to experience life change.

This tumble, this terrific fall, wasn’t my last. Because this is the truth about being tired: it will get worse if it doesn’t get better.

There aren’t a lot of sexy stories about wild, life changing rest and here’s one reason why: we won’t experience real, lasting, eternal rest here on earth.

The bad news is that while we live under the effects of a fallen world and experience the pain and tension of corruptible bodies, we will always long for the complete recreation and blissful peace that heaven promises us.

The good news is that we can stop feeling shame about our fatigue and learn to live within the boundaries and limits of our human bodies while we eagerly look forward to the renewal and rest of eternity.

We will always crave heaven-sized rest in our human bodies, but we will always be left wanting more.

Our bodies will continue to break under the weight of the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion we’ve grown accustomed to. Our relationships will suffer: with God, with one another, and most assuredly with ourselves—we won’t recognize who we are or how we got here. We’ll buckle under the weight of anxiety, overwhelm, and stress will seep into every pore of our bodies until inflammation, fatigue, defeat, and depression are the norm.

I wonder what it would look like if you and I began to view accepting God’s gift of rest here on this earth as His compassionate and merciful condolence for that which is too much for us.

Our Father doesn’t give us rest to be cute, He gives us rest because WE NEED IT. He gives us rest because He is wildly compassionate to His children who live under the effects of a fallen world. If you have carried shame about feeling fatigue, in the name of Jesus—now is the time to get rid of it. You don’t need rest because you’re weak, you need rest because this life is too much—at best. Which is why our fully-human, fully-God friend and Savior also hit moments of exhaustion on earth. It’s a condition of being alive, of being a human in the now and not yet kingdom of God.

This side of heaven, rest will never be a one-and-done cure-all. But it will be our ongoing practice and gift to receive from God who always meets us in our weariest places.

Excerpted from Tired of Being Tired: Receive God’s Realistic Rest for Your Soul-Deep Exhaustion © 2024 Jess Connolly. Used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Jesus Weeps with You

Jesus Weeps with You

John 11:32-35 “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.” (NIV)

One crisp, cool October afternoon, I was getting home from a doctor’s appointment. Within a matter of seconds, after I had entered the house, I was upstairs in my closet crying. You know those deep sobs where you can hardly cry because you are so upset? I had hit my third season in a row as an elite runner with a new injury nagging me and was seeing many doctors a week to try and get to the bottom of health issues. My body was failing me, so I felt like a failure even though I was working harder than I ever had to try and get healthy and happy again. It felt like all of my dreams for the future and running and who I thought I was were crashing to the ground.

I sat in the closet crying, asking God to explain, just wanting to go back to the way my life was before. My dad heard me from downstairs. Shortly after, there was a soft tap, tap on my bedroom door. I got up to answer, and as soon as I saw my dad’s face, I burst into another fit of tears. I could see the empathy he felt in his eyes. He came and sat with me in my closet and let me have a good, long cry. “Why me?” I asked him. “Why do I have to go through this when none of my friends do?” Have you been there? Wishing for another story? My dad held me and rubbed my back as he answered in a slow, apologetic voice, almost on the edge of tears himself. He told me he did not know why I had to go through this.

Then he began to slowly unpack the story of Lazarus in the Bible to me. He said, “I don’t know why, but this is what God does to his friends, all throughout the Bible he does this to his closest friends.” This past fall I spoke at a small women’s conference about the story of Lazarus. I encouraged them to see Jesus’ empathy for Lazarus as an example of how He cares for us in the pain we face in life. I want to be clear here that I do not mean God wishes evil upon us. I believe that whatever pain we walk through in life God is able to use. Before speaking at this women’s event, I reread the passages in John 11-12 over and over to study exactly what Jesus did in this story of Lazarus. I wanted to make sure I said everything in the right context. I wanted to truly share the heart of God with these women through this moving story. About the third time reading through it I remember being so powerfully moved by these four verses, 32 “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus wept.” (John 11:32-35 ESV).

Now, in the previous passages John talks about when Jesus first got news that Lazarus was sick. He waited two days before going to Judea to see him. It also states that Jesus was very good friends with Lazarus and his sisters. Mary and Martha are two very significant people in the Bible and love the Lord intimately just as He loves them. Imagine knowing you had the power to help a close friend or relative who was on death’s doorstep, and you had to let them pass and wait two days before going to check on their family. I think the most significant verse in this story is verse 35, the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”

Now, you might think, yes, it was His best friend, of course He cried. But, to me the crazy beautiful part of Jesus being moved by Mary and Martha’s tears, being “deeply moved” as it says, is that He knew He was about to go raise Lazarus from the dead. He had been dead four days and Jesus knew He had the power to heal him and had told his disciples verses before this, 11 “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” He knew what He came to Judea to do. He could have come in dancing and praising and joyful for He knew He was about to bring glory to God. Friend, God loves you, with a capital L. However, sometimes things in our life must die before He can raise up something beautiful. When things in our life die, our most helpful response is, “Lord, come.” We must ask Him to come and be with us in the broken we do not understand. If you just started reading because you saw this linked on Instagram or popped up randomly for you and you are not sure if it is for you, maybe reading this story about Lazarus reminded you a bit of your own story? I encourage you to keep reading! Do not become bitter to your pain. Know that we serve a God who knows the plan. Know that we serve a God who does allow Lazarus to die, but not a God who does not have a backup plan for greater glory. Do not miss out on the story God is writing. There is a reason for your broken dreams. Something beautiful getting broken can lead to something even better. We can surrender our broken in order to allow God to do His better. We can work with God and allow Him to take us from our lowest, to and for His highest.

Instead of coming in dancing and praising to the mourning family, Jesus hurts with them, He physically weeps with them. And then He says, “Show me the tomb.” After Lazarus is raised, much glory is brought to God, and many believe. The pain of Lazarus and his family was intense. There was death and there were tears. Jesus hates to see us hurt but He loves us so much that He feels the pain with and for us. How significant a love our father has that He does not simply show up celebrating when He knows the end of the story. He knows the final outcome is good, but He still holds us and allows us to lean back against his chest and feel his heartbeat for us. He is a good father who knows how to love his children better than anyone.

My husband and I used to read the Narnia series to each other anytime we were on a long road trip or getting ready to go to bed. We try to read aloud instead of being on our phones all the time. We were reading The Magician’s Nephew, the first of the series by C.S. Lewis. If you have not read Narnia, I will give you a little context. In the series Aslan represents God and He is a lion. The Magician’s Nephew is the first book and is a parallel to the creation story in the Bible. Digory, the main character, a child, has a very sick mother. He is realizing Aslan might heal her as he gets to know how powerful and kind Aslan is. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I read the following passage aloud, “‘But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’ Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself.”1

I don’t claim to know why God does what he does and allows certain things to happen to us, but the truth is his “best friends,” those who have enviable intimacy with Him almost always have hard stories because that’s how that intimacy grows. We do not have to know why He allows us to break, we just must know He does not leave us that way. We draw closer to God by fighting battles with Him and for Him. The circumstances of this life cannot be what defines my joy (or yours). Running fast/being injury free was not my purpose. And God was using every “closet moment” with Him to develop a sense of identity, purpose, and love for Him far beyond what I already had. Every time we look into God’s eyes just as Mary did after her brother Lazarus died, just like Digory did when he thought about his mother dying and being sick, we get to see His character. And His character is love. His character is empathy, His character is good. He cares for you.

“God, thank you that you love us, with a capital L. Thank you that sometimes, things in our lives have to die before you raise up something beautiful. In the midst of the hard of this life we say, “Lord, come.” We ask you to come and be with us in the midst of the broken we cannot understand.”

Blessings,

Kat Shultis

For Deeper Study:

1. For a practical guide on how to grow in trusting God, grab a copy of Kat’s book, My Lowest For His Highest 2. Another great resource on this topic is, Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

3. Psalms 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (NIV)

1 The Chronicles Of Narnia. The Magicians Nephew. C.S. Lewis. Copyright 1982. HarperCollins. Page 83.

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