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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Certainly


CERTAIN UNCERTAINTY

How are you at handling uncertainty?  Uncertainty, and learning how to handle it, are important parts of our lives.  Whether or not you handle it well is something you will discover about yourself when in the process of divorce if you didn’t know it beforehand.

Life is filled with uncertainty; we live with it every day, although we don’t always acknowledge the fact.  In divorce, uncertainty is very much thrust in your face.  

You may face uncertainty regarding how the court will rule time and time again.  

You may face uncertainty as to what all will need to change in your lifestyle as a result of the divorce.  

You may face uncertainty about how you will manage to survive financially on your own.  

You may face uncertainty about how your children, your family, or your friends will react, understand and relate to you and your situation in the future.  

You may face uncertainty about who will keep the house, and whether, if it is you, whether you will be able to keep it for long. 

You may face uncertainty about whether you are making the right choices, time and time again.  

You may face uncertainty about how you will like living alone and starting all over.

But then again, life always has uncertainties, divorce or not.  Most of us live with an illusion of certainty, which probably keeps us from going insane, but in our more sobering moments, we realize the uncertainty of our world.  Though we act like we are certain of things, there are any number of which we are actually not as certain as we think.  We expect we will still have a job when we go to work, but buildings burn unexpectedly, economies fluctuate, companies buy out other companies and change personnel…things just happen.  We go to bed at night expecting to get up the next morning to another day, but many people wake up to a day in which everything suddenly changes:  a heart attack leaves them hospitalized or paralyzed, a car accident ends a life or causes significant physical injuries, a tornado, hurricane, mudslide or sinkhole collapses homes.  

I used to live in a town  whose local corporate memory was how the rail workers chose to go on strike, just before the stock market crash of 1929, and the town never really recovered.  We have all heard of Enron and the other stories where retirement funds people had counted on were drained by greedy and self-centered individuals, leaving people without the security net they had expected in their old age.  Governments are toppled, terrorists and random criminal acts occur, nations rise and fall; life IS uncertain.

How do you cope with that uncertainty?  Some of us build artificial assurances, insulating ourselves from the realities of life, denying the fragility of it all, until we are forced to face all the uncertainty that really exists.  Others fight against uncertainty, putting in as many safeguards as they can with backup plans, insurance, security systems, dietary and preventive medical choices…all sorts of ways we construct our “castles” of certainty, denying that even the best of them are not as certain as we think.  

Is there anything certain?  Well, I guess that depends.  Some say the only things certain are death and taxes.  I would agree that death is a certain thing…unless, of course, you happen to be living when Jesus returns.  Taxes…well, you can decide on that one!  But there are other certainties, though they are certain to us only through faith.  

Although, if you think about it, all the other things we choose to accept as certain in our lives…health, financial stability, court justice, relationships..they all require faith as well.  

It is just that in those cases, our faith is in something unworthy of our complete trust…health fails, people betray us, courts disappoint us, and  I suspect there were those in the Confederate States during the Civil War who were confident in their amassed wealth of Confederate dollars.  

The promises of God, however, are worthy of trusting as certain, because they are guaranteed by the one Being in all the universe who never changes, never lies, never fails.  

In the uncertainties of life, and in the extreme sense of uncertainty that comes during divorce, I encourage you to discover the certainty that exists through faith with God.  Certainty of such promises as “God works all things together for good for those who love him,” or when God promises that he “will never fail you nor forsake you,” or when God says that “when you pass through the waters I will be with you…when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,” or “whoever believes in him shall never be put to shame,” along with all the promises of God’s provision for our eternal security with him beyond this life.


When facing the uncertainties of divorce, the fears of the future, the hurt of the losses, the worries about how you will make it, I encourage you to trust that God has not lost control, that God will help you when you cry out to him, that as you continue to love and seek him, God will work even the worst of our experiences into something good.  When you are surrounded and overwhelmed with uncertainty, know that you can be certain of the God who loves you and will work on your behalf.  As you develop and grow in that certainty of God, it is enough to make all the other uncertainties fade to insignificance.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Whose Side is God On?

CHOOSING SIDES

In a recent correspondence, I was asked a question that I know many of us have struggled with, and not only in the context of divorce, though that was the context of our discussion.  The question was one the writer struggled with in the midst of a difficult divorce, since both parties are confessing Christians.  The question (in my edited wording) was:  Since we are both Christian, in the hassles of the divorce, sometimes I just wonder whose side is God on?

It is certainly a difficult, and confusing thing, to be in the process of divorce from someone whose belief system also is one that speaks of seeking God’s will, honoring his commands, including the belief in God’s ordained plan for the covenant of marriage.  

Perhaps each partner is pursuing what they believe God is leading him or her to do.  And yet, in the course of the twisted process called divorce, they find themselves at odds with one another over multiple choices of the right course of action.  When one is convinced that he or she is sincerely doing their best to do what is right, that individual longs for vindication for pursuing what is believed to be the right thing...and gets very discouraged when the courts rule against them, leaving one to wonder what ever became of justice.  And the old biblical question arises, “why do the wicked prosper?”  Especially when the partner asking the question knows he or she has been honest in their disclosures and statements while the ex has been hiding assets and information. 

Whose side is God on?

As I said at the beginning, the question has been asked in many contexts over the years.  Think of the churches that have split over various issues, with each side convinced they are following the correct leading and teaching of the Lord.  Whose side is God on in those situations?  Wars, politics, social debates…the examples go on and on.

My response?  Well, some of the kinds of things I suggested are that God is always on the side of each of us…that is, God is FOR us, not against us.  He desires the best for each of us, the best as he knows what is actually truly best.  He desires that we can be freed from the things that hold us back and keep us from being all that he designed us to become.  He longs for us to grow in righteousness, and reflect more fully the image of God in our lives.  So even in the midst of a divorce, there is a sense in which God is on the side of each of us, that his desire is for us to be part of his family for ever and ever.  It is Satan who is the one who is against us.

That being said, however, God does not choose to force us to respond to him as he desires.  He beckons, he nudges, he leads…but our decisions are also involved in the process.  While he is on our side, that is not the same as saying that God is on our side of a dispute between individuals.  When it comes to divorce, I suspect that God would be on the side of reconciliation, repentance, forgiveness, genuine godly and humble love, and marriage that is “till death do us part”…but I am not convinced that it would be for a one sided reconciliation where the abused ignores the abuse and re-enters a marriage that is no marriage at all, or to re-enter a marriage in which one partner is committed to the marriage while the other is out breaking the vows night after night in adulterous relationships.  

God is on the side of genuine committed and loving marriages, and his desire would be that our marriages would be moving to greater and greater depths of that kind of relationship.  

In the course of the disputes of a divorce, whose side is God on?  I think it should also be added that God is on the side of truth, the side of righteousness, the side of love, the side of forgiveness, the side of humility.  In other words, God is always on the side of godly characteristics.  And sometimes, in the proceedings, the choices we make reflect those characteristics, and God would be pleased with those choices…whether or not they result in success in the courtroom.

Probably the most important answer to this question would be to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln.  The Civil War in the United States had Christian people on both sides, each fighting tooth and nail for what they believed was right, and praying to the same God for victory.  When asked whose side God was on, Abraham’s reply was one that could also be easily applied to the question I was asked in the context of divorce-

My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.


So, as much as we may desire that God is on our side against the perceived injustices and evils that pile up against us, the more important issue is that which Lincoln refers to:  

as you make the choices you make, do you choose to be on God’s side?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What's your Story?

THE POWER OF STORIES

I had a phone call the other day from the publisher.  More specifically, from the woman who works with the publicity department at the publisher.  We chatted about a lot of things.  During part of the conversation, we talked about various stories related to my books.  As a result, I am working on gathering some of the stories together (and if you have a good one you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it--email or even post a comment to the blog or facebook page).  I received one via email the other day, and though I had heard about it before, I learned even more and was touched by what I read.  So I decided to share it with you here (with permission), and also some other favorite stories I have heard.  Since I haven’t had a chance to clear the use of names, I am only going to identify the one that was emailed.  Enjoy the stories.  Like and share the page.  And again, pass along any related stories you have.  First, the one I received via email;

“In January of 2014 I was visiting with a friend and she told me that Richard had finally gotten his devotional books on divorce published.  At that time I was going to church with a young lady who was going thru a divorce and was mother of a 6 month old little girl.   I called Richard and asked if I could get a set of the books for Jenny.  He offered to sign them and write a little note of encouragement to Jenny.  After receiving the books, I gave them to her one Sunday morning making sure she knew that Richard had signed them.  She didn’t seem especially thrilled, but I thought at least I tried. Two weeks later Jenny shared with me that so many people had given her books and advice that she really didn’t want to read more books about divorce.  But since Richard had gone to all the trouble to sign them, she decided she should at least look through them.  After reading his “Letter to my Readers”, Jenny was hooked.  She said she could not believe how much these books were helping.  Every devotion seemed to touch on just what she needed for the day.  She threw all her other books away.  Jenny has just completed a second degree program and will begin teaching this fall.  Seasons of Divorce has seen her through many other seasons of her life.”
                                  --Margaret Grubb, retired church secretary

One of my favorite stories was from a woman I received another contact from a woman about the same time, who told me that she and her husband were getting divorce, and they each began reading Volume 1 of Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce, and as they worked their way through it, they decided they wanted to get back together and make their marriage work instead.  I was floored when I heard that…God was using the books in ways I hadn’t even imagined.  

Another individual told me that the best thing for him as he read the books, was that he came to realize that he was not alone nor weird in the various feelings he was having, and that, alone, brought him comfort.  Another individual had felt very isolated and as an outcast from both her church and her family.  The book provided her some of the stability she was seeking, and just enough encouragement to help her get through each day during the dark times, until she was able to move on.  Over the course of several years, her story unfolded through not only her readings and responding to the book, but via personal support as we emailed back and forth.

A pastor friend bought several copies, and then used them as a study guide for his local ministerial association.  Since none of them had been divorced, but they all had parishioners struggling with the experience, he decided this would be a helpful window into the world of the divorced, as well as a tool they all could use in ministry.   While they were in the midst of the process, a new pastor who had been divorced moved to town and joined the group.  That pastor told the group, “This is too real!”  


Maybe you have stories you can share with me as well.  Or maybe you need to go about helping create such a story by sharing my books as a resource for a friend or pastor you know.  If it would help to have the books signed, as I did for Margaret’s friend Jenny, feel free to contact me to make that happen.  When the first book was coming out, someone at the publisher’s asked me what my dream was for the book.  I replied that my main hope was that someday I would have a stack of letters and emails describing how my writings have helped others.  It has been profoundly touching to watch as that dream has been coming true.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to Help

THE POWER OF PRAYER

Our lives continue to be in transition, which has had the impact on the frequency of my blog postings that some of you may have noticed.  We are making progress, and I hope sometime soon to be able to again get back on schedule with them.  In any case, here is one for tonight.

Never underestimate the power of prayer.  Last week I completed a set of my “Jacob’s Well Workshops” at the church I pastor, designed to help church folks better understand how to be more effective in helping those caught in the throes of divorce.  During the last session, I included a number of specific actions that individuals can take to reach out and help individuals in divorce.

One of the categories I discussed included prayer support, and I thought I would share with you for tonight’s blog some of the specific tips you could use.  These are only a few items from the workshop, but I thought these are ones that can be very important.  

PRAYER---prayer is one of the biggest gifts you can give, and you can pray for them in very meaningful ways.  Here are some possibilities:
  1. Ask them what time of day is most difficult for them, and then let them know you will be praying for them at that time each day…then do it.
  1. Ask them for specific prayer requests, and then create an environment of trust so they can freely share.
  1. Ask them to let you know when court and/or mediation times are approaching, so that you can pray WITH them prior to the event, and for them DURING the event.  In some cases, you may even want to offer to attend court with them so that they are not alone in those troubling “halls of justice.”
  1. When you do this, and maybe anytime you are on the phone with them, take a second to pray for them aloud on the phone as you close the call.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, even something as simple as, “God, please help my dear friend in this time,” can be very meaningful.
  1. You may also want to help them turn their own focus to God when you visit with them and they share their burdens and fears.  Ask the simple question, “What do you think God might be trying to do in your life at this time?  What do you think he is trying to teach you?”   Because God will be working in ways they may not be able to see.  Then pray with them that God will reveal to them the things he is doing in their lives, even in the times of hardship and stress.

These may not seem to be such a big deal when you read them, but to be on the receiving end of these prayers when in the midst of divorce can be very meaningful.  I encourage you to bless someone in this way soon.