Comparison: A Recipe for Unrest

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There are days when I feel so joyful and proud of the job I’ve been doing, with God’s help, as a mom….

And then there are days when I stumble across an impressive video on social media of young elementary school aged prodigies playing violins and woodwind instruments like miniature professional musicians and begin second guessing myself on how well I’m doing compared to these children’s moms.

Oh… Days before this, I was so proud of the fact that I had taken my son for a fun time of play at a local bounce house, that we had enjoyed a great time together on the playground, that he had helped me make muffins one afternoon, and that he had even helped me make a veggie-fruit “juice” one morning…

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But now….?

No.

Instead of celebrating all we have been able to do together, I begin doubting myself and the job I’m doing as a mom…

And all this because I set my eyes on someone else’s level of parenting.

So now in this moment I allow myself to believe that who I am and what I’ve been doing as a mom just simply isn’t “good enough” compared to these other parents…

(Okay…So, my little guy’s only two and a half, but still…. You know where I’m coming from.)

Whether it’s things like these that drive you to comparison or not, I’m almost 100% sure there are things in your life that have a way of pushing your own comparison buttons as well.

And it can happen across so many spectrums… Not just in mothering.

For example… Have you ever found yourself so joyful in one moment- content with your possessions, your home, and your way of life….

And then your joy suddenly comes to an abrupt halt after visiting the newest community of model homes?

You return to your own home later that afternoon wondering, “How long were we planning on living in this house, again?”

Oh, if only things were bigger…more elaborate, more spacious, and new… Right?  (Hmmm….)

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Joy goes out the window along with contentment as we allow comparison and discontent to set in.

On another specturm, perhaps you’re a working mom. You feel proud of all you’ve accomplished and are doing to help your family make ends meet. God gave you a great job, and things are going well. You’re able to contribute to the family’s needs and help put food on the table.

But… Any time you scroll through social media and see your stay-at-home mommy friend, you find yourself comparing yourself to her, feeling as though your life should in some way mirror hers. “Maybe I’m not doing that good of a job as a mom…compared to her,” you think to yourself.

Oh, how comparison beats us down.

Or put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps you’re the stay-at-home mom, viewing the working mom and her family. You see all that she’s accomplished outside of the home, all her family can afford, and all of the places they can go because both parents are working.

So you also begin to doubt yourself, wondering whether you’re doing a “good enough” job staying home with your children and daily managing the chores in your home. Am I as successful as  her?

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Yes, you often feel fulfilled in your role as a stay-at-home mom, but  every so often when you catch a glimpse of the grass “on the other side”, comparing what she’s accomplished in the workplace  or what she is able to afford compared to you and your family, those “happy and contented feelings” begin to evade you.

Comparison will always leave you feeling “down” and “discontent” or “less than”.

I could go on and on…

Moms of public school children doubting themselves as they compare themselves to homeschooling moms…

Moms who wish to lose a few pounds comparing themselves to women who are more fit…

The opportunities for comparison are endless…

And yet, this was never the kind of life God intended for us to have as moms- always looking at some other woman as the standard and either seeing how little we measured up or defending ourselves to prove we were “enough” or “better” in some way compared to “her”.

No, my Friends. Comparison is the enemy of contentment, peace, and rest.

And if you want to know the truth… God wants you to stop comparing yourself to others.

A great Bible verse that reminds us of this fact is 2 Corinthians 10:12 which states, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

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Comparison is a losing battle.

It will either cause you to lose heart or feel “beneath” someone else, or it will cause you to feel prideful and “better” than someone else.

Comparison does not in any way foster comradery but competition. (And unless you are looking to win a legitimate prize, it would be best to avoid it at all costs.)

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe it is important to learn from those we admire and desire to emulate. I’m not suggesting we plateau and fail to make efforts for improvement or positive change. We most certainly should work towards goals in our lives that will help us, our children, and our families find success.

However, the important thing to remember is that comparison should never be the driving force.

Instead, when desiring success and positive change, we should be willing to ask God for the wisdom and help to accomplish and be everything He intended and planned for us to do and be in this life. 

What if my son was never intended to be a professional instrumentalist like the children in the video? What if he was meant to be a professional tennis player? A coach? A businessman? Or a pastor?

If my eyes are on someone else’s parenting, I may end up steering my son in the wrong direction.

But if my eyes are on the One who created me, my husband, and my son…

The One who has the best in store for us and who knows the best ways to help us reach the goals He has in store for us…

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Then I can rest in the assurance that He will give us the wisdom and direction we need in life…and as parents. And I wil also be able to live in confidence knowing He will direct us to those instrumental individuals that can come along side to offer the wise counsel and advice that will help us in our journey.

This is the kind of life, I’d rather live…

My eyes confidently looking to the  One who holds my future rather than comparing myself to others who are also learning and still growing in their journey through this life as well.

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When a Mama’s Bootstraps Can’t Help Her Stand

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Pick yourself up by your own bootstraps? Is that even scientifically possible?

Ok, so I really do understand the gist of what is meant by the familiar phrase. Usually it’s referring to someone working really hard to get somewhere in life… They were in a place where things were tough, and with determination and a lot of effort, they pulled themselves up and had a breakthrough.

Yes, I do understand… We all need to put forth the effort, with God’s help, to get out of hard times, financial slumps,  or whatever challenges we’re facing, and purpose within ourselves that we’re going to reach our goals and achieve our dreams…Nothing will stand in our way.

However, what happens when you find yourself in an “emotional” slump, and it seems that no amount of self-effort can help you boost your mood? Um…Let’s say your “arms” just don’t have the energy to pull on the bootstraps.

Perhaps, you’ve received some startling or disappointing news that knocked you over… Maybe you’re missing someone you had in your life, and you just find it hard to smile because of the pain from their loss.

Or perhaps it’s something else.

Maybe you’re still in the process of striving to attain a goal that just seems to be taking forever to reach… Or maybe on a day like today, your eyes fall on what you lack rather than what you have.

Whatever the case, it’s times like these that you simply find it difficult to pull yourself up by your own efforts. You just don’t have the energy or the desire to switch gears and sing a happy tune.

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The “bootstraps” just aren’t working on a day like this…And so you think. Ok, I’ll just go to bed and wake up tomorrow with a new attitude.

Sleep will be my “refresh” button and everything will be different in the morning.

But…when morning comes and as the new day progresses, you find much hasn’t changed. Your mind wanders back to those same concerns and the pep just isn’t in your step the way it normally is.

What is a woman to do?

Well, dear ladies, I was there the other day. And it just seemed for some odd reason that, although I have everything in the world to be thankful for- I have God, my health, a wonderful husband, a beautiful family, a nice home, food, clothes, etc- I just flat out lost my joy.

And when you lose your joy…you lose your momentum.

I hate feeling that way. That’s just not how I like to be.

I’m the kind of person who loves having a smile and something good to say. I don’t like feeling “bummed”…and what’s more… for no good reason at all.

And to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t have the “want to” to pick myself up.

It started pretty much on Thursday afternoon and went on into the next day. It was a feeling I didn’t like. And I definitely needed a boost…But it wasn’t going to come from me pulling on my own bootstraps.

So, I decided to ask God for help. I didn’t know how long it would take before my feelings changed, but shortly after as I sat on the floor with my toddler who was playing with Playdoh, God gave me the answer. And it was simple: Put on one of my favorite songs by Jesus Culture called “In the River”. And so, I did…

And you know what… Shortly into the song, my mood began to change. Although I wasn’t actually singing along, it was like the atmosphere of worship and praise hit the refresh button on my spirit, returning my joy and my thankfulness.

And I’m not making this up…Trust me, I’m the last person that really likes sharing about when my mood isn’t the perkiest. I like to always be full of joy and love… Let’s just say, I prefer to share my “happier” days with others rather than these kinds…

And yet, at the same time, I thought it was equally important to share this kind too… because I know I’m not the only one who experiences days like this from time to time.

The wonderful sense of joy and renewal returning was just too good not to share.

Yes, it’s true… “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 Hence, why I’m sharing.

Yes, friends, God inhabits our praise. (Psalm 22:3) And Jesus gives us “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

As followers of Jesus, I’m here to testify that we don’t have to wallow in those yucky feelings that try to steal our joy and our momentum in life. We can simply turn to our loving Heavenly Father for the help and strength we need and allow Him to give us the strategy that will shift our atmosphere and return us to a spirit of praise and joy.

Trust me, I know. And it was such a tremendous feeling of relief in having my joy return that day that I thought it was worthy of writing about this week.

So, the next time, you feel in a funky mood…Just remember.. God’s got your answer. And it can all change in a moment.

 

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The Beauty of Ordinary Days

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I have grown to love July 5 through Labor Day weekend.

There is nothing special about those days, nothing flashy, nothing that takes our breath away.

As much as I love holidays and making those days special for my family, there is something about those two months in the summer that has become precious to me.

They’re ordinary.

For me, these are the slow days.

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The days when we don’t have to leave the house… or we can if we choose to.

These are the days when trips to the beach with a picnic lunch are for more than a tan. They are refreshing to the soul.

These are the days that bring us peace before the storm of back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

These are the days that Pinterest has not affected… yet. There are no articles on how to make these days spectacular, to decorate your home for them, or to throw elaborate parties for them.

These are the days of solitude. The days when we stay close to our immediate family before schedules pick up and send us flying in different directions. Days when we stay home without the worry of letting others down.

These are the days when our children can play to their hearts’ content without the pressure of being rushed here and there.

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But it was not always this way for me. As Jerusalem Jackson Greer says in her book, A Homemade Year, “Embracing the ordinary is something I had to learn.”

I had fallen into the pattern of thinking that I wasn’t giving my children everything they deserve. I felt that keeping them busy, always with something to do, somewhere to go, or someone to see, was going to give them the best childhood experience I could offer.

Then one day, my four year old asked what we were doing that day. I listed what I had planned, so proud of myself that I was giving him so many experiences. He looked at me and said, “But I want to stay home.”

It never occurred to me that my children didn’t need or want all of these experiences.

We began to cut back our activities significantly. “Less is more,” as my husband always says. No more trips to the summer movies. No more library classes. No summer art classes at a local craft store.

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Instead, we filled our time seeing family, going to the beach, and swimming at my sister’s community pool.

We watched Netflix.

Happy messes were made and left for a day or two (anyone who knows me knows this was a huge step for me).

We colored… I colored, too.

The ordinary, the mundane became beautiful.

And I saw why God instituted the day of rest (Genesis 2:2-3).

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Life is busy. There are schedules to keep, appointments to be made, work deadlines, school events, and it doesn’t ever seem to end. Unless we make a point of taking a time to rest, to refresh ourselves, to bring quiet to our souls, and give ourselves space to hear from God.

As it turns out, our summer was not boring, and when special days came up (like an unexpected trip to Legoland for one of the kids), they were extraordinary!

As the school year picks up, my heart feels a tinge of sadness. I know that schedules will resume, activities will find their way onto the calendar, and life will start chugging along at a rapid pace again.

But I have learned over this summer, that I can limit the appointments, the activities, the busyness, and we can continue to enjoy ordinary days throughout the year.

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When Words Hurt Rather Than Heal

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“I just say what I think, and if people don’t like it…. oh, well!”

Have you ever heard that phrase before? I have, and when I hear it it makes me cringe inside.

On the flip side there are people who say what they think and don’t even realize their words are piercing the soul of the hearer.

We spend so much of our time behind a screen- computer, phone, television- that we sometimes forget a real-life, living, breathing person is on the receiving end of our words. We have lost the art of tact and the mindset of consideration for the feelings of others, and we rush headlong into airing our thoughts and unrefined feelings for the world to hear and read.

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Words can be beautiful, though.

Have you read the Declaration of Independence,  Little Women, the Chronicles of Narnia,  the poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, or John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? The beauty of these words have lasted a few hundred years and will continue to be passed down to following generations.

However, the words that we see through social media and hear in conversations, radio, and television have eroded over time and are not always fit for young eyes and ears. Rather than using the countless beautiful words that God has put into our vocabulary and that Daniel Webster put into his extensive dictionary, our culture has chosen a limited number of  words and uses them to express every emotion known to man.

The saying “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” is not as true as we want it to be.

Yes, sticks and stones hurt us physically, but words hurt our soul.

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Words can eat away at the very fiber of our being.

Words can cause our stomachs to knot and twist.

Words can make us feel sick inside of our bones.

Words said in the heat of the moment can divide.

Words said in haste can cause irreparable damage.

Words thoughtlessly spoken can sever longtime relationships.

As always, God has something to say about the words that we use.

Ephesians 4:29- Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Words can heal when they are seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6).

Words can be as beautiful as a plate of golden apples in a setting of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

Words can correct behavior when spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15)

Words can unite when spoken quietly and not shouted over others (Proverbs 15:1).

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Maybe it’s because my love language is words of affirmation that I am more in tune to the pain and joy words can bring. When I hear words directed at my children with a tone that speaks down to them rather than lifting them up, my heart hurts. When I view social media and see people shouting at each other from both sides of the aisle trying to be heard but not making any headway because their words are cutting and abrasive, I want to throw my hands up, slap the lid down on my laptop, and walk away in frustration. When I hear politicians use their words to manipulate, my faith in our governmental systems is shattered.

But when I open up my Bible and read the Words that God has inspired, my soul is renewed again.

As a Purposeful Woman,  we can choose to be intentional with our words online, with our acquaintances, friends, coworkers, but most importantly our families. We can ask God for wisdom in finding the right words that will unite rather than creating chasms.

As a Purposeful Wife, we can choose to let our words bring life to our husband’s tired heart after a long day of work. Ask God to allow your words to be a soothing balm for his tired and weary soul.

As a Purposeful Mom, we can choose to use words that build our children up and solidify the value we place on them. Beyond our four wall there will be words a plenty vying for the opportunity to whittle our children’s souls down. Our words need to reinforce to them that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

There are people all around us who are in need of healing. Our nation is in need of healing. May God use the words we speak (and post) to bring healing to the hurting.

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The Most Common Lie Women Believe About Their Purpose

For Such a Time as This…” How many of us have found ourselves uplifted and encouraged time and again after hearing this inspiring phrase shared during a retelling of Esther from the Bible?

The Biblical account of Esther is an epic and momentous story in Israel’s history; a true “Cinderella-like” narrative of an orphan girl who wins the ultimate beauty pageant. Chosen from among many women to be the wife of King Artaxerxes, she was to become the queen of the Persian Empire.

While Esther lives in the lap of luxury, things begin to look more like a nightmare than a dream for her people, the Jews. Hmmm… Maybe this “rags to riches” story wasn’t simply all about giving an “underdog” a “happy ending” after all. Maybe God had a bigger plan for her life than merely elevating her status in order to make her more comfortable in life….

To read the rest of my post, please click HERE! It will take you to my friend Tehila’s blog at Women Abiding, where I was given the privilege of writing a guest post on her inspiring blog…

And while you’re there reading the rest of the article, be sure to check out the rest of Tehila’s blog! This sweet and uplifting woman of God lives in New Zealand! She’s an amazing wife and mom, who loves the Lord, her family, and truly has a heart for encouraging women. You’ll thoroughly enjoy what she has to share. 

Tehila is offering the following FREE printable on this page to go with my post on Women Abiding.

Download

 

Am I Beautiful?

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Ok, tell me I’m wrong… But do you ever feel as a woman like there’s just something more you need to be or have different in your life before you can officially say you “feel” beautiful?

Oh…. Maybe it’s your hair, your skin’s condition, your weight, your teeth, your nose…

…Achievements you want to attain…

…Your personality that you’d love to change…

Perhaps you want to be more outgoing or, on the other hand, more refined…

Regardless of what it is, though…

There’s just that one other thing you need in your life that will finally give you permission to check off that last little box on your mental “I-finally-feel-beautiful” checklist.

Oh, trust me, I have my little boxes as well.

And while I am working on those areas, and honestly believe we all should work on being the best version of ourselves we can be…

Somehow I’m absolutely convinced that checking that last little box off isn’t going to be what ultimately convinces me.

You want to know how I know…?

…Because I’ve checked off that box once before… and for some odd reason… I still didn’t feel as though it was good enough to be checked.

Furthermore…even though I checked off that last little box, another box appeared for something else making me still feel inferior.

Yes, we all should have goals in life.

We all should do the things possible to make ourselves feel outwardly beautiful. There are definitely things we can all do to improve ourselves, and we should do our best to work on them. Goals are definitely important to our overall feelings of well-being.

But one thing that saddens me is that many women simply cannot give themselves permission to feel beautiful until they’ve reached the end of their goal….

And yet at the same time, I think somewhere deep inside we all long to feel beautiful and have someone to tell us we are… before we can be “fully” convinced for ourselves.

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In some sense I think that’s one reason why “selfies” have become such a popular phenomenon these days. (…And, no, I don’t claim to be an expert in “selfie” psychology.)

But somehow as I see multiple selfies within a short period of time, something inside of me says, “Women want to know they’re beautiful. They want confirmation that what they see in the mirror really is true and visible to others.”

They simply want affirmation.

How do I know this?

Um…Because just a few years ago that  was me too.

Don’t get me wrong. I do take selfies every now and then (many of which never get seen), but I definitely have stopped posting them as frequently.

Why?

Well, for a few reasons…

For one, God helped me understand the deeper reason “why” I was needing to share my selfies so much.

He began to heal my heart of my need to “request” that affirmation from others.

And more importantly, He also began to show me that my purpose in life is not to highlight myself but Him.

Have I arrived at a place where I can officially say I don’t ever desire that affirmation from outside sources?

Well….. Unfortunately, I have not. I’m still a work in progress. But, trust me, God’s working on me….

Of course there are definitely still days when I want someone to tell me I’m beautiful because (even though I may think so at times myself) I think it’s still in us to just want that extra affirmation from the outside. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves and get confirmation about it, right?

But you know what…?

Even that affirmation is never enough. We all still end up needing more………..the next day, the next week, and on and on it goes.

Why is it that the compliments just don’t stick or keep us in a place where we remain fully convinced that we are?

Maybe, it’s because our definition of beauty is flawed…

If you want to know the real scoop about beauty…..

Outward beauty is temporary… Look at the godly great grandmother in her 80’s who’s lived a full life but now looks nothing like her younger self. But here she is… smiling in her hospital bed surrounded by three generations of family members. They treasure her dearly for the joy she’s been in life and will always be grateful for the godly legacy she’s leaving behind.

Beauty isn’t the mark of our value… Look at the military servicemen and women whose faces are almost unrecognizable after surviving a hit by explosives. They risk their own lives to preserve our freedom and safety….and return to short-lived recognition followed by lifelong injuries and scars.

Beauty is “vain”… A focus on beauty so often makes life all about “us”. And thank God our eyes are situated inside of our sculls rather than outside our heads because, in this day and age- if it were the other way around- I’m sure many of us would stare at ourselves all day to see how good we looked.

But most importantly… Something beauty was never meant to be… is the main focus of our lives or the measure of our success in life.

It was never meant to define us, to show us who we are as women, or to show us how much we are worth.

It was never meant to be the deciding factor as to whether we were worth being loved or not.

It was never meant for any of that.

And ultimately… Beauty fades…

But you know what… Beauty can be a really AWESOME word when redefined.

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And if it’s true that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, God’s eyes have a really awesome perspective of what true beauty really is…. And it’s not limited by our weight, the straightness of our teeth or whether we’re having a good or bad hair day… Not any of that.

According to God, true beauty springs out of who we are on the inside… This is what truly gives us permission to feel beautiful…

And, you know… Another cool thing…. Is that the beauty of those inner qualities never fades like outward “beauty” so often does.

Our Heavenly Father’s definition of beauty is not limited by the numbers on the scale, how we look in the mirror, or how others have treated us.

…Because true beauty is not determined by those surface standards but by a different and more purposeful set of qualities.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.”                                         Proverbs 31:30-31 NASB

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 NLT

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

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Finding Stability in an Unpredictable World

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On June 24, 2016,  the New York Stock Exchange dropped a full 600 points by the day’s end as a result of the shocking news that the UK decided to leave the European Union.

A vast amount of money lost in just one day due to a totally unforseen decision by Great Britain which the news media dubbed the “Brexit”.

People frantically made calls to their financial firms in hopes of protecting their investments… (I know because my husband works in the industry.)

The news these days is so often filled with bad news…

Terrible tragedies and shootings occurring with so many unsuspecting individuals losing their lives…

A family lost at sea…

A toddler losing his life at Disney…

Twists and turns abound…

Health issues… Relational issues… Natural disasters…

Life can seem so unpredictable at times.

The grief that people are experiencing these days can be so heartbreaking, as you watch the news and see what’s going on…

Oh…. You can bury your head in the sand and avoid the news stations, but believe me, I know from personal experience that the news will find it’s way to you one way or another…

And if you’re not careful, you can begin to get discouraged and even fearful as you go through life.

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If only Earth was a little more like Heaven… Right?

Oh, so many often like to think that this is it….that this is all there is…

…And oh how often we try to make Earth our “heaven”.

But you know what, it isn’t. This world is tainted by evil.

Yes, there is beauty in this world, and yes, there are beautiful and wonderful things to enjoy while we are here, but one thing this Earth is certainly not….is Heaven.

God created this world and everything in it and called it all “good”, but when people were given the choice to either follow God or their own desires…. They decided to listen to  a different voice and chose to follow their own desires.

…And that is very much a picture of what life is still like today. We think God is trying to keep us from something “good” just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, not realizing His directions are actually for our safety and benefit.

And so….We see evil in the world today… sickness, pain, natural disasters… things that are not “good” living right along side things that are.

Yes, we live in a tainted world…

But again, thank God this world is not Heaven…

When Jesus was on Earth He didn’t sugar coat the kind of world we live in or give us fanciful ideas that life would be easy. In fact, He clearly expressed that in this life we would have trouble. (See John 16:33)

And yet He further went on in that very same verse to encourage us that we could have peace in the midst of it and told us to “take heart” because He had overcome the world.

Yes, my friends, Jesus triumphed over evil at the cross, not only disarming the devil and sealing his ultimate defeat, but also in the process providing a way for us to have peace with God in this life as well as preparing a perfect dwelling place for us to be with Him for eternity.

With all of the shootings, terrible tragedies, personal losses, and disease in this world, it can be so easy to fear and lose heart for so many of us…and especially for those going through the grieving process of having been touched by the pain and trouble in this world.

No, tomorrow is not a guarantee for any one of us, although we prefer to imagine so…

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But the words of Jesus (in John chapter 14) serve as another great reminder.

And it is this…. The sure guarantee is that Jesus is preparing a place for those who have placed their trust in Him, and one day we will be with Him in that place where there is no more pain, death, sorrow, or heartache.

Jesus said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him….Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’” (John 14:1-4,6,27)

Yes, life can seem unpredictable at times. But when your hope is in Jesus and He is Your Rock, you can rest safely in the peace He gives, knowing every breath your breathe already comes from Him…and He can keep you until the day He is ready to bring you safely home to that perfect place He is preparing for those who have placed their faith in Him.

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