When Trials Become Temptations

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I cry at weddings. I always have and I think I always will. I tear up even when it is someone I don’t know very well. Weddings are such a beautiful reminder of how God has redeemed the church to be His bride. Weddings remind me of the joy that is brought through marriage.

But there was a season of my life where I wept through weddings, not because I was so happy for the couple, but because I was sad for myself.

I so desperately wanted to get married, but my boyfriend thought that it was best to wait. It was a frustrating time for me, but a really incredible time of learning.

Recently, I went through something similar while desiring to have a baby. (Do you see what the Lord is working on in my life?! Yeah, me too!) It was a trial, but I allowed it to become a temptation. Trials become temptations when we yield to their tyranny.

There are some obvious symptoms of this becoming a problem in your heart. Twice over I have gone through this (and I have a feeling it won’t be the last knowing my own stubbornness). I pray that these heart checks and corrections will help you navigate through this in your own heart.

Heart Check

  • Does this “good desire” consume my thoughts?
  • Am I willing to sin to get what I want?
  • Am I jealous if others have it, but I don’t?
  • Do I blame others or my circumstances for my reactions?
  • Am I bitter against God for withholding something?

Heart Corrections

  • Ask the Lord to help you take every thought captive. 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • Repent of the sin that you have committed to get what you want. Acts 3:19
  • Choose to have joy in how the Lord has blessed others. Romans 12:15
  • Recognize that sinful reactions come from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45
  • Thank the Lord for allowing trials so that you can see your own sin and for the opportunity to grow to be like Him. James 1:2-4

I have a quote written in my Bible that says, “Good things become bad things when they keep us from the best thing.” This quote is a poignant reminder for me that good desires can easily become sinful. They become sinful when we allow them to control us and motivate us. I pray that instead we would be controlled by the Spirit and motivated by a desire to honor God.


When Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is Hard

Mothers day

I found this post that I wrote a couple weeks ago right before Mother’s Day…

A little tiny baby hat came in the mail today. It is part of a set that I ordered for my son (Wow, my son! I can’t believe I can write that!) with a matching swaddle. I keep touching that little beanie – how I had ached to have a little one to put tiny clothes on.

That hat is so cute that I wanted to take a picture of it. I wanted to post it on Instagram because it was just about the most precious thing I had ever seen.

But something held me back. I did not post it because I know that there are a lot of aching hearts out there. Aching souls that long for a baby or long for a spouse or to have a body that is whole and healthy.

A few months ago, I would not have wanted to see the picture. It would have just been a sharp reminder of something I didn’t have.

I am lying here tonight listening to the rain and remembering those hard nights. Nights where I had to come face to face with my pain, but more than that I had to deal with my sin.

There were many painful nights where I had to brutally come to grips with the fact that my satisfaction was not in Christ. I was trying to fill a hole in my heart with something other than my most precious Savior.

You get to a place where you do not know what to do. You have no other place to turn but to Christ.

And let me tell you, He is worth it. Knowing Christ just a bit more is worth any suffering that we might experience.

He alone is worthy of our worship. Worthy of our full-attention. Worthy of our complete joy & satisfaction.

Believer, if you are suffering, I urge you to turn to Christ. Even if you do not feel like it, turn to Him.

I promise He is worth it.


Moving Beyond “What Stuck Out to You?”

Small Groups

I have had the privilege of leading a small group of some sorts for the past 9 years. I started as a sophomore in high school leading a small group of 1st-3rd grade girls. I laugh about how every single week I asked those students what it meant to be born again. And every single week they truly told me how it meant you had to get back in your mom’s stomach.

Let’s just say I had a lot to learn about leading a small group!

Over the years, I have learned a lot from trial and error and a lot from excellent small group leaders who have discipled me.

As a small group leader, it is easy to fall back on the question, “What stuck out to you?” We often start out with this as a way to ease into the conversation.  In my experience, this either leads to blank stares (especially from young people) or a conversation that is not very focused.

While this is by no means a bad question, it may not be the most helpful question. As a small group leader, you want to move beyond this question and lead a focused conversation.

Pick Out the Principles and the Point

As a small group leader, when I am listening to the lesson, I am trying to understand the principles and/or the main point of the lesson. If I do not understand them, then it is very hard for me to lead a small group. As I listen, I jot down the points and questions that I can ask my girls. After the lesson, I will ask the girls questions to see if they got the point of the lessons. I ask questions like:

  • What was the main point of the lesson?
  • Can you summarize the lesson in a sentence or two for me?
  • Did you understand the lesson? If not, what didn’t you understand?

Question for Comprehension

Next, I want to ask my girls questions that help me understand whether or not they understood the lesson. I try to ask questions that cannot be answered with just a “yes” or “no.” I ask questions like:

  • What did the teacher mean when he said…?
  • Can you give me an example of…?
  • Why do you think God says…?

Encourage the Implications 

After we have talked about the main points and found out how much was comprehended, I try to help my small group understand what the implications of the lesson are in the their life. I used to tell my 1st-3rd graders it does not matter how much you know about math if you never use it. You have to be able to go to the grocery store and use your knowledge. Similarly, believers need to put arms and legs on their theology and use it in everyday life. We talk through things in small group like:

  • How do I [insert principle] in my daily life?
  • What prevents me from doing it?
  • What Scripture will help me to do it?

My prayer is that these few questions would help you to move beyond the “what stuck out to you” question. It is important that you as a small group leader pay attention to the principles, think through questions beforehand, and help your small group to know how to live out their theology.

Additional Reading:

10 Essential Tips for Handling Group Dynamics – This is so practical for small group leaders!

The Art of Leading Well – Great principles on leading a small group.


I Want to Be Married. And I Want to Be a Missionary.

Single Missionary

One of the blessings of the internet is being able to connect with other believers all over the world. I am so honored to be in touch with believers all over the world through my blog.

Not long ago, I received an email from a young lady who lives really far away from me, but is asking a lot of the same questions that I struggled through. Recently, I have come in contact with a lot of young women who have been asking the questions. So I wanted to share with you a portion of our correspondence (with her permission), in hopes that it might help those of you who are thinking through the same things.

She writes:

I have a question regarding the role of young women in the mission field. My desire is to reach the nations with the gospel… I view all [my] education as  what might someday bridge me to another nation to serve the Lord there. I am single and have a strong desire to have a family of my own someday. My question is, how should I reconcile this desire for marriage with my desire to be used in global missions? I have heard people say that it is often more effective that families serve together on the mission field than for a young woman to serve alone. I also thought about making the most of short-term opportunities to test that desire for long-term missions, but it seems that the Lord has closed this door for me for a particularly long season. During this time, however, He has burdened me to pray for and support missionaries more than I have ever before, giving me many opportunities to support my friends on short-term trips. Am I too young or immature to serve the Lord overseas? Should I trust that this desire is God-given and continue to explore opportunities?”

I responded: 

Your question is actually one that I have struggled through myself. Before I met my husband, I was planning on going to the mission field. I was wrestling through the same concerns. Hopefully I can address some of your questions with what I worked through.

First of all, there is the question of being a single missionary. In college, I posed this same question to a missionary friend. She wisely suggested that if I was contemplating serving as a single missionary that I join a family on the mission field. In her experience, there are certain complications that come along with being a single missionary woman (such as safety, propriety, and just even teaching the Gospel to the church). It is beneficial to serve with a family so that you can be under the protection and provision of a male leader under appropriate circumstances. I thought that this was great advice!

But I also think that if you were teaching at a school overseas, that would be a great option for a single missionary woman! There are the same elements of safety and provision that come with being part of an establishment like that. I know there are always schools looking for teachers overseas!

As a single woman, you are in a unique position to serve the Lord. You have more free time and more ability to focus on the things of the Lord. Being married with a little one on the way, I can certainly attest to that! This time of singleness is a gift from the Lord as much as it is a gift from the Lord to be married and to have children. Be a good steward of this gift while you have it!

When I was dating my husband, I had to work through my desire to go on the mission field and my desire to be married. My husband-to-be wanted to be a pastor and stay in the United States. I had to wrestle through what was truly the Lord’s calling on my life. Among the things that I learned during that time, I learned that my heart for missions could be used in other ways than just going overseas. I interned at an organization that had orphanages in Thailand and I saw how I could have a global impact in my own backyard. I have also seen how the Lord has used my love for missions to help my husband have a more global vision. My husband has a deep love for the local church and my passion is overseas missions. We have learned that it is really two sides of the same coin. Everyone needs the Gospel, regardless of where you are. But our different passions have influenced one another positively! But the Lord may bring you a husband with the same desires as you!

The Lord definitely puts desires our hearts for a reason! But He does not always use them in the ways that we would think. I would say wholeheartedly to keep pursuing those desires! The Lord never wastes desires or experiences.

——————-

It was such a blessing to be able to connect with this sweet lady! If you have more questions about choosing a spouse, you might want to read The Best Dating Advice I Ever Received.


Life is Good. And I am Scared.

Our life is in boxes because we are moving to a darling two-bedroom apartment. We half-way through a healthy pregnancy. And the Lord has provided above and beyond what we need. We are so very blessed.

Our life is in boxes because we are moving to a darling two-bedroom apartment. We half-way through a healthy pregnancy. And the Lord has provided above and beyond what we need. We are so very blessed.

Life is good right now. And if I am honest, I am scared. I know that believers are promised trials, so it scares me that there is some huge trial looming around the corner.

There is a certain kind of comfort in being in a trial because you know what you are dealing with. You focus on handling the trial and battling the sin that accompanies it. You have specific prayers and read certain passages of Scripture.

But what about during the good times?  I have spent so much time focusing on certain aspects of my heart that after a trial I feel a bit adrift. What do I do? What do I study? Does it mean that something worse is about to come?

There are three things that I have been learning about the times between trials:

Homework

It is tempting when life is good to just skate by in your spiritual life. But truthfully, you should be working harder. Easier times are the training ground for when you do need to go to battle. Soldiers do not prepare for the battle once they are already in it. They spend months and years preparing for it. Similarly, believers must do their heavenly homework to prepare for times of heartache. Spend time reading, studying, and praying so that you have battle tactics to draw upon when life is difficult.

Heart Check

This time of blessing from the Lord has made me do a heart check. Are there areas of sin in my life that I am not realizing are there? What areas of sin do I particularly struggle in that I need to practice working through now? Just because life is “easier,” does not mean that my sin has gone away. I want to dig out the roots of sin that are buried deep in my heart, so that when I am in a trial they cannot bloom.

Humble Gratitude

I have begun to see the depths of my sin. I know that I do not deserve the Lord’s blessing. I deserve His wrath and punishment. And yet, not only have I been redeemed by the blood of Christ, I get to experience His bountiful kindness. This leaves me with a humble gratitude that the Lord would display His blessing to me.

I am grateful to the Lord for this time. I am learning to focus on heart preparation, to find the hidden areas of sin in my life, and to feel humble gratitude for the Lord’s great kindness. But most of all, I am learning not to fear what is to come. If there is one thing that I have learned about trials, it is that sometimes that is the way that the Lord delivers His greatest blessings.