Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Suffering is Important

If I never felt physical pain, I would be okay with that. Who likes stubbing their toe or getting a hang nail? I always get a little angry when I hurt myself, but I keep it all in my head. For example, Once upon a time while running, I was trying to run along a beautiful lake but couldn't find a sidewalk. Well I finally found one and was too busy looking at the water to see a rope coming from someone's lawn down to the water. There I lay on the ground, wanting to throw in the towel on my running career. Angry at myself for falling and thinking why am I out here?! Lord just take me home now!  I brushed off the dirt and finished my 6 mile run. During my marathon training, I endured a lot of physical sufferings. I learned what not to eat before and during a run- just trust me that's a hard lesson to learn. I endured heat, humidity, rain, snow (okay no snow), throwing up, falling down, tired muscles, tired everything, but through it all, I endured. Why? Because I wanted to be made strong for my marathon. I ran my marathon and finished very well - 4 hours and 4 minutes and 18 seconds. It was through my sufferings that I was made stronger and I accomplished something I never thought I could do with the Lord. 
Me right after finishing my marathon and ready to fall over!
See those people behind me? I beat them. hehee
They want to fall over too.

Most people, myself included, don’t like the idea of pain or tragedy. But what if that pain or tragedy is what God intended to mold us into something bigger than we could ever imagine? And through our sufferings came an outpour of blessings and a closeness to God like never before. What if many came to know Christ through your sufferings? If given the choice, would you accept God’s perfect will or choose to not suffer? 

I have to admit that’s a pretty sobering thought. If given the choice, though the road may be long, treacherous, and lonely, I hope I would choose God’s bigger plan for my life. Sure the thought of blessings sounds great, but what if those blessings don’t come for many years? Would you still be faithful? The Bible says in Galatians 6:9,
 “ And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”  

Let’s take a look at a biblical example: One of the most popular- Job

My sweet nephew Gabriel who is now leaping on the streets of gold.
One by one his servants, who nearly escaped death each time, came to give Job bad news. First the Sabeans came and took his oxen and donkeys, then they killed all his servants (except the one that got away), then fire falls from heaven and burns up his sheep and more servants (except the one that got away), then the Chaldeans came took his camels and killed more servants, (except the one that got away), and then the worst news, a great wind came and blew over his son’s house with all his children and remaining servants in it ,except the one that got away. Satan had to make sure Job got the messages of what was going on so he spared one servant from each tragedy- very kind of him. What are the odds of all these things happening in one day to one man?! 

What was the first thing Job did after receiving the most devastating news of his life? He fell down to the ground and worshipped God. He worshipped God. What he said next is one of my favorite verses, the verse God gave me when we had our miscarriage. 
“And he said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. the LORD gave and the LoRD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

The Bible says, Job went through his testings and sinned not. What was the end result? Job 42:12 
“So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters...After this lived Job 140 years and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations.” 
I can’t imagine losing a child let alone all of my children (speaking of my future children that don’t currently exist). God brought Job down to nothing, to mold him into something way bigger than himself. So others could look at Job’s life and see not Job but God shining through him. To have a hope in something way bigger than Job, a hope in Christ. 

I’ve never been through the tragedy of losing someone very close to me, and I hope I never do. But if the Lord wills for that to happen in my life, may I be like Job. I think of many that I know who have been through the pain of losing a loved one, even a child. May I encourage you, to hang in there and trust the Lord. I believe God has plans bigger than you can imagine and He will be faithful to pour out His blessings. 

Does that mean the road has been or will be easy? Not at all. Even though Job had ten more children, I don’t think for a minute that that replaced those children who died. But sometimes we have to endure pain to be molded and used for God in great ways. We must let go of our own desires and dreams and accept God’s perfect plan even if it hurts. God can not lie. And He promises to be faithful. All we must do is our part of being faithful in return. 

Think of the countless people who have heard the story of Job and have had new hope given to them because of it. Do you think Job would say his sufferings were worth it? 

I know a man named Jesus who also went through sufferings on the cross to redeem a world full of sinners like me. Was his sufferings worth it? Yes. Then are the sufferings that you may have to endure or are enduring, worth it for the cause of Christ? That’s something only you can answer. 

For those of you I know who have been through a whirl wind these last couple of years, my heart truly goes out to you. And I pray for you often. I thank the Lord for your testimony through it all. You give me hope if one day the Lord will’s for me to go through a trial like your own. Thank you for being faithful. 

Blessed be the name of the Lord! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Can Guys and Girls Be Just Friends?

This question was asked on Facebook and I was surprised at the answers written. Many seemed to think yes, they can be just friends. But if they were married then their relationship would have to change. So I wanted to check the scripture and see what God's Word has to say on the subject.
James and I "Just Friends" 

Let's start with the basics. The definition of a friend from Websters Dictionary.

1. One attached to another by affection or esteem; an acquaintance 
2. One that is not hostile; a favored companion
3. A Quaker  

Now let's look at the Bible's definition of a friend:

1. John 15:13 - Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
           A friend will lay down his life for his friends. Jesus was the ultimate example of a true friend. 

2. Proverbs 27:17 - Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
          A friend will help grow you towards righteousness, towards Christ. 

3. Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
          A friend will love always. Unconditional Love

I'm going to do this in two parts: 1. The purpose of a friend and friendship 2. And the results/purpose of guy/girl relationships

What is the purpose of a friendship? Well as defined earlier it should draw you closer to the Lord. Friendship should be pure. I looked up Bible verses on friendship and couldn't find any that were between a male and female. The only relationships I found of those of opposite genders were those that resulted in marriage. The purpose of their "friendship" or relationship was marriage. One of the greatest examples of friendship in the Bible, aside from Jesus Christ, was that between David and Jonathan. But that's two men so that doesn't help our discussion.  And I couldn't find any scripture where Jesus had close female friends either...

According to Scientific American, two careful studies of opposite-sex-friendships "suggest that men and women have vastly different views of what it means to be ‘just friends’—and that these differing views have the potential to lead to trouble."(1) 

"Although women seem to be genuine in their belief that opposite-sex friendships are platonic, men seem unable to turn off their desire for something more.”(1)

If a secular study shows that it can be "trouble" should not we as Christians take a more careful approach in our friendships with the opposite genders? What is the purpose of pursuing male/female friendships? To help draw them towards Christ or towards the marriage altar? 

A Personal Perspective:
A good friend of mine once told me, "It is impossible for guys and girls to be just friends. Believe me."
I thought he was crazy. I was only in sixth of seventh grade at the time, but I thought, yeah right what does he know. But years of failed "friendships" that usually turned into relationships, I realized he was right. Guys and girls can't be just friends. Sooner or later one or both would have feelings of affection or attraction toward the other.

Why did I think he was wrong? Because I wanted him to be wrong. If I looked at myself honestly, I would have to admit that I enjoyed the attention a guy would give me. It made me feel secure and special. Why? Because someone found worth in me. I would in turn invest a part of my heart and emotions into that guy friend. I would trust them and we shared a closeness that then turned into an attraction towards one another. I should have filled that desire of a relationship with a closer walk with God.

"Can guys and girls be just friends?" I think of the things friends do together. Hang out, talk on the phone, text, communicate- they get to know each other and care for one another. Friends are a special gift from the Lord and should be chosen wisely. We use the term "friend" so loosely these days. But the kind of "friend" we are discussing is that of a close friend. Not a casual friend that you hang out with on occasion  in groups. The question here is can a guy and girl hang out alone together, text, call, develop a closeness without it ever turning into something more.

In Conclusion:

If you're single, Can you be just friends with a guy one on one?

I personally believe, no, not without it developing into more. And even if it never does turn into a relationship, that doesn't mean there isn't or wasn't an attraction from one or both parties at one time or another. Would it not be better to invest in good solid friendships that can last long past your marriage, meaning with someone of the same gender? Trust me coming from someone who has been there and done that, it just doesn't work. Why not save your heart and emotions completely and fully for your future spouse? You future spouse deserves all of you. Wouldn't you want the same from them? Build towards a life with no regrets. Go to the marriage altar not just physically pure but emotionally pure.

If I could do it all over again, I would surround myself with good godly female friendships. Which is exactly what I did the year I met my husband. If you invest in a lot of relationships of the opposite gender, you are making a pattern for yourself that will be hard to break when you're married. I wish James was the only man I had shared my feelings with and dated. I wish he was my first true male friend. And James wishes the same for me.

For those of us who are married, Can guys and girls be just friends? I don't personally believe so. Like I said earlier, my idea of a friendship is hanging out one on one and texting/calling one another. So absolutely not! That is setting you and your marriage up for trouble. Why would we risk our marriage just because we want to be friends with a person of the opposite gender.

Does this mean we aren't friendly? Not at all. There are lots of male friends I have in relationship with my husband. Would I specifically call them if I had a question, no, I would call his wife. James and I made it clear before we were married, that we would take extra caution in this area. We would never be alone with someone of the opposite gender, never ride in a car alone, etc. Why? Because we value our marriage. We don't want Satan to have an open window for temptation. Does this mean I don't trust my husband or he doesn't trust me? Not at all. It's called boundaries. And we choose to set high boundaries when it comes to our marriage.

Please don't misunderstand me. You can still be friendly towards those of the opposite gender but hanging out one on one, I believe is wrong. You can still pray for one another and be a scriptural friend. You can even hang out in mixed groups if you like. You may have others of the opposite gender that you consider a friend, which is great. As long as it's within the boundaries of a biblical friend, you will be fine.

So what about you? What boundaries do you set for yourself and your marriage? I'm not a scholar on the subject but this is what I believe on the matter. I understand there are cases that this may not apply and you could be the exception. It's between you and the Lord ultimately. Please, don't find any offense in what the Lord has convicted me about and shown me from the scripture. If this offends you, then I apologize. My hope is that this post will shed light on the matter and maybe help a someone take a deeper look at their motives to their friendships. As iron sharpenth iron so a man sharpeneth the counsel of his friend. May we all be better friends one to another.