Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Reaching Out to the Hurting

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“Will you please read this book to me?”

I looked up to see a cute little girl with big brown eyes and cropped brown hair staring directly at me.

“Well, sure,” I said, as she climbed up on the bench beside me, where I was waiting for my prescription to be filled at the Food Lion Pharmacy.

She handed me the book, which was entitled, “Prayers from Children to Jesus.”

“Is this your book?” I asked.

“No. It was just sitting here on the bench,” she said.

Where’s her mother? I thought, looking around. I noticed a lady at the prescription drop off window who kept looking over at us.

Okay. Her mother knows where she is, I thought, as I relaxed and opened the book.

I began to read the sweet prayers inside, each one written from a child’s perspective and covering a different aspect of a child’s relationship with Jesus. There were prayers about enjoying nature, being afraid, facing sadness and disappointment, choosing to thank Him and praise Him, and delighting in who He is.

The little girl ran her finger along under each word as I read it. Every prayer ended with “Amen,” and after a while, she recognized the pattern of the letters and started to pronounce “Amen” at the end of each prayer.

My heart melted at the little one beside me. I bet this is a little like how it feels to have a grandchild, I thought.

I paused.

“You know, you can talk to Jesus any time you want to . . . when you’re happy, or afraid, or sad, or thankful . . . any time,” I said.

She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and nodded.

We kept reading.

Within minutes, her mother had joined us at the bench.

“It’s time to go,” she said.

“I just have to tell you, I love you daughter. She is adorable,” I said.

Just then, the little girl hopped off the bench, swung around to look at me, and said, “Jesus loves you!”

I smiled and said, “Why, thank you! He loves you, too.”

“Tell her where your daddy is,” the mother said.

The little girl paused as she thought.

“My daddy drowned this summer,” she said.

My breath caught in my chest.

“Yes, but tell her where your daddy is,” the mother prompted.

“My daddy is in heaven,” the little cherub announced.

“Yes, he gets to celebrate Christmas with Jesus this year,” the mother said.

She took her daughter’s hand and smiled as they left the store.

Stunned, I looked at the lady sitting beside me.

“I have been really sad because my grandmother died this year, and I am really missing her,” she said. “Things like that make me realize that there are other people who have it worse than I do. I can’t image losing a parent like that at such a young age.”

“But that doesn’t diminish your sadness, either,” I said. “It’s okay to be sad when you miss a loved one. It’s especially hard at the holidays when you remember the time you spent together. I will be praying for you . . . and that sweet little girl.”

Sadness invaded my heart for the women (of all ages) I had met at the bench. I started talking with the Lord about them right away.

The holidays.

For most of us, they bring celebrations full of laughter and togetherness. But there are those among us who find the holidays especially painful, as they remember losses, disappointments, and hurts from the past, or personal struggles in the present.

For years, I didn’t notice the hurting ones around me. I just went about my holiday business oblivious to that aspect of the season. It’s strange, but the older you get, the more you become aware of the suffering of others.

Jesus cares about those who are hurting.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is “near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18, NASB),” and that He came “to comfort those who mourn (Isaiah 61:2, NASB).” In fact, He came so that one day, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4, NASB).”

If He cares so much about the hurting people around us, then we should, too. I have asked Him to help me this season to be especially aware of hurting people around me, and to show me ways I can encourage them, with words and actions.

Taking time to be kind can change lives.

One of my mother’s favorite sayings is, “It only takes a moment to be kind.” She takes hold of kindness-displaying opportunities wherever she goes. What a blessing!

A smile, a phone call, a note, a gift, a visit. All these gestures can encourage someone who is hurting. So can deliberate actions that meet a specific need.

I read on another blog recently how one lady and her family save various containers during the year and decorate them for Christmas. They then get together and bake all kinds of Christmas goodies to fill the containers. On Christmas Eve, they go visit the people the Lord has put on their hearts—folks who have experienced loss, sickness, and other hurts during the past year. They show up at their homes on Christmas Eve and deliver the goodies, along with a lot of love.

Ask the Lord what you can do to display His care, concern, and kindness during this holiday season, and after.

Jesus loves you!

As that little girl at the pharmacy declared, “Jesus loves you!” May you experience Jesus’ great love for you this season, and may you tell the hurting ones around you, “Jesus loves you, too!”

Question:  How have others ministered to you when you were hurting? Share at the Comment link below.

 

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‘Tis the Season . . . to be Overwhelmed

 

 

For the past several weeks, one of my children has been coping with some challenges and trying to make some major decisions. I have stayed beside this particular child, encouraging, coaching, and praying for them. Some of the issues have required less sleep on my part. I am tired.

A few days ago, as I listened to my radio while driving down the road, an animated radio announcer declared that Christmas is next week. For a moment, panic set in as I realized I have not met the usual demands of the season: Few Christmas gifts have been bought, let alone wrapped and placed under the tree. Boxes of Christmas decorations still sit in my living room where I placed them two weeks ago. My Christmas letter is unwritten and unmailed. My house needs cleaned, and my bills need paid.

‘Tis the season . . . to be overwhelmed.

In the midst of it all, I ran to the foot of the cross in my mind, and I cried out, Help me, Lord!

That’s when the whole picture changed. The cross transformed into a manger, with the baby Jesus in it. I gazed in wonder at the precious gift given by God to bless every one of us. I became overwhelmed for an entirely different reason—Emmanuel, God with us.

Jesus is with us, no matter what we are facing.

I know many people feel overwhelmed during this holiday season, either by the increased activities, or feelings of loss, loneliness, and regret. The holidays can bring up powerful emotions as we remember past seasons and changes since then.

Embrace joy and peace.

We can still experience joy and peace in the midst of this or any season. We can always find those things in Jesus. He is joy, and He is peace.

Now, when the overwhelming feelings come, I am choosing to thank Jesus for His presence in my life. I look for Him and listen for His voice as I go about my day. He continues to teach me that life does not have to be perfect to have joy and peace with Him. I can experience joy and peace as I focus on Him in the midst of whatever is happening.

Try these practical tools.

Here are some ways to stay connected:

Simply say His name, Jesus.

Carry around index cards with special Bible verses on them. (His Word reveals Who He is and what He says, according to Psalm 138:2.)

Play and sing along with praise and worship music.

Read the Bible. (Biblegateway.com has the Bible online. You can even search to find scriptures containing key words related to your struggles or His provision.)

Sit outside or take a walk in nature, observing the beauty of God’s creation.

Thank the Lord for the blessings in your life (and name them).

Speak out loud all the things you know about God from the Bible.

Tell the Lord how you are feeling, and ask Him for what you need.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted.

I was amazed to discover several years ago that the word “anxious” in the Bible actually means “to be called away by means of distraction.” All these overwhelming things in the world are trying to call us away from the Lord and to distract us from gazing on the baby in the manger, our wondrous Lord Jesus. We can refuse to let that happen. We can redirect our minds to Jesus.

Be overwhelmed!

Let’s all commit to being overwhelmed this season . . . by Jesus, and not the busyness. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He is right there with us as we wrap the gifts, tie the bows, decorate our homes, visit the relatives, attend the parties, and make the food. Thanks to the gift in the manger, He is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). How overwhelming!

Question:  How have you learned to stay connected to Jesus? Share at the Comment link below.

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The Lord Can Steer Us Through Difficult Relationships

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“You need to stop!” I fussed at my daughter. Out of my reach in the back seat, she was aggravating her three siblings and causing an uproar as we drove down the road. Since I could not stop the van, I had to resort to verbal warnings and threats. I felt the tension rising inside of me as well as behind me.

When we finally arrived home, three of my children raced inside the house, grateful to escape their tormenter. I followed them to make sure they were settled, and to collect myself. The offending child remained in the van.

Lord, you know I want to kill my child right now! Please show me what to do, I prayed. Well, You know I won’t kill her, but I sure would like to give her a scolding. I rattled off my planned speech in my head.

Give her a hug.

Sensing the words in my heart, I stopped short.

Give her a hug? Lord, that’s the last thing I feel like doing!

I felt it again. Give her a hug.

Ugh! Okay! But You are going to have to help me with this!

I mustered up every ounce of my will, opened the back door, and walked over to the van. My daughter was still sitting in the back seat with her arms crossed.

I didn’t say a word but slid open the door, pulled myself onto the seat beside her, and wrapped my arms around her tiny frame.

Suddenly, I felt this trembling within my arms as my daughter burst into tears. She proceeded to tell me about her horrible, no good, very bad day.

Sympathy and compassion replaced my anger. Love and encouragement flowed from my lips instead of criticism and correction.

The Lord knew! He always does.

Even though that episode took place many years ago, I remember it often. It always reminds me to seek the Lord about my relationships with others, especially those interactions that cause me pain and discomfort.

Only the Lord can see the heart.

Too often, I am tempted to judge someone when I don’t know and can’t see their heart. I interpret their actions in light of my life experiences and attribute motives to them that are often wrong and unfair. Only God sees straight into a person’s heart. He alone knows why they speak and act the way they do. After my experience with my daughter, He has reminded me countless times to pray, Lord, help me to see them like You see them.

I have learned it is wrong for me to attribute motives to someone else, to decide in my heart why they are doing what they are doing. It is like having a trial and convicting someone without allowing them to voice their case.

Only the Lord knows the best course of action for difficult relationships.

The scriptures tell us, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NASB). I was joking about wanting to “kill” my daughter after that difficult car ride, but afterwards, I realized I could have wounded her heart, damaged her spirit, or murdered her hope if I had launched into her with my planned tirade.

I am glad I asked the Lord what to do in that situation, and listened to what He said. I don’t always do that. Even when I don’t follow His leading, He remains faithful to show me what to do in the aftermath. He never stops loving, leading, and teaching me.

Only the Lord can empower us to extend grace.

It is not about me. I have to keep reminding myself of that truth when I find myself in difficult relationship issues. When others say hurtful words or act harshly, often their behaviors have more to do with issues in their life than issues in mine. (I am talking about uncharacteristic behaviors, not habitual patterns of abuse, which are another matter entirely.) When someone acts uncharacteristically harsh toward me, I ask the Holy Spirit to help me not to take it personally. Often, He prompts me to stop and ask, “What’s wrong, and how can I help?”

That’s grace. People don’t expect it when they’re behaving badly. It’s a powerful force, the same force evident in God sending His only Son to die on the cross for us, when we were behaving badly in our sin. The Lord knew what was wrong, and He knew how to help. The “divine hug” He gave us through Jesus guarantees a place in heaven to all who believe.

The Lord gives us His power to share His grace with others. Ask Him today to empower  and lead you in extending His grace in your difficult relationships.

Question: What has the Lord taught you in dealing with difficult relationships? Share at the Comment link below.

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We are Supposed to Give Hand-Me-Downs

Cinderella

While I was retrieving an item from my closet this week, my daughter Sarah noticed something on an upper shelf. She found Cinderella, resplendently dressed in her finest, complete with a dignified coachman and four magnificent white horses.

“That’s beautiful!” she said.

Immediately, I remembered uttering the same words about 40 years ago, when I admired the very same Cinderella piece as it graced the top of my Grandma Rebillot’s piano. As soon as my grandmother realized how much I loved the ceramic, she lifted it off its place on the piano, placed it in my hands, and said, “I am handing this down to you. It is yours now.” Shock and joy flooded my heart as I clutched the elegant work of art to my chest.

Cinderella and her entourage have been with me ever since. They saw me through those tumultuous middle school years, high school, my first love, college, a series of jobs, my wedding, and the births of my four children. They moved with me from city to city, state to state, and apartment to home. Wherever I travelled along life’s journey, they went with me, accompanied by the glowing memories of a grandmother who loved, nurtured, and encouraged me at every stage of my life.

This past week, I had the blessing and privilege of passing my Cinderella along to Sarah. After all, she is named after the very grandmother who gave me Cinderella in the first place. Grandma’s first name was Helen, and that is Sarah’s middle name. Helen means “light,” which is exactly what these two women have been—and are—to me and so many others. Light bearers, carrying the light of Jesus into the world.  Sarah also means “Princess” . . . so again, Cinderella should be with her.

Beyond the beautiful piece of art, my grandmother handed down to me many other magnificent gifts . . . not material, but eternal. She went to be with Jesus in 1982, but her influence on my life and the lives of my growing-up family members remains to this day. That’s how it is supposed to be. Each generation is called to help successive generations grow and thrive in their relationship with Jesus. The Lord cares about what we hand down to future generations, whether we are dealing with our own children or simply those younger than us. Here are some of the things we can actively seek to make part of the next generation’s inheritance:

Faith

The disciple Paul said to Timothy, “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5, NASB). I heard once that “Faith isn’t taught. It’s caught.” My grandmother taught me a lot about faith as I watched how she lived her life. She relied on the Lord and received strength from Him. After she died, it was not a surprise to find a letter she had written for us, encouraging her family to “stay in the faith.”

We can point the next generation to Jesus and encourage them to cling to Him and to ask Him for help as they face the trials of life. We can remind them to thank the Lord for their many blessings, and we can speak of who God is and what He says in His Word, which can fuel their faith for the journey ahead. Most importantly, we can choose to trust Jesus ourselves.

Hope

Biblically, hope means “a confident expectation.”  Every day, my grandmother met me and my seven brothers and sisters as we got off the school bus. She cooked meals, did laundry, and cleaned our house. We could expect her to keep her word and her promises to us.  She stood by us with tenderness and commitment and helped my devoted parents, who worked seven jobs between them in order to provide for all of us.

Younger ones need to know of the great hope found in the Lord . . . that they can confidently expect Him to do what He says He will do, to be who He says He is, to keep His promises, and to act on their behalf. We can remind the next generation about that, and we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us model those traits for Jesus’ sake.

Love

“We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NASB). My grandmother was so aware and so full of the love of God that it just spilled over onto everyone around her. We knew she loved us because it filled her words and her actions, empowering them to touch our hearts in countless ways. She did much to care for us, but every act of service was ministered in love and kindness.

Grandma loved with the definition of love from the Bible: “unconditional love” (it was not based on what we did or didn’t do), “unrelenting love” (she never removed her love from us), and “a determined goodwill that sought another’s best interests.” She selflessly chose over and over to do what was best for us.

That’s how Jesus loves us. He simply chooses to love. He doesn’t base His love on our performance. He never removes His love from us. He went to the cross for our sake, at great sacrifice to Himself. He is love and always acts lovingly toward us. We can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us model that kind of love and to remind the younger ones that Jesus’ love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8, NASB).

 I am eternally grateful for all of my grandmother’s hand-me-downs. I see each one of them in my beloved mother, and I pray the Lord will allow them to take root in me so that I can give hand-me-downs to the next generation. May you find new opportunities to share some hand-me-downs this week!

Question: Who has given you some of these hand-me-downs? Share at the Comment link below.

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