Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

Choosing to Trust God in the Hard Places

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A friend of mine underwent major surgery last week to remove two large masses, one on her liver and one on her ovary. Her surgery lasted 10 hours, involved two surgical teams, and entailed major trauma, physically and emotionally.

My friend and I attend Bible Study and Sunday School together. The week before her surgery, the members of our Bible Study group gathered around and prayed over her. I sensed amazing strength and peace as the members of our group asked the Lord to take care of our friend and her family. However, what affected me the most occurred at the end of our prayers, when my friend prayed.

“Lord, I surrender. I am choosing to trust You in this. I believe You. I know You, and I am counting on You to bring good out of this, like You promise you will. Thank you for the people who are praying for me and my family. I ask you to bless them, and I thank you for blessing and taking care of me and my family. I am looking forward to celebrating the glory You will receive in this,” she said.

I was stunned. Her humble spirit and genuine faith will be ingrained in my memory forever. She was facing fear and uncertainty; yet, she chose to look to the Lord in the midst of it. She modeled to all of us how we can choose to trust God in the hard places.

Run to the Lord

My friend went straight to the Lord and continued to seek Him after the doctors told her she needed surgery. She ran to Him every time fear and discouragement tried to sink their jagged claws into her. She kept seeking Him when tests and scans revealed extended problems and when prayers for healing were not answered the way everyone hoped they would be. “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16, NASB).” My friend did that over and over, and the Lord welcomed and helped her every time.

Surrender

“I surrender,” my friend prayed. She let go and allowed God to move forward with His activity and His plans, even though they did not line up with her desires. It takes courage and humility to relinquish control and let God be God. The Lord desires to lead us and direct our lives. His plan is to work everything together for good (Romans 8:28), but we have to allow Him to do that.

Choose to trust the Lord

Trust is a choice, not a feeling. We decide to believe what God says over our emotions. We choose to put our faith in Him and not in our feelings. He wants us to know Him, believe Him, and understand He is God (Isaiah 43:10). Genuine faith is forged in the fires of adversity. We decide there what we will believe. My friend chose to believe God, and she encouraged the rest of us to do the same.

Stay close to the Lord in prayer

I felt blessed to be given a glimpse into my friend’s prayer life. I could tell she talked with the Lord often and listened for His voice. Difficult times give us the opportunity to seek the Lord even more. The night before her surgery, I woke up many times during the night and prayed for my friend. I prayed for her continuously during the day of her operation. The members of our Bible study group and Sunday School class told me they did the same. We are continuing to pray for my friend. We have such a gift and blessing in being able to give our burdens to the Lord.

Stop, look, and listen

My friend spoke of counting on the Lord to bring good out of her situation and looking forward to celebrating the glory He would receive from it. She expected that, and she looked and listened for it. Along the way, she shared with us how the Lord was showing up, and she loved recounting those moments. She believes the scripture that says, For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose (Philippians 2:13, NIV).” Sometimes, we get to see and hear what He is doing, and other times, we have to trust that He keeps His Word about doing so.

Persevere

The surgery went well, and my friend is now experiencing the long road (about 6 weeks) of recovery, attempting to manage the pain, rest, and regain strength and mobility. I know the Lord will carry her and her family through this season as well. All of them have set such a beautiful example of walking with the Lord through struggles. They are teaching us how the testing of our faith produces endurance, and how learning to keep going with God makes us more complete in Him (James 1:3-4). My friend gave—and continues to give—the gift of that lesson to those who are watching.

Question: What has the Lord taught you about choosing to trust Him in the hard places? Comment at the link below.

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My Mother is Wonder Woman!

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A few years ago, my mother fell down a flight of steps while vacationing with friends and broke her back. She had to wear a body cast and remain relatively immobile for 12 weeks. With a positive attitude and great determination, she ordered a hospital bed and camped out in her living room while she recovered.

My siblings, their families, and I worked out a schedule to help Mom. I could not wait to travel north to see and do whatever I could for her. Soon, I went up to Ohio from my home in North Carolina to help take care of her for a week. After a few days, as I watched her amazing attitude and behavior during her recovery, I said, “Mom, you are Wonder Woman!” She looked at me and said, “I want a costume!” with a wink.

Well, I took up the challenge, thinking she would get a great chuckle out of my showing up with the leotard, indestructible bracelets, Lasso of Truth, and weaponized tiara. Coming up short after visiting several costume stores, I decided to pull my sister Danielle into the scheme. A gifted artist, Danielle dove into the project, researching the Wonder Woman look and creating a top-of-the-line costume that could be taped right on top of Mom’s body cast.

Mom was thrilled. You can see her striking a Wonder Woman pose in the photo accompanying this blog. (She let go of her walker a few seconds so we could snap the picture.) Her Wonder Woman stance will remain ingrained in my memory forever.

What amazed me during that time was that my mother did not change one bit. She refused to allow adversity to affect her in a negative way. She struck wonder in everyone who interacted with her, and she didn’t do it with any superhero equipment. She went through her latest challenges the same way she always went through life.

Thankful

My mother has always counted her blessings. While I was caring for her during her recovery, she mentioned to me, “I am so glad I fell down the steps instead of one of my other friends. They all have pretty serious health issues, and it would have been much harder on them.” Throughout her healing, she noticed all the many acts of kindness done for her, and she enjoyed writing thank you cards to those who blessed her. As each get well card arrived at her home, she instructed her caregivers to tape those cards on the privacy screen that separated her hospital bed from the rest of the living room. She treasured and commented on those cards many times.

My mother chose to dwell on her blessings instead of on her pain, disappointments, or limitations. She glowed with hope and joy. Philippians 2:14-15, NLT, says, “ Do everything without complaining and arguing,  so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” People will notice when we choose not to complain and become bitter when life takes an unexpected turn. I noticed with my mom. Others did, too. When we choose to be thankful, instead of choosing to complain, we experience joy instead of sorrow, and peace instead of despair.

Prayerful

My mom has always prayed. She prays daily for each one of her children and every member of their families (about 50 people each day), plus others. She rallies the family to pray whenever something happens. She prays for anyone she sees in need. I know she prayed while her back healed and when she had to have emergency gallbladder surgery in the midst of her recovery. Her connection with the Lord produced incredible strength and endurance. I know her prayers drew her even closer to Him. We are told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NASB). My mom showed me what happens when we do. We can choose to go to the Lord and talk with and listen to Him in whatever we are facing. He will bless us for that.

Kind

One of my mom’s favorite sayings is, “It only takes a moment to be kind.” She knows how to encourage and help people when they need it. Even though people came to help her during her recovery, she often blessed them in return with kind words. The great outpouring of meals, cleaning, and caregiving served as a testimony to the many times my mom had reached out and helped others. In addition, once she was out of her body cast, she jumped right back into helping at the area nursing homes, providing food to the needy through a local food bank, and assisting individuals with their financial needs through her service at the Salvation Army.

The Bible tells us, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you. Bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3, NASB). My mother wears kindness, and she looks beautiful in it. We will too when we choose to wear it.

Purposeful

My mother looks around her every day for ways she can bless others. She looks for what God might be doing in her circumstances. She tries to cooperate with Him in building people up instead of tearing them down. She allows the Lord to use her to extend grace to others. While she rested in hospital bed during her long recovery, I encouraged her to write about her life. “We would love to have a keepsake like that,” I urged her. To my great delight, she wrote a book entitled, “Jane’s Journey.” She filled it with stories from her life, and toward the end, she wrote a chapter about each one of her children and how much she treasured every one of them.

She gave the book to every member of the family at Christmas that year. I cherish that book, and so do my children. My mom looked for an opportunity to bless others, even when her body was broken, hurting, and healing. She looked for what the Lord might want her to do during that time, and she did it. She blessed her family and reminded them of their heritage. Great are the Lord’s purposes, and mighty are His deeds (Jeremiah 32:19, NIV). We are blessed when we look for what He might be doing and join Him in it.

I am grateful I got to see my mom as Wonder Woman during her recovery. Today, she is back on her feet, bustling around Louisville, Ohio, and continuing to bless those who cross her path. By the way, I also think my mom is Wonder Woman because in a 10-year span, she gave birth to eight children and lovingly reared each one of us with my Dad. Today, I see her qualities of being thankful, prayerful, kind, and purposeful in my siblings as well. I know she must feel proud to see the next generation of superheroes running around. Time for my sister to make more costumes!

Question: Who has displayed superhero qualities to you?  Comment at the link below.

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Being Still and Knowing He is God

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Have you ever been through something, rejoicing that it was over, only to have it (or something like it) happen again? You whisper, “I’m so glad that’s over!” and then, it’s back.

In October, I was sick for two weeks with a bad cold. After that, my back went out for two weeks. I rejoiced when I got better, thinking I was done with winter sicknesses and pains. Then, I got sick with another cold almost three weeks ago. I only started to feel my strength returning a few days ago.

What is all that about? Why does the Lord allow things to happen to us, and then they happen again? Annoying things. Major things. Things we don’t understand.

Throughout this last bout with illness, I kept running into the same Bible verse: “Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10, NIV).” The Amplified version of the Bible says, “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God.”

Let be and be still.

The New American Standard Bible says, “Cease striving.” In other words, we need to quit trying to control things and run the universe. That is God’s job. He allows certain things for His purposes. Sometimes, He allows us to know those purposes, and other times, He does not. Our calling is to trust Him, and He blesses us when we do. We must choose to let Him be God, and we must choose to be still, knowing He takes care of everything, especially us and those we love.

To be honest, I got frustrated when I realized I was sick again. It was right after Christmas, and I had let lots of things go with the holiday activities. I needed to clean my house, take down decorations, pay bills, and do laundry. In addition, my to-do list had grown a mile long. All my plans got uprooted. I kept praying to get better quickly, and I didn’t.

I know many people pray for bigger things than overcoming a cold, and they wait on God to move. A sweet lady in my Sunday School class shared with tears this past Sunday that the Lord had moved to answer two specific prayers of hers after years of praying. We are challenged to trust the Lord and His timing when we pray.

Even though we can’t always see what He is doing, we can choose to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), and we can choose to believe what Jesus said: “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working (John 5:17, NASB).” We can thank Him for what He’s doing, even though we might not see it at the moment.

We do not have to figure everything out because the Lord already has.

Eventually, the Lord helped me realize these truths, and I relaxed with Him in the midst of being sick. I chose to trust Him in helping me meet my various responsibilities, and I gave Him my to-do list. Best of all, I cherished the time to rest in Him and to talk with Him. I asked Him to help me focus on His presence after I got off the couch and back into activities again.

Know (recognize and understand) He is God.

In those places where we don’t understand everything, we can rest in what we do recognize and understand—that He is God. We can remember who He is, what He says, and those things He promises to those who love Him. I have found He often slows me down so I can remember and think about Him. He is life in abundance. He is God . . . in the big and small moments of life. We can choose to look to and celebrate Him as He gives us countless opportunities to know Him better and love Him more.

Question: How is the Lord calling you to be still and know He is God? Comment at the link below.

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The Ebb and Flow of Relationships

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My son headed back to college on Sunday after a much-needed Christmas break. The entire day involved a flurry of activity in our home as he packed and packaged his necessary belongings for spring semester.

Later that evening, as I was heading to bed, I noticed the glow of lights in the basement, so I walked down the steps to turn them off. As soon as I turned the corner at the bottom of the steps, it hit me—silence. His bedroom door remained “closed for the season.” The sounds of his laughter while he watched some amusing video on You Tube no longer filled the air. Neither did the noises of him furiously clicking away on his video game controller. His smile no longer greeted me when I walked into his living space. Tears welled up in my eyes. I missed him.

I never cease to be surprised when these moments hit me. They happened with each one of my children as they went to college, moved from home, came for visits, and marched forward with their lives. I still see the same emotional tenderness in my husband’s parents, as they fight back tears each time we have to say goodbye after visiting one another. They live several states away from all three of their children. I figure if they continue to have these feelings around age 80, then I probably will be stuck with the same emotions for life.

I am glad. It makes me thank the Lord for the precious relationships He has brought into my life. Children, spouses, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends create beautiful scenery in the landscape of our lives. These individuals each represent a significant gift from the Lord. To think of the Lord of the universe crafting and creating each unique person on earth remains mind-boggling. His creativity and purpose shine forth in each life. We can remain grateful to know the intricate people He has allowed to be part of our lives.

People ebb.

Yet, we have to hold each relationship with open hands. We have to remind ourselves of His purposes when relationships change and people move in different directions. I know He has a purpose for each of my children. They belong to Him, not me. The Lord gave me arms to hold them—and to release them at the proper time. By releasing, I mean allowing them to move forward into being used by God for His purposes.  I have seen over the years how that means letting God get hold of my children through new and different experiences, where they can seek Him, know Him better, and learn to trust Him. He teaches them through these growth opportunities how much He loves and takes care of them. He grows their faith.

Last semester presented some especially difficult challenges for my son. I could not “fix” things like I used to when he was younger. Yet, in the midst of it all, Patrick learned how to communicate better with others, to make decisions in overwhelming circumstances, and, most importantly, to choose to trust the Lord with each new obstacle. I had to choose to trust Him too.

People flow.

While some people in our lives seem to be moving outward and onward like the ebbing tide as it returns to the sea, the Lord oversees the rise and advance of new relationships, as He allows fresh individuals to flow into our lives. He intends to bless us and others as we open our arms to the other special people He sends our way. At the start of this new year, we can thank Him for the new relationships He established in 2013, and we can choose to embrace the new lives He wants to interconnect with ours this year.

The Lord remains constant.

The Lord controls the tides . . . in nature, and in our relationships. Yet, even as human connections ebb and flow, one relationship never changes. The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and He is always with us (Matthew 28:20). Because we can count on Him, we remain secure in the ebb and flow of life.

Question:  What advice would you give for embracing the ebb and flow of life? Comment at the link below.

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Spiritual Resolutions

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A new year has dawned. What resolutions will you make this year? The door stands wide open to fresh possibilities. Today serves as a great time to stop, reflect, and resolve to make positive changes in our lives.

Recent studies reveal 40 to 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and those individuals who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t (http://proactivechange.com/resolutions/statistics.htm).

Those same studies indicate the majority of resolutions center around weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, and money management / debt reduction.

While all these areas are important and can improve our lives, the Lord places a greater emphasis on resolving to grow our relationship with Him. “‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me’ (Isaiah 43:10, NASB).”

The Lord works all around us so that we might know, believe, and understand Him more. Let’s resolve in this new year to cooperate with Him in strengthening our relationship with Him.

Knowing God

We can know God through His Word, the Bible. Through it, He reveals His character, nature, and ways. Resolve this year to spend time in God’s Word. Establish a routine – a specific time and place – to do that each day, and stick with it. Several members of our church committed in 2013 to read through the entire Bible in one year. You can find several Bibles that allow you to do so and present a format to accomplish this goal. You also can find free Bible reading plans online.

Believing God

We can resolve in 2014 to believe God. This one is a choice, not a feeling. Whatever challenges and struggles we face, we can choose to believe what God says about them, about Himself, and about us. We can choose to look at each difficulty as an opportunity to believe God, to grow our faith.

Here’s how we can do that:

Saying, “I trust You, Lord,” as we face our challenges.

Looking up scriptures about our particular struggles and God’s promises, and praying about and meditating on His Word. For example: “When I am afraid, I will trust my God (Psalm 56:3),” and “I know the plans You have for me, Lord, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).”

Memorizing God’s Word. You can do this by writing out scriptures on index cards and speaking out the scriptures three times each day, until you know them by heart. Carry the cards with you, reading and speaking them out loud as you can. (I have even put a rubber band around the sun visor in my car and stuck cards with Bible verses under it. Every time I had to wait in traffic, I would pull down the visor and read the scriptures.)

Praying (talking with God and listening to Him) about everything in our lives.

Thanking God continuously (and working thanksgiving habits into our daily lives). I know one Christian speaker and teacher who says he slips out of bed onto his knees each morning and prays, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).”

Choosing to be content, knowing God loves us and oversees everything concerning us.

Understanding God

In addition to reading and studying God’s Word, we also can understand Him more through praise and worship music. Try listening to this type of music. It usually contains a wealth of truth to help you understand God better.

Try to associate more with God’s people. I attend a weekly ladies Bible study group. Each one of those ladies represents special attributes of the Lord. I see Him in their love, gentleness, faithfulness, and compassion. I hear Him in their words of encouragement, and I watch Him moving through their kind acts. The Lord tells us He created us for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), and the word glory means, “to manifest or show.” The Lord has woven into other believers different aspects of Himself. When we hang around other Christians, we get a better understanding of who God is.

Making a Commitment

Ask the Lord to show you what actions you could take in 2014 to know Him better, believe Him more, and understand Him further. He says to “discipline yourself for purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB).” Let’s commit to making and implementing some spiritual resolutions in 2014.

Question: What spiritual resolution will you make for 2014? Comment at the link below.

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