Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

We Need Each Other

I glanced down at the “Table Topics” card. “What are you thankful for?,” it said. I looked around the room at the receptive faces of the young women in front of me. “I’m thankful for you,” I said.

The high school and college-aged girls had taken time out of their busy lives to attend a Bible Study I was teaching. All around me, I saw hearts eager to learn God’s Word.  I knew the Lord was going to bless them because His Word is alive, and it transforms people (John 6:63, Hebrews 4:12, Romans 12:2).

I also looked around the room and saw the faces of two moms, who loved these young women deeply and wanted God’s best for them. They had contacted me about teaching the study in memory of my dear friend and prayer partner Phyllis Keels, who went to be with the Lord recently. Her passing was sudden and unexpected, but her legacy was deep and strong. She had a passion for teaching God’s Word, and she knew its value to those of all ages.

My heart swelled with the reality of how much we need each other in God’s family. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT). Something wonderful happens when God’s people get together. Our collective lives weave together and produce a beautiful tapestry of God’s grace and faithfulness.

We need each other’s age.

Titus 2:3-4, HCSB, instructs the older women “to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women.” Since they have had more life experiences, the older women have wisdom to impart to younger women. My friend Phyllis explained it once this way: “The current of the world is so strong, and it is very difficult for young people to swim against it. We have to come alongside them and help them to swim. It’s like the bigger salmon coming alongside the smaller salmon and helping them to swim upstream. Phyllis lived out this concept. She came alongside and mentored several young women with her wisdom, including my daughters.

Look around you. No matter what your age is, most likely, there is someone younger than you in your circle of influence. Ask the Lord whom you could mentor, advise, and encourage according to His Word. What has the Lord taught you through His Word and your life experiences? These are treasures you can share (Psalm 119:72; Job 23:12).

Also, in the same way that you have people around you who are younger than you, there are individuals in your life who are older than you. Ask the Lord who might be a good mentor for you. Ask Him to provide someone who knows and loves Him, who is farther down the road of life, and who can bless you with their wisdom and experience.

We need each other’s experience.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NASB).

God comforts us in our trials so we can comfort others. About 6 years ago, my friend Phyllis lost her only daughter in a tragic automobile accident. Julie was 28 years old when she died. The loss of her beloved daughter tore a great hole in Phyllis’ heart, and the only way she did not bleed out in grief was by allowing the Lord to comfort and carry her day by day. Over time, I watched as the Lord brought other grieving parents into Phyllis’ life. She lovingly comforted them because “the God of all comfort” continued to comfort her and gave her His Word to share with those who mourn.

I have parented an autistic son for 24 years and counting. The Lord has loved, taught, and empowered me to do that. He comforts me and my son in the struggles of living with autism. A few years ago, He led us to write a book about His faithfulness, entitled, “Optimism for Autism.” He continues to bring others who are impacted by autism into our path, and He allows us to offer them hope and comfort in His name.

Our testimonies about the Lord’s goodness and wisdom become valid when we have already walked through, or are walking through, something someone else is experiencing. In church, we encounter an entire “family” of people with diverse experiences and wisdom. We can help one another as we walk similar paths.

We need each other’s compassion and encouragement.

My friend Phyllis and her sister Suzanne passed within two months of one another. Their poor family was left in the wake of great loss and grief. In the midst of it all, I watched as our church family surrounded them with love and kindness. Countless meals arrived for nearly 3 months, many individuals came to the home and provided respite care for the family, cards came in the mail, people called on the phone, individuals came to the house to visit and help, and lots of folks prayed.

I was overwhelmed as I watched the love of Christ in action. Romans 12:15, NASB, says to “weep with those who weep,” and that’s what our church members are doing with this dear family.

“Jesus wept” at a family’s loss of a loved one (John 11:35, NASB). He felt compassion for others as He walked this earth (Matthew 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34). If Jesus is in us, then His compassion should be seen in our lives. “Christ in you, [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NASB). That word for glory is doxa, and it means to manifest, give an estimation of, and hence result in praise, honor, and glory. In other words, because Jesus is in us, His compassion can be seen through us, and when others experience it, then they praise Him.

We need each other’s compassion and encouragement. Those qualities help us to keep going on this rocky road of life. In fact, we are instructed to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’” (Hebrews 3:13, NASB).

I see this beautiful process taking place within Phyllis’ family. I see it evolving in our community Bible Study for young women. I see it all around me in Christ’s body, the church. It is a sacred practice instituted and led by the “Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

May we “walk in love” as He did (Ephesians 5:2, NASB), and may we continually appreciate the gift of one another.

Question: Who has been the “other” in your life, who has encouraged you in the Lord? Comment at the link below, so we can celebrate them with you.

 

John 6:63; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 10:25; Titus 2:3-4; Psalm 119:72; Job 23:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 12:15; John 11:35; Matthew 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 3:13; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2

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The Perfect Fit

Sydney and I in our Great Gatsby dresses

I tore open the bag and slipped out the royal blue dress with sequins, beading, and fringe. I was looking forward to wearing it to my daughter Sarah’s bridal shower. My sister Danielle and sister-in-law Jodi were planning a fun, Great-Gatsby-themed party for her in my hometown of Louisville, Ohio. I pulled the dress down over my head and looked in the mirror. Uh oh. The dress was way too tight on my stomach and hips. I can’t wear this dress, I thought, the fit is all wrong.

Well, maybe I can exchange it for a larger size, I decided. I looked for a return slip in the package and couldn’t find it. I scoured my emails for the notice about the dress. Nothing. I had thrown away the delivery box and couldn’t even find the name of the company that sent the dress. I guess I’ll just have to find another dress, I concluded. Then it hit me. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT).

So I prayed, “Lord, will you please provide a dress for me to wear? I would like something comfortable and modest and pretty. What would You like me to wear?”

I prayed that way because I didn’t want “finding a dress” to be a distraction during this happy time. I prayed that way because I know the Lord loves me and cares about me and interests Himself in even the little details of our lives. I prayed that way because I want to dress for Him. Little did I know that He was going to teach me some important lessons about “the perfect fit.” Here is what He showed me:

The Lord can do way beyond what we try to do for ourselves.

I wish I could say I dropped the issue after my prayer. In a sense, I did wait for God to answer, but in another sense, I tried to “help Him” provide an answer. I went to two different consignment stores, thinking, Maybe the dress God has for me is here. I even bought a low-priced dress from each store, but neither of them felt right when I wore them. I looked through my closet and found a plain, black dress that I could wear with some fancy jewelry. I even tried the blue dress on several times to see if it really was that bad (and it was). I drove up to Ohio with all four dresses in tow. I modeled all four of those dresses to my mom and Sarah, and we decided on the plain, black one. I could live with that, I thought, but it wasn’t the perfect fit. I knew it deep down.

The day before the shower, I got a call from my sister Danielle. “The dress I ordered for the party is too tight on me, and I’m not going to wear it. Would you like to try it?,” she said. “Sure, why not?,” I answered. We decided she would drop it off at my mom’s house, and I would swing by and try it on briefly before we drove to the party. I got ready in my plain, black dress and jewelry. “You look nice in that; I think that dress would be fine to wear,” my sister Jennifer said after I got ready at her house. But when we walked into my mom’s house and saw Danielle’s dress hanging on the china cabinet, Jennifer said, “Woah! You need to try on that dress!”

It was a beautiful, black, 1920s-style dress with black sequins and tiny multicolored beads that created lovely, intricate patterns all over the fabric. I went to another room to slip on the dress. When it slid over my head, it felt so comfortable. I liked the length and the style. I walked to the living room to look in a mirror there, and when I rounded the corner, my sister exclaimed, “That dress is beautiful on you, and it fits you perfectly! You have to wear that dress!” I looked in the mirror, and I knew God had provided the dress I was supposed to wear. We got in the car and drove to the bridal shower.

I learned from that experience that I should stop trying to “work things out” in my own strength. If I ask God to do something, He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB). He always has “the perfect fit” in answer to our prayers. He can do so much more than we can do ourselves, and His plans are always “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NASB). He knows what is best for us because He knows us far more intimately than we know ourselves (Psalm 139:1-4). He wants us to trust Him, knowing He desires to bless us abundantly (Jeremiah 29:11).

The Lord’s perfect fit sometimes involves someone else.

Before my sister Danielle offered her lovely dress to me, I had offered my blue dress to her daughter Sydney. When Sydney arrived in that dress, everyone at the party noticed. It fit her perfectly, and she looked stunning in it with her red hair and beautiful complexion. Lots of people at the party told her how beautiful she looked, and it opened the door for conversations between her and the guests. I watched as she radiated beauty while interacting with the people at the party. I’m not just talking about how she looked. The dress created an opportunity to engage with Sydney, and when people did, they could see she was beautiful inside and out. It’s a tough world for teenagers these days. Most teens I know want to feel valued, loved, and accepted. The blue dress opened some doors for Sydney to experience those feelings. It was meant for her. It was her “perfect fit.”

Philippians 2:3-4, NASB, says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In other words, sometimes, when life goes in an unexpected direction, it’s about someone else and not us. I rejoiced to see what God was doing for Sydney because my blue dress didn’t fit me. I’m going to ask God to help me see the bigger picture in all my disappointments, to show me someone He wants to bless through that situation. He always see the bigger picture, and I can trust Him when I don’t.

The Lord’s perfect fit is for our good and His glory.

I waited a while between the time of my prayer and God’s answer. He taught me so much during that time about waiting on Him. Psalm 27:14, NASB, says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” That word wait carries the idea of waiting confidently and expectantly. In other words, we put our confidence and expectation in God. We know He loves, protects, and provides for us, and we choose to hold onto Him and look to Him for our “perfect fit” in every situation. He is so faithful (Lamentations 3:23b).

When the Lord reveals Himself to us in that way, we catch a glimpse of His glory. He also tells us in His Word that He wants us to display His glory too (Isaiah 43:7, Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18). He has given us gifts and has determined places He wants us to use those gifts in order to reveal Himself to others (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Any fruit that comes from those gifts is a direct result of our relationship with Jesus (John 15:5). All that we are and all that we have are meant to bring glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

Finding the right dress for a party isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of life. But it was a big deal to me . . . because of what the Lord taught me through it. He reaches out to us in the big and small events of life because He wants an intimate relationship with each of us, because He loves us. In fact, He provided the perfect fit to our sin problem as evidence of His great love: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB). Anyone can receive God’s free gift of salvation by believing in what Jesus did and by receiving Him as Lord and Savior. God’s solution is one size fits all: “ But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12, NASB). Won’t you embrace His perfect fit today?

Question: How has the Lord provided a perfect fit in your life? Comment at the link below.

1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 3:20; Romans 12:2; Psalm 139:1-4; Jeremiah 29:11; Philippians 2:3-4; Psalm 27:14; Lamentations 3:23b; Isaiah 43:7, Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; John 15:5; Matthew 5:16; John 3:16; 1:12

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When Things Don’t Make Sense

Two months ago, I wrote about my dear friend and prayer partner Phyllis, who died unexpectedly (possibly from a brain aneurysm). A few days ago, her sister Suzanne went home to be with Jesus after a 3-year battle with cancer. The sisters were 58 and 46, respectively. Their mother Patsy lost her two daughters in two months. In addition to those tragedies, Patsy lost her dear husband Jesse to cancer, and her granddaughter Julie (Phyllis’ daughter) in a car accident when Julie was only 28 years old. Life can be so hard, and sometimes, it doesn’t make sense. In thinking and praying about these recent events, I just have to go back to what I know:

God loves us.

We are told in Psalm 100:5, NASB, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” The Hebrew word for lovingkindness is checed, which means covenant love, steadfast and merciful. In other words, the Lord made a covenant of love with us, and He will never break it. He cares about us deeply, so much so that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB). He allowed His own Son, whom He loved, to suffer horribly and to pay the price for our sins (death) in our place. When we admit our sins, believe in what Jesus did, and accept Him into our hearts to rule there, we are granted forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him.

Whatever we are experiencing needs to held up against the backdrop of the cross. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? . . . For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:32, 38-39, NASB).

Years ago, I asked Phyllis to share with our Sunday School class how she was able to survive the loss of her precious daughter. She stood in front of all of us with tears in her eyes and said, “I know Jesus loves me.” We can stand on that same truth in whatever we are facing.

God is infinitely wise.

I have been visiting Patsy the past several weeks. Her faith blesses me greatly and encourages me to keep walking with Jesus. On one of our visits, she told me, “I don’t understand why any of this is happening, and God has not answered my prayers the way I wanted . . . but He is God. He does not have to explain Himself to me. I will still praise Him.”

Over the years of walking with her Savior, Patsy has discovered, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (Romans 11:33, NLT). He is so wise and so mighty (Job 9:4, NLT). We have to decide on our own if we will trust His wisdom and His sovereignty like Patsy did, even though we might not understand everything this side of heaven.

God is trustworthy.

If God loves us, and if He is infinitely wise and powerful, then we can trust Him with the details of our lives. Psalm 100:5, NASB, says it this way: “His faithfulness [is] to all generations.” That word faithfulness means loyalty, steadfastness, steadiness. In others words, we can trust and rely on Him, even when the circumstances around us don’t make sense. We can look away from those things and look at Him. He never changes (James 1:17).

Many of us are grieving the recent deaths of Phyllis and Suzanne, especially their precious family. Yet, in the midst of our grief, we have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We have hope because God loves us, because He is infinitely wise, and because He is trustworthy.

“This I recall to mind; therefore, I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:21-26, NASB).

That’s what we can remember when things don’t make sense.

Question: How can we pray for you about circumstances in your life that don’t make sense? Comment at the link below.

 

Psalm 100:5; John 3:16; Romans 8:32, 38-39; 11:33; Job 9:4; James 1:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Lamentations 3:21-26

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The Stronger Hand

My husband David and I were walking down the hallway recently, and he was holding my hand. His right hand was holding my left hand. Isaiah 41:10 came to mind:

“‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” (NASB)

In the Bible, the right hand is the place of power and authority, of STRENGTH. The Lord impressed on me to look up the biblical meaning of the left hand, so I researched it on the Internet . . . and the meaning amazed me. The left hand is the hand of WEAKNESS.

What the Lord taught me that morning is that our weakness is held in the grip of His strength. His power and authority cover our weakness. They are greater than our frailties, and they overcome them.

In fact, the Lord purposefully works in the midst of our weakness for His own special reasons. Here are just a few of them:

Our weakness draws us closer to the Lord

Psalm 23:1 tells us, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (NASB). The shepherd takes care of the sheep. We are meant to depend on our Shepherd, to follow Him because we know His voice (John 10:4). If we felt we could do everything for ourselves, we would not see our need for the Lord, and that would be a very dangerous and vulnerable way to live.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11, NIV). We come to know the Lord better and to love Him more as He meets us in our weakness and cares and provides for us there.

Our weakness enables us to experience His power and glory

When the Lord shows up in our weakness and does what only He can do, we catch a glimpse of His power and glory. We recognize His strength at work in, through, and around us, and it brings us to our knees before Him.

He is mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1). Wherever you might be feeling weak right now is the exact place He can show up and show off. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (NASB). In other words, the Holy Spirit (the treasure) inside of us (the earthen, broken vessels) moves in and through us to show the surpassing greatness of the power of God. His power is surpassing, much greater than our own, and it truly displays itself in our weakness. It’s like having a cracked pot and putting a light inside of it. The light shines through the broken places. That’s what God does in our lives. Our weakness helps us realize that true power resides in God and not in us, and we can count on His power to move and triumph in our lives.

Our weakness attracts others to Him

Others, too, can see our weakness and brokenness and what God does through them. Ephesians 3:20 tells us, He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” so . . . “to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (NASB). That word glory carries the idea of showing or displaying; in other words, God reveals Himself through our weaknesses, and that results in praise, honor, and glory for Him.

When others see the love and power of God operating in our lives, they want to know Him too. That’s why Paul said, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB).

May you choose today to slip your hand into the powerful hand of the Lord. He wants to use His hand to draw you close, display His power in your life, and allow others to see Him in and through you. He always offers us the stronger hand.

Question: Where/how do you need to experience the Lord’s stronger hand? Comment below, and I will pray for you

Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:1; John 10:4; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 63:1; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 3:20; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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