Susan Jane King

Thriving with Jesus in life's ongoing challenges

The Tight Squeeze

I caught my breath as the measuring tape cinched around my waist.

She’s pulling it awfully tight, I thought.

Oh well, I reassured myself, I’m going to lose some weight anyway. It will be okay.

I was getting measured to order a dress that I planned to wear to my daughter Sarah’s wedding in about 4 months.

Fast forward to a little less than 3 months later (which was last week). The dress arrived, and I went to try it on. My daughter Katie, who went with me, helped me zip it up.

“I can barely breathe,” I told her. “It feels super tight in my waist.”

That’s it! I thought. Time to get serious about shedding these extra pounds!

Honestly, those “extra pounds” had been with me for quite a while, hanging out around my midsection. I knew that was an unhealthy place to carry extra weight. I felt convicted to do something about it several times, but I kept brushing it off. Maybe later, I kept telling myself.

Then came the ill-fitting dress. God used it to finally get my attention. I think God allows us to experience the tight squeeze in our lives for several reasons:

God uses the tight squeeze to shape us.

The Lord wants us to experience abundant life right here and now (John 10:10), but He needs our cooperation in that process. He teaches us the best way to live, for our own good, in His Word (Deut. 10:13). When we head off in another direction than what He recommends, He often allows us to encounter a tight spot to try to get us back on track. I have encountered that scenario many times in my life, and I am grateful for it. It shows how much God loves me. He loves me too much to let me do damage to myself without trying to get my attention and direct me into His best for me.

 

As far as the tight dress goes, the Bible says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20, NASB). I have known for months that my “temple” was getting run down. I had put on extra weight. I wasn’t eating right or exercising. The Lord had been gently nudging me to do something about it.

I asked the Lord to help show me how to eat better and exercise in a way that would be good for me with some of my physical limitations, and He did. I am asking Him to help me be consistent with these things, and He is helping me. (I sure would appreciate your prayers too, because this is an area where I struggle.) I’m glad the dress was too tight. It caught my attention and reminded me of what I knew all along: I need to commit to being healthier.

Yet, this whole idea goes way beyond physical health. God also concerns Himself with our personal character. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a tight place because He is shaping us spiritually. Romans 5:3-5, NASB says, “We also exult in our tribulations [a word that means pressure, distress], knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” We can become more of who God wants us to be in the tight places. This past Sunday at church, our pastor said, “So many times, we ask God to change our circumstances when God is using our circumstances to change us.”

Finally, the tight squeeze is a place where we can know God better. I never would have known He was the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) unless I had needed comforting. I never would have known His Word as complete and utter truth (Ps. 119:160) unless it had spoken to me in the midst of my struggles. His Word reflects and is backed up by everything He is (Ps. 138:2). The Lord intends so much good for us in the tight squeeze.

God uses the tight squeeze to help others.

Other times, the Lord uses the tight squeeze to move or shape us so that we might help others. When it is time for her babies to fly, the mother eagle starts putting sharp, pointed sticks and briars in the nest. Eventually, that nest becomes so uncomfortable that the babies leave and start flying on their own. When they fly, they mother eagle stays under them to make sure they don’t fall too far or get into trouble.

In the same way, the Lord often orchestrates circumstances to move us out of a comfortable place into His plan to help others. Things become uneasy in a certain situation or relationship, or something happens to make us change. I experienced this in 1987, two weeks before I was supposed to get married. My boss called me into his office, told me they were downsizing, and said they were letting me go. It was a tight spot for me and my fiancé David. He was in optometry school, and I was our sole source of income.

Well, I enjoyed the two extra weeks I received off work for wedding preparations, and I got on the job search as soon as I returned from our honeymoon. Within a few weeks, I landed a job with Merrill Publishing as a book editor. My experiences there helped me 27 years later when my son Patrick and I wrote our book, “Optimism for Autism.” We’ve received a lot of feedback about how our book is helping others in the struggles of life and encouraging them to trust the Lord in their challenges. In never would have known how that was going to happen when I took the book editing job, but God did.

Of course, it takes prayer and seeking God’s wisdom about whether He is working on our character or calling us to move. But He tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3, NASB), and “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8, NASB).

God uses the tight squeeze to reveal Himself in us.

Romans 8:28-29, NASB, says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” In other words, the good that God often is working out in our tight places is to make us more like Jesus, so He can be seen in us.

That’s why Philippians 2:12b-13, NASB, says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” It emphasizes to put forth effort to align yourself with whatever God is doing, because He has a plan, because He is working out something that is part of His wise and loving design. We’re told that His will is always “good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2,NASB).

So I’m glad the dress was a tight squeeze. It helped me remember God’s great faithfulness and ability to use the pressures in my life to do something big—something for me, others, or Himself (and often, a combination of the three). I wish I would have listened to His promptings about my health earlier, but I even learned something in that. He is infinitely patient and loving, a Faithful Father, who waits for me to trust and move according to His best intentions.

He says, “’ In the world you have tribulation [again, a word that means pressure, like a tight squeeze], but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John16:33, NASB).

So trust Him in the tight squeeze beloved. He has so much for you there.

Question:  How are you experiencing a “tight squeeze”, and how is God meeting you there? Comment at the link below.

 

John 10:10; Deut. 10:13; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 1:3; Ps. 119:160; 138:2; Jer. 33:3; Ps. 32:8; Rom. 8:28-29; Phil. 2:12b-13; Rom. 12:2; John 16:33

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Taking Thoughts Captive

The minute I saw Patrick’s face, I knew something was wrong.

“Mom, can I talk with you for a minute?” he said.

“Sure. How was your day?” I said.

“Terrible,” he said. “I blew the interview. I am never going to get the virtual hire!”

Patrick has been attending an 18-week computer programming immersion program. He meets with a group of students to learn and practice computer programming from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Every Monday, each student participates in an individual “interview”, so everyone can practice their interviewing skills. Either that day or the next, the instructors announce who was awarded the “virtual hire’, the person whom they would have hired if it were a true job interview. Patrick had been interviewing for 10 weeks, and he still had not been awarded the coveted designation.

“I’m never going to get it!” he repeated. “This is just like swimming in college. I’m never going to do well at anything. I’m never going to be good enough to get a job!”

Stunned, I started offering words of encouragement. They fell on deaf ears. Patrick continued to spiral down into the pit of despair, proclaiming all his perceived shortcomings.

“Lord, please help us here,” I prayed. “Help Patrick hear truth and be encouraged.”

At that moment, my husband David walked into the room. He listened to Patrick for a short time.

“Stop it!” David said.

Patrick interrupted his verbal deluge, shocked by his dad’s loud tone of voice.

“Patrick,” David said, “it’s okay to be disappointed, but you cannot allow yourself to go from disappointment to defeat. This is nothing more than stinkin’ thinkin’, and you have got to get control of it!”

“But it’s just like swimming in college,” Patrick said.

“What do you mean?” David said.

“When I got moved down from the gold (advanced) practice group to the white (intermediate) practice group,” Patrick said.

“That’s what you’re going to remember from your swimming experiences? How about winning the county and conference swim meets in two events? How about getting an athletic scholarship to swim in college? How about being chosen by all the student athletes to receive the Perseverance Award? How about your college swim coach saying you were one of the most inspirational swimmers he has ever coached? How about those things?” David said.

Patrick’s eyes cleared, and he looked at his dad.

“I have trouble controlling my thoughts sometimes,” Patrick said.

“Well, son, you have got to learn how to do it,” David said. What you think is what you are. You have to take control of your thoughts, or they can ruin your life. I’m going to give you an assignment. Every morning when you wake up, I want you to think of 3 things you’re thankful for and 2 positive things you are going to do that day. Okay?”

“Okay,” Patrick said.

We practiced together right then.

As Patrick was struggling and David was teaching, I thought about what God has to say about these sorts of experiences: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB).

Destroy speculations

When we speculate about something, we imagine all sorts of things, and those things are usually bad or involve worst-case scenarios. Yet, we don’t even know if those things are true. True to the old saying, our imaginations can run away with us, and if we aren’t careful, they can quickly have us running down the road of despair.

The day after he stressed out, Patrick called me from his coding school and announced, “I won the virtual hire!” Every negative thought that had knocked him flat on his back was absolutely untrue. Those imaginary scenarios had robbed him of joy for almost an entire day.

“I’m never going to be down on myself again,” he said.

While I knew that probably wasn’t true (we all struggle in many ways), I was grateful he had learned not to just run with his thoughts all the time.

When we don’t know if something is true or not, we need to go to Jesus, the One who is truth (John 1:14; 14:6). We can ask Him to reveal truth to us so that we can be set free from fear and discouragement (John 8:32). We can choose to trust Him with all the unanswered questions in life—to bring light into our darkness, and to dispel the lies of the enemy (John 8:44), who wants to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus wants us to have an abundant life (John 10:10), and He gave us the Holy Spirit to help us control our runaway imaginations (2 Timothy 1:7). We can choose every day to walk by the Spirit, and He can help us keep our imaginations under control.

Don’t make anything bigger than God

Whatever we face, God is so much greater. We are told He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, NASB).

“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19, NASB). In other words, there is nothing bigger, higher, or “loftier” than God.

When we give ourselves over to despair, we usually are making something bigger than God. And nothing is greater than Him.

“He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’’’ (Daniel 4:35, NASB).

He can handle everything we face. He is bigger than it. One of Patrick’s favorite Bible verses is, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NASB). Sometimes, we have to be reminded of that truth. We can choose to remember who God is in the midst of our struggles and His great faithfulness toward us (Lamentations 3:21-23).

Take every thought captive

Just because we think something doesn’t mean it’s true. We have to keep guard over the door to our minds and decide what thoughts we will allow to enter and dwell there.

Philippians 4:8, NASB, gives us God’s standards for our thought lives: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

That word dwell carries the idea of storing up as inventory. In other words, only allow thoughts that meet these standards to be stored in your mind. And those thoughts have to meet all of these qualifications. For example, something might be true, but it might not be lovely—out it goes! Don’t dwell on it.

Romans 12:2 says we are transformed (changed) by the renewing of our minds. The word renewing means renovating, like when you are updating your house—out with the old (stinkin’ thinkin’), and in with the new (God’s Word, His truth). God’s Word meets all the qualifications of Philippians 4:8, and every bit of it is truth (Psalm 119:160).

In fact, we are told His Word is a sword that will slice and dice the lies of the enemy and cause him to flee (Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4). The word for “word of God” in Ephesians 6:17 is rhema, and it means a specific word for a specific situation. God has a specific word (scripture) to address every situation of your life. That’s why we need to store it up in the storehouse of our minds so the Holy Spirit can bring it to our remembrance when we need it (John 14:26).

That way, we can do as it says in 2 Corinthians 10:5. We can destroy those imaginary and lofty things; we can forcefully take them down before they take us out. When we do so, according to the same verse, we are obeying Christ, who loves us and wants the very best for us. When we do so, we are allowing Him and His thinking to be seen in us (1 Corinthians 2:16). “For as he [any person] thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, NASB).

Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a rhema word to combat the imaginary and lofty things in your life. He will be faithful to help you. When He does, store up that truth in your mind, and bar the door to the lies of your enemy.

Patrick graciously allowed me to blog about his experience.

“Maybe it will help somebody. Maybe it will help me,” he said.

I smiled as I thought of how God was going to bless Patrick because his heart is receptive to His truth. He can do the same for you, His beloved.

Question: What is the Lord teaching you about taking thoughts captive? Comment at the link below.

 

2 Corinthians 10:5; John 1:14; 14:6; 8:32, 44; 10:10; 2 Timothy 1:7; Ephesians 3:20; Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:35; Philippians 4:13; Lamentations 3:21-23; Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; Psalm 119:160; Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4; John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Proverbs 23:7

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Step Out with God

My grandson is getting too heavy to carry. He recently turned two years old. Instead of carrying Him, I now let him walk beside me as he holds my hand. We walk together into new adventures all the time. He trusts me, so he willingly goes where I lead him. I like to think he knows how much I love him and realizes my only desire is to bless him. I have great joy doing anything with that little man, and I love it when he accepts my invitation and chooses to step out with me.

I think God must feel the same way about us. He loves us so deeply and delights over us so greatly that He cherishes those moments when we choose to walk with Him. He has great plans to bless us (Jeremiah 29:11), and it gives Him tremendous joy when we trust His heart and step out in faith (Joshua 1:5-6). Beyond that, He intentionally plans things for us to do—with Him and for Him.

In Joshua 1:9, the Lord says, “’Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’” (NASB, italics mine). The last time I read that verse, it struck me: He has places for each of us to go, things He wants to do in us and with us. He calls us to step out with Him. Here’s why:

God is always doing something

Jesus says, “’My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working’” (John 5:17, NASB). The Lord actively fulfills His plans continuously, and “He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:35, NASB).

He says it another way in Isaiah 14:24: “’Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand’” (NASB). He is God, and as God, He is able to fulfill His plans. He has the power and the authority to do so. The amazing element in all of this is that–

God invites us to join Him in what He is doing

The Lord put a beautiful plan in action when Jesus came to die for our sins. Not only did He set us free from having to pay the penalty of our sins. Not only did He open a way to spend eternity with Him. Not only did He give us the supreme gift of having an abundant life now by truly knowing Him, but He also invited us to join Him in His work here on earth. The scriptures tell us He planned it all ahead of time, before we were even born: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB). In other words, He has stuff for us to do, and He wants us to walk with Him in doing it.

I remember many years ago, when a visitor walked up to me after our Sunday School class one day and told me, “You have the gift of teaching.” I was shocked. I had simply been joining the discussion as the regular teacher led it. I asked God if that comment was from Him, and He confirmed that it was. I told Him I was willing to do anything He wanted me to do (because I knew He would be the One doing it through me). Anyway, He orchestrated the circumstances around me so that I was asked to teach Sunday School. I have been doing that for almost 20 years now. My greatest joy in teaching is that I truly feel His presence with me as I prepare and teach. I get to do it with Him! I felt the same way when I wrote my book. I feel the same way when I write this blog, speak, or teach God’s Word at other places. Many times, He blesses me by revealing what He has done for others through my walking with Him in what He was doing. That thrills me too.

I heard once that there is no better place to be than in the center of God’s will. That’s true—because He’s there.

God shapes us and places us to fulfill our calling

In Ephesians 2:10, it says we are the Lord’s “workmanship” (NASB). One of our pastors says, “That means we’re His masterpiece.” YOU are a work of art, crafted and shaped by the God of the universe. Think about it. There is no one else on earth exactly like you. God wove unique traits, personality, and abilities into you. He authored your life with a special purpose in mind—a purpose only you can fulfill. He says you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NASB).

And more than that, He made you a new creation when you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB). You are new because you now have Jesus in you through the Holy Spirit, whom you received when you believed in Jesus. The Holy Spirit helps guide and empower you to fulfill your calling, to do those things God designed you to do. You just have to listen to Him and do what He says (Galatians 5:16, NASB). When you do, you bring glory to Jesus . . . and that word glory means to manifest or give an estimation of, and thus result in praise, honor, and glory. In other words, when you walk with Jesus and do what He uniquely designed you to do, then others get a glimpse of Him. Your life displays Who He is, and hopefully others will be drawn to Him too.

This is not about working or earning anything from God. This process is about the delight that comes from being in the center of God’s will for your life. Is it hard sometimes? Yes. Life pulls us in so many different directions. But we can be certain that if God calls us to walk with Him in something, He will supply all we need to make it happen. “The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, NIV).

Acts 13:36, NASB, says, David “served God’s purpose in his own generation”. May the same be said of us. Won’t you step out with God today?

Question: How and where is the Lord calling you to step out with Him? Will you? (Comment at the link below, and we will pray for you and your calling.)

Jeremiah 29:11; Joshua 1:5-6, 9; John 5:17; Daniel 4:35; Isaiah 14:24; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 139:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Acts 13:36

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Accepting Loving Limits

Grace and the cone

Grace wearing the cone

This week, our family dog Grace had surgery on her leg to remove a tumor. She came home with stitches, a bandaged leg . . . and the cone. A funnel-shaped piece of extremely durable plastic, the cone fits around Grace’s head to prevent her from chewing at her wound, from inflicting pain on herself in her vulnerable place.

Grace hates the cone. No, hate might be too gentle a word. She cries and paws at it. Sometimes, her fussing gets to be too much (especially in the middle of the night), so we take the cone off to give her a break. Most times, within a few minutes, we find her chewing away at the danger zone, and the cone returns.

This entire experience made me think how the Lord gives us limits, too. His restrictions are meant to protect us, because He cares deeply about us.

The Lord gives us limits because He loves us.

I don’t put the cone on Grace because I want her to suffer. I leave the cone on Grace to avoid greater suffering. It’s a limit based on love. The Lord does the same thing. He speaks out limitations in His Word from a heart of love, things like, “stay away from this, avoid that.” It’s like a parent warning a child not to put their hand on a red hot cooktop burner. He wants us to avoid the greatest pain that comes from doing things our own way, from going after the elements of this world that cause torment.

He tells us that His limitations are for our own good (Deuteronomy 10:13), so that it might go well with us and our families (Deuteronomy 4:40). He says “no” because He loves us. He knows where we are vulnerable, and He instructs us to stay away from those places. When we read His Word, we learn about His loving restrictions, and His Holy Spirit reminds us to obey them.

We choose whether or not we will receive the gift of His limits.

Grace is not able to remove the cone. On the other hand, we have a choice: to live as God says, or not. He never forces us. He tells us how to live and how much He cares for us. We decide if we trust Him enough to choose His ways. We decide if we see His limits as a gift.

David asked the Lord in Psalm 139:24, NASB, “See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” David was telling the Lord he trusted Him, and he wanted the Lord to show him how to live in a way that would not harm him, others, or the Lord’s reputation. David was embracing the Lord’s limits.

We can cooperate in the limitation process.

This past week in Sunday School, we studied the first sin in Genesis 3. I shared something I had heard years ago: “Eve would not have sinned if she hadn’t been hanging out at the tree God had told her to stay away from.” Each of us knows our own “vulnerable places.” We would be wise to seek the Lord about the practical boundaries and limitations we should establish to avoid the pain of sin. We can cooperate in the limitation process, knowing it is best for us, knowing God wants to bless us and protect us from harm.

Jesus, Himself, accepted His own limitations from God. “Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8, NASB).

Jesus did not accept the limitation of being human to avoid sin. He did it to redeem us from sin, so that we could live as “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37, NASB), so that we could thrive and live powerfully as we embraced the Lord’s loving limitations.

Grace’s cone will come off in a couple weeks, when her vulnerable place has healed. Thanks to Jesus’ work on the cross, our vulnerable places don’t have to hurt us any more (unless we choose the pain). For “by His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Question: How has the Lord blessed you with His loving limits? Comment at the link below.

Visit Susan’s website: susanjaneking.com

Susan Jane King

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