When God Makes Us Uncomfortable (It’s Often To Bring Others Comfort )

My husband spent 11 years in a job he sometimes hated.

During those long years, we constantly reminded ourselves to choose joy! to be grateful! to love what we’d be given!

But working to live instead of living to work can be draining.

Especially when you dream of doing something that matters.

We had countless conversations about his sweet spot–that place where passions and skills collide (you know, once we crossed Nascar Driver off the list.) The same words surfaced again and again in our long talks–words like helping people, traveling, discipleship, serving others. We had a big picture dream without a map to get there.

But he kept on doing the last thing God told him to. . . which brings us back to that job.

I’ve always marveled at my husband’s patience. Because his faithful and often unfulfilling work all those years not only provided for our family, but created space for me to pursue life-giving work through writing that resulted in starting Mercy House.

Sometimes it’s hard to see where the road is leading. But God still leads us into the unknown.

God rarely does things the way we think he should.

God is doing something important in us

While we’re waiting to do something important, God is doing something important in us.

He is refining us. He is making us uncomfortable. Dependent. He is revealing His strength in our weakness.

It’s a truth that’s hard to grasp in the middle of the waiting. But it’s truth our heart needs to hear.

Most of Jesus’ life was spent doing what he wasn’t sent to do. He was preparing Himself. And if Jesus needed time to prepare, we do, too.

Story after story in the Bible reminds us how God impositioned his people, only to position them. He made Joseph uncomfortable in a prison to position him on a throne. He made Daniel lion’s food, only to proclaim His glory in the fire. He made Esther prepare her body and heart to be queen, only to position her to save an oppressed people.

And He will do the same with you.

Because it very well might be that the job you hate or the one you can’t find is part of His great plan for your life. He may just use your discomfort to comfort others.

God often impositions us in our work, our health, our lives because he is preparing us to position us to reveal His glory.

I will never forget the day, my husband and I said the words outloud, the dreaming kind that make your heart pound. “What if somehow God made a way for me to quit my job and lead Mercy House?” I cried at his audacity because the weight of the burden was crushing me. We asked it and then we waited a long time for the answer.

It came nearly a year ago, when my husband left his well-paying, tenured position to travel, disciple, and help people in our work to remind women around the world God has not forgotten them.

Don’t think for a minute He has forgotten you either.

We can see now that all those years of being uncomfortable were making a way for us to comfort women around the world.

That uncomfortable place you’re in today? Offer it to Him. Ask God to use it for the comfort of others, for His glory.

He doesn’t waste anything. Even our discomfort.

When We Can Call Our Pain A Gift

When I got my husband’s text, I was walking thru a store and I stopped right there in the middle of the aisle and gripped the shopping cart for balance.

His caption under the picture of a dear friend we love, read, “this makes me so sad.”

It took me a second to recognize our emaciated friend in the picture. Cancer had literally changed the way he looked in just a matter of weeks.

Oh, God.

I thought of the ongoing pain his family is enduring and the fresh pain my 13 year old son would experience when he saw the picture of his mentor and hero.

And then I thought of this dear man’s strong character, unshakable faith, and death-defying love of God and others that has shined Jesus even in the worst times.

Pain. Sorrow. Joy. Healing. All mingled and mixed in our lives. We know one because of the other.

My thoughts turned to the 25th miracle baby- born against all odds- this month in Kenya.

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Margaret’s story is like so many other impoverished girls in Africa. She’s just a little girl- a pastor’s daughter, living in a remote village, in a mud one-room home with a thatched roof with her siblings.  She suffered at the hands of an abuser and got pregnant against her will. She has known more physical and emotional pain in her short life than most of us can imagine.

When we started Mercy House in 2010, we wanted to help oppressed pregnant girls. We had no idea what that would mean or where it would take us. We had no idea how hard or how amazing the journey would be.

We had no idea that the world’s pain would become our own.

When Margaret delivered her son, conceived in heartache, to this brutiful world a few weeks ago, she named him Gift.

I had to read the email message from Kenya twice to grasp it. Because if anything shows us what God can do-it’s this: He turns our brokenness into joy and makes it possible for us to name our pain a gift.

That’s when we know that our sorrow, our grief, our unknown, even our pain, can glorify God.

That’s when we’re reminded that if anything good is seen in us or happens through us, it’s because of God.

That’s when we know that our lives–how we live, how we die, and how we love people in-between– is an act of worship to God.

Nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.

He redeems it all.

Even our pain.

He makes joy, even in our deepest sorrow, our strength. And His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Standing in the store, I whispered another prayer of miraculous healing for our friend. I blinked back tears and reminded myself that God can still do the impossible, the improbable.

And when I looked closer at the picture of a man our family loves withering away in a hospital bed, it wasn’t pain I saw etched in his thin face.

It was joy.

How to Wake Up From The American Dream

You don’t always know you’re asleep—until you wake up.

And then you see the world in a completely new way.

Two years after that first life-changing trip to Kenya, I brought Maureen, Compassion-sponsored-child-turned- fearless-Kenyan-leader who rescues girls from unthinkable situations to America for strategic planning and fundraising.

I will never forget the moment we pulled into the driveway of my nice two-story brick house and I saw my home from her perspective.

I will never forget the first question she asked as the garage door opened and she got a first look at my life in America.

“Oh, do you also sell bikes?” she asked innocently after seeing the five bikes hanging from my garage for my family of five.

Y’all.

Waking up from the American Dream

That one question has haunted me.

Because sometimes we don’t always see how much we have until someone who doesn’t have as much sees into our lives.

Do we sell bicycles? Because there isn’t another reason why we would HAVE SO MANY if not. Because in her country one bike is a luxury. One bike is shared by dozens. Five bikes is a bike store.

But I think we all know this isn’t really about bikes. It’s not even about wealth and the world’s poverty.

It’s about waking up from a dream that is never satisfied. About being grateful for what we have and about sharing some of it with others.

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Hey.

I know it’s not easy to talk about waking up from the American Dream. I know reading this might be uncomfortable. I understand it’s more fun to read new recipes or how to’s on rearranging furniture or encouraging mom words.

I get that. I know clicking here requires something of you. I know buying my book about trading in safe comfortable faith for something more authentic and dangerous will cost you more than the $12 price tag.

I know because waking up has been hard for me. I still struggle.

I like the idea of the . A·mer·i·can dream

-the idea that everyone in the United States has the chance to achieve success and prosperity

What could possibly be wrong with wanting success and prosperity? We all deserve it, right? We are entitled to it.

No.

It doesn’t take more than a long look at how 3/4 of the world lives to realize, we are not the norm and the only real difference between the poorest of the poor and the guy driving the $100,000 car is where they were born.

“I think with the way we have unprecedented material blessing, with the way we have a culture built on self, self-esteem, self-confidence. All of these things we begin to twist the gospel into something that it is not. We make it look like us and fit into our lifestyle instead of adjusting our lifestyle to the gospel. In the process we make following Jesus more American than it is biblical. As a result there seems to be a major disconnect between what it means to follow Christ in the first century and what it means to follow Christ in our definition in the 21st century,” David Platt.

To be honest, for every yes I’ve said, there have been at least a hundred reasons to say no.

It is too risky.

What will people think?

I like living this way.

I deserve nice things.

I’ll give to someone in need as soon as I finish building my dream home.

“Believing in the Jesus of the Bible makes life risky on a lot of levels because it is absolute surrender of every decision we make, every dollar we spend, our lives belong to another. And so that is relinquishing control in a culture that prioritizes control and doing what you need to do in order to advance yourself.  The call of Christ is to deny ourselves and to let go of our lives. To relinquish control of our lives, to surrender everything we are, everything that we do, our direction our safety our security is no longer found in the things of this world. It is found in Christ,” David Platt.

So, how do we wake up from the American Dream? I often feel myself being lulled back to sleep by it.

  • We stop comparing ourselves to other people. I often don’t know I want something until I see someone else enjoying it. If I’m going to compare myself to someone who has something I don’t, then I also must compare myself to someone who has less than I have.
  • We commit to doing what God tells us to–when He says it. That prompting to give isn’t from you. It goes against our nature to take care of someone else’s needs before meeting our wants.
  • We become wildly generous. Give your life away. It’s easy to give when we have a lot. But when we give and it costs us something–that is true generosity. I’ll say it again: There is nothing more gratifying than giving someone something they need instead of buying something we want.

A generous person is always ready to spontaneously give to those in need. It’s usually inconvenient and unplanned. It will probably cost us comfort, even pride. It won’t be easy or bring us fame.

This is Christianity.

It’s easier to keep sleeping. Living different than the world will cost us something.

But my life is proof that waking up is an open door to living wide awake. And that’s so much better than a dream.

 

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Maybe We Are Just Spoiled

We stood in the hair care aisle and her eyes were as big as the moon.

“Go ahead, choose one,” I urged her.

She stood still- looking half afraid, half helpless. I put my hand on her shoulder and urged her to choose a shampoo.

I had mistaken bewilderment for humility.

My friend visiting America for the first time whispered with tears in her eyes, “There are so many bottles…and so many choices.”

I was ashamed of my ignorance. She was overwhelmed by the opportunity to choose.

We were standing in the first Walmart she had ever visited. I brought her there to bless her, but in my haste, I didn’t prepare her.

“Americans have so many things,” she said. “But it’s the freedom to choose I would cherish the most.”

Her words felt like a stone around my neck. For the first time, I saw the rows and rows of conditioners, sprays and creams through the eyes of someone being exposed to our first world. There are 20 brands of toothpaste, toilet paper and tissues and the freedom to choose whichever we want.

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I’ve taken this experience with me into every country and culture I’ve visited. When I help an artisan group create a fair trade product or choose a color for a fabric, I think of this story. And I try to explain what they are up against. “You see, in America, women have so many choices of earrings and tablecloths and headbands and necklaces. They can choose from an entire room of throw pillows in a hundred different colors. We have a lot of choices and so we have to create something they will buy.” And every time I say these words, and watch minds try to comprehend what I’m saying, I’m embarrassed by all we have and all we take for granted.

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Maybe we are just spoiled, the words tumble around in my mind.

It’s hard to explain freedom of choice when you have no choice at all.

It’s hard to explain picky shoppers to someone who doesn’t have enough food for their family.

It’s hard to imagine someone crying because there are so many shampoos to choose from.

Maybe that’s why when I see an email complaining about the color of a product from The Mercy Shop, I am irritated. Maybe that’s why it bothers me when someone cancels their Fair Trade Friday membership because they can’t choose what goes into their box each month. Or they don’t have anyone else to give the product away they don’t want or like…

But as soon as these emotions hit me, I’m that ignorant mom back in that hair care aisle at Walmart discovering that North Americans have the first world privilege of choice. Impoverished and marginalized women don’t.

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When we purchase something fairly traded, we trade our choice to give them a chance. More than anything, these marginalized women want us to love what they create. They want us to wear their story or give it away (if we don’t like the color). They are desperate for us to keep buying, to give them a second and third chance. They work hard, against all odds, to create beauty from nothing. They want us to look past a color that might not be our favorite or a style we might regift, and they want us to choose them. Because that’s really the gift we buy: hope.

In our culture, perspective is fleeting, while comfort and excess are much easier to cling to.   That’s why we have to work so hard to remember how the rest of the world lives.

And that’s why we have to look past the money we donate or the products we buy and remember there is a mom or dad or child, much like us, who doesn’t have the freedom to choose anything–including life.

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Yeah, so maybe we are spoiled. But we can’t stop buying and supporting women around the globe. That necklace we really don’t need and that scarf that isn’t our favorite color might just be food for another day for a family with no choice at all.

Want to donate to women in need? Click here

The Christian Parent Manifesto

We walked into church and my daughter grabbed my arm and whispered, “Why is it so crowded?” I looked around and she was right, every seat was filled.

“This is what happens when Christians think the world is ending,” I whispered back.

“Mom!” she said as we found our seat.

I wasn’t sure she even understand my sarcasm. It was the week of the Supreme Court decision when I wrote about love instead of fear. On the way home from church, I told my kids about the packed-out churched the Sunday after the 9/11 attack and explained that people often look to the church when they are unsure of where our world is headed or if they are afraid.

We talk a lot about cultural norms and shifts in our home because I want to teach my kids God’s standard of right and wrong, especially when issues become hot topics in our society. Because I know for a fact that their peers will be talking about what they are reading online and I’ve always wanted my kids to compare what they hear with what they’ve been taught in God’s Word, so they will know His standard in contrast to the world’s.

“Should we be afraid?” one of my kids piped up from the backseat.

We are living in uncertain times and what used to be unthinkable is now daily headlines. When I read about nearly 100 children being executed in the Middle East by ISIS lunatics because they refused to fast, I couldn’t help but want to protect my children from the evil in this world.

I understand that teaching absolute truth that sometimes contradicts cultural norms could be making life a little more challenging for them. And if the evil that is targeting Christians in the Middle East ever found its way here . . .honestly, the thought terrifies me.

But perfect love casts out fear, so we are just going to love people and hold onto Jesus.

I woke up in the middle of the night burdened for our world and these challenging times when truth becomes a battleground; hate is louder than love and children have become targets of an evil enemy. I am not a doomsday crier, but it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that our world has become more violent, darker and more uncertain in the past few years.  I wrote this manifesto as a reminder of what I want to teach my children about following Jesus in uncertain times:

The Christian Parent Manifesto

This world is not our final home.

Because of this, we won’t always fit in, and actually, we should strive not to conform to the world.

The Bible is our standard for holiness and guides our everyday living.

Truth may shift in our culture, but we look to God’s Word as our standard.

There will be people who choose to live differently than we do. This doesn’t affect, change or alter how we treat them.

We love people no matter what.

There are scary things in this world, but we can hold fast to the peace of God.

His peace comforts us when we don’t understand things around us.

God is in control and He sees all and knows all.

One day, He will return for us.

This is our blessed hope.

Until that day, we will stand for what we believe is right.

We will serve others who cannot serve themselves.

We will speak up for those who have been muffled by oppression and poverty.

We will give more than we take.

We will love others because He first loved us.

We will follow Jesus wherever He leads.

(Download a copy for your family here) (or print one here)

I don’t always know how to navigate this changing culture as a Christian parent.

But this is a good guide:

“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” Deut. 6:5-7

This Is What I’m Going To Do Today (In Response to the Supreme Court Ruling)

While my kids slept in on a summer morning, the world changed.

And I’m not just talking about new legislation.

On Friday, while some celebrated and others fell into discouragement, terrorists had a bloody field day on the world. Again.

Children lost parents, little girls were raped, men were beheaded, the poor faced another hungry night, women faced unspeakable oppression and innocent blood ran in the streets, while racial hate crimes and tension continue to divide our country. We might have paused to read a headline or shuddered at the atrocities our neighbors are facing, and then gone about our normal life.  I’m convinced if Christians spent half as much time praying for those suffering as we do arguing with those we don’t agree with, the Church would be stronger and our world would be a different place.

Children from minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to Islamic State in Sinjar town, make way towards Syrian border, on outskirts of Sinjar mountain

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It’s probably not shocking that our family disagrees and is saddened by this new law. We are also discouraged by the hate on both sides of the opinion and the lack of concern for the poor and persecuted in our world.

This isn’t the first time courts have tried to redefine truth based on cultural shifts or opinion. I still hold fast to a Biblical worldview, not a secular one and we choose to live by the truth in God’s Word.  I’m convinced that God’s love for mankind cannot be limited or defined by our culture and we will continue to look for ways to love people.

This decision may change Christianity in America. But I believe it needs to change.

We are too comfortable in our easy faith.

We are too concerned about our neighbor’s sin when our own is glaring.

We need less comfort and more concern for others.

We need to spend less and give more.

We need to cling to the Cross instead of fear.

We need less of us, more of Him.

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Our faith in action isn’t a To Do List. It’s a response to Christ laying down His life for us. We comfort and care because we have been comforted and cared for. We give because He has been generous to us. We love because He first loved us.

I want people to see my love for others louder than my opinions and doctrine. I want my children to see me love people. Period. Locally and globally. The Church hasn’t done a good job of both standing for absolute truth and loving  people no matter their religious beliefs, race or sexual preference. It’s time we do both well.

If we hold the Bible as truth, we know the end of time as we know it, will come. And we can let hope arise within us or walk in defeat. We can convince people we are right or we can lay down our life for those we think are wrong. We can spend our days bemoaning a Supreme Court decision or we can spend it on the Great Commission.

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One is easier than the other.

It’s easy to be right. It’s easy to ignore the needs of others.

Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

At the end of the day, this is what I want my kids to know: Love really does win- The Greatest Love of all defeated death, hell, the grave and every one of our sins on a Cross more than 2,000 years ago. No  matter what we believe, God is love and legislation can never alter that truth.

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I’ve heard over and over from other Christians in despair…”What now? What do we do now?”

God has not changed—and neither have his requirements for us. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8,

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do today: There are 8 young girls in India, rescued from a brothel where day after day they endured a hell I simply cannot fathom. They have suffered at the hands of evil men and for the first time in their young lives, they are tasting freedom. These 8 precious girls have been making hundreds of earrings for months now-it’s not only kept their hands busy, while they’ve experienced real love, it’s renewed their self esteem, restored hope and provided sustainable income.

I’m going to pray for them. I’m going to tell their story. I’m going to find 50 more women to buy their earrings so we can provide more jobs. I’m going to close my eyes and imagine their beautiful faces in the middle of their hell because it’s too dangerous for me to see their photographs.  And the next day I’m going to do the same with another group in Kenya, and then Ethiopia and the Middle East. Because that’s the need in front of me. This is how I can love the world around me today.

That’s what I’m going to do.

What about you?

Join the Club that is empowering women and changing their world!

photo credit

The Serving Bowl: 3 Simple Ways to Serve This Summer

[This post contains affiliate links]

So far, summer looks different for our family.

It’s the first time since our teens were toddlers that my husband works from home and I work at the Mercy House warehouse three days a week.

It’s the first summer our part time, on-the-side yes, is full time.

On the first Monday morning of summer, my kids opted out of sleeping in to go with me to volunteer.

They counted beads from around the world for hours for a big Fair Trade Friday project we’re working on.

(They also set a timer and raced to see who could do the most. I love productivity, so I didn’t mind).

On Tuesday morning, I was going to go by myself to get volunteers started when I overheard my teens tell their dad, “No, we set our alarm to get up and go with mom. Have you seen how much work there is at the warehouse? She needs us.”

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I smiled back a Texas-size lump in my throat.

Because sometimes different is good. And sometimes our kids just need to know they are needed.

Of course, our summer work and summer serving will be sprinkled with plenty of summer.

But there will also be plenty of service.

Because we’ve all realized it’s easier to stay home, easier to spend our days doing what we want, but easy doesn’t always make us feel good. Maybe that’s what makes serving so special?

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One morning this week, one of my kids was a little grumpy. I encouraged them to stay home. “Yeah, I can do nothing and feel sorry for myself,” they replied.

Yes, you can.

“Or you can do something for someone else and I promise you’ll feel better about yourself and your life,” I replied as I headed to the car.

My kids had a great time that morning and when a family stopped by so their little 9 year old could drop off the $80 her family raised with a Mercy House bake sale, my kids noticed me trying not to cry.

And the grumpy one left that warehouse without a care in the world because that’s what happens when you care about the world.

I didn’t even have to say I told you so.

(It also might have helped that their youth pastor called to ask if he could bring students to serve every week of the summer. Serving is contagious fun).

Turn a few days this summer into a sacrifice. You will be so glad you did!

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I like to think of summer with my kids like a serving bowl. I keep the serving bowl on my counter filled with colorful, healthy fruit for them to eat. When it gets empty, I refill it. When we spoon out what we have an abundance of–time, talent, energy, finances- we fill someone else’s bowl.

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There are a lot of empty bowls out there waiting to be filled!

Here are 3 easy ways to serve this summer:

1. Take someone a meal-get your kids in the kitchen. We took some friends a meal to celebrate their new foster baby a couple of weeks ago and they invited us to share the meal. It wasn’t fancy, but this simple gesture not only filled a bunch of bellies, it filled our hearts to serve someone else.

2. Invite someone to eat with your family. Something as simple as dinner can be such a blessing to someone who usually eats alone or doesn’t always have enough to eat. My kids love when we invite someone into our mess and share our live with them.

3. Turn your regular dinner time into a plan of action. Ask your kids how they want to serve others this summer. They may just surprise you.

 

I’m partnering with Dayspring during their Customer Appreciation sale this week to turn your summer into a serving one. Through this weekend, get one of these beautiful Daily Grace serving pieces pictured above at their lowest price yet!

Daily Grace: Wide Serving Bowl 

REG PRICE: $30
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Daily Grace: Tall Serving Bowl

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Daily Grace: Pitcher
REG PRICE: $37
Sale Price: $14 with code: THANKYOU it’s only $10.50

 

How fun would it be to fill one of these up to encourage a neighbor or friend in need this summer?

 

To The Weary Christians in the World

Your newsfeed probably looks a like mine.

Disagreements on Duggars and a torrential flood of opinion on transgenders. Racial divide. Controversy. Hate.

Last week, I decided to avoid the conflict and instead write about my son at the pool.

Yeah.

And while it’s disheartening to see my name and blog being shamed online by a small percentage of readers for supposedly shaming innocent girls, I believe my community at large understands my heart, supports truth and can clearly recognize the double standard.

I’ve never apologized for being a Christian parent and a conservative writer. I’ve never hidden that I believe in absolute truth or avoided the Bible’s standard of right and wrong. I’ve never run from standing up for what I believe in. I’ve openly shared about my desire to raise Godly kids who live a pure life. Over the past 8 years, I’ve also talked about my family’s failures in faith.  So, it’s always a shock when my views are attacked and ridiculed for being conservative.

Although I tend to find unkindness a little unsettling, I honestly don’t care what people think about me.

But I am weary.

Beautiful young woman enjoying summer in a field.

Maybe you are, too.

My newsfeed makes me sad. The divide and contempt and disrespect for each other makes me tired.  I’m weary of the double standard that says we can speak freely and take a stand for what we believe in as long as it’s politically correct or doesn’t offend anyone.

It’s not just liberals against conservatives or Christians against atheists, it’s also ugliness between Christians. Maybe that’s the most exhausting thing of all?

We all read opinions we don’t agree with or have family and friends we don’t see eye t0 eye with on every subject. For some reason in our culture, we’ve drawn the line in the sand so many times, we are gridlocked and everything is a battle. Except what matters most–loving God first and others more than ourselves.

We have to remember these small battles and disagreements and daily struggles are just that-small and temporary.  Because there are real people- believers- facing certain death today. From ISIS in Iraq to Al Shabab terrorist in Kenya, there are followers of Jesus who aren’t worried about sex changes and reality TV stars or being offended by something they don’t agree with.

So, what do we do when we are weary and heavy-ladened?

We keep doing what is right.

But we choose kindness over proving we are right.

We refuse to run away when the world opposes us.

We shine our light wherever we go.

We pray for our enemies.

We remember who the enemy really is (and it’s not always those who disagrees with us).

Above all, we love people no matter what.

So, if you’re like me and you find yourself a little weary of all the heartache and heartbreak in our world-don’t give up and don’t lose heart.

For greater is He that is in me, than he who is in the world.