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Suffering

Tears, Chasing the Sun, and All Things New

making all things new

I thought I was okay . . . until yesterday. The tears started falling and just wouldn’t stop. Apparently, even though I’m an introvert—and even though we’re all healthy—this lockdown is wearing on me more than I realized. 

When God Makes All Things New

I sat away from the computer for Skype “church service” so I wouldn’t distract others with my steady tears. We were studying Revelation 21, which gives a glimpse into our future hope: 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 

(I learned from our devotional guide that “The sea in the ancient world was a place of chaos, unrest, and dangers. The sea has no place in the new heaven and earth.”) 

The text continues, 

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem [a picture of the perfected people of God] coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 

In my weepy state, this next part captured my imagination most: 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” 

Bernie Elliott wrote this in the devotional guide, 

Hospital beds, pharmacies, and caskets will be a thing of the past. It’s hard to imagine a life free of fear, a life without sorrow, an existence where death is no more. Yet this is what is prepared for God’s people. 

Amen. 

I wonder, do you and I long for things to return to “normal,” or is our hope in when God makes all things new?

Exercise, Chasing the Sun, and Limestone Fissures

When we finished our service, we chased the sun to Clark Reservation. We hiked across the limestone fissures and remembered that God will heal all the broken parts in our hearts and world.

We plan on continuing to chase the sun and to exercise harder after watching more videos from Virgil Tanner. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to his YouTube channel. He consistently ministers to my heart in the deepest of ways. Here’s a little coaching from him: 

“The most important thing you can do for your family is nurture a deep connection with Jesus. Find ways to withdraw, to engage Him with others, to obey the things He shows you . . . 

“The second most important thing you can do is work out. Because the third most important thing you can do is to create a way to find a healthy emotional space and to live from there. The other people in your house are going to draw their emotional tenor from you. And if you skip paying attention to your heart in order to pay special attention to their academics, they will come at their academics anxious. That will raise their affective filter, and they will learn less than they would have if you had put their school in the back seat and put your emotional wellness ahead of it.

“Remember that the best thing you can do for your emotions is exercise. Exercise is often prescribed as curative to things like low-grade depression or low-grade anxiety disorders. Take care of your body so it can take care of your heart. Also take care of your body so you can love your neighbor well, by not needing a hospital bed. As you take care of your body and it takes care of your heart, your heart can take care of their hearts, and their hearts will help their minds learn multiplication.” 

Here’s another short, excellent video I watched from Virgil yesterday that is really helping me. I highly recommend watching it. (Does Jesus’ favorite question surprise you? It did me.)

Two Travel Sagas with a Layover in a Neurology Hospital

Twice now Kimberly Wagner and I have traveled to exotic locations to speak at an event together. We met in Brazil in 2015, and a month ago at the Gospel Coalition Conference in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Prince Edward Island . . . Or Bust

This past speaking engagement in Canada has been on our calendars since 2015. Our host kindly offered to let us stay a couple extra days with our spouses to be refreshed. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Trevor and I to agree, “Prince Edward Island? Um . . . yeah!” Kimberly and her husband, LeRoy, also planned to take our host up on his kind offer.

That was before I was pregnant and gave birth to our son. And before we learned that Trevor wouldn’t be able to travel with us, as it fell during his busiest season at work.

It was also just before LeRoy began experiencing strange symptoms. These undiagnosed symptoms persisted for the next two years—right up until the conference. In spite of his declining health, LeRoy insisted that they keep their commitment. He and Kimberly set out from Arkansas the day after my mom, my son, Iren, and I left New York.

An Exhausting Day of Travel

woman and baby sleeping on plane

 

In spite of the fact that Iren is a peaceful baby, our travel was exhausting. After several delays, we arrived in Prince Edward Island twenty-two and a half hours later. Our luggage, however, did not.

Thank the Lord for the kind man at the front desk of our hotel. He fetched robes, toothbrushes, and deodorant for us, and we stumbled into our beds—and Pack ’n Play—at 4 a.m. Thankfully, I didn’t have to speak the next day.

Kimberly, however, was not so fortunate. She also arrived at 4 a.m., but she had to speak at 9:00 that same morning.

And while I got to see my protector-husband at his finest (Trevor went to bat for us, tweeting at and calling Air CANADA in search of our bags), Kimberly had to support her husband. Literally. Within forty-eight hours of their arrival, he couldn’t walk without her help.

I got to connect briefly with LeRoy and Kimberly at the conference, and you would never have known they were going through so much. They were as kind and others-centered as ever.

Once the conference was over, we said our goodbyes (I wanted to get back to my hubby!), but LeRoy and Kimberly had planned to stay a couple extra days to relax.

More Delays . . . with A Layover in the Neurology Hospital

Our travel home wasn’t much easier than our travel there. I’ll take our delays over Kimberly’s any day, though. While we were delayed hours, she and LeRoy were delayed weeks.

LeRoy collapsed in the hotel lobby while they were still in PEI, and he couldn’t get back up. They arranged for an earlier flight home with a connecting flight in Texas, so they could visit a neurology hospital in Dallas. That layover and ER visit turned into an unplanned eighteen-day stay. LeRoy was finally discharged . . . with more questions than answers, and a whole lot of medical bills.

The Journey from Here

Leroy and Kimberly Wagner

This journey is far from over for them. Would you cry out to God on their behalf? Here’s the latest update so you can pray knowledgeably.  

Also, if you’ve been touched by Kimberly and LeRoy in person or through their writing, would you consider giving financially to help them pay their medical bills?

I texted Kimberly asking if they have insurance, and she told me they’re a part of Samaritan Ministries. She’s hoping that will cover a large portion of the hospital cost (which they have to pay up front), but it doesn’t pay for LeRoy’s medications. And these meds aren’t cheap. These dear friends are looking to God to provide, and you can help answer their prayers.

Thanks for taking the time to read our stories, when I know you have your own delays, illnesses, or other challenging circumstances. Big or small, may you walk intimately with God today, knowing that He is in control, and that He is good.

I leave you with this post Kimberly wrote about LeRoy while they were in the hospital. It’s one of the most touching posts I’ve read in awhile, as it shows the impact of walking with God intimately for years.

As the Wagners want more than anything else, may God be glorified through your own current saga—and theirs.

This post was originally featured on TrueWoman.com as “Unexpected Travel Delays and an Unexplained Illness.”

Please Don’t Kill Our Heroes

Please Don’t Kill Our Heroes

Maybe you’ve clued in to the growing debate over assisted suicide, a debate about whether to allow patients the legal option to end their life. I predict we will hear more and more that assisted suicide is compassionate, that quality of life trumps sanctity of life every time. We say we want to end suffering . . . but at what cost?

A couple years ago a beautiful, young woman started a global conversation about “death with dignity” when she ended her life after she was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. I want to make sure her voice—and ultimately her choice to take her life—is not the only voice and choice you’re hearing about.

Would you allow me to introduce you to a few of my heroes who know what it is to suffer, to cling to God in trust, and to lead a purposeful, fulfilling life?

Meet Joni, A Quadriplegic

Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadriplegic at seventeen, during an unfortunate diving accident. As if that weren’t enough, she continually feels crippling pain and is a breast cancer survivor. Instead of wanting to end her life, though, she has led one of the most beautiful, surrendered, servant-hearted lives I have ever seen.

She has become an advocate for the disabled around the world—among other things—providing wheelchairs for those who otherwise would be confined to their beds.

Time and time again at the True Woman Conferences, Joni has spoken life into my soul. She has shared how God redeems our suffering, how our suffering is anything but insignificant, and how and why we should forgive those who have hurt us. She has also pointed to a deeper kind of healing and freedom than the healing and freedom of physical pain.

Just this month I emailed Joni about a work project. In her response, she included this personal update:

I’m always fascinated at the way God works in our lives. I’ve been in bed for the last five days healing a stubborn pressure sore, but oh, what a rich time of communion with Jesus! Hopefully, by tomorrow, I may be able to sit up. Prayers are always appreciated!

Now that is the kind of woman I long to become.

Meet Katie, A Chronic Neurological Lyme Patient

If it is sickness that brings me closer to Jesus, then it is a gift, and I am so thankful for it.

Katie Laitkep is a sweet, new friend. After ten years of pain and no answers, she was finally diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease in 2010 and has been undergoing treatment ever since. In spite of symptoms continuing daily, she teaches hospitalized children and others unable to attend school in a traditional setting. She is a beautiful writer who blogs about the Lord’s perfect faithfulness in chronic pain.

“I will always long for health,” she says, “but if it is sickness that brings me closer to Jesus, then it is a gift, and I am so thankful for it.”

Meet Ian, A Survivor Left with a Brain Injury

I do not know Ian and Larissa personally, but their story has brought tears of wonder to my eyes. Ian and Larissa met at college in 2005 where they fell in love. In September of 2006, on his way to work to earn money for an engagement ring, Ian was involved in an accident that left him with a brain injury.

Four years later, they did marry, even though Ian could barely talk and couldn’t walk. After that came a book deal and lots of opportunities to share Jesus with the world. Watch their story here, and marvel at their selfless love for one another.

Meet Katherine, A Brain Stem Stroke Survivor

I’ve never met Jay and Katherine in person, but their story speaks volumes to me. Katherine, a former model and new mother, survived a massive brain stem stroke that nearly took her life. She spent forty days on life support, two years in brain rehab, and was left with a severely disabled body.

Watch any of her videos, though, and you will see that she is full of life and laughter. Her husband stayed with her through it all. They have two sons, and they’ve written a book together. And—in what she calls “upside-down kingdom irony”—Katherine just landed her biggest modeling job to date. Does that sound like a life lacking . . . quality?

Our Heroes and Our Teachers

All these “broken,” suffering people have pointed me—the supposed “healthy” and the “whole”—to the ultimate freedom and joy offered by Christ.

Please do not believe the lie that these people would be better off to end their suffering early and die. They are fulfilling God’s purposes, bringing great glory to Him, just as this blind man did:

And his [Jesus’] disciples asked him,“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:2–3).

These are our heroes. These are our teachers. We need them. Please do not take them from us.

Please Don’t Kill Our Heroes was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Cinderella: “Have Courage, and Be Kind”

Cinderella: “Have Courage, and Be Kind”

I saw Disney’s new Cinderella movie this past weekend. (Did you?) I loved it! Not only was it a much-needed break from my never-ending work; it also gave me a picture of the unparalleled beauty of courage and kindness in the face of humiliation, suffering, and shame.

If God is your Father, and you are His adopted daughter, then you are a princess.

It was a surprising picture, and a jarring one, as the previews before the movie—and everything our world seems to celebrate—is not letting anyone so much as step on our toes.

But Ella (the main character in Cinderella) shows us a shockingly different way of life. A beautiful way of life.

For some reason, Ella’s mom waited until her deathbed to share with Ella “a great secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer.” Ella promised. She would:

“Have courage and be kind.”

The movie doesn’t explain how Ella is able to perform this feat in the face of such mistreatment, but she does. After her dear mother dies, Ella is courageous and kind when her stepmother and stepsisters:

  • Relegate her to the attic to sleep
  • Banish her from the table at mealtimes
  • Change her name from Ella to Cinderella because she’s dirty from the cinder in the fireplace
  • Treat her like a servant instead of the sister and daughter that she is
  • Tear her dress and forbid her from attending the ball

But thanks to the fairy godmother, Cinderella is able to attend the ball after all, and the Prince makes a beeline for her.

Sure, Cinderella looks stunning. But it’s not her ball gown or glass slippers that first catch the Prince’s eye. Weeks before, she turns his head when he happens upon her on a hunting trip in the forest—when her hair is knotted and her clothes plain. It’s her inner beauty that captures his attention—her courage and her kindness.

Girls, this beauty isn’t just the stuff of fairy tales. It’s what you and I are to pursue as daughters of the King:

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses [or shimmering, blue ball gowns!] but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

According to God’s standards for beauty . . .

Kindness isn’t weakness; it’s strength.

Submission isn’t pitiful; it’s beautiful and courageous.

First Peter has a lot to say on the subject. Here’s just a taste:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. . . .

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence . . .

“It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:8–18).

But how can we have courage when others mistreat us?

Why should we be kind to those who are cruel?

Cinderella acted this way because she was a princess—not a princess by blood, but a true princess in heart.

And if God is your Father, and you are His adopted daughter, then you are a princess too. Not the kind with a ball gown and a tiara, but a true princess. A princess because God brought you into His family at the exorbitant cost of His Son’s life-blood. This honored position is not an excuse to act selfish but to be courageous and kind.

So when you encounter those bullies at school or at home or at work, remember this: You may not have a fairy godmother to rescue you, but you have the living God on your side. This God is pleased—not when you suffer for doing wrong—but for doing right. This same God suffered for you so you might become royalty:

“You have been called for this purpose [to patiently endure suffering for doing what is right], since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

“who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21–24).

Are you acting like the princess you are? If you’re not sure you’ve ever surrendered your life to the King of kings, you can read more about that here.

Bow to the King, sweet girl. Have courage, and be kind.

Cinderella: “Have Courage, and Be Kind” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.