For months I’ve been researching the American colonial period in preparation for writing a novel. I’ve found all of the information I need, but when it came time to put together a plot for the book, I drew a blank. For weeks I’ve prayed over the plot, I’ve meditated on the plot, and I’ve brainstormed about the plot – to no avail.
I’ve read numerous books, hoping for a spark of plot inspiration. Nothing. I’ve asked, “What would the Protagonist want to accomplish in the plot?” Nothing. I’ve spent months doing everything I can think of to come up with a plot, but instead, I came up with nothing.
Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels on a certain situation? The harder you try, the more frustrated you become because no matter what you do, the situation is still the same, still staring you in the face with no resolution. It’s not a good feeling, is it?
Perhaps, I wondered, God is telling me not to write a novel. Maybe novel-writing isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. So I prayed for direction. Nothing.
I thought back to the day in 2008 when I heard God tell me to write, that I had a story to tell. And it occurred to me that since then, God has never told me to stop writing. So back to my problem of not finding a plot for the story that will not stop playing in my head.
My husband gave me sage advice: “Stop trying so hard; you’re getting too frustrated to be creative.” And he was right. Frustration breeds frustration – you know what I’m talking about. But when I stopped focusing on trying to find a plot, it still did not come to me.
Then a writer friend with a close walk with the Lord gave me the right advice: “Cynthia, praise God out loud. Praise Him for all He’s given you. Praise Him in advance for the stories He’s going to give you to write. But praise Him out loud with a joyful heart.”
As I began praising God out loud, the story of Paul and Cyrus in the prison came to me. Isn’t this exactly what these men did when they were bound in chains with no foreseeable change in their situation? And what was the result of their midnight praise songs? God heard and responded.
And just like the earthquake that struck and released Paul and Cyrus from their fetters, my jubilant praise for God produced a plot. And not just any plot, but one that was far beyond anything my imagination could have conjured. Rather than run for my computer so I could record the words that were flowing into my mind, I knelt and praised God for this incredible provision.
What situation is proving unsolvable to you? What problem won’t go away? Perhaps the solution is so simple that, like me, you just cannot grasp it.
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 1st Chronicle 16:9 (NIV)
To God be the Glory
I’m so grateful for your faithfulness to Soar With Eagles, especially this year when, due to many pressing obligations, I’ve not been able to post articles regularly. I want to say that you can expect two articles per week from now on, but I’m learning, once again, that life is unpredictable, and sometimes we need to recognize that there is only so much we can do.
Our great joy at the marriage of our daughter in October was interrupted several weeks later by the news of a relative’s less-than-glowing diagnosis. Although I’m not at liberty to divulge more, our lives have been jarred by the realities of life. Once again we recognize that God provides no crystal ball to reveal the future. Unforeseen adversity happens and lives are changed forever.
Although good things happen to each of us, it’s the bad things that unsettle us and force us, if we are smart, to examine our lives. Where is God? Am I being punished? Why did He allow this happen? What is His plan for me, for my family?
When my family and I underwent two years of unemployment, we tackled each of these tough questions. And we learned some very important life lessons. Lessons that abundantly prepared us for our future.
So, having spent time in the fiery furnace—and having successfully come through it—I want to share the truths of overcoming the worst things that can ever happen to each of us. When adversity strikes, when our lives are joyless, our first question should always be: Lord, what do you want me to learn through this situation? He’s waiting to give you the answers that will get you through all you ever face on this earth.
Although unseen, God is right here next to me, to you, through every millisecond of each day. He is with us on good days, bad days, and the ugly days that shatter our lives.
While it’s natural to wonder if our adversity is actually punishment, the truth is that God is not a God of punishment. No, He is a God who loves us so much that He will allow bad things to happen to us as a means of allowing us to draw closer to Him. A life lived in closeness to God is one that can weather all storms.
Adversity is actually an opportunity to draw close to God.
While God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, He does allow them. Because the truth is that for many of us, the only time we seek God is when we are resoundingly knocked down and out. Think how you’d feel if the only time your child or spouse has time for you is when they need something from you. Without question, we want our beloveds to come to us all of the time. It’s no different with God.
His plan for our lives is simple: we are put on this earth not to be self-serving, but to serve God. And every one of us falls short in this. For people who have never gotten to know God, it’s a shock to learn that the real purpose of our life on earth is not to work hard and accumulate wealth, but to serve and glorify the One who created us.
I’ve learned that the worst times of my life were actually the best times of my life because that was when I sought God and found Him waiting for me.
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
To God be the Glory
Have you ever read a story that never leaves you? For me, it’s the monk story.
More than 10 years ago, I sat in a waiting room where, rather than waste time, I flipped through the pages of a magazine until an article captured my attention.*
The author had long dreamed of being a monk, but because a 9-5 paying job seemed more practical, he chose that route instead. Years passed and although he was successful, he never forgot his heart’s desire.
One day the author saw a newspaper article about a local monastery. For men who wanted to consider entering monastic life, the monastery was holding a four-week retreat. Qualified applicants would live at the monastery and participate in its activities. At the program’s conclusion, participants could decide whether or not they wanted to enter the monastic order.
The author’s application was accepted and after checking in on the first day, he was shown to his quarters. His stark, doorless room contained a single bed, dresser, desk and chair.
After unpacking, he and the other would-be monks attended an orientation where they were given their itinerary for the next month.
The author was stunned to learn that morning prayers and vespers began at 3:30 a.m.—attendance mandatory. After an early breakfast, assigned chores were performed in silence until lunch. Afternoons were spent in silent study, and once evening vespers ended, the men returned to their rooms where they remained silent.
Assigned to wash the monastery’s floors, the author thought his chore not so bad until he learned that he would scrub the floors on his hands and knees—in silence. The work was painful, exhausting. Hours of silence magnified the harshness. This was not what the author imagined when he dreamed of monastic life.
After lunch on the fourth day, the author returned to his room and began packing. When the head monk walked past the open doorway, he stopped and asked the author why he was leaving.
The author explained that life in the monastery was nothing like he’d imagined. The hours were long and the work was difficult. And then there was the silence. The painful, lonely silence. It was all too much, too difficult for the author to bear. He couldn’t see himself serving God this way for the next 15 or 20 years.
To the author’s surprise, the head monk didn’t try to persuade him to stay, but rather agreed with everything he’d said. Life at the monastery was unbearably difficult. Why, during his many years there, life had never once gotten easier for him. If anything, it sometimes became harder.
Shocked, the author asked the head monk how he was able to stay.
“As much as I love God and want to serve Him, if I viewed my life as though I had twenty or thirty years left here at the monastery, I couldn’t handle it. I’d pack my bags and leave.
“But God uses the difficulty, the austerity, the silence to teach me perspective. I’ve learned to look at my life one day at a time. When I do that, I can get through the hardships that each day brings. There are some days so difficult that I need to look at my life in one hour – or even one minute – increments or I’d be overwhelmed and give up.
“God has taught me to view my life in manageable amounts. That’s how I get through the unbearable. That’s how I stay. That’s how I’m able to serve the Lord.”
After letting the monk’s words sink in for several minutes, the author removed his clothing from his suitcase.
“What are you doing?” the monk asked.
“I know I can make it till dinner.”
Life is difficult. It can be downright brutal. But I know I can make it through today. What about you? How do you get through the toughest of days? Let me hear from you!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
* I regret that I cannot recall the name of the author or the magazine so that I can give both their due credit and my appreciation. If anyone should recognize this story, please contact me. It is not my wish to take credit for this story.
Cynthia Howerter © 2011, 2013Read More
Partway through a radio interview about my book God’s Provision in Tough Times, the interviewer asked what were the best days of my life.
I didn’t need to contemplate my answer. “The best days of my life were actually the very worst days of my life. Those are the days I’m most grateful for.”
The interviewer was intrigued and wanted to know why.
“Well, it took problems so severe that I couldn’t solve myself to make me reach out to God. Each problem I encountered presented an opportunity to know God better. And knowing Him intimately was worth the pain.”
Just like I cannot enjoy a rose without first encountering thorns, I need to experience adversity in order to find the joy in knowing God.
Without question, the absolute worst times of my life turned out to be incredible blessings.
How do you view the thorns in your life? What are your greatest blessings?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2 (NIV)
Photograph ©Cynthia HowerterRead More
What was your worst day with God? Ah, I’ve got your attention, don’t I? Most likely because no one’s ever asked you this question. It’s a topic that forces you to think.
Should I go first?
I’ll never forget my worst day with God. Actually, there were several. I’m sure you can say the same.
My five-year old daughter woke up healthy one morning. By day’s end, she was semi-comatose. I carried her in my arms into the hospital as she lost control of her bowels. One look at the color of her skin and fingernails and I knew I was losing her. A mother knows.
Where is God when something like this happens to an innocent child?
He was there. In that hospital room. Bolstering my husband and me. Sending believers to comfort my daughter who was in agony, to encourage her parents to not give up hope. Sending the best infectious disease specialist that Pittsburgh had to offer – a doctor who became an unrelenting private investigator seeking the cause of my daughter’s journey to death.
God was there when the doctor discovered the name of the deadly disease. He was there when the doctor understood how to treat it. And He was there when we brought her home. Pink-fleshed, smiling, but weak.
Where was God the day my husband lost his job – our sole income? Where was He when we sold our house and still had no job or another place to live? Where was He the week our cash ran out?
Without question, God was there that shocking day, only 12 days before Christmas, when my husband’s company let people go. He sent our minister to pray with us and to advise us to seek God’s wisdom daily. He sent other believers to pray with us and for us. He sent believers who helped us financially. He sent offers of residence from numerous people when our home became someone else’s. He provided an inheritance when we faced fiscal despair – an inheritance for which we had waited 18 very long years.
Those were my worst days with God.
Joyce Meyer, the Christian evangelist, says that she would rather have a worst day with God than a best day without Him. Now that’s a statement. One with which I wholeheartedly agree.
Why? The answer is so simple. Because on my worst days – and they have been wretched – I was not alone.
We live by what we believe, not by what we can see. 2 Corinthians 5:7
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012Read More