When God says, “I love you”: In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look at the one place in the Bible where God actually says those three precious words we all long to hear: “I love you.” (He says them, and shows them, of course, ten thousand different ways throughout Scripture, but this passage has the exact words “I love you,” in nearly every translation.) These are words God spoke to comfort the nation of Israel during a difficult time, and these words transcend time and circumstance to proclaim God’s love for us, His people, today:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you…” (Isaiah 43:2–5)
When we know how loved we are by God, it takes away our fear: fear of hurt, fear of abandonment, fear of the unknown future. It’s not that we think, “God loves me; therefore my life should be a walk in the park: no struggles, no dangers, no losses.” This scripture doesn’t say, “If you pass through fire and water, I will be with you”—it says “when.” Everyone endures struggle, danger, and loss, even the most righteous of people. Hardship is not a sign of God’s disapproval or punishment—it is an inescapable part of life in this fallen world. But Christians can walk through life confident and joyful, knowing that God will see them through, and love them through, whatever hardship may come. He will guide and protect, comfort and console. That’s how God says, “I love you.”
So what if you have been doing all this—praying, pouring out your soul, praising through pain—but the silence on God’s end is still killing you? When we are navigating a waiting season and the journey takes unexpected detours, Satan tries to run his cruel soundtrack in our minds—God doesn’t like you; God is against you; God is not listening—but God has a soundtrack, too. Maybe it’s time to put together a new spiritual playlist. Let’s choose to fill our minds with God’s playlist: scriptures and songs that fuel our faith and protect our relationship. God is not silent, as He sometimes seems; He has already given us His Word to tell us how He feels and how He works. It’s up to us to use the Bible [and worship!] to fill in God’s half of the conversation.
Music and worship are powerful, God-given blessings that profoundly affect our spirituality, our emotional wellbeing, and even our theology. They can keep us connected to God even when He feels far away. Why not put together a worship playlist that ministers to you in your wait?
Here are eight songs on my waiting playlist. These songs have cracked open places in my heart I didn’t even know existed, given words to prayers I didn’t know how to pray. Some give me hope; some help me surrender; others help me praise God even through pain. I share them here with deepest gratitude to the writers and artists who gave them to us:
It’s mid-December, which means in the past ten days alone, our family has had middle school orchestra concerts, piano recitals, a kindergarten Christmas performance, kindergarten crafting, two elementary school auditions, three basketball games, a church Christmas party, an out-of-town Christmas party involving a night away, family visiting from out of town, a youth group event (at our house!), a Christmas worship service, a kids’ choir performance, nursing home caroling…plus, you know, school and work and dirty-floor mopping and food-eating and just life. I bet your life has run at similar holiday-fueled warp-speed! This time of year is so hectic, it’s tough to remember your own schedule for the day, let alone your entire last year of life! If we’re not careful, life flies so fast we barely have time to eat, much less stop to think. But what an opportunity we miss if we don’t make time to stop. To think. To pray.
Last week Kevin and I were looking for a way to help our little mission church to look back on the past year and truly see all God has done in their lives as individuals and in our lives as a church family. December—especially those precious days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when school is out and the shopping and parties are finally done, praise the good Lord—is the perfect time to look back and reflect…and look ahead and dream. To help our church do this, Kevin and I came up with a list of 25 thought questions to help us look back on the last year with gratitude and intentionality—to actually process the things we experienced and put them into spiritual perspective, instead of simply surviving them and moving on to the next thing. (Spoiler alert: scroll down to find the questions!) And then we included a few questions to prompt us to look ahead to next year with purpose and faith.
We started working through them at one of our midweek services, and I plan to think through the rest in my early morning times with God over the next week or so. Journaling my way through these questions has been such a faith-building and even healing process! It’s reminded me of prayers I had prayed and forgotten all about, of gifts God has given that I still want to celebrate, of hard things we suffered and how God brought comfort even through heartache and delay. I share this list of 25 questions here in the hopes that sometime over the next few weeks you can steal a few moments to ponder these questions and write down your answers. I hope it helps you to put words to lessons you’ve learned that you didn’t even realize you’d learned, ways you have grown that you didn’t realize you’ve grown. I hope it helps you to remember all God has done. To see ways He has worked, gifts He has given, and prayers He has answered that you might not have noticed until now… and then to step into the new year confident that the God who saw you through last year will do the same next year.
If you’d like to download printable worksheets with these questions and space for journaling, click here!
This Sunday at church, we enjoyed a casual, family-style service in which we expressed our gratitude by sharing our God Moments—stories about times when God has shown up to reveal His love or to see us through hard times. I cried like 18 times, because our God is so good. It was one of those wondrous times when you can actually feel your faith growing. We heard about…
-God sending strangers to encourage and strengthen a young, scared couple as they arrived at the hospital to witness the birth of their soon-to-be adopted child.
-The night before the first day of school, a nervous kindergartener and her even-more-nervous mom ask God to help the girl find a friend before the mom drops the child off the next day. The next morning, they walk up to the school hand in hand, join the back of the registration line, and are immediately greeted by the girl standing in front of them. She spins around, flashes a grin, and says, “Hi! I’m Sophia! Can I be your friend?”
-A ten-year-old girl announcing, “I am going to be a missionary in Africa one day.” She feels it in her heart like a promise from God. But years pass. She has no idea how she could ever end up ministering in Africa—she’s from the Midwest and she’s not in the full-time ministry—but the promise and dream never leave her. And then in her fifties, God opens up a dream job…in Africa. She and her husband spend years there strengthening a small church.
-And this one—this from a faith-filled 11-year-old boy who had us all in a puddle on the floor: When he was three, he asked God for a dad because his own father had abandoned their family. He also asked for a brother and a sister. Within two years, God gave him all three.
Then I encourage you to watch for more God Moments. They happen every day, if we’ll only keep our eyes and hearts open enough to notice. To rejoice. To savor. And then, like the leper who came back to Jesus, let us come back again and again to thank and to praise.
Want to give God glory by sharing a God Moment in the comments? How has He shown up to reveal His love for you? I’d love to hear!
I have a forever place in my heart for other women who have shared in the suffering of infertility and pregnancy or infant loss. Today I am honored to share a post from my friend Sarah Philpott, author of Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss. When Sarah suffered two miscarriages, she wrote and prayed her way through the pain, and as God brought healing to her heart, she turned her loss into a ministry to help other women who have loved and lost. How I wish I’d had Sarah’s book to comfort and guide me when I lost my little one six years ago. I couldn’t agree more with her encouragement to take the time to write through pain—in the days after I lost my little one, I wrote a poem, “Still,” that somehow brings me comfort even now. I know Sarah’s post will be an encouragement and comfort to all who have suffered miscarriage and infant loss—and indeed to anyone who is grieving any loss. Life is filled with griefs of all kinds, and writing and praying through our pain is a powerful way to heal. Sarah has generously offered to give a signed copy of her book to one blessed reader—please join us on Instagram this week to enter the giveaway!
Mourning is an expression of sorrow. And sometimes our sorrows are so sacred that we don’t necessarily want to speak our inner thoughts.
And our sorrows stay put. Simmering in our minds.
Simmering can be good. A steaming pot of soup perched atop the stove. Chopped carrots circling the diced potatoes. Basil releasing its aromatic magic.
But simmering can also be bad. Especially if words of negativity or sadness bubble within our souls. Brewing. Fermenting.
Do you ever let thoughts brew in your mind for too long? Thoughts of shame or anger. Thoughts of fear and disappointment. Thoughts of sadness and longing.
Dear Soul, can I encourage you to do something? To help release your pain.
Write through the wreckage. Admit your pain. Mourning is a must.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
Why write about grief?
Writing forces us to acknowledge truth. Even if that truth is painful. After my two miscarriages I started writing my story. Putting into words “My baby died in my womb” was no easy task, yet it helped release me from the bondage of minimizing my pain. Death is worthy of grief. And grief must be mourned.
Writing also provides us a place to process our internal dialogue. To make sense of the madness. To grieve. Many people, myself included, report that writing helps us to finally know how we feel.
If you keep a closed pot simmering on the stove it eventually boils over. The same is true for our thoughts. If we repress our internal dialogue long enough we eventually erupt.
Can I tell you something? Writing my stories of pregnancy loss was emotionally taxing. It forced me to revisit painful memories that I would have rather numbed. But writing my story—and owning my emotions—helped me move forward. I’m not saying that I got over my pain, but I am saying that it helped me move to a place where eventually sadness and joy coexist.
It gave me comfort to relocate my thoughts from my head to the paper.
It’s not just my miscarriages that I’ve written about, but tragic deaths of loved ones as well. The paper was a safe place I could be vulnerable. To speak the unspeakable.
This mere act of expressive writing is healthy for our souls. The American Psychological Association has published research chronicling the healing power of writing. In fact, expressive writing has been correlated with strengthening the immune system and mind.
So I am going to challenge you. To help you mourn. To help strengthen your mind.
Unpack your mind and put the words down on paper. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s not a pretty story, is it?
So be raw. Be honest.
But your story also includes glimmers of humanity. Remember the goodness that other people have displayed. The sorrow they showed. The hugs they gave. The fact that you cradled a loved baby within your womb.
Write about the hope you have for a new day. The day when you will greet your baby in heaven.
Keep your words private or make them as public as you desire. Share them with a confidant or tuck the papers into a secret place.
Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This is just your truth.
I warn you…you will write about things that are tough to admit. Anger. Jealousy. Bitterness. Fear. But you must acknowledge those emotions so that they don’t spew forth in an avalanche of rage or depression.
It might take you a few hours, a week, or even a year to finish writing your story. You might not ever even finish. Your paper will be tear-soaked. Expect this challenge to be painful, but also expect it to help ease your mind.
In this sisterhood, you can share with women who’ve walked and are walking the very same journey you have been forced to trod. It’s helpful to connect with women in a safe community and to read the stories of others.
Use these prompts to get your mind focused. You don’t have to write it all at one time. Just write a bit if that is all you can accomplish. Perhaps you are reading this and have faced a type of grief other than pregnancy loss. Write through that trauma. You won’t find the answer of why, but you will find out more about yourself and how you can find strength.
The day I found out I was pregnant I was so (happy, scared, surprised, angry) ______________.
I told _____________________.
The day my womb baby perished I felt so _________________. I was ___________________.
Physically I felt ____________________.
Emotionally I felt ___________________.
I never expected pregnancy loss to be so __________________________.
My greatest internal struggle has been_______________________.
____________________(person, activity, a book, a scripture) has helped me throughout this time of grief.
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Sarah Lewis Philpott, Ph.D, author of Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss, lives in the south on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her three mischievous children and is farm wife to her high-school sweetheart. She is an award-winning writer and TODAY SHOW parenting team blogger. You can find her books on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere. Sarah is founder of the Loved Baby support group and #HonorAllMoms Mother’s Day movement. These days Sarah happily chooses to be a stay-at-home mom and spends her days cleaning up peanut butter and jelly off the counter, dreaming of traveling the world, and chasing her children around the farm. She doesn’t believe in sharing desserts. Life is too short to share chocolate! Sarah is a lover of coffee (black), rocking chairs, the outdoors, and Hemingway.
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four miracle children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new books, When God Says, "Go" and When God Says, "Wait," are now available. READ MORE.
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