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Take Up Your Cross

Jesus called us to live as if we are already dead. Have you discovered the freedom of the crucified life?

 
One of the primary marks of Christ's life was His continual declaration that He was born to die. He taught His disciples that the avenue to greatness was always found in the willingness to forfeit one's own desires and serve those who are the nearest and often the least in the world's eyes.

The call to partnership in His kingdom was initiated by an invitation to "deny [yourself], and take up [your] cross [an instrument of death], and follow Me" (Mark 8:34-35, NKJV). Such an offer is quite a bit different from the man-centered, need-oriented invitations that permeate the landscape of modern church culture today. read more

Learning How To Heal

Divine healing is a gift from God, an act of His mercy and grace. Our part is to listen to Him and carry out His Word.·

The most fundamental skill required for healing is openness to the Holy Spirit, emptying oneself and receiving His leading and power. Frequently I encounter people who want a method for healing, a formula they can follow that guarantees them automatic healings. But divine healing is neither automatic nor dependent on our right actions; it is rooted in a relationship with God and the power of His Spirit. Divine healing is a gift from God, an act of His mercy and grace. Our part is to listen to Him and carry out His Word. When I speak of listening to God's voice, I mean developing a practice of communion with the Father in which we are constantly asking, "Lord, what do You want me to do now? How do You want to use me? How should I pray? Whom do You want me to evangelize? Is there someone You want to heal?"


Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives me specific insights about people for whom I am praying. These come as impressions—specific words, pictures in my mind's eye, or physical sensations in my body that correspond to problems in their bodies. These impressions help me know who and what to pray for as well as how to pray. I do not imply that I have an infallible "hotline" to God, and that I always hear His voice and follow His leading. But I am open to God, listening to Him, confident that He wants to lead us to minister to others. read more

Why Fast?


During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples the principles of the kingdom of God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying and fasting.

Jesus said, "When you give" and "When you pray" and "When you fast." He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is devoted to giving and to praying. read more

Bridging the Chasm Between Singles and Marrieds

To my surprise, I've remained single far longer than I ever expected or wanted to. As the years have progressed, I have found myself increasingly challenged by the need for answers to the tough things I was facing. Unfortunately, resources to help me and those like me have been few.

It is good for us to want others in our lives whom we love and who love us. But I have found it difficult, as a single, to sustain the level of relationship with other people I believe God wants me to have.

Various barriers inhibit this, and He wants to remove them. He wants to open the floodgates to abundantly meet the relational needs of singles today.

  read more

Power to Persevere

Power to Persevere

Through Christ, you can do whatever you need to do in life

 

 

On July 2, 1932, in Atlantic City, N.J., a baby boy was born. Six weeks later, a couple adopted the infant, but when he was 5 his mother died. His father moved from state to state looking for work and taking his young son with him. At age 12, the boy landed his first job at a restaurant counter—and loved it. When he was 15, his father wanted to move again, but by then the young man was working at the Hobby House restaurant in Fort Wayne, Ind., and didn’t want to leave his job. So he dropped out of school, moved into the local YMCA and went to work full time. 

Several years later, his Hobby House boss offered him an opportunity. The man owned four Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlets that were failing. In four years, with hard work and determination, the young man turned the restaurants around financially, sold them back to KFC and received a portion of the profits from the sale. He was once a high school dropout, but now he was a millionaire at age 35.  read more

But God… I Hate My Situation

But God… I Hate My Situation

I have discovered that as we seek the Lord our most difficult periods can be transformed into wonderful breakthroughs into God’s love. For me, one such season occurred during the years 1979 to 1981.

The association of churches with which I was aligned had fallen under spiritual deception. Not only were its core doctrines increasingly seeded with New Age influences, but also immorality crept in, and key leaders began leaving their wives for other women. read more

Blanketing the world with love

Blanketing the world with love

For millions of orphaned children in Africa, blankets do more than warm their bodies—they give them hope, reminding them that someone in the world cares for them. 

What makes Operation Kid-to-Kid’s “God Loves Me” program even more special is that both the donors and recipients of the blankets are children. “Children learn best by doing, and so this gives them a tangible way to express their love and God’s love to other children,” says spokeswoman Shannon Velasquez.  read more

What Happens When a Psychic Sees Jesus?

What Happens When a Psychic Sees Jesus?

Tim Thompson should be dead, but God had other plans for him. At only age 6, Thompson almost drowned in a frozen lake. His brother did die—while saving him—and Thompson resented God after this experience.

Aching for his brother’s company, Thompson tried to communicate with him in the afterlife, and got an answer. “I heard a voice coming against God. It sounded like my brother’s voice. We were able to spend time together again,” Thompson says. read more

Deaf Leading the Deaf to Jesus

Deaf Leading the Deaf to Jesus

In China, nearly 72 million people are denied access to work, education and community, not because of race or gender but because of a disability. Many deaf Chinese turn to deaf-led gangs to find love and acceptance. But Hearts and Hands, a ministry based in Kunming, Yunnan, in southwest China, is working to be advocates for the deaf. Through the ministry the hearing-impaired learn Chinese sign language, as well as how to read, write and learn a trade. They also learn about Christ.

“The deaf Chinese are very open to the gospel because any disability is considered a curse,” says Jane Ramsey, a deaf American who taught English in China for 25 years and joined the ministry in 2004. read more

Symptoms of a Bound Life

After spending a decade doing hand-to-hand combat with satanic forces, I have discovered several symptoms of demonic operation. Some of these indicators can be signs of mental illness, which isn't always the result of demonic attack. But when good psychological care from Christian professionals doesn't result in a cure, it is often possible that the person's symptoms could point to demonic operation.

Drawn from the account of the demoniac of Gadara in Mark 5, the first six symptoms are extreme. The man in that passage was controlled by a legion of demons and had been chained in a cemetery because of his erratic and violent behavior. Other signs of demonic activity may be subtler, but they are no less dangerous and shouldn't be ignored.

1. Incapacity for normal living (see Mark 5:1-5). The actions of legion made him unsuitable for normal social interaction with friends and family. An unusual desire for solitude, accompanied by a deep loneliness, will often set in. The person will often become very passive with no desire to change.

2. Extreme behavior (see Mark 5:4). An explosive temper and extreme uncontrollable anger could be signs of demonic activity. These are dangerous behaviors that control the individual and affect surrounding loved ones.

3. Personality changes (see Mark 5:9,12). Changes in personality, extreme or mild, may be evidence of demonic activity. And though all cases of multiple personality may not be demonic, in most cases demon activity is involved.

4. Restlessness and insomnia (see Mark 5:5). The demoniac cried in the tombs "night and day." He couldn't sleep. Insomnia can be a sign of a physical or spiritual problem. God has gifted His children with sleep (see Ps. 127:2). So when you can't sleep night after night and there is no medical reason, the devil may be tormenting you.

5. A terrible inner anguish (see Mark 5:5). Grief and anguish are normal emotions. Yet persistent unresolved anguish that won't leave after normal therapies of counseling, encouragement and prayer could well be demonic.

6. Self-inflicted injury and suicide. In Mark 5:5, the demonized man was cutting himself. And in Mark 9:14-29, a man's son was both deaf and mute because of a demon, and the evil spirit would often throw the boy into fire and water to destroy him. Demons can cause people to injure themselves and even incite suicide.

7. Unexplained illness. When medical testing produces no physical cause for an illness, then we should look to the mind and spirit for answers. Sometimes illnesses are psychological, and good counseling can result in a cure. Other times the battle is with demons. Luke 13:11-16 tells the story of a "daughter of Abraham" who was afflicted by a "spirit of infirmity." Although she was a child of God, she was tormented by illnesses caused by this class of demons.

8. Addictive behavior. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling and other things opens the door to demonic influence and control. I'm not saying demons cause all of these problems. But anything that causes one to be out of control opens that person to infernal control.

9. Abnormal sexual behavior. The spirit of harlotry is mentioned several times in Ezekiel 16:20-51. This spirit infected the nation of Israel with the sins of Sodom and even motivated the people to sacrifice their own children. Homosexuality, adultery, fornication and even infanticide were all inspired by the spirit of harlotry (see Hos. 4:12). And nations and families are sold into spiritual bondage by the witchcraft of this spirit (see Nah. 3:4). When we play around with sexual sin, we open ourselves to this demonic spirit. We must battle this principality that dominates our nation.

10. Defeat, failure and depression in the Christian life. It is Satan's purpose to rob us of the victorious life that is ours in Christ (see 2 Cor. 2:10-14). This symptom is often manifested by an inability to praise and worship, which is a weapon of warfare. In Psalm 106:47, David asks God for salvation so he could "triumph in [God's] praise."

11. Occult involvement and behavior. Occult involvement is clearly a symptom of demonic control. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 catalogs the works of the occult, including child sacrifice, fortune-telling, sorcery and calling up the dead.

12. Speech difficulties. In Matthew 9:32-33, Jesus rebuked a demon, and the mute man was able to speak. Speech difficulties may be physical, emotional or mental, but in some cases they are demonic. Extreme language and cursing also may be prompted by the enemy.

13. Doctrinal error. First Timothy 4:1 warns that in the last days deceiving spirits will teach the doctrines of demons. Today religious cults and charlatans abound. The reason these deceivers draw many people is the power of the demonic that teaches them.

14. Religious legalism. In Galatians 3, the church at Galatia had forsaken a faith ministry that resulted in the miraculous for a law ministry of rules and regulations. Paul classified this error as witchcraft. Some deeply religious people are under the bondage of tradition, man-made rules and outward appearances. Demons thrive in this kind of environment, especially demons of control. Whenever something is substituted for faith in the finished work of Christ, it is a doctrine of demons. read more

What Are Your Kingdom Priorities?

When your priorities are out of order your life is filled with confusion.

My first word of counsel to every leader is drawn from biblical wisdom—"seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). When a person's priorities are out of order, his life will be filled with confusion and God's given purpose will not be fulfilled.

Confirm your status as a citizen of the kingdom of God by acknowledging His authority over your time, talents, opportunities and treasures. When seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is top priority, you will be able to experience faithfulness as a steward of God's blessings.

Second, "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5-6). It is essential for servant leaders in the kingdom to maintain an ongoing, intimate relationship of trust and obedience to God. Challenging situations tempt us to lean upon our own understanding. Always remember that God has promised to be with us at all times and that He delights in our acknowledging and trusting in Him. The kingdom is His kingdom, and we belong to Him; we are God's responsibility.

God's call to ministry is a call to preparation. It is not a call to success, but a call to faithfulness.

Bishop George McKinney is pastor of St. Stephen's Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego and a member of the denomination's 12-member General Board.

 

 

Read other tips for effective spiritual leadership here. read more

The Loose-Change Abolitionist

The Loose-Change Abolitionist

Zach Hunter had always thought he should’ve been born more than 200 years ago. Heartbroken by the idea of slavery, which he says is America’s “biggest blemish,” Hunter felt he could have made a difference alongside leaders of the anti-slavery movement that included Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. 

That perspective changed when Hunter discovered there are millions of people in various forms of slavery in the 21st century. He knew at that moment what God was calling him to. 

“I just thought, Wow, I can do something to change the world,” says Hunter, who launched the student-led Loose Change to Loosen Chains campaign while in middle school. He says there are billions of dollars in change in American households alone. “Why not take something as underestimated as the teenage years and something as underestimated as loose change and see what we can do?” read more

A Bridge Over Depression

A Bridge Over Depression

Weighing about 100 pounds and facing hospitalization, award-winning vocalist Candy Christmas, former member of southern gospel group The Hemphills, says she hit rock bottom. 

In 2004 her doctor, seeing Christmas’ depression was winning the war inside and out, suggested medication or admittance to a hospital. But deep inside, Christmas knew there was another way to overcome the darkness in her life. 

“I knew that the Word of God says that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and so I told my doctor ... either my religion works for me or it doesn’t, and I’m just not going to go that direction,” Christmas says. read more

Running for His Life

Running for His Life

Gilbert Tuhabonye loves to run. Growing up in Burundi, he ran the African plains near his village every day, challenged often by other distance runners who wanted a race. “They would see dust,” he says, “because I would run like the wind.” 

Now 36, Tuhabonye never dreamed his youthful passion for running would one day save his life or become his gift of life to people a continent away. 

Of the Tutsi tribe, Tuhabonye was a middle-schooler when civil war ignited in his country between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes. One afternoon, Hutus came to his school. read more

Making Real Men Outdoors

Making Real Men Outdoors

Remember, fear is a controllable emotion. That’s the last thing Ted Thompson, co-founder of Real Men Outdoors mentoring camps, says to a group of boys before sending them into a dense forest with only the moon’s light providing visibility for the next few hours. No, this isn’t punishment for the teens; it’s one of the many character-building situations they’ll face as part of the Orlando, Fla.-based ministry’s program to instill godly values in developing young men.

Run by an all-volunteer staff, Real Men Outdoors is a organization that uses the “wilderness experience” to teach fundamental qualities such as responsibility and accountability, which Thompson believes are missing in many of today’s youth. Citing results from a census poll taken a few years ago, Thompson says he and his co-founder Lawrence Williams were dismayed to find that 40 percent of all young men under the age of 19 in America live in homes without responsible men present. read more

Shooting for the Stars

Shooting for the Stars

Born with a hearing problem—in addition to having speech issues and wearing glasses and braces—Olympic Gold Medalist and WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings was made fun of for most of her childhood. That is, until she realized she had a knack for playing sports. 

“No matter what sport it was, no one could make fun of me,” says Catchings, who eventually decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a professional basketball player. She dedicated her life to achieving that dream. 

Over time, however, Catchings says basketball “became my god.” It wasn’t until she damaged her ACL during a college game that she realized it was time to recommit herself to Christ. Only then did she begin living her dream. read more


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Prayer Proof?

Are you statistically likely to pray?

The Pew Forum on Research recently asked American Christians about their prayer habits. Think you have a healthy prayer life? Tally your points from this quiz to see how you compare. 

 

What type of church do you attend?

A historically black church 4

Evangelical Protestant 3  

Orthodox Christian 2

Mainline Christian 1

 

 How old are you?

65+ 4

50-64 3

30-49 2

18-29 1

 

What’s your gender?

Female 4

Male 3

 

How much do you earn per year?

Less than $30,000 4

$30,000-$49,999 3

$50,000-$74,999 2

$75,000 + 1

 

According to the study, a female making less than $30,000—who attends a historically black church and is older than 65—would score a perfect 16 points and statistically pray the most. How did you compare? For a better measurement, how does your prayer life compare to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NKJV)? read more


Terms of Offense

Terms of Offense

Why some believers in Christ don't want to be called Christians.

 

Charisma places accuracy at the forefront in each story we publish, but sometimes even our most carefully crafted words can send the wrong signal. This was the case in a recent article we published about Messianic Jews and Israel’s statehood, which included the subheading, “These brave Christians are sharing the love of Jesus in Israel.” With the exception of the word “brave” (Jews in Israel living out their faith in Yeshua are brave indeed), we’ve learned that the rest of the phrase could be damaging to Messianic Jews’ vital task of making Yeshua real to Jewish people. Our friend Eitan Shishkoff, a Jewish believer and director of Tents of Mercy in the Galilee, graciously explains why in the following article.

As believers in God’s Son, we stand at a crossroads today of two major developments rooted in our spiritual history. Each emerged from events that took place more than 40 years ago. One is the spiritual renewal that swept the world beginning in 1967. The other is the rebirth of Israel as a nation, highlighted by the recovery of Jerusalem as a Jewish city, also in 1967. 

The late Bible teacher Derek Prince used the term “parallel restoration” to refer to this simultaneous restoring of God’s full activity in the church and the resurrection of Israel from exile’s oblivion. This awakening of both the church of Jesus and the Israel He loves constitutes nothing less than the preconditions for His second coming. 

At this intersection is a curious figure: the Messianic Jew. His arrival coincides with the events of 1967. From that year on, the Spirit of God touched many searching young Jews, like me, and we found Jesus. Then we returned to our Jewish heritage as New Testament disciples of Jesus, or in Hebrew, Yeshua

Thus, the “Messianic Jewish movement” was born, giving rise to congregations founded to provide a spiritual home for Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Yeshua who want to celebrate the biblical Jewish roots of their faith. 

We are a curiosity because we tear down the wall between Jews and Jesus erected by both church and synagogue. That wall is built on the foundational “rule” that says: “If you’re Jewish, you can’t believe in Jesus. If you do believe in Jesus, you’re no longer Jewish.”

This rule is the primary reason we had not discovered our Messiah in the centuries since His birth—and it was unintentionally affirmed in a recent issue of Charisma, for which I was interviewed as one of the Israeli believers. Messianic Jews truly appreciated being featured, but when I read the description of us as brave Christians sharing our faith in Israel, I was shocked. 

I know the term “brave Christians” was meant as a serious compliment, but it simply is not our self-understanding. We have not converted to Christianity. We have returned to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through His Messiah, Yeshua.

Our life practice, residence in the land of Israel and testimony before our people are a collective reality, which is that Jesus has made us more Jewish than ever, and through Him we have come to deeply value and celebrate our biblical Jewish heritage in a fresh, Spirit-breathed way. This is our evangelism. This is the way we would like to be known.

Concerted campaigns in several Israeli cities have publicly condemned us as nothing more than a mission to convert Jews to Christianity. These accusations threaten relationships we’ve worked years to develop. They severely miscommunicate the testimony of Yeshua, making Him irrelevant and undesirable to Israelis. This “turning Jews into Christians,” which was even strongly indicated by several references in the article, is patently not our aim. 

So, if we are not bringing Israelis into Christianity, then what are we doing?

We are seeking with all our hearts to introduce our people to Yeshua, the Messiah promised by the prophets. We are rejoicing in the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would make a new covenant with us. We are growing new houses of worship—not as missionary churches, but as indigenous, Hebrew-speaking, Yeshua-centered congregations in Israel. 

I am grateful that Charisma regularly focuses stories on Israel. As Israelis and as Messianic Jews we are aware that not all Christians have acknowledged modern Israel as the dramatic fulfillment of biblical prophecy that it is. Many don’t know that more Jewish people embrace Jesus as the Messiah today than at any time since the first century. Charisma stands with us.Thank you!

How then do Israeli Messianic followers of Yeshua want to be known by the global church? 

We want to be known as those who have come home. We’ve rejoined the nation of the patriarchs and the apostles.

Like Yeshua’s first disciples, we see ourselves as those who have neither rejected their heritage nor converted to another religion. 

We are called by God to identify ourselves as New Covenant Jews, heralding the return of our King with the words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39, NKJV). 

At the same time, we delight in the true brotherhood shared by all His followers, Jew and non-Jew. We are one in the Spirit and sincerely covet your friendship and prayers. 


Eitan Shishkoff is the founder and director of Tents of Mercy, a network of Messianic congregations and humanitarian aid works in the Galilee region of Israel.


Hear Eitan Shishkoff detail why it could be offensive to call a Messianic Jew a Christian at shishkoff.charismamag.com read more



‘Homeless’ by Choice in Florida

‘Homeless’ by Choice in Florida

This summer 24-year-old Brian Seeley wanted to do more than just soak up the sun on the beaches of sunny Florida. He decided to live alongside the homeless in Lakeland, Fla.

The Southeastern University senior wanted to build lasting relationships when he willingly gave up the comforts most college students enjoy by sleeping outdoors, taking bucket showers and eating with the homeless at places that offer free food. read more

Healing the Pain of Childlessness

What do you say to a sister in Christ who can’t get pregnant?

I said something stupid today. Trying to offer a word of wisdom without casting false hope to a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, I made a comment that went over like a lead balloon. Although Maria has two children, she has also lost two babies to the same physical complication currently endangering her unborn child, and she is afraid to bond with the seven-month-old baby in her womb because she knows the baby could die during childbirth.

 

“I have another friend who lost three babies,” I told her, “and when they learned during one of the pregnancies that their baby wouldn’t make it, they just decided to love that child for whatever time they would have her in the womb.” That couple’s love for their unborn child provided some meaning during their time of grief, but it wasn’t exactly a word of encouragement to Maria, whose legitimate fears have robbed her of any joyful feelings about her pregnancy.

It’s not as though my statement was out of context; we were talking about the painful emotions associated with infertility. I sensed an instant bond between us because I’ve walked down a similar path. But of all people, I should have known better than to try to console her with someone else’s story.

As I apologized for my dispiriting comment, I assured Maria that her guarded heart is a normal human reaction to the grief she’s already experienced. I call it the wall of sorrow.

The Bible gives us an inside look at another woman’s sorrow in the story of Hannah (see 1 Sam. 1). Hannah felt dejected and ashamed because she was unable to have children.

Her husband, Elkanah, loved her very much, but he had a second wife, Paninnah, whom he apparently married to bear him offspring. Peninnah provoked Hannah to bitterness year after year by reminding her of her barrenness.

During one of Hannah’s annual pilgrimages to Shiloh with Elkanah, she was so consumed with sorrow that she wept and could not eat. When she went to the temple, her anguish was so great that she couldn’t even verbalize her prayers. Eli, the priest, judged her weeping as drunkenness and scolded her (see vv. 13­–14).

Later, realizing he had misjudged her, Eli pronounced a blessing over Hannah, saying, “May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of Him” (v. 17, NLT). To Hannah, this was a spiritual breakthrough. It meant that God had heard her prayers. She soon composed herself and went on her way.

Eventually, Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel, whom she took to the temple at the age of 3 to live out his life in service to the Lord. Later, she gave birth to five more children.

Not every infertility story has an ending like Hannah’s. But this account does show the gut-wrenching struggle of a woman who entrusted her wounded heart to the Lord and awaited His loving answer to her cry.

It’s not shameful to be childless in our culture, but it can be devastating when it’s not by choice. Almost 5 million couples in the United States experience infertility at some time in their marriage.

Yet most often, couples who struggle with this trauma are met either awkward silence or inappropriate advice, even in the church. Comments like “Just relax, honey” are both an insult and a trivialization of what is usually a muddle of medical, emotional and spiritual mysteries.

So what can we do or say to help someone who is struggling to overcome the pain of childlessness? Here are some general guidelines:

1. Be a friend. Genuine, supportive friendship is the greatest gift we can offer to anyone dealing with infertility. A childless wife sometimes feels like a misfit, even in today’s society.

She may have more spontaneous lifestyle than woman with the responsibility of a family, but she may be too old for the college crowd and too young to be a companion of women whose child-rearing days are behind them. Yet with her peers—young mothers—she can be painfully aware of the “survivor’s guilt” that new moms sometimes feel around women who are struggling just to conceive.

2. Communicate. While it’s good to be sensitive to a childless women’s feelings, don’t assume she is jealous or unable to rejoice in your happiness with your children. She undoubtedly will have days when she would love to attend your daughter’s school play, and other days when just seeing a baby could send her into tears.

The key is honest communication. Allow her to freely accept or decline your invitations. If she is uncomfortable around your children, plan a ladies’ night or couples-only event.

For a woman in your community or church who is struggling with infertility, your physical presence and availability may fill a barren place in her day-to-day routines that even her family can’t. if yours is a long-distance relationship, phone calls and letters during this season of life will be priceless, and they will undoubtedly come at just the right moments.

3. Acknowledge her spiritual state. Don’t be surprised if this friend displays a pessimistic outlook on life or seems obsessed with having a baby. Realize that the month-after-month disappointments she experiences or the hormonal changes that take place with each pregnancy, along with the grief of lost babies, only heighten her wall of sorrow.

A woman who continually experiences disappointment and death may find it hard to have a positive outlook. Conversely, if she masks her sorrow, it may be because she is afraid to reveal her pain lest she seem unspiritual. She may also be angry at God or feel that He is punishing her.

Help your friend work through her spiritual confusion. Let her know that she doesn’t have to understand God’s plans and purposes in order to trust Him. Provide a safe place where she can wrestle with her spiritual questions.

4. Recognize the uniqueness of her experience. Realize that husbands and wives may deal with their questions and grief differently. Despite Elkanah’s deep love for Hannah, his question, “You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?” (1 Sam. 1:8) shows his inability to understand her pain.

This kind of marital dynamic is not unusual. The guilt and blame that can emerge from infertility are enough to set many couples on the road to divorce. A supportive, accountable relationship with another couple may help, but because infertility issues seem to be (and sometimes are) so permanent, couples may not take the initiative to seek others out.

In addition to struggling with guilt, couples going through infertility workups are often paying high medical expenses and living in “limbo,” always leaving room for the possibility of pregnancy. The ongoing plan for a family affects everything from career decisions to vacation choices and the kind of automobile to buy. The tentative nature of their existence and the insecurity of “not knowing” may be more difficult on the wife than on her husband.

In general, a little understanding and a lot of honest dialogue go a long way toward healing the pain of infertility. The goal is to walk with your friend until she finds a solution to her situation. God’s answer may be a miraculous pregnancy, the building of a family through adoption or foster parenting, or the peace to live a childless, yet fulfilling lifestyle.

Until the answer comes, don’t be like Peninnah who provoked Hannah to bitterness. Don’t be like Hannah’s husband who trivialized her pain or like Eli who misunderstood her anguish. Don’t be too quick with your words, like I was with Maria. Even encouraging words can be received as a prophecy, so don’t be push or presumptuous.

Instead, be like Jesus, the friend who sticks closer than a brother, who wept at the tomb of Lazarus and then raised him from the dead. And when you don’t know what to say, just remain silent, shedding an empathetic tear or giving your friend the opportunity to share her heart. Your presence alone can speak volumes, resurrect her faith and help break down her wall of sorrow.

Anahid Schweikert is a free-lance journalist in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

 

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