Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Struggles”

CAN YOU BRIDGE THE GAP?

swing-bridge

I have a friend who’s really wigged out by bridges. Not totally creeped out, but pretty freaky about them. I had no idea this existed in her until several years ago. She invited my boys and me down to the lake to spend a few days with her and her kids. We hung out and did some sight-seeing and driving around.

One day we were driving through one of the state parks. It was a pretty remote area with deep woods and winding gravel roads. Somewhere in the middle of the winding and driving on our primitive path, we came upon an old suspension bridge with wooden planks that you could see through straight to the water below. I thought it was cool. So did the kids. They wanted to get out and walk across. So we stopped the car and her uneasiness began. Again, I had no idea she was so wigged out by these things. She wanted no part of getting out of the car. Matter of fact she wanted no part of even driving over the bridge even though car after car had gone over it for years. It wasn’t like she was totally freaking out or anything, but was noticeably bothered. Honestly, at the time I thought she was just messing with me. But, no. Oh no. It was for real. She does not like bridges and this old, rickety suspension bridge was proof positive.

Some time ago at work one of the entertainers at our facility played the Simon and Garfunkel song Bridge Over Troubled Water on the piano. I hadn’t thought about my friend and her freaky bridge aversion in a long time. And for whatever reason, this song brought back that memory. Personally I like the song. If you read the history behind it, you’ll find the “true meaning” of the song lies somewhere between Jesus and heroin and the few strands of gray in Mrs. Simon’s hair.

Here’s the thing…people struggle, people have junk and baggage. When they look through the wooden planks of their lives it’s far from sturdy. And all they see through the weathered and worn out planks is troubled waters. They see failure, shortcomings, regret, poor choices, guilt, remorse, and shattered hopes and dreams. They don’t see peace. They don’t sense calm. They don’t feel stillness. Like the bridge they feel suspended in mid-air without any kind of solid foundation underneath.

Can you, even for a moment, bridge the gap between their hurt and your hope? Can you, even for a moment, bridge the gap between their pain and God’s promises? Can you, even for a moment, bridge the gap between their struggles and your Savior?

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…

To my friend’s credit she did drive over the bridge after a little coaxing and several offers from me to take the wheel. We made it. All in one piece. With memories to share and stories to tell when we safely arrived at the other side.

Ah, yes…the other side. Safety is on the other side, but the journey to get there sometimes has to go over old, rickety bridges with weathered and worn out planks.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes around
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…

 Who can you be a bridge for this week?

(*Note: This post originally appeared on the Clutter Interrupted website on November 23, 2014)

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MARCH ON!

Sometimes I catch myself talking to myself. When I screw something up I might whisper to myself, “Get it together, Beth!” Or when I’m about to say something I know I shouldn’t I might whisper under my breath, “Just bite your tongue, Beth.” Sometimes when I’m excited about something I just clap to myself as if to say, “Let’s go!” or “Well done!”

I know…I’m a little outside of your definition of normal. But it’s all good!

Do you ever do this? Do you ever scold yourself? Do you ever give yourself a pep-talk?

It’s sort of like being our own advisor or coach or policeman. And I guess I reckon if nobody else is whispering in my ear at the moment when I might need to hear something, why not do it myself? Again…I know…not normal.

I was reading through the account of Deborah in the Old Testament this week. I’ve read the passage before but I really studied it this time. It’s found in Judges 4-5 in case you’re interested in reading it.

Deborah was a prophet who “was leading Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4). She’s known as one of the judges, but the word “leading” in the Hebrew means to rule, govern, judge. So, from my perspective as I read the passage on Deborah, it appears as though she was a true and godly leader of Israel. She had spiritual oversight at the time and people listened to her counsel. She was a strong woman and these kind of women always intrigue me.

Anyway…back to where I was heading…

After Deborah and her military leader Barak obtained victory over Sisera, they sang a song which is recorded in Judges 5. It’s an interesting “song” if you can even call it that. Most parts of it are really hard to understand. But then I came to verse 21 where Deborah says “March on, my soul; be strong!” Now this, I understood.

March On (Deborah)

And I wondered if Deborah was just a little bit like me. I wondered if Deborah was giving herself a two second pep-talk. I wondered if Deborah was for a moment being her own advisor or coach, whispering to herself in her ear.

Maybe in the midst of their battle against Sisera and his chariots and troops—maybe in the midst of her advising Barak all along the way—she spoke these words to herself: “March on, my soul; be strong!”

I love the phrase. I love the positive encouragement it exudes. “March on, my soul; be strong!”

In the midst of my battles, “march on.”
In the midst of my struggles, “be strong.”

When things seem impossible, when the way isn’t clear, when frustration mounts, when irritation sets in, when the tasks seem daunting, when God seems silent, when friends don’t understand, when mountains are too high and valleys too low…“March on, my soul; be strong!”

My encouragement to you today–whatever you’re facing–is to “March on…and be strong!”

“GO OUTSIDE AND WRESTLE!”

When I was a kid my older brothers and I would occasionally wrestle in the family room or living room. Most of the time it was just playful scuffles. I suppose my brothers may have scrapped it up with a little more aggressiveness now and then. But it was always fun, and crazy, and exhausting. But without fail, if our dad was home at the time, before any of our wrestling matches could ever finish, we’d hear the rise of his voice from wherever he was, “You kids go outside and wrestle!” And sometimes we’d actually follow through with his wishes and go outside to grapple on. I remember once we were all outside eating dinner on our patio, and the wrestling began. My dad, without even hesitating, said “You kids go inside and wrestle!” 🙂

John Smith

I have teenage boys that frequently wrestle in our living room. Sometimes I join in. (I used to beat them handily. Now it’s purely a game of survival for me. Literally!)

Wrestling. If you allow it, it’s a good thing. Yes, I know the dangers. Our lamps and end tables show the scars wrestling. But it’s fun. It builds strength. It builds character. It’s strange family bonding, I’ll admit. But it’s good to wrestle.

I think in terms of life, wrestling is also good. We’ve got to wrestle with issues in order to know where we really stand. We’ve got to wrestle through relationships, academics, future plans, social issues, and spiritual matters. If we don’t wrestle, if the answers to life’s questions are all handed to us, if we don’t grapple with stress or failure or discouragement, we build no firm foundation for ourselves. We don’t learn things like patience, perseverance, faith, hard work, personal fortitude, coping, decision making, etc. These are life skills. These are life character traits that we all need to survive and thrive in this tough world.

You know, some families outlaw wrestling in their homes and I can respect that. There are certainly consequences to rough-housing. But some people outlaw the privilege of letting others in their midst wrestle through hard stuff. What a disservice. From my perspective, it doesn’t take very long to spot the “silver platter people” or the “I’ve-always-had-a-rescuer-so-come-and-rescue-me” people. You can just tell they’ve never wrestled. Bless ‘em!

When I was a student at Oklahoma State University I took Anatomy & Physiology with John Smith. He sat right next to me when he wasn’t off winning national or international wrestling awards. John is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. In 1996, he was named one of the 100 Greatest Olympians of All Time. He now coaches wrestling at OSU. He said, “A lotta times…you gotta win ugly.”

You see, life isn’t all wrapped up in a pretty little package.  God is not a “silver platter” or “spoon-feed” God. We’re gonna have struggles. We’re gonna have stress. We’re gonna have to wrestle. And yes…sometimes we even have to wrestle with God.

Hit the mat. Scrap it up. Wrestling is good.

So…if you or someone in your life is grappling with a tough issue, let me give you some words of wisdom borrowed from my Pops: “Go outside and wrestle!”

DEFEATING OUR “ENEMIES”: 5 WAYS TO OVERCOME

When I think of the word enemy, the Joker from Batman or Bluto from Popeye come to my mind. (Or perhaps for the Kansas City Chiefs fans out there, the Oakland Raiders are at the top of the “enemy” list.) How can we begin to defeat our enemies? What are some ways to overcome?

Let us first consider who you might identify as your enemies. Would it be the IRS? Your noisy, unruly, rude, crude, and socially unacceptable neighbor? The lunchroom or recess bully? Your coworker or boss who makes your job miserable?

I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and assume that not many of us actually have any true enemies in our lives. Not because we’re the sweetest, kindest, best people in the world, but just because our growth and maturity (be it spiritual or otherwise) doesn’t campout in that world.

So…Let me paint a picture of an enemy in a whole new light by asking a different question:

What is your biggest struggle right now? Finances? A relationship that’s not quite right? Perhaps a forgiveness problem? Or a job concern? In a sense, we sometimes view our struggles (or challenges or hardships) as enemies, don’t we?

James 1:2 says this about our struggles and trials, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” I love the J.B. Phillips rendering of this verse. He writes, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends!”

You see, there are certainly times when we face failure. There are times when we face dilemmas or doubt. There are times when we face hardship. There are times when we face death (be it death of a relationship, death of a job, death of a dream, or death of a loved one). BUT…on the horizon there is freedom, deliverance, redemption, and new life! It was the writer of Psalm 30:5 who assured us “…weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

So as you read this, maybe you’ve got a certain “enemy” in mind. Maybe there’s a certain person who is making your life miserable. It could be that you have some “thorn in your flesh.” Or perhaps you don’t have an “enemy” per se, but you are facing some kind of challenge or struggle or issue in your life that really has you by the throat.

Here are 5 ways to help overcome our enemies:

1)    Take heart — Jesus told us in John 16:33 that “in this world we will have trouble, we will have many trials and sorrow, we will have tribulation.” But He also said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is the foundation of our peace inside because we know that God is in control. TAKE HEART!

2)    Have courage — Several times in the Old Testament we are commanded to be strong and courageous. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Even while staring down an enemy or facing into a trial, we have the promise of God being in our midst. And if God is for us, who can be against us? HAVE COURAGE!

3)    Cry out — I think it’s fairly rare that we actually vocalize what our hearts feel to the core. We tend to “polish it” or “temper it” before we speak it. But when we pray, I truly believe this is how God longs for us to come to Him—with no-holds-barred, gut-level, raw honesty. Lamentations 2:19 says, “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord…” CRY OUT!

4)    Be intentional — It is so easy to get distracted, upset, and worried over lots of stuff. We have so many irons in the fire and balls in the air, that we lose sight of our main objective. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…” Focus on your one thing. BE INTENTIONAL!

5)    Celebrate God — I think we all have amnesia when it comes to remembering the great things God has done in our lives. The Psalmist says in Psalm 105, “Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Remember the wonders he has done…” You see, God does act, He does answer prayer, He does accomplish things in us and through us, but oh, how quickly we forget! CELEBRATE GOD!

As we face people in our lives we might consider enemies…or as we face trials in our lives we might consider enemies, take heart, have courage, cry out, be intentional, and celebrate God!

How do you deal with the enemies you face? Please share your thoughts…

 

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