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Lost and Found Family

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When it was discovered my dad was having an affair, the family unit I’d known for twenty-seven years was slowly torn apart.

Now what I once knew as my family no longer looks the same, feels the same, or is the same. It’s felt like what I’d imagine losing a limb might feel like; first searing pain, then numbness, now an ever-persistent ache. At times, losing a parent to death would have seemed like a more welcome trial.

I’ve had to battle bitterness and unforgiveness like never before. But I’ve also experienced support from a family bigger than my physical family: the family of God. And more importantly, despite the faithlessness of my earthly father, God has been a faithful spiritual Father.

Losing Family

I’m glad the Bible gives us stories of people who have experienced the destruction of their families too. It usually makes me thankful my story isn’t as bad as theirs! Take Job, for instance. In a single moment everyone—except his wife—was killed in one fatally catastrophic and seemingly freak accident.

Job has been an example to me as to how to respond to God when something dear has been taken away. Although he went through the natural process of grieving and mourning, he also:

Fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22)

Job’s response seems pretty amazing to me. I know I’ve charged God with wrongdoing a few times and my life’s losses don’t compare to Job’s.

The neat thing about the story of Job is that we get to know the "back story" that we probably won’t ever know about in our life’s story. We discover that the tragedies that befell Job were not some sort of cosmic punishment. Actually, the opposite was true. It was because he was so righteous that these disasters occurred. It was because Job was "blameless and upright" that Satan wanted to test and tempt him to betray God. But the good news is that all of Job’s trials—although not necessarily caused by God—were in God’s control. Nothing happened to Job that God didn’t allow and place boundaries on. Likewise, it gives me comfort to know that everything that occurs to me has been sifted through the fingers of God and can be used by Him to mold me more into His image. He can take even the loss of family and turn it into something for my good.

Battling Bitterness

Although God can use our trials to make us more like Him, our response to our loss will have a lot to do with whether we’re shaped more into His image or not.

One of the most common battles I’ve faced is bitterness. Bitterness can exist either towards God or other people. For me, it is towards my father. I can become bitter over the pain he’s caused my mom, my siblings, and me. Or over the difficult financial situation he’s put my mom in. I can become bitter imagining other families having joyful holidays while we have to decide how to split ours between four different parents (my husbands’ parents are divorced as well). Or maybe when trying to pick out a Father’s Day card that just says "Happy Father’s Day" without all the praise of what a wonderful example he’s been to me.

The week before Father’s Day this year I was confronted with Ephesians 4, which tells me to put on a "new self" by getting "rid of all bitterness" (Ephesians 4:31). I was convicted and with the Holy Spirit’s help sought repentance and a heart change. As my father and I met for Father’s Day, I can honestly say I didn’t struggle with bitterness this time. A small battle in the war against bitterness was won.

My friend Briana can also relate to this struggle. Her bitterness has been towards God, and after losing her father to cancer, she admits:

Any time I would face something difficult in life or see God take something I treasured away from me, I would go back to my Dad’s death and build a case against God from that point on, sowing many seeds of anger and bitterness in my heart over the course of many years. Through this, though, I have seen God’s relentless pursuit of my heart. No human would ever have patiently and faithfully stuck with me or continued to love me if I had wrongfully accused and so pridefully mistrusted them as I have God during various seasons of my life.

Whether towards God or man, it’s no easy task to defeat bitterness, I know. But I’ve learned that if I let bitterness grow in my heart, I’ll only make those around me and myself miserable. It is a battle worth waging.

Finding Family

God doesn’t intend that we go through our losses and spiritual battles alone. He wants to use the Church to show His faithfulness and extend His arms of comfort. I’ve realized I need to see my family as being bigger than just the physical one I was born into. I want to invest myself into the lives of my spiritual family members so that we can "carry each other’s burdens" (Galatians 6:2). However, to allow people to carry my burdens, I’ve discovered I have to be humble enough be real about what’s going on in my life. When I’ve done this, I’ve experienced the blessing of having people encourage me by praying for my family and me on many occasions.

Briana had a similar experience when her father died. She remembers "depend[ing] greatly upon the outstretched arms of the body of Christ at that time to just be there through a very disorienting time of my life. The body of Christ became a tangible picture to me of God’s abiding love and faithfulness." The wonderful thing is that after experiencing such comfort from our spiritual family members, we’ll be eager return the favor. When circumstances threaten to overwhelm our friends, we’ll have an opportunity to encourage and offer practical help.

Faithful Father

No matter what happens to our physical families, or what pain they may inflict on us, if we are God’s children, He will always be a faithful Father to us. He is a Father who extends grace and mercy into our lives, not just for salvation, but also for each day as long as we live. He uses the events in our lives to shape us into people that resemble Him more and more—if we are willing to let Him mold us.

The fact that we are under going this spiritual metamorphosis should humble us. This humility should make us careful to not judge those who’ve wronged us. While we can realize their actions were sinful, we must remind ourselves we also are capable of the same actions if we don’t stay close to Christ.

I have a friend, Lydia, whose mother abandoned her family. One day she was there, the next day she wasn’t. Lydia shares that the memory of her mom’s leaving sobers her everyday as she thinks about her own capacity to make a similar sinful choice. She says, "I see that if I don’t stay connected to the vine of Christ, I too, could walk away. . . . I want to view [my mom’s] life from an outsider’s point of view, and see any weaknesses in her that may be in me, asking God to help me overcome them His way." Part of God’s faithfulness to us is that He keeps us from making the same sinful choices that have been committed against us.

Some of us have lost a parent to death. Some of us had a parent abandon us. Some of us have experienced the split of our families by separation or divorce. No matter what the story, we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. We can heal and be changed more into the image of Christ. Like Job, we can praise God during devastating circumstances because our eyes are opened to seeing God’s faithful hand. No matter what family we may lose along life’s journey, we can always find our Father. He is always near and will never forsake.

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Danielle Ayers Jones is wife to an amazing husband and mother to three. She's a writer and photographer, combining both loves on her blog, danielleayersjones.com. A space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, rest in the struggle, and encouragement in unexpected places. She's also written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., iBelieve.com, StartMarriageRight.com, and FortheFamily.org. You can follow Danielle on Instagram here and Pinterest here.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Lost and Found Family

by Danielle Ayers Jones time to read: 6 min
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