Are We Tearing Apart Our Homes with Our Own Hands?

“And if you’d listened to me, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” the woman muttered to her husband. “I told you we should have taken care of this a month ago. I don’t know why I let you handle things. I should just do it myself.” The disgust and contempt dripped from her lips like arsenic.

Looking their way, I glanced up at the man standing with her. His shoulders slumped, and a flush crept across his face. The light in his eyes dimmed. 

I turned away, feigning interest in the cans of Chef Boyardee on the shelf in front of me, but her words lingered in my mind long after she’d shoved her cart down another aisle.

I encountered another disrespectful wife recently, this one on the pages of Scripture.

Second Samuel 6 describes a grand and glorious day for Israel. After 20 years, the ark of God, the symbol of God’s favor and blessing, was finally returning to Jerusalem. David’s first attempt to bring back the holy symbol ended in disaster, but this time the priests carefully followed God’s instructions. When they’d taken six steps and no lightning bolts fell from the sky, they knew God’s blessing rested upon them.

David’s heart swelled with joy. Casting kingly dignity and his royal robes aside, he danced before the Lord with all his might. “He and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets,” (2 Sam. 6:14-15). The Israelites celebrated with songs of praise and a time of feasting. Happy and content, David returned to the royal palace basking in the joy of the celebration.

Until Michal, his wife, met him at the door. Sarcasm oozed from her words like slime from a slug. "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today,” she spat, “disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (2 Sam. 6:20).

Talk about sucking the joy out of the atmosphere. Way to end one of the happiest days of David’s life. Instead of rejoicing with her husband and entering into his celebratory abandon, she demeaned and shamed him. Michal not only got an A for spoiling the party, she earned extra credit for wifely disrespect.

Like I did for the poor man in the grocery store, I cringed for David. But my heart hurt even more for Michal. Like the foolish woman in Proverbs 14:1, she was tearing down her house with her own hands – or mouth – in this case.

Second Samuel 6:2 records God’s judgment on her: “And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

It’s easy to look down our self-righteous noses at Michal, but one long look in the mirror reminds us we have little to brag about. How often have we talked down to our husbands, belittled or disregarded their ideas, or treated them like children? If someone were to record some of our conversations, would they always hear the same respectful tone we use with our bosses, patients, and friends or something less? 

Do we honor them as the leaders in our homes or undermine their leadership by manipulating them or going behind their back? Do we ever trash talk them to our friends, family, or children?

Since the dawn of time, women have struggled to respect their husbands. Sadly, many men don’t act in ways that deserve respect. But God doesn’t put conditions on his command for us to respect our husbands. He just tells us to do it.

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph. 5:33).

As we respect our men out of reverence and obedience to the Lord, God will honor this. Ephesians 6:8 promises: “You know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do.”

If you, like most of us, don't always respect your husband, may I suggest a resource? Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs’ book, Love and Respect offers a hopeful challenge and practical help toward building a marriage that honors God and each other. I highly recommend it.

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Is God Ignoring Me?

Standing at the kitchen counter, I feel a tug at my pants leg. Fully aware that my tiny granddaughter stands at my feet, I continue spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread. The tug becomes more insistent. 

“Just a minute, Caroline. Gigi can’t pick you up right now.” 

Caroline (lightly dusted with flour from Mommy's baking)
A frown creases her little brow. Whimpering, she grabs both pants legs, arching her back as if to will herself higher. 

“I know you’re hungry. Hang on. I’m making you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” 

My words only fuel her distress. With a final swipe of the knife, I add jelly to the sandwich, then smoosh the two pieces of bread together, completing the PB&J marriage. A wail at my feet signals the end of Caroline’s patience. 

I understand her frustration. 

From her limited perspective, nothing is happening. My back is turned, and I am clearly occupied with something other than her. To make matters worse, she has a need I'm not responding to.

Or so she thinks. 

If Caroline was a little taller, she could see the truth—that I'm not ignoring her. Not only am I not ignoring her, but I'm actively working on her behalf. 

I’m a lot like Caroline. 

I’ve learned where to go when I have a need, and that’s a good thing. I approach my heavenly Father with a gentle tug and a whispered prayer or plea. If he doesn’t respond immediately, I become more insistent. 

Some days his silence makes me feel as though he’s turned his back on me and is deliberately ignoring my urgent demands. Other times, I must confess, I launch a full-blown tantrum, complete with thrashing and wails. 

Like Caroline, I have a limited perspective. 

Tethered to earth by my mortality, I cannot see into the spiritual realm, where God is always at work. I forget he is my advocate, my provider, and my deliverer. Spiritual amnesia robs my memory of all the times he’s come to my rescue, and I panic, forgetting that his timetable is different from my own. 

This is when I must rest in what I know, not in what I see. God’s Word tells me the truth—that he knows me, loves me, and promises to care for me all the days of my life. 

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isa. 46:4). 

What are you struggling with today? Trust God with it.

May this be our prayer: 

Father, help me trust you when I cannot see you. Help me remember all you’ve done for me in the past and wait patiently when your answer is long in coming. Grow my faith as I learn to depend on you. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

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Crying in the Restroom -- Comfort for the Disappointed

Like the good writers they teach us to be, writing conference directors love to build anticipation and suspense. This is why they save “what you’ve all been waiting for” for the final moments of the final meeting on the final day of the conference.

What we’ve all been waiting for, at least for many attendees, is the announcement that reveals who won the writing contests. I served on faculty at a conference recently where this was the case. The Miss America pageant had nothing on them as they slowly read the names of the winners.

“And the second runner up is . . . “

“And the first runner up is . . . “

“Now let’s give the history of this particular contest . . .”

“And talk about a few of the past winners . . . “

“And take a few photographs . . . “

“And finally, . . . the winner of the 2018 Best Novel Contest iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis . . . Katie Smithson.”

Clapping along with the rest of the audience, I stood to excuse myself. I needed to go to the bathroom. I'd been waiting for at least 30 minutes because I didn't want to miss the announcement. As the winner, shiny trophy and cash prize in hand, posed for pictures, I made my way to the nearest restroom.

A quick glance told me it was empty except for one stall. And in that stall stood a crying woman.

Her back was pressed against the closed stall door, and all I could see was her feet. But I heard her sniffling.

I knew immediately what was wrong.

She was one of the contest entrants – one of the ones who didn’t win.

I turned, eased the bathroom door open, and slipped out, respecting her desire to cry alone.

On the long walk to find another restroom, I prayed for her.

Lord, remind her that her writing is valuable. Strengthen her resolve to learn the craft and apply the knowledge she’s learned this weekend. Give her courage to open her computer again. Someday her writing may be good enough to win an award, but even if it isn't, remind her that the true prize doesn't belong to the most gifted or accomplished, but to the one who perseveres. Most of all, Lord, help her not to quit.

When was the last time you were disappointed? When you knew your hard work was about to pay off, only to discover it wasn’t good enough? When your coworker got the promotion, raise, or bonus you hoped to secure? When someone else’s child got the full tuition scholarship? When God answered your best friend’s prayer but seemed to ignore yours?

We’ve all had times when our hearts have broken in disappointment. When we’ve smiled through our tears at someone else’s success or good fortune or hidden in the bathroom to cry.

If today is one of those days for you, I want to pray for you. 

Father, wrap your big strong arms around my dear sister. Hold her close and let her sob into your chest. Then, when the tears slow to a trickle and the sobs subside to an occasional hiccup, speak truth into her heart. Remind her that your timing is perfect, and you will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly. Renew her hope. 

Give her courage to try again, and again, and again, if that’s what’s needed. If she needs another approach, give her James 1:5 wisdom to know what it is. If you have a different plan for her, help her recognize it and obey you. Give her faith to trust your timing, your wisdom, and, most of all, your heart. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray, Amen. 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning,” (Psalm 30:5). 

Now it’s your turn. When was the last time disappointment made you cry? How did God comfort you in your pain? Leave a comment below and share your story. And if you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

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40 Minutes to Live?

Passengers on Wednesday's United Airlines Flight 1175 thought they might die.

Midway through their trip from San Francisco to Honolulu,  they heard a loud bang. The aircraft began shaking. Passengers on the right side of the plane noticed parts of the engine cover flapping violently, then flying off.

The pilot radioed the Honolulu airport to say he’d be making an emergency landing. "Please have fire and rescue personnel on the ground."

No one knew if they’d make it.

Flight attendants reviewed safety protocol, coaching passengers how to brace for impact, exit the plane using inflatable slides, and detach their seat bottoms to use as flotation devices if the aircraft crashed in the sea.

With those protocols covered, all they had left to do was wait, questions swirling in their heads like confetti at a ticker tape parade. Would the plane make it to Honolulu? Would it crash into the sea? Would it have to make an emergency landing at the airport? 

“It was the scariest flight of my life,” one passenger said later. 

“I thought we were going to die,” another said. 

Forty minutes. Such a short time, yet probably an eternity to those passengers, crew, and family members waiting to hear their fate. 

Once the emergency landing briefing ended, all they could do was wait. Some passengers took pictures of the damaged engine and tweeted about what was going on. Others texted final messages to their loved ones. 

“I told my family what was going on,” one woman said later, “and then I told them I loved them.” 

If you were on that flight, what would you do with what could be the last 40 minutes of your life? 

Were there any Christians on board? I wondered. Did anyone stand up and share the gospel? 

The average Boeing 777 carries 300 to 400 passengers. If you knew you and 400 people around you might die in the next 40 minutes, would you care about where they were going to spend eternity? Would you share your faith? 

Would I? 

I can’t say for sure. I’ve never been in a situation like that, but I hope so. I hope I’d accept the courage the Holy Spirit would give to stand boldly, risk embarrassment, disregard what others might say, and testify of the hope God gives. 

Whether the plane landed safely on the ground and I continued my vacation, or it crashed into the sea and my life ended, my destiny is safe in the arms of Jesus. Would I share this life-changing assurance or keep it to myself? 

Would you? 

I hope we never find ourselves in a plane over the ocean watching pieces of an aircraft fly off and fall into the sea. But we sit beside people every day whose life could end unexpectedly. 

While there may not be 400 of them, there are probably a few who don’t know where they’ll spend eternity. They don’t know Jesus took the punishment for their sin so they don’t have to. And they don’t know that whether they die today or in 50 years, they desperately need the hope that is only found in Jesus. 

It’s up to us to tell them. 

Thankfully, the San Francisco/Honolulu flight landed safely. Passengers disembarked and continued their day as planned. But they might not have. 

Today, I challenge you, as God has challenged me -- look around. Prayerfully consider who might need the hope you have in Jesus. Ask God to open the door to share your faith. Then walk through it.

It could change someone’s life forever. 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15).

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Sucker Punch on the Second Row

There’s nothing like a sucker punch to the gut to get your attention. 

You’d think a church service would be a safe place, and the second row of the church one of the safest of all. But with increasing levels of church-related violence, apparently even the most hallowed of sanctuaries aren’t totally protected. And who would have known a pastor was capable of delivering such a mean right hook?

Truth be told, the real blame for the sobering blow I received on Sunday morning belongs not to my pastor/husband, but to the Lord – and the living, active power of his Word.

The service started out well. Heartwarming prayer, uplifting music, a time of praise for what God had done in the past week. Then my pastor/husband introduced his sermon topic – Caleb, one of the twelve spies the Israelites sent into Canaan.

You know the story (and can probably sing the song – Twelve men went to spy on Canaan, ten were bad and two were good). The spies confirmed that the land God had promised them was a good land, filled with milk and honey. 

BUT (and this was a big but), there were giants in the land. Big, hairy, scary giants.

“The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there . . . We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them" (Num. 13:33).

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’" 

But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’”

That’s when God got mad. 

And whooooooeeeeee, you do not want to be around when God gets mad. It’s also when I felt the air whoosh out of my lungs from the impact of his Words.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?’” (Num. 14:11).

All of a sudden, God wasn’t talking to Moses anymore. Or the ten bad spies. Or even the faithless Israelites. 

He was talking to me. 

 And what he was saying took my breath away and made me hang my head in shame. This is what it sounded like in non-King James English: 

“How often will you wring your hands in fear when someone you love is sick, or hurt, or wayward? How many times will you doubt my ability to meet your needs? How long will you fret over circumstances you can’t manipulate or control?” 

“How long will you refuse to believe in my ability to care for you, in spite of all the miraculous works I have performed in your life?” 

I fell off a slide when I was seven years old. The impact broke my right arm and knocked the breath from my lungs. I couldn’t speak for several minutes. After I gathered my wits together, I picked myself up off the ground and ran to the teacher. 

On Sunday, when my breath returned, I gathered my wits together, picked myself up off the proverbial ground, and ran to the Teacher. 

Father, I prayed, I confess my sin before you. I doubt you when you have never, ever given me a reason to question your ability or your commitment. My fear flies in the face of your faithfulness and my faltering trust treats you with contempt. In the 35 years since you saved me, you have met my needs, filled my life with good things, and given me hope and purpose. You’ve walked with me through dark and scary times and brought beauty from ashes. Whenever fear tempts me to doubt, remind me of all you have done in the past. Grow my faith. Help me, like Joshua and Caleb, to walk boldly into the future you have planned for me. 

Now it’s your turn. Do you struggle to trust God in the face of frightening circumstances? What Scripture passages strengthen your faith? Leave a comment below. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

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