Sometimes the journey to find strength is an uphill climb. Especially when our hopes keep getting dashed, and we begin to wonder if this desire of our heart is truly from God. My friend Bethany Kortekaas has watched God do amazing things to restore her strength in difficult places–especially during her hard fought hope of holding a baby in her arms. Bethany has shared some of the heartaches and joys of her journey. I believe you’ll be strengthened by her beautiful story of Resurrection Hope on this Easter Sunday!
GUEST BLOG: Bethany Kortekaas
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
“I would love to see Baby K grow into a young and beautiful version of the wonderful people that you and Adam are. We will be seeing you in just a couple of weeks now!” These were the words of the young lady who is giving us the gift of our baby girl.
Strength from the Lord comes in all kinds of vessels. There are no words to describe how I feel about this young mother who is willing to walk the hard road of a full-term unexpected pregnancy. In a time when everyone points to easy solutions, she was determined to bless us with this child regardless of what that meant for her.
See, strength is more than just muscles and a work ethic. Strength is the courage to stand when you want to hide. It is the willingness to walk when the way is not clear. It cannot be measured by outward appearance nor reserved for the privileged. It is turning everyday to something more than what is visible to others.
Adam and I have uncovered this strength in our path to parenthood. God provides Himself as a source of strength to each person. If you are willing to admit that you need it, He is willing to provide it. How do you cope with being single longer than you hoped to be? How do you respond to yet another round of infertility treatments? What do you do once you discover you have a brain tumor? Where do you turn when your adopted embryos die? When you miraculously get pregnant and then miscarry? Do you say yes to adopting a baby?
How do you keep praying, keep thanking God, and keep hoping? Our strength to answer these questions has come from God. He is the almighty, powerful Creator of all we know and the only trustworthy source of strength that can never run dry.
Our family has tapped into God’s strength through three main ways: reading the Bible, prayer, and community:
- There is a deep comfort when you pick up your Bible and read Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” We read our Bible for encouragement, insight, and to learn more about our Father who loves us and wants the best for us even in the pain. The Bible reveals that there is more to our story than what we can see right now.
- Prayer is direct access to God. Because of Jesus, we have the freedom to talk openly with the One who created starfish, Jupiter, and all the synapses firing in our brains. In prayer is where we acknowledge that the world is outside of our control and we need more strength than we can muster up for ourselves. It is safe for me to cry, question, feel, and hope as I pray. Prayer is where we respond in relationship with a God who can provide strength in the waiting and in the wonder.
- God created community. He made it clear that it is not good for man to be alone and He reinforced this by how He instructed the people of Israel to work, worship, and celebrate together. Without our friends, family, and the community of believers around the world, we would be lost in this journey.
We have seen others adopt embryos because of our story. We have heard how God provided financially in other adoptions. We have felt overwhelmed by the love at our baby showers. We have even been strengthened by the very words of our future daughter’s birth mom.
God has given us vessels of His strength through promises like Psalm 46:1, through prayer, and through the give and take of community. By His strength, we can walk forward in confident hope toward our next adventure.
Leave a comment | tags: adoption, community, faith, God's Word, hope, prayer, Resurrection | posted in Begin the Journey, finding strength, hopes and dreams
Where do you find strength when you feel weak? When your hopes grow dim? King David faced a traumatic crisis—his village was plundered and all the wives and children taken captive. The Bible tells us he “strengthened himself in the Lord.” God filled him with strength and empowered David and his men to recapture all that had been stolen(1 Samuel 30).
So glad you’ve dropped by for 21 Days of Strength. I hope you’ll find a word or a suggestion that encourages your heart and helps you grow strong.
I asked several friends for practical tips on how they strengthen themselves in the Lord. All agreed on the importance God’s Word as a means of encouragement.
But their answers for what this looked like were as varied as their personalities. As on friend put it, “I like to read and meditate on God’s Word. But with my creative and artistic side, I find it helps to actually draw the verses. Sometimes I embellish them with designs and colors. I meditate on the words of Scripture as I do this.”
Another has a more musical bent. Listening to worship music feeds her soul. After all, many worship songs are simply the words of Scripture put to melody. One young man prefers to hear the Word of God through preaching. Still another friend feels especially close to God through nature. So she likes to meditate on a special promise from Scripture as she walks outside. You get the point. God has wired each of us in a unique fashion—so it helps to experiment to learn how best to nourish our soul.
My friends all stressed that encouragement from other believers is vital. One confessed that sometimes he tries to find strength on his own. “Finally, after going around in my head, I realize I need to get perspective from somebody else,” he admitted. “And after a few minutes of talking things over with a friend, I realize that this was what I needed all along.” The Christian life, we agreed, is not to be travelled alone.
Each has discovered that giving hope to someone else who is hurting brings strength. One friend sends encouraging notes to those whom God puts on her heart–she’s done this for years. Writing notes, she admits, always lifts her own spirits. I’ve personally been on the receiving end of some of her beautiful words of encouragement.
God’s economy is upside down. We give life away, only to get it back in return. We grow strong as we pour out our strength to others. I’ve discovered that encouraging the broken hearted brings strength and even healing—both emotional and physical. So Isaiah 58:10 has become one of my life’s verses: “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10 NIV).
How about you? What brings strength and healing, to your soul?
Leave a comment | tags: encouragement, Friends, God's Word, hope, strength | posted in Agree with Others in Prayer, Arm Yourself with Spiritual Strength, finding strength, hopes and dreams
Sooner or later, it’s bound to happen. We reach the end of our strength. We’ve played out. Hit the wall. You know what I’m talking about. When we’re worn out, our state of mind is affected. Even our faith can falter. As someone once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Add to that, the increasingly busy life most of us lead, and you have a sure-fire recipe for exhaustion. And for the discouragement that follows close on its heels.
So glad you’ve joined us for 21 Days of Strength. For three weeks, our focus will be on strength. How to find it. How to keep it. How to make good use of it. How to receive it from God. I’ll say it again. God is close to us when we’re weak, but He wants to make us strong.
The Bible is honest about human frailty, revealing story after story of men and women who reached the end of their strength. But it also shares secrets of how they found strength in God.
We’ve observed how David “strengthened himself in the Lord” after a marauding army of Amalekites raided his village and captured all the women and children. And how God empowered David and his mighty men to regain all they had lost.
I’ve been thinking back to times in my life when I’ve “hit the wall.” When tough times hit, how do I draw strength from God? Here are a few simple ways that work for me:
- I literally go into my room (or my car) and shut the door. Often I will turn my cell phone and laptop off so I won’t even hear the “ding” from someone trying to contact me. It was Jesus Himself who reminded His disciples to “go into their room and shut the door” when praying to God (Matthew 6:6).
- I take out my Bible and dig in. I’m alert to promises that speak directly to my heart, reveal an area of sin, provide wisdom for a tricky problem, add fire to a dream. Or I may look in my concordance for verses related to the topic I’m wrestling through. As I read, I commit whatever is on my heart to the Lord in prayer. By pouring over God’s Word, I notice promises that shed light on my situation or give me hope. I can almost feel my faith re-fire. Romans 10:17 puts it this way: “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.”
- I keep watch during the day to notice God at work . I look for the tiny ways He may begin to answer my prayers, solve my problem, fill me with fresh hope and strength. I remember to thank and praise Him. Which in turn, seems to strengthen my faith and breathe even more energy into my tired soul. Psalm 5:3 encourages us to seek God daily and to live with expectant hope: “Morning after morning, I lay my requests before You and eagerly watch for the answers.”
So I’m curious. How do you strengthen yourself in the Lord?
3 Comments | tags: faith, finding strength in the Lord, hope, strength | posted in Arm Yourself with Spiritual Strength, finding strength, hopes and dreams, Praise and Thanksgiving
My friend Sara always challenges me to dig deeper. Never one for easy answers, she makes me want to discover the “how to” of Scripture as well as the “why.” So I was delighted when she offered her thoughts in response to my new book, which is officially released today. (David has written the companion volume for you guys). So glad Sara has entered the conversation about honor–especially in our marriages. I hope you will, too!
GUEST BLOG: Sara Miller
I love reading so I was delighted to receive a copy of Marilynn’s new book Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Husband. I quickly dived in over Valentine’s Day weekend and enjoyed learning and being reminded about ways I can honor my husband well.
I was just about to wrap up my reading and start my day when the last page of Chapter 3 stopped me in my tracks. It says, “Becoming a Wife Who Builds” and centers around Proverbs 14:1 – “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears it down.” And, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” from 1 Thessalonians 5:11. (ESV)
I’ll be the first to say that the word “builds” and the Scriptures included aren’t all that revolutionary for me. I’ve read them many times. I’ve used that word throughout my life. We all have, right? So why did I stop and stare at the page?
Here’s the definition she includes. “To build, to build up, rebuild; to edify, strengthen, develop another person’s life through acts and words of love and encouragement.” Also, “to build a house, to construct; to advance a person’s spiritual condition.” Wow. There’s a lot more to building than I initially realized.
As a wife, mom, friend, family member…I am called to be a woman who builds. I took a quick glance through that definition and used it as a checklist, and it was convicting. Am I building up? Edifying?
Strengthening others’ lives through my acts, words of love and encouragement? Through God’s strength, I try to, but when I act only out of my own strength and willpower, I fail. Am I advancing anyone’s spiritual condition? Am I an ezer to my husband and a good role model in my walk of faith for my kids? Am I sharing God’s love with others who don’t know Him yet?
It’s safe to say I have plenty of opportunities to be a builder. I’m guessing you do too! When I’m tempted to be overwhelmed by this opportunity, I’m grateful for the reminder that God is the master builder and He just lets me take part in His work. When I’m weak, He is strong! I’m praying for His strength to work in me and through me today. I’m praying that for you too!
Leave a comment | tags: builder, Honor, marriage | posted in Honor, hopes and dreams
I’ll never forget the time a good friend listened as I shared the special dream I held close to my heart. I hadn’t told a soul about my secret hope. She looked at me and said with conviction, “I’m believing with you that this dream–which I sense is from God–will come true!” Hope filled my soul. I breathed in fresh resolve to keep standing on what I believed was a promise from God. My friend was now “hoping with” me, and that gave me strength. It was Jesus Himself who said to his followers: “If two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19, 20).
Through a remarkable series of circumstances, my dream eventually came true. As someone once said, “Our dreams are the seeds of reality.” My hope did become reality–and I feel sure the “prayer of agreement” with my friend helped pave the way.
Love does that, you know. It shares the dreams of another. Love hopes with someone. When you think about it, hope is an action. A verb. It’s something you do. The Bible even tells us that hope is a practical way to show love: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Love hopes all things. That means that nothing within the realm of God’s will is off limits. Love also bears, believes, and endures all things. Love believes for our dreams to come true, endures with us when the going gets rough, bears with us when we get weary. Love characterizes God, for God is love (1 John 4:18).
We are called to carry His love into a broken and dying world. A weary people, desperate for the “thrill of hope.” So as we reflect on 30 Days of Hopeful, let’s rejoice in the wonderful assurance of God’s love for us–let’s get a fresh grip on our hopes and dreams.
The Bible tells us a secret: Faith, hope, and love are eternal (1 Corinthians 13:13). What’s more, love never fails. And love hopes all things, so a God-given dream cannot die. Because if our dream is His dream, He will work in us and through us to accomplish His will.
We’ve had 30 days to reflect on hope–30 days to rekindle the fires of our dreams. Moving forward, let’s remember to be alert and watchful as we go into the world today: Look around you. Whose dream is dying? Is there a hurting face in your crowd who needs hope–somebody you can “hope with?” What more fitting season than Christmas to sow seeds of hope into the lives of those who are thirsty for hope.
Leave a comment | tags: dream, hope, love, prayer of agreement | posted in Agree with Others in Prayer, Arm Yourself with Spiritual Strength, hopes and dreams