The Prosperity Gospel and the Truth About Suffering


A sweet friend of mine took to Facebook to share the news of a new and difficult diagnosis she was trying to process. She was grappling with news of a condition that will be a life long struggle with pain and disability, and she was turning to her friends online for some much needed support. 
A few comments down, it happened:

“Don’t speak that over you. You do not have *diagnosis*…I rebuke that in the Name of Jesus! God wants you well. Speak healing over yourself.”

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Just a day earlier a well meaning connection had sent me a private message on Facebook, suggesting I should listen to a sermon titled that exact same sentiment: God Wants You Well. The sermon description included the lines “[Religion] even tries to make us believe that sickness is a blessing. That’s just not true. God wants you well.” Seems like a pretty positive message right? I mean, Jesus DID go around healing the blind and asking the lame to walk, so clearly He doesn’t want anyone to be sick…right? He only wants blessings for His followers: all the good and perfect gifts from the Father, and everything else? Well those are the attacks of Satan – obviously.

Friends, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as great as that sounds? It’s totally not Biblical – not even a little bit.

Take a seat, grab your coffee and your Bible if its handy, and lets dig in together to see what God REALLY says about suffering. I’m taking on 7 key points where we can compare the teachings of the prosperity gospel side by side with God’s word, and see just how much they don’t sync up.

The Prosperity Gospel says: Rebuke Suffering
The Bible Says: EXPECT Suffering

1 Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as thought something strange were happening to you.

1 Thessalonians 3:3
…that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

1 Peter 4:19
Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good

1 Peter 2:21
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps

The New Testament is absolutely littered with references to suffering, especially if you dig in to the writings of Paul. (There’s a guy who did his fair share of suffering. )We’re reminded time and time again of the truth that suffering is to be expected for followers of Christ. When Jesus told us to pick up our cross to follow Him? He was preparing us for the reality that the Christian walk would in no way guarantee us “health, wealth, and prosperity.” Quite the opposite. Paul tells us in Thessalonians that we are destined for suffering, choosing a word that communicates the idea of the very purpose for which something was created – like a salt shaker is made to hold salt. As appealing as it is to believe that a life following Christ is one where we leave our troubles behind us, the truth of Gods word sheds light on a very different reality.

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When God Pushes Pause

 

The blog has once again been eerily quiet.

There was such a year of build up to creating this site, with God opening doors I could have never ever dreamed and with opportunities coming together in the most providential of ways. It was amazing to experience how when you are willing to simply say yes to whatever and wherever He leads, the journey is beyond anything you can ask or imagine. It was all of the truths of “immeasurably more” coming to life and exploding off the page. It was magical.

And then right when the opportunities were most abundant?

HE PUSHED PAUSE.

If you follow my social media channels you will have likely seen the reason behind the recent silence on the blog. After 15 years of continuing health issues a surprising twist has come to light. Countless misdiagnoses and failed treatments and incredulous shrugs from doctors who couldn’t agree on a name for the symptoms that seemed to be multiplying more rapidly than ever all culminated in a unexpected identity for my captor:

LYME DISEASE

With the key finally in hand to the mystery of my crippling illnesses, we set out to finally banish my issues once and for all, only to discover we had been dealt a double edge sword. This particular diagnosis, it would seem, is only a beginning to a very long road indeed. Treatments are difficult and uncertain. Doctors who are knowledgable of the condition are few and far between. Insurance companies all but refuse to cover any of it. The diagnosis isn’t so much an ending to this struggle as the beginning of a new one.

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Let The Wild Rumpus Start | Jack’s 3rd Birthday

I can hardly believe my littlest miracle is already THREE, but alas, it appears to be true. This year we took our inspiration from his current favorite book, Where the Wild Things Are, which he affectionately refers to as his “Wild Rumpus Book.” And a Wild Rumpus certainly seemed appropriate for our little monster. We opted for a Saturday morning brunch, complete with pancakes, bacon, a yogurt bar, and plenty of donuts. There was even a mimosa bar for the grownups to enjoy. We chose to have an “open house” get together, rather than a traditional birthday party, so that we could enjoy the time with our guests and just let the kids be kids. Overall we had a grand time and I would call the rumpus a big success.

Here’s a gallery of some very quick photos I snapped before the days festivities got underway (and before we added all 5 lbs of bacon to the table! YUM!) Much of the party was DIYed by yours truly, but I will include links on the bottom in case you see something you want to snag. (I tried to include a link to a similar item whenever I could.)

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I Stopped Praying for Things, and It Strengthened My Faith

11001935_10152843388074818_2261632969863150391_nFollow me for long enough and you’ll know that I certainly didn’t get my tattoo on a whim. The concept of immeasurably more has been something I talk about pretty constantly.

The phrase comes from Ephesian 3:20 which says “And to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” In our family the phrase has been adopted into something we say whenever things aren’t seemingly going our way. You’ll hear “well, this must just be another immeasurably more thing.” What we mean is that we are so incredibly small in our humanity, that we simply cant even begin to imagine big enough to really ask for God’s very best – so when things aren’t going the way we want, we simply aren’t able to imagine or ask big enough to see the whole picture. We have learned to trust that God’s best will always come through in the end, and it will always be immeasurably more than the things we thought we originally wanted. We’ve seen this truth play out time and time again in our lives in very tangible and memorable ways, so it’s become the truth we come back to time and again when times are hard.

And right now? Times are hard. My husband is still unemployed despite so many seemingly promising leads and opportunities. Unemployment still hasn’t made a single payment to us even though they owe us thousands of dollars at this point. We recently experienced a surprise pregnancy only to endure our 7th miscarriage to date. Its been a stream of situations that seem unfair and disappointing. But it’s in a time like this, clinging to the truth of immeasurably more becomes all the more essential to getting through. Having this truth tattooed permanently across my wrist ensures that I have no choice to remember it daily and meditate on it often. Recently my study of this phrase has lead me to a whole new understanding, and a deepening of my faith. You see, this past month believing in this truth has lead me to practice a new discipline in my prayers: I have stopped praying for the things I want. I know this sounds absolutely bizarre, but let me explain – and you might just come to understand your own faith in a whole new way too.

I haven’t stopped praying this past month, quite the opposite. I find myself in a near constant state of prayer: crying out to God both silently and out loud through my day to day tasks. Rather its the content of these prayers that have so radically changed. It started when my husband began to take promising interviews for possible job opportunities. The natural inclination in a situation like that is to pray desperately for the interview to go well and for it to ultimately end in a restoration of employment. But we are no stranger to this whole situation, and I’ve seen how that can end in the past. We would get our hopes up about a particular position, start to pray constantly for it to materialize, and then when it didn’t go our way we would feel heartbroken and let down – sometimes even resentful that God would seemingly lead us towards and opportunity only to take it away. Yet the more I meditate and studied this concept of immeasurably more, the more a new truth became increasingly clear. If I truly believe He has my best in mind, and I truly believe His best is all too often better than what I can even imagine to ask for? Then praying for specifics is the very antithesis of acting in that truth. When I pray for specifics, I open my heart to potential letdown and bitterness if things don’t go my way, and its too easy to ask for things that turn out to be less than God’s very best.

idontprayspecificsSo what is the alternative? This past month I have spent a lot of time studying that very question and applying the truths it’s brought me to. Instead of praying for any particular job or seemingly ideal solution to our situation, I have begun praying for my heart and mind to be more deeply rooted in His will and His truths. I pray for God to sustain our faith. I pray that His will be done, no matter the specifics. I pray that he adjust my attitude and align my heart closer to His own, that I will be led to seek after His very best and be open to receive whatever He has in store for us. I pray that our testimony be visible to others in this time. I pray that He teach me to recognize and receive all His good and perfect gifts, and that He give me the faith to see even the things that seem like disappointments as His loving act of sparing us from less than his best. I have stopped focusing on the things I think I want, and started focusing on who I know God to be. Rather than asking for specific circumstances, I’m asking for the wisdom to see His truths and the faith to openly accept His timing.

And the results? It’s been incredible – not just in the specifics of how He has been providing for us in this time, but in the deepening of my faith and my relationship with Him. Immeasurably more has become even more true to me, and the truths I’m able to glean from it’s application have only grown. Does this mean I believe that no one should pray for ANY specifics? Not at all. There is no shame in bringing your hearts deepest desires to the Lord in the intimacy of prayer. I’m finding though that it’s a truly faith strengthening discipline to set aside a certain time period, or specific situation , and admit that our human hearts all to often deceive us and the things we want most may ultimately be less than God’s best. By actively choosing to surrender ourselves to His will in such a specific way, we not only deepen our dependence on Him, but we begin to focus more on who God is and less on what He can do for us.

The truth of immeasurably more continues to play out in our life and each and every day right now, and the more I lean into it the more I find myself excited about seeing how God’s best ends up unfolding in our situation. I don’t know what His plan for us is, but I do know who He is, and for right now that’s more than enough – it’s immeasurably more than enough.

*I’ve started creating some Immeasurably More items for sale on my Zazzle, both to help bring some much needed income in for my family but also to spread a little hope and inspiration.  

I’m the iPhone Mom in the Food Stamps Line

If you follow us on social media you may be aware that in January my husband was officially laid off from his job as a mobile app developer for a start up. It was a pretty crummy situation, since only this last September the same company had given us permission to relocate from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area and begin a whole new life in Salem, Oregon. Because of the nature of my husbands work, he is able to do his job entirely online, so it was no big deal for his company to allow him to work from another state. In fact, a majority of the coworkers on my husbands project lived too far away to commute to the office, being that they all live in India. Such is the nature of the new global economy, so we were thrilled to take advantage of the opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley life and live in a quieter, slower, more intentional way here in Salem. What we didn’t expect however was that only months later the company would admit to hitting financial difficulties; difficulties they chose to solve by eliminating an employee salary – OUR salary. Yikes. So now that we relocated from the very place where a majority of these tech jobs exist, now we would be looking for work. Double yikes.

Layoffs-Unemployment-Job-Cuts-Losses-Pink-Slip-FiredWe ever so briefly asked ourselves if we had made a horrible mistake and needed to consider taking interviews back in CA, but we quickly remembered all it took for God to bring us to Oregon, and how he had confirmed to us over and over again that we wanted this life for our kids. Besides: even if we got a decent salary back in the bay, the cost of living had skyrocketed so high that we would never be back on our feet again, and certainly never have a home or a life like we’ve found here in the far more affordable state of Oregon. We recognized that it was more logical to deal with short term struggle here in Oregon, where we at least have a shot at a future, then go back to CA where we may never get out of the cycle of paycheck to paycheck life, if we could even support ourselves at all.

So Bobby went about the business of applying for new work. He even went through multiple interviews with the same company, who eventually brought him onsite to meet the team and even talk to HR… only to send him a form email the next day saying they “couldn’t offer employment at this time.” Resume after resume was going out, and most of the time he only heard crickets in response. The very last paycheck had come at the end of January, and we would do everything in our power to stretch that as long as could. Besides, Bobby had paid into unemployment insurance with every check, so we’d at least have that right?

The letter from unemployment was jarring: your claim has been denied. What? That couldn’t possibly be right. Countless phone calls and entire CD’s worth of hold music later, the mysterious problem was finally uncovered. Turns out the HR representative at Bobby’s last job had made an eentsy weentsy miniscule typo – in his social security number. *head-desk* So all those payments diligently made to unemployment insurance month after month, paycheck after paycheck, ensuring we were properly prepared for an occasion just such as this? Not a one of them was credited to Bobby, but to a magical second social security number that wasn’t even his. More phone calls and even more hold music later, the final word was something along the lines of “yes, you most definitely qualify, but no, we have no idea whatsoever how long it will take for the two states to sort this mess out. We’ll get back to you… eventually.”

So here we are – 2 kids, 1 mortgage, 0 immediate sources of income.

So now it seems the calendar says MARCH along the top, resumes are still going out each and every day, and that paycheck from January is shrinking so that it’s all but vanished at this point. I wont lie – the scariest part is when you realize you cant pay your mortgage anymore. We moved to a whole new state to seek more affordable housing, something well within responsible budgeting guideline suggestions, and yet now that we’re here we feel it slowly slipping away. February is still due, March is now upon us, and who knows when either UI benefits or a new job will finally bring the next check into our mailbox. So I finally put my pride aside and applied for food stamps, because my children need food on the table more than they need my stubborn self reliance.

A Popular Internet Meme

A Popular Internet Meme

Now I suddenly find myself stepping into the role of an unpopular stereotype: the iPhone mom in the food stamps line. I admit it, Im terrified to answer calls on my shiny gold iPhone when I’m in the social services building or even in the grocery store line. I’ve even gone so far as to turn my wedding ring upside down so only the band is visible, the stone hidden away from view. I know what people may think: “how can you have an iPhone and claim to need food stamps?” “How can you have ANY nice things but then expect the hardworking taxpayers to pay your bills? ” And I get it: it’s hard to think that while you’re working so hard, trying desperately to create a future for your own family, that somebody else expects you to pay for theirs. And yet, here I am – forced to abandon my pride and accept the help that is often less than willingly given, knowing full well how many people may think we don’t deserve it.

The truth? Even people with good jobs who keep to the budget and make the “right” choices with their money can end up in situations they never expected, and sometimes by no fault of their own. In this new economy our story is FAR from unique. Thousands of people who have worked hard, spent money responsibly, and haven’t taken a vacation in years are finding themselves very suddenly and unexpectedly struggling to put food on their table. Gone are the days when we can assume that anyone that’s willing to work hard can make a good life for themselves. It’s no longer as simple as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps or simply altering your budget. My husband had a great job, made smart choices, always put into his retirement responsibly, and we aren’t exactly buying luxury cars or designer bags around here. Most notably my husband and I haven’t actually taken a vacation since our honeymoon – and that was over 6 years ago.

Why am I sharing all this? Why even feel the need to justify our situation? My hope is that by sharing the reality of our own situation, and how difficult it has been to even admit we need government assistance at all, that people would see that these unflattering archetypes we so easily mock represent real people with real stories. From everyone I’ve seen and spoken to in a situation like mine, one thing has been consistent: nobody PLANS to live on government assistance. Trust me when I say you aren’t getting enough to live comfortably, just enough to keep your pantry from running empty. So when you see that mom with a nice purse using her WIC coupons, or you see that man talking on his iPhone at the social services office, try not to judge. For many, needing help is a temporary situation they never expected. Even if they sold their phone or pawned their nice purse, it wouldn’t be enough to fix things anyways. Sometimes, when you’re living on so little and going without so much, it’s those little things you hold on to that help you believe you can get back there someday. They may be remnants of an old life, where the budget more than provided for them. They may be a gift from someone better off, someone who can easily afford to spoil a good friend.  And for some, the harsh reality is that they may always be struggling, no matter how hard they work or how much they try. For those people in particular I would pray our hearts would have compassion over judgment, and would recognize than when your whole life is spent in a position of sacrifice, you need to have some small comforts, some little joys to make life worth living.

fear and faithAs far as the Tait family is concerned, I trust that God has a plan for this desert season we find ourselves in. One thing for certain is that when we receive food stamps, or a donation from a friend to help pay the bills, it’s so much easier to directly recognize God’s provision. When we have a good job and collect those paychecks? Then it’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we earned it ourself, the pride that a sense of ownership and well earned entitlement can bring, and its too easy to forget who our provider really is. When you have no choice to remove yourself and your hard work from the equation, the first thing to go is that pride: the illusion is shattered, and you see each and every cent for what it really is – mana from heaven. We are immensely blessed, and we trust that God will keep providing for our needs in ways we never expect or imagine. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s scary right now – its downright terrifying. But real faith exists only in the presence of real fear. When we’re sure of our next step, its not faith that guides us, but common sense. Faith and fear aren’t mutually exclusive. No, faith and fear live in a beautiful intimacy, totally intertwined until you cant tell where one begins and the other ends.

So for now we focus on living authentically, and being open about wherever God takes us in this story. Perhaps an incredible new job is just on the horizon. Perhaps the lean times will continue and Gods miraculous provision will keep being displayed in unexpected places. I wont pretend I know the plan, in fact I will openly admit I dont have the foggiest idea what it is at this point, but I don’t have to know it to trust it. I know HIM, and I know His promises, and thats enough for now. Every time I look at the tattoo on my wrist I’m reminded of this verse which keeps us moving forward each day in that trust:

“And to Him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we ask or imagine according to His power than is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

 

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**UPDATE: BOBBY WILL BE STARTING A NEW JOB ON 4/13! PRAISE THE LORD FOR HIS PROVISION!!!!**