Confronting Unbelief

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Author: Chara Donahue

Free association tests are no longer exclusive to psychotherapy offices. We click on them when social networking sites claim they will reveal our personalities, and play them as party games. These enjoyable games act as simple exercises to awaken the creative parts of the brain, sometimes bogged down by the frantic call of business, duty, and daily life.

For me it usually goes something like this:

Chocolate...Yes, please
Dog...Border Collie
Journalist...My granddad.
Belief...Help, my unbelief! Always, it is always—help, my unbelief.

I feel like this is a constant prayer of mine, a mental whisper that suddenly and audibly explodes when I behold the brokenness of the world, my city, and my home. When I am forced to see the misery and am tempted to give myself over to sorrow.

There is no one I trust with my unbelief more than God. I know this seems counterintuitive, but like the Father in Mark 9 who sought healing for his boy, I listen to Jesus when he says "All things are possible for one who believes.” My response comes out as a beggars prayer, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It is also a prayer I freely let my children see me plead.


I have never held one of my babies without my belief in a gracious, just, and loving God. I cannot even imagine what that would be like. The amount of trust it demands of me to not be anxious for their lives is something that insists upon supernatural strength.

Sending them off to school for the first time, letting them begin to cross the street alone, or allowing them to attend their first sleep over  — the only thing that keeps a sense of panic from overwhelming me is the truth that God loves them more than I do, and He knows the plans for their lives.

I know their little eyes are watching me. They are observing and critiquing the life of their mother. Sometimes I wonder, which will they see and remember, my belief or my unbelief? Will they understand the beauty of how these intertwine? Do I have the guts to teach them?

I believe the only life worth living is one empowered by authentic, Jesus-centered faith. Peace that passes understanding, repentance, and perseverance are superior to  a perfectly polished façade that can't admit it's own inability to save.

So I let my children witness conviction that drives me to my knees, and profound hope in impossible circumstances. I let them see me cry over the broken and lost. I allow them to witness me stand up for what is right, and I go to them humbly and share the grace I experience when I fail. I refuse to dress my faith up as something shiny or pretty, but have it be something that rusts and bends when real life hits. I want my faith to be my life, and offer life—something that feeds my soul and delivers nourishment to the growing faith of my little ones.

I don't want to pretend the faith walk is easy: I want them to see that it is an authentic hike towards glory, with peaks, valleys, and a view that makes it all worth it. That the race set before them is worth persevering in, worth sacrificing for, and worth giving their all.

I know that Jesus is the only one who can answer their vexing  questions that are bound to come, and that their salvation does not depend on me. Yet, I pray they would venture into life with  a white-knuckled grasp on the robe of Jesus,  and curious eyes that look up to God's face of love with a seeking heart. For when the trials come and they can't muster the strength to stare their hardships in the face dauntlessly, it is my hope that they too will pray the prayer they heard their mama utter a thousand times before, "I want to believe; Help my unbelief."

~~~
Readers, Do you believe God can meet you in your unbelief? Where do you need to ask for His help today?

Chara is a freelance writer, certified biblical counselor, and speaker. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God's truths. She loves to write about faith, culture,  and the deep truths that drive our fascinations with it. Chara is the founder and editor of  Anchored Voices and can be found on multiple social media platforms @CharaDonahue.


An earlier version of this post originally ran at Overflow.

Running the Race of Endurance

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Author: Sarah Dohman
I stood amongst the crowd of Oktoberfest runners. I was about to start my 6th, and hopefully not my last, 5k. I shot a precautionary glance at the dark clouds looming above me. The start time was nearing, but I knew the rain would not hold off. The rain began to drip, drip, drip.
Do not grow weary.
The first 1/8th of a mile was spent weaving in and out of participants. This length of the course is where the separation between those who really run for exercise, and who don’t, begins. Those who do not run on a regular basis quickly fade at this point in the race and begin to walk. Some press on for a little bit further, but most give up jogging in order to enjoy walking the course.
Do not grow weary.
About 1/4th of a mile into the race, the rain began to hammer down. It was as if heaven itself opened the floodgates. I had a feeling the rain was not going to let up, and at this moment, I had a choice: persevere and get moving, or wince and whine all the way to the finish line.
Do not grow weary.
As I chugged along the country road, I saw the race’s quickest participants round the first mile marker and double-back on the course. They were fast, and clearly ran competitively. Soon enough, I encroached on the first mile marker myself, and I saw Mt. Angel’s marching band playing a pep tune, rallying the runners’ spirits. I needed their zest.
Do not grow weary.
At the second mile marker, the mascara I had put on earlier that morning began to slide into my eyes, making my eyesight slightly blurry, and stinging my eyeballs. I felt a little discouraged, and it was raining too much for me to take out my phone and look at my race’s timing for inspiration. I desperately needed encouragement. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I reached the volunteers offering refreshment. They shouted and clapped as I grabbed my small cup of water and I sipped, and tossed the cup, continuing on.
Do not grow weary.
When I reached the third mile marker, I could hardly believe it. A surge of energy greeted my wilting muscles, I would will myself to the finish. I sprinted to the finish line and crossed over with a huge sigh of relief. I checked my time to find that I had run my best race yet. Despite the rain, despite the mascara, I had done better than ever before.
Do not grow weary.
Running a race gives me a tangible parallel to my relationship with Jesus. As a follower of Christ, I am “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12: 1 ESV). There are those who have known and loved God long before I was a thought to my parents. They include Martha, Mary, Esther, Paul, King David, Moses, and many more. Imperfect people whose stories point me to Jesus and inspire to be more like Him.
Running, like my relationship with Jesus, requires discipline and training. “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and it seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV). I am to come to Him, lay aside all my cares and worries, and run with endurance. To run with endurance or perseverance does not mean I won’t encounter hardships. These will come. Just like in any race, I will have to make a choice to press forward through trials. There will be times when I will feel discouraged, needing to rely upon fellow Jesus followers for truth and guidance, and there will be times when I will be the one encouraging others.
Do not grow weary.
This phrase prefaces Hebrews 12, verse 3, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” My relationship with God is an race of endurance. I am reminded to look toward Jesus, the one who loves me most, so that I will not grow weary or fainthearted. He persevered through his darkest moments, overcame sin and death, and loves me even when I am at my worst. In life, I can push forward and keep going because I have this promiseeternal life with God. The sweetest of  prizes awaits at the end of life’s race! What a reason to keep going.
~~~
Readers, How can you choose to persevere in your race today?

Sarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blogand you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.


Running From Love

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Author: Holly Hawes
“Worst case, if she runs, just call the police.”

Did I hear that right? I had taken this phone call in the safety of my living room, and I was glad. For the cell connection hid the shock painted upon my face. Those words gave me a quick and hard reality check, and I was choking on it. Now, three years removed from the eve of our first experience with foster parenting, I’ve only had to follow this advice once.

Nine children have gone in and out of our home, and one came in to become our own. Through these experiences, I’ve learned much of how we as humans try to protect ourselves. Many times, in trying to do so, we run from exactly what we need most. I had no idea how difficult it can be for some to receive love, or how much I run from being loved myself.

We all do it. Fear causes us to run from love. As we attempt to get through the walls we ourselves and others put up we must realize that it may take extraordinary measures of persistence and sacrifice.

In children who have experienced trauma, it can come out in running, screaming, or slammed doors. They push people away before they get close enough to hurt, because that is what they have experienced. After enduring profound emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who are closest, the very people who should keep them safe, they learn to protect themselves from vulnerability. Which can cause a domino effect to those reaching out. Our natural response to being given the cold shoulder or being lashed out in episodes of explosive anger—Get away. What the child actually is asking for as they try to make you turn is closeness, connection, and safety. Their overtop reaction is a pleading for love.

I haven’t always translated this chaotic disconnect very well. As Dr. Russel Barkley said, “The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

Sometimes they have the words to ask aloud, “Why should I trust you? Do you really care?” Other times the same question comes out in their actions, “Will you still be nice to me if I break your stuff? If I throw a fit, will you still tuck me in and read a bedtime story?”

Love gives both grace and truth in the midst of failure. This love takes perseverance that is completely beyond humanity’s grasp. When love freely given is not returned, or the recipient looks you in the face and spews vinegar for your honey, you are reminded real love is hard.

Real love is worth it.

I see this worth it in the child who packed a bag in anger. It’s contents: a teddy bear, warm clothes and the Jesus Storybook Bible we read at night . One moment raging and running, the next asking for reassurance. A hug. A sandwich. Completely against me one moment, but wanting me to stay close by later. My presence allowing sleep to come quickly.

I see myself in the runners. How I want my own way. How I avoid being near to God when I’m upset instead of collapsing into his open arms. I throw the same fits on a different plane. Moments of unbelief cause me to question if God really loves me, even though I know he has shown his love over and over again. I see now, I am running just to see if he chases me.

He does chase me. Like the Storybook Bible that is once again on the bedside table says, his “Never ending, never giving up, unstopping, always and forever love,” continues to persevere no matter what I throw his way.

His love is relentless, and somehow by God’s great plan there are people in my life who need to be chased down with the same kind of love. A love that does not depend on whether or not it is received or reciprocated. We go to extraordinary lengths to persevere in love because, “We love because He first loved us.” 1John 4:19

So today, I remember the persistence of God’s love for me, and from it I can persevere in loving the people in front of me. Even those who aren’t always easy to catch.

~~~
Readers, Are you running from the love of God? What keeps you from seeking him?

Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.


Defeating Debt

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Author: Krissa Dorfner

I sat in my room and cried. I sank into the hideous floral printed couch processing what my boyfriend had just shared with me. He had made poor financial decisions while working through college and the debt had accumulated. Was I sure I  wanted to tie my life to his when it included this financial burden? I did, and it was worth it (we have now been married for 8 years), but it still follows us. Perseverance has been key as we have learned to be good stewards, but we have also learned that God is bigger than any amount of money owed. I still sometimes feel the strain, but I know he has given us this story to tell for a reason and purpose.

I came from a home where credit cards were used for emergencies only. So when I married my husband,  I was shocked to hear he had 3 credit cards and essentially nothing to show for it (other than the pretty diamond on my ring finger). We began chipping away at this mountain that seemed impossible to conquer. Paying off those cards and the little debts that floated around us became a priority. Within our first 14 months of marriage we paid off our wedding loan, Credit Cards, and  we saved up  $8400 CASH to go to Egypt and Israel. Let’s just say God is amazing and faithful! God has shown us what HE is capable even in the realms of finance when we are obedient. Still to this day I cannot pin point how we did this, other than that God provided.

Before saving for Egypt and Isreal, my husband and I were grocery shopping and we ran into one of our Best Men from our wedding. He raved about a new book he had read about money and told us to wait there. He insisted on finding  it and buying  it for us since it had changed his life. Little did we know that this book, Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, would also change our perspective on our money and lives forever.  

Since day one of our marriage, my husband and I have been college students and career jobs felt so far away. We would dream of the day when we were both not doing homework and instead doing what we loved. We longed for when we would be bringing in money instead of accumulating more student loans. Then when my husband couldn’t find a job with his bachelors degree in Psychology, he decided to go back to school…again. He pursued his masters in counseling which ended up being a total of 9 years that he was in college. As for me, It took 8 years or more (I’ve lost count) to finish my Nursing degree. As you can assume, we have racked up quite surplus of student loans…and basically should have been doctors!

We would not be where we are today if it was not for Jesus giving us reason, purpose, and the knowledge needed to persevere through this burden of debt and years of school. I know that Jesus does not intend for us to live outside of our means. He calls us to live humbly, selflessly, and to not be conformed to this world, and I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2

Now that my husband and I have our dream careers, we could easily go buy a new home, a new car and go on fancy vacations…however, we choose to live by faith and obedience when it comes to our finances. We currently put 35% of our monthly income toward student loans so that one day we can say that we are debt free. Don’t get me wrong, God has placed big dreams in our hearts and minds for our growing family. We dream of giving to a point where it would make a difference in someone’s life, we dream of owning a home where our children can build memories, and we dream of our family traveling and exploring the world to serve people. We will persevere through this difficult time of debt, so that we can be free to see the dreams our good Lord has given us come true.

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Readers, How can you persevere in discipline, so that you may see more freedom in your life today?

A huge thank you to our guest poster, Krissa Dorfner! Krissa is a passionate follower of Christ, wife, mother, and nurse. If you are interested in submitting a piece for consideration you can find the details on our submissions page.

Faith & Hockey Sticks

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Author: Holly Berg


Two years ago my husband and I signed our son up for skating lessons.  He’s been dreaming about playing hockey since he was old enough to walk. He was born in Oil Country, he bleeds copper and blue – heck, he even eats dinner sitting below a framed photo of his dad with Ryan Smyth!

We figured it was time.

Topher was ecstatic! Never mind that he was enrolled in beginner figure skating – he was convinced he had been drafted to the Oilers!

But skating wasn’t as easy as Topher thought it would be. It’s one thing to zip up and down the hallway with a plastic hockey stick and entirely another to do the real thing!

In his first lesson the coaches taught the kids how to fall down and how to get back up, first on mats and then on the ice. Topher was a pro … until he stepped onto the ice.  He did exactly what his coaches told him: get on your hands and knees, wag your tail like a dog, get one foot up, brace one hand on your knee and use the other to push off on the ice and stand up.  

But Topher couldn’t do it.

Not in the first lesson, or the second, or the third. Eventually one of his coaches would help him to his feet so he could participate in the other activities, but Topher was so afraid to fall that he would barely move. Then one of the other kids would accidentally bump into him and knock him over, and he would be back to Square 1, shaking his little bum in the middle of the rink.

Halfway through his fourth lesson I was starting to wonder how much patience his teachers had. Would they recommend remedial beginner skating lessons?  

But then HE DID IT.

It might have taken him three and a half 45-minute lessons – most of which he spent on his knees – but he did it!

And I have never been more proud of my little man.

He didn’t give up, not once.

Week after week after week …

He practiced at home, he practiced at his grandparents’ house, he recited the steps over and over and over.

He tried his hardest in every single lesson. He showed dedication and confidence.  He knew he could do it – and he kept at it until he did.

Two years later, Topher is a full-fledged hockey player.  His favourite drill is the Superman, where he dives onto the ice, sliding across the surface on his belly before jumping to his feet and gliding away. Skating is now as natural to him as breathing.  

* * *

Some days I picture God as a proud parent, standing outside the rink as we learn to walk through life as His followers.  Sometimes we’re like Topher: cautious, afraid to move in case we fall.  God watches us struggle, but he also sees us as we get down on our knees and try again. 

The Bible says that we can “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4, NIV) It also says that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..”  (James 1:2-4).

I remember when Topher was learning to skate, the day when everything finally clicked. As his mom, I didn’t count how many times he fell, I counted how many times he got back up.  

Maybe God does the same thing.   


Following God is hard. We mess up and we make mistakes – sometimes the same ones, over and over again!  But He sees us. He knows we can do it!  We need to get back up, brush ourselves off, and try again.

I don’t know if following God will ever be as natural to me as skating is to Topher, but I hope it will be. I want to develop endurance and strength of character and have confident hope, but like Topher, I need to practice. I need to be obedient in the small things as well as the big things. Every day, week after week after week. I need to recite God’s promises over and over and over. James 1:12 says “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”   

And I want that life.

~~~
Readers,
What encourages or keeps you from getting back up after a fall?


Holly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at http://scattered-words.net.  
An earlier version of this post appeared first at Scattered Words.