Hi, my name is Jenn Freeman. I was asked to share today about how God has used His word to equip me on my journey.
As I looked back over my life trying to answer this question, I saw that God has used his Word like the Ebenezer stones the Israelites used to memorialize God’s divine intervention in their lives.
God used His word to help me remember what he has done in my life.
I began to journal about these “Ebenezer stones” and I could see a timeline emerging on the pages before me. It was so cool to see how He has used his Word in my life during seasons of joy, seasons of suffering and the times in-between.
I’ll start when I was 10 years old and at vacation bible school. I memorized these two verses…
Psalm 143:8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love for I trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
Rev. 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
When I was 11 years old, my father took his own life. Even though I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus at that point in my life, God still somehow gave me peace through those verses that I memorized as a 10-year-old. They remain some of my most loved verses today.
After God saved me as a college freshman, I went through a time of intense struggle to know who I was in Christ, and to fight the lies in my mind. The Lord put into my heart Eph. 1: 3-14 which tells us that as daughters of the King we are blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and sealed with the Holy Spirit. THIS is truth!
In 2004 Kurt and I were married and 2 years later we moved to Houston. We were in Houston for 8 years serving on staff at an inner city church called Wilcrest Baptist Church. Kurt served initially as the youth pastor and then the last two years as the Missions Pastor.
About 4 years into our time of ministry in Houston, my precious brother-in-law Kyle, Kurt’s brother, took his own life. As you can imagine it hit all of us so hard. I really struggled with God’s goodness. I just couldn’t believe He would let me go through losing another family member to suicide! This is a day we will never forget . . . and on this same day, God called my husband and me into full-time missions.
After a season of grieving, we took a group from our church on a short-term missions trip to work with the Lincoln Berean team in Gdansk, Poland. It was on this trip that God showed my husband and me we were called to move to Poland. In the process of moving to Poland we became pregnant.
At the 8-week appointment the doctor told us that there was a chance I would lose the baby. I was still grieving the loss of Kyle, and I just couldn’t handle anymore death. That is why I told God if we lost the baby, then I was done.
At the 10- week appointment, we found out the baby had no heartbeat. The next week I had to have a DNC to have the baby removed. In that horrible, horrible grief I didn’t have the strength to go on and I cried out to God, “How can you be a good and loving Father if you let this happen?” However, it was through the loss of our baby that God restored my faith and belief in his goodness through his Word. He gently and kindly whispered into my heart day after day Psalm 103. And again in my life I had to make the choice, was I going to believe what I was feeling, or was I going to believe His Word? Slowly, over time, through Psalm 103, he showed me that he forgives, he heals, he redeems, he crowns his children with steadfast love and mercy, he satisfies those who love him with good, he covers us with his righteousness and justice, he is our compassionate father who knows that we are dust . . . And because of who HE is, I can say with David, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”
After almost two years of selling everything, missions training and raising support we were ready to go. It was here in Lincoln, two weeks before we were scheduled to leave for Poland, that we found out we were pregnant again. We went to Poland anyway.
Our experience in Poland was not at all how I had pictured it. I wanted to move over there and start sharing the gospel immediately, but I couldn’t speak the language. I wanted to go to language school, help with short term teams that came, do some kind of ministry . . . but a month after moving there I was put on bed-rest and confined to our small apartment, separated from the country I had moved to to serve. And every day I asked God, why?
A few months later, while still pregnant, I was hospitalized for contracting C-Diff—a bacterial infection of the gut. I was losing pounds by the day, wasn’t able to eat, and was in an isolation room. For 7 days I could see no one, not even my family. After being in the hospital a total of 17 days we were advised by a Polish doctor to return to the States to get medical treatment and to have Judson. And that’s what we did.
I was so confused. I had prayed and prayed for healing. I had prayed God wouldn’t make us leave Poland. But he didn’t grant the requests of my prayers. A couple of months later, after returning to Houston I still couldn’t eat, was still was losing weight, and still was crying out to Him for answers. I was desperate. One morning I opened my Bible to John 11 and began to read the story of Lazarus. I had read this story many times. But this morning God showed me something new.
John 11: 1-6 says,
1Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.
Now if this was a movie or a TV show, in that moment when I read that last verse, there would have been that sound effect that sounds like a record on a record player suddenly stopping! You know that, eeerrrrrrrrr sound! How does this make sense? Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus so much that he didn’t go when they asked him to? He stayed there two more days? Jesus could have gone immediately and healed him. He didn’t even have to physically go there, he could have just thought it in his mind or spoken the words out loud and he would have been healed. Why Lord, why did you wait??? We see next in the story that Jesus goes to them. Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha goes out to meet him and says that if he had been there Jesus could have healed him. Let’s read the end of the story, verses 28-45.
30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”
38So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42“I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.
That day God showed me something that would sustain me over the next two years as our lives continued to fall apart . . . in post-partum depression, moving back to Poland, continuing to fight in my own health, our son Judson having months of attack after attack where he would stop breathing—doctors not knowing why—and, eventually having to move back to the states AGAIN, not knowing at all what the future held.
He showed me that he stayed two more days for their ultimate good and for his glory.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. They had seen him heal the sick. They knew he could heal, that’s why they came to him. But Jesus wanted to give them more than just healing.
He wanted to show his friends, whom he loved so much, his glory.
He wanted them to experience him in depths that they never had before! Jesus did not come when they asked him to because he wanted to give them MORE than what they were asking for!
As in my life, he didn’t answer my prayers the way I wanted him to. He didn’t heal my son or me when I begged him to. But it wasn’t because he didn’t love me. It was because He did love me, as he loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And because he loved me, he wanted to give me the very best thing he could ever give me this side of heaven, through the pain and the trials and the suffering, he gave me more of himself.
And over these last few years, time and time again, I have had to face the question, is Jesus enough? Even if he never healed me, even if he never healed my son, even if he never answered any of my prayers the way I asked him to, is Jesus enough for me?
And secondly, through Jesus’ waiting, God was glorified and his power was displayed! It says in verse 45 that many of Jews that were with Mary and Martha believed in Jesus because of what they saw. People who were watching this amazing display of God’s glory were saved because . . . Jesus waited.
I’m happy to say that doctors finally figured out what was wrong with our Judson and he had surgery almost a year ago now to fix it. And besides the temper tantrums, he is doing fantastic! I can eat again! And God has called us back to Poland, where we plan to be by summer. For all of those answered prayers, I am thankful.
In all my suffering, it was God’s Word that was constant. It was God’s Word that had the power to sustain my faith when I was numb to everything else. It will be God’s Word that stands in truth and power for the rest of eternity for all of us women.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Reflection time: “A Song for the Suffering” by Shane and Shane