Is It Really Worth It?

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When David and I were in the process of buying a house a couple of years ago, we were required to hire a qualified appraiser to thoroughly inspect the house to determine its value so that we didn’t over-borrow.  This standard process is likely familiar to most who have purchased houses as banks are unwilling to lend more than property is worth.

The appraisal process isn’t limited to real estate, though.  We do it all the time.  We assess the value of cars and colleges, clothing and commitments before deciding whether or not we’re willing to make the investment.  Some of these are low-stakes decisions, while others have more significant ramifications.  Overspending on a dress, for example, is inconsequential when compared to assuming excessive student debt without any foreseeable ability to pay it off.

Even the Bible touches on this concept.  Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He warned that following Him would be costly (Luke 9:23, 57-62; 14:25-33).  He urged His followers to carefully consider the weighty commitment of discipleship.  But in Matthew 13:44, Jesus described His kingdom this way: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

I can’t shake the image of this parabolic man from my head.  One day he stumbled upon something of such value that he joyfully sold everything he had to acquire it.  The only logical reason he responded this way was because he was convinced that what was in the field was of greater value than everything he owned.  Was it costly?  Absolutely.  Was it worth it?  Apparently.

“Counting the cost” of following Jesus focuses more on what we have to lose, but the natural counterpart is appraising the value of discipleship, which is primarily concerned with what we have to gain.  Both are important – essential, even – if we are to follow Him for the long haul, and both are modeled by the fictional man Jesus introduced in Matthew 13.  Following Jesus might cost us comfort or popularity.  It might mean giving up a position or relationship.  For some, it could even result in severe persecution or death.

There are real costs associated with following Jesus, and I certainly don’t want to downplay the sacrifices many have made or will make on the path of discipleship.  But it’s important to realize that following Jesus isn’t just costly – He doesn’t encourage us to make a foolish investment.  Following Jesus, with all it costs, also puts us on the receiving end of lasting joy and abundant life, among innumerable other blessings.

For too long I’ve separated the cost from the value of following Jesus, and it doesn’t make much sense.  Like a good appraiser strives to accurately assess property value, so counting the cost of following Jesus must also include a consideration of His worth.  The apostle Paul did this well.  Having sized up his family background and personal achievements, he concluded that “everything [is] loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8).  It was this assessment – not some sort of burdened obligation – that fueled his faithful ministry even when it meant imprisonment, beatings, stoning, and ongoing danger (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Those who continue to faithfully follow Jesus – by grace, through the power of His Spirit – even when it’s painful and costly are those who really believe they’re not getting the short end of the stick.  Those who are overjoyed to be “all in” because they just can’t believe they’d get to be part of something so eternally significant for such temporary sacrifice (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Those who know that Jesus hasn’t invited us to be part of a scam.  He’s not out to get us, nor is He in the business of robbing our joy – as if we can even find it apart from Him.

The man in Matthew 13 goes to show us that following Jesus will never cost more than it is worth.  Jesus Himself promised, “There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29-30).  No matter what we lose as followers of Jesus, we stand to gain so much more.  It’s like Scott Sauls tweeted: “If your hope is anchored in Jesus, your long-term worst case scenario is resurrection and everlasting life.”

And that outcome is just one of the many reasons Scripture says so emphatically, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” – no matter how much it costs us along the way (Romans 10:11).

Much of my energy in recent months has been spent on adoption paperwork, which helps explain the less frequent blogging.  If you’re interested in adoption updates, you can learn more here.

The Ministry I Never Wanted


My heart raced as I prepared to hit “publish”.  I debated whether or not to write anything at all.  The vulnerability scared me, and the ongoing uncertainty of my situation would make the exposure that much more uncomfortable.  I took a deep breath, and with one click the story of my infertility was public.

In the year since I shared our struggles, I’ve heard from a handful of people in similar circumstances.  I’ve been asked for advice, thanked for my honesty, and received requests for prayer.  I’m so glad I didn’t scrap my original post altogether.

This isn’t a story about me, though.  It’s a story about a God who refuses to waste our pain.

For most of our battle with infertility, I assented to the theological truisms – at least intellectually.  God has a plan.  God is at work.  God can use this for His glory.  That third one really got to me, though.  God could be glorified through my infertility, but I really would’ve liked for Him to be honored by a pregnancy instead.

I resisted telling people about what we were going through because I didn’t want that to be my ministry.  In all honesty, I didn’t want to have a story of God’s sufficiency in the face of unfulfilled longings and unrealized dreams.  Rather, I hoped to share about God’s deliverance and physical healing.  I held off as long as I could – partially because I feared the vulnerability and partially because I was waiting to tell a different story.  Eventually, though, I couldn’t keep quiet.  Something – Someone – compelled me to share.

Had it not been for God’s prompting, I would’ve remained silent.  But because of His leading I’ve been reminded that while we don’t get to choose what happens to us, we can choose how we’ll respond.  Our circumstances may be beyond our control, but we can decide whether or not we’ll surrender them as instruments of ministry.

Choosing to surrender our stories to God for Him to use as He sees fit is not an acknowledgement that the pain has dulled or the crisis has been resolved or the answers have been found.  Many times, in fact, it’s just the opposite.  In their book titled The Life We Never Expected, Andrew and Rachel Wilson share “hopeful reflections on the challenges of parenting children with special needs”.  Rachel identifies the natural tendency to explain away suffering as an unhealthy pressure.  She explains, “We strive daily to make sense of the senseless, so that the pain we’ve experienced will not be in vain.  In other words, we write our own happy ending.  But we are not the storyteller.  We don’t have the power to resolve the twisted plot and bring triumph out of tragedy…So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker; and I’m not.”

Of course,  not everything is up in the air.  God does reveal the ultimate happy ending in His Word.  He provides promises we can cling to regardless of our circumstances.  But as long as we’re on this side of heaven, our ability to “make sense of the senseless” will be limited, and the story may always appear to be unresolved.

As Rachel Wilson noted, the story is not mine to save, but it is mine to share.  When we share our stories in a way that acknowledges God as “the divine happy-ending maker”, we honor Him in a way we never could by trying to figure it all out or explain it all away – which is why the ministries we don’t really want are often the ones we most need to embrace.  

Sharing our struggles calls for wisdom and discernment.  It’s crucial to prayerfully consider the timing and the audience, how much to share – if at all – and in what way.  There are situations when it might not be appropriate to give others a glimpse into our pain, and sometimes we just aren’t quite ready to talk about it.  But we can’t let the desire for a different story be what keeps us from sharing the one God’s writing.  And we can’t stay quiet until we have all the answers, otherwise we’ll never speak.

For all the times people have told me they’ve been encouraged by my story, I’ve been blessed by hearing theirs.  Many of the people who reached out to me decided to share some of the details of their circumstances – some strikingly similar to my own, and others entirely different.  Each time, they ministered to me in ways they probably didn’t expect or even intend to – and it wasn’t because they tidied up their stories, but because in the mess of it all, they hope in a Storyteller who will eventually make “everything sad…come untrue”.

And because of Him, the ministries we never really wanted often end up bearing fruit we never could have imagined.

Ancient Hope for a New Year

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2016 is quickly coming to an end, and many of us couldn’t be more ecstatic.  Although a new year doesn’t necessarily change situations, the fresh start comes at a good time.  This has been a year in which the world has witnessed senseless violence, disregard for life, natural disasters, religious contention, financial emergencies, and so much more.  Some of what we’ve seen has been on a global level, but I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that much of this year’s suffering has occurred behind closed doors.

Whether 2016 held many personal highlights or several intense challenges, a quick glance at the news or a social media feed confirms what we already know: life can be indescribably tough.

Suffering is not a 21st century phenomenon.  The apostle Paul endured unthinkable hardships, and in Romans 8 he addressed the Christian perspective of the universal reality of suffering.  Paul made one of the chapter’s main points in Romans 8:18: present suffering, he claimed, is not worth comparing with future glory.  There’s no contest.  His argument is not that everything will even out in the end; it’s that future glory will be so glorious that present suffering will no longer seem noteworthy.

Paul also wrote that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Admittedly, at first it seems like Paul is being insensitive, but what he’s doing is actually the opposite.  When a deep, legitimate sufferer like Paul speaks on the topic of pain, people usually listen.  Because of his experiences, Paul was able to make these bold statements, not to downplay the pain of suffering, but to demonstrate the gloriousness of glory.  It’s precisely because he endured the most extreme kinds of suffering that Paul was able to prove his point, namely that no matter how bad things are now, coming redemption, restoration, comfort, and glory will eternally overshadow all our earthly heartache.

In all of this, Paul doesn’t call us to turn a blind eye to suffering.  He doesn’t encourage us to deny reality or to minimize pain.  He does, however, exhort us not so dismayed by the way things are that we forget to live in light of the way things will be.

I once heard my pastor say, “God, in His sovereignty, allows us to experience suffering, in part, to keep us from falling in love with the world.”  Suffering has a way of reminding us that this world isn’t our home – we weren’t created to experience grief, loss, and pain.  It can cause us to anticipate eternity and to be eager for Jesus’ return.

Also noteworthy is that suffering is a universal reality – no one is exempt.  F.F. Bruce wrote, “‘Suffering now, glory hereafter’ is a recurring New Testament theme, and one that corresponded to the realities of early Christian life.”  Difficulties also unite us with our Savior who suffered on our behalf.  As Sinclair Ferguson once said, “Jesus came without sin, but not without suffering.”

Unfortunately, turning a page on a calendar doesn’t erase the devastation many have experienced in the previous year.  It won’t bring back loved ones or automatically end war.  It isn’t a guaranteed deposit into a bank account or assurance of improved health.  As we enter a new year, what we do know is that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).  And if that isn’t great news for the start of 2017, I don’t know what is.

The God Who Works Wonders

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“What are you most excited about as you look forward to the next year?”

David smiled as he asked the question.  It was my birthday dinner, and we have a tradition of thinking about the past year and anticipating the future each time we celebrate.  David’s expression said it all – he knew exactly how I’d answer.

Two years ago he asked me a similar question, and my answer was just as predictable that time.  On my twenty-sixth birthday, I couldn’t wait to have a baby.  I never imagined I wouldn’t be a mom by twenty-eight.

To say our struggle with infertility has been difficult would be an understatement.  It’s also not the whole story.  We’ve tasted God’s goodness in ways we hadn’t before.  We’ve had to rely on Him for strength and satisfaction.  We’ve learned how to rejoice with those who rejoice, even when we were mourning.  And we’ve found His Word to be the firm foundation we desperately needed.

The discouragement seemed interminable at times, and I often found myself pouring over Psalm 71 and Psalm 77.  These chapters in particular resonated with me and expressed emotions I didn’t know how to put into words.  I regularly used Psalm 77:14 as a one-sentence prayer and sermon to self: “You are the God who works wonders.”

Daily, I reminded myself that God’s power is limitless, and I’d pray for Him to do what felt impossible.  As I begged God to work a wonder in my womb, I had no idea He was working wonders in my heart.  While I still believe He’s able to allow me to conceive a child – and I hope He does – I can’t deny how He has already answered my prayers, albeit in ways I didn’t expect.  Just because God doesn’t do the wonders we ask for doesn’t mean He isn’t doing something wonderful.

A few days ago when David asked what I was most looking forward to next year, he smiled because the answer wasn’t a secret.  “Adopting our son,” I said, the joy on my face matching his.  The two of us are so excited about God’s leading in our lives and feel privileged at the opportunity in front of us.

When I shared with David a few months ago that I felt God leading us to prayerfully consider international adoption, I was surprised to learn he’d sensed the same direction.  In fact, he shared that over the past two years, he had been researching adoption and exploring agencies on his own.  When I asked why he never mentioned it to me, he graciously answered, “You just weren’t ready yet.”

God was working wonders.

God’s work in our lives over the past few years – and specifically in leading us to our future son – has reminded us of the greatest wonder of all.  Scripture teaches that before the foundation of the world, God decided to adopt us into His family at great cost to Himself (Ephesians 1:3-6).  Because of His sacrificial love, we’ve been raised from spiritual deadness, given a new name, and share in a heavenly inheritance.  Jesus Himself is not ashamed to call us His blood-bought siblings (Hebrews 2:11).

We are trusting God to continue working wonders as we anticipate bringing our son home in the next year.  As we imperfectly extend the love we’ve been shown, we pray that he would come to know the love of a perfect Father and would experience a better adoption into an eternal family.

What a wonder that would be.

Click here to learn more about our journey and how you can get involved.

Living by Faith When the World Shakes


If you’ve ever played the well-known game Jenga, you know it doesn’t take long before the tower of wooden blocks is on the edge of disaster.  With one wrong move, the entire tower collapses.  The uncertainty and instability of the blocks is what makes the game fun, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable to live our lives like that shaky tower.  I don’t know about you, but all too frequently it feels like I’m on the verge of total collapse.  A bad day at work, a misunderstanding with a friend, financial challenges – it won’t take much to make me feel like my whole life has been upended.

Between personal struggles and the chaos of the world around us, it feels like a really unstable time to be alive.  But Scripture teaches us that we don’t have to live in perpetual instability.  Throughout the Bible, God is described as a rock and an anchor – our security and refuge.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 gives us a look into the life of an Old Testament prophet and how a change in perspective allowed his heart to move from the depths of despair to soaring confidence in God.  Habakkuk was a prophet at a low point in Judah’s history.  The nation was spiraling downward into complete moral depravity, and Habakkuk was appalled.  The short book is the account of his back-and-forth conversation with God in which Habakkuk quickly learned that God is most certainly working, but not in the ways we expect.  In Habakkuk’s case, the outcome of God’s activity was that the nation of Judah would be conquered by the brutal Babylonian army.

In light of that news, Habakkuk’s response in 3:17-19 is startling, but it also helps us understand how to live by faith (2:4) in an unstable world.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Recognize Your Circumstances

As believers in Jesus, we don’t have to deny reality.  We can keep our heads up and honestly assess our circumstances.  Habakkuk models this in verse 17.  When considering the implications of a Babylonian invasion, Judah’s future would be bleak.  Economic disaster.  Financial ruin.  Non-existent security.

What’s going in in your life right now?  What hard things are you facing?  Is there a temptation to downplay what you’re dealing with?  Or are you tempted to put on a happy face and pretend like everything’s fine even though you feel anything but fine?  Habakkuk’s response to crisis is an example of being honest about our circumstances without being ruled by them.

Rehearse What God Has Done

The first word of verse 18 is like a hinge on a door.  It swings the prophet from acknowledging his circumstances to obsessing over his God.  “Yet” (as seen in most translations) is the key word in this passage.

As a conjunction, “yet” is essentially synonymous with words like “but”, “still”, or “nevertheless”.  Habakkuk is saying, “Yes, my circumstances are bleak.  No, I’m not sure how I’m going to make ends meet.  Nevertheless, I will still rejoice.”

How does he move from despair to joy?  If you scan the first sixteen verses of chapter three, you’ll see that Habakkuk chose to rehearse what God had done.  He looked back through history and recalled how God had worked on His people’s behalf.

If you and I are going to live with a “yet” perspective – if we’re going to live by faith and with joy in a shaky world – we’re going to have to remember what God has done.  Recalling what God has done in the past fuels faith in the present.  So what has God done for you?  How has He proven Himself throughout history?

Habakkuk recalled some of the major events in Old Testament history, and rehearsing how God worked in the past gave him tremendous confidence as he endured the present and anticipated the future.

Rest In Who God Is

In verses 18 and 19, Habakkuk focuses on God Himself.  He identifies God as His source of joy, as His Savior, and as His strength.  The character of God is the Christian’s sanity.  Who is He?  What is He like?

Because Habakkuk realized joy wasn’t found in earthly things like political stability or economic welfare, he was able to do the unthinkable.  He scanned the landscape of reality and was honest – it wasn’t pretty.  But Habakkuk didn’t stop there.  He lifted his eyes to the Lord, the God of his salvation, who couldn’t be lost in the crisis.  Therein lies what the apostle Paul later called “the secret” of contentment – that in every situation God gives His people the strength necessary to live by faith and in obedience (Phil. 4:12-13).


A “yet” perspective tells the world and reminds the Church that our foundation isn’t built on feelings or circumstances.  In Christ, our foundation holds up and is secure because it isn’t established on something shaky or fleeting but on the unchanging character of our God.  Because this is our hope, we can choose to rejoice even on the hardest days.

Yes, it’s tough to live with so many unknowns, yet we rest in what we do know because of God’s trustworthy character and the reliability of His Word.  Instead of living on the brink of disaster like a tower of blocks that could collapse at any moment, the Lord has given us “sure-footed confidence” in Him, like Habakkuk mentions in the chapter’s closing verse.

Several hundred years after Habakkuk’s life, there was another seemingly hopeless situation.  The Son of God was betrayed by a friend.  After a complete failure of the Roman justice system influenced by the Jewish religious leaders’ corruption, He was condemned to die.  Nailed to a cross and publicly humiliated, Jesus drew His final breath.


The biggest, most significant “yet” in all of history is that on the third day, Jesus came out of the grave victorious over death.

Because of that event, followers of Jesus can live with settled confidence no matter what we face.  This world is a scary place to live, yet our God sits on the throne.  We struggle with sin and are plagued by brokenness, yet our sins are forgiven on account of His name.  We face unspeakable suffering and unexpected tragedy, yet, as a song puts it, “earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal”.

Our Redeemer lives, and because He lives, we too will live.  Because He lives, we can face tomorrow full of confidence and hope because God is our joy and our strength.  As we recognize our circumstances, rehearse what God has done, and rest in who God is, you and I have everything we need to live by faith in an unstable world.