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Looking to belong

We all need companionship in our journey through life. How can we open our hearts and lives to others who are looking to belong?

Rachel Olson

Five years ago we pulled into a small town in our rattly red sedan, not knowing a single person.

CRAVING COMPANIONSHIP

I spent that first year living long days in our blue carpeted rental, desperately trying to feel at home. To find my people. To reach out. To be known and understood. To build relationships and connect. To love and be loved.

My heart ached to have face-to-face conversations that went beyond the polite, “How are you?” I would push the shopping cart through the aisles and hope to lock eyes with a familiar face. Library story time was spent scanning the room for a kind smile. I longed for an invitation for a cup of coffee—and I don’t even drink the stuff.

All I wanted was to belong.

Not belonging is hard. Lonely. Overwhelming.

And it’s humbling. Especially for a girl who had spent her entire life surrounded by dear friends. Never the new girl, never the outsider. Now I was the outsider.

Until I wasn’t.

I’m ever grateful for the way the Lord drew me to himself during that time of loneliness. I’m thankful for the way he brought the women into my life who invited me along. The ones who called and e-mailed, the ones who said, “I’ll meet you there!” and “Come with! It will be fun.” The people who love me and my family. The ladies who offered up their friendship with open arms and the dearest hearts. This outsider now feels like she belongs.

WELCOMING OUTSIDERS

Now I’m the one reaching out to others.

On a bit of a whim a few years ago, I started a weekly moms’ group at our church. I wondered if anyone would show up or if it would be me, all alone, twiddling my thumbs. It turned out to be a mixed bag of sorts—some weeks there would be a large group and other weeks it would be me and one other mom. Either way, on Thursday mornings, the doors were always wide open with possibility.

One morning brought a gal with long blonde hair and kind eyes. She was new to the group and new to town. We chatted and laughed and swapped stories for two hours while our kiddos played at our feet. When she left, she thanked me again and again for hosting the group. “I’ve been searching for something like this. You made my day,” she said. I knew exactly what she meant.

With my little guy in elementary school now, I’ve uncovered new ways to include and befriend. But for years I kept showing up for the moms’ group and reaching out. Because someone might have come. And it might’ve just been their ticket to belonging.

What now? I encourage you to take that first step. Pray for God to show you your part in building friendships and including others. Share your smile freely. Shine your light. Seek someone out and wave that new face over to sit with you. Compliment her pretty scarf or something else. Ask questions and listen. Meet for coffee or a coke and then linger as you lean into the story she shares. Link arms with her and smile knowing you are both loved something fierce by the One who was generous enough to shed blood for you both and create friendship and community.

There is always someone looking to belong.

And there is room enough for everyone.

Rachel Olson is a member at Shepherd of the Bay, Lusby, Maryland.

 

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Author: Rachel Olson
Volume 103, Number 5
Issue: May 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
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Womens Devotions

More than conquerors

More than conquerors – Women’s Devotion


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:1, 10



It was a night at home, not unlike many others. However, this particular night my husband was out of town on business. That would prove to be an interesting factor in what I would soon discover. The kids and I were getting ready for an evening activity.

Our chosen activity for the evening was to watch old family home movies. We had recently put them on my husband’s computer, which he had left at home, but I wasn’t entirely certain how to find them. I looked in various folders and finally clicked on the first video I found. What then showed on the screen shook me to the core. And two of my children also witnessed it. I quickly shut the computer, for what we had just seen was a pornographic video.

My heart raced; my body shook with confusion and fear. I managed to find the family home videos, but my mind was not focused on the hilarity of the joyful (and pure) images before us. No, all I could visualize was the sinful and gross image I had seen minutes earlier. My mind quickly filled with questions—“why?” would be the most obvious.

I was sure I had the possible answer. In my heart I didn’t want to believe it. After all, my husband is a God-fearing Christian man, a loving spouse and a wise father. He leads his family in devotion and prayer daily. He is respected by his peers and a natural-born leader in church and work. Certainly he would never fall prey to this sin—the sin of pornography addiction.

With my husband gone, I was alone with my thoughts all night and I heard God’s gentle whisper from His Word—“Be still and know that I am God.” That means I need to be quiet, try to allow my heartbeat to return to its normal rate and allow God to take control of the situation. I knew that if this in fact was a sin that my husband had committed, Jesus had already paid for it. For the night and most of the next day, I read and remembered God’s promises from Isaiah and King David:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1b, 2). I definitely felt like I was walking through fire and didn’t know what I would look and feel like when I came out on the other end of it.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8, 12). I prayed that if my husband had fallen prey to the sin of pornography, that he was repentant. God would cover him with his love and forgive his sins.

And over and over I remembered “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still, be still, be still. God would handle this. God stilled my heart that night, but in the days, weeks and months to follow I’ve needed to turn to him continuously to still my troubled mind and crushed heart. God is always faithful and hears our cries for help.

I confronted my husband after he came home, almost 24 hours from the time I discovered the video, after I had time to think, pray and pour over God’s Word without the presence of my husband. God’s timing was not an accident. He wanted me to find out at that time and in that way.

My husband confessed, slowly at first. Then shame and guilt were written all over his tear-stained face. It had been years of porn addiction—years that I had no idea. I felt betrayed. My husband was unfaithful to me. Through many heart-wrenching conversations we discovered something more than just porn addiction. We discovered an addiction to self. In other words, we discovered the sin of idolatry…in both of us. All those times my husband had impure sexual thoughts or clicked on pornographic images and videos, my husband loved himself more than he loved God. The times when I clung to my husband more and put him higher than God, I loved my husband more than I loved God. Our dark and dirty sins were brought into the light.

It is only by God’s grace that we are still (very!) happily married. God tells us to think on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8.) The sins originate in our thoughts. We need God every day to guide us and remind us to love and serve him first!

In the moments following my husband’s confession, I prayed God would help me follow his will for our lives. Thanks be to him for his indescribable gift of Jesus. Without his perfect example of forgiveness, I’m not sure our marriage could have survived through pornography addiction. God helped me forgive my husband and God helped my husband turn from his sin. We now remind each other who our first love is—God!

James 5:16 proved to be true and was affirmation to us that healing is possible. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. But it’s an on-going struggle because of the consequence of sin. My husband is often faced with temptation as he sees images on raunchy commercials or billboards. Yet when he hears of another brother or sister in the faith who has also fallen prey to this sin, it reminds him to put on the full armor of God to resist the devils attacks. He spends more time in personal devotion and prayer with God, and that causes him to flee from this temptation when it arises. At times I have doubts; can I trust him? Or I might be tempted to hold this sin against him?

Pornography has tainted our marriage and our sex life. We will endure the consequences maybe until God calls us to heaven. But only with God’s assurance of forgiveness and his help are we able to forgive each other and put on the full armor of God to continue to resist the devil’s attacks. “God help us” is sometimes all my heart is able to muster. But I know that God will still my heart again, and through Jesus has made us conquerors of this sin too!

A note from Women’s Ministry editing team:

This sister in faith talks about how her husband turned to God during this time, but she does not mention any counseling that she or her husband participated in after the struggle with pornography was brought to light. Whether or not they sought counseling is between them and God; however, we strongly recommend that those struggling with pornography or any other addiction seek pastoral and/or professional counseling. We also know that our God is mighty and powerful and with him all things are possible. For more help on overcoming pornography addiction, turn to your pastor and/or go to the WELS ministry on this: www.conquerorsthroughchrist.net



Prayer Suggestions: 

  • Ask God to forgive you or your loved one of the sin of pornography.
  • Ask God to cast these sins far from his presence and remember them no more and that he allow memories of sinful images in you/your loved one’s mind to be erased too.
  • Ask God to help you and your loved one put him first in your life.
  • Pray that God renew in you and your loved one a pure and clean heart.
  • Pray for the Conquerors through Christ ministry and all the people that struggle with the sin of pornography.
  • Boldly ask God that society recognizes the danger of pornography and gets these images off mainstream media.


This devotion was written by a WELS woman, but because of the sensitivity of this subject and out of respect for her husband, the author has asked to remain anonymous.

Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey



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Finding peace after divorce

Finding peace after divorce – Women’s Devotion


 “‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Mark 10: 8-9



Divorce happens to other people. Some of my friends divorced. Even my brothers were in second marriages. But that would never happen to me. My marriage vows included “until death do you part.” My husband and I attended church regularly, actively participating on committees and councils. We sacrificed to keep our three children in our church’s school. In my smugness, I felt we were a strong Christian family that was impenetrable.

Then after 30 years of marriage, my rose-colored lenses were broken; the effects of the devil had invaded my “perfect” world. The man I married and whole-heartedly trusted, the father of my three children, had broken the marriage vows. The devil had grabbed hold of us and brought a new level of sin into our marriage. The relationship God intended had been soiled. What was I to do?

I sought help from our pastor to confront my husband with my discovery. During the ensuing counseling sessions, Pastor focused on God’s Word from Ephesians: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. …each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5: 25, 28, 33) God commanded me to respect my husband, but for years I hadn’t, and couldn’t understand why. As Pastor delved further into this passage, explaining what it meant to “love as Christ loved the church,” it became clear. The reason I did not respect my husband was that he had been verbally and emotionally abusing me for years. I had been conditioned to think I was wrong, it was my fault when we argued or things went wrong. Throughout our marriage, my husband was not following God’s command of sacrificial love, and I in return was not respecting him or submitting to him. The devil had a strong hold on us.

Even with these revelations, I still believed divorce was not an option. We spent countless hours in sessions with Pastor where more unfaithfulness, abuse, and lies were uncovered. The man I thought I knew had been lying to me for over 20 years. I was devastated. I felt worthless and dirty. How could I have been so blind and naïve? Our marriage had been a lie for so long, I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t anymore.

After twelve months of counseling, it became obvious that my husband’s heart was hardened, possessed by Satan. But again, what was I to do? God hates divorce. Did that mean I was to remain in a loveless marriage without trust, and continue accepting the abuse? In my mind, if I divorced, I would be disobeying God. I didn’t want to disappoint my Lord.

With Pastor’s guidance through God’s Word, I was brought to the realization that while I am not without sin, it was my husband who had destroyed our marriage bond. He continued to create distrust and confusion. My loathing of his lies grew so strong that it became difficult to be in the same room with him. I accepted that the relationship God intended no longer existed and there are times when God permits divorce. But moving forward with the divorce, I still felt as if I was doing wrong in God’s eyes. I stopped reading the Bible, even ceasing to pray. My church attendance dropped. I felt unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness. I had disappointed Him; gone against His will, and was ashamed.

At church, I felt isolated, like I had a big scarlet “D” on my chest. I was no longer half of the “model” couple we once had seemed. People were uncomfortable around me and didn’t know what to say to me. Looking back, I compare it to a funeral. With the death of a family member, the survivors can be comforted knowing their loved one is now in heaven. With divorce, the death of a marriage, it seems there are no words of comfort. However, a simple hug and the words, “I love you and I am praying for you,” was all I needed to feel the love of my church family.

Thankfully, my family, Pastor, and church family didn’t give up on me. They continually encouraged me to return to God’s Word. When I did, I found peace in the passages: “I urge you, brothers, watch out for those who cause division and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned” (Romans 16:17); and “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) I realized that my unrepentant husband had become an evil influence in my life. By divorcing him, I removed myself from his influence and Satan’s grip was loosened.

Once I removed myself from the abuse, through the Holy Spirit I was able to accept that while I am a sinner, I am also a child of God and he loves me unconditionally. He washed away MY sins and claims ME as an heir of heaven. Not because of anything I’ve done, but by his grace alone. Just as Jesus forgave the criminal on the cross and declared, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” so God also forgives me, and as a believer he promises me a place with him in heaven one day.

God also commanded me to forgive my ex-husband. His Word says we must “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) I know that God forgives me of all my sins, and I am his dear child. While I haven’t forgotten the sins an earthly husband committed against his wife, I have accepted that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for those sins, too. I pray that the Lord reaches his soul so that one day he repents and benefits from what Jesus has already done for him.

It is now four years since the divorce. I have learned that we cannot see into another’s heart, but we can hear their words and see their actions. These can serve to indicate what is in their heart. We must trust God to guide us in what is right for our own unique situation, forgiving others as he forgives us. He may lead us, for our own protection, to remove ourselves from a marriage that has already been broken.

Only through continued reminders of God’s grace and forgiveness from Bible study and prayer, I have been able to find peace once again. I remind myself daily that “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5) I know that God has a plan for me as he promises in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”





Written by Sherry Kupke-DeLaGarza
Reviewed by Professor-emeritus David Valleskey