Growing Stronger

One of my favorite daily devotionals is  Streams in the Desert  compiled by Mrs. Charles Cowman. The following story reminds me of the power of patience and allowing God to do His work in our lives. God uses the challenges we face in an essential way to strengthen our hearts and build our character.

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I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place. The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all — and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.

 

I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect case, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shrivelled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one’s eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings.

 

I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. Our Father’s love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation.
–Tract, Streams in the Desert

“For I consider our present sufferings not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

This month, my devotional Pursuing God in the Quiet Places is on sale for $5. Click here to order your autographed copy. 

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Are You Critical or Constructive?

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When speaking to audiences, I often talk about the importance of being an encourager rather than a discourager. Granted, constructive criticism and wise concern have their place. I’m not saying we ought to be some sort of “Yes” people who always agree with everyone about everything with disingenuous flattery. A true encourager is not only uplifting, but she is also honest, sincere and specific with her comments. She uses her words to help build up and lead others in the direction of their best interest. An encourager is looking out for the good of the other individual and focusing on the possibilities instead of hunting and pecking at what could go wrong and zapping the hope right out of a person. A wise encourager looks with discernment for the solid stepping stones to help a person walk forward into the future, without giving false hope or unrealistic expectations.

Let’s use our opportunities to critique with a judicious sense of caution. How do you know when it is the right time to share a concern or a dissenting opinion? The best way to discern if your criticism is worth voicing is to ask yourself, “Will my comments essentially be helpful to the betterment of the individual and the situation?” Constructive criticism possesses at its very core a desire to create positive change, building others up rather than tearing them down. Bottom line, we must look at our motivation before we spill out a negative appraisals or derogatory comments. Jealousy, envy and rivalry are often the ugly, hidden motivations of a critical spirit. The queen of critique can harm hearts, reputations and opportunities when she spews her poisonous venom. May God help each one of us examine the deep and hidden motives in our hearts and take the log out of our own eye before trying to remove the splinter from someone else’s.
Worries, fears and focusing on the negative outcomes can also quickly turn us into Debbie Downers and Nancy Negatives. These women tend to cause defeat in someone’s life before the game even starts because they feel it is their duty to save people from making mistakes or going down difficult roads. But what if we let people follow their dreams and make a few mistakes in the process? Then haven’t they learned and grown in the process? Let’s not be a discouraging voice just because we are afraid of what may happen. Yes, there is a delicate balance between helping someone see the potholes and discouraging their dreams all together. There is no perfect answer to the dilemma. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to wait before you point out a negative. I have found for me personally, before I allow a negative comment (intended to help the other person see the problems of course), I wait. Often I wait several days in order to see if the situation has worked itself out, and most of the time I never need to say anything!
Criticizing people behind their back is never helpful and is a big red flag that our motivation is not pure. Discretion and discernment are the traits of a wise person who uses their ability to assess an individual, or situation or idea with guarded reproof. On the other hand, the constant dripping of condemnation from a faultfinding friend can cause disunity, generating a negative environment whether it is in a family, a neighborhood or at work.
If you must offer a critique, always do it in the spirit of helpfulness and strength. Begin by praising what you see that is right in the person or situation, then carefully open up a broader perspective. Words like, “Have you thought about it this way?” Or “Could it be possible to…?” These phrases help the recipient take in your idea without feeling ridiculed or discouraged. Whenever you must relay a negative evaluation, try to offer positive alternatives as well. Most important, determine in your heart that you will live a life of encouragement as you see the best in others.

This is an excerpt from Positive Leadership Principles for Women. Get your copy by clicking the info below.

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By Karol Ladd / Harvest House Publishers

As a woman you have the chance to make a positive difference in your family, community, and society. In Positive Leadership for Women Karol Ladd uses examples from the lives of people in the Bible to highlight eight godly leadership principles and attitudes that will inspire you to grow in your role as a godly influencer.