Jennifer Maggio is considered a leading authority on single parents and womens issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who draws from her own experiences through abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy to inspire audiences everywhere. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and writes for dozens of publications. She has been featured with hundreds of media outlets, including The 700 Club, Daystar Television, Moody Radio, Focus on the Family, and many more. For more information, visit thelifeofasinglemom.com.
I am such a country girl. I was raised hunting & fishing and lived on a farm. I lived in rural Mississippi, really, really rural! We went to town once a month to get groceries --- and that means --- milk, butter, and eggs. We grew everything we ate --- all the vegetables, fruit, spices.
Because I was raised that way, my sister and I learned to love to play in the wilderness. We loved being in the forest behind our house and playing dolls or school or house. We put an old chair out there and dug around in the trash to get goodies for our "home". Hanging out in the wilderness, back then, proved to be great, all-day fun, and it left me with such wonderful memories.
But being in the wilderness isn’t always fun, is it? It can get dark. You can get lost. It can be lonely.
We can go through many tests as a Christian. Tests are actually not our enemies. They are our friends. They teach us. They show us who we are when we are squeezed.
One of those tests is the Wilderness test. The wilderness test comes when we feel spiritually dry, as if we’re in the desert. As if no one is around , no one understands, and no one cares.
Paul was pressed from every side. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, then v. 8-10. Paul was exhausted and pressed and obstacles were everywhere.
Some of you in the room have been pressed from every side. Your pressing make look different from Paul’s pressing, but you have been pressed nonetheless.
The God who got you through that previous thing is going to get you through this one!
Sometimes, when we are in the middle of the wilderness, in the middle of testing, we can’t hear God. Ps. 42:1-2 puts it like this, “As the deer longs for the streams of water, so I long for you. O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?”
Here’s what you need to do about finding hope in the wilderness:
#1) Read Luke 4:1-13. What did Jesus do every time he was tested? He quoted Scripture. There is power in Scripture. You must be in the Word to know what power you have. Hosea 4:6 says my people perish for lack of knowledge. You likely don’t even walk in all the power you have been given. When you are in the middle of testing, in the wilderness, you can stand strong on what the word of God says – that is eternal hope. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you. He holds you up with his victorious right hand.
#2) You must learn to be a “driver” in the wilderness. There’s a big difference between being a driver and being a passenger. Passengers in a car can be completely disengaged. Passengers don’t have to be aware of where they are going. They don’t have to know the right turns to make. They don’t have to be safe and wise. Drivers streer the car. They must be keenfully aware of their surroundings. A Good river takes responsibility for the car and all those affected. Drivers don’t whine. They don’t place blame. They don’t ask why. They just drive.
The Israelites were rescued from slavery through the leadership of Moses. He led a national revolt, because God spoke to him to do so. He gathered the people and they literally ran for their lives as the Egyptians came chasing them. They had been beaten, abused, malnourished, and mistreated. And they get to the other side of the Red Sea --- God showed up and gave them a miracle. And they get to other side of the Red Sea and the real testing began. They waited for their deliverance to the Promised Land for 400 years. Testing comes.
Exodus 13:17-18 says that God did not lead the Israelies along the easiest route, even though it was the shortest way. He said that if it got too tough and they were faced with a battle, they might just change their minds and give up! They might just turn around and go home!
Think about that for a minute. Have you been asking God why? Why am I here? Why am I wandering? Could it be that you’re being led in a roundabout way, because God is teaching you? Don’t ask why – just drive!
#3) When you come out of the wilderness, out of the season of testing – there’s rest. There’s peace. There’s hope. So replenish during this time. Take the time to assess what you’ve learned during that time in the wilderness. Take the time to rest in Christ’s eternal peace. One of the fruits of the spirit is hope. Hope was given when you accepted Christ as your Savior.
Some of you have experienced a temporary set-back. It could’ve come in the form of abuse or divorce or death or a disappointment or loss of job or hardship. But for whatever reason, you’ve had a set-back.I want to remind you that God has given you every tool you need to survive the set-back. He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the God of second chances. He is hope for those of you who find yourself hopeless today. He is strength for the weary, overworked, exhausted, and overwhelmed. HE is your all in all, your everything. My prayer is that you would truly embrace the hope that He offers today.
Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom of three, wife to Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about single mothers and hurting women finding freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
On July 16, 2016, I watched 1,000 single moms fill the altar at the National Single Moms Conference. I watched them cry and dance and pour their heart out to God, as they experienced his presence. I stood in awe of what God had just done. You see, I had dreamed for almost a decade about a national single mom’s conference and what that would mean in their life, what hope it could potentially give. God did something special in their hearts and lives that weekend and I am forever grateful. And after it was all over, I just cried. All the tears I had held for the months and years before the conference were released…and I just cried in gratitude. You know, I wish I could tell you that I just woke up one morning, decided to host a conference, and everyone just happened to show up, but that is not at all how the conference happened.
It wasn’t easy planning the event. And it wasn’t easy experiencing all the things that had happened, years earlier,that gave me the heart for single moms that motivated me to host it.
It wasn’t easy surviving 9 years of sexual assault, severe beatings, an alcoholic father, homelessness, malnourishment, and a myriad of other challenges as a single mom.
And my tomorrow won’t be easy either, as I beat my chest in meetings, behind closed doors, for single moms, in hopes that someone will know how much they need to be served. But you know what? Tomorrow won’t be easy for you either. Your challenges in your life, your job, your children, your finances, relationships, etc., aren’t easy. Life is a battle. My greatest desire for the women of God is that we learn how to battle well. We learn how to move from strength to strength and glory to glory.
How do you have the strength to move on? How do you have the strength to parent alone for sometimes as much as 20 years? How do you have the strength to step out in faith in an area?
Strength isn’t about your battle today. It’s more about what you do, while you’re there.
Strength is quiet, yet mighty. Strength is the ability to let the past go and forgive. Strength is not responding, when they lie or gossip about you. Strength is about praising despite the problem…. worshipping despite the worry….. and being faithful despite the fear. Strength is faith. It is Jesus manifested. I’ve learned some things about strength through the years and I hope these things will help you, as you battle in your own lives: The first one is this:
1. Strength is about pushing through, when everything else inside you says quit.
For example, four years ago, my son was 17 years old. He had slowly, over the course of several years , become more and more angry, with life, with me, with seemingly everything. He was punching holes in his wall, missing curfew, and failing classes. I prayed, I sought counseling, I fasted, I attended church every time the door was open. Nothing helped. And everything in me wanted to quit, but I didn’t. And there was the time, our ministry had no money and I couldn’t pay my staff. I was angry at God. How could he call me to ministry and then not provide? All I wanted to do was quit.
But, you see, strength isn’t about quitting. Nothing about those examples have anything to do with me. It is about the power of God that rises up on the inside of me that will not allow me to quit. That’s strength. Strength is fighting. Strength in the battle is about pushing through. Strength is fighting when you want to quit. Hell hath no fury like a woman of God who chooses to rise up, pray, praise, and press through. That’s strength.
2. Strength is developed through hardship. We don’t like to hear that, do we? When I see women who can do 50 push-ups or maybe hold the plank position for several minutes, I admire it. But I also recognize that it took some practice. Your strength comes through battles. It comes through learning to battle well and endure and exercise that muscle. Strength isn’t developed on the mountain-top, when everything that your foot touches is blessed. Strength is developed in the valley, when all you have is the promise of God, but no evidence of such promise. You’re going to have to go through some things that build your character, strengthen your integrity, and test your faith. Strength is birthed out of desperation. He’s developing strength – deep, in the depths of your soul. And this hardship will be worth it.
3. The strength you possess is about who possesses you. Strength is really in understanding how weak you are. This is where most of us get into trouble. We try, in our own strength, to clean up good enough to get into to church and to do this Christian life well. If you are anything like me, you have made plenty of mistakes. And maybe you had a significant life change… and you work really hard to fit in, to be perfect, to measure up…but you can’t do it in your own strength. You will fail and you will give up.
The good news is, not by our strength or our might, but by His spirit. Strength is not about doing church well. I can’t do church well another second. Strength is not about legalism and traditionalism and a set of rules that none of us can fully follow anyway. It’s about having an encounter with our King. Strength is understanding the God we belong to set the sun in the sky, the stars in the night, and commands the sea with the sounds of His voice.
4. Strength doesn’t always look like we think it should. Strength will come in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. Maybe you’ve been praying for days, weeks, even years about a situation, and often you are weary. But all of a sudden, in a day, in a moment, God shows upon the scene and does the miraculous. I am reminded of the story of the dying slave in Luke 7:1-10. The Roman officer sent for Jesus to come heal his slave. Ultimately, the slave is healed, but he isn’t healed when Jesus prays for him, fasts, lays hands on him, or even sees him. He is healed by the faith of another. That’s strange to me. He didn’t do anything to be healed, except ask, and it didn’t come in the traditional form that maybe I thought it should. But the healing and strength came, nonetheless. Someone reading today just needs to know that God sees you and that he will work things out for your good, in His timing, His way
When we walk in authority, the authority Jesus paid for us to have, we begin to shift perspective and see ourselves differently. We see ourselves stronger. We see our purposes as bigger. Your strength is about the others in your life --- the lost – the dying ---- the broken. Your hurt, your battle, was all for them.
Is. 41:9-10, “I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying you are my servant. For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
Is. 45:5-7, “I am the Lord; there is no other God. I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, there is no other. I create the light and make darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does the things.
Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker who is also a wife, mother, and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, The 700 Club, Power Women, Daystar Television, and others. She has a passion to see the women of God live free and impactful lives. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.
*** Article first appeared on iBelieve.com.
One of my dearest friends and I have known each other for more than twenty years. Years ago, we both lived in the same apartment complex and often shared meals to save money. We had very little to call our own. As young single moms, we had furnished our government-issued apartments, albeit sparingly, with previously-owned, heavily-used, furniture, bedding, dishes, and the like. Often, we were the thankful recipients of other’s throwaways. We stretched every dollar, farther than imaginable. We worked long hours and often had more debt than dollars. We clipped coupons, worked multiple jobs, held garage sales, etc. – whatever was necessary to ensure we provided for our young families. There is something about my friend that struck me years ago, and it is still true today. She is the most grateful woman I have ever met. I mean, she is truly, truly grateful. Whatever the season, this girl just oozes thanksgiving. Sadly, I cannot say that I exhibit that same sense of gratitude every day.
In recent months, I have become increasingly aware of the lack of gratitude that many of us suffer with. There is a seemingly growing trend among people who have a sense of expectation that something is somehow owed to us for our very existence. What we have is never enough. We always want more. If we’re hungry and the food bank is passing out bread, we want two loaves instead of just one. If the church is giving away free coffee after Sunday service, we’re irritated that it isn’t Starbucks. If we’re single, we want to be married. If we’re married, we want a better spouse. We want to be thinner, prettier, and richer. We want a good job, then a better one. Then, that job is no longer the best job, so we search for the next job. And we’re raising children who are just as bad. They often aren’t grateful for the new toy, they want the best toy. They aren’t sensitive to financial boundaries, because culture (that’s us) permeates the greed of more, more, more. And the pursuit of that façade will never make us happy or fulfilled or thankful.
As a child, can you remember possessing a sense of wonder about the world? Do you remember looking to the sky in awe of how big and blue and impressive it was? Do you remember saying childhood prayers where you thanked God for the flowers, the trees, and the very air you breathed? We were thankful for moms and dads and sisters and brothers, a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies. What age does that shift? When do we stop being thankful for the little things and the big ones? When do we determine that only the ones we deem big are worth thanking God for? In fact, what gives us the right to even categorize any of God’s blessings on our lives as small?
If we aren’t grateful for this thing, we will never be grateful for that thing – whatever that thing is. It’s true. That new hair color, promotion, ministry opportunity, job, car, house, or friend will never do. We will always be looking for the next best thing.
Here are some tips I’m using to ensure I have a gratitude attitude every day:
Choose to be grateful for what you have. It’s a daily choice. We may not have everything we are praying for right now, but God is our provider and there are others who suffer with greater lack than we do in almost every hour. God is a good god, who has given us good things. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God’s plans for us are for a hopeful future. What do you have that you can be thankful for today? Do you have access to worship in a local church? Do you have access to transportation, food, clothing? Do you own a Bible? Do you have your health? Do you have children? A best friend? A loving pastor? A job? Education? Breath?
Keep a journal. It seems simple, but there have been many times in my life that I cried out to God, begging him for something. I was overwhelmed or distraught about a situation that seemed huge at the time. But I can’t tell you how many times God answered a prayer that I completely forgot that I had even prayed! Being able to refer back over years of journals allows me to see the evidence of God’s hand at work in my life.
Keep your head from swiveling. Yep, stop looking left and right at everything everyone else has going on. Don’t worry about how much money they make, how eloquently the speak, how beautiful they sing, or how pretty they are. God made you, your life, and the plan He has for you completely separate and unique. The constant comparison of what she has that we don’t is the very reason we can’t be thankful for God’s blessings in our life.
Remember that we deserve death. We aren’t owed anything, but eternal separation from God. (See Romans 6:23). But in God’s amazing grace, He chose to send us a Savior in His son, Jesus. If God never does anything else for you in your lifetime (which is unlikely), understand that he’s already paid the ultimate price, so that we don’t get what we deserve!
Jennifer Maggio is the author of four books and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is a wife and mother of three who is passionate about seeing single mothers and hurting women live a life of freedom in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
***Article first appeared on iBelieve.com.