30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 21 – The Patience of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Jeremiah 44:22

“The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day.”

Since the beginning of time, God has patiently been drawing us to Himself, revealing our sin that we might come to repentance and renounce our ways. The weary pattern of our stubborn sin and His merciful redemption is repeated incessantly, revealing God’s great patience. As we wind up in the mud pit again and again, darkened by our own counsel, He picks us up, dusts us off and sets His love on us again and again and again.

In His great kindness and patience, we are not consumed. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All have been offered salvation, but not all have accepted it.

Some have been in awe over the patience of Job, but it cannot even be compared with the patience of our God. Job complained of his plight, while God willingly chose His own suffering to win our hearts.

What patience of God to see our wickedness and to triumph over it with mercy. With mercy. Our flesh would not do as much. Such lavish patience is foreign, undeserved in our eyes. But then so is His amazing grace.

Patience is not permission to sin without consequence. It is not the abuse of grace or the casual acceptance of such an astonishing sacrifice on our part. Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience. It is in the suffering for our sins that our eyes can be opened to recognize our sin and our need of God. Even in our failures, God works patiently to redeem them and us with His mighty salvation.

Oh patient God, lover of our souls! Lord, You are so patient, longsuffering and kind. Thank You for opening our eyes to understand how great Your salvation is. May we never take for granted Your mercy and live lives worthy of Your great sacrifice.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 18 –Character of God – He is Good!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

To think that a Holy God would be ready to forgive the unholy is truly beyond words.

Scriptures of the Day:

Psalm 86:5

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.”

Psalm 100:5

“For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 27:13

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.”

To think that a Holy God would be ready to forgive the unholy is truly beyond words. That He would make promises to those who cannot keep them and fulfill them to their children, as well, is absolutely incredible.

But that is just who God is. He is good and there is nothing vile in Him. Nothing. We tend to think of good as getting our way or being blessed. But the definition of good as it refers to God is not like that.

God’s holiness is hard for us to fathom. We can explore analogies to try and comprehend what is must be like to be 100% pure, but it is beyond us.

Perfect King of kings, enthroned in His majesty, cloud filling the temple, chose to leave His throne and rescue His creation by dying for them. We defied His words, disobeyed His commands, were ungrateful enemies. And He set His love on us. He is good.

Lord, thank You for redeeming us from the grave and setting us free from the sin that destroys us. You are good, righteous, Holy, perfect, beautiful.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 13 – The Holy Spirit

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

In God’s amazing compassion and mercy, He gave us Himself in the flesh and in the Spirit.

Scripture of the Day:

Acts 2:38-39 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.'”

John 14:16

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”

Ephesians 1:13-14

“And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)–when you believed in Christ–you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.”

Job 32:8

“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” 

Today I am grateful for the Holy Spirit and His activity in the life of all believers. In God’s amazing compassion and mercy, He gave us Himself in the flesh and in the Spirit.

We are not merely one dimensional; not just fleshly beings. We were made for something so much more. We who are in Christ, who have been forgiven every single transgression, were also given the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us to live this life for God’s glory.

The Holy Spirit comforts and counsels us in our relationship with God, guides us and emboldens us to do the work of the LORD, reveals truth and convicts us of sin, fills us and produces beautiful fruit and character within us, just to name a few of the activities of the Holy Spirit within believers.

As we consider the many various denominations within the body of Christ today, God is LORD over them all and the Holy Spirit is evident in them all. He fills every person who has believed on Jesus Christ and accepted the gift of salvation. As we ache for the LORD’s return, we have not been left alone.

Lord, thank You for Your Holy Spirit and continual communion we have in Your presence because of Your amazing grace and atonement for our sins.

This article by author Frank Viola lists 50 things the Holy Spirit Does in the life of every believer.

Day 26: The Foundation of Hope

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The battle for Hope Reinvented begins at the foundation of our hope and is a battle in the mind.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 15:4

“For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.”

Ephesians 2:12

“In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”

1 Corinthians 3:11

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

When we are at the place of broken dreams, trying to rebuild our hope can seem futile, especially when the future ahead does not appear to have hope in the natural.

If you have been reading this series on Hope Reinvented, we have walked through all of the pitfalls and detractors from having a living hope in Christ. We have examined our former hope and let it go if it was not the hope God has for us. We have also seen that real hope is only found in Christ. Now we will examine what is at the foundation of this Hope Reinvented in Christ alone.

God’s Word. At the foundation of this Reinvented Hope is God’s Word. Man’s word or promise could never fulfill the demands of a hope that never fails. His promises speak life when death is all we see, but another friend at the level of foundation must be present to apply God’s word . . .

Trust. Trusting when everything is going well is not trust at all. But trusting when nothing is going well – now this is trust. Some people think it is foolish to trust in what you cannot see, but this is the definition of faith, as well. Without faith no one can please God. God delights in us and in giving us His promises. He loves it when we look to Him and hope in Him. This is another layer of the foundation of hope – relationship.

Relationship is a necessary layer in our foundation, for without it we cannot claim the promises given by God. Sometimes we can be guilty of just wanting relief from the burdens of this life and seeking the hope of God to escape. Having a relationship with God enables us in times of adversity and also becomes our beacon of hope as we have confidence in the promises He has made to those who trust Him.

Action. As we begin to live out this Reinvented Hope we see another layer in our foundation – action. Living hope in action means we live boldly in the face of dashed hopes. We exemplify this reality by going against the flesh and taking God’s promises at face value. Studying His Word, applying it, memorizing it and living it out is what makes this eternal hope come to life. Action must accompany mentally agreeing with God’s hope.

Discipline. Consistency in nurturing our hope is necessary to cultivate and grow our confidence in this secure hope we have. Taking captive hopeless thoughts and replacing them with God’s, coupled with studying His word daily are not optional. We will be tossed to and fro, otherwise.

When my world was encompassed by constant strife (and this still happens from time to time), I thirsted for God’s promises and read them constantly. I put myself in a place to receive those promises by seeking Him fervently and crying out for Him to deliver me instead of running to other vices or “hopes”.

The challenge in such times is to not look around you at the waves or the supposed failures. They work to tear down our hope. Mental toughness is created and our faith strengthened when we choose to focus only on God and His Word. Sometimes we have to guard our heart to keep away the “hope stealers”. These hope stealers or crushers can be pretty convincing, but they are not eternal.

The battle for Hope Reinvented begins at the foundation of our hope and is a battle in the mind. We must choose which hope we believe in and fight for it with all we have. I close today with words from Woodrow Kroll from his series, “Back to the Bible”: “No one who utterly despairs will pray, for prayer is the proof of lingering hope. Even in the midst of despair, the psalmist recognizes that, should there be any hope, it will be found only in God.”

Lord, You are awesome and faithful, our only Hope! Help us to stay rooted in this hope and to share this hope as stewards of the only real eternal hope that only You can give.

Day 23: Exploring Hope – Making Sense in a Fallen World

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

While the tragedies of this life do not make sense to our fleshly finite minds, God’s word illumines our minds and hearts and helps us to see everything this life brings in light of eternity.

Scripture of the Day:

Ephesians 1:18-19

18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.”

Living in a fallen world, we can get lost and become hopeless. There is no hope in a world without Christ, but in Christ we have discovered a new kind of hope.

As we have processed our grief and sought to understand the heart of God in our struggles, we come to a place where we apply this new hope in this broken place we live.

Looking over the rugged landscape ahead of us, we learn to apply all that we have learned as we have sought to not just restore our hope, but have a living lasting hope.

Our Compass. At the core of this new reinvented hope is viewing the world through a biblical lens. The old default method of letting feelings and thoughts rule our mind is taken captive and we search the word of God for guidance in the bumps and blessings we encounter.

While the tragedies of this life do not make sense to our fleshly finite minds, God’s word illumines our minds and hearts and helps us to see everything this life brings in light of eternity.

Trust. Proverbs 3:5-6 says it well – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. 6 Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.” This new hope cannot be based on our own understanding. When we trust the LORD with moments of life that don’t make sense, we experience an abundant joy and a peace that the world can never remove. He is trustworthy.

Expectations.  The expectation of the righteous is joy, but that does not mean a problem-free life. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:8). Our new reinvented hope never ends. Breathe that truth in. It is not based in this earth, nor in anyone or anything but God alone and He has no beginning or end.

Lord, thank you for providing a hope that is secure and lasts forever.

Day 21: Hope’s Debtor: Gratitude & Humility

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This new reinvented hope longs to please God, not self.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 5:3-4

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

This new reinvented hope is not formed without some friends – gratitude and humility. The beauty in the struggles of life is that they can work precious character into our hearts, if we let them.

Yielding requires trusting God in the face of suffering as well as in times of blessing. Gratitude is not a normal response in heartbreaking circumstances. In the fires of affliction, it is carefully molded through perseverance and a heart and mind change initiated by the Spirit of the living God.

Instead of having the attitude that we deserve what we want, we cry out and ask God to help us “put on” an attitude of gratitude. Why did we think we deserved our way in the first place? The root of our expectations often exists in a self-centered hope. But this new reinvented hope – it longs to please God, not self. Only God can achieve that in man’s heart.

Gratitude can’t be mimicked. Anyone can be thankful in the moment, but an abiding gratitude stems from knowing God and having confidence that nothing ever transpires in our lives without His perfect good will. We can be truly grateful in sorrows because we know God wins in the end. Our hope is fixed on this truth and the fact that every jot and tittle, every moment of our lives – He is redeeming.

Humility cannot be manufactured by man, either. It comes in when we recognize, like Job, that when we question God, we truly do not understand Him or His ways. How can the one who is made know the mind of the Creator? And yet He draws us near to know Him.

Humility is a death to our flesh that wants to reign. There is no greater example of humility than seeing our great Holy God choosing to bear our sins and suffer our punishment. And He did it with joy. Gratitude that souls could be won.

If we have the mindset of Christ, our trials become our triumphs and we see them through the scope of eternity. No more do we regret suffering. Instead we see ourselves as co-laborers with Christ and cry out for Him to use it to save just one.

Mankind does not want to take the blame for anyone else’s actions. Our pride wells up and demands justice. Christ chose to be mistreated in the most extravagant demonstration of humble love ever seen.

Lord, help us to have Your understanding and to seek to honor You in every aspect of our lives. It is for Your glory alone that we live!

Day 19: Fairy Tales Remixed

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. 

Scripture of the Day:

John 10:28

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.”

Once upon a time (had to start this blog post like this, right?), ok, where was I? Oh yeah, once upon a time everything was perfect and a perfect looking person (who is the object of this story) suddenly had something imperfect thrust into her life. Whatever would she do? Oh, no worries, there is always a fairy something or another to help save the day after she goes through a significant amount of pain that makes it all worthwhile.

Sorry for the notable sarcasm present in that last paragraph. Fairy tales were not something I read to my kids much when they were little, and while I am at it, we did not celebrate Santa, either. I know – I am a real killjoy. Or am I?

I always wanted my kids to know that I told them the truth. Being fed lies can leave us hopeless and disillusioned when real life smacks you hard in the face. I wanted them to know that when I told them about Jesus that they could trust me, because I had laid a foundation of being a truth-teller.

Back to our story. We all somehow wish we could live in a fantasy world, because things always turn out well there. The “bad guys” always get what they deserve and the “good guys”always win out in the end. Life is good and it all revolves around us. Well, not really.

In the story of our lives, a life well-lived revolves around Jesus, the real Hero of our story. He made us, and though He was God, He came in the form of man and laid down His own life for us. He did not seek a comfortable life nor man’s praise. He, the God over all, humbled Himself! He did not complain about things being unfair, but entrusted Himself to His perfect Father, knowing the story would ultimately be for God’s glory and His good.

Perhaps instead of craving a “perfect” life where we are surrounded by orchestral music constantly cheering us on in our adventures and where everyone adores us, we could have a change in our mentality. If we, too, laid down our lives as Christ did and sought to have Him live through us, then our perspective becomes one with a much different goal.

If my expectations are that all will work out well for me, my expectations can lead to idolatry. Ultimately, it ends well for those who are in Christ Jesus, but there will be times where life just does not make sense and sinful people seem to get away with wicked things. Other heroes of the faith got distracted with this reality, too, but they hoped in God.

When life hurts, we just want to escape. We want to hope in a perfect life. But maybe instead of that vain, temporary hope, we can begin to see a new hope forming. A hope reinvented is a hope in the tragedies and mishaps of life that is focused on hoping to live a life worthy of the life Christ gave on our behalf. It is a passion to be faithful and to glorify God in the pains and the joys that life brings, a life that overcomes obstacles and looks to the Author of our faith instead of the obstacles themselves. That is my hope.

I know it’s hard to have faith when there is turmoil all around. It is a death, of sorts. But this life is not the end goal, anyway, and after death there is life.

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. We may not have a castle that eventually moth and rust destroy, but we have mansions in Heaven that never fade – beside the crystal lake, where we will have no more burdens and no more tears. Sounds better than any fairy tale ending I know – pretty amazing, in fact.

This song, “I Can Only Imagine” by mercy Me has always got me. What a hope we have that never disappoints!

Lord, help our hope to be solely in living lives that glorify You. Take our burdens and use them to make us more like You!

 

Day 12: Facing Memories Through a Biblical Lens

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God still wants to take that place of pain and redeem it into a living testimony rather than a dead memory that comes back to haunt us with sorrow.

Scripture of the Day:

Isaiah 40:31

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the wake of all of life’s experiences, there are reminders that pop up from time to time. Memories jarred from a song that is heard, a familiar smell, a place, a name . . .sometimes at the most inopportune times.

When we try to  move forward in our lives and the past keeps resurfacing, our newly formed hope can feel fragile. Past memories threaten to steal the lessons we have learned and imprison us back into the state we were in that we never wanted to encounter again. But God.

Sometimes it feels like the LORD purposely has us face again and again things we would rather forget. It can feel cruel and tortuous. But God loves us too much to allow us to stay trapped in a place where we only feel safe if we block out any hint of our former pain.

When we are reminded of past mistakes or burdens, He whispers hope and a different perspective. The accusations from yesterday are changed in His presence and understood to be His grace, instead. Failures are seen as vehicles that brought us to see our need of God rather than to separate us from Him.

At times it is necessary to remove ourselves from abusive relationships or situations that really aren’t healthy for us. But God still wants to take that place of pain and redeem it into a living testimony rather than a dead memory that comes back to haunt us with sorrow. When we are overcome with our past, finding Scriptures to infuse with what we falsely believed opens our eyes and helps us to process memories in light of God’s never-ending hope.

Viewing the past through His lens – His Word – helps us to make sense of life’s messes. The past may never be something we understand, but we can come to a place of peace as we see God’s purposes in it. And His purposes are always good, always higher than we could ever imagine.

God is a Redeemer of all things. Former things have passed away, but in the corner of our minds He wants to take that piece of our hope that was ripped apart and restore it. Until we let go of the past, we cannot grab a hold of the new hope that the present offers.

The past cannot keep us, the present is evaporating, but our future hope is certain. Looking ahead, we are informed by the past enough to see that the God who brought us through it can also guide us through whatever life brings. As we look over the landscape of life, we will see how He weaves it all together into a beautiful masterpiece – both the rugged and the beautiful pieces forming a vessel perfected for the LORD’s glory.

Lord, thank You for making a highway in the wilderness, a place of rest for us when we are weary and lost. No matter what the past says, You already know the end.

This song by Casting Crowns really says it well. Already There. Trust God with your past and the future. None of it is wasted.

Day 6: Revelation in the Darkness – Who Was the Thief?

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

“In all the strife of life, no one can steal our hope except ourselves.”

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 119:116

“Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”

Hope is a necessary ingredient to life. Without it, we perish. The ultimate definition of hope, the daughter of faith, is trusting that God said He will do what He said He would. But sometimes we can feel that is for everyone else except ourselves.

Holding onto hope can take all we’ve got sometimes. So many things in this fallen world threaten hope’s survival. Maybe we are in the desert, seemingly with no end in sight and just find it too difficult to dare to hope. Maybe we are on the other side of a significant trial but are afraid to hope. Circumstances, discouragement and fear can surely hold us back from hope, but they are birthed in an environment all our own.

It might help to know where we stand, to set expectations aright. We are hated by an enemy who delights to steal our joy and hope, because he is angry that He can never take away our salvation. He will settle for wrecking our witness or get us sidetracked with trivial matters, but he really wants to discourage us from having hope at all. If he achieves this goal, God’s people go through life living defeated lives, without hope and ineffective to share God’s hope with others because our own hope has been extinguished.

Added to our enemy’s activity of destroying hope in us is his influence on others who are used, sometimes unknowingly – to try and dash our hopes, too. Who would want to do that, right? But we do it all the time when we try to discourage a brother or sister in the work of the LORD in their lives.

Naivety gone, we recognize we are surrounded by enemies, but we might not readily see the enemy within. Sounds dramatic, I know. But what we do with the pressures in this life that try to snuff out hope is on us. It is not easy to stand up to all of the attacks on maintaining our hope in God, but it is a fight God can help us to wage and win.

So, who’s the Thief? Who is it that ultimately steals our hope?

Satan, Satan working through people, circumstances – they contribute to our downfall, but there is another thief we do not recognize, because wait for it – it is ourselves. Why would we bear the blame – why would we ever want to harm ourselves or take away our hope?

Sure, the instigator was likely from another source, but what we do with the “hope killer” is our choice alone. We must consider where our hope is placed. Is it in others, ourselves or in the only One who is capable of making and keeping promises?

Here are some “Hope Builders” that have greatly helped me to hold onto hope:

Where our hope is placed. When hope is in Christ alone, we have a consistent source that does not sway with man’s fickle opinion or momentary circumstances. Reinvented hope is not dependent on a temporary goal or the success of achieving that goal – it is fixed on the author of hope itself.

Recognizing the battle and its source. People’s opinions are often formed in jealousy. Jealousy is hatred. Discouragement, gossip and negativity only come from one place – they are of the devil. His end is certain. Dismiss attacks from people or the devil as being evil and having a just end.  God already waged war against the enemy of our souls – satan is defeated and our hope is secure.

Pressing in and seeking God’s promises. Reality hits us square in the eye and sometimes it can be LOUD. We don’t have to let life’s troubles confuse us, even though they are convincing that hope seems like a futile effort. We have to go against our feelings and place our hope firmly in the hands of God’s word. It is hard work keeping the flames of hope alive, but God’s promises fuel that hope.

Crying out to God. We need help in this quest for this hope from another world. It is found only in relationship with Christ. Crying out for help and perspective helps us to overcome and triumph over hopelessness or false hope that always disappoints. Instead of adopting the world’s hope, we begin to see formed this new Reinvented Hope as we gain God’s view instead of our own.

Focusing on God and His Word, not the hope killers around us. This one is a tough one when our hope killers are not just in our mind, but flesh around us, focused on tearing us down. When we listen to the voices all around us instead of to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we easily succumb to the strategy of the enemy.

In all the strife of life, no one can steal our hope except ourselves. We have to get up and fight and resist pouring over the negativity of other people or our own self-doubt and insecurity. A great assurance for this soul is that nothing in this world can take away our hope – it is impossible, for our hope is certain. We might feel like hope is gone, but it never is for those whose hope is in God. Picking up the pieces of our shattered hope, we form it into a new hope that never disappoints.

In Christ Alone is a worship song that reminds us where our hope needs to be placed. Worship Him, our God of Reinvented Hope, a hope given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Hope is alive!

Lord, thank You for keeping our hope secure in You. Help us to hold on to Your promises firmly.

Day 4: The Grief Process: Finding Our Way & Thriving in the Desert

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert.

Scriptures of the Day:

Job 17:15

“Where then is my hope – who can see any hope for me?”

Romans 15:13

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Isaiah 35:1

“Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!”

Isaiah 43:19

“Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness.”

Hosea 13:5

“I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land.”

Jeremiah 2:6

“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and of pits, Through a land of drought and of deep darkness, Through a land that no one crossed And where no man dwelt?'”


The desert is a beautiful place if we have eyes to see it. Some just see the dust and the dearth of anything green and lush. There seems to be no life there. Some fear the scary critters lurking and slithering all around. Others see the majestic mountains in the backdrop, and the brave life that sneaks up through the cracks in the ground, bursting forth with promise.

I grew up out west and New Mexico left a big impact on me. Or maybe on my derriere. I recall vividly walking on top of a fence (because this is what sensible people do) and falling to my demise right on top of a cactus. The hours spent having someone else pull needles out of my bum taught me a lesson that I have not forgotten – the desert hurts.

The scorpions and tarantulas added to my distaste of the desert, too. Walking home from school with the mighty March winds stinging my legs while dodging flying tumbleweeds, I confess that while the terrain was beautiful in this desert, it was harsh, too.

God’s people knew the desert well – they spent a lot of time there. They did not appreciate it and complained about God’s provision while they were there.They remembered the provision they had while enslaved and favored that place of shame and suffering instead of being dependent upon God in a dry season. Not a lot has changed with the people of God. We, too, wonder why we have to spend time there at all.

The desert serves as such a palpable analogy to the spiritual desert that we often find ourselves in and out of in this life.

Sometimes we bring the desert on ourselves by forgetting God. And sometimes we are surprised by the sudden appearance of desert all around us. We did not plan to go there. Things might have been going well for awhile … then. Then the other shoe drops and there is nothing but death seemingly in front of us.

When my children and I were trying to navigate the new terrain of life we were thrust into, we did not know the way. The only map we had was God and His Word – oh, and many people offering counsel. Some good, some not so good.

Trying to acclimate to the spiritual desert we were in, it seemed like we just kept falling on cacti. One night, a little over a year of being in the desert, the LORD gave me a strong impression that I needed to pray for protection over my children and I. I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning praying and the next morning a friend called to ask what was going on in our world – she had begun praying at 4:00 in the morning the very same words I had been praying. A robbery had happened that night a couple doors down and my next door neighbor witnessed someone standing at the end of my driveway in the middle of the night.

I still shudder when I consider the mercy of God, calling me to pray fervently and His protection over us. A couple weeks later, I witnessed eight men in two cars coming out of a neighbor’s home. Another robbery. My heart melted within me. My son told me it was time I got a gun . . .

In the midst of an endless court battle, being falsely accused and sued by family members who felt they had a right to invade our lives while we suffered immensely, my health also took a turn for the worse. Autoimmune diseases all flared up, my strength was succumbing to the stress all around me. Finances were a wreck, our home was foreclosed upon, the robberies intensified our feelings of insecurity in an abyss of problems, so I went to buy a gun to protect my children and I.

Little did I know there was fine print on the back of a court document that said I could not purchase any firearms. Later this court error was fixed, but the trauma of this gun toting homeschool mama being arrested, handcuffed and brought to jail was another thorn in the desert that I will not soon forget.

Oh God – do you see me? Do you see this turmoil we are in? How do You receive glory from this? Why is this happening? Joseph must have felt the same way – thrown in prison for a crime he did not commit. But He honored God in that desolate place and he hoped.

When things go from bad to worse, we are not ever forgotten. The thorns and thistles of life often grow on things of beauty. It hurt more than I could ever convey to walk the lonely path we did, but in those broken cries and prayers to my God alone, there was this thing of beauty that He was accomplishing within. Endless hope in the character of God.

I thought I knew the LORD (and I did) before the biggest trial of my life, but now – now I knew Him in such an intimate way that all I wanted was His glory. I did not care how long He had me in this desert anymore. If this is where He wanted me, I surrendered my plans for an escape (it would not have worked, anyway), and worshiped Him right there in the dust. In the jail cell while the police officer explained my innocence. In the court while I was exposed to the most painful revelations a mother should never have to hear. In church when all I could do was weep and hide my face with my long hair to try and disguise my inner turmoil.

Just like God saw Ishmael’s mom weeping for her son in the desert, God saw me. Raw and real, loved and embraced.

You see the secret of the desert is to not look at all the pain around us, but to look to the One Who made the desert. He has a purpose in the desert that far exceeds our purposes in the valley.

In the desert we discover that our perspective depends on what we look at – the problems or the promise around us. God has life in the desert – not just death. We can be overflowing with hope even in the desert…because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also gave strength to Jesus when He was in the desert. And Jesus modeled surrender and worship in that place.

We are not alone in the desert, even though it feels so very lonely. Though it is tempting, don’t look at the thorns around you – see the beauty in the desert and the oasis God provides for those who thirst after Him.

The pressure of our desert is making us into diamonds and the testimony formed is priceless.

The next time you are in the desert, think of it as going camping with God. He is there with us. The Holy One – with us! The beauty of the desert is lost to those who just look at the rugged exterior. In the arid places, the places that seem like there is no more life at all, we have a new kind of hope forming within us – reinvented, made in the dry places – a thing of beauty to behold. A hope full of God’s promises and fellowship – and our hopes and plans lie fallen on the desert floor. And we are free.

In the place of suffering and disbelief, even disillusionment, we can choose to not just survive, but thrive, even delight in God – Who meets us in the arid places of our lives. Pity parties are exposed, His purposes are seen as higher, and victory is found. This is where God longs for us to rest – not when things are perfect, but with Him in the desert – even when they are uncertain – to know that His blueprint for our lives is perfect at all times.

Oh Lord, we hope in You alone. Whether in the desert, the sunshine or the rain, You are our God in all of it.

We may as well sing while we are in the desert. 🙂 Here is a worship song from Housefires – Never Run Dry