Day 13: Facing the Enemy

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Ultimately victory cannot be won if we do not even know what we are aiming at.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 119:114

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”

The enemy lines are drawn and we think we know the enemy’s tactics. Adrenaline pumping through our veins, we brace ourselves for the next attack and prepare our own offensive strategy . . .

. . . Or maybe we are wandering out on the field unaware that we are standing in the middle of a battleground. Yep. That is more like me.

Pelted with attack after attack we cannot fathom that anyone could be so manipulative or conniving. But we better wise up, because there is no sign of things letting up and we don’t want to be another casualty on the field of life, strewn with people who lost their hope and let the enemy take it from them. What we need is a strategy.

Though we feel weakened, God is calling us to rise up and fight.

How do we fight? What does this fighting look like? David has some ideas to share with us. He prayed and asked God to deal with his enemies. Though he entered into God’s presence stressed and wanting vengeance, he left God’s presence keenly aware of the mercy that had  been extended to Him.

Wise up. Ever had someone believe the worst in you or relentlessly attack you? You kind of wonder if there is a sign on your back, saying, “kick me while I am down”, right? The fool keeps on going and suffers for it, though, and we need to be spiritually discerning to understand our enemies tactics, how to counter them, as well as who, in fact, is our enemy. The moment of revelation is sobering when we realize we have another enemy in the ranks – especially when they claim to be our friend. Jesus understands. One He loved and washed the feet of betrayed him with a kiss.

Get over it. Hurt can paralyze us if we let it. We have to get over the reality of the betrayal to be able to see clearly. God knows it hurts but that hurt can be a tool to help us or a vessel to trap us with bitterness and pain. 

Motivations. Trying to get into the heart and mind of one who has us under siege proves difficult, but God’s word opens our eyes to a spiritual understanding that trumps the world’s perspective every time.  The motivations of another person just don’t matter. Let God deal with that. What matters is our response to their affront or attack.

Stick to the facts. People might intend harm and they might not. We can get lost walking in a mine field if we try to guess the motivations of another. Only God knows that. Sticking to the facts keeps us from the dangerous territory of presumption, which is a real joy and hope killer. It is a lot easier to understand objective facts rather than subjective ideas.

No blaming. Blaming comes naturally to us. It is easier to think that we do not bear the responsibility, and somehow makes us feel better to cast aspersions on the other wicked people. Sometimes we truly don’t bear responsibility for an attack. But blaming cannot erase the pain or fix our heartache. Instead of blaming, we can pour out our heart to God and ask for His understanding.

No hiding. Trying to destroy the evidence of our broken heart will not rid us of the scar it has left behind – it will only cause it to harden. Pretending just does not work for long. Exposing our responses to our enemies helps us to be real. Ultimately victory cannot be won if we do not even know what we are aiming at.

No Benedict Arnold. Don’t play into the enemy’s tactics. The enemy of our soul is cunning and comes like an angel of light. He trips us up to sin then condemns us and blames us. He uses other people, too. We don’t have to let them provoke us or cause us to stumble – that is defeating ourselves.

Be strong. I love the verses in Joshua reminding him over and over again to be strong and courageous. The strength is available to us, but we have to come to God and His Word to get it.

Let Him Fight For You. Todays’ scripture is not just a nice poetic illustration. It is real. He is our refuge. He is our shield – if our hope truly is in His Word. What does that mean? It means I confess doubt and place everything in His hands. I hunt for verses that speak life and truth and surrender my way to His. We have the God of the universe fighting for us and can take authority over the enemy in Jesus’ name.

So, who is our enemy? It might be an illness, another person, ourselves, or even a fellow believer who poses as an enemy in our lives. But the real enemy is the devil, seeking to use anything at his disposal to destroy us.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy and sometimes we let people beat us up. That’s not what God wants for us. We can rise above attacks and glorify God in them by overcoming evil with good. Fighting for our enemies in prayer and asking God to reveal their sins as well as our own sends the devil packing. Let’s fight on our knees together and see what God does. Our victory is sure.

Lord, thank You for overcoming every enemy we will ever face. Help us to let go of a vain hope in vengeance and to have our hope in You and Your word alone.

Maybe this song will help you to fight in a way that honors God: God is Fighting For Us

Day 7: Facing Depression

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

At the heart of our recovery is a belief in the God who reshapes our hopes and expectations into His own. 

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 41:11

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Psalms 40:1-3

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”

Today’s topic I tread on carefully. The “loneliness of soul” as depression has been called, is so characterized because it is often so misunderstood.

Shame and self hatred can often come with depression, as this emotional pain is just as significant as physical pain, but we can feel judged and isolated to admit such a profession.

Ever been really discouraged to the point where you just did not have any hope at all? Maybe feel as if you are gasping for air and trying to find hope and meaning, only to be confronted with a wave of strong emotions that threaten to engulf you? Add to these feelings the stigma of feeling this way and it seems there is no way out.

The battle in the mind to overcome negative or sad emotions is real. The motivation to escape the prison of depression can falter as people are overwhelmed with sadness or grief and feel powerless to affect it at all.

Depression is real. Causes can stem from circumstances, sin, a chemical imbalance, mental disorder or our own spiritual battle, to name a few. Fixing depression is not as easy as a bandaid on a physical infirmity that we readily can affect, but God can do all things.

The One Who fearfully and wonderfully made us also chose to be encased in human flesh and can identify with every sorrow and heartbreak we have.

Some of God’s greatest servants encountered depression – but they did not all stay there. David is such an encouragement to me. He confessed and was honest about being depressed, anxious and stressed. Who wouldn’t be in his situation? David knew what it was to suffer greatly, chased in the dessert for 15 years by a mad man who was also depressed. Sometimes even other depressed people can try to bring us down with them, preoccupied with self and ascribing motives to us that just don’t exist. Saul was crazed with jealousy of David and left those thoughts unchecked, fueling them with his false perceptions. Our minds can really get in a fog if we take in the lies and negativity and allow it to go unchecked.

But David’s refuge was God’s word. He did not have a local CVS to run to or Dr. Phil to cheer him up. Hiding in caves, despairing of life – His medicine was to run to God and His word and to cry out to Him.

While sometimes medicine is needed and a great help to sufferers of depression, the greatest healing balm I have found is being in God’s presence reading His word and crying out to Him, just like David modeled for us all.

My visit down depression lane has been brief and intermittent. Personal choices I made while there were what determined how long I stayed and when I would be leaving.

Recognition. A lot of times we don’t see that we have a choice. We don’t realize the state of mind we are in. Walking around in a cloud and sad atmosphere, we are often unaware of and don’t recognize that we are depressed. The first step toward leaving the path of depression was to recognize we are on that path in the first place. With 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts going through our mind in one day, sometimes seeing the source of those thoughts can be dizzying.

Roots. Finding the root of depression helps us to see. If we take those thoughts and examine where they came from, we begin to see the culprit that served as a catalyst in the formation of depression. Painful roots can be lifted out of the dust, healed and transplanted again in the healthier soil of being rooted in God’s love, instead.

Relationship. Victory out of depression is a daily battle in the mind that we often cannot fight by ourselves. We have to fight and choose to overcome, but if we are in a bad state of mind, we might need others to pluck us out and help us gain perspective.

Rescue. Seeing motivations of ourselves and others through biblical and prayer filters helps us to release possession of our thoughts and surrender them to Jesus. Placing them in God’s hands – sometimes again and again – is when we begin to see things from His perspective.

Real Hope. We need to tell ourselves the truth. The many discouraging thoughts are not always true. They might be convincing, but lies, nonetheless. This is not going to last forever. As long as we want change and are willing to be on the hunt for healing, your hope is sure and changed. The hope we have in Christ is abiding and eternal. Where we are now is not.

Trying to escape depression with a fake hope just won’t work. Happy little phrases and anecdotes are not a real solution. But we are never without hope if we approach our internal struggles biblically. What does His word say? Reflecting on His promises rather than our ever-looming reality is a life preserver ready to be used, if we let it be.

The circumstances surrounding the revelation of my children being harmed provoked depression and overwhelming grief that seemed insurmountable. My expectations were blown out of the water and I could not see how I could ever recover. If it had not been for God’s presence before and throughout, surely I would not have survived.

The night before the revelation of sin in our family, God awoke me to write a song. Usually my heart is filled with praise when I write Him a song, but this night my soul was in anguish. Complete fear gripped my heart and the LORD began to reveal to me that my life was going to change dramatically. I did not know that as I wrote the song and sought God’s face, the father of my children was harming one of my children in that moment.

The next day the LORD walked with me as truth was unfolding that broke our hearts and rocked our world. Shock and horror filled my heart and I felt I was not even in my body. The stress added to the pain and brought all of my autoimmune diseases out of remission. Trying to function with simple tasks felt impossible. It was in this place of despair that my brain would not turn off. Sleeping was difficult, anxiety consumed me over the constant barrage of attacks, accusations and court dates. The ominous doorbell ringing again and again with more subpoenas frightened my children and I as we felt like puppets on strings being thrown around carelessly through a process we did not ask for.

Deep sadness emanates often from a place of suffering. It threatens to snuff out hope with the grim reality of its tentacles wrapping around our mind again and again, proliferating a message of doubt and hopelessness.

But we need not be trapped by depression’s lure. The choice depends on us, if we will see the escape. God’s love reaches deeper than the deepest pit and demolishes the lies that depression tells us.

At the core of depression can be unbelief formed in the chasm of broken expectations. At the heart of our recovery is a belief in the God who reshapes our hopes and expectations into His own.

We become disheartened when life has not lived up to what we hoped for. We are set free when we realize it is not our life, after all. Sadness for self is removed when we don the attitude and reality that our lives are wrapped up in Christ’s. If we really believe that we no longer live but that Christ lives through us, then we see our lives as living for One.

Adopting the mind of Christ is paramount to overcoming thoughts in a mind filled with troubling thoughts. Christ sought to glorify the Father. He did not consider Himself, but only others around Him. His zeal for God consumed Him.

If we are real, zeal for self can often consume us. God knows that. He wants us to lift up our eyes to Him and see where our help comes from. Self can be a burden, but we are free when we can lay self down and see our problems as potential to glorify God in it.

Moving past depression is not easy, but it is possible. Feelings are powerful, but they are not more powerful than God’s Word, which never returns void.

Rather than desiring an escape from pain, we can ask for God to be with us in the pain and to give us His perspective as we navigate through the mire of emotions and pain. The more we seek God, the more we get answers to our questions. The more we ask, the more we receive. God is not limited by our limits and the Maker of us all has the remedy for every suffering – emotional or physical.

The song, “Draw Me Near” was the song I wrote on the night before my life and the life of my children was changed forever and now serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness at all times. If our hope is in anything other than God, our emotions ride a rollercoaster.

Lord, help us to trust You with our emotions. You made our hearts and can heal them, too.

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 2: Not in Kansas Anymore

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope is fragile if it is dependent on a perfect life. The strength of a hope in Christ is that we hope beyond what we are feeling.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Hoping is easier when all is well. But when it seems the ground beneath you has not just been shaken, but disappeared altogether, where is the Christian to stand? On higher ground.

At first this higher ground is on our knees, desperate for understanding and compassion from our God. With no fight left, surrender to God might seem easy, but depression or fear try to keep us from hoping at all.

Maybe we quote some verses or sing a song to try to help pull ourselves up in our new reality. Maybe we get angry, or cry or call friends – anyone who can offer a tonic to numb our pain. Maybe we stare blankly at the walls around us, pinching ourselves to see if we are awake.

We can’t go back to the place we were before the pain entered our lives. We can’t move forward, either. Daily functioning becomes an exercise in futility and feels like walking in mud. Our hearts are gripped with shocking horror that threatens to paralyze any movement at all.

A crisis happens when we encounter this moment when life simply hurts. We grasp for any sense of “normalcy”, whatever that is, and secretly in our hearts can begin to question God’s love and goodness.

Ever felt this kind of hopelessness? Sorry if I paint a grim picture. We have to be real, though, and honest – in order to see our need for a hope that is tenacious in the face of suffering.

The day God revealed to me the sin of the father of my children I could not breathe. The shame, horror and complete shock enveloped me. I did what any sensible woman would do. I ate chocolate. A lot of it. Buffalo wings, too. I spent out of our budget just to try to bring joy to my children. I wept and wept some more. I cried out for understanding and suffered the shunning and new social status that threatened to steal my joy. How did I get there?

This was not supposed to happen. I had waited for marriage and married a Christian man. I had promised to protect my children. In a state of grief, I could not feel my hands or feet and was dragged to court incessantly by the one who inflicted on us all our pain. Trying to homeschool five children while being falsely accused was a mess. But still I had this thing inside of me – what was it? Hope.

Hope that the God who promised to use everything for my good and His glory would do so. Hope that my God saw me. On the witness stand. On the floor, crying out for His deliverance. I read His Scripture night and day, trying to find answers that would help me to hold on just one more day. This hope was a constant anchor that I had to cultivate in God’s word.

If you have never gone through something traumatic that has rocked your world, hang tight. This world does not promise a perfect life. If you have suffered something that has left you disillusioned, you are in the right place.

Suffering is common to man. There are lots of books on the subject, but having genuine joy, hope and victory when the trials continue is uncommon. Finding hope in the midst is not just about coping, but about reinventing our idea of hope and navigating disillusionment to find real hope in God’s sovereignty, promises and character rather than in our circumstances.

So how do we let go of Kansas? It may have been all we ever knew. The grief process of letting go of our perception of what we thought our life in Christ should look like is not easy, but it is a well worn path by many who can testify of God’s miracles reaching into their circumstances and transforming their heart and hope in the midst.

It is not until we are submerged in the most challenging trials of our lives that we realize where our hope is placed. The former hope was based conceptually, this new hope experientially. The former hope was developed when we were surrounded by blessing, this new hope was developed in the fire and is no longer dependent upon circumstances.

Our innocence gone, our hope in the happy fairy tale ending smashed to pieces on the floor, we have to find a new hope that is not manufactured by rote, but rather fashioned in the fire. Tough questions need to be asked to find hope again. Authentic questions that pour out our heart before God.  At this place of raw suffering and crying out to God we present an honest offering – a sacrifice of praise, that becomes an internal hope that cannot be put out.

Paul understands. He wanted everyone to know the fire he had passed through – not to be a whiner, but to be real and to give God the glory. He shared his secret, too. He found his hope in relying on the One Who rose from the dead. Anyone Who can do that can handle our problems.

While we are not in our Kansas anymore, the new place we are at is deep. Deep in Christ. We understand His suffering. We understand that He left Heaven to come and suffer for us. He understands what it is like to leave perfection behind for those He loves. He left Heaven and we had to leave our Kansas.

We cannot get back what we thought we owned, but when we see the amazing treasures God gives us while we process trauma, we would not want to go back there, anyway. In its place is now a genuine desire and acceptance of what God has for us, which far surpasses our former hopes and dreams.

Hope is fragile if it is dependent on a perfect life. The strength of a hope in Christ is that we hope beyond what we are feeling. Supernaturally, God enables us to hope when it seems ludicrous to do so.

Recently, I had the joy of thanking Sara Groves for a song she wrote that embodied what I felt during this season of searching for hope in my life. I thought you might enjoy it, too – Painting Pictures of Egypt.

Lord, I pray for each one reading this blog – that you would fill them with your inexpressible hope and give them Your promises whispered to their heart. You are forever faithful and we worship You!

Mundane Monday: Security in Insecurity

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We could never be more secure than in that moment when we understood our great need for salvation and accepted it. Loved. Sealed for eternity.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Samuel 25:29 (NLT)

“Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling!”

1 Samuel 2:9 (NET)

“He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darkness, for it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

David was no stranger to enemies, like the persecuted church today. Far beyond what we normally call enemies today in our sanitized world and vain imaginations, enemies are very real, nonetheless.

In pursuit of God we have the enemy of our souls and our flesh to deter us, let alone people who want to bring us down. But there is an understanding that transcends our circumstances and gives us security when life feels insecure.

Abigail entreated David to consider that despite the evil intent of those around him, he was indeed secure. Not because of alarm systems or body guards, but because the God of this universe had his back. God would take care of those who stood against David in His perfect timing and way. It might have taken 15 years for Saul to be deposed, but the character gained in those years could not be formed otherwise.

Hannah saw this same security from the strength of her living God who granted her deepest desire to have a son. Her security came from an insecure place, and God met her there. Her need for God’s provision and security through family caused her to go deeper with God and to rear a son who would be a mighty prophet for God’s people.

This insecure world invites us to accept the challenge of the difficulties around us and to place them at our Master’s feet.

Maybe you are hated. Maybe people are jealous of you like they were of David. Maybe it is an unbeliever hating you for your faith in Jesus, or maybe it is believers who are caught in a mire of covetousness who slander you to elevate themselves.

Either way, none of this is new underneath the sun. We can expect adversity if we are seeking to do God’s will, but that need not remove our security that we have in Christ.

We could never be more secure than in that moment when we understood our great need for salvation and accepted it. Loved. Sealed for eternity.

All the security we ever need is found Jesus, Who perfectly accepts us and heals our wayward souls. Our eternal security cannot be provided in anyone else.

But the temporal burdens in this world which frighten the human soul long for something more tangible. We want to be free from all fear and terror. How does this eternal security impact the temporal station where we reside?

It is in the recognition of the brevity of life that we see how all we are investing in the here and now impacts all of eternity. 

The suffering, the joy, the blessings and burdens all are a part of living. We cannot avoid pain, but we can call on El Elyon – the Eternal God Most High – for grace and strength while we battle through this life to live in a way that pleases Him.

For if our goal is the removal of fear or suffering we have set our bar too low.

To be secure in the security this life offers does not prepare us for eternity.

But to live this insecure life with abandon before our King, fully trusting and seeking to glorify His Name – this is really living a secure life, no matter what life brings.

Lord, You are awesome and Holy, our living Refuge! Help us to live lives that are radically transformed and surrendered to You.