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 18: Telling Ourselves the Truth – Exposing Our Unbelief

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

In the tunnels of life, we see one way out, but there are actually two. One path seeks God and the other seeks our own way.

Scripture of the Day:

Numbers 13:2, 17-20

13:2a “Send out men to investigate the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites17 When Moses sent them to investigate the land of Canaan, he told them, “Go up through the Negevand then go up into the hill country 18 and see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, few or many, 19 and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or fortified cities20 and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether or not there are forests in it. And be brave, and bring back some of the fruit of the land.” Now it was the time of year for the first ripe grapes. 

It is not until we are willing to examine ourselves and give our sin its worst name that we can begin to declare victory. Sin is deceitful, though, and we often do not recognize the subtleties of deception inherent in the walls of our mind.

Sometimes we can be convinced fully in our mind that we are “ok”, but we are covering over this unsettled feeling that will not let go.

The irony in the discomforts of this life is that God is using them to deliver us from self-preoccupation and into a land of promise.

Reminds me of those Israelites again.

There they were, on the edge of entering the promise land and God told them to go check it out. I wonder if he was delighting to see their joy at the blessings He had in store for them. Kind of like I get more excited than my kids to see their expressions as they see the good I have planned for them for various moments of celebration.

He sent them there when the land was full of hope – the grapes were ripe and plentiful, what a good Father. The scouts had a job to do and a choice to make. Would they focus on all the hope surrounding them, or the potential struggles? They told themselves lies. And they convinced others to believe them. God got pretty angry about it, too. Who wouldn’t? Ever prepared an amazing surprise for someone only to have them say they don’t like it?

Maybe in examining the lies they believed we might recognize our own self-deception, too.

Lie #1 – We are not able

Numbers 13:31 “We are not able to go up against these people, because they are stronger than we are”.

Huge flaw in this calculation – kind of left out the God factor here. They gave a discouraging report that focused on their strength rather than God’s and dissuaded the people from believing God.

Lie #2: Doubted God’s goodness and intentions

Numbers 14:3 “Why has the LORD brought us into this land only to be killed by the sword, that our wives and our children should become plunder?”

Ouch. The first lie focused on our inability, but the second one accused God. To say that God just wanted to bring them out to kill them. After all He had done for them. But our memories fade and we tend to forget all of the blessings when a massive thorn in our flesh comes knocking at our door.

Lie #3: Rebel against God and form our own plan.

Numbers 14:4 “So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

The Israelites are in pretty bad shape to just say it is time to turn around and go home. Um, where was home? Living in slavery, eating onions and beaten all day? Sure sounds cozy.

They even dared to go ahead and try to claim the promised land their way – not God’s. It did not turn out so well for them.

Lies will flood our mind unless we have the truth ready to dispute it. When we are tested like the Israelites were, we have to counter those attacks with the Word of God.

Truth #1: God is with us – do not fear

Numbers 14:9 “Only do not rebel against theLord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection has turned aside from them, but the Lord is with us. Do not fear them!

God demonstrated His presence over and over again, through His Word and through actions. We need to believe that He is with us and He is for us. It will be hard because reality sometimes hurts desperately. Maybe our hearts melt within us and it seems there is no way out – kind of like that tunnel image above. Closed in by our circumstances, we see one way out, but there are actually two. One path seeks God and the other seeks our own way.

Truth #2: Disbelief in God is hatred toward Him.

Numbers 14:11 “The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me, and how long will they not believe in me, in spite of the signs that I have done among them?

Sometimes the fear of the LORD is a good reminder. When we see that our disbelief is wicked in God’s sight, we need to repent and ask God for mercy, to give us faith. None of us would want to say we hate God. But disobedience is not love. As Jesus said, if we love the Father, we will do what He says.

Truth #3: He is good and His plans are good.

Numbers 14:20 “Then the Lord said, ‘I have forgiven them as you asked. 21 But truly, as I liveall the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.'”

Despite the constant disobedience of God’s children, He still forgives and redeems. His plans will not be thwarted. He is loving, long suffering, kind.

Truth #4: He sees you.

Psalm 33:13-15 “The LORD watches from heaven; he sees all people. 14 From the place where he lives he looks carefully at all the earth’s inhabitants. 15 He is the one who forms every human heart, and takes note of all their actions.” 

He rules over everything and still considers us. Wow. He saw the Israelites and He sees us. He knows our every thought and He chooses to love us, anyway.

He saw me when I felt inadequate as a wife and sat motionless in the courtroom. He knew the plans that were ahead of me that I could not see when my life was a blur. When my body felt so weak from infirmity for years on end, He spoke strength, even if I could not feel it at the time. Reality sometimes lies to us with its harsh expectations that are void of faith.

The lies come in innocently enough, sometimes cloaked in righteous garb. But we do not have to fall victim to them. We are never trapped. God has a way out that will blow our mind and restore our hope in a way we never thought possible! At the place of our devastation, there is always hope if we will just hold on and trust God.

 

 

Day 17: The Christian Culture

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:19-21

“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 12:14-15

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Sometimes our hope can be stolen from an unlikely place. Paul is not mincing words in this passage. To say that all the believers except Timothy sought after their own interests is astounding. Of course this is one verse of many and Paul often spoke with great encouragement about the believers he was working with. Perhaps in this season in particular, he did not “feel the love” from the believers surrounding him.

I confess I have wanted to avoid this topic, but it has played such a big role in my healing as well as in my suffering. It is the elephant in the room that we want to avoid, but needs to be discussed in the hope of healing hearts who have been wounded by spiritual abuse or the Christian culture gone awry.

The first time I stepped into a church that was alive with joy and hope and fervent praise it felt like coming home. This is what it was all about – coming together and rejoicing in this new hope we had found. Church has been rather boring growing up – I did not know the LORD and we rarely went to church.

But then God saved me and I went to an amazing church (http://www.gracecov.org/), unlike any I had ever been to. There were exciting times serving in campus ministry, helping to start a church plant and serving on the worship team. Sweet, vibrant times of discipleship, fellowship and growing in the LORD.

When I was persecuted for my new faith, church was a refuge, the believers all surrounded me and it was family. Sometimes you wish you could bottle up the joy you have from one church experience and open it up from time to time when needed.

The church can serve as a great catalyst and cultivator of hope, but it can also serve as a place of great pain.

The pain is worsened by the fact that church is a place where we come for hope – a place where we know we are all accepted by Christ – but not necessarily by other Christians. When a Christian sins, it just hurts worse. It is not expected, but maybe it should be.

When we understand that the church is a place filled with sinful people, we clear up our disillusionment with the church. There is no perfect church and people sometimes can be prideful, selfish, legalistic, used as tools by the enemy.

Sometimes when life crushes our hope, we run to people or to the church as our refuge. This can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a place of great stress and sorrow.

When my children and I were suffering greatly, we felt isolated and judged at church. The church simply did not know how to handle our situation. At the time it was very painful, but now I understand that they were just ill-equipped. Sometimes people meant well and sometimes they tried to manipulate us. It really messes with your mind when the body of Christ is not very godly. But God.

Jesus brings healing and opens our eyes to realize that our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone. As we walk through life and encounter seasons that threaten to destroy us, we need to be in God’s word foremost and to find like-minded believers who will stand with us. The others who seek to kick us when we are down, or judge us self-righteously – we can forgive them and realize they are misinformed and focused on earthly matters. Sometimes we, too, are small-minded and need grace.

The Holy Spirit can help us to get over our shock from snubbing, gossiping, jealousy, anger and rejection that come from believers. All of us are desperate for the grace of God and need to keep the main thing the main thing – being a beacon of hope to the world that desperately needs Jesus.

The church is not perfect, but the bride of Christ is indeed beautiful. Christ redeemed her and He will complete the work He has begun in her. Letting go of the judgements of man and embracing the acceptance we have in Christ offers a hope that never ends.

Stay where you are planted and help encourage the culture within your church to be one that pleases God. This song by Twila Paris is such a reminder of Who the church is. How Beautiful. Love one another – Christ bled and died for us all.

Lord, help us to keep our hope in You alone. Everything else disappoints, but You never do! Help your church to rise up and be loving and accepting, able to provide the hope You have given so abundantly.

Day 15: Facing the Future

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

As we look through the ruins behind us, the past does not have to define us, but serves as a monument of what God brought us through.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

We have been facing a lot of difficult strongholds in the past couple weeks – fear, depression, disillusionment, judgment, sin, memories, reality and enemies. Some struggles we may have been aware of, some maybe not. The future on earth is a little more difficult to define, though. We cannot know it. At all. Such is the human condition. So how does one face the unknown? By faith.

Faith is the daughter of hope. We are confident not in faith itself, but solely in the object of our faith – our unchanging, faithful God.

The nebulous nature of what is to come can create in us a dependence on God or a shrinking back in fear, unsure of what God will allow across our path. This place of insecurity is beautiful, as it strips us of ourselves and brings us to our God, Who alone is our future.

Sometimes the past hurts so much that the future seems impossible. But, like the faith-filled saints who have gone before us in Hebrews 11, we can have a firm hope in the future because we know God’s promises are yes and amen.

In the hall of fame of faith, we see saints of old who did not receive what was promised on this earth, but their faith in God led them to live sold-out to the promises of God. Sobered by life’s often harsh realities, we learn that we cannot live for this world – it could never fully satisfy.

This hope in what is to come is not for our lives to be perfect and not just for the promised reward. It is a hope that God will make every wrong right, that we will finally no longer be apart from Him and be in His presence. A hope that we will be like Him.

Let those words sink in. To be like Jesus. That is our chief goal in this life and God promises to fulfill it. Delivered from this earthly frame, there will be no more burden of sin. No more fear of man. No more tears, no more pain. What a hope this is!

As we look through the ruins behind us, the past does not have to define us, but serves as a monument of what God brought us through. As we seek to process the past and ready ourselves for the future, the lessons learned in all of our struggles and victories can prove invaluable.

Nothing is wasted in God’s hands and everything is redeemed for use in the future. Wow, what a hope. No longer do we have to fear what this life brings, for it is temporary and our hope is fixed on Christ alone!

Lord, thank You for a living hope that never fades – kept in Heaven by You. Help us to not lost sight when life makes us weary. Give us a new hope that is only in You.

 

 

 

 

Day 9: Facing Fear

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We face fear when we see its potential consequences, place them in God’s hands and adopt His hope, instead.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 23:18

“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Psalm 119:116

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


The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words from his first inaugural address still profoundly convey a truth that exposes fear’s impact.

Fear has been a foe of mine for some time. Over and over again it would rise up, taunting me with its threats. It promised destruction and failure. It spoke of an end to hope and propagated a message of being forgotten or forsaken. It left a lingering feeling of uncertainty and insecurity.

Fear grips our hearts and minds and threatens to paralyze us from moving forward in life. When we give in to fear, we let it rule us and limit the life God has for us.

Fear is formed in the midst of a disruption of our hope for our life. Struggling to put together the pieces of our broken dreams, we grasp onto a counterfeit hope and try to build again. We fake a smile or try to pretend the fear building inside of us does not exist. We try to placate the fear with a substitute hope, but it just does not work.

God has something better to help us overcome fear and restore a new hope.

Instead of trying to escape fear, we can look at it square in the eyes and speak to it in light of what God says about our hope and future. Fear is intimidating, but in the face of perfect love, it is cast out. 

When fear attempts to consume us, God’s word speaks a living promise.

Isaiah 34:4

“Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear;

your God will come, he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution he will come to save you.’”

The gavel pounded and my heart pounded within me. My children would have to testify in court. The asthma which was formerly in remission tightened its noose around me and I struggled to breathe. Looking around the room, I felt the piercing stare of hatred from those who pursued me relentlessly.

Trying to maintain control over my emotions, I silently prayed for God to give me strength to not give in to fear. He overwhelmed me with His grace and strength. I did not want to endure the suffering I had feared, but I learned to trust Him when the path hurts that He has me on and to approach fear with God’s grace instead of my own strength.

My heart hurt so desperately for my children and I wanted to spare them, but in that moment the LORD told me that they were His and He would enable them. Sometimes we don’t want to have to walk through the door of fear, but until we walk through it we cannot see the victory and hope that God has for us on the other side.

Ultimately, God granted victory, but more important than the victory in court was the victory over broken hope and the creation of a firm hope in Him.

Fear can take on a life of its own. Fear feels so very real and sometimes it is not based on reality at all. Either way, there is a way out and it is not through our own manufactured hope. We face fear when we see its potential consequences, place them in God’s hands and adopt His hope, instead.

Rather than fearing losing what we planned or hoped for, we have an alternative that never fails. If we give our hopes and fears to God, He can show us another kind of hope that is based on His goodness and mercy, rather than our gain.

Lord, thank You for revealing Your goodness and hope to us. Help us to trust you when we are filled with fear and fill us with Your hope and joy instead.

 

 

Day 8: Facing Disillusionment

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Confusion comes in when our definition of good does not fit God’s.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 13:22

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Psalm 73 (all)


Like the desert, there is beauty in the forest, but if we focus on each individual tree, we might miss the big picture. Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees.We started on this path simply enough, but somehow in the maze of life we ended up lost in the woods, not sure we will ever find our way out.

Disillusionment is tied not just to failed expectations we have for life, but to our inability to control those outcomes. Disillusionment chokes out hope as we suffocate on what could or should have been. When we are unable to process or accept our circumstances and wonder where God is in it all, hope still remains – cloaked in a different garb.

If we walk with God, we have His strength to cling to in challenging seasons of life, but disillusionment can damage that faith and create space for idolatry if we are not careful – as we try to cling to what we wanted instead. Trying to hold onto our dreams as if we are owed them is ultimately a lack of trust in God.

Trusting the LORD when times are good comes easily, but it is in the rocky ravines that we need to understand His purposes are far wider and greater than a temporary stay in a craggy landscape.

When we want to hope, to believe that God is still good but we are surrounded by death and uncertainty, how do we survive the land of disillusionment without getting a jaded heart? By discovering a new hope.

When faced with his grim reality and the flourishing of the wicked, David said his “feet had almost slipped”. He described his affliction as “All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments”. This kind of hardship was way beyond hope deferred and not getting his own way. Way out of the league of the troubles that Peter spoke of, too, which are common to man. This was deep suffering. David refrained from speaking the raw truth of his anguish and doubt out loud – he struggled to believe he could even have the thoughts he was having – but he did.

It troubled him deeply that the wicked thrived while he sought to obey God. It did not seem fair. God’s character and His will were on the table to be evaluated . . . UNTIL. Until he came into God’s sanctuary – into His presence – and understood the end and their end.

It was there that He saw God’s goodness even while life hurt. He felt God’s presence and knew instinctively that God was with him in the fiery trials and that He held him in His right hand.

As we begin to face all the potential sinful outcomes that traumatic events can wrought into our lives, we begin the process of healing. Are we bitter or angry with God? Let’s be honest – our faith is hurt and we often attempt to hide our hurt from God when He allows suffering to collide with our paths. Understanding the role that God’s sovereignty plays in our disillusionment helps us to face it instead of avoiding it or becoming numb to our pain.

God’s sovereignty is not something we can fully comprehend. How is it that He knows everything before it happens – and yet still allows something in that we disapprove of?

Looking at the foundation of the plans for our life can help us to better understand our path. At the inception of our hopes and dreams, where was God? Was He inspiring our hearts to do His will, or were we inviting him to our dream and asking for His favor and blessing?

An encounter with God puts everything into perspective. While I mourned my broken life and the testimony I never wanted, God revealed His hope for me. He created us for His glory, yet somehow while I wept for my children and myself, I forgot it was all about His glory, not mine. Like David, I looked at other people prospering and wondered why I was so messed up. I did not plan my life this way. Oh. Yeah. I guess that statement is revealing, too, huh?

I longed to be like the other happy couples who never had to walk the dark cold court hall toward a divorce that was never supposed to happen. How did I get into this forest full of problems? Could God raise me from these ashes? Yes, but even better, He could reveal to me that even the hope of deliverance was not the hope that He wanted me to have.

I had to let go of the grief in one hand to grab hold of God’s hope for the future, but I was afraid. If God would allow this kind of intense suffering, could He be trusted? Yes, but I had to die first. My hope had to die in order to get a new reinvented hope in Jesus.

Dying to my hopes was a long, arduous death. Lots of chocolate (yes, I am bringing up the “c” word again), tears and disbelief. But holding onto that old hope was killing me inside and no amount of therapy, chocolate (notice a pattern here?) or buffalo wings could heal me. Only God could, but I Had. To. Let. Go. Completely.

Not my will, LORD. Not my will. All my hopes and dreams I lay at Your feet. You made me and You know what’s best. Help my unbelief and cause my heart to want Your hope and not my own.

God’s plans don’t make sense to us because our plans often come from a place of being self-oriented and formed in a desire for our comfort. Confusion comes in when our definition of good does not fit God’s. But when we come into His presence seeking to understand, he shows us that His thoughts and ways are much higher. And maybe, just maybe, it is actually His mercy.

When I was disillusioned and doubted whether I could trust Christ for the suffering He permitted in my life, He reminded me that He suffered, too. He understood. I had lost sight of what really matters – His glory. Not my reputation or the social stigma. Not that my pain did not matter to God, but somehow in the mess I was in, God needed to receive glory. It was not about me, after all.

This song, Thy Will Be Done is a song that really ministers at the place of disillusionment.

Lord, You never leave us without hope. Thank You for giving us a new hope in You. 

 

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 5: Vision From the Pit – Purpose in Crisis

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God can do miracles in the pits of life.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will make myself available to you,’   says the Lord.  ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’

We are still in the desert in here and things are heating up. In the place of dearth and scarcity, captivity and destruction – there is a promise.

Jeremiah stands as an example of trusting in God in devastating times. He understood God’s sovereignty. He lived it out as the weeping prophet at times, but trusted his God because he knew His character and remembered the deeds of his God.

We are likely all familiar with this well known passage from the book of Jeremiah. Written to the exiles following their abduction from the home they loved and in that place of scorn, persecution and destruction, God sent a message to encourage them through His weeping prophet, Jeremiah. In a place of pain, God wanted them to flourish and enjoy life. Wow. It must have seemed crazy, God allowing them to suffer and promising a pending punishment, but telling them to prosper in that moment. Get comfortable in the pit?

Camped out in a land not their own, the Israelites must have wondered how they got to this place. They were God’s chosen people – chosen for this? Have you ever felt that way? I sure have. All too often we don’t recognize how we have strayed from a path only to find we end up in a completely different place than our original destination. Or maybe someone else formed the path we are walking on that took us far away from our hopes and dreams. Can God’s sovereignty reach this new place and make sense of our suffering? Definitely. But we might have to get comfortable in the pit.

It is hard to see beyond the pit. Feeling like we are enclosed with no way out, the path to victory is in surrender. If we seek to know our God, we know that He is faithful and nothing is wasted in His hands. His character is beyond our comprehension and every promise is always fulfilled. God is always good and His ways are good. But still we can doubt His purposes and think we might have a better plan. When we find ourselves struggling to get out of the pit, we might just be wrestling against God like Jacob did.

If God allowed the pit, He always has a purpose in it. The question is whether or not we can trust Him in that place as well as in the place of blessing. The pit ultimately shaped the character of Joseph and elevated him to the second highest authority in Egypt. God can do miracles in the pits of life. He becomes our only source of strength as we are stripped from any other aid. In that isolation and temporary prison, He longs to be our Deliverer.

When we are sorry for the pit rather than seeking to understand His purpose in it, we might lengthen our stay there. Either way, God is with us in the pit and on the other side, as well. Accepting the pit, the desert, blessings – anything that comes from God’s hand – We begin to understand His purposes are higher than our own.

It was in their suffering that God made Himself available to their Israelites. When they were blessed before, they had forgotten God and were distracted with things of lesser value. Hardship had gotten their attention and had revealed to them that they were missing what mattered most – knowing and enjoying God in this life that He gave – whether He blesses or He doesn’t.

God wanted to bless His people again, but He cared more about their character and relationship with Himself than making their lives perfect. It actually would be cruel of God to do anything less. Jeremiah had a pastor’s heart and his people were suffering needlessly. Because they were also persecuting him and not surrendering to God’s sovereign purpose, they were missing God’s blessings. God did not stop his crying, but He gave him hope during his grief and caught every single tear.

Like Jeremiah and God’s people, you might wonder why God would say to enjoy life when life does not seem so enjoyable. You might apply these principles I have shared but still wish the pain did not visit you. That’s ok. None of us delight in suffering and God understands.  It is just learning to see beyond our circumstances and into what His sovereign purpose really means in our lives.

There is purpose in the tears. Jeremiah understands. Purpose in the pain. There as we gaze at our Savior, we see what He is accomplishing in our hearts. We become more like Him and suddenly our purpose is changed. We no longer want our way and start to understand that His ways are higher. We find His grace, His strength, our perfect peace – as we are wrapped in His perfect love.

When things seem to shift way off course, you can firmly know that God’s plans never fail. You just might not like his plans at the moment, but when you recount what God has done in the past and what He has promised for the future, you can surrender to His purposes because of who He is.

God wants us to surrender to His sovereignty, rise above and understand what really matters, what the purpose of this life and our circumstances really are – about knowing and glorifying our good God.

While I thought I was living before “D-Day” in our home, now I see I was merely surviving. Somehow, instinctively I knew something was wrong. God was not going to leave his children in that place. He is too good for that. Maybe your sorrow is also your deliverance. Maybe another perspective just might help us to trust Him when we, too, have to drink the cup of suffering like Jesus did.

Lord, thank You for creating the pits in life to catch our attention and fix our gaze on You. When life hurts, ignite in our hearts Your purpose and help us to walk faithfully with you.

Here is a worship song for you to go with today’s devotion: Valley of Vision