Finding Strength When You Feel Weak

SD Blog 10-29-19 (1)

2 Chronicles 16:9
“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

God sees you. God sees everything, but He especially sees you. And me. Nothing is hidden from His view. Yeah, that, too. He knows your struggles, your burdens, your discouragement. And He knows if you are committed to following Him.

So, we are kind of exposed then, right? But God is not searching us out to condemn us. How beautiful is that? He wants to strengthen us. To give encouragement to the weary.

Do you need strength today, friends?
Does anyone feel weak?

It might be a weakness to be disciplined in your life. You just can’t help yourself and that chocolate is calling your name . . . or you don’t want to exercise. I get it. Taming this flesh is SOOO hard.

Or maybe you are sick and wonder if you will ever be able to get your health back . . .

Or you find yourself so discouraged, you don’t see how you can overcome.

God meets us at all of these places. It might be a whimper—that is all we can utter. It’s enough. Cry out to the One Who wants to give you the strength that you need. Because here is the surprise:

When we are weak, we are strong. Why? Because we stop trying to rely on our own strength and recognize our need for God.

And, as Philippians 4:13 says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

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30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 29 – Health

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is in weakness that I sense His grace and in struggles that I appreciate the times when I am not.

Scripture of the Day:

3 John 1:2
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

On the 29th day of posting on Thankfulness, sickness hit several members of our household – BUT I still wanted to share how thankful I am for health, even if it is a day late.

There is a degree of conviction as I post about health and realize that I have not always been the best steward of the health that God has given. But even then, when we have not done our part, God amazingly designed our bodies to heal themselves.

Some illnesses or infirmities might be beyond our intervention, but God’s grace is sufficient for us. When I am sick I find I am ironically more grateful for my health. It is in weakness that I sense His grace and in struggles that I appreciate the times when I am not.

The challenge is whether we will praise Him when we are healthy and unhealthy, at all times. The God Who designed our bodies and sustains life is the One Who also heals us, physically and spiritually.

Lord, thank You for the gift of health. Help us to honor the life You have give and to die to self when our flesh is craving what is harmful to our bodies. May You be glorified in our beings and all of our lives.

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 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 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 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

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!

Scriptural Saturday: Inner Strength

inner-strength-1

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Inner strength is not built ~ it comes from within.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Sam 30:5-6

5 David’s two wives had been taken captive–Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the Carmelite, Nabal’s widow. 6 David was very upset, for the men were thinking of stoning him; each man grieved bitterly over his sons and daughters. But David drew strength from the LORD his God.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13

“I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.”


 

The pressures of this life can leave us flat out worn out. I can just imagine David being surrounded by a bunch of tough guys ready to stone him. Talk about stress. But He simply drew strength from God. How?

Scripture says he asked for the ephod and sought the face of God for direction and guidance. Back then, the Urim and Thummim (gemstones) were carried by the high priest of Israel on the ephod/priestly garments, which was used by the high priest to determine God’s will in some situations.

David knew his strength came only from God. Anyone who would sling a stone at a giant obviously relies on God instead of his own strength.

Many years later Paul, Timothy and the disciples followed suit. Nothing was deemed impossible if one relied on the Holy Spirit, given to us for strength and insight.

Feeling weak, discouraged, unable to do the task before you? Jesus understands and He walked the most difficult path of all with joy set before Him. Wow.

Just because a task or situation is difficult does not mean it has to steal our joy.

His strength is enough. Enough for day-to-day drama, illness, court, accidents, any trouble. We don’t use an ephod, but today we have the living Word of God we can run to for grace, wisdom and strength. Run to Him, friend. He is enough and His strength is all we will ever need.

Lord, thank You for your amazing grace and strength. Grant us a willing heart to cry out to you and to never give up.

 

Mundane Monday: Keep on Keepin’ On

When life just seems to disappear (1)

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When life seems to disappear into a sea of never-ending challenges or failed attempts at reaching our goals, if we will just keep keepin’ on – each of those steps is one step closer to achieving our goals.

Scriptures of the Day:

Galatians 6:9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”

Philippians 1:6

“…Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”


Pursuing dreams is hard work. Seems unreachable and takes all we’ve got. But what would it be like if we never had a goal to pursue to start with? No bucket list, no aspirations. Just existing. Doesn’t sound like much fun.

Somehow in the longing and straining to be faithful to develop the talents God has given there is a peace. Even though the results of our efforts might not be what we had hoped, there is a sense of purpose in doing what instinctively God has placed on our heart.

When there is a calling deep within our soul, to deny it or to not work toward that calling for fear of failure is a miserable existence. Sure, it is a bummer when it seems like we take two steps forward and one step back, but even this is progress. 

When life seems to disappear into a sea of never-ending challenges or failed attempts at reaching our goals, if we will just keep keepin’ on – each of those steps is one step closer to achieving our goals.

I hope this blog encourages whoever is reading it to continue to chase after that calling in your heart. I know I needed it. But even if my eyes never see what I am aiming toward, the best relief in pressing toward our goals is that as we seek to work hard, God is the One who brings the results He wants. Ultimately the pressure is off of us to produce the final result.

Isn’t that good news? And the fruit and character developed as we labor toward our goals and dreams is perhaps the most precious reward of all.

Oh God, all I have is Yours. Extend my territory as You will. May I be faithful to seek You and Your righteousness and to make You known.