Everyone of us has had some dark valleys that we’ve walked through. There are those days, months, and years where we just wish we could see a ray of hope. We want to know that we are not alone. That God has a plan. That He hasn’t forgotten us. We want to know that this time won’t last forever. In those times, it’s critical that our faith over rides our feelings. Our feelings interpret circumstances, but our faith dictates them.
I remember walking through a long, dark valley. God spoke to me and said, “I see you where you are. I have not left you or forgotten you. I’m walking with you through this. I am not in front of you or behind you. I’m right beside you.” Those words boosted my faith over my feelings. They reminded me that even when I can’t see or feel God, that He is with me no matter what. When my prayers feel like they’re falling on deaf ears, He hears them because He’s a whisper away. He’s walking with us in the darkness.
In Psalm 23:4, David gave us some words to remember this truth. He wrote, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). In the valley, our feelings produce fear, but our faith produces peace and reassurance that God has not left us. We don’t have to fear or fret in the valley. God is walking right beside us each step of the way. He has not forgotten us. Trust your faith over your feelings.
One of the toughest things we need to have with our faith is a “What if He doesn’t” attitude. What if He doesn’t heal your family member? Will you still trust Him? What if He doesn’t save your marriage? Will you still love Him? What if He doesn’t help me get this job? Will you still follow Him? What if He doesn’t answer your prayer? Will you still serve Him? These are tough questions, but necessary to ask yourself. God doesn’t always do the things we believe He should. Even when we believe with everything in us that He can and will answer our prayer, sometimes He doesn’t. Trusting Him after that is something we all must learn to do. We have to remember that He sees the bigger picture and that His ways are higher than ours.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow to their captor’s god. The king brought them in and commanded them to do it or die. He asked them if they thought there was any god who could save them from burning in a fiery furnace. They told him that God was able to do it. Then, in verse 18, they added, “But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up” (GNT). They were willing to sacrifice their lives trusting God, even if He didn’t answer their prayer and save their lives. It’s the type of faith that we all need to have. It’s the type of faith we must determine to have before we get into a situation that will challenge us at our core.
Psalm 34:1 says, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises” (NLT). We can’t just praise God when things are going great and when our prayers are being answered. We must learn to praise Him at ALL times. When He doesn’t answer our most desperate prayer, praise Him. When everything in life is going wrong, praise Him. Our praise, trust and love for God cannot be based on our feelings or circumstances. It must run deep within us to the point that it is who we are. Determine today that even if He doesn’t respond the way you deeply believe He should, you will bless and praise Him anyway.
One of my teachers taught me a tale of two dogs. They were alike in every way. They asked who would win in a fight. I thought that if they were alike in every way, it would end in a tie. They told me I was correct. Then they said, “Let’s take those same two dogs and only feed one of them. If they were to fight, who would win?” Again, I thought it was pretty easy and told them the one that was fed would win. After agreeing with my assessment, they explained that there is always a fight going on inside each one of us between our flesh and our spirit. No matter how much I wanted one of them to win, it would always be the one I fed the most.
I love that the Bible didn’t cover up things or just show us the best version of people’s lives. It told us how Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. It kept the part where Moses murdered an Egyptian. It didn’t try to cover up David’s adultery like he did. It included Jesus rebuking Peter. Every one of these people are heroes in the faith to us, but they were just as human as you and I are. They wanted to serve God as much as you, and they failed Him as much as we do. What made them stand out was that they repented and learned to feed their spirit more. They knew that they needed to change who they fed when they messed up, and they did it.
In Psalms 86:11, David prayed, “Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion” (GNT). David, like all these other heroes of faith, always went back to God to teach him in those moments of failure or need. He wanted to serve God with complete devotion. In order for us to do that, we must be willing to be taught how by God and we must feed our spirit the Word of God. We must spend time in prayer and obedience. We have to spend less time feeding our flesh, and to not dismiss the tension of the fight between the two inside of us. If you find yourself failing more times than not, take a look at how you spend your time. What are you spending your time doing? Which side is that feeding? You can always change who your feeding to change results. Ask God to teach you what He wants you to do and how He wants you to feed your spirit. He will show you.
When you’re going through a difficult season or through a hard time, you start seeking out sympathy. One of the things you’re going to hear in your mind is, “You don’t deserve this. Why is God mad at you?” Another thing you will hear is, “No one has it as badly as you do. No one will understand what you’re going through.” I know because I’ve heard them. These are lies to get you to be upset at God, to get mad at others and to isolate you. If you’re mad at God, you won’t pray and a root of bitterness can spring up. If you’re mad at others, you won’t accept help from them. If you’re isolated, you’re easy prey for your enemy who roams like a lion seeking to devour you.
To combat the first lie, I use Romans 8:28 as a promise to hold onto. I believe that no matter how bad things get, God can always work it out for my good. To combat the second lie, I look for people who have it worse than I do. There is always someone else who is having a more difficult time than you. I’ve also come to realize that while my circumstance are unique, it doesn’t disqualify anyone from understanding and offering empathy. The pain and stages of grief are where others can connect to help me from getting isolated. I also keep at least one friend nearby who knows that during difficult seasons I may push people away, but really I want and need them close by. They know I need encouragement and to be refocused during those times.
Hebrews 12:3 is a great Scripture to help refocus in difficult times. It says, “So consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition from sinners who opposed their own souls, so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures” (TPT). Jesus, who is our intercessor, has been through worse things and attacks than anyone. The verse before this one reminds us that He endured all that for the joy set before Him knowing what good was going to come from it. Now He is able to be empathetic and to pray specifically for you to the Father. You are never alone in your struggles. You are never left without an intercessor who is praying for you. Don’t believe the lies you hear in your mind. Read the Word of God and stand on His promises. It may not feel like it, and you may not be able to see it, but He is working things out for your good.
Whenever I’m on the road and need directions, I usually use Waze to help me get there. It finds the quickest route and gets me there at the promised time. To do that, it often takes detours through neighborhoods or back streets I’ve never been on. I’m at the mercy of this app, and have to trust that it knows what it’s doing. Sometimes it takes me through places where I wonder if I’m safe.
There are times when it tells me to exit or turn, and I think, “That’s odd. My exit is just ahead.” Early on, I just thought it was a glitch and kept driving. After trying to correct me a few times, it finally gave up and added a lot of time to my arrival time. It saw what I couldn’t up ahead and tried to help me avoid it. When I didn’t listen, I got stuck in the traffic it was trying to help me avoid. I’ve learned to trust that it knows best and can see what I can’t.
God is a lot like Waze in our lives. He knows our destination and the route He wants us to take. He plans out each detour to help us avoid hurts or pains, but often we think we know best and drive right past what He’s telling us to do. We can’t see what He sees up ahead in our lives. It takes trust to follow His instructions when we don’t understand. He even takes us on detours through places we didn’t know existed, but it’s all for our benefit.
Psalm 1 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It gives great promises to those who listen to God’s instructions rather than man’s. One of those promises says that God charts the road you take (verse 6 MSG). God has charted out a road for each of us. It’s up to us to listen to His Word, meditate on it and follow it. He knows best how to get us where He wants us. It’s up to us to follow the path He’s charted out.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
To listen to this devotional on Spotify, click here.
In the 1990’s, there were these cool stores in the mall that had holographic pictures for sale. I used to go in that store all the time because I was so fascinated by how real the pictures looked and how you could shift your perspective and they would change or move. Those pictures were always crazy expensive, but they sold a more affordable option. They were called stereograms (see above picture). These pictures looked like a strange pattern with different lines of colors going across it. If you shifted your perspective and adjusted how you looked at it, a 3D image would pop out that was hidden inside the crazy patterns. I had to train my brain and my eyes how to see the pictures, and once I did, I could shift between seeing the pattern and the picture.
Job was a man who went through some pretty rough circumstances. We all know that when he lost everything, he fell down and worshipped (Job 1:20). However, the longer he sat there in his grief, the more his perspective shifted. His friends came to console him, but after a while began to accuse him of sinning. Job’s attitude shifted from worship to defense to pride and arrogance. He went from defending himself to his friends to calling on God to come accuse him face to face. God did just that and confronted him. In Job 40:3-5, he responded to God, “I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen” (MSG). He had to get quiet long enough to see things from God’s perspective.
Colossians 3:2 says, “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” We each need a perspective change from time to time. We get so busy looking at things through our own lens, the lens of the news we watch or the lens of the people around us. When that happens, we can get mad at people, organizations, the world and even God. We need to take time to clear our minds and fill it with the Word of God so we can shift our perspective to see things from His perspective. We need to quit looking around at the mess and look up to the Prince of Peace. Instead of arguing with people, we need to shut up and listen to what God is saying. His perspective will change how we respond to the things going on around us and to us. His perspective is truly the one that matters. Let’s focus on that today instead how we normally look at things and see what a difference that makes.
If you shift your perspective and how you see it, the above picture has a shark in it.
To listen to this devotion on Spotify, click here.
I remember when my son was very young. A few months after he started crawling everywhere, he started pulling himself up and standing. When he would let go, he would wobble a little bit. My wife would be concerned that he was going to fall and hit his head. I would take him by the hands to help him balance, and then I would pull him gently forward to encourage him to begin to take steps. It wasn’t long before he would walk wherever he wanted as long as he had a good grasp on my fingers. Then I would let him hold something, I would move a few feet away and coax him to take steps by himself. Once he was good with that, he began to walk everywhere he wanted to go.
Imagine what we as parents would do if after all that, our kids decided to go back to crawling. It would be frustrating for sure because walking is the better way to move around. When the New Testament was written, there was an expectation placed on believers. Once they accepted Jesus, they were encouraged to grow and take steps in their faith. Their new life through salvation happened in an instant, but growth took time. To be saved was great, but it wasn’t the goal. Growth was. Moving forward in your faith and deepening it was. Becoming a disciple was. Paul, who wrote more books in the New Testament than anyone, wrote consistently to us that salvation should change how we live, speak and act. His letters were like a parent calling out to a child to let go so they could take steps forward.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people. Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days” (GNT). Paul is encouraging us to live diligent lives according to God’s ways. We are to be continuously moving towards Christlikeness in our lives. We do that by examining ourselves daily to see what we need to let go of in order to step out in faith. We all have things that we need to let go of in order to live the way God called us to. God is calling out to you to move from where you are to your next step. He wants you to trust Him, to grow, to increase your faith and to walk. Make use of every opportunity to grow that you can. We need deeper faith to guide us in the days we’re living in.
Growing up in church, one of the first stories in the Bible you hear about is in Genesis 22 where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son. God led him to a mountain where he was to build an altar and perform the sacrifice, but when it came down to it, God intervened and provided the sacrifice. Years later, in 2 Samuel 24, David had sinned against the Lord by taking a census. God’s punishment was to send a plague throughout Israel killing 70,000 people. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem, God stopped him and opened David’s eyes to see. He was told to go to the threshing floor of Araunah and offer a sacrifice to God. David purchased the land, built an altar and made the sacrifice.
A closer study of the Bible shows how these two events appear to have taken place on the same mountain now known as Mount Zion. It is also known as the Temple Mount because Solomon built the Temple on the land that David had purchased from Araunah. Zion can be translated to mean “marked”. The Temple Mount can also be translated from its original to “mountain of the house of God”. It also happens to be where Jesus was tried and beaten to become the sacrifice for our sins, and where the veil in the Temple was torn in two when He died. It was then that God decided to make His home in us instead a building built by man.
1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you!” (GNT) You are now marked by God and are the host of His presence as believers. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.” Because we are His temple that hosts His presence, we are to live as such. Our lives should reflect His glory instead of our own. They should be lived for His purpose and plan as His temple.