Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several phone calls, texts, messages and conversations with people who are going through some seriously dark moments in life. Their situations are causing stress, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, confusion and lack of direction. More than that, it’s causing them to seek out God more than they were. We often can’t see it ourselves when we are walking through a difficult period in our life, but those times draw us closer to God. When we draw closer to God, He draws closer to us.
In these times where we are pressed, God brings out of us things that can’t come out any other way. He uses them to grow us and go help us reach the potential He sees in us. He doesn’t allow us to go through these periods without a purpose. The struggle may seem more than you can bear in the moment, but the reward of what God is doing in us when we endure it is immeasurable. If you’re walking through one of these times, it means God still sees more potential in you and is pushing you into a new season.
When I’m walking through a time like that, i hold onto what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. It says, “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed” (GNT). These times feel like we are going to be crushed and destroyed, but God inside of you is stronger than any force outside of you trying to crush you. Keep your focus on Him and not on the thing trying to crush you. Great is God’s faithfulness in these times. You may not always get the outcome you desire, but you will not be abandoned by God in these periods of pressing.
Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash
I took an assessment at work last year that reveals things about your nature and how you do things when it comes to sales. A question came up a few times that listed about ten vocabulary words. In each instance, i knew all the words except one. The answers were: a) I know none of these words, b) I only know a couple of these words, c) I only know some of these words, and d) I know all of these words. I didn’t like those choices since I knew all but one. I reasoned that I would write the word down and look it up later, then chose “d”.
When I looked up the words that I didn’t know, they didn’t exist. I then got my results back that called me a Hyper-Pro. It revealed that I care about Impressions and that I will embellish things to make me look good. It affects the way I dress, act, sell, and speak. As I challenged the result, I had to look inside to see if it was true. I then had to find out why it was true, where it came from, and then correct it. The assessment revealed what was going on inside versus what I was showing outside.
Proverbs 27:19 says, “It is your own face that you see reflected in the water and it is your own self that you see in your heart” (GNT). We spend a lot of time and effort trying to hide our heart because it reveals who we really are. We are afraid no one will love us if they really knew our heart. So we put our best face forward. The real problem is that we try the same thing when we approach God. We may be able to fool people, but we aren’t fooling God.
When Samuel went to choose a king for Israel, he looked at all of Jesse’s sons. He saw their outward appear and thought they were kingly, but God said, “Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Your heart reveals who you really are. That’s why God looks at it. Even if you have flaws like me, and you try to cover them up, God sees you for who you really are. You don’t have to put your best face forward because that’s not what He’s looking at. He knows who you really are, and He loves and accepts you as His child.
To demonstrate how difficult it is to accomplish even the easiest tasks while you are bound up, I once tried to preach a sermon with my hands tied behind my back. I wasn’t sure how it would play out, but it proved to be more difficult than I could imagine. My first problem was holding the microphone. Then I needed help turning the pages in my bible. After that, I needed to turn the page in my notes. Finally, I couldn’t use my hands then I spoke, which apparently I do.
So many of us try to do more than speak while we are bound up. We actually try to go through life while we are bound up in depression, addiction, grief, sin, etc. If you’ve been there, you know that even the smallest tasks can prove to be difficult. Go designed you to live a life of freedom. As Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that He set you free.” Jesus also said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
There’s a song called “Chain Breaker” that says, “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way maker. If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain breaker.” The words to this song remind me that I don’t have to live bound up in my chains. There is no chain so strong that God cannot break it in your life. There is no depression so dark that He can’t bring you out of it. I’ve been in the deep, dark prison of depression and He set me free.
I love reading Psalm 107 because it’s a reminder of what God can do for us. In verse 14 it says, “He brought them out of their gloom and darkness and broke their chains in pieces” (GNT). If you’re bound up by chains today or are in a dark place, call out to God. Ask Him to lead you out of that place and to set you free. I know if He did it in my life, He can do it in yours. It’s time we all got back to living the life of freedom that God created us to live.
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Despite what some people would have you believe, being a Christian doesn’t mean everything in your life will be fixed. You won’t win every battle, get every promotion, get rich, be the most attractive, be admired by everyone or be free from problems and stress. Those are not promised to us for being a Christian. In fact, Jesus put it this way in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV).
In my life, I’ve been defeated, hurt, abandoned, broke and sucker punched. Those things didn’t make me less of a Christian. Instead they revealed how deep God’s grace is. When I’ve lost battles I desperately wanted to win, I found the peace that passes understanding. When I hit rock bottom and all my hope was gone, I found a firm foundation on which I could rebuild. The hardest times in my life didn’t make me less of a Christian. I would argue they made me a stronger one.
No matter how defeated I’ve been or how hopeless I’ve felt, God has used the struggle to strengthen me and my faith. He has brought healing to my deepest wounds and restored what the locust have stolen. His grace has been sufficient when my strength was gone. His love has endured through every trial and test. When my faith has failed, He was graciously patient with me and restored it. When I’ve lost battles I should have won, He gave me the strength to fight again.
Psalm 136:23 says, “He did not forget us when we were defeated; his love is eternal” (GNT). Of all the promises in God’s Word, this is one I really hang on to. When I’m defeated, He will not forget me. He won’t abandon me and leave me to drown in my self pity. His eternal love will restore my soul, fit the broken pieces back together again and be able to use me no matter how badly I’ve failed. In my weakness, I’ve found that He is strongest in my life. No matter what you face or are going through, God will not forget you. That’s a promise you can hold on to.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that we all need some encouragement in one way or another. Some of us need encouragement to get up and face the day. Others need encouragement to try one more time. Some receive love through words of encouragement. I also think we all need our faith encouraged at times because we all face difficult times that challenge what we believe. The great news is that all of us are capable of encouraging someone else.
Each of us can send a text, a meme, make a phone call, or talk to someone today to encourage them. It can be as simple as, “I’m praying for you.” It could be, “Smile. God loves you.” It doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a lot of people who struggle this time of year and they need your words of encouragement. Today, ask God to put people in your path and on your heart who needs words of encouragement, then speak to them what He puts on your heart. B an encourager today even if you need encouragement yourself. You’ll be surprised how it encourages you too.
Here are some Bible verses on encouragement.
1. But those who proclaim God’s message speak to people and give them help, encouragement, and comfort.
1 Corinthians 14:3 GNT
2. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Ephesians 4:29 NLT
3. Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 AMPC
4. The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.
Proverbs 10:21 NLT
5. Everything written in the Scriptures was written to teach us, in order that we might have hope through the patience and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.
Romans 15:4 GNT
When I was 28, my first wife left me for someone else. My life felt like it was over. After a long bout of depression, I realized I had to start all over. In the wake of our divorce, I had to file for bankruptcy, and nearly had my house foreclosed on, as well as lost my business, a vehicle, and most of my friends. Everything I had built my life on was gone. The foundation for a successful life was gone. I didn’t know where to begin or how to start over, but God did.
He spoke to me multiple times through multiple people. One of those messages was, “What seems like an end is really just a beginning.” I have held onto those words for the past 13 years. While it was no fun to begin again, at least it wasn’t the end of my life. God gave me hope in that message in a time when I couldn’t see how I could survive more than a few minutes at a time. When there was no hope, there was no reason to live. God changed that with those powerful words.
In Joel 1 and 2, God speaks to Joel about a time when everything would be gone from the land. Joel 1:4 describes it like this: “What the crawling locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; and what the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten; and what the hopping locust left, the stripping locust has eaten” (AMP). It was a wave attack like we face in our lives. It’s one hardship after another that seems to have no end. In those times we wonder where rock bottom is. Sooner or later you’d think we’d run out of things to lose.
But God doesn’t leave us in that barren land of devastation. He restores us and takes what seems like an end and turns it into a beginning. Joel 2:25 gives us the promise of restoration after devastation. God says, “And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten–the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust, My great army which I sent among you.” Just like God has restored my life, He will restore yours. He will replace the years the locust have stolen with greater things than you can dream of.
I can attest it took time. It didn’t happen over night. Rock bottom for me was a deep hole that took nearly a decade to crawl out of. I held onto the promise of restoration throughout the hard climb up. God was faithful to His promise and will be for you as well. The restoration He has brought in my life has far exceeded any dream I ever had before the locust stole my early adult life. God has a greater dream and plan for your life than you can imagine. If you’re in the time of locust, hold on to His promise. Restoration is coming.
If your spirit has ever been broken, you know how hard it is to get through the day. It’s hard to even wake up, let alone face people. Worry consumes your mind. You question everyone’s intentions, and your energy gets depleted. It’s tough to be stuck in that phase. If you’ve ever been through it, then you can empathize with others who are going through it. They need your support and encouragement more than your advice in those times.
Proverbs 15:13 says, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day” (MSG). When you see someone whose spirit has been crushed and they’re struggling to make it through the day, offer words that will encourage them to continue going. Chances are that it was words that put them in that state and its our words that can bring them out of it. If only we had the courage to speak them.
If you’ve ever watched an action movie, chances are that there is a scene where one person is hanging off a cliff or the side of a building and another person grabs them with one arm. They then use all their strength to pull that person back to safety. That’s what our words have the power to do. They can pull back someone who has been pushed over the edge and is barely hanging on. We have the power and strength to save someone’s life simply by encouraging them.
I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up” (NLT). Paul’s words are a reminder to us as Christians that we are to constantly be encouraging, strengthening, edifying, and building each other up. We are to find a way to a cheerful heart. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing” (AMP). You can help heal someone’s brokenness today if only you will open your mouth to offer encouragement instead of correction or direction. You have the power, use it.