Tag Archives: despair

Don’t Despair

Imagine you’re running for your life. Not only is someone out to kill you, but they have an entire army with them. They have eyes everywhere that are constantly giving up your location. You’re running out of places to hide, and they’re closing in. You see a cave and run into it. You go back into the dark, damp cave and crouch behind a rock. There’s only one way in and one way out. You can hear voices outside from the army as they approach. Your heart is beating so fast you can almost hear it. Just then, a person’s silhouette darkens the cave opening and they step into the cave. Your heart sinks. This is it. Game over. Hope is gone. Despair sets in as the move closer and closer to you. Inside, you’re crying out to God for help because He’s the only hope you have.

This is how David lived and must have felt when Saul walked into the very cave he was hiding in. It was a desperate, hopeless situation. Maybe that’s where you are today. You feel trapped with no way out. You can’t sleep. You’re mentally drained and exhausted. You’re tired of running and hope is gone. People may be wondering why you haven’t thrown in the towel and given up yet. Despair is knocking on your door telling you that there is no hope or anyone who can help you. I just want to say, as someone who has been there, that despair is a liar. When you have no hope, you still have a prayer and that is all you need because God hears even the faintest cry for help.

I’ve found that just because I can only see one way out, it doesn’t mean that’s the only way. God is able to make a way where there is no way. He is able to bring hope into the darkest cave. He is Jehovah Jireh your provider. He is Jehovah Rapha your healer. He is Jehovah Shalom your peace. He is Jehovah Nissi your victory. Psalm 27:14 says, “Trust in the Lord. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord” (GNT). No matter what is going on in your life, trust in the Lord. He sees you and knows the very number of hairs on your head. He has not forgotten you. He will not abandon you. He will strengthen you and walk through this with you as He did for David, myself and countless others.

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

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You Are Not Forgotten


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 more of 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 had 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 hang on to. When I’m defeated, He will not forget me. He won’t abandon me and leave me to drown in 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. 

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God Sees Your Tears

Crying is something that each one of does at some point in our life. Sometimes the tears come from a heart that is broken and sad. I’ve seen them flow when our heart is so full of joy and pride that it couldn’t be expressed enough in a smile. Other times, anger can bring them out. In any case, tears are something that God has given us as an overflow of emotion. Below, you’ll find several verses in the Bible that give us some examples of these emotional overflows and God’s responses to them.
  
1. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 NLT

2. My tears will pour out in a ceaseless stream Until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees us.

Lamentations 3:49-50 GNB

3. Ah, GOD, listen to my prayer, my cry—open your ears. Don’t be callous; just look at these tears of mine. I’m a stranger here. I don’t know my way— a migrant like my whole family. Give me a break, cut me some slack before it’s too late and I’m out of here.

Psalm 39:12-13 MSG

4. Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add to your life fifteen years.

Isaiah 38:5 AMP

5. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.

Psalm 126:5 NLT

6. The Lord saved me from death; he stopped my tears and kept me from defeat.

Psalm 116:8 GNB

7. My eyes are blinded by my tears. Each day I beg for your help, O LORD; I lift my hands to you for mercy.

Psalm 88:9 NLT

8. He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping [at needing his precious supply of grain for sowing] shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:6 AMP

9. In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him.

Hebrews 5:7 GNB

10. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Revelation 21:4 NLT

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The Valley Of Blessing

In II Chronicles 20, several armies declared war against King Jehoshaphat at the same time. It says he was terrified when he heard the news. He immediately began to beg The Lord for guidance and asked everyone to fast and pray with him. The people came to Jerusalem to pray with him and to be ready to fight this vast army that had risen up against them. While they were praying, a man spoke up and said, “Don’t be afraid! The battle is not yours, but God’s.” He also told the people they were to march out to the battlefield, but that they wouldn’t even have to fight.

When they showed up to the battlefield, the other armies had been fighting each other and not one was left alive. The Israelites walked through the valley and gathered up all the spoils. It took them three days to collect it all. On the fourth day, they decided to call that place the Valley of Blessing. After that, no other armies wanted to face Israel and the story ends with, “Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” Not only had God fought his battle and given him the spoils, He gave him peace and rest.

When I think of valleys, I don’t think of blessings. I think of difficult times, dark times, hard times, wandering aimlessly, and pain. What I see in this story is that God can take our valleys and turn them into blessings. We don’t have to be terrified of them because the battles that we face there are not ours, but God’s. He is the one who goes before us. He’s the one who fights on our behalf. We look at the odds and think, “There’s no way.” God looks at the odds and think, “Nothing is impossible for me.”

I like that King Jehoshaphat had the people meet him in Jerusalem. The very name of that city means “God will see to it”. They were reminded of that while they were praying and fasting about what to do in the valley. They knew they were out numbered. They knew there was no way for them to win the battle. Fear had taken over. In the middle of all that anxiety, God reminded them that He would see to it. All they had to do was show up ready to fight. When they acted in obedience to the Word of God, their enemies were defeated and they gathered the spoils. What should have been a valley of defeat turned into a valley of blessing.

You don’t have to be afraid of whatever valley you’re facing today. God sees that the odds are against you. He sees the impossibility of your situation. He wants you to turn to Him in prayer so He can remind you that He will see to it. He will be the one who goes before you. He will be the one who says, “This is my battle not yours. Show up for the fight and watch what I do.” As verse 20 says, “Believe in The Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm.” No matter what enemy rises up against you, God will see to it that the place you are afraid of will be turned into a valley of blessing.

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The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I heard a scripture a couple of weeks ago and I’m still chewing on it. I’m going over it in my mind over and over. I’m still not sure everything that it means, so I’ll keep chewing on it, breaking it down, thinking it through and pondering how it applies to my life. This simple phrase from matthew 11:28-30 keeps rolling around in my mind. Jesus said, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Jesus says it after asking some good questions. He asked, “Are you tired? Worn out?” Then He offers for us to go to Him, get away with Him and to recover our life. He will show us how to take a real rest by walking with Him and working with Him. He says, “Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” It reminds me of a father teaching His child how to do something.

Watch me. Learn from me. I’ll show you how to do it. Do what I do. That’s a father’s heart. He wants to show us the rhythm of life. Real life, not this life we’re living that is inundated with emails, phone calls and traffic. Life that is unforced and natural. A spiritual life that loves others, does what is right and follows in His steps. He promised right after that, “I won’t lay anything heavy or Ill-fitting on you.” He’s not a burdensome God. His desire is simp,y to spend time with us.

The longer that I’m a father, the more I realize His love for us and His desire to just spend time with us. Our lives are to bring Him joy. We were designed to walk with Him and to spend time with Him. We weren’t meant to carry heavy burdens. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. In I Peter 5:7 It says, “Give ALL your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.”

I think giving them over to Him is the first step to learning those unforced rhythms of grace. We can’t move well when we are bogged down with things that we can’t do anything about. Release them to Him and find rest. I know it’s easier said than done. It takes a shift in your thinking. Once you come to the realization that worrying about your problems won’t solve it, you have the ability to release it to God and find rest. The Amplified version describes that rest as “relief, ease, refreshment, recreation and blessed quiet.”

Maybe that’s where you are today. You need to learn those rhythms of grace, but you have to let go of the burdens of the past first. You can’t let the worry of the unknown interfere with those rhythms either. Your life is precious and our Father wants you to learn His ways and to find rest in Him. He wants to refresh your soul today if you’ll just let Him. Don’t hold onto the things that keep you from walking forward with Him.

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Hope to Help You Endure

This morning God woke me up with a single word: hope. There are a lot of people reading this today who need it. I know what it feels like to not have it. I also know that a little bit goes a long way. It keeps you going when you are at the end of your rope. It’s the difference between letting go and hanging on just a little bit longer. To me it has always been one of those things that gives me just enough energy when I think I’m done.

In Psalm 142, David was hiding out in a cave as he was being hunted down. He was feeling like many of us do. Here’s what he says in verses 3-7. See if you can relate:

As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path.
Look right, look left – there’s not a soul who cares what happens!
I’m up against it, with no exit- bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out: “You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!”
Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low.
Rescue me from those who are hunting me down;
I’m no match for them.
Get me out of this dungeon so I can thank you in public.
Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!

The lies that were in his head told him that no one cared about him, that no one was there for him and that he was all alone. Maybe you’re hearing the same thing in your mind today. You think you have to face this alone. You feel like there is no one who understands what you’re going through. That isn’t true. Don’t dwell on those thoughts. Those lead to a place where there is no hope.

We serve a God of hope though. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” He has a future for you even when you can’t see it. He also wants to give you hope today even when you can’t see it. He has a plan for you and this thing you’re going through is part of it. He is strengthening you through it and preparing you to endure whatever else may come in the future.

Max Lucado wrote in his book “On the Anvil”, “God may have you go through a storm at 30 so you can endure a hurricane at 60.” I remember going through that storm and thinking, “If this is the storm, I don’t want to be in the hurricane.” What seems impossible to survive now will make it possible for you to endure in the future. You can survive this. You can make it through. There is hope.

I love how David ended his prayer above. “Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!” Don’t push away the people that God is placing in your life and are trying to form a circle of protection around you. Let them. Let them pray for you and with you. Be open and honest about how you are feeling so they’ll know how to pray. And when you’re on the other side of this, what was a storm will be showers of blessing.

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Prince of Wholeness

Last week we looked at the names of God. One of the names we covered was Jehovah Shalom. Yesterday at church, we began to dig deeper into the word “Shalom”. Typically it means “peace”. It is often used as a greeting in Israel. One of the other meanings for the word is “completeness” or “whole”. I found that very interesting. So I went back to Isaiah 9:6 where it says Jesus will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. I switched to the Message version of the Bible and there it called Him the Prince of Wholeness.

My mind raced, “How had I missed that?” I’m not sure how I’ve read that a hundred times and have heard the word shalom over and over and never saw that He is the Prince of Wholeness. We all need peace in our lives so much that we focus on that part of “shalom”, but rarely go deeper into its meaning. We don’t look beyond the surface, but we need to. We need to dig deeper to find so etching like this because we all need it.

I’ve had my life shattered and broken. You probably have too. When I look back at that period in my life, I see myself laying on a foundation in the pouring rain. There is debris of what was my life laying all around. There is nothing that is salvageable. That is there is nothing I can salvage. But here, in this scripture, I see a God who can take the broken pieces of my life and make me whole again. I see a Prince who is not content with leaving me broken and unprotected. He wants me to be whole.

He wants you to be whole too. When you’re broken like this, you think that all is lost. You feel that no one cares. The world is dark around you. You can’t see the future because you can’t imagine a future you’d want to be in. There is no light of hope to guide you. You take each breath as it comes. Each second of the clock ticks in slow motion and survival is your only instinct. You aren’t worried about tomorrow because you’re focused on surviving today. Yes, even in that moment of your life, He is the Prince of Wholeness.

God is able to take you from that place in your life to a place of Wholeness. Completeness. Rebuilt. Stronger. Better. He is the God of creation and He can create a new beginning for you. It’s not something that happens over night. A masterpiece is not painted in a day. A mansion is not built over night. Your life is more complex and worth more to Him than anything else. You may struggle with feelings of unworthiness or worthlessness, but you are worthy and you are priceless. You are worth rebuilding to Him. You are worth being made whole. Don’t give up. Invite the Prince of Wholeness to come in today and to complete the work which He began in you.

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What to do with an incomplete calling

I had the privilege in the mid 90’s to work with the Lilian Trasher Orphanage in Asyut, Egypt. I would take the train from Cairo about once a month and visit the orphanage. I got to speak to the kids at services and play with them during the day. The orphanage was started in the early 1900’s by Lilian Trasher. She was about 10 days away from getting married when she told her fiancé that she had been called to Africa. He told her that he did not have that same call on his life and they broke up.

She had very little money saved when she decided to board a ship to Africa. Her parents were against the idea, but she believed in her calling so much that she went anyway. One day while she was there, someone came to her and said that a woman needed help. Not long after she arrived, the woman died. An elderly woman in the house was holding the deceased woman’s baby and said she couldn’t afford to keep it alive. Lilian took this baby, nourished her back to health and the orphanage began.

Within a few years, she had over 50 babies that she was taking care of. Today, just over a hundred years later, that orphanage has over 1,000 kids in it. They have a school on site, a church and places for the kids to learn vocations such as weaving. It is an amazing place that still operates because one woman believed so much in God’s calling on her life that she left everything behind to follow it.

Many of us believe we have a calling of God on our lives. We believe we were meant to do more than just survive 70 or 80 years and then go to Heaven. We believe that we can be a vessel that God can use to help others or to lead others to Him. Some people are called to Africa, Asia, Europe or South America, but most of us are called to be a light where we are. You may be a salesman, an accountant, a manager, a janitor or a teacher. Wherever God has you, He has called you to be salt and light.

Lilian wasn’t sure why she was called to Africa. She had not received a calling on her life to go build an orphanage. She just knew she had been called and put herself in a position to be used of God. Just because you don’t know the full extent of your calling, it doesn’t mean that you should wait to do something for God. You should put yourself in position within that calling and look for God to open the door.

Faith is about stepping out when you don’t have the full picture. It’s about leaving a fiancé and your parents knowing God has something for you to do. It’s about looking at every situation as an opportunity for God to use you in and then being willing to obey. We often look at the end of the journey or where we’d like to see God use us in time. We think of the big things we can do for God, but they all start small and with one step of faith at a time.

Has God called you to do something or go somewhere? What step of faith can you take today to put yourself in position to be used of Him? Faith is about action. It isn’t about waiting until you have the whole picture or vision. Take one step of faith today towards the calling He has placed on your life and look for Him to open doors you never saw before.

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Raw Dependence on God

Today I celebrate the ninth anniversary of hitting rock bottom in my life. I know most people may not celebrate such a day, but for me it created a raw dependence on God. Up until that point in my life my faith was something I talked about. On that day it became something I lived. When there is nothing in your life worth living for, you learn to completely depend on God.

At that moment I was broken and recognized that I had tried to live my faith and my life on my own. I couldn’t do it. I needed God’s help. God’s strength. God’s intervention to live out my life and faith. My raw dependence on God began that day and I’ve learned to trust Him ever since. I don’t celebrate the bad things that happened. I celebrate that they woke me up to the life I was meant to live.

Many of us never get to that point of raw dependence on Him. We continue living our faith on our own strength. We were not made to do that. When we try to do that, we fail. I think that’s why so many people lose their faith or refuse to trust God with their lives. They have been living under the illusion that living out their faith in God required their strength. It was never meant to be that way.

Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He knew what it meant to have a raw dependence of God. He recognized that life in Jesus is nothing something done in our strength. It can only be Christ, who lives in us, that can accomplish that. We try and we fail every time. For most of us, we think that is just how it’s supposed to be. The problem is we weren’t made to wander in the desert. We were made to live in the promised land.

The Israelites experienced God’s grace and forgiveness when they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. As they began to live in their new freedom, they met with God along the way. He gave them the Ten Commandments to show them how to live. He lead them to the Promised Land to give it to them. When they looked and saw the giants ahead, they said, “We can never beat them.” They were trying to do things in their strength, not in God’s.

Out of all of them, there were only two who recognized that it was by God’s power they had been delivered from their bondage. It was nothing they did. It was God who had led them and would provide what it took to live in abundance and to overcome. They were the ones who were permitted in and reaped the rewards of all God had for them. They were the ones who knew in their strength they were nothing, but in His strength they were more than conquerors.

Many of us live our lives in the desert peering into the promised land. It scares us and that fear prevents us from experiencing all that God has for us. For many that wander in the desert of uncertainty, we think back to the life of bondage we had and remember how secure it was. I think many people who live and wander in the desert wonder about their faith and struggle with it because they aren’t experiencing what God planned for them. They want to return to the life they knew rather than to fully depend on God.

Maybe that’s you today. You always thought that God had more for you, but you feel like you are just wandering aimlessly through the desert of life. If you could live the life God wanted you to live in your own strength, it wouldn’t be faith. Romans 1:17 says, “The just shall live by faith.” It doesn’t say by their own strength, it says “by faith”. What areas of your life and faith are you trying to live out in your own strength? Trust God to do what He has done and said He will do for you. Let Him take you across Jordan into the Promised Land of all He has for you. If you do, you will celebrate that day every year too. I guarantee it!

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Don’t Give Up

I have several close friends who are going through some difficult times. Many are in desperate need of God’s touch because doctors can only do so much. Others just need a breather from the waves of bad news that keep rolling into their lives. I’ve been there myself a time or two. You probably have been too. You might even be there now, but even though you feel alone in the situation, you aren’t.

It can feel empty sometimes when friends, who don’t know what else to do, simply say, “I’ll be praying for you.” You really want them to throw you a life preserver and pull you from the water that you’re tired of treading. You know there’s nothing they can really do for you, but you wish someone could. You cry out to God, but it seems you’re prayers are falling on deaf ears. The answers you seek don’t come and you’re left with more questions.

When answers finally come, they aren’t really what you were seeking. You’re confused and your faith is shaken. You start to wonder if you’ve done something wrong to deserve this. You think that maybe God is punishing you. You drift into the fog of uncertainty and begin to wonder if God really exists. The only thing you do know is that you feel pain, uncertainty and confusion.

It’s in these moments that you find out what your faith is made of. It’s here that you learn to trust God with everything in your life. When there is nothing that anyone can do to help, you have a God who is there to sustain you in those difficult times and to give you hope for victory. When all you have is Him, you have more than enough. You may not be able to see past today, but He sees your tomorrow.

In II King 6, Elisha had been telling the king through divine guidance where ambushes were set up to attack his army. The king of Aram was furious because his plans kept getting foiled. He accused his officers of leaking information to the Israelis, but one of them knew of Elisha and told him what was happening. The king put a bounty on Elisha’s head. They found out where he was staying and traveled by night to surround him.

The next morning, Elisha’s servant got up early and walked outside. He became fearful because they were surrounded and cried out to Elisha. Elisha got up walked up to him and said, “Don’t worry about it. There are more on our side than on their side.” I’m sure the servant looked at him like he had lost his mind. Elisha then bowed his head in prayer and said, “Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.” At once the servant was able to see what Elisha saw. There was a mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding the other army.

Today, even if you can’t see beyond the circumstances that surround you, I pray that God will open your eyes. May you see that God is on your side and He is fighting for you even when it seems that no one else is. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world is the way I John 4:4 put it. I’ll tell you what I told my friend yesterday, “I don’t always understand what God does either, but I’ve learned to trust His plan and answers even when they don’t make sense.” You are not alone and God’s answer will be what’s best for you.

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