Tag Archives: difficult times

Stronger Faith

When life gets tough, do you let it push you closer to God or farther away from Him? I’ve had it do both. There have been times in my life where I desperately wanted God to show up and answer prayers, and to me it felt like He remained silent. I became upset with Him and decided I wasn’t going to ask Him for anything again. Another time, I was far away from Him, and when things got bad, I turned to Him to survive. My faith became the foundation on which I rebuilt my life. In both incidents, events in my life were more than I could handle.

Each of us go through difficulties. Each of go through times where our faith is all we have left. How do you respond in those moments? Do you tell God you’ll never ask Him for anything again because He didn’t answer? Do you have faith God will see you through when there’s no visible path forward? Faith is all about trusting God in life’s most difficult moments. It’s easy to have faith when you don’t have to use it. But what about those moments when it’s all you have left?

James 1:12 gives us a promise from God that says, “If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God!” (TPT) When we hold onto our faith in those periods where it’s all we have left, we experience a depth of God’s grace we’ve never known existed. We also get to know a God more intimately because our relationship deepens in those times. When God is all you have left, your faith has the ability to grow. These times are not designed to crush you or push you away from God. Rather let them do the work of deepening your faith and relationship with God.

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Under God’s Press

As many of you know, I went back to Israel this past summer. One of the most visited places in Jerusalem has to be the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s filled with Olive trees as pictured here. On this trip, I discovered that the name Gethsemane means the olive press. We got to see an olive press to understand how it crushes the olives to make oil. That first pressing of the Olive is holy and belongs to God. I think that’s important to know when considering what happened there the night before Jesus was crucified.

Matthew 26 tells us that Jesus went there with the disciples and that grief and anguish came over Him. In verse 38, Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me” (GNT). He was being pressed like an olive in that moment. His prayer in the next verse is what I want to focus on today. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”

Each of us have times in our lives when we are being crushed by problems and things going on. Just like Jesus, our first instinct is to pray, “Father, if it’s possible, get me out of this!” We cry and we pray for God to help us. But what if God wants to use that time to create a holy offering in your life? What if He is allowing you to be crushed so what’s inside comes out? I’m sure the olives in the press don’t appreciate the stone mill rolling over them, but what comes out is more useful than just the olive by itself.

Jesus understood this. That’s why His next breath was, “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” Instead of praying for God to get us out of the press, ask God that His will be done instead of ours. James 1:12 says, “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” Remaining under the press, like Jesus did, is the way to receive the life God promises us.

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.

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Seasons Change

One of the things I’ve learned about life is that it’s full of seasons. There are seasons of plenty, dry seasons, seasons of doubt, seasons of pain, seasons of just enough, seasons of recovery, etc. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when they show up or how long they’ll last, but one thing is certain, they do pass. The worst seasons seem like they’ll never end and the good seasons seem to go by too fast. I believe that God will give us what we need for each season, and that each season is a time of preparation.

If God uses seasons to prepare us, then I believe that you can be fruitful no matter what the season is in your life. You can glean from each season of your life things that will grow you and produce fruit for the future. You may be looking at your life right now and see a desert wasteland, but Isaiah 43:19 says that God is about to do something new. He’ll make rivers in the desert so that you can produce fruit and grow. No matter how dark life gets or how abundant your blessings are, God has a design and a purpose to grow you through this season.

Here are some Bible verses on different seasons of life.

1. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous.

Psalms 1:3 TPT

2. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One!

Philippians 4:4 TPT

3. And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming!

Galatians 6:9 TPT

4. But I keep calling out to you, Yahweh! I know you will bend down to listen to me, for now is the season of favor. Because of your faithful love for me, your answer to my prayer will be my sure salvation.

Psalms 69:13 TPT

5. You’ve so graciously provided for my essential needs during this season of difficulty.

Philippians 4:14 TPT

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Free In The Fire

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.

One of my favorite Bible stories when I was a kid had to be of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The King ordered that everyone bow down to his golden statue when they heard the music played. Of course the three Hebrew boys refused to do it. The king summoned them and ordered them to bow or to be thrown into a furnace. They told him to his face that they wouldn’t do it. He got so angry, he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than normal, bound their hands and feet and had them thrown into it,

The fire was so hot that the men who were throwing them into it died. When the men didn’t return right away, the King went to look. He turned and asked the people around him, “Didn’t we throw three into the fire?” The people around him said, “That’s right.” He replied, “But look! I see four men walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed. And the fourth one looks like the son of the gods!” He then called out to them to come out of the fire. When he examined them, not a hair was singed nor did they smell like smoke.

Many times in this life you and I will feel like we are bound up. There are times when we feel like we are in prison. Our hands and feet are shackled. We feel like we aren’t going anywhere and we can’t do anything. Being physically tied up is bad enough, but to be mentally or spiritually tied up is worse. It’s a real feeling of helplessness. When you couple that with walking through the fires of life, it can make things feel hopeless. Even in those times, we are to trust in God and His plan.

These three guys were not alone in the fire. In fact, it was in the fire that they were set free from their bondage. The scripture says they were walking around freely in the fire. God did not abandon them in the worst of times. He was standing there with them. It reminds me of the promise He makes to you and I in Isaiah 43:2. He said, “When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am your God, your personal God.”

That’s a promise you can hold into when you’re walking through deep waters, between a rock and a hard place or in the fire of oppression as the New Living Translation puts it. That version says, “You’ll not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” It goes on to say He won’t let any of these things destroy you because you are precious to Him. He gave His all for you. He loves you and will not let these present circumstances destroy you. He says you can walk freely in the fire. Trust in Him. He will not let you down. When you come out on the other side, you won’t be burned.

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

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Peace In The Chaos

Do you ever get stressed out? When I do, it’s usually when I’m in a time crunch to get things done or when things are happening beyond my control. I used to get stressed out over many things and would let my mind run wild with all the possibilities of a situation. Then one day a friend noticed I was worked up and asked me, “Do you think this caught God by surprise or do you think He knew it would happen? If He knew it was going to happen then you don’t need to be worked up about it. Accept His peace, listen for His voice and let Him do in you what He wants to do.” Ever since then, when things start happening beyond my control, I remember those words and let His peace come in.

I’m reminded of when the disciples were in the boat and the storm blew in. There was chaos all around them, the boat was taking on water and they were considering abandoning ship. Jesus was asleep in the back while they were stressing out. When they finally went to Him, He spoke peace into the storm and it calmed down. Later, as Jesus was about to die on the cross, He was preparing them for the chaos and storm they were about to endure. In John 14:27 He said, “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge]” (AMP).

Jesus knew we were going to have chaos in our lives and have challenging situations that would cause us to stress out. He commanded us to not let our minds run wild or to be afraid of the outcome. Instead, we are to remember that the one who spoke peace into the storm is not unaware of what you’re going through. Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms us. Knowing He’s in control and is aware of what’s going on should give you peace. He’s continually working in our lives and that means there will be uncomfortable moments and challenges. Let His peace calm you in those times and give you strength for the challenge.

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The Door Of Hope

One thing I’ve learned is that God is more concerned with your spiritual condition than your physical comfort. He will do whatever it takes to get your attention. At one point in my life, i was off track and headed in the wrong direction. God stepped in to get my attention. When I ignored His voice, painful things began to happen. I went through a period where my life began to unravel. Everything I tried to grab onto slipped through my hands like sand. Finally, when I was down to nothing, I gave in to His voice. God said if I would follow where He led me, I would find joy unimaginable. Over the last 15 years, He has led me out of that valley into a greater relationship with Him.

All throughout the Bible, this is what God has done. He has tried to get our attention. When the nation of Israel, or individuals like Balaam, Saul and Moses refused to hear His voice, He did whatever it took to get their attention. Israel would turn away from God and then enemies would attack, famines would come and all sorts of things would happen just so that they would turn back to God for help. He uses trouble in our life to get us to quit trying to do things on our own so we can return to our relationship with Him.

Hosea 2:15 says, “I will give back to her the vineyards she had and make Trouble Valley a door of hope” (GNT). God was speaking this to Israel saying if they would return to their relationship with Him, He would turn their valley into a pathway of hope. I can testify that in my life, God took me out of the valley and created a door of hope when I turned back to Him. It didn’t happen over night and things didn’t go back to where they were. As I walked through that door of hope, God rebuilt my life and led me to a place beyond anything I could have imagined. When I surrendered to what He was trying to do, the door or hope opened and I walked through. He wants to open that door for each one of us, but the key is to surrender your will to His.

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Fresh Faith

This life can get to be repetitive, and to be honest, so can our Christian life. It’s easy to settle into a groove and put ourselves on autopilot. We can then fall into danger by allowing our faith the be about rituals more than relationship. Even the disciples were susceptible to this, and they physically walked with Jesus daily. Can you imagine what that must have been like? They heard the greatest teaching daily and were witnesses to countless miracles, yet they were susceptible to letting even that become old hat and ordinary. That’s when someone came up to Jesus and told Him Lazarus was gravely ill and needed healing immediately.

When Jesus didn’t immediately go, I’m sure the disciples started to get shook out of their routine. They thought it was odd that He didn’t immediately go. Instead, He waited two days before beginning the 2 day journey to Him. The disciples objected to Jesus going there because the religious leaders were ready to kill Him. Then, in John 11:14-15 Jesus said, “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him” (MSG).

Jesus knew the disciples needed new grounds for believing. If they needed it, how much more do we? I believe when there are things in our lives that don’t make sense to us, it could be God trying to give us new grounds for believing. Notice how urgently we start seeking Him when things happen out of the ordinary. Notice how much more we rely on Him. I believe God allows things to happen to us so we will break out of our rut and find fresh faith. Relationships on autopilot usually struggle. It’s the ones that keep things fresh and new that survive. God wants to have a fresh relationship with us. Don’t let whatever is going on in your life push you away from God. Let it give you fresh grounds for believing.

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