Tag Archives: difficult times

The Fiery Furnace

One of the first stories in the Bible that you’re taught as a kid is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego In the fiery furnace. The king had built a statue that was 90 feet tall and expected everyone to bow to it on command. These three men were in high government positions because their friend, and fellow captive, Daniel had been able to tell the king what his dream was and meant. When they didn’t bow, it was obvious because they were in the public eye. The king demanded they bow, but they refused to his face. They would rather honor God and suffer the consequences of death than to dishonor God and live. The king heated the furnace even hotter than normal and had them thrown into it. That’s when he noticed there were four men walking around in it. In Daniel 3:25, the king said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” (NLT)

One the first things they noticed was that the three were unbound. I think that’s important because they would have tied them up with something that wasn’t combustible. There are times in life that we go through things that we feel like we’re bound by. It feels like we will never get free and the chains hinder our progress. Even when nothing else seems to be able to set you free, God can. These gentlemen could not set themselves free by their own power, and neither can we. It takes trusting in God and putting ourselves in His hands to find freedom from the things that bind us. One word from Him and the things that have bound you for years will fall. Your freedom is in Him.

The next thing they noticed is that there was a fourth guy in the fire. I’ve noticed that when we walk through the fiery trials of life, they reveal Jesus. You are not walking through your difficult times alone. He’s always with you, but we see Him more clearly in those moments. He shows up and walks through those times with you. No matter how bad things seem, keep moving and praying. The three Hebrew men didn’t sit down in the fire and wait to be called out. They were actively moving and it caught the attention of others. You’re ability to not quit during the most fiery trial will inspire others who will go through those times in the future. Your most difficult times become your greatest testimony. Don’t quit. God is up to something and is right there with you in those moments.

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Stuck In Your Story

My friend tells people, “Don’t get stuck in your story,” when someone is constantly living in the past. You’re stuck in your story when you allow your past pain to rob you of your present. Yes, it happened. Yes, it was and is painful, but if you allow it to consume you, it will rob you of a life that God wants to give you. I spent a lot of time living in the pain of the past instead of in the present. I couldn’t seem to get unstuck. The pain was becoming my identity, so I grew to need it. What I didn’t realize was that it had caused me to quit paying attention to my present and stopped all my progress. I didn’t get unstuck until a friend looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve given up and you’re in a rut. This isn’t who you are, and I don’t want to see you like this.” All of a sudden I saw that I was stuck and I decided to make changes to get unstuck.

In Isaiah 43:18-19, God says, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present” (MSG). If we keep living in past pains, we will miss what God is trying to do now. I can tell you that the pain of your past can be used for good once you allow yourself to heal. I don’t know why we have to go through painful times that feel like they’re going to crush us. I do know that it’s part of God’s process in getting us to His promise. Just like a grape that’s crushed can never become wine unless it’s moved from the press to the vat, you and I can never fulfill our purpose until we move from the pain to the next part of the process.

Everyone has a past. Everyone. But everyone also has a present. Everyone. If you’re stuck in your story, you can’t move on to the next part of the process that God is trying to do in your life. Acknowledge your pain. It’s real. It happened, but if you live there going over it over and over, you will never heal. Change your routine. Change your habits. Stop dwelling on what happened. You can’t change that. You can change your future though if you will be present in this moment and ask God to help you move to the next part of the process. Everything that’s happened in your life can be used for your good. God wants to do a new thing in your life, but you have to get unstuck and be present for Him to do it. He will make rivers in your desert and bring new life to the dry places of your life.

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When Plans Fail

When I was in high school, I had figured out what I wanted to be and had planned it out. After high school, things happened and that plan went out the window. Several years later, I got married and began to plan my life out again. When those plans fell through, I found myself bankrupt and divorced. Each time things happened, I didn’t quit planning, I just had to make adjustments to the plan because I hadn’t calculated in set backs and going through hard times. I realize that these are things you can’t plan for, but I’ve also learned that plans rarely go the way they’re made. When things go off course from the way I envisioned them, God is still at work in my life and He still has a plan that has calculated all these things into it.

Life is not a matter of if things go wrong, it’s a matter of when. No one is excluded from bad things happening, plans falling through and going through hard times. But we have a promise from God that when things don’t go according to our plan, He’s right there with us going through the process by our side. He’s also promised that He won’t let those times overtake us. Looking back at those times in my life, I can see God’s hand at work and the course corrections He was making. It’s these promises that I now hold onto when I go through them again. Even though my plans fail, God never does. He’s there with us in the hardest of times even though it’s difficult to see Him in those moments.

Here are some Bible verses I hold onto when things don’t go as planned.

1. When I had nothing, desperate and defeated, I cried out to the Lord and he heard me, bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.

Psalms 34:6 TPT

2. You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Matthew 5:3 MSG

3. To this very moment we go hungry and thirsty; we are clothed in rags; we are beaten; we wander from place to place; we wear ourselves out with hard work. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are insulted, we answer back with kind words.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13 GNT

4. Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

1 Peter 4:12-13 MSG

5. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2 NLT

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Winning Impossible Battles

In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they had defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.

The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God with you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.

In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.

As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word until we can see the victory.

Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.

Throwback Thursday is a 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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Perfectly Peaceful

One of the things I’ve learned is that your thoughts affect how you feel. How you feel affects what you do in any given situation. So many times we’ve reacted in a situation in a way we wish we wouldn’t have. If I lose my cool, I feel like I’ve lost the battle. I don’t like that feeling at all, but at the end of the day, it all comes back to how healthy I’ve kept my thoughts. If I don’t like how I react in a situation, I need to change how I feel in it. If I want to change how I feel, I have to change my thoughts. Our thoughts are more powerful than we give them credit for. Scripture dedicates a lot of verses to our thought life because many times they are what’s standing between us and victory.

When we learn to have a healthy thought life, our outlook on life changes. When our outlook on life changes, the things that happen in our life change. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT) When we are at peace in our mind because our thoughts are fixed on God, our minds won’t be agitated by the things we’re going through. We all go through hard times, but those who have learned to keep their thoughts on God and His promises will be kept in perfect peace during those times. They won’t crumble when their world is crumbling. The thoughts of God’s promises produce feelings of peace and peace changes how we react.

Romans 8 assures us that no matter what you go through, it will not separate you from God’s love. That’s a promise I like to think about when times get tough. Through it all, you and I are still loved by God. He doesn’t leave us when times get tough. His love is not dependent on how we react in those situations. There’s peace in knowing that. It’s good to spend time in prayer when times are tough, but it’s even better to spend some time thinking about all God has done for you throughout your life. Keeping your mind fixed on Him will take you from panic to peace. It will keep whatever is going on on the outside from reaching you inside. You can have perfect peace no matter what you’re facing, and it all starts with keeping your thoughts fixed on Him instead of your situation.

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Surviving The Dark Valley

In one of the darkest times of my life, I felt like everything was crumbling around me. I couldn’t sleep or eat for days. I laid in bed at night and would repeat Nehemiah 8:10. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Over and over I would say it. Then I started singing it through the tears. It became my mantra. Because of that, even though my world was crumbling around me, I found a place deep within that gave me hope that I would make it through it. Some days I couldn’t see past a minute in front of me, but i knew if God would help me survive that minute, then I could survive the next. God would remind me of Scriptures to hold on to or He would have someone give me one out of the blue. Life was hard, but God provided a way through it and gave me strength to endure.

Psalm 84:5-6 says, “How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord…Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring” (TPT ). This promise is to those who find their strength in the Lord first of all. Every one of us goes through the dark valley of tears. What I love is that God says, “Pick up your shovel during that time and start digging. Beneath all that pain is a pool where you can find strength and refreshment.” We’ve got to dig deeper than the way things appear on the surface. We’ve got to dig deep into God’s Word. We’ve got to dig deep into His promises, and put our roots there. If they’re on the surface, we’ll be blown over like a tree in a hurricane. Our roots cannot remain at surface level in the dark valley of tears.

You can either be defeated in that valley or you can find the brook of God’s blessing. God is pouring out blessings all the time, but we don’t see them because we get too focused on the things going on around us. Lamentations 3:21-25 says, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope. The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him” (GNT). You can have hope in the dark valley of tears when you focus on God’s unfailing love to get you through it and His mercy to remind you that this is a season and there are mountain tops still ahead. Trust and hope in the Lord and draw your strength from Him.

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Indestructible Faith

Growing up, I was hard on shoes. No matter what shoes my parents bought, they would be falling apart within a couple of months. It didn’t matter if we purchased expensive shoes or cheap ones, they just couldn’t hold together. Then one day I heard about Nike Ndestrukt shoes. They weren’t that good looking, but they were built to withstand whatever you threw at them. For the first time in my life, I had a pair of shoes that were able to hold up under the toughest conditions. They got stained, beat up and worn out, but they never fell apart. They are a great example of how our faith needs to be.

Life is hard, and it’s even harder on our faith. If our faith isn’t strong enough, it can fall apart under the tough conditions we face. If we’re going to have indestructible faith that endures, it’s going to have to start with a mindset that says, “God, I’m going to trust you no matter what comes my way.” If your faith is built on anything less, it will waiver when times get tough. Faith is easy to have when things are going well. It’s when you can’t feel God’s presence in the struggle that you really find out how strong it is. When you’ve made up your mind to trust no matter what, you can be like Job and worship God even in the toughest conditions. It may be bruised, stained and worn out, but a faith that endures is what we all need.

Here are some Bible verses on having an enduring faith.

1. If your faith is not enduring, you will not endure.

Isaiah 7:9 GNT

2. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

3. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “You need to be alert and pray for the strength to endure the great temptation.”

Luke 22:46 TPT

4. But as for you, be clear-headed in every situation [stay calm and cool and steady], endure every hardship [without flinching], do the work of an evangelist, fulfill [the duties of] your ministry.

2 TIMOTHY 4:5 AMP

5. For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things.

James (Jacob) 1:3 TPT

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