Tag Archives: difficult times

Victory In The Valley

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.

When reading the story of David and Goliath recently, I noticed something I had read over. I Samuel 17:3 says, “So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them” (NLT). I had never picked up that there was a valley between the two sides. Then verse 40 says, “He (David) picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” David had to go into the valley to win the victory.

You won’t win victory standing where you are. You are going to have to make the first move. For 40 days, the Israelites were paralyzed by fear. Each day Goliath invited them to fight him, but they stayed put. When David heard Goliath’s taunts, he didn’t get fearful, he got a righteous anger. He knew that this was a spiritual battle that had to be handled in the physical as well. To win the spiritual battle, he’d have to enter the valley and trust God.

Fast forward 14 generations, Jesus was fighting a spiritual battle that required Him to enter a valley as well. John 18:1 says, “After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.” The battle He was fighting was to have the courage to do what God wanted while facing the fear of dying a torturous death on a cross. He could have stayed where He was, but He entered the valley to pray that God’s will be done.

Both David and Jesus recognized that the battle was the Lord’s. They both knew who was fighting on their behalf. That gave them the courage to walk into what seemed like certain death in order to obtain the victory. You and I have to have the same tenacity in prayer and desire to go into the valley if we are going to win our spiritual battles. We are going to have to let go of fear and embrace what God wants to do, enter the valley in front of us, and fight on our knees for victory.

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Trusting The Plan

One of the things I love about King David is that He kept trusting God no matter what was going on. When there was a giant threatening his nation, He believed God would deliver them. When he was sent back to tending sheep after he was anointed king, he kept praising God. When he sinned, he cried out for forgiveness. When nothing was going right, he went to the Rock that was higher. He was human just like us, but he learned to fully trust God no matter what was happening in his life.

Before he became king, Saul thought if he could kill him, his own son would be king instead. David spent a lot of time running from Saul and living in caves. He knew that God had anointed him to be king, yet here he was living in a cave instead of a palace. He didn’t cry out asking God why he wasn’t king. Instead, in Psalm 57:2 he said, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me” (NLT). Even though the promise seemed out of reach, he trusted in God’s plan.

If your life isn’t where you thought it should be or if it feels like you’re on the defensive, trust God’s plan. Ive found that God grows us and shapes us in the caves of life. He uses them to prepare us for His plan. Instead of being upset and angry that things aren’t working out according to your plan, thank God that He has a plan and He’s working it out in your life. The cave is worth the price you pay for the life God is leading you to. He will fulfill His purpose for you.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash


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Letting Go

The other day, my son was trying to pick up something that was too heavy for him. As he was struggling, I offered to help. He declined and kept trying. Again I offered help, but still he refused. He was determined to move it himself. Finally he asked for help. As I picked it up, he yelled his disapproval. Confused, I asked how he wanted me to help. He said he wanted to hold it, but I had to pick both of them up and carry them. He wanted me to carry the weight, but he wanted to be holding onto it.

I laughed, but I also thought, “How many times do I cry out to God with a heavy load, but want the same thing?” If you’re like me, you find yourself carrying loads that are too heavy for you. God is there wanting to help, but we want credit for carrying it. We want God to help, but we want Him to do it our way. We hold onto our troubles because we’re afraid to let them go, but God wants us to give them to Him. He wants us to release them so He can carry them.

Psalm 55:22 says, “Pile your troubles on GOD’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out” (MSG). God wants to help us with our heavy loads, but we have to be willing to let go of them if we’re going to cast them on His shoulders. Letting go is the hardest part and it’s why so many of us want Him to carry us while we’re holding on to the troubles. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Let go and let God.” Maybe it’s time we started doing that. He’s more than capable of carrying your troubles if you’ll just let them go.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Unsplash

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Looking Ahead

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.

Since I live in a major US city, I get to experience traffic on my daily commute. Because of that, my eyes have been trained to look at the car right in front of me when I drive. If you’ve ever taken Driver’s Ed or Defensive Driving, you know that’s not a healthy driving habit. You should be looking about 10 to 30 seconds ahead while driving. People who drive with their eyes looking at their immediate situation tend to have more wrecks and tickets. Plus, I find it scares your wife a lot!

What’s true in driving, is true in life. There are people who get so caught up in their current situation that they lose sight of the future. Their present situation is all they can see, and they’re constantly living in fear of having an emotional wreck. Because they haven’t trained their eyes to look forward, it’s hard to imagine a positive future. Life becomes an emotional roller coaster with a pessimistic view of the world. That’s exhausting and not how God wants us to live our lives.

God wants us to train our eyes to look beyond our present circumstances and troubles. He wants us to look further down the road so we can see that our current situation is only temporary. In the bigger picture, we can see His hand directing our life with purposeful movement. II Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT).

When your current situation becomes overwhelming, look ahead to joy that’s coming because what you’re going through now is only temporary. This too shall pass. God uses these times to build character, perseverance, endurance and hope in us. Each circumstance you go through has a purpose that God is using for your good and for the good of others. The next time you get caught up looking at the present, remind yourself to look ahead. You are more than your present situation. There’s a bigger picture God is working on.

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

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The Jonah Syndrome

I’ll never forget a minister who came to work at our church when I was younger. They felt that God had called them to our town and our church. Not long after they had uprooted their family from their hometown and moved to ours, things started to go wrong. Their car broke down, the AC in the house went out, etc. It seemed that for a year nothing went right and everything was against them. They concluded that they missed God and weren’t supposed to be there. They resigned and moved back to where they lived before.

I remember talking to them about it, and decided to label it Jonah Syndrome. They believed if bad things were happening, they must have missed God or disobeyed Him. My response was that bad things happen, and that it could be an attack to try to make them ineffective at what God had called them to do. To this day, I believe they didn’t think that bad things happen to people who are in the will of God. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who believe that. The truth is that we need to get rid of the Jonah Syndrome.

All of the early disciples, and most of the Early Church, suffered hardships. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead and had disagreements with the leadership of the Church. Bad things happened to him constantly in the New Testament. He even had one nagging problem that he said was a “thorn in his flesh”. He asked God to resolve and remove the problem, but God didn’t. Instead, in 2 Corinthians 12, He replied to Paul, “My grace is sufficient” (AMP).

I like how Psalm 34:19 says, “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all” (GNT). You and I are going to go through suffering and have our own thorns in the flesh. It doesn’t mean we are not in God’s will, it means that we need to learn to trust His grace. Jonah was running from his calling. That’s why he suffered. If you’re trying to do what God called you to and you’re running into troubles, ask God for His grace to help you endure. It could be that you’re on the edge of a breakthrough and the enemy is trying to stop you. Above all, seek God’s wisdom in the matter and trust His answer.


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At church, we’ve been singing Michael W. Smith’s song “This is How I Fight My Battles”. It’s a simple song, but it’s powerful. One of the lines says, “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” As we sing that song, it reminds me of when Elisha’s servant walked outside one morning and saw they were surrounded by an army. He called for Elisha who came outside and said, “Don’t worry about it. There’s more with us than there are with them. Lord, open his eyes to see.” (2 Kings 6:17)

I also think of times in my life where I’ve been surrounded by turmoil, heartbreak and relentless attacks. Even when that period seemed like it would never end, God would surround me with people who would pray for me, encourage me and help me to stay in the battle. When all seemed lost, God never left me. He surrounded me with His presence and His people when the enemy had surrounded me and tried to take me out.

As you read through the Psalms, David felt that way too. He was chased and trapped in caves by King Saul and the army of Israel at times. Other times it was foreign armies hunting him down trying to take him out. He even writes of family and friends who talk behind his back and want to destroy him. Through it all, he cried out to God because he understood that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord lifts up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19). God surrounds us in our greatest moments of despair.

Psalm 31:21 says, “Praise the Lord! How wonderfully he showed his love for me when I was surrounded and attacked!” (GNT) It’s not time to give up when you are surrounded- it’s time to look up! There are more with you than there are against you. God shows a His great love for us in the moments where we need it most. We have to learn to take our eyes off of the enemy that is surrounding us and look to God who is surrounding them. You are not alone in your fight. You are surrounded by the Lord Of Hosts and the armies of Heaven.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash


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Prayer And Praise

How do you handle stress or bad news? I’m the type of person who replays the situation over and over in my head trying to find a solution. Each time that I don’t find one, the stress seems to get heavier. I begin to feel tired, but I can’t sleep because I’m too worked up. I try to think of something else, but I can’t. My mind fixated on the problem and all of its consequences. I even start to question myself as to why I wasn’t prepared for this. I keep concentrating on the problem until I remember that God knows the answer.

To help my mind make the shift, I play praise and worship music. I love how it invites the presence of God into the place where I am, and how it shifts my attention from how big the problem is to how big God is. From deep within me, I begin to thank God for all He has done in my life, for all He has provided and for all He is going to do. As I do that, i give the responsibility of finding the solution over to Him. I don’t have to have control of the situation or my future because it’s in His hands.

I know that’s easier said than done, but the truth is He is more capable of working out His will in my life than I am. He is able to use whatever it is that’s stressing me out for my good. By giving it to Him, I release myself of the stress of having to find a solution and the fear of making the wrong choice. I spend time reminding God of all the times in my life when He has intervened or taken what I thought was a bad thing and turned into something good. The power of praise and prayer changes everything.

David knew that. In Psalm 30:4 he wrote, “Sing praise to the Lord, all his faithful people! Remember what the Holy One has done, and give him thanks!” (GNT) He then reminds us that mourning may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. We don’t have to fear what tomorrow will bring when we place it in a His hands. When we learn to pray and give praise in these times, we can wake up joyful because we are trusting our unknown future to the God we know.

Photo by Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash


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