Tag Archives: hard times

Quit Panicking

One of the most common Christian myths many of us believe is that when I do what God asks me to, there won’t be any issues and things will go smoothly. For me, it seems like when I step out in faith and do what God asks, things often start going wrong. There are times it feels like I’ve jumped out of an airplane, but I’m not the one who gets to pull the cord on the parachute. The ground starts getting closer and I start to panic. I cry out, “God, where are you? Did you tell me to do this? Why haven’t you worked on my behalf yet? Don’t you care about my reputation? My family? I thought you were going to work out everything for my good.” At that point, it’s easy to start questioning if I really heard God or if I’m really in His will because I’m looking at external factors and I’m believing the myth that everything should be smooth sailing when I’m in His will through obedience.

In Mark 4, after a long day of teaching, night was falling and Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake” (TPT). They all piled in a boat, and several people from the crowd got in boats to follow them across the lake. Being tired from teaching, Jesus decided to call it a night. He laid down and fell asleep. That’s when a ferocious storm came rolling in with violent winds that were rocking the boat and causing it to take on so much water that they were afraid of sinking. In verse 39, they had a similar prayer to mine. They woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re all about to die?” Jesus, once He was fully awake, steps out, rebukes the wind and calms the sea. I’m sure He gave them a disappointed look as He said, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?”

Those words are ringing in my ears today as I shift my focus from my circumstances to who He is. When things don’t go the way we thought they should after our obedience, fear creeps in. Fear of failure. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of going broke. Fear of our own ship going down. The storm you’re in may be great, but He is greater. It may feel like He’s asleep, but He knows what you’re going through. Push through the fear and panic, and trust that if He’s called you to it, He’ll get you through it. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, and easy times never stretch our faith. Yes, it might have been a big leap you took, but your faith has so much more room to grow. Now is not the time for panic. It’s the time for prayer and faith. He hasn’t ever failed you, and He won’t start failing you today.

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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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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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Troubles, Pressure And Pottery

Have you ever watched a potter with their wheel? It’s truly magnificent. They take a lump of clay, and with wet hands they begin to shape it into whatever they’re making. Then, they stick their scalpel in the middle that begins to follow it out. After that, they begin shaping the outside by removing more clay with the scalpel. If they want to, they add lines and other designs the same way. Once it is what they are looking for, they place it in the fire so it can be usable. After it cooks, they paint it and glaze it to continue the process of bring beauty out of what was once a lump of clay. Every part of that process must seem to the clay that the potter doesn’t love it, or is even against it, but the potter knows what the clay needs to go through to bring out its full potential.

I’ve never met anyone who loves going through tough times. We all enjoy good times and pray our lives are filled with those. However, God allows us to go through troubles and extended periods of pressure to produce in us things that can’t be produced any other way. He is constantly looking out for our good and will use whatever means necessary to form and shape us into the people He created us to be. Like the potter, He’s not afraid to use His scalpel or to put us in the fire for extended periods of time. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, God is working in our lives to create something beautiful. Most of the time He’s doing that though, it can feel painful and like He’s picking on us. Hang in there. He’s working things out for your good and turning your life into a thing of beauty.

Here are some Bible verses on how trouble can be good.

1. When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 GNT

2. Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

James 1:2-4 MSG

3. Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4 AMP

4. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 NLT

5. Yet, as God’s servants, we prove ourselves authentic in every way. For example: We have great endurance in hardships and in persecutions. We don’t lose courage in a time of stress and calamity.

2 Corinthians 6:4 TPT

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Losing Sight Of Jesus

On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.

It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.

Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

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