This year, I’ve had both a family member and a coworker get diagnosed with breast cancer. Their stories of sitting in the doctor’s office and hearing the news were very similar. They described getting tunnel vision. Sound seemed to go away. Fear immediately brought tears as it showed them a world where their child would grow up motherless. Then both immediately asked for prayer from those who know God.
One shared with me how after prayer they had clarity of how to fight, and they were no longer reeling from the news. The other shared with me about the peace that came over her. She said, “After people started praying, I haven’t been able to shed a tear. This peace won’t let me.” Both received news that no one ever wants to get, but both knew where to turn when they got it. While they still have treatments to go through, knowing God is in control has made the difference.
In Psalm 112, the writer discusses the blessings of the man (or woman) who fears the Lord with reverence and worships Him with obedience. Each verse pronounces blessings or discusses the outcome for such people. In verses 7-8, it says, “They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly” (NLT). This verse perfectly describes what both of these women shared with me.
This verse doesn’t just apply to cancer though. It applies to any bad news that may come your way. You don’t have to fear the outcome when you get it. Just like these ladies, you can give the news to God through prayer, and His peace, which passes all understanding, will guard your thoughts. Fear does not come from God, but peace does. Whatever you’re facing today, you can face it with confidence because you are a child of the King of Kings. He is in control, and will work out His plan for you.
Lamentations 4 and 5 are two of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was so descriptive of what life was like living under the control of their enemy. The people who were once wealthy were digging through the trash to find food. The kids were forced to do manual labor that was too hard for them. Anyone caught looking for food outside the city walls was killed. Confidence was replaced with desperation, and joy was replaced with a deep depression.
People no longer gathered to talk. No one sang any songs. The population was dwindling down because people were dying of starvation. It was a very dark period in Israel’s history. Jeremiah knew they were living under the enemy’s control because they had turned their back on God. He cried out in repentance and asked God how long would they suffer. Then he remembered that suffering is temporary, but God is eternal.
You may be going through a dark time in your life right now as well. It may feel like God has abandoned you and that you are living under the enemy’s control. I know what it’s like to live through that. I know what it feels like to lose everything and wonder if you should still try to keep going. I can let you know that the suffering is only temporary. It does end and the sun comes out again. God has not abandoned you no matter how alone you feel.
I pray Jeremiah’s prayer in Lamentations 5:21 over you today. It says, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (GNT) I’m living proof that God restores what the enemy stole, and that joy returns. When God restores you, He will rebuild everything better than it was. When He gives your joy back, it will be greater than before. What feels like forever is only a season. Restoration is coming.
When I was a kid, there was a Richard Pryor movie called “Brewster’s Millions”. The plot of the movie was that Pryor’s character Brewster was down on his luck when he found out his great uncle died and left him 300 million dollars. The catch was that he had to spend $30 million in 30 days and have no assets to show for it or he got nothing. His uncle was testing him to make him to make sure he didn’t waste the full $300 million when he inherited it.
When Joseph was a young man, he had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him. They hated him when he told them the dream. He then had another dream showing not only his brothers bowing to him, but also his father and mother. His brothers were so angry they wanted to kill him. Instead, they threw him into a pit, sold him as a slave, he was then falsely accused of raping his master’s wife, and he was thrown in prison. It was nearly 14 years between his dream and the time he left prison to become second in command of Egypt.
When David was a teenager, he was anointed as the next king of Israel. It was then that he faced Goliath, was banished by Saul, hid in the desert, lived on the run, forced out of the nation, and fought many battles. It was nearly 15 years between the time that he was anointed king and actually became king. He was tested, just like Joseph, so that God could convert him from a shepherd into a king. This pattern is found all throughout the Bible, and I believe God still does it today.
Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character” (NLT). When God puts a dream in our hearts, we undergo testing. The greater the dream, the greater the test. God uses those tests to prove our character to make sure we don’t waste the dream. He knows we aren’t ready to handle the fulfillment, so He tests us to help us become the person who will steward the dream well. If God has given you a dream, be prepared to be tested and to wait for the fulfillment of it. There is a king (or queen) inside of you waiting to come out, but it will take some perseverance to make that happen.
Did you know that the United States doesn’t have a federal law that requires boats to have an anchor? I know that’s a random question to start your day with, but go with me on this for a minute. I’ve been on a boat many times to fish. We used the anchor to hold us in position over the fishing hole, but anchors are mainly needed if your motor dies or if you run out of gas. When that happens, your boat is simply adrift at the whim of the water without an anchor. That’s not a good situation to be in.
Like boats, many people don’t have an anchor – something that can steady them. When bad times come or when they burn out, they have nothing to hold onto. Their life goes out of control and they begin drifting away. That’s a helpless feeling, but it’s something that all of us face at one point. It’s why we need an anchor in our lives. We need a truth that we can hold onto snd believe in when don’t have the strength to move forward.
As Christians, we have an anchor. In Hebrews 6:19, it says, “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure” (HCSB). The whole world around us can be crumbling, but our anchor holds us in place. We don’t have to be at the mercy of our circumstances. We don’t have to succumb to the pressures around us. We don’t have to worry when we can’t see the future. Our hope in Jesus is secure and provides us with stability in unstable times.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ — this is the Lord’s declaration — ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” God gives hope because He knows it is essential to life. He has a plan for you, and He often uses hard times to mold us, shape us, and to correct our course. When we are in those times, we can hold on to the hope that He gives and it will not fail us because it is an anchor that endures.
It was 14 years ago today that I hit rock bottom in life. I had endured five months of everything going wrong in my life, and on September 25th, I lost my job to top it off. Every time I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. It was almost a daily occurrence. I laid down on the floor of my living room and told God, “If one more thing happens, I give up. I refuse to go down any further.” I went to my calendar and wrote, “The Bottom,” on today’s date. I vowed to climb out if that hole until I saw daylight again.
I didn’t know it would take about a decade before I got out of the hole that those five months created. I suffered some set backs through those years, but I never went further down than I had been that night. I was on the edge of ending my life because I couldn’t take the failure and the pain anymore. I was embarrassed of where my life was, and I knew I was going to have to make some changes to how I was living if I was going to get out of the hole. For starters, I was going to give control of the rebuild to God.
Clearly my way didn’t work. My life had been life a block tower that a kid built. It got to a point that it could no longer sustain itself, and it all came crashing down. I knew if I gave God control it would be built the right way and would be more stable. Fourteen years later, I can tell you that was the best decision I made. God has been good to me and has restored the years that were stolen. He has taken me farther than I dreamed I could go, and has given me more joy than I could have imagined.
Today, instead of focusing on the bottom, I like to focus on the good things He’s done for me. It’s no longer about where I was. It’s not about where I’m going, and it’s all because of who God is. Psalm 103:3 says, “Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me” (NLT). We need to all make the decision to quit reflecting on past failures and pains, and instead focus on the good things God does for us. I can tell you it made a difference in my life, and I’m sure it will make a difference in yours.
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve been desperate for hope. When I was in my early twenties, my mom was in ICU at the M.D. Anderson cancer center. I remember living in that holding room for families. Each family in there lived day to day desperate for good news. Some families got it, but most of us didn’t. We were tired, exhausted, mentally drained, and were looking for a ray of hope that might mean our loved one would walk out of there.
Another time was after my first wife left me. My business was failing and the world all around me seemed to be crashing in. When I thought I had hit rock bottom, the bottom would fall out. When I thought I had good news, it turned out to be wrong. I just wanted something to hold onto in order to keep from from falling deeper in that hole, but everything I grabbed seemed to slip between my fingers.
To be without hope is a dangerous place, yet so many of us live there. Our lives seem to have no future, and we just want something we can believe in to brighten up the darkness a little. The writer of Lamentations was there too. He was in a desperate place having lost everything. As he recounted his trouble in chapter three, he then wrote in 3:22-23, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue” (GNT). His hope returned when he took his eyes off his situation and focused on God.
I love what he goes on to write in verses 25-26. He says, “The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us—.” God sees us in our hopeless darkness. Looking back, He used those times to shape me and polish me. Trusting God when you can’t see a future is hard, but be patient. The Lord is good and is working things out for your good. Hope will return because God has not forgotten you.
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.
I love reading Luke 2 throughout the year. I don’t believe the story of Jesus’ birth is just for December. Honestly, what we are celebrating at Christmas, should be celebrated all through the year. The fact that God wrapped Himself in flesh and lived among us is something to celebrate every day, especially when we’re facing mountains in our lives. The prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would be called Emmanuel which is God with us.
I’ve always loved the meaning of that name. God is with us. It’s present tense. It’s not He was with us or He will be with us. He is with us! In difficult times in our lives, we feel alone. We feel the world is against us. Our friends are scarce. Our troubles are compounded. Our stress is through the roof. Our bills are too many and too high. We feel abandoned and afraid. How we feel and what circumstances look like don’t change the fact that God is with us. They don’t push Him away when they’ve pushed everyone else away.
When we’re surrounded by the storm, the waves keep crashing into us and we feel like we’re sinking, He is with us. He isn’t panicking like we are. He knows that things are under control even when they appear not to be. The disciples found themselves in this same situation. They were on a boat in the middle of a fierce storm and they were taking on water. They were terrified until they remembered Emmanuel. “God is with us.” They found Jesus, woke Him up and then He calmed the storm.
Maybe that’s you today. You find yourself in the middle of a storm. Your mind is occupied by all the “what if’s”. You feel as though your life is sinking. Nothing is going as planned. If that’s the case, remember there is no storm He can’t calm. There is nothing that life can throw at you that He can’t turn into good for you. Even if you can’t see it, have faith. It’s especially important in those times that you remember Emmanuel. God is with YOU. And if God is with you, He is for you. When He is for you, who can be against you?