Tag Archives: hard times

Faith Over Feelings

Everyone of us has had some dark valleys that we’ve walked through. There are those days, months, and years where we just wish we could see a ray of hope. We want to know that we are not alone. That God has a plan. That He hasn’t forgotten us. We want to know that this time won’t last forever. In those times, it’s critical that our faith over rides our feelings. Our feelings interpret circumstances, but our faith dictates them.

I remember walking through a long, dark valley. God spoke to me and said, “I see you where you are. I have not left you or forgotten you. I’m walking with you through this. I am not in front of you or behind you. I’m right beside you.” Those words boosted my faith over my feelings. They reminded me that even when I can’t see or feel God, that He is with me no matter what. When my prayers feel like they’re falling on deaf ears, He hears them because He’s a whisper away. He’s walking with us in the darkness.

In Psalm 23:4, David gave us some words to remember this truth. He wrote, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). In the valley, our feelings produce fear, but our faith produces peace and reassurance that God has not left us. We don’t have to fear or fret in the valley. God is walking right beside us each step of the way. He has not forgotten us. Trust your faith over your feelings.

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Combating Internal Lies

When you’re going through a difficult season or through a hard time, you start seeking out sympathy. One of the things you’re going to hear in your mind is, “You don’t deserve this. Why is God mad at you?” Another thing you will hear is, “No one has it as badly as you do. No one will understand what you’re going through.” I know because I’ve heard them. These are lies to get you to be upset at God, to get mad at others and to isolate you. If you’re mad at God, you won’t pray and a root of bitterness can spring up. If you’re mad at others, you won’t accept help from them. If you’re isolated, you’re easy prey for your enemy who roams like a lion seeking to devour you.

To combat the first lie, I use Romans 8:28 as a promise to hold onto. I believe that no matter how bad things get, God can always work it out for my good. To combat the second lie, I look for people who have it worse than I do. There is always someone else who is having a more difficult time than you. I’ve also come to realize that while my circumstance are unique, it doesn’t disqualify anyone from understanding and offering empathy. The pain and stages of grief are where others can connect to help me from getting isolated. I also keep at least one friend nearby who knows that during difficult seasons I may push people away, but really I want and need them close by. They know I need encouragement and to be refocused during those times.

Hebrews 12:3 is a great Scripture to help refocus in difficult times. It says, “So consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition from sinners who opposed their own souls, so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures” (TPT). Jesus, who is our intercessor, has been through worse things and attacks than anyone. The verse before this one reminds us that He endured all that for the joy set before Him knowing what good was going to come from it. Now He is able to be empathetic and to pray specifically for you to the Father. You are never alone in your struggles. You are never left without an intercessor who is praying for you. Don’t believe the lies you hear in your mind. Read the Word of God and stand on His promises. It may not feel like it, and you may not be able to see it, but He is working things out for your good.

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Refocusing On God

How do you respond when life doesn’t go according to your plan? How do you handle it when things go wrong? I usually complain, get mad and let my outward demeanor show it. I then start trying to fix it, figure out what I need to cut to get back on track and go faster. When that doesn’t work, the previous response get elevated and I try going faster. It’s my wife who usually has to bring me back to reality. She’ll say something like, “Remember this may not be part of your plan, but it could be part of God’s. Have you tried praying yet?” Most of the time that works. It helps me refocus on God’s plan instead of my own. When it doesn’t work, she starts praying out loud for the situation and me.

Job was the model person for how to respond when our plans go wrong. Things were going great in his life until one day when a storm knocked down the house his kids were in. Then his property was raided and the people stole his livestock and killed his shepherds. All he had worked for was gone in an instant. Instead of getting angry or blaming God, Job 1:20 says, “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped” (ESV). He didn’t run to his vice. He didn’t go try to fix things or make a new plan. He mourned for his losses and found a way to return his focus to God.

I love the prayer in Habakkuk 3. Verses 17-18 say, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” When everything is going wrong in your life, it’s time turn towards God and try things his way. When the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, find a way to worship and rejoice in the God of your salvation. I know this is easier said than done, but it takes a conscious effort to refocus and recognize that it’s not God destroying your life or taking things away from you. That’s not who He is. When we worship like Job in difficult times, it gets our focus back on the only one who can sustain us and help us. Remember, His plan is greater than ours and He can restore what was taken from you.

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Worship In The Valley

Two of the biggest lies we hear when we’re going through a difficult time is that no one else understands and that God doesn’t care. I remember hearing both and believing them. The first one tries to get you on a technicality because there is no one else with your exact situation. I’ve found that while our situations may be unique, the pain and the process we go through is very similar. While someone may not be able to fully understand my exact situation, they can identify with the pain. That leads us to the second lie that God doesn’t care. The lie wants you to think that if God cared, you wouldn’t be going through so much. The truth is that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He’s there with you to guide you and comfort you. He makes all things work together for our good.

I don’t know anyone who went through as much as Paul or Job. Job lost everything including his wealth, his kids and property. He still was able to worship God in that moment. In Job 2:9, when his wife told him to curse God and die, he responded, “Shall we accept good from God and not the trouble?” (NIV) When Paul was thrown in prison with Silas after having been beat, he invited God’s presence into the deepest, darkest part of that prison in the middle of the night by singing praises. When both of these men felt abandoned by people and God, they worshipped knowing that God dwells in the praises of His people. They held to the truth that God cares for us no matter how bad things may seem.

Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul” (NLT). In the darkest nights of my life, the most painful times, I turned on praise and worship music to help me worship when I didn’t feel it. God is worthy of our praise no matter what it is we’re going through. He sees the anguish in our soul and He cares deeply for us. He knows that the pain, the hurt, the sadness and the darkness will only last for a little while. He never leaves us in those times though He may feel far away. He’s there leading us into a greater joy and life that often goes through the darkest valley. Don’t listen to the lies and despair. Listen to the truth and worship.

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The Road Of Adversity

Several years ago I attended a Catalyst Conference for pastors and ministers. One of the keynote speakers was Andy Stanley who pastors at North Point Ministries, a multi location church in Atlanta. In his address he said, “Some of you may be wondering why you’re not up here speaking. More than likely it’s because you haven’t been through enough adversity.” He went on to share some of the adversity his family had been through. He also talked about some of the things the other speakers had been through. His dad once said, “If you want God’s best for your life and desire to be used by Him, at some point you’re going to have to travel the road of adversity. God designed adversity to be a turning point from which you take your greatest leaps forward in spiritual growth.”

After David had been anointed king, he was chased by King Saul. In one of those instances he had to flee the country and live with the Philistines. David had agreed to fight Israel with the Philistines and other armies, but the other kings were afraid David would turn on them. They sent him home to Ziklag where he had been living. When he approached the city, they saw smoke. The Amalekites knew it would be unprotected so they attacked it, burned down all their homes and possessions and took their wives and kids. David and his men wept until they couldn’t weep anymore. His men were bitter and began to talk openly about stoning him. 1 Samuel 30:6 says, “But David found strength in the Lord his God” (NLT). He consulted the Lord, found out their wives and kids were still alive, tracked them down, attacked the Amalekites and set them free.

Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” This verse reminds us that we are going to face a lot of trouble in our lives, but it also gives hope that God will rescue us each time. God will use adversity for your good. He also won’t let it last longer than it needs to once it has produced in you what He needs accomplished. He uses it to birth character, strength, endurance and so much more in us. It’s hard to see that as you’re walking through it, but when you look back on the times you’ve walked down the road of adversity, you can see God’s hand in it, how He delivered you from it and the good things He produced in you. It can still be painful to look back on, and you might not have all the answers as to why, but you can know that God never abandoned you on the road of adversity and He used it to get you to a place you never could have been without it.

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The Door Of Hope

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Uncomfortable Moments

One of the things my wife and I feel is our duty as parents is to help to help our son become a mature adult one day who is equipped to handle life. To do that, we often give him the opportunity to make tough decisions. We help him think through rewards and consequences of those decisions to help him build a foundation of decision making principles. Instead of being grateful, he complains. He asks, “Why do you always make me have hard choices?” We answer, “Because life is full of hard choices. The sooner you learn how to make them, the better your life will be.” He is too young to understand that right now, but as parents, we want our child to have the tools necessary for maturity. We don’t mind putting him in tough positions that make him uncomfortable because we know that he will need those skills down the road.

Because you and I are full functioning adults on this planet, we forget that we are in a similar relationship with our Heavenly Father. You and I are His children, and His goal for us is spiritual maturity. Just like a good parent, He will often force us out of our comfort zone to teach us dependence on Him, to produce character or to prepare us for the future. It’s never convenient, sometimes painful, but always productive. His concern is for our growth more than our comfort. He will do whatever is necessary to help us become more like Him. We can complain asking, “Why,” or we can endure and grow.

Isaiah 30:20 says, “The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more” (GNT). God doesn’t abandon you when the going gets tough. He’s right there with you teaching you if you’re listening. The more difficult the situation is, the more of His grace you get to experience. It is always sufficient for your circumstances. I’ve found that going through the hard times have drawn me closer to Him rather than farther away. As C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” He loves us enough to do what it takes to help us hear Him, to know Him and to grow in Him. Don’t discount the hard times. God may just be using them to help you know Him more.

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Speaking In Faith

Several years ago I taught a psychology of sales class. As part of the curriculum, we dealt with the rejection that all sales people face and how to overcome it. One of the methods was to speak out loud positive things about yourself that you wanted to happen. One exercise in particular had participants write down one attribute they wanted to be stronger in. They would get up in front of the group and say, “I am more courageous!” Then the rest of the crowd would shout back, “You are more courageous!” They were then encouraged to keep repeating it at home over and over until they became whatever it was that they chose in order to get it into their subconscious. Psychologists have proven that you can change your behavior, your mindset and even your attributes by creating new neuropathways for your thoughts to travel down. In order to do that, you had to create new paths and those began by speaking out in faith, if you will, about the new way you wanted your brain to think.

The apostle Paul was a person who faced a lot of adversity after he converted to Christianity. He was thrown in prison, he was whipped five times, beaten with a rod three times, stoned, shipwrecked, put in dangerous situations and so much more. If anyone had a reason to speak negatively, it was him. Yet despite all the troubles he had, he held firmly to his faith and spoke words of faith to the churches of that time. He stayed faithful to God despite what his circumstances were. In prison, he sang praises. In storms, he encouraged others, In pain, he trusted in God’s grace. In whatever he faced, he reminded himself that nothing could ever separate him from the love of God. He knew that his words were powerful not only for himself, but for others as well. He wrote many of his letters, which are the books of the New Testament in the Bible, from prison. He understood the importance of staying faithful to God and speaking words of faith in the most trying times. If Paul did it, so should we.

Psalm 116:10-11 says, “Even when it seems I’m surrounded by many liars and my own fears, and though I’m hurting in my suffering and trauma, I will stay faithful to God and speak words of faith” (TPT). Like Paul and this psalmist, you and I must stay faithful to God and speak in faith about all He has done and will do. Many times our situation and circumstances stand opposed to who God is and what we know of Him. In those times, we must trust in the unchanging nature of God rather than what our physical eyes and mind are telling us. We should sing praises and Bible verses out loud to get them into our mind and subconscious. Remember that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Don’t be afraid to read the Bible out loud, to pray out loud and to sing out loud when you feel surrounded by your circumstances. You will find strength, encouragement and faith to keep moving forward and to keep trusting in God’s plan for your life.

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Goodbye, Worry

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other 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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Going Through The Valley

I’ll never forget the first time I climbed up the side of a mountain. I was somewhere in Washington State a month or two after my mom passed away. I remember the climb up was more difficult than I imagined. When I got halfway up, I sat down to take break. As I looked down on the valley, I was struck by its beauty and lush vegetation. I remember thinking that while I couldn’t stay in the valley, I could at least grow while I was in it. What had seemed dark and dry from below, now looked like fertile soil from higher up. God used that climb to speak to me and to bring healing. I wasn’t meant to stay in the valley, but just because I was walking through one, it didn’t mean God couldn’t grow me through it. What seemed like a dry time in my life was really God planting seeds in fertile soil.

When we go through some of the darkest times in our life, we refer to it as going through a valley. David famously wrote in the 23rd Psalm, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (NLT). God doesn’t leave us when we go through the valleys of life. He’s close to you even when you can’t feel Him, and He’s given you tools for protection and comfort. He then prepares a table for you there representing that you will be taken care of and that you can thrive even in the darkest times of your life.

I like the promise given in Psalm 84:6-7. It says, “As they pass through the dry valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs; the autumn rain fills it with pools. They grow stronger as they go; they will see the God of gods on Zion” (GNT). Your dry, dark times will become a place of life that you will look back on the rest of your life to draw strength from. It doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but when you get more perspective as you move forward up the mountains in your life, you will see that God never left you and He uses these times to make us stronger. Keep pushing forward through what seems like a dark and dry time, trust the promises in God’s Word and know that what you’re walking through is preparing you to make a difference in the lives of others. What seems like an end is truly a new beginning.

Thanks to Sohaib Ghyasi @sohaibghyasi for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

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