Tag Archives: hard times

Preparing To Help Others

Several years ago I got a group of people together online who were going through difficult times. My plan was to meet with them each day for 30 days to provide them with encouragement from God’s Word as I shared the struggle I had made it through. I think we were about a week into it when one of the participants messaged me and said, “We get it that you made it through. What we need to know is how you made it through.” It was an aha moment for me as a writer, but as I went to answer her, I realized I hadn’t stopped to consider the steps I had taken to survive. The group quickly fizzled out because I didn’t have that answer. I wanted to help them, but just because I had walked where they were walking didn’t help them much. It gave them hope that they could survive, but still left them without a roadmap out.

There are several books of the Bible that share with us the struggles that David went through. He waited nearly 15 years from the time he was anointed king to becoming king, he ran from Saul, faced a coup from his son, sinned against God and so much more. His life was not perfect and he went through a lot. Reading about those things is inspiring, but it’s the Psalms that draw us in because they are the roadmap. They share how he survived those trials and consequences. He writes out where he put his hope, how he trusted God and that he needed a new heart. They speak to us more than the stories because as we go through difficulties, we need practical information of how to get through things.

2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God” (GNT). If you’ve made it through troubled times, think about how you made it through so you can help those who will go through something similar later. If you’re going through hard times now, keep a journal. It may be the key that helps someone else later. Your trials are not without purpose. Yes, they help purify you and strengthen you, but they’re also so that you can help someone else later. God helps us through difficult times, but there are practical things you’re doing or have done that other will need to know. Don’t get stuck without an answer like I was. Be prepared to help with a roadmap when the time comes.

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Trusting The Truth

I have a friend who is both a pilot and a flight instructor. Being a trainer myself, I asked him about ways he helps people to remember things. He shared that two things he tries to teach pilots are to trust the instruments and also to go to the manual when there’s a problem. He said that many pilots have died because they trusted what they thought they saw instead of the instruments. They have special visors that block the pilots view of everything except the instruments to teach them to trust them. To teach them to go to the manual, he distracts them mid flight, then he shuts off the engines when their not looking. He lets them panic until they remember to go to the manual. Once they do that, they go through their checklist, find the problem and restart the engines. It’s a lesson they never forget.

Both of those are great lessons for us to remember as well. We can’t trust what we feel or even see with our eyes. Feelings lie to us and manipulate us. They’re there as warning signs, but if we constantly live by our feelings, we’ll have a miserable life. We live in an age where people believe truth is relative to the individual. What’s true for me may not be true for you. Living like that is like flying by what you see and not by the instruments. It’s dangerous. Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. He is the absolute truth that we must use to guide our lives with beyond our feelings. He told us that we’re going to have trouble and face things that will cause us to want to lose faith, but He also said that He has overcome the world and will give us peace. We get that peace when we trust Him more than what we feel or see.

We’ve also been given an instruction manual in the Bible. It is also absolute truth. When the engines of our life shut off and we start to nose dive, go to the manual God gave us. I love how Philippians 4:8 starts. It says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true” (NLT). Don’t let fear dictate your thoughts and actions. Compare everything to what is true. If it’s not true, don’t give it space in your head. What God says is more true than your situational feelings. Fix your mind on God’s absolute truth and not on your feelings. Fix your mind on the truth of God’s Word and not what others tell you is true. This takes discipline, but it gives you peace when everything seems to be falling apart. Jesus has not abandoned you or forgotten you. He’s right there in the cockpit of life with you reminding you to trust His instruments and His Word to get you through.

Photo by Oskar Kadaksoo on Unsplash

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Place Of Abundance

When we go through hard times, we all want to know why. What did we do to deserve it? Why does it have to last so long? Did God abandon us? Has He forgotten us? How much more can we endure before we break? These are all questions we think about when we go through the fire of trials. It’s been my experience that it’s not until well after that I begin to get any insight into it, if at all. So why does God allow us to face unbearable conditions?

In a word, it’s transformational. There can be no transformation in our lives without hard times. They mold us, purify us and move us from one place to another. As my nephew says, “No pressure, no diamond.” The problem is, we want the diamond without the pressure. We want the transformation without the trial. We want strength without having to endure heavy lifting. We want things now instead of later, but that’s not how God works, nor is it how we were designed.

In Psalm 66:10-12 it says, “You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance” (NLT). It was God who tested them, put a heavy burden on them and sent them through the fire and flood. He does the same to us today. It’s not fun, it hurts and it’s hard to get through at times, but God has a plan.

As the psalmist wrote, He’s purifying us in order to bring us to a place of abundance. You can’t get to the abundance without going through the purification of fire. When those times come remember that if you will endure it, God is working it out for your good. He’s bringing you to a place that you could never get to without having gone through it. Also remember his promise in Isaiah 42:3, “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.” He’s there with you in these times and won’t let them crush you. Hang in there, abundance is coming.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Praying In Troubled Times

I was watching the Grow Leadership conference this week, and the last session was “Thriving In Storms”. There was a lot of talk during that session of how pastors can lead and grow during difficult times. However, it’s not just pastors who go through difficult times. We all do, and several of the things he talked about translate to you and me including his final point. In times of trouble, you and I need to be looking up instead of around. When there’s chaos in our life, the tendency is to be looking around at all of it in disbelief. Our brains are made for order, not chaos, and when it happens to us, we lose sight of our focus. John Maxwell often says, “What you think about grows.” Are you thinking about the troubles you’re going through or the one who can help you through them?

Chris Hodges also said something that we all need to be reminded of. He said, “Prayer is not just communicating with God. It’s also waging war against the enemy.” When we’re going through a troubled time, we send up a few 911 prayers, but after that, our prayer life tends to drop off. We can’t afford to get off our knees when we’re going through troubled times. We need the communication with the Father who will lead us through the valley, and we also need to be waging war against the one who is attacking us. Instead of letting troubles disrupt your communication with God, make a conscious effort to increase your prayer time. It will have a twofold effect: 1. Your faith will increase as your communication and focus on God increase. 2. You will pull down strongholds that are trying to keep you from thriving.

Here are some Bible verses on praying in troubled times.

1. Leave your troubles with the Lord, and he will defend you; he never lets honest people be defeated.

Psalm 55:22 GNT

2. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him from all his troubles.

Psalms 34:6 AMP

3. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

4. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.

Psalms 9:9 NLT

5. Let this hope burst forth within you, releasing a continual joy. Don’t give up in a time of trouble, but commune with God at all times.

Romans 12:12 TPT

Photo by Ana-Maria Berbec on Unsplash

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Salt Or Pepper

Recently we had a friend, who is a chef, come to the house to prepare a meal for us and to teach us how to prepare steaks. We had three different petite steaks prepared three different ways. One was reverse seared, one was sous vide and one was dry brined. On the dry brine, he told us to cover the steak with salt and allow it to sit for at least an hour before washing off and cooking. The salt will pull the moisture to the surface of the steak creating a juicy, flavorful steak with a caramelized outside. The salt worked well before and during the cooking process. He then told us it’s best not to use pepper until after you’ve cooked your steak. Whereas salt interacts well with the fire, pepper actually adopts a bitter taste that we’ve all become used to.

As I was reading Mark 9:49-50, I thought about this dinner. Jesus said, “Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt. Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have the salt of friendship among yourselves, and live in peace with one another” (GNT). Every one of us will go through the fire in this life. Will we dry up and get burned during that time or will we become more flavorful? I love how The Message puts Jesus’ word of Matthew 5. It says, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

Our lives should be bring out God flavors in this world especially when we’re going through hard times. We shouldn’t be like those with pepper on them producing bitterness. Just like those steaks, it helps if we’re covered in salt before we go through the fire. We must continually be in prayer and in God’s Word so that when the fire comes, that’s what comes out of us. The world is going through a tough time right now. People are afraid, bitter and arguing. What better time for us to be salt and light than now? We have an opportunity like never before to bring out the God-flavors of the world. Let’s not squander it by being bitter. Let your salt be flavorful and leave a good taste in people’s mouth as you point them to God.

Photo by Edson Saldaña on Unsplash

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Speaking Over The Storm

One of the most incredible stories of the Gospels happened on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 after mourning the death of John the Baptist. He put the disciples in a boat and told them to go to the other side. Matthew, who was not a fisherman, said that a storm came up and the boat tossed all night. He even said the wind was against them as if it had a problem with them. They fought the storm for every inch hours on end in the dark of night. Sometime after 3 AM, they saw someone walking on water towards them in the middle of this madness. Exhausted from serving others all day and fighting the storm all night, they let fear set in. They became terrified of the ghost walking on the water towards them. Mark wrote that they all screamed in terror. But then Jesus spoke over the wind, over the waves crashing against the boat, over their high pitched screams, over the thunder, over the darkness, and calmed them with a few words.

It’s easy to sit here in my house on dry land, protected from the elements and after a good night’s sleep to judge their fear. Didn’t Jesus send them across the lake? Where was their faith? Didn’t they know He wouldn’t let them drown? But when you’re in the thick of battle and you’re exhausted fear has an open door. When you’ve tried a thousand times, when you don’t know what else to do, when you followed God’s voice and you feel alone, when you’ve done all you can do and nothing is working out, it’s only natural to be afraid and to doubt. I believe that just like He didn’t abandon the disciples, He won’t abandon you. His words back then still speak to us today. Courage! Don’t be afraid! Your redeemer sees you struggling, fighting for every inch, pushing forward when everything seems to be against you, and He’s there in the storm with you speaking peace to you over it all.

Here are some Bible verses to remind you not to be afraid.

1. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told them, “it is I!”

John 6:20 GNT

2. Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

Isaiah 41:10 AMP

3. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Luke 12:7 NLT

4. Even though dark powers prowl around me, I won’t be afraid.

Psalms 3:6 TPT

5. When I am afraid, I will put my trust and faith in You.

Psalms 56:3 AMP

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Walking Freely In The Fire

To me, one of the coolest stories in the Bible is the one where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. As you know, they refused to bow to the god King Nebuchadnezzar built and set up. When the king confronted them, they didn’t back down from their beliefs knowing it would mean their death. In Daniel 3:17-18, they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (NLT).

Their response visibly angered the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than normal. He then had the boys bound up, hand and feet, dragged to the furnace, and thrown in. It was so hot that the men who dragged them there died. The king then noticed something odd. In verse 25, he said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” He then called them out of the fire and promoted them to higher positions.

When you look back on your life, when was God most evident? Where can you see Him most clearly? For me, it’s in the hardest times. You could say it was when I was walking through the fires of life. When we are cast in the fire, we don’t always know if we will survive. We know God is able, but there is no guarantee He will get us out of the fire. Even still, we are required to endure and to be willing to be subjected to the fires of life.

Remember, it was in the fire that they were freed from the ropes that bound them. But even before that, God was with them. He’s not always visible leading up to the fire, but I know He was standing there with them as they refused to bow. It was only in the fire that He was revealed. God is most evident in the hardest times of our lives because those are the times we trust Him the most. When we walk through the fire, our faith is deepened, our character is strengthened, and God’s love for us is proven.

You and I don’t have to fear the flames. We can walk freely in them with the Son of God beside us. I don’t know if the three Hebrew boys saw the Son of God in the fire with them or not, but He was there. We don’t always see God walking in the fire with us until we look back on it. So if you’re in the furnace now, look around. God has not abandoned you. He is there walking with you. He may not be visible now, but He’s there growing you, preparing you, and making you more like Him. Don’t give up in the furnace. Walk freely in the fire.

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Power Of Praise

When I was a child, I started to learn the power of praise and worship. My earliest recollection of it was hearing the story of King Saul who was tormented by an evil spirit. David would come in, play his harp singing songs of praise to God, and the spirit would leave the king. I remember then hearing the story of Paul and Silas in prison. They had been beaten and were in the deepest, darkest part of the dungeon. In the middle of the night, they began to sing praises to God. The prison shook, the chains fell off and they were free. Then I memorized Ephesians 5:19 where Paul emphasizes to believers that we need to be, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melodies in your heart to the Lord” (KJV).

I know when I’ve had major events in my life, I’ve turned on praise and worship music to help me get through. When I’m stressed out and under emotional pressure, I find a praise and worship station on Pandora. All of a sudden, the atmosphere around me begins to change. My mind shifts from my problems to my savior. There is a powerful thing that happens in those moments as I invite God’s presence into our situation. The thought chains that held my mind captive begin to fall off. The way I see and approach the problems changes as I shift my focus from them to the One who is greater than anything I face. I go from being the victim in the situation to the victor because I take up the weapon of the Word of God and began to fight the unseen battle.

Psalm 71:14 says, “No matter what, I’ll trust in you to help me. Nothing will stop me from praising you to magnify your glory!” (TPT). The writer knew that there will be things that happen to you to try to take your focus off of God. There will be lies spoken and heard internally that tell you God has abandoned you and forgotten you. However, he purposed in his heart that nothing (no lie, no circumstance, no situation or pressure) would keep him from praising God. When we focus our hearts on praise, our faith and trust in God rises. We quit listening to our circumstances and begin to speak into them with the Word of God. Don’t underestimate the power of praise in your life. God isn’t listening to see if you can carry a tune in a bucket, He’s listening to the intent in your heart. Don’t stop praising God no matter what is happening in your life because it will carry you through and break the chains trying to hold you down.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Rock Of Help

When I get overwhelmed by circumstances and things going on in my life, I do an exercise in faith. Before I panic, I force myself to remember times when God has come through for me. I try to think of all the times before when things have been hopeless and at the last minute, He answered. Doing that reminds me that God answers at just the right time, that He sees my situation and that He’s been faithful in the past. When I begin to take my focus off of how impossible my situation is and remind myself of how capable my God is, my attitude starts to change.

The Israelites were at Mizpah offering sacrifices to God for their sin. I Samuel 7 tells us that all of Israel was there repenting. While they were gathered for offerings, the Philistines decided to attack them. The Israelites were scared, confused and began to panic. Samuel cried out to God on their behalf as he made a sacrifice. Verse 10 says that as he was making the sacrifice, the Philistines showed up for battle. God spoke from Heaven in loud claps of thunder that threw the enemy into confusion. After Israel routed the Philistines that day, Samuel set up a rock and named it “Ebenezer” which means rock of help.

Anytime that Israel was in distress, they simply had to look at that rock and remember that God came through in an impossible situation. It was a reminder that if He did it before, He’ll do it again. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. David knew that too. I wonder how many times he passed by Ebenezer and called out to God. In Psalm 61:2, he wrote, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” He wanted to be led to God, but also to that memory that God saves us just in time.

When we get overwhelmed, our prayer shouldn’t be one of panic. It should be that we are led to the rock that is higher than we are. When the enemy comes in like a flood, we need to run to that rock for safety. When we can’t see tomorrow because of all the trouble today holds, we need to remember the God we serve. We need to call to mind the great things He has done in the past and remind ourselves that we are not forgotten. We have not been abandoned. He will come just in the nick of time as He always has.

Don’t make your decisions based on fear. Make them based on the faith that God hears us. Make them based on how He has responded in your life in the past. Your situation may seem hopeless. You may be outnumbered, out gunned and surrounded, but you serve a God who is able. He is able yo deliver you from whatever you are facing today. It’s not too late. You’re not too engulfed. You’re not finished. When you’re overwhelmed, run to the Rock of Help. He’s there for you in your time of need.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

My Will Be Done

I have a friend who has a favorite quote that he has to use often. He plans out his week, prioritizes things and works his plan. All week long people come to him and ask him to stop what he’s doing in order to help them. They give excuses and sob stories to try to get him to stop what he’s doing so he can work on their project. Some will even invoke the boss’ name to try to get him to work on their stuff. “The boss says you need to work on this right away.” He’s learned that rarely has the boss ever asked him to stop what he’s doing in order to do an immediate request. So his normal response is, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” He then adds them to his list and gets to them later.

Being around him and watching people beg, barter and demand he do their project now always gets me to thinking how often I treat God that way. “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do better next time.” “God, please! I need you to do this right now! Hurry!” “God, your Word says you have to do this and you can’t be untrue to your Word, so do it in Jesus name!” Sound familiar? I’ve prayed every one of those prayers in the last couple of weeks. I try to paint God into a corner in order to get Him to give me what I want. If that’s the on,y time we’re talking and that’s how I’m treating Him, there’s a spiritual maturity problem on my end. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” often comes to mind in those moment when I want it to be, “My will be done.”

In Psalm 69, David starts his prayer off, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me” (GNT). He’s clearly in an emergency situation as he describes throughout this Psalm. However, in verse 13, his tone changes and he prays, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose.” Instead or telling God when to help or even how to help, a sign of maturity is asking God to help in His time and in His way. I often wonder how many of my prayers go unanswered or that I don’t recognize the answer because I tell God how and when to answer, but those aren’t what His plans are. Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer giving God permission to have His will be done. Since He was teaching us to pray, let’s focus on the words we use in our prayers to make sure we’re asking according to His will and not ours.

Photo by Sam Rios on Unsplash

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized