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.
Several years ago, I was in a meeting with my boss, his boss and a regional president along with the other managers in my district. It was the start of a new quarter and we had to come in, defend our numbers from the past quarter and project what we were going to produce next quarter. The big boss was known for how hard on people she was. The guy right before me, got to his slide about next quarter’s numbers and she stopped him. She asked, “What are you doing to get these numbers?” He said, “What we’re going to do is,” and she interrupted him. “I didn’t ask what you were going to do. I asked what you were doing.” He started the same way again. She interrupted again and said, “If you were going to get these results, you wouldn’t be waiting to do anything. You’d be doing it now.” She told him to sit down, looked at me and said, “Let’s jump to this slide on yours and talk about what you’re doing today.”
As hard as that meeting was, I learned a valuable truth. We talk about tomorrow a lot and the things we’re going to do, but the truth is that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. How can we put off doing something worthwhile that will be impactful to a time period we’re not guaranteed? James wanted to know this too. In James 4, he talked about taking advantage of the moment you’re given: today. In verse 17 he penned some tough words like that president in the meeting. He wrote, “So if you know of an opportunity to do the right thing today, yet you refrain from doing it, you’re guilty of sin” (TPT). Ouch. To not take advantage of an opportunity to do the right thing right now is sin.
My middle initial is “P”. People always ask what it stands for. I like to tell them, “Procrastinator!” James doesn’t leave us any room for procrastination though. Every one of us are presented with opportunities to help people and to make a difference, but we second guess ourselves and procrastinate. Procrastination leads to excuses on why you didn’t accomplish something. I don’t want to stand before God one day with a list of excuses why I didn’t do something when given the opportunity. It’s time that you and I start taking advantage of the opportunities God gives us to make a difference each day. It may not have the global impact we want or get the attention of others that we crave, but it will get results for the person or people you help and will be noticed by God.
Throughout the last couple of millennia, Christianity has thrived in times of pandemics and plagues. While the world is full of fear from an unseen enemy, Christians have peace in knowing death is not the end. They know the words Jesus spoke, “Do not let your heart be troubled…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…Love your neighbor as yourself.” They have then put those words into practice. There are stories of places where the plagues were killing everyone, but it was the Christians who tended to the sick without fear. They used times of global fear to show the love of Christ and to explain the hope of salvation while hearts were open to understanding and learning about God.
I believe today is no different. We should be on the frontlines of bringing hope and peace. We should be encouraging people rather than living in fear. These windows of opportunity only open so often and close as quickly as they open. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “If anyone asks about the hope living in you, always be ready to explain your faith” (TPT). It’s times like these that we should be helping, encouraging and sharing our faith. When we put others first, especially in crisis, they want to know why we are doing what we are doing. That’s when we share the hope we have. That’s when we tell them our lives are not our own.
Hebrews 10:24 says, “Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love.” What creative things have you seen people doing for others lately? I’ve seen churches make masks to donate, care for widows, buy groceries for people out of work, offer drive through pantries and more. What can you do to bring hope and show compassion as an expression of God’s love? What has God put in your heart to do? Share it with others and encourage them to help you do it. This is our time to make a difference. This is our time to show others the peace they can have even in a crisis. Look for creative ways to encourage people being affected by this pandemic, and then go do it. You don’t need permission, you just need passion.
One of most accurate memes I’ve seen during this quarantine is, “Check on your extroverted friends. We’re not ok!” With everyone working and staying at home, people are looking for ways to connect. One way is to do a Facebook live video. In face so many are doing it now that Facebook has had to shift its resources and focus to improving that feature because of the use it’s getting. I also saw a Hallmark commercial where they are giving three free cards to everyone who requests them on their website. They’re wanting people to stay connected and to send encouraging words to someone else during this time. There is a unique opportunity right now to speak life into other people like never before.
If you watch the news, it’s hard to find hope of this ending anytime soon. The no school and stay home orders keep getting extended. Unemployment is rising every day as businesses struggle to adapt and fear keeps consumers home and from buying. Hope is what people are hungry for. In fact, I read an article yesterday from Pew research that said over 50% of people have now prayed for Coronavirus to end. People who haven’t talked to God in years or who have doubted His existence are now reaching out. The need for good news and hope is great. Have you prayed to ask God how He can use you to meet that need?
Don’t panic. Most of what God asks us to do are small steps of faith. It could be a Facebook live video, commenting on a post, sending an email (or card) or posting a prayer. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Nothing is more appealing than speaking beautiful, life-giving words. For they release sweetness to our souls and inner healing to our spirits” (TPT). You have the ability to bring healing right now. You have the ability to speak beautiful, life giving words. All it takes is for you to seek God on how He wants to use you during this time. You can do it because the same Spirit that dwelled in Christ, dwells in you. You are empowered to make a difference right now and to release sweetness to souls. You can make a difference today through the words you use.
In this time of hoarding, panic buying and shortages, it’s good to hear stories of how people are helping others. I’ve got friends who give toilet paper to people who are saying they’re running out. I’ve seen someone over tip for their takeout dinner knowing that the server isn’t getting a lot right now. I also heard of someone who sent their hairdresser the money they were going to spend on haircuts this month even though they weren’t going to be able to go in. These people are not succumbing to the fear. Instead, they’re being generous in a time when hoarding and selfishness is the norm.
If you were to take a pen, hold it out in front of you and let go of it, what would happen? Of course it would drop. But what if you did it again? And again? And again a million times? It would drop every time. Why? Because the Law of Gravity is at work. God has laws too, that when enacted, will give you the same results over and over just like gravity. One of those is the Law of Generosity. In Luke 6:38, Jesus told us that if we give, it will be given back to us, full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Our motives can’t be that we’re giving just so we get. They have to be from the heart of generosity. You must be giving so that you’re blessing those who have no ability to pay you back.
Proverbs 11:25 says, “Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others, and you will be helped” (GNT). The Law of Generosity was established in the Old Testament. God loves it when we put away our selfishness in order to help someone else. He blesses that. It’s not even about the amount you give either. Remember there was a widow who gave two pennies, and Jesus said she had given more than all the others who had brought in bags of money. God is always looking at our heart. He’s also always prompting us to give to others. Look around you today. Who is God asking you to be generous to? Look past the fear that is so rampant in today’s world and listen to the voice of God. We need to Law of Generosity in our world activated now more than ever.
Several years ago, I went through some very dark times in my life that I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. They left some very deep scars that I thought would never heal. Instead of going through a true healing process, I decided that it was best to treat that portion of my life as if it were a dream. I covered the wounds and vowed to never speak of them again. I thought that if I pretended it never happened, then I wouldn’t feel the pain of it. That seemed to work for a while until Dave Roever spoke at our church one Sunday.
Dave is a Vietnam veteran who had a phosphorus grenade blow up in his hand near his head as he was throwing it. He survived the explosion, but as a result of the explosion, he has a very disfigured face and hand. He told his story of his recovery and how God has used that terrible event to help him reach so many vets for Christ. Then he wrapped up his sermon by saying, “Don’t hide your scars. For in them, others will find their healing.”
I knew at that point it was time to unwrap my wounds to let them heal. I had to dig down inside, bring up all that hurt again to deal with it properly so God could use my story to help others find their healing. That’s how this site began actually. It was a way for me to process the hurt, but also a way for others to find their healing too. II Corinthians 1:4 says, “He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (MSG).
I don’t know the pain you’ve been through or are going through, but I do know that God has never left your side. He wants to help you heal your wounds so that He can bring others along side you who are going through something similar. He wants to use your scars to bring healing to others if you’re willing to let Him. Their situation may not be identical to yours, but the pain is the same and so is the healing process. Don’t hide your scars. Let God use them to help someone else who desperately needs your story.
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.
Over twenty years ago, “Saving Private Ryan” came out in theaters. It starts off at the Battle of Normandy and is one of the few movies that captures the reality of that day. A group of men are sent to find Private Ryan because both of his brothers had been killed in action and the government deemed it too great a cost for one family to lose all their sons. At the end of the movie, you see an older Private Ryan standing in Arlington National Cemetery speaking to a grave. He said, “To be honest with you, i wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day I think about what you said to me on the bridge (“Earn this”). I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”
It’s a very moving scene where a man reflects on his life hoping that he lived it well in response to others paying the ultimate sacrifice so he could live. I can’t help but to put myself in his place thinking about Jesus paying the ultimate sacrifice for my sins. At the end of my life, will I be able to say, “Lord, I gave it my all in response to what you did for me”? Does His death on the cross motivate me, or you, to live our lives to the fullest or are we merely existing going through life without trying? Are we willing to risk it all for Him or are we playing it safe hoping to arrive at Heaven having done nothing for Him? Philippians 3:12 says, “I keep striving to win the prize” (GNT). Paul never took his foot off the gas pressing onward in response to what Jesus did.
Proverbs 15:9 puts it, “A life frittered away disgusts GOD; he loves those who run straight for the finish line” (MSG). God delights in us living our lives intentionally, not to try to earn salvation, but to show our love for Him. Each of us have one life to live, so live it to the best of your ability. Don’t waste your life just trying to make it through each week. Do something with it. Give yourself to serving others. Support people who give up everything to share the Gospel. Find out the name of an orphan and show them the love of the Father. Make your life matter. Life is not about becoming rich and famous. It’s about fulfilling what God created you for. Your life has purpose. Don’t fritter away the talents God gave you. Live life to the fullest.
When God spoke to us about changing churches, we weren’t happy about it. At the new church we would come in late and leave early to avoid connecting with people. We did this for about nine months. Then the pastor reached out and wanted to go to lunch. At the lunch, he said, “I want you to know that I know you’re in our church. If you’re here to heal and want to move on, that’s fine. If you’re only here temporarily and want to move to another church, I can help you find one. If you’re going to stay here, let me know when you’re ready to get engaged. Whatever you and God decide, I’ll support.”
It was very impactful for me because he wasn’t just acknowledging I was there. He was calling me off of the sidelines and telling me that wherever I went I was going to have to get active again. When I was ready to get active again, I let him know. He had me meet with the executive pastor to see where I would fit best. He said, “We have a lot of places we could plug you into, but we want to find the right fit for you.” We met several times before finding a place. They were putting 1 Thessalonians 5:14 into practice.
It says, “We appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, to instruct those who are not in their place of battle. Be skilled at gently encouraging those who feel themselves inadequate. Be faithful to stand your ground. Help the weak to stand again. Be quick to demonstrate patience with everyone” (TPT). Each of us have a place on the battlefield with a job to do. At times, every one of us will feel inadequate and we need help standing. If you’re there now, surround yourself with those who will help you. If you see someone else in that place, reach out and help them. We are to help each other reach our potential and to do our part in the Kingdom work.
I love the song “Overcome” sung by Jeremy Camp. It was written by a friend of his who went to a church that went through some difficult times. One of the incidents was where a gunman came in and opened fire killing several people. The church’s response wasn’t to close down or to operate in fear. Instead, this song became their anthem. They took their focus off of themselves and their situation, and put it on the one who has already overcome and who gives us victory. I think this song resonates with so many people because we all go through difficulties. We all have times in our lives when we’re desperate.
When you think about those times in your life, there’s a voice in your head that tells you, “No one else is going through this. You’re the only one who is experiencing this. You’re alone. No one understands.” Those lies are meant to isolate you and to keep you quiet. They are the first step in defeating you, but you must not listen to them. While your situation may be unique to you, the pain you feel has been felt by many and will be felt by others in the future. When you’re quiet about what you’re experiencing, you prevent those who can help you from coming to your aid. You also fail to give hope to those who will experience pain in the future.
Revelations 12:11 says, “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony” (NLT). If we’re quiet, we’re defeated, but if we speak, we defeat our accuser. Testimonies are powerful and our enemy would rather we stay quiet. If God has brought you through something, tell your story. It’s in your pain that others will find their healing. It’s in telling your story that you will overcome. Don’t be a prison to your past pain any longer. Share it even if it’s with one person, and defeat your enemy.
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.
If your spirit has ever been broken, you know how hard it is to get through the day. It’s hard to even wake up, let alone face people. Worry consumes your mind. You question everyone’s intentions, and your energy gets depleted. It’s tough to be stuck in that phase. If you’ve ever been through it, then you can empathize with others who are going through it. They need your support and encouragement more than your advice in those times.
Proverbs 15:13 says, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day” (MSG). When you see someone whose spirit has been crushed and they’re struggling to make it through the day, offer words that will encourage them to continue going. Chances are that it was words that put them in that state and its our words that can bring them out of it. If only we had the courage to speak them.
If you’ve ever watched an action movie, there is usually a scene where one person is hanging off a cliff or the side of a building and another person grabs them with one arm. They then use all their strength to pull that person back to safety. That’s what our words have the power to do. They can pull back someone who has been pushed over the edge and is barely hanging on. We have the power and strength to save someone’s life simply by encouraging them.
I Thessalonians 5:11 says, “So encourage each other and build each other up” (NLT). Paul’s words are a reminder to us as Christians that we are to constantly be encouraging, strengthening, edifying, and building each other up. We are to find a way to a cheerful heart. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing” (AMP). You can help heal someone’s brokenness today if only you will open your mouth to offer encouragement instead of correction or direction. You have the power, use it.