Encouragement When You are Battling Rejection

I woke up one morning recently crying after having a very vivid, heart-piercing dream. It was almost as if my current heart-struggle was being played out right before me; I could honestly see this dream happening in reality.

The words that were spoken (in the dream) to me and my husband cut to the core, and they hurt so badly that my first reaction was tears so strong that they stained my cheeks when I awoke.

Being a story-teller allows for intense dream-tales in my mind while I’m supposed to be resting, sleeping. It’s something I have always dealt with since I was a child- I wake up trying to shake the mental visions, telling myself over and over again that it’s not real. Eventually, the emotions fade, and I can go on with the rest of my day.

In this recent instance, I had trouble getting passed the pain and just began talking to God about it. It was very obvious and simple- I was still dealing with rejection and it still hurt, but I was reminded that there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Although Proverbs 18:24 doesn’t necessarily say that friend is Jesus, I know that He will always be there for me even when everyone else fails me. Scripture tells us that God never leaves us or forsakes us in Deuteronomy 31:6. This truth from the Old Testament about our never-changing God is also stated again as a reminder in Hebrews 13, along with this powerful truth that people will fail us, and people may reject us, but we should not fear, for God is on our side. He is our helper.

“…for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b-6, NASB). 

When we face rejection from others, we must remember that Jesus understands more than anyone what rejection feels like, as He is very familiar with it Himself. Many people rejected Jesus (and continue to do so) while He was here on earth, even one of His very own disciples (Judas) rejected Him and betrayed Him. And just a couple hours later, another one of His closest disciples (Peter) rejected knowing Him. Three times to be exact. Aren’t you so thankful for Jesus’ forgiveness when we turn our backs on Him! He gives us so many opportunities to repent and make things right in our relationship with Him! His mercies towards us are new every single morning…oh, what love! The Lord understands our pain regarding rejection and His arms are open wide, so let us be quick to draw near to Him. Lo, He is always with you…even to the end of the age!

Abba Father,

I’m hurting. I don’t want to hold onto this pain of rejection. I want to heal from the wounds of those who have hurt me. I choose to forgive. I want You to bless those who hurt me, even if they don’t want me in their life anymore. Your Son was rejected, even by You, for a moment when He took the punishment of sin, out of love for me. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend I need who sticks by me no matter what. I love You, Lord. Thank You for always loving me and never leaving me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Guarding Against Grumbling

When it comes to sin in our life, sometimes we attempt to overlook or give excuses for our behavior if we feel like our actions are justified because of our circumstances. For example, when I am sleep deprived, my flesh thinks it perfectly acceptable for me to deal out a hefty dose of sarcasm to my seven-year-old who has asked me the same question twelve times before my morning coffee or to murmur under my breath that I can’t believe my husband left his glass of milk from the night before on the floor again and, of course, the toddler just dumped it all over the living room right on cue.

But those actions do not glorify God, and they are rooted in sin. If I am a child of God, His Spirit will bring conviction to my heart with His word because it is my heart that needs attention and change. When I’m tempted to complain, which we are all naturally prone to every single day, this passage from Philippians 2 comes to mind to bring truth to my heart:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15, ESV).

As God’s children, we are not to grumble. We must remember that, ultimately, grumbling is complaining against the sovereign God of the universe and saying He isn’t good, which is sinful. When we complain, we should repent, reset our mind by thinking on things above, and rejoice and give thanks to God for His graciousness towards us. There are new mercies available to us every single morning. Perhaps it would be a beneficial habit to create a daily list of things that you are grateful for to help cultivate a heart of contentment and gratitude. Despite hardships and inconveniences in our life and relationships, we are called to rejoice and find our joy in Christ. It all comes down to the attitude and posture of our heart. 

How about your attitude when you disagree with someone, or they have offended you? When you are in a disagreement with someone, do you want to be right more than you want to pursue unity with that person? Do you allow a bad attitude to drag you into unnecessary arguments or even gossip to complain to someone else instead of going directly to the person who you are annoyed or upset with? Disagreements are inevitable, but most of all, God cares about our attitude during disagreements and doesn’t want us to be swept up in foolish arguments constantly. We can disagree with others without being disagreeable or prideful.

If we are entangled in senseless disputing and complaining, the world has trouble seeing the light of Christ in our life. We see in verse 15 of Philippians 2 that the Lord wants Christ followers to shine bright in a culture full of darkness. Our lives are to be a brilliant beacon of light in the darkness as we stand as God’s children against the wickedness of the world. 

“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:15, ESV).

One way we can protect ourselves against complaining and empower our hearts to shine bright for Christ is to be diligent to cling daily to the Word of life so that we can thrust it into a dark world. The Word of God helps us to renew our mind so we can cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and stand out in the world, pointing others to the hope that we know in Jesus. In addition to our daily time in the Word, we must abide in the Vine by communing with Him daily. We can call upon the name of the Lord to cry out for help when we are tempted to complain and grumble. He is our ever-present help in time of need and is faithful to strengthen us.

Father God,

Although it is easy to find excuses for the reasons of my behavior, I know Your Word is very clear about the posture of our heart and attitude, especially when it comes to circumstances that are difficult, stressful, or even painful. You care about the condition of our heart and the attitude that we exude because as Christ followers we are to look and behave differently. People are watching all the time how we react when we are offended or struggling under the weight of the cares of life. I ask that You would first and foremost, give me a hunger for more of Your Word. I know that is where my mind is renewed; The Word helps me cultivate the fruit of the Spirit and walk in obedience. Help me to guard my heart and avoid grumbling and complaining and arguing with others. I ask for a spirit of gentleness and peace with others so that I can pursue unity and be grateful for all the good gifts from You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Weeping in the night, Joy in the Morning

I am convinced that sleep deprivation from the baby/toddler phase is the mom version of fasting. My flesh becomes so weakened and my reliance upon God becomes absolutely everything. I cannot help but rely on His grace to do pretty much anything. If you count third trimester lack of sleep from the uncomfortableness and countless trips of waddling to the bathroom, I literally haven’t slept through the night in almost two years. This isn’t hyperbole- my 17-month-old has NEVER slept through the night. My middle son took 25 months to do so- which was only six months before my youngest was born. It’s been an extremely physically and mentally (and often emotionally) trying season that has lasted years.

I don’t share all of this to complain or receive sympathy or ask for advice. I share to remind you (and myself) that the Lord is near to those suffering and in that suffering, He brings unspeakable joy that is not dependent upon our circumstances. No matter how overwhelming it may feel, His grace is sufficient in your weakness. Lean upon Him, and He will strengthen you and transform you in your suffering to look more like Him.

When I was praying the other night in the midnight hours during the on and off wakings (awakened every one-two hours because of his teething pain and what I can assume is the 18 month sleep regression), I said “God, I know he is a gift…please help me.” And as I reflect upon this trying season, I’m realizing the ways my son is a gift from the Father, along with all my children, of course. I cannot help but praise God in the midst of my pain for the Lord’s faithfulness to me. Even though my circumstances have not changed, He is changing me. I am encouraged by these verses in Psalm 30 to give thanks and remember that joy always comes in the morning:

“Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:4-5, NASB

When my flesh is weak because of the difficulties that come with this season of motherhood, and I am humbled to my knees, by God’s grace, I am able to bear fruit and walk in the Spirit in a way that pleases the Lord. Instead of asking God to rescue me from my weeping and struggles with my son’s sleep, I find myself thanking God through tears of joy for this sleep deprivation. Suffering is a gift and with it comes joy and a heart full of praise to God for His faithfulness. May we ask the Lord for eyes to see our suffering in that way.

Heavenly Father, I’m weary and hurting. I have asked so many times for this suffering to be removed and for You to rescue me from this storm. I feel depleted. I feel like I’m drowning. But I realize that You have not called me to live by my feelings or by what I see happening around me; You have called me to walk by faith. And as my faith in You rises up in me, I trust that You have me exactly where I am supposed to be- totally dependent upon Your grace. In my weakness, I know that You are my strength. I praise You in my pain, and I ask that You would use this trial, this suffering, this storm to change me to look more like Christ- all for Your glory. I know that I may endure weeping in the night, but Your joy always comes- a joy that is not dependent upon my circumstances but is everlasting and sustaining even in the darkest of nights. Thank You for Your nearness to me in my greatest time of need and pain. You are a faithful Father, and I am so thankful to receive Your mercy and be called Your child. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Where are my Titus 2 ladies at?

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled”

(Titus 2:3-5, ESV).

I am the only born-again Christian in my immediate family. Although we did have a Bible in our home, it was more of a centerpiece on the coffee table; It was occasionally wiped down when dust collected on it; it wasn’t ever opened or read, obviously. I don’t have memories of my family praying before meals or hearing about Jesus from any of my relatives or grandparents. Sadly, I didn’t have a “praying grandma” who lead me in the faith. 

So, when I became a follower of Christ at age 22, the road was definitely a lonely one for me. I felt very misunderstood and different from the rest of my family members for a very long time, and still do to be quite frank. I’m so thankful for the Christians friends the Lord placed in my life who encouraged me and prayed for me on my journey with Christ, but I have always longed for someone older in the faith to mentor me and this still seems to be the case in my life, sadly.

I read Titus 2 with a longing in my heart, wondering if I could ever have a mentor relationship with a woman like this:

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled”

(Titus 2:3-5, ESV).

You can hit Google, YouTube, and social media for older women in the faith, of course, but I want to move beyond online connections and would love a one-on-one personal mentor that I can enjoy conversation about Jesus and the Bible over coffee. It seems that our generation is settling for online connections (which are wonderful too) but there is more to be found in doing life together. Where are the Titus 2 women, I find myself asking.

Since it is something that should be found in the context of the local church, and we are once again new members at our current church because we recently moved to a new state. Instead of being tempted to complain about this lack in my life, I am reminded that I must go to God in prayer, especially when it seems so out of reach for me to find a mentor who can come alongside of me and teach me to love my husband and children and love Jesus and His Word even more. 

We are living in a very isolated time all over the world. So many of us are lonely and looking for connection. We were created to be in relationship with one another, especially in the Body of Christ. The “metaverse” will never replace the real-life universe where we are there for one another to bear one another’s burdens, pray for each other, and spur each other on in the faith, face-to-face.

The call for women in Titus 2 is one that is important within the church and one that our society desperately needs. We need godly women strong in the faith to raise strong, godly children with strong, godly marriages. Families like this could change the world for Christ! 

Do you find yourself longing for a mentor who has walked with Jesus for a long time, maybe decades longer than yourself? Does it seem impossible to meet someone like this? Well, let me remind you that nothing is impossible for God! The Father knows the desires of our heart, especially desires that line up with His Word, and He wants those desires to become reality for you. Instead of growing discouraged and tempted to complain, let us run to the Father and pray that we would see this relationship of a mentor fulfilled in our life, not just for us but to ultimately, give Him glory and see the Gospel advanced.

Father God,

I am finding myself lonely on my walk with Christ. I look for others to encourage, evangelize, and disciple who may be younger in the faith, but I long for a mentor who can come alongside me and teach me more about You and how to be a godly woman, one who loves her husband and children so deeply. It may feel impossible to find, but I trust that nothing is impossible for You, God. Thank You for hearing my prayer and I believe I will see this desire of my heart fulfilled because it is something that you call women to do for each other. I pray You would raise up women who reflect those found in Titus 2 all for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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His Grace is Enough

I saw a graphic shared on Facebook the other day that said: 

“She believed she couldn’t, and she was right. But God, when she gave Him every broken piece, of herself, He used it all for His glory.”

This isn’t a popular message right now- admitting your weakness, admitting your limits. You won’t get many followers, likes, or shares for it, that’s for sure!

You know what will?

 “Girl, you are in charge of making your dreams happen!” “Hustle and slay all day, girlfriend!” “Stop accepting less than you deserve.” “You are in control of your own life!”

..loudly shouts the widely successful author/speaker/entrepreneur/reality TV star/blogger/Instagram influencer/Facebook viral sensation.

That is the message that echos in our culture of women empowerment and it really is a message of false hope. The ultimate answer to our success is not found in our own abilities and talents. We cannot even take credit for those things because they were given to us as gifts from the Creator of the universe.

Beloved, if you are a believer, know that your life is much more useful in the hands of the Savior’s than in your own. His power and strength are really what we need.

This reminds me of the verses in 2 Corinthians 12 that the Apostle Paul penned:

“But [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

(9-10, NIV).

This message is so countercultural, but so much truth can be found in it. Much like the apostle Paul, I believe it is important to gladly boast in our weakness for it shows the world that our faith truly lies in Christ and not in ourselves. Jesus tells us that there is strength to be found there, not because we are awesome and capable and in control, but because He is. 

Your strength isn’t about how hard you can slay or hustle. Real strength comes from total dependency on God.

For His strength will always be made perfect in our weakness. What blooms in your life will be beautiful because of Him. 

Author and artist, Ruth Chou Simmons says it this way: 

“God demonstrating His glory through your dependency is your real story, and He’s writing it day-by-day through deepening roots and newly formed buds.” 

Your story of walking with Jesus is not about your works or what you can do to look more like Him in your own power or strength, it is about working with grace and allowing it to do its work in you and through you.

The more you lean into His grace, the more you will see growth and maturity in your heart and life. Through this dependency on Him, you will make Jesus famous and not your own name. God alone will receive all the glory that is due His name.

We must remind our hearts that His grace is enough to walk through this life, even when we feel so incredibly weak and powerless and incapable of what we feel God has called us to do. May we learn how to surrender our life to Jesus every single day and trust that He will use it all for His glory. 

Are you finding yourself “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” to accomplish a task that the Lord has given you?

When was the last time you asked God for His help in an area you were struggling?

If you find it difficult to admit your weakness, know that a safe place to run is into the arms of God. May we not walk in our own strength and learn how to humble ourselves before God so we can see Him work in our heart and life. This will help shine a light on how real and faithful God is to the world who are looking for real strength to get through the trials of life. 

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Eternal Gains

A year and a half ago, my brother-in-law was involved in a tragic drowning accident. He was only twenty-five years old and had only been married for a little over a year. I watched my husband, his parents, and my sister-in-law experience the deepest pain imaginable – pain so difficult that it physically hurt. Through this great loss, we’ve learned to walk through the pain with Jesus, trusting that He will continue to heal our broken hearts and believing we will see our precious brother again in heaven someday.

As Christians, we are not ones who grieve without hope because, ultimately, our hope is set in eternity. Because of the cross, we do not have to taste death because our spirit lives on and we live forever in eternity. 

It is the cross that accomplished the forgiveness of sin and made a way for us to have peace with the Father, which is the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believing this gospel sets our hope towards the life that is to come. This place is not our home.

The Bible is full of truth about eternity and wisdom on how we should live our lives while we are still here on earth. Jesus doesn’t promise that we will escape pain here on earth, but He does promise that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20).

The Apostle Paul shows us in Philippians 1:21 how we should view our life here on earth:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

NIV

While we are here, we know our mission is to live to glorify Jesus and tell others about Him by preaching the glorious good news to all those God places in our path. When we face great pain and loss of loved ones or are facing our own mortality because of a terminal illness, we can find hope and rejoice that heaven is our reward.

The honest question is do you focus too much on this life? Do you believe it is better here on earth? Are you only concerned about your legacy you will leave?

When we die in Christ we live forever.

Yes, there is pain.

Yes, there is great sorrow and many questions as to why now, Lord? We have lost loved ones what felt like way too soon. We’ve had a lot of ‘whys’ just because we are human, and humans have a very difficult time processing death. But the Bible is very clear about the glorious hope we have that awaits us as believers in Christ and the truth of God’s Word is what gave us great peace in the midst of our pain. Our faith is forever set on our sovereign Lord, knowing the cross has the final word in the end.

Death doesn’t have the victory because in Christ, we are given eternity with Him!

Death doesn’t lose its sting on our human hearts, but our spirits should be so full of joy at the thought of being in the presence of Jesus where there is no more suffering. What great gain!

Take some time and pray this prayer if you are struggling to fix your eyes on eternity: Father, help me to see this life with eternal lenses and embrace the promises of everlasting life with Christ. Help me through times of pain and suffering as I hold onto the hope I can find in Jesus. I will continue to hide my life in Christ until I take my last breath here on this earth or until Jesus returns in His glory.

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Made for God’s Glory

When I was in my early 20s, shortly after graduating college, I was searching for the “perfect” job. I was so worried that I would end up in the wrong position and waste my gifts and my experience. Considering my degree was a BA in Theatre & Dance with a specialization in performance, once I decided not to move to a big city, I knew the chances of being able to find a job in the Midwest in my specialty were slim to none, so I was most definitely willing to compromise- for a period of time at least.

After nine months of unemployment after graduation, I finally landed a job as a receptionist in a small medical office as an insurance verification specialist for durable medical equipment. It did not make a lot of sense with my theater degree, but it was better than no job!

Since I wasn’t weighed down with being busy with classes, papers, projects, rehearsals, and shows, I was able to spend more time in my Bible and time in prayer, and the Lord truly began working on my heart. Instead of becoming so focused on my frustration that my job was not in my field, on my way to work in the morning, I began asking the Lord to give me opportunities to show His love to people that I encountered in that small medical office.

I realized that God had placed me there in that office not just to perform a particular job to get a paycheck, but ultimately, no matter what task I accomplished, I was there to do it all for God’s glory. I also realized that God cared more about people than He did about my productivity or accomplishments; He wanted me to show others more about His love and if possible, share truth about Jesus.

In Colossians 3:17, the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Church as Colossae:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 

NIV

He was reminding the Colossians that their ultimate purpose on this earth was to give God glory by showing God’s love and walking in peace with one another and to do all things with a heart full of gratitude. 

What does it mean to give God glory?

The word “glory” bears with it the idea of greatness of splendor of God as it pertains to the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the word “glory” is translated to mean “honor, dignity, worship and praise.” When we put the two together, we see that glorifying God means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him all the worship and honor and thanksgiving in all that we do and say. God’s glory is the essence of His nature- we bring Him glory when we revel in His divine essence.

How often are we consumed with our mundane activities that we forget who we are doing it for? I believe if we lose the motivation that we are doing it to glorify God, we are prone to grumbling and complaining, much like the children of Israel. We become ungrateful, and our hearts begin to grow hard and cold towards God. We begin to simply “go through the motions” in life and soon we are looking to other things to satisfy a longing in our soul that only living a God-glorifying life can satisfy. We were made to worship God, and He gave us the gifts and abilities in which to do that every day. 

Are you finding yourself grumbling and complaining when you are doing mundane tasks throughout the day?

When you are tempted to complain about your daily activities, turn that into an opportunity to praise and thank God.

Are you questioning your purpose regarding what you are doing for a living, like your career for example? Trust that God has you exactly where you are supposed to be. Pray for wisdom and seek Godly counsel if you believe it is time for a change.

In the meantime, ask God for doors of opportunity this week to share the love of Christ with someone God has placed around you.

You will be amazed at how that will begin to change your perspective on seemingly meaningless tasks or situations that make you uncomfortable or frustrated. Suddenly, you will search out chances to glorify God and tell others about His amazing love through the glorious gospel!

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Let Not Change Move You

Growing up, I learned very early on that not much in my life would stay consistent and that the pattern of my life would include a lot of change, and sometimes drastic change. From my parents’ divorce to my mom’s remarriage to a man she met on the internet (remember AOL chatrooms?) to the birth of another sibling when I was in middle school to moving homes every two years throughout grade-school and middle school to my father’s constant on and off battle with alcoholism to a sudden complicated break up with my high school boyfriend of two and a half years. It did not take long for a heart of anxiety to be formed in my life because there was not much in my life that I could run to for security. 

So as I got older, I ran to other things, other people. I quickly became ensnared by alcohol abuse and did many dangerous things that only served to create glue-strong attachments to other people — things like an adulterous relationship with a married man and countless one-night stands with random men I followed home from the bar. I was constantly anxious and depressed.

But, after I graduated from college, my eyes were truly opened to my selfish, promiscuous existence and my deep desire to find something firm and secure. I hadn’t been to church for years, but one morning I went. During the worship service, God met me in my mess and convicted my heart. Immediately I knew I needed to stop running away from Him and start running toward Him.

In that moment, I realized He was the security and peace I was searching for. I told Him I didn’t want to live this life on my own anymore and I repented for my rebellion and unbelief. I knew that all I was searching for could only be found in Jesus. I resolved to stand upon the secure foundation of the Rock, Jesus Christ, who never changes. After that moment, my whole world changed as God began transforming my heart. It was by far the best change I have ever experienced!

You may not have experienced difficult and often painful change in your life exactly like I did, but I’m sure you have realized that change is inevitable while we are here on this earth.

Change is just a part of life.

How we handle that change is really where we will discover where our hope and sense of security lies. If change is causing us to worry or stress out, we need not to run to other things or people to try to fix our anxiousness. We will always be disappointed, left feeling empty and even more anxious. We must run to God.

Philippians 4:6 tells us that we must not allow anxiety to overwhelm us, but instead, we are to come to God in prayer and cry out to Him with our requests, full of a thankful heart knowing He hears us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6, ESV

Nothing is too small when it comes to our prayers to God; He wants us to come to Him about everything! God not only hears our prayers; He responds with giving us His peace and protection. 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7, ESV

God’s peace is like nothing else this world can offer; it is beyond all human logic or reasoning.

He promises to protect our hearts and minds when we dwell on our position in Jesus, as forgiven children of God. He is not only the Creator and sustainer of life, but He is our heavenly Father that longs to protect and provide for us. 

So at the turn of 2020, are you undergoing a lot of change, whether by your own hand or by unforeseen circumstances? Is this change causing you to worry?

Instead of allowing these worries to drive you to other sources in an attempt to bring relief, make a list of these worries and take them to God is prayer today. He hears every request. You can find peace and rest assured that He is the One who never changes. Even if everything around you feels like shifting sand, remember that Jesus Christ is firm and secure.

While you are writing down your requests, listen to the old hymn, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less and reflect upon the One who is the only strong and constant foundation.

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Hope in the Lord and Receive His Strength!

While browsing home décor the other day, I found words of encouragement galore. Signs with words such as “Peace” and “Joy” and “Life” and “Hope” and “Strength” filled the aisles. Those words uplift the heart, but truthfully, are empty if they are not rooted in the only Giver of those things, God Himself. We cannot find joy, peace, life, hope, or strength apart from God. We cannot look within ourselves as the source. 

Much like the apostle Paul, I will gladly boast in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12). Jesus tells me that there is strength to be found there, not because I am awesome and capable and in control, but because He is. Just like Jesus tells us in John 16, He has overcome the world, therefore we can find peace and draw our strength from Christ’s victory on the cross.

Psalm 31:24 gives us a glimpse as to how we can find strength to face the adversity we face in this life:

“Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the Lord.”

Psalm 31:24, NASB

We are filled with hope and strength when we fix our eyes on God and trust Him and His Word.

His strength encourages us tell others about the truth of His love with boldness. We do not have to try to muster up courage to be bold for Christ because as believers, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to preach the truth and fills our heart with the love of God to share with the world. God has promised us to always be with us and His Holy Spirit is nearer than our very breath. The enemy has no chance because God is greater than all the schemes hell can throw at us. God is not only with us always, but He has also given us spiritual armor to stand and face the enemy (Ephesians 6). We can rest knowing that God is sovereign over every battle and every resistance we will face. 

Are you trying to find strength in your own abilities? Are you putting your trust in hope in other things or people thinking they will bring you peace and joy?

If you find yourself looking to other people or things outside of Christ for source of peace, hope, joy, or strength, take this time to repent and fix your gaze upon God once again. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you lean upon God His Word. Our prayer should be much like John the Baptist: “More of You and less of me” (John 3:30). True strength is found trusting in the Lord. He holds the whole world in His hands, including your life.

Also, if you are struggling with finding courage to be bold for Christ, ask the Lord for an opportunity to share His love with someone who crosses your path. The Holy Spirit will strengthen you. 

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Count it all joy!

2016 was a hard year for me and my family.

While juggling with babysitting a friend’s son who was a full-on ‘threenager,’ I walked through a really difficult mothering season with my own son who seemed to always protest sleep since he was born.

Every few months, he went through major sleep regressions in which he would wake up multiple times a night. Occasionally he would sleep through the night, but the night wakings always seemed to continue for weeks leading into months at a time, night after dreadful night. About a month before he turned two, He began waking three-five times a night. This routine continued every single night for six solid months straight. We prayed (and cried), we had other people pray, we tried a sound machine, essential oils, added extra cushion to his bedding, and followed all of the pediatrician’s advice and tips.

Nothing worked.

Needless to say, sleep deprivation was my constant reality and it hit me hard in 2016. 

From all of the hormonal imbalances and added stress from the severe, chronic sleep deprivation, along with taking on a part-time job in retail around the holidays, I experienced a chemical pregnancy and battled depression on and off for months. Our marriage was also under so much strain because I simply was not behaving like myself whatsoever and was on edge or emotional all the time.

Feeling depleted and defeated was an understatement. 

As a Christian, it felt like such a fight to hold onto peace, hope, and joy. Knowing that true peace, hope, and joy are not circumstantial, I really had to lean on God’s grace to get through every single day unlike any other time in my life.

I knew the Bible told me that I needed to “count it all joy” in the midst of these trials, but I needed God to give me eyes to see the why behind that and empower me to the how as well. 

We find in the opening of James’ letter to the tribes of Israel, after his initial greeting, he immediately begins exhorting and encouraging God’s people that the storms of life are not for no reason at all; there is purpose within the pain. 

James 1:2-3 says,

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces [a]patience.” 

NKJV

We know that as children of God, our Heavenly Father is allowing these trials into our life to strengthen our faith in Him, knowing that He is always working things for our good (Romans 8:28). James 1:3 reveals that this sharpening or testing of our faith ‘muscles’ will produce a patience in us, which is a fruit of the Spirit. God will often use painful, uncomfortable, and stressful situations to sanctify us. We can have joy knowing that these storms of life and difficulties are molding us into looking more like Christ. 

Ultimately, we must remember that our joy is not anchored in this life, but most importantly, in the life to come.

When our lives are filled with trials, we must be able to look to the future—to heaven—to find the joy that can soothe our weary hearts. Our joy must be based on looking to God and to the inheritance we will receive in heaven. This is exactly what Jesus did. He was able to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2). We, too, must realize that the suffering we endure in this life cannot compare with the joy that is laid up for us in heaven.

To be able to count all suffering joyful, we must be able to trust God.

Are you struggling with that kind of confidence in God’s goodness in all things and finding comfort in His sovereign hand in your life, even in your suffering? Ask God to help you find joy in Him alone and to give you a heavenly perspective when you are tempted to allow the present circumstances to consume you.

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