Finding Joy in Difficult Seasons

For many years, I allowed my emotions to control the way I walked through life and made decisions. If something felt right or good, I did it. If something didn’t feel right or good, I avoided it. Needless to say, I surrounded myself with people and situations that satisfied me and filled my feel-good tank. When storms came my way, I allowed my emotions to toss me to and fro and cause so much emotional chaos that I couldn’t even think straight. I would be crushed under the weight of these emotions and be so consumed by my circumstances that it would cause me to fall victim to depression constantly and make very poor, sinful decisions that I would later regret. Thankfully, once I became born-again and began to study the scriptures, the Holy Spirit taught me that damaging cycle is not how God wants His children to live. 

When trials are big and God is small in your mind, misery and instability rule. When trials are small and God is big, near, and sovereign, joy reigns in your heart. We must link our thinking and feelings to the Lord and remind our hearts of His truth. We should never allow our feelings to dictate how we respond in hard times or allow our emotions to hold us back from drawing near to God’s truth where true joy can be found.

While suffering in prison, Paul encourages the Philippians to find their joy in the Lord:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NASB).

Where does rejoicing come from? This ability, despite our suffering and trials, comes from the Lord who is the fountainhead of our joy. We can always rejoice because Christ never changes. You cannot always rejoice in your circumstances, but you can always rejoice in the Lord- He is constant. What are some ways we can rejoice in the Lord? We can rejoice in the Lord because of our salvation. We can rejoice that God is sovereign over all things in our life. We can rejoice that He is sanctifying us and transforming our life. We can rejoice because we can be satisfied with the riches and blessings that are available to us in Christ. 

We can find spiritual fortitude by focusing on Christ who brings us strength and joy no matter what we are facing. We can fix our eyes on Christ by tuning out the things of the world- lesser things- that keep us from thirsting for the things of God that bring a joy that the world cannot offer us. Troubles and anxieties are minimized when we lift our gaze upon the Lord and meditate on the scriptures where we learn the truths of who God is, which renews our mind and strengthens our faith in Him. The next time you find yourself in a different and trying season, ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus on Jesus. He is our helper in time of need, and He will fill your heart with unspeakable joy in Christ that will well up in you like a fountain!

Heavenly Father,

I do not want to be overtaken by my emotions when I am suffering or experiencing a difficult trial. Not that feelings are evil or sinful, as you have made us to experience them, but you do not want our emotions to dictate our responses and decisions. Circumstances change, but You never do. Thank You that You are constant and steadfast. We can rest in Your faithfulness, knowing that You have a plan in this storm, even if it is to use it to make me look more like You. You are near to us in the midst of our great suffering, even if we cannot always sense it. Help me to find joy in the Lord and to rejoice in You even when I cannot always rejoice in my circumstances. Help me to thirst for the things of God and turn from worldly thinking. Thank You, Jesus, for bringing me near to the Father by the shedding of Your precious blood upon the cross. I find my joy in You alone. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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God is Near to the Wounded

For many people, the holidays are full of wonderful traditions and precious memories together with family and friends. For others, it’s a time of deep pain and loneliness as they are reminded of strained or non-existent relationships or the loss of loved ones and their absence from the holiday gatherings. 

For many years, the latter was my experience, especially when I became a believer in my early 20s. I lost my dad around Thanksgiving when I was 22, and a few years later, my mom and stepdad went through a very painful divorce, which strained my relationship with my mother based on her life choices shortly following the separation from my stepdad. In the early years of my own marriage, there was so much tension and passive aggressive exchanges during the holidays as it was expected that I must make it top priority to spend time with my side of the family instead of my now husband’s family. 

When I had my first child, I wanted to create our own family traditions and try to include my own family as much as I could, but there was still so much tension regarding my strained family relationships. I found myself trying to be a peace maker, but it was never enough. I was crushed under the weight of trying to please everyone all while trying not to create a wedge in my marriage as well. To be quite honest, I was crushed and wounded regarding my relationships with my family in general because of my strong convictions as a believer in Christ in the midst of an unbelieving (and often hostile) family. The holidays seemed to just intensify those wounds when I would be left extremely disappointed and discouraged.

When we need God’s peace and comfort, we can always run to the Word. Scripture often brings clarity and perspective when our emotions are overwhelming. The psalmist reveals a beautiful truth about God’s love and care for the broken and wounded:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, ESV).

Instead of allowing our pain and emotions to toss us to and fro, we can find our security and assurance in who God is and how much He loves by finding our foundation in His Word. The wounds of distant, strained, or lost relationships can often run deep, but there is healing found in Christ, who never leaves us nor forsake us. When we are crushed under the weight of our circumstances, we can trust that when we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8), and His ever-present help will come to our aid to walk us through the pain. You may have been disappointed, grieving, and hurt yet again this holiday season, but don’t find your home in the pain and discouragement. Let us run into His safety and find great comfort in Him!

Heavenly Father,

You know my heart and see my pain before I ever speak a word, but You long for me to make my requests known to You by being honest and intentional in seeking You first no matter what. Help me to remember that You are near to the brokenhearted and that I can run into your safety when I feel crushed by my circumstances and difficult relationships. I know You alone can satisfy my soul more than any other relationship in life. Thank You for setting the lonely in families and for calling me Your child. Surround me with Your grace and help me see Your loving hand working in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Appreciating Your Pastor by Praying for Him

When the news of another pastor’s moral failure makes its way into the public eye, is your first reaction one of sarcasm and jadedness or does it cause you to weep and hit your knees in prayer? It seems easier to get angry or grow cynical when those in the pulpit fall into grave sin and disappoint those who have attributed much of their spiritual growth from their teaching. Instead of wagging our fingers or shaking our head in disappointment, it should truly break our hearts when leaders in the church fall.

There is a stern warning found in the book of James that should cause us pause to reflect upon the great and weighty responsibility that pastors carry as teachers of God’s Word:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV).

This verse begins a chapter in the book of James that focuses on the importance of the tongue and its ability to either bring encouragement and growth or hostility and destruction. We will all be held accountable for the words we speak, but for those who teach the Bible, there is a higher standard. With a higher standard comes a stronger judgement from God. This should motivate us to pray for teachers, especially those who pastor our own local church. 

In America (and perhaps even around the world, thanks to television and social media), the gospel of Jesus Christ has become extremely muddied by false teaching full of false gospels, New Age/occult/pagan practices, lying signs and wonders, and distractions from worldly desires that are all leading many to false Christs.


For almost half of our marriage, my husband and I were among those believers who were believing lies from the result of the twisting of scripture and emotional, mental, and spiritual manipulation from leaders in ministry whom we trusted. By God’s grace, we were rescued from this deception and now attend a sound and Biblical church that has been such a blessing to our family. Every week, the elders preach the Word of God with such conviction and clarity and are unashamed about the gospel. Although we finally feel “safe,” we know that these men of God are susceptible to the same temptations as we are, and instead of growing comfortable or letting our guard down, we must fiercely pray for the men in our life who teach God’s Holy Word because Satan has put a giant target on their back. The enemy knows how much damage can be done to the Body of Christ if God’s Word is abused or distorted, but the same is true for the carriers of that message; A teacher’s life is held to a higher standard because the Lord uses teachers to help us understand who He is. The weighty responsibility and calling of bringing truth to the sheep of God is one no one should have to bear alone. Let us shoulder Kingdom responsibility with our elders by making it a priority to daily pray for the teachers and pastors who give much influence to our spiritual well-being. 

Father God,

In the age we live in, we can know personal details of public figures very quickly and easily. It seems there is always a new Christian leader who has given into fleshly temptation and taken advantage of the trust of their sheep. This should cause us heartache and wake us up to the reality that the enemy wants to cause destruction among God’s people. These moral failings cause distrust among sheep, but they also hurt our witness to the world when they see the hypocrisy and corruption within the visible church. Lord, please give us a burden to pray for church leaders, but more importantly, the leaders of our very own church who have given their lives to shepherd souls and teach others about You and Your ways. We are called to make disciples and need to be equipped by Your Word to do that. You have called teachers and pastors to a higher standard to equip the Body for the work of the ministry by teaching us what Your Word says. May we be quick to lift them up every day, knowing the seriousness of their high calling as teachers of Your Holy Word. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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Am I too distracted to pray without ceasing?

With the invention of smart phones and these (often anti) social media apps, we now can be distracted and ignore the reality in front of our faces at any given moment of every single day. Many have lost the art of communication because there really is no need to actually talk (aloud) to people anymore. It’s all about these black letters on white background. We text instead of call. We use emojis instead of an emotional face-to-face conversation. We post “insta” updates like engagements or the birth of a new baby instead of waiting to share that news in person, especially to close friends and family members. I strongly dislike finding out important things through Facebook first, don’t you?

We can’t even sit in a twenty-minute car ride without grabbing for that block of distraction. My husband knows how guilty I am of this one! And recently, I discovered that existing behind my phone’s keyboard hasn’t just affected my relationships with other people, but with God. Are we so connected to our devices that we are neglecting to connect with the Lord? How much time am I spending on my phone? I must wonder if living a communicative existence of only black letters on white background is the huge reason my prayer life seems like it is on life support sometimes. You can’t text God. He wants to hear from His children. 

Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, He tore the veil that separated sinful man from the Holy and Righteous One; Jesus made a way for me to approach God as my Father. What a beautifully, life-changing truth! When the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray in Matthew chapter six, He told them to begin with “Our Father.” Prayer is personal because the Father longs to have a personal relationship with His children. He wants us to come to Him constantly with our concerns, burdens, joys, and requests. 

At the end of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul gives a simple reminder to the Thessalonians (and us) to anchor themselves in joy and thankfulness and never stop praying:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).

Just like all our relationships in life are affected by verbal communication, we are forming our relationship with the Lord with every conversation we have with Him, and we should constantly be lifting our gaze and voices to Him. This means that as we go about our day, we should remember to stay connected to the Vine (John 15), abiding in Him, knowing that we must remain dependent upon Him for all things and to be thankful and content for His new mercies that are available to us every single day. The distractions are endless throughout the day and it’s so easy for our eyes and minds to become focused on lesser, temporal things. This isn’t to say that we ignore all of our daily earthly responsibilities to sit in our “prayer closet,” but we seek God in the midst of responsibilities, remembering He is the One who gives us the grace to accomplish the tasks before us. 

His sovereign hand is always guiding us as His beautiful providence unfolds in our life, and we should be careful not to get caught up in our own plans and goals that we neglect coming to Him first. Constant communication with the Lord will build and strengthen our confidence and trust in the Lord, as we learn to lean upon Him in all things. Rejoicing always and remaining thankful for another day to get a chance to get to know Him through His Word and glorify His name in all that we say and do. Let us ask the Lord to help us throw off the distractions that would keep us from that glorious partnership with Him.

Father God,

There can be such a blessing that comes from technology and being able to connect with other people all over the world in a moment. But this blessing can also become a major distraction from something so much better, staying connected to You. Lord, I repent for neglecting keeping our communication a top priority and allowing an electronic device to become a hindrance to the spiritual discipline of prayer. You call us to never cease from praying, meaning that we should be continually looking to You every moment of the day. I lift my gaze to You, knowing that is where my help comes from. I lift up my voice to You, knowing that You incline Your ear to me as Your child. Thank You, Jesus, for making a way for me to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. May I never take that relationship for granted. Help me by Your grace and the power of the Spirit to remember to keep prayer a daily, moment by moment, lifeline to my Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Casting Your Cares

I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for many years in high school and college. Stress and worry were just a part of my life, and I allowed them to move into my mind and become my permanent mental roommates. From money problems to relationship issues, if it became too much, you would find me curled up in a ball in the fetal position on the floor, hyperventilating until parts of my body went numb and crying until there were no more tears left.

After I graduated college, the Lord regenerated and redeemed me, and I began to walk close with the Him and study His Word like I never had before in my life. My mind was being renewed and over time, I began to trust the Lord more with issues that would have normally caused me to worry. I slowly learned to cast my cares upon Him like 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to do:

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”

(1 Peter 5:7, NIV).

But every now and then, I still become a victim of worry and anxiety and begin to experience sudden panic about my circumstances that out of my control, even though I know the Bible is clear that we should always trust the Lord at all times. So if we aren’t supposed to be anxious as believers, why do so many Christians still struggle with anxiety? Aside from chemical imbalances that can occur in one’s body, which are very real and very valid, I believe much of what causes anxiety begins in our minds. The more we dwell on a negative or fearful thought of a circumstance beyond our control, the more stress and worry begins to plague us. Somewhere along the lines in our overwhelm, we forget the One who holds our future. The One who is sovereign. The One who cares for His children so deeply, the Lord God Almighty. We learn more about Him in the Bible, where our faith and abiding trust in Him is strengthened.

The other night when I experienced the panic attack, there was a brief moment where I was given the opportunity to resist the negative thoughts and take them captive and begin to talk to God like I had learned to do so many times before, but this time, I chose to let my mind run in circles. I was so familiar with the experience of a panic attack that I could literally feel it try to overtake me right before it happened. If I would have set my mind upon scripture in that moment (such as Philippians 4:6-7 and even 1 Peter 5:7), I would have realized that God offered me a solution for my anxious thoughts. A simple conversation with the Lord would have helped me focus my thoughts and would have brought immediate peace to the whirlwind in my mind. The Word of God is so powerful and the more we study and meditate upon it, our foundation will be strong in Christ and we will continually know how to look to Him any time stress and anxiety tries to overtake us. Let us always be quick to ask the Lord for His sustaining grace and help in our time of need, looking to Him always because He cares for us. 

Father God, thank You that You want us to cast our cares upon You. Thank You that there is nowhere I can go that you are not there with me. Thank You for having a hold of my life, even as I feel like everything is crumbling around me. Lord, I confess that I have let stress take a hold of my life, rather than You. I have let stress control my mood, my attitude, my emotions, and my actions. Lord, I repent of this! Please Father, help me see what is stressful in my life and hand it over to You. Help me not let the stress win out. Help me actively think on Your goodness to me. Help me to renew my mind with Your unchanging Word. I am so hopeful for my eternity with you, Lord, where there will be no more stress and I will be overwhelmed by Your love, beauty, and never-ending peace! Help me look back on all the ways You have rescued me from my stressful moments and look in hope to the future where You will one day rid all stress, forever. In the meantime, I know and trust that You hold my future. Help me live boldly in the truth of Your goodness and power today. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

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