Tag Archive | Hope in hard places

Hope in the Darkness: Dealing with Discouragement

Part of my scheduled Bible reading for today was Psalm 42, which begins with a superscription identifying it as a Maskil of the sons of Korah. What is a maskil?

Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes a maskil as a song enforcing some lesson of wisdom or piety, a song intended to give instruction. So as I read this psalm, the first question I asked myself was what is the intended instruction? I think the answer to that is found in the following verses.

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I believe the lesson God is seeking to teach us through this psalm is how to deal with circumstances that cause us to feel “cast down,” to experience discouragement or even despair. When we walk through problems that seem to stretch on and on, one of the biggest struggles we face is holding onto hope. In this psalm, the message is clear. God is our source of hope, so to experience hope we must shift our focus off our circumstances and on to the Lord.

Corrie ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

When we walk through on-going trials, the key to victory is fixing our eyes on the One who reigns over everything that touches our lives. God alone can bring peace and rest in the midst of circumstances that bring tears to our eyes and sorrow to our hearts.

Or as Hebrews 12:1-2 says, to find renewed strength to continue the race God has set before us, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Our Savior was strengthened as He turned His focus beyond the Cross He was facing to the joy to come after, when His death and resurrection would provide the way for us to be forgiven and restored to relationship with the Father.

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Perfect Love: The Antidote to the Poison of Fear

It never ceases to amaze me the things God uses to speak needed truths to my heart when I’m walking sthrough an emotionally difficult season. This morning, God used a book I’m currently reading, one that I’ve been interested in reading for a while but picked up at precisely the time I was needing its message.

I Still Believe: Discovering hope and healing in the midst of life’s deepest valleys, is an auto-biography of Contemporary Christian singer and song writer Jeremy Camp’s journey through the fire and anguish of the loss of his first wife Melissa to cancer, just a few months after their joyous wedding and honeymoon. It is a testimony of how to turn earthly sorrow into heavenly hope. I Still Believe is the source of an upcoming Christian film by the same title, currently in pre-production by the same production team that did the film I Can Only Imagine, with a planned theater release in March 2020.

This morning, as I was laying in bed reading a chapter in this book before getting up to begin my day, the Lord clearly spoke to my heart. The chapter I was reading is near the end of the book, around six years after Melissa’s death. Jeremy has remarried, to his current wife Adrienne, and they have two precious and dearly loved daughters, Isabella Rose and Arianne Mae.

In this chapter, Jeremy shares a personal battle with fear he walked through with the birth of his children. He wondered, “Would God possibly think of taking one of them home?” He continues, “These thoughts and emotions became so pervasive that I would hold my daughters extra close and pray extra hard for their protection.”

Jeremy took these fears to God and he says God spoke a gentle but firm word to his heart, one that was not what he was expecting to hear. “Do you not understand how much I love you, Jeremy? I love you perfectly, so much more than you could ever love your children.”

When I read these words that God spoke basically the same message to my heart. As most of you know, my husband and I lost our special needs son David last November. When I read this chapter, my eyes were opened to the source of the fear I’ve been dealing with in my current health-related problems. Like Jeremy, I needed a reminder of God’s provision for overcoming fear – His perfect love.

1 John 4:18 (NIV) says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” This morning, I added 1 John 4:18 to a list of Bible verses I’ve been memorizing and reviewing daily during this season of dealing with physical pain, unsteady emotion, and probable surgery ahead, a list I put on my Bible Memory App and entitled “Promises to Hold Onto.”

Like Jeremy, I’ve been struggling with fear, as I wait for an appointment next Tuesday with a new orthopedic surgeon to come up with a treatment plan for my left knee. I’m likely facing a major surgery, which is complicated by Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in that knee. And this morning the Lord showed me my fears concerning what lies ahead were rooted in the pain of losing our son David and in the need to truly understand God’s perfect love.

Christian Author Jerry Bridges said God’s love is “an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.”

The perfect love of God toward us as His blood-bought children, everyone who has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the full payment for our sin and received Him as our Savior and Lord, is a love that is complete and committed. It is a love that is sacrificial and steadfast. Though our feelings may come and go, God’s love for us is constant and unchanging. Though we are imperfect, God loves us perfectly. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Nothing in all creation—present or future – can come between us and God’s love!

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful for God’s perfect love that drives out fear. If you are personally walking through one of life’s deep valleys, I encourage you to join me in memorizing this verse and in seeking for a new depth of understanding of God’s love for you and me.

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Facing the Unknown With a Known God

Youth With A Mission, better known as YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), is an interdenominational Christian missionary organization founded by Loren Cunningham and his wife Darlene in 1960.

While on a beach in Hawaii, looking out at the waves, Loren Cunningham saw a vision of a different kind of waves – waves of young people taking the gospel message to the ends of the earth. YWAM was founded as a result of that vision. Fifty-nine years after it began, YWAM continues as an effective tool for fulfilling the vision He gave Loren and the Great Commission of Acts 1:8 upon which it was based and of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

YWAM has had a special place in our lives. Some close friends of ours, Billy and Lyn Littlefield, went through the YWAM discipleship training program in the 1970s, and their training became the catalyst for a discipleship training program my husband Mitch and I were a part of in the early years of our marriage. A few years later, Mitch’s sister Shirley also spent time with YWAM.

I think the thing that has stuck with me more than anything else from these early years of our marriage and our indirect involvement with YWAM is the stated purpose of this Christian organization: To know God and to make Him known. I can’t think of a better description of the effective Christian life!

To Know God

John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The Christian life begins with a personal relationship with God. Through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we receive forgiveness for our sins and come to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. J. I. Packer, author of the book Knowing God, said:

“There’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.”

Knowing God begins when we become a part of His family through faith in Jesus Christ. But it is also a growing process as we come to know Him more fully through His written Word. As we read and study the Bible, we learn what He is like – a faithful God, loving us with a steadfast love, showing us mercy by not giving us what we deserve and grace by giving us what we don’t deserve. His names, attributes, promises and the total of Scripture progressively reveal the fullness of Who God is. This kind of knowing is a lifelong process.

To Make Him Know

Once we know God through a personal relationship with Him, Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and share that knowledge with others. Starting with our “Jerusalem” – the neighborhood, town or city where we live and moving out from there, we begin sharing the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As disciples, our call is two-fold, to grow personally in our knowledge of God and to be disciple-makers, introducing others to the good news that has changed our lives.

When An Unknown Future Looms Ahead

At no time in our lives is truly knowing God more important than when we face an unknown future. When things feel totally out of our control, knowing God gives us confidence that our circumstances aren’t out of God’s control. God has not promised to shield us from trouble. He has promised to be with us, whatever we must walk through.

Peter Marshall, pastor and chaplain of the United States Senate from 1947 to 1949, said: “God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Ravensbruck German concentration camp and Christian speaker and author of The Hiding Place, a memoir telling the story of her family’s hiding Jews from the Nazis, said: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

As I write this Teach Me Tuesday post, I’m preparing for an MRI on my left knee that has been swollen and extremely painful since the end of May. As I await this test, scheduled for today, I don’t know what lies ahead. So I’m choosing to focus on what I do know.

  • I do know God has promised to go before me and be with me, no matter what lies ahead, and He always keeps His promises. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭
  • I do know God promises to work all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purposes, and I am one of the called. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭
  • I do know that God uses the circumstances He allows to touch my life for His purposes, specifically, to conform me to the image of His Son. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans‬ ‭8:29‬
  • I do know God is good and I believe I will see God’s goodness while I’m still on this earth. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalms‬ ‭27:13‬ ‭
  • I do know God is faithful. He never promises and then fails to deliver. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭
  • I do know God is love. God’s love is so great that He gave His only Son to bring us into fellowship with Him. With His love, He embraces each of us personally. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:9-10‬
  • I do know when this life is over I have an inheritance awaiting me in heaven. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-4‬

As Corrie ten Boom said, if we know God we have no reason to fear the future. If we understand His love for us, we can know the difficulties we’re currently walking through will produce blessing, both in this life and in eternity when we go to be in His presence forever.

When Life Takes a Detour

Have you noticed sometimes your plans and God’s plans don’t seem to mesh? You’ve been seeking direction from God, the path projected ahead of you is clear, and you’re ready to start moving forward. Then suddenly circumstances change and there’s a major detour in the road.

A few months ago, God had strongly impressed upon my heart that He had some work for me to complete before my time on earth was done and I went to be in His presence. I had recently celebrated my seventy-first birthday, so there was a sense of urgency to get started on what God was calling me to do. I had clear direction concerning my next writing project, putting together an original Bible study for our small group at church, and had made a commitment to do this. My health was the best it had been in years, and I was ready to begin moving forward.

Then suddenly overnight everything changed. One day I was able to walk for thirty minutes with little or no pain. I was able to do my part of the weekly housework without a struggle. Things were going exceptionally well, as they had been for several months. The next day even walking from my bedroom to the living room caused excruciating pain and swelling in my left knee. The housework wasn’t getting done. Pain was robbing my sleep several times a week.

I honestly thought this was just a flare in one of the long list of chronic illnesses I live with, and I expected it to turn around in a few days. It didn’t. I was facing a major detour from the path I had thought laid ahead.

The process started of trying to find out what was causing this drastic change in my level of pain and ability to function. It’s now over a month later, and I’m still waiting for a diagnosis and treatment plan. My circumstances feel out of control – they are out of my control, but I know they aren’t out of God’s control.

Facing Challenging Circumstances with the Right Attitude

Retired NFL football player and coach Tony Dungy shared an important truth about controlling our attitude toward difficult circumstances that God permits in our lives, in his book Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life.

“You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.”

My first challenge during this time of waiting has been to control my attitude and response to these unexpected changes. The natural response to unwanted change is to focus on the circumstances we don’t like and give place to a complaining attitude. The response that pleases God is one that acknowledges He is still in control, He has a purpose in this situation that just looks like an unpleasant detour in my limited understanding.

It takes strength – and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit – to respond to situations such as the one I’m currently facing in a way that pleases God. It takes purposeful effort to take our eyes off of the current disappointment and focus on what can be done to improve the situation causing us distress. Seeing this detour from my plans through the lens of God’s unchanging love, goodness and faithfulness has been a challenge.

Why Does God Sometimes Take Us On a Detour?

There are two main reasons for detours. Sometimes, our disobedience and lack of faith will cause God to place a detour in the path He has called us to walk. The story of God’s chosen people Israel is an example of this type of detour. As a result of their failure to trust and obey the Lord, they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness. One whole generation failed to make it to the land God had promised them. This type of detour is a call to repentance.

The second reason we face detours in our walk with the Lord is that we aren’t yet ready for the next thing He has called us to do. These detours are times of preparation for the future. Joseph is a biblical example of this type of detour. The Lord’s plan was to use Joseph to preserve His chosen people during a time of famine. But as a young man he lacked the needed maturity for this calling. So God walked Joseph through a series of difficult circumstances to prepare him for the work he would eventually do.

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s give thanks to the Lord for the truth that He is at work even in the circumstances we wish we could change. Are you facing a detour from the path you expected to be on at this point of your life? Seek understanding from the Lord concerning what’s going on. If He shows you a sin you need to repent of, be quick to respond. If He shows you this detour is to prepare you for the work He’s calling you to do, choose to cooperate with His process. Even though detours are usually difficult and for a season it seems as though life is getting worse, they are really part of God’s design to prepare us for our future.

Let’s hold onto hope in the midst of circumstances that seem to be taking us away from what we honestly believe are God-given purposes for our lives. He knows what He’s doing!

Diamonds

When I’m hurting, as I have been over the past four weeks with intense pain in my knee and digestive problems also making it difficult for me to eat regular meals, my prayers have been primarily for two things, for some answers concerning the cause of symptoms I’m dealing with and for some relief from the pain. But as I laid in bed early Sunday morning, after a painful night with little sleep, the clear word I heard from the Lord had nothing to do with these desires of mine.

The words I heard, as clearly as any message I’ve ever heard from the Lord: “I’m forming you into a diamond, created and cut perfectly to be a reflector of My light to those around you.”

Even if this wasn’t the message I was desiring from the Lord, after walking with Him for almost fifty years I know better than ignore a word from Him. So I decided to do some research on how diamonds are formed and prepared. It was eye-opening.

Diamonds are pieces of pure carbon. Contrary to popular belief, they do not come from coal, although they may be similar in chemical composition. They are formed deep within the mantle of the earth, but only where the conditions are right since they need a lot of heat as well as pressure to form.

The only producing diamond mine in the United States is located near Murfreesboro, Arkansas, with around fifty commercial diamond mines around the world. The rough diamonds come out of the mines looking like worthless pebbles, which must be carefully cleaned to remove all the impurities.

To prepare them for use as gemstones is the job of skilled diamond cutters. Since diamonds are made of the hardest material in the world, only a diamond can be used to mechanically cut another diamond. Precision in cutting is key, both for the larger rough diamond and for the individual cut diamond in getting the exact angles needed for the best result. The more the diamond is cut, the brighter it sparkles.

As I tried to imagine the extreme temperature and pressure under which diamonds are formed, and the detailed process of turning a rough diamond just out of the mine into a valuable gemstone, I began to see why God had brought this object lesson to mind. I suddenly wasn’t surprised at the fiery trial I’ve been going through during this last month… or all the other trials our family has been through over the last few years.

John 1:9 identifies Jesus as the light of the world, but in Matthew 5:14 Jesus said the same of us. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are called to be reflectors of the true light, Jesus. And for that to happen we need to go through a similar process to the one that turns a rough diamond just out of the mine into a valuable gemstone.

‭‭1 Peter 1:6-7 describes the positive outcome of being tested by God’s fire. I especially appreciate the wording of these verses in the New Living Translation. Though these verses compare the process we go through as Christians to that of purifying gold, fire is a common factor in both gold and diamonds becoming what they were meant to be.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

‭‭So don’t be discouraged at the trials and pressures in your life. God is using them to create something beautiful from our lives. Something that will cause us to be light in the darkness of this world, and then result in praise and glory and honor on the day Jesus returns.

God Over All We Don’t Know

Today, I’m trying to recover from two physically exhausting days of medical appointments and two nights where the pain kept me awake. Life with chronic illness can be difficult, especially when new symptoms start popping up and we don’t know the cause of them. Doctor’s appointments, lab work, medical tests – they can all be challenging when you’re already feeling at the end of your strength.

But as I was taking some time in prayer this morning, God gently spoke to my mind in the midst of all the unknowns to turn my eyes on what I DO KNOW. I may not know why the Lord has allowed this interruption in my plans or what the future holds. But I do know I’m not alone. No matter what today or the future holds, I know I can continue moving forward because the Lord is at my side.

  • I do know I can choose to draw close to God and find comfort in His presence and His Word.
  • I do know He is my loving Father, who wants the very best for me.
  • I do know He is my faithful God who always keeps His promises.
  • I do know His grace is sufficient for me in every situation He asks me to walk through.
  • I do know He invites me to cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me.
  • I do know He proved without a doubt how much He loves me when He paid the ultimate price of giving His Son Jesus Christ to make a way for me to draw near to Him in both good times and in times of need.
  • I do know He is God over all I don’t know, over every pain, fear, and unanswered question. Even when I don’t know all the answers I can rest in the assurance that my God does!

No matter what fears you’re battling today or what unanswered questions you have, you can know we serve a God who is God over ALL we don’t know.

I love this song that reminds us of this truth.

Let His Light In

Today, I’m sharing a guest post by Sandie Heckman. Sandie is a member of God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness and does regular posts on our group Facebook page. Her posts are a big encouragement to the ladies in our group, since we can often identify with the challenges she faces and they always bring our eyes back on the Lord. Sandie blogs at https://soulwriterforhim.wordpress.com/ and is the author of Son Drenched. Enjoy!

Sometimes, it’s okay to get mad, really stomp your feet mad, hands in the air mad!

I tried to clean my bathroom this morning. Because I can’t stand long because of a botched knee replacement (makes my foot feel like it’s being hammered into the floor), because I can’t kneel down, because- because-because!!!

I have a scrubber with a handle and I sat on the tub to clean, and I started to curse (yeah sometimes I do). I yelled “stupid knee, stupid back – stupid body… and I kept scrubbing- crying and the more I rinsed the tub, the worse it got! My cat even came in and sat there staring at me!

“I quit” I yelled. My cats ears went back and he darted out of there as I hobbled to the kitchen, sliding my body against the wall.

I looked out my sliding glass door and saw the sun. I went out on my porch, sat down and cried the blues. Then I saw it! Trees dancing in the sky…branches with new green leaves shaking and moving to the breeze. Trying to slow down, I started praising God for all the good I could see outside…for my eyesight, even and for my daughter and mom, and the list kept coming.

Finally- He granted me grace and peace. Finally I allowed my soul to be cleansed in that moment. I let His light in and my wounded soul was refreshed- I praised God even more!

Sometimes we have to go to those angry, self-pity moments to allow ourselves to let all the grieving in our hearts go. I grieve for who I was and what I used to be able to do, but when I let the light of Jesus in -I know I’m renewed in Him.

We are not alone in this journey- He’s right here with us holding us in an embrace that heals our wounded hearts, bodies and minds.

Let His light in!

Sandie Heckman