What to do When Life Gets Hard

I love the reminder fall gives us. As I feel the temperature dropping and see the leaves changing I am reminded of the ever-changing seasons of life, more so our spiritual lives. It’s a funny idea that God who never changes, created us and the world around us to constantly change. Every Christian goes through high and low seasons and it is what we do through those seasons that determines the strengthening or weakening of our faith.

We all love the high seasons when doors are constantly opened for us and everything seems to go right on track. When we sense a freshness in our spirit. When we always sense God guiding us and walking with us everywhere we go.

It is the low seasons that we don’t like very much. When we feel like God is far from us, and don’t sense His presence guiding us. When nothing good seems to come our way, only bad news after bad news. It is in these times that we can begin to doubt, when we can begin to listen to the lies of the enemy trying to scare us from pushing through. But it is also in these times when we can choose to cling even tighter to Christ.

This can be seen so clearly in the life of Paul. If anyone can boast about suffering it’s this guy right here. He was shipwrecked as a prisoner on a ship, bitten by a deadly snake and survived, stoned, beaten and whipped, imprisoned without a trial, yet he was the very one who penned the words to “live is Christ, to die is gain, but if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.” Phil. 1:21-22 Even in prison he was praising God, and because of that prisoners and even the guards heard of the Gospel message. Paul lived with an eternal mindset believing that the things he did on this earth in whatever circumstance he was in could help further the Gospel. That is what he lived. He lived a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul lived with an eternal mindset believing that the things he did on this earth in whatever circumstance he was in could help further the Gospel. That is what he lived. He lived a life worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What an encouragement that whatever suffering we are facing in our lives it can be used for God’s glory. I know it sounds strange and a little confusing, but think of it this way. When people see you going through hard times, and you say no matter what that you will praise God that speaks something to them. It also speaks something to the devil. It tells him that it doesn’t matter what he tries to do to you because you will still praise God. It tells him that you will not stop following after God and leading others to Him.

In my devotion this morning a line stuck out to me it said, “Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.

“Suffering emboldens us because when we are face to face with our worst case scenario, we see Jesus staring back at us.”

I have been in a place like that in my life where it seemed like nothing I tried to do alleviated any of the pain or heaviness I was feeling, and it was then when God was who was left standing there. This caused a huge shift in my life. I determined to cling so tightly to God, to walk with him daily in prayer and reading His word. And wow, what a change that brought to my life. It was through a season of suffering that I learned to rely on God and nothing or anyone else.

So don’t let hardships of any sort that try to come against you stop you from running to what God has for you. If something is difficult, or scary that probably means that you should run even harder towards it because the enemy will try anything to keep you from what God has in store for you. And don’t be afraid of losing because we have the ultimate finisher on our side, the one who always finishes victorious!

Read these words from Paul in Philippians 1:20-30

“Paul’s Life for Christ

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.

Live as Citizens of Heaven

27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.”

until next time

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Even When It Doesn’t Make Sense, Keep Walking

Walk. This is a word I have been hearing God speak to me over and over lately. The first time I heard it, I was kind of in the middle of a pretty serious conversation, and I kept hearing him say walk. I was having this fight between me and God in my head. I was like, “but God I can’t just get up and walk right now, and plus there’s nowhere for me to walk. It’s a pretty busy street out there.” But he persisted and so I reluctantly got up and told the person I was with that I would be back in a little bit.

I got up and walked. I was like “Ok God, what do I do now?” It was then that he talked me through a decision I needed to make and helped me see things from a new perspective.

Then later in the week I heard him say again, walk. So as I’m rolling this word around in my mind trying to understand why God is telling me walk I hear a sermon from two different pastors on the story of Jericho. If you’ve been around church for a good amount of time you’ve probably heard it. It’s about how God told Joshua he had given him Jericho and all he had to do was walk around the wall of the city with his army and the priests once every day for six days and on the seventh day walk around it seven times, and on the seventh time as they are shouting and blowing horns the walls of the city would fall down. If hearing two different sermons wasn’t enough, the Bible reading plan I’m going through took me through the same passage of scripture, and I’m like, “I hear you, but it doesn’t make sense.”

Which is probably exactly what the Israelites thought when they were walking around the wall of Jericho. They were probably thinking, “What’s walking around this city going to do? We are warriors. Why don’t we go into battle against them?” And at the end of each day without anything happening they probably started wondering if this was all just a joke and God thought it would be funny to see if they would just keep walking around the wall. But they still kept walking. The scene from VeggieTales runs through my mind whenever I think of this story where the peas aka soldiers who were from Jericho are singing a song that goes, “Keep walking, but you won’t knock down our wall. Keep walking, but she isn’t gonna fall. It’s plain to see, your brains are very small to think walking will be knocking down our wall.” I can picture the men from inside Jericho laughing at the soldiers in Joshua’s army just walking around the wall and not fighting anyone. Think about it. They must’ve looked pretty silly. (By the way here’s a clip from the the scene if you want to watch 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXM2o_Hb9Ls&list=RDQXM2o_Hb9Ls#t=30)

There are a lot of times in life when the ways God tells us to go about things look pretty silly to those around us. They may try to tell us that what we’re doing isn’t making any difference. They may laugh in our face and tell us we’re wasting our time just walking around our metaphorical wall of Jericho waiting for something to happen, but the point is, God’s ways oftentimes don’t make sense to the world.

In my case, God was telling me to walk away from something because it was keeping me from something greater. Then he continued to tell me to walk, into the dream and vision he has given me.

The things I am doing right now seem insignificant to me. They don’t make sense for what I feel like he is calling me to. I mean I’m just working a few part-time jobs trying to make enough money to pay off student loans and in my free time trying to serve in different ways at my church. I don’t know what things will lead to what, but I trust that God has something in mind and he most definitely isn’t finished.

Just like in the story of Jericho, the men had to walk around the city walls for six days, and each day they saw nothing happen. Imagine if they would have given up after the sixth day. Imagine if they would have said, “You know what Joshua. I think you may have gotten your wires crossed when you were talking to God because nothing’s happening and what is one more day going to do?”

If they would have lost faith that the promise of God was true, they would have never seen Jericho delivered right into their hands when they walked around the city the last time on the seventh day.

God is telling us to keep walking. This thing that you’re facing, this dream that you can’t seem to grasp, this healing that you need, is yours. Don’t lose faith because IT’S YOURS! The LORD tells Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king and all its strong warriors.” (v. 2) Later on the seventh day when the army had marched around the city six times Joshua commanded them on the seventh time, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the town!” (v. 16) We think that we have to somehow prove ourselves worthy of God and his promise of eternal life, but he has already given it to us. All we have to do is accept, and when we receive him, we receive his spirit in us which enables us to tear down walls!

Whatever it is for you that you’re walking around, whatever your Jericho is, God has already given it to you. You just have to keep walking. Because who knows if the next time you walk around it, it will be the final time it takes to make the walls fall right before you and enable you to walk into the promise God has for you.

until next time

Do We Really Trust God With Everything?

Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” Psalm 143:8

As I read this verse from the Psalms a refrain started playing in my head, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.” Many of us have sung this many times, but do we truly mean the words we are singing? Are we truly willing to surrender everything God? Is our life a reflection of that proclamation?

I realize this verse doesn’t exactly say surrender all to Jesus, but David is saying ‘I trust in You Lord, I give myself to You for I know you will show me where to walk.’ He is saying I trust You enough to give myself over to You.

Our we willing to do as David did and give ourselves to God? Do we really trust Him?

We ask God to give us direction in our lives. I know I do daily, but do you see, in order for God to lead us all the way to where He desires for us to go we have to give up everything to Him, even the good things. Even the dreams and gifts and passions He has given us. I know it sounds crazy and it’s hard, but I honestly would rather entrust God with the dreams He has given me because I know He will take better care of them than I would.

Is it really that important to surrender all to God?

I don’t know what it is that may be hard for you to surrender. It’s different for everyone. It may be friendships, romantic relationships, the financial stability of a good job, talents and abilities that you rely on, or a maybe it is a dream of yours to get married, or to have children, or to own a business. Whatever it is, before we can receive from God we have to surrender these things to Him.

God is willing and desires to use us and take us as far as we are willing to go, but that’s just it, only as far as we are willing. We can say God I give you all of this, but that little thing over there, yeah I can’t give that up. And God’s response is, “That is awesome I will bless and use what you have given me, and use you in great ways, but I can only take you so far because that other thing you’re not willing to give to me, well, it is standing in the way.”

And it may even be a good thing. It may be the desire to be married and do ministry together with your spouse, which is a good thing, but God is asking that we give Him our desires, so that He can bless them and use them in awesome ways. Because when we give that desire to God we are saying God I trust that You will do with this dream whatever is best for me. Surrendering shows God our complete trust in Him. Not surrendering shows God that we don’t know if we trust that He will work everything out for good.

God’s heart breaks when we withhold from Him because He knows that there’s so much more He can give us in exchange.

God will only take us as far as we are willing to go. He doesn’t force Himself upon us. That is why He gave us freewill. He wanted our love for Him to be a choice, not something done out of obligation. Giving ourselves completely to God is a response to His generous, unrelenting, extravagant, compassionate, patient, unending love. So we can rest assured that if we entrust God with everything it will be given back to us with so, so, so much love, and in far better condition than if we were to keep it for ourselves.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.” Psalm 143:10

until next time

When Making the Right Decision Becomes Crippling

Today I’m writing this blog as much for my own encouragement as for anyone reading this. If you have been following my posts at all you may have noticed that I write from my own personal experiences. A lot of the time when I’m going through something and God gives me a word of encouragement I want to share it because I realize the powerful truth that I’m not alone in my struggle, that there is probably someone or maybe lots of people going through the same thing. So as you read this realize I don’t have it all together. I’m still figuring things out and trying to get the hang of things in my own walk with Christ. I’m telling these things as much to myself as to anyone else.

Alright, so in Psalms 33:11 it says, “But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.”

Here is a thought: Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.

What does that have to do with the Psalm? It says, His plans stand firm forever, so in life when things are falling apart remember God’s ultimate plan cannot be moved. It may seem like everything is coming apart, but either it’s something the enemy planned for destruction and God says, “I will use this for good,” or maybe some things needed to be removed and reshaped in order to get you where you need to be.

So often, we worry about missing out on an opportunity. We put so much stress on making the “right” decision, but did you ever think that maybe God intentionally wants us to miss out on certain things to position us for something greater.

God sees the bigger picture and He knows where we need to be, so don’t you think He will make darn sure we are there despite our own human stupidity?

Like it says in the Psalm God’s intentions CANNOT BE SHAKEN! That means His will and His plan will come to be somehow. It might not be the exact way He originally wanted, but it will happen.

So there are a few different cases. One is that, yeah maybe God wanted you to make a different turn that you didn’t, (oops we made a wrong a decision…again), but I strongly believe that just because say maybe I decide to not do something, that opportunity is not missed. No, if God planned for something to be it will be. Either He will send someone else in my place to accomplish it or He will redirect my steps to get me back to where I need to be.

There are other times when we have a decision to make and we think it’s right because it’s good, but just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s the best. Or sometimes we think we’re going to get a job, and we believe that it would be such a great opportunity, so of course it’s where I’m supposed to be, but maybe God is saying no to that because He has something better in mind. Yes, other people are involved and they can make the wrong decisions, but we must trust that God has everything in control and He will make another way.

We need to stop worrying about being in the right place at the right time because that will just begin to wear us down. In the end we already know that God wins the battle. His will and His plan will not be shaken. Did you hear that? HIS PLANS WILL NOT AND CANNOT BE SHAKEN! If we believe that in the end the battle is already won, then why wouldn’t the same apply to our lives and those around us now?

So keep praying for God’s will over your life and those around you. Keep walking; don’t let fear and worry stop you from moving even if it means moving backwards.

until next time

Lose Control

When You Feel Like Giving Up, Give Control to God

There are people who never really think too much about the future. They love to live in the moment and take things as they come. Then there are those who love to plan. They thrive on knowing what the next step is, and feel crippled without knowing what the future looks like. I happen to fall into the latter category. I love to think about the future.

However, I have found myself at a bit of a standstill. I thought I knew how life would be turning out for me right now. I had all these plans for life after I graduated college, but now I find myself feeling stuck without knowing where it is God is leading me next. It turns out that God had different plans.

All I hear from people is “What are your plans now?” And I my honest answer is “I have no freaking clue!”

Sure I have dreams and visions for things God has placed on my heart, but what do I do in the meantime? It’s like I’m looking at a map trying to get from point A to B, but I have no idea where B is.

I have realized that many times we or should I just say I, (I don’t want to assume anything about you) see God as this big guy in the sky who sees and knows all and is going to tell me exactly where I need to go and what I need to do. He has a specific plan for my life, so he should just tell me what’s next, right? You know, give me a little preview of the next year or so because I can’t plan for the future when I don’t know the future. But that’s just it, I’m not God, and I don’t know the future. To ask God to show me every little detail would be insulting to Him. I wouldn’t need faith then. I wouldn’t need to trust that He has everything under control, and that He is walking beside me and ahead of me.

It is really hard to give up control. I’m reminded of that all the time in even small things, but as I think about it, giving control to God is so much better than taking control myself. He has a perfect track record. I on the other hand, well, I’ve definitely made my share of bad choices. It is in times like I am in now where I need to remember that I’m not always going to have clear answers, and that God doesn’t always tell us exactly what is coming next or what to do. David wrote in Psalm 37,

Trust in the Lord and do good;

Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the Lord;

And He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,

Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light

And your judgment as the noonday.

Rest in (surrender yourself to) the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

Psalm 37:3-7

Some words that stood out to me in the passage were, trust, do good, delight, commit, rest in, and wait patiently. It all comes back to trusting God. It takes trust to give up control to Him. It takes trust to wait for His timing. It takes trust to commit our ways to God. It takes trust to remain faithful to Him. Trust is essential. To trust means to be unquestioning, unguarded, unwary, and even childlike. Why do you think Jesus said to have faith like a child? Because they trust without question. This world can be cruel to us, so it causes us to be wary and guarded, but with God we can let down our walls. We don’t need to worry about whether or not He has our best interest at heart because He always has, and always will.

When God changes plans we need to remember that it is for the best. We have to remember that there is always a reason, even if we can’t see or understand. Just like for me, I thought I would be headed down a different path than I am today, but apparently God had different plans for me, and even when I don’t understand how these plans will work out right now, I need to trust Him because He has never failed me.

Are there things that are holding you back from fully trusting and committing to God? What areas in your life do you need to surrender to God and trust Him in?

Take a minute to write some things down, and when you’re ready, give them up, so God can take complete control. It may take days or months. I know for me it’s a daily thing I have to remember and there are some things that are really difficult to surrender, but we can be reminded that God wants only the best for us. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

until next time