“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through words and groans that cannot be expressed. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
Have you ever found yourself in a place mentally, emotionally, relationally, and/or especially spiritually where you felt your Hope had faded to such a low level that you didn’t even know how to approach God because of your brokenness and weakness? There are times in our lives where God may allow extended periods of trials or suffering to linger, for which He has His purposes, but He may not allow us to readily see the immediate benefits for us or for others of that suffering. These seasons and circumstances can often cause confusion, frustrations, discouragement, and even anger or bitterness toward God on our part because of their difficulty and duration, yet God always knows what He’s doing in and through these trials and weaknesses within us.
We know that we have been given the Holy Spirit who lives inside of us once we’ve received Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. We’re told here in today’s scripture passage by the Apostle Paul that even in the most difficult of times, when our minds are compounded with the trials and tribulations of this world, the Holy Spirit goes before us to our heavenly Father, and “Intercedes” (to speak on behalf of, to mediate between) for you and I, when “We do not know what we ought to pray for….the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Therefore, a most simplistic prayer on our part such as, “God, help me I don’t know what to pray, I just know I need You,” is sufficient because the Holy Spirit is already going before us in every situation as we invite the Lord into our circumstances, placing our ultimate hope in Him, waiting patiently on Him to move in His time and according to His will for our lives.
Today, remember there is a purpose for our struggles, a purpose for our pain, and our Lord would never allow us to shed our tears in vain. He is with us in every experience, at every crossroads, at every turn, calling us ever closer toward Him, to cling to the hope only He can provide. Call out to Him, no fancy cliché’s needed, merely simple pleas from sons and daughters clinging desperately to a heavenly Father whose love for them is unconditional, immeasurable, and whose depth of wisdom is unfathomable.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for Your infinite wisdom into the trials and struggles of our lives, and for Your Holy Spirit that goes before us in prayer when we find ourselves within circumstances in which we don’t even know how to pray. Our true hope is ultimately found in You, therefore, we’re able to wait for You patiently to move in, around, and through our lives as You know what is best for us according to Your will. Thank You that we are able to boldly approach Your throne of grace in our time of need with simple prayers as little children would come to their loving father for comfort and assurance. Because of You, Lord, we Have Hope for The Journey. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it from me. But he 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.”
If anyone of us has ever experienced seasons of adversity we’ve also experienced moments in which we desired a “Quick-fix” solution or at least some sort of “light at the end of the tunnel” kind of vision so that we could tell ourselves “the end to this ordeal is hopefully approaching quite near.” However, with depression, anxiety, or just the heaviness of life situations – this is not usually the norm, and for so many of us it is as it was for the Apostle Paul, a daily test in ‘pressing into the Lord’ depending on His strength to carry us through. We understand that Paul was given a “Thorn in the flesh” (some sort of chronic ailment/limitation) by God, ultimately to keep him grounded (humble in spirit) – and even as he “Three times pleaded with the Lord to take it away,” the Lord had greater plans for Paul’s suffering. At this point one might question, “How could a good, great, and loving heavenly Father leave such a devoted servant of His own with this type of limitation or disability – refusing to remove it?” In short answer, Pastor Johnny Hunt comments, “The Lord knows more about what He wants to do with us in the difficult circumstances and seasons of our lives than we realize.”
God was beginning to teach Paul more about the Resilient Power of His grace, and that Paul need not fear his circumstances, though painful at the present moment, they would ultimately be for his good. Upon Paul’s repeated requests that his infirmity be removed, God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” What a response from a holy God who says, ‘I have allowed you to suffer with a purpose, so that My grace will be made known fully sufficient to you, and My power will be on full display in your life before others.’ This is the picture of God using our seasons of suffering, tragedy, pain, and hardship for the benefit of others as they see our faithfulness to continue to press into the Lord, and He to remain faithful to us. Thus, Paul’s most appropriate response here is, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Because of Paul’s deep, personal relationship with the Lord, he could humbly accept God’s answer to his repeated plea for deliverance without becoming bitter or resentful in his circumstances. If we are able to surrender every area of our lives to the Lord and respond to Him in humility with faith, we will be able to truly say “It Is Well With My Soul,” regardless of our circumstances.
Joe Padilla of Mental Health Grace Alliance invests his life in working with those living the journey of life with anxiety, depression, and/or mental illnesses. The "Silver Lining" or “The Beauty of Mental Illness,” says Padilla, is “The Mastery of Grace.” In his article, Staying Grounded: The Long-Haul Grace vs. The Quick-Fix Miracle, Padilla writes, “For those struggling with mental illness or for those caring for them...As difficult as mental illness can be, their suffering touches the deepest fabrics of human life and, like Spurgeon (In the 1800's Charles Spurgeon was known as the "Prince of Preachers," yet he struggled intensely with depression), they uniquely have a deeper sense of compassion for others who are weary of life. Their incredible empathy empowers them to be beautiful conduits of Christ's love and grace. Jesus is with them and He teaches them the mastery of grace! I love learning from them ... even when it's difficult." Therefore, if God is allowing you to walk such a journey in your life right now, He still has great and unique plans for you, so press on, and press into Him – His is a ‘Resilient Grace’!
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for Your unending, overflowing gift of grace in our daily lives that serves to empower us with Your strength in our weakest moments. You, Lord, are forever our strength in those times of weakness in our lives when the journey becomes difficult, when we are weary and worn. Thank You for Your promise that Your grace is sufficient for us and that our Savior, Christ Jesus’ power rests upon us during those occasions of spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical weakness. You are the God of Resilient Grace who holds our lives in the very hollow of Your hand, which allows us to proclaim in times of struggle, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
9Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
There’s so much to be said for close companionship and a strong sense of community along life’s journey especially when the path is littered with trials, suffering, or uncertainty. If we’re honest, this is the path everyone travels at one time or another, yet most of us are not ready to admit it. One thing I’m continuing to learn as the years go by is that ‘control’ is an illusion and I must “surrender” more and more areas of my life to the Lord, trusting that He is with me in all things. I do find that He gives us assurance of His presence through the comfort of His Holy Spirit and the truth of His word, but He also provides sources of comfort and fellowship through close companions who are committed to walk the journey with us. However, within ourselves can be a prevailing mind-set of ‘self-sufficiency’ that pushes us, even as believers, to strive for survival independent of God and community with other believers (The Church and close friends in Christ). It’s often easy to hide behind seemingly ‘perfect facades’ out of fear, not wanting to let anyone into our world. The Apostle Paul commands us in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The Lord’s desire for us is to speak His truth into one another’s lives, doing life together, benefiting from a fellowship that is not easily broken. As it is written in Proverbs 27:12, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” These earthly bonds the Lord has provided are invaluable relationships which serve to draw us nearer to Him, ultimately allowing us to see Him more clearly as we walk together with others along life’s journey.
God’s call for us is to become transparent with other individuals we can trust to accompany us along the journey, whom we can mutually show compassion, demonstrate His unconditional love toward, daily pouring His grace over one another, finally allowing us to continue growing into the unique children He created us to become. In return, we will repeatedly be transformed through the process of being in community and fellowship with these trusted individuals that God has placed in our path. This is part of God’s work in our lives as He strengthens our faith and trust in Him, and therefore we will be less likely overpowered by the things that once defeated and discouraged us so easily. Pray and ask God to lead you to a “trusted believer” who will walk along beside you, who will demonstrate compassion toward you, who will sometimes simply listen, and who will be okay with not having all the answers, but will also serve as a constant companion continually pointing you to Christ along The Journey.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for the beauty of companionship along the journey of life as we travel with fellow believers who help us to carry our burdens. Thank you for individuals you purposefully allow to cross our paths for encouragement, growth, and comfort. You are the God of infinite wisdom who knows every intimate detail of our lives, especially when we need those trusted companions in the faith to help sharpen us and bear our burdens. Lord, may You continually bring those individuals into our lives according to Your time and will, and allow us to cross paths with others who need to be encouraged with the hope and comfort of Christ. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
"The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."
Sometimes its difficult to walk the road one has been called to venture down on life’s journey without being “shaken” from time to time or given way to stumble here or there. After all, in our frail human condition we struggle mightily at best on certain days to continue taking those small steps of obedience, however “small” they may become. Life’s circumstances, the journey itself, and our enemy all have their way of causing us to grow weary and feel shaken to our core at times if we’re not on our guard with the assurances of the Lord. We can gain this assurance daily by focusing on some key attributes of God stated by Zephaniah as he writes, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
If we keep these truths ever before us and walk in them, we will indeed “not be shaken” in times of hardship, pain, trials, or simply the heaviness of life. However, if we take our eyes off of the Lord and forget His promises to “always be with us,” that He is “the Almighty God over all things,” that He “takes great delight (to take great pleasure or satisfaction) in us,” along with His promise to “quiet us (calming our hearts and minds within any circumstance) with His love”, rejoicing over us as His beloved children, we are more vulnerable to stumble along our faith journey. The battle for our minds is one that rages daily, hourly, and moment by moment, therefore, we must be vigilant to keep our eyes always on the Lord, knowing that He is with us, thus, we will not be easily shaken.
Today, if anxiety, depression, or the heaviness of life are crouching at the door of your heart causing you to feel as if you’ve been shaken by your circumstances, refocus your gaze on the Lord and His promises that He is with you. He is your solid foundation of truth on which to stand as He delights in you, and is able to quiet your heart & mind in the midst of any circumstance with His truth along with His unconditional love. Through His truth and promises you will not be easily moved or shaken.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this day You’ve made and that You delight in us as Your beloved children. As we invite You into the intimate details and circumstances of our lives, may You quiet our hearts with Your presence and unconditional love. Help us to continually set our gaze upon You throughout this day, walking in the truth of Your promises by faith so that we will be able to stand and not be shaken. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”
There are days when I’ve literally looked at my wife and said I feel like I’m a “walking dead man,” lacking the life and vitality that should exist in a person who intellectually knows he is loved and cared for unconditionally by the Lord, is Created in the image God, and is forever redeemed through Jesus his Savior. However, when one who walks a particular life’s journey where desert-like seasons are common and as in the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, one’s bones feel like “dry bones,” that desperately need life breathed back into them by the very breath of God. Ezekiel had been sent to bring a message to a people who were both dead and deaf spiritually, therefore God led him to a very desolate place for a very vivid object lesson that would ultimately empower him to press on in his work for the Lord. This lesson from scripture will also serve us well in our journey through dry seasons of trials, hardships, and difficulty. God led Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones where he found very deplorable conditions in which it wouldn’t be possible for humanity to survive for any sustainable length of time. Ezekiel says of the Lord, “He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know,” demonstrating his belief in God’s infinite wisdom.
Then the Lord gives Ezekiel some amazing instructions which we must simply read in order to take in their full significance, “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Along life’s journey as we press on, taking Small Steps of Obedience toward Christ, it is God who through His Spirit, will bring life back to our “dry bones” and breathe “new life” back into our weary souls. This takes place by drawing nearer to God through personal times of prayer, the prayer and encouragement of others over us, daily speaking God’s word over ourselves, and continually asking the Lord to fill us with the presence of His Spirit. Today, pray and ask God to “Breathe new life into you moment by moment,” even if you don’t feel like it. Remember, seeking God and desiring to draw nearer to Him is an act of obedience, inviting Him into your daily circumstances regardless of how you may “feel” at any given moment.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for being our Creator and the ultimate giver of life who provides the very breath that we breathe in each new day. When we walk though dry seasons of life, You are willing and able to breathe new life back into our weary souls as we draw nearer to You. During these dry seasons, remind us of Your truth and guide us in wisdom through Your Spirit so that we may continually set our focus on You finding hope for each new day. May we also remember that in such dry times You are forever with us and will never leave us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Therefore, Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’
In the context of John 10, Jesus is contrasting the characteristics of the “Good Shepherd” with that of the “thief,” or the one who seeks to do harm to the sheep, ultimately as part of his ongoing battle with God Himself. So much of our spiritual battle is not even about us, referring back to the Apostle Paul’s writing in Ephesians 6: 10-11 he states, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Satan and his demons).”
The psalmist David so vividly described in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” which includes the attributes of God being our “Protector” and our “Place of Refuge” in times of trouble. He is also our stronghold of faith when attacked or persecuted by the enemy or anyone in this world being under the control of our enemy used to attack our character, integrity, or motives for Christ. Jesus continues, “I am the gate (John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.); whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Jesus as our “True Shepherd” gives us comfort, strength, and assurance in the midst of spiritual battle or persecution, providing “safe pasture.” David continues in Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters,” especially in the midst of trials, spiritual attack or persecution.
Jesus contrasts Himself with the “thief,” who represents the “enemy”, “the wolf”, “the father of lies” and false accusation, who would come to lead His sheep astray, disrupting the full, abundant life God promises to provide as we abide in Him. “The thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I have come that they (My sheep) may have life, and have it to the full.” Living a vibrant full life in Christ involves daily walking in His truth and promises - moment by moment inviting Him into our circumstances, drawing closer to Him with simple steps of obedience as He has already won the victory over our enemy as well as the enemies of our “full, abundant life” in Him. As we desire to do His will and continue to press on despite our circumstances, we become free of the lies causing crippling fear and anxiety, thus we remain full of God’s truth about who we are in Him. Jesus has already given His life for us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Our redemption story began at the cross and will continue throughout our earthly life as we daily surrender our lives completely to the Lord, until will meet our Savior for all eternity.
Today, our focus must remain on our redemption in Christ at the cross along with His continual redemption of our entire life story for His glory and purposes. Much like the Apostle Paul, once a persecutor of Christians, he was raised up in Christ as probably the most dynamic minister of the gospel in his time. God has this same redemption and refining process plan for our lives moving forward as we seek Him. As we purpose to do His will in our lives, we must remember that His promises of protection, refuge, and strength against spiritual attack hold true today just as they did in the lives of so many other saints throughout the Bible. God will not allow His plans for our lives to be thwarted by the attacks and persecutions directed at us from the “flaming arrows” of the devil himself, or anyone used by the enemy to attack us. Not only is our ultimate salvation secured in Christ Jesus, our Savior, but also His perfect plans for our lives as we daily journey with Him, regardless of the difficulty or uncertainty of our circumstances.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for being the “Good Shepherd” who is our ultimate source of protection, rest, and place of refuge. You are faithful to give us life more abundantly as we pursue a closer relationship with you, allowing You to lead us into “safe pastures” when we’re weary and worn on life’s journey. Thank You for reminding us of the promise that You are The Way, The Truth, and The Life – as well as the fact that the daily battles we face are not our own, nor are they to be fought in our own strength. We’re able to be strong in You, Lord, and in the power of Your might. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Here we find the Apostle Paul in the closing chapter in his letter to the Philippians, commending them for their support of him with a generous offering, and assuring them that God would meet their every need according to His “glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” His deepest desire was for them to understand the importance of supporting the ongoing work of advancing the gospel of Christ, and that in doing so, God would be forever faithful to support them and to meet their needs. According to Barne’s commentary in referring to God’s ‘glorious riches’, “The word ‘riches’ here means, His abundant fullness; His possessing all things; His inexhaustible ability to supply their needs.” In another of Paul’s writings, Ephesians 3:16-17 he states, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in Your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Furthermore, Jesus echoed these same truths in His teaching to the disciples regarding not worrying about their provision in the future in book of Luke, “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor, was dressed like one of these…If that is how God clothes the grass of the field…how much more will He clothe you.” (Luke 12:27-28)
Therefore, what we are to understand is that God’s desire to meet our needs goes far beyond merely financial or physical needs, but also our emotional, relational, and especially spiritual needs with Him. For we know that if our relationship with our Creator is in order, all other things pertaining to life over time as we seek Him tend to fall in line under His wisdom, direction, and provision in our lives. There is an awe-inspiring, faith-igniting experience when we see God meet a specific need in our lives, especially when we’ve stepped out in faith to help others, whether it was financially, or giving of our time, talents, even simply offering a listening ear to a friend who is grieving and hurting. God honors those sacrifices as Paul explained to the believers in the church at Philippi, and He reveals Himself by meeting our needs ‘in all of His abundant fullness.” We know that the Lord is our TRUE Shepherd and one of the great passages of scriptures describing this attribute of God is Psalm 23, verse 1a which reveals much about all that God provides for us as He serves that role in our lives, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be left in want..”
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for the promise of being the Ultimate Provider in all areas of our lives. Thank You for reassuring us that we do not have to worry about tomorrow, nor about the specific things we need because You already know what those needs are in our lives. We are called to simply place those needs before You in prayer with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7), allowing Your peace to come over us. You are a good, good Father who desires to provide for His children as we come to You with our specific requests, inviting You into our daily circumstances. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”
How easy is it to catch ourselves in the busyness of life to walk right past the countless opportunities to do what Solomon instructs us to do here, “In all your ways acknowledge” or notice God in our daily lives? In order to “acknowledge” God literally means to recognize His authority and express genuine gratitude for who He is and all He has done for us as we go about our daily responsibilities. God’s desire has always been to be a part of every detail of our lives – even the ones that seem to be the least important or most miniscule. We tend to reason in our minds that God would surely be more interested in someone with much larger problems than the one’s on our path. But God’s word speaks to us a much different message here, “In all your ways acknowledge Him” – which also translates, “invite God into all of your circumstances.” Regardless of the size your circumstances appear to be, God is simply waiting to be more intimately involved in your life if you first acknowledge His authority to be Lord over your life, and secondly, with a heart of gratitude thank Him for the promise to walk with you.
So often we set out to conquer life’s struggles and to solve even our most difficult problems forgetting to acknowledge that God is with us, ever-present, all-knowing and simply waiting for us to invite Him in our direction. Practical applications for Solomon’s instruction here are praying and asking God to go before us throughout our day, trusting in His moment by moment presence with us in all situations, and thanking Him with gratitude at the end of each, day knowing it is God who has carried us through – acknowledging Him in all our ways. However, we must remember that learning to “acknowledge God in all our ways,” requires us to first “Trust in the Lord with all of our heart, and not lean on our own understanding,” because there is so much of life’s journey that we simply will not understand. But in those times we need not be so focused on finding answers, rather we have the opportunity to trust the Lord with our circumstances, allowing Him to “direct our path.”
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for the faith you have given us and the promise that if we trust You with all of our heart, surrendering our lives to You (not leaning on our own understanding), You will direct the path of our journey. Help us to look for opportunities to both see You and acknowledge You in all that we do. May we not be so focused on finding specific answers to life’s circumstances, but rather seek to draw nearer to You by faith and trust, understanding You are continually working in our lives ultimately for our good and Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the (Holy) Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive…”
Along the journey there will be dry times which evidence of God’s presence and movement in and around our lives may not be as apparent causing us to become weary and burdened, also thirsting for meaning, relevance, and deliverance. We know that God created us with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10), to be used by Him for His glory and to do the work ‘He prepared for us in advance to do.” Our spiritual journeys include experiences that teach us, build our character, and reveal to us more of the specific purposes God has for our lives. These experiences are often challenging and painful, leaving us with only one direction to turn for our source of strength to endure - Jesus, our Savior.
God never intended that we live, work, or serve without Him. In fact, He has given us His Holy Spirit as a guide and a “well-spring of life” that enables us to press on as we press into His wisdom and presence in our circumstances. “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within Him.” The Holy Spirit of God which comes to dwell within our hearts once we’ve received Christ as our personal Savior, is and becomes that unending source of God’s love, grace, strength, and truth flowing into our lives especially in those desert-like seasons of life.
Looking to Christ, daily inviting Him into our circumstances, turning to His Holy Spirit as well as God’s word for spiritual nourishment, will never leave us thirsting for the things of the world to satisfy our deepest needs. However, we must remember that dwelling daily in the presence of God is essential to having access to the ‘living water’ Jesus provides as we become “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.” (Psalm 1:3) Jesus also echoed the importance of dwelling in Him through ‘the drinking’ of His ‘living water’ to the woman at the well – “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again (doing life his own way apart from God), but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again. Indeed, the water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) This nourishment results when we choose to center our lives on Christ, daily walking with Him in spirit, and purpose to be filled with the truth of God’s word.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for being streams of water and a well-spring of life along the journey for all who seek You for nourishment. Thank you for Your Spirit living with me who is the unending source of this nourishment when I come to You in prayer and through Your word, “casting my cares upon you” (1 Peter 5:7), “Seeking first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33) May Your streams of living water well up within my spirit, especially in desert-like seasons of life when I can’t readily see Your hand, but can trust Your heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
1The Lord is my light and my salvation--
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life--
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When the wicked advance against me
to devoura me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
4One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
How much of our lives are about vision, perspective, and hope for our future? In fact, Pastor Johnny Hunt says, “We can go “40 days without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air, but you can't live 4 seconds without hope.” Hope is a powerful, driving force in our lives that not only allows us to press-on, but often serves as a catalyst for change in our lives if we’re stuck in a rut of despair, anxiety, depression, or simply feeling the heaviness of life bearing down on us. We witness in this passage the Psalmist encountering some strong adversity in his life. However, not being able to pinpoint the exact nature of his circumstances, we’re able to identify with him as we often feel as if “enemies have pursued us seeking to devour us,” and “war is breaking out all around us,” because at times life seems to be falling apart. Can I get a witness?
Calling to his mind in verse one, the Psalmist proclaims one of the greatest rallying cries we can shout in the midst of battle, “1The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” Walking through days, weeks, or difficult seasons of a journey with anxiety, depression, or simply the heaviness of life weighing down upon us – the enemy has no mercy, but rather seems to double-down on his work. Thus we must remain faithful to cling to the promises of God’s word just as the Psalmist did here, for God is the “stronghold of our lives – we shall not be afraid.” Finally, hope is always found by setting our eyes on the future, and that future is the “Beauty of the Lord” in what awaits us beyond the trials, hardships, and struggles of our journey here on earth. The Psalmist expresses his desire to spend his days in the house of the Lord and “set his gaze on the Lord” – “4One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Setting our gaze on the Lord is an essential part of the daily journey as He is our ultimate source of light and salvation – the stronghold on which we are able to stand and not be easily shaken. Today, remember within the beauty and strength of the Lord awaits a glorious future for all who have called on Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Knowing that we have an eternal, everlasting hope that reaches far beyond our present trials and circumstances, provides us with the hope we need to take small steps of obedience for another moment, another hour, for another day. In the strength of Christ Jesus, Amen!
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this day You have made, let us find our ultimate source of true hope and light as we seek You first today. Thank You for being the stronghold on which we’re able to continually stand moment by moment as we set our gaze continually on the truth of Your word. May it be our desire to gaze on Your beauty and to long for Your presence in our lives as we seek to dwell in Your house. Lord, You are our light and salvation, therefore, we need not be afraid of anything in this world, but rather to rest in fearing You alone above all else. May we find peace today in the complete surrender of our lives to You. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.
“My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (perseverance), But let patience have its perfect work (accomplishing the purpose for which God has allowed it), so that you may be perfect (achieving the spiritual growth intended in that trial) and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach (disapproval), and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting. For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”
If you’ve ever been to the ocean especially when the tide is rolling in, the short trip out beyond the breaking waves to calmer waters can be a bit unsettling. The waves seem to crash in one after another relentlessly pounding your body, causing you to lose your balance, and even at times, knocking you down with great force. It is often not the most comfortable part of the beach experience, however, once you’ve reached calmer waters beyond the breaking waves, you’re able to enjoy the buoyancy of your body simply floating gradually up and down atop the incoming tide.
The challenge of the “breakers” can be daunting and tiresome, however, as you keep your eyes on the calmer waters ahead, you press on one calculated step at a time. If a “rogue wave” catches you off guard knocking you down, it can cloud your vision and cause you to inhale a mouthful of bitter salt water. At that point you may doubt if you can stand up or press on by setting your gaze once again on those calmer, more peaceful waters. Our experience with “earthly trials” can be similar to such experiences with the mighty power of the ocean. The “trials” or “Rogue waves” of life can catch us off guard, knocking us down, causing us to doubt our faith, to doubt God’s plans for us, and cloud our vision along with our memory of His promises to us. As James writes, he says not “if you fall into various trials,” but “when you fall into various trials,” to “count it all joy.”
“Count it all joy”; that can be a tough principle to wrap your mind around, much less put into practice. The joy he is speaking of is the all-surpassing peace, hope, and contentment that is only possible through walking in the promises of God and remaining in a close relationship with Christ Jesus, our Lord regardless of our circumstances. We are reminded by James of God’s purposes for such trials in the development of our character – namely patience (perseverance) as we continually set our gaze upon the Lord, even in the most difficult circumstances or even prolonged seasons of life which we may not fully comprehend. God has a purpose and lesson for each trial we encounter, even when we feel defeated, knocked down, or that we’ve failed He is continually working as we seek Him. Essential to this process is that we are “patient” – as James writes, “allowing patience to have its perfect work,” meaning we have persevered in waiting on the Lord as He works on our behalf to teach, train, and grow us through each trial.
Finally, James encourages us to ask God for wisdom when we don’t understand, or when we need clear direction, but warns us to do so without doubting God’s faithfulness. In doubting God, we can easily become “like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” As life may present circumstances which cause us to feel as if we’re drowning in the depths of confusion, sorrow, pain, trials, and hardship – the unshakable joy and perseverance we find only in Christ, can be our anchor, and we can leave the treacherous waters of doubt behind us as we trust in the Lord to lead us to the stillness of a Safe Harbor.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for being with us, ever-present in our times of trials and testing, as You seek to strengthen our faith through perseverance. Help us to see these various seasons or circumstances as opportunities to grow in our relationship with You and to “count it all joy” as You continually work in our lives knowing what is best for us. Give us hearts of humility that call out to You for wisdom and discernment in faith, not doubting the truth and promises of Your word. May we be willing to learn the invaluable lessons You have prepared for us during these times of trial knowing that in them we are growing in ways that are only brought forth through such experiences. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness!
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. Therefore, I hope in Him!
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
If asked the question, “Have you thought about eternity today?”, most of us would probably say, “No, not really… because I’ve had this or that going on, or there are more pressing things occupying my mind.” It’s the daily things, the mundane, the routine, the busyness, that draws our focus away from the eternal and onto ourselves or the things which this world deems more important. However, when the unexpected occurs, life takes a drastic turn, we experience a loss of some kind, or when we come face to face with the brokenness of the world around us, our focus is quickly drawn back to the “things of God, the eternal, the lasting.” It’s when we’re confronted with such circumstances that we may begin to ponder these truths that ground us, that give us hope, that help us take small steps each day holding onto the promises of God’s word and who He says we are in Him.
In the midst of a world where he sees so much sin and hopelessness, the prophet Jeremiah writes, “Through the Lord’s mercies (God’s divine favor shown to us instead of His wrath) we are not consumed, because His compassions (God’s divine sympathy toward us, understanding our desperate need for Him) fail not. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” God’s compassions for us each morning include His desire to be intimately involved in our lives, His grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness toward us, as well as His patience with us. Understanding that these aspects of God’s character are readily available to us each and every new morning should serve to break the “bondage” we often feel because of our own improper view of God, of ourselves as He views us, our circumstances, and of our position as “free” to live in Christ our Savior.
Along life’s journey, there are often whispers from within ourselves, from the opinion of others, or our enemy himself, “That you’re not good enough, nothing you ever do will make you worth anything, you are hopelessly lost in a state of being without meaning or purpose.” These whispers are all lies which condemn us, discourage us, defeat us, and blind us to the immeasurable worth and value we possess simply because the very hands of God created us. (Psalm 139:13-14;16) Jeremiah addresses this issue as he continues, “The Lord is my Portion (He is my everything), says my soul. Therefore, I hope in Him!” Our hope, peace, and contentment must rest in the fact that, ‘God is enough’ and we are sufficient in Him, which is what Jeremiah is referring to when he says, “The Lord is my portion.” Nothing else in all the world – not relationships, not accomplishments, not possessions, not high position, not human affirmation, not good works can ultimately bring inner peace and a sense of value, worth, meaning, and purpose to our lives other than knowing Christ and who we were created to be through Him.
Living life with eternity in view regardless of our past, present, or what we think our future might hold, gives us the strength to press on in the face of adversity, trials, pain, and change. In response to living life from an eternal viewpoint, Jeremiah writes, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” When our view seems obscured and we can’t seem to see what God is doing, we must trust that in His infinite wisdom He knows what is best for our lives. Our part is to be still before Him waiting in eager expectation, getting into His word, inviting Him into our circumstances, and in faith, trusting that His renewed mercies and compassion for us every morning will carry us through another day.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this day You have made filled with Your new mercies and compassion which never cease. You are forever faithful and are our portion (our everything) providing us with renewed hope, purpose, and meaning for each new day as we walk with You on this journey of life. Lord, we find true peace, hope, and rest as we wait quietly for You to move in the daily circumstances of our lives. The Hope we have is in the Light of Eternity. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Though He (God) slay me, yet I will hope in him;
I will maintain all my ways before Him.”
If you know anything of Job’s life, you know that he lost much, yet in the end he remained faithful to God despite his circumstances, in turn being fully restored even more abundantly blessed by the Lord. During his time of trials and testing Job had difficult questions of his own for the Lord, accompanied by poor counsel from his friends and complete desertion by his own wife, yet he did not surrender to the pressures of his circumstances. We are continually faced with adversity of many kinds and we like Job, formulate our own set of questions for God and at times receive poor counsel from friends who may have good intensions, yet lack God’s perfect wisdom regarding what He is doing in and through the painful trials, hardship, and suffering in our lives. We like Job, may not understand our pain, struggle, loss, persecution, confusion, etc. but in these times we have an opportunity to seek our Lord and Savior regardless of the circumstances or the outcome.
The author, possibly Job himself writes, “Though He (God) slay me,” meaning God has allowed some type of major suffering or adversity into his life. We know from the opening chapters of the book of Job that God had allowed Satan to test the faith of Job, yet the enemy was not allowed to personally harm him. The enemy’s intent was to so shake the faith of Job that he turns his back on the Lord, and therefore, his faith would be proven weak and of no real substance. However, as God has allowed these things to occur in the life of Job, we witness a faith challenged, but not a faith demolished – “yet I will hope (trust) in Him; I will maintain (continue) my ways before Him (God).”
Job encounters unimaginable loss in his life, unrelenting adversity and testing of his faith, the questioning of his character by his most personal friends, and the abandonment of his own wife who is of little help to him in his time of suffering. But Job remains faithful to God as the Lord promises to remain faithful to him, even though in the end, Job still does not completely understand the purpose of all his suffering. What He does draw from this season of hardship and suffering is a greater understanding of the faithfulness and wisdom of God, who watches over his life, even though he feels “slain” by life’s circumstances. We also may enter into seasons in our lives where by faith we must simply say, “Though God slay me - though He has allowed such difficulty, pain, hardship, loss and adversity in my life, I will continue to trust Him, to walk with Him, and to allow Him to continue to mold and shape me for His glory and purposes.”
Even through our suffering, God is showing His great love toward us, just as He did in sending Jesus to suffer a horrible death on the cross for our sins in order to redeem us. Out of great suffering in our lives, times of pain, and times of what feel are crushing blows, God is working to reap in us the fruits of righteousness along with a stronger, deeper faith in Him. A faith that says, “Come what may, I am the Lord’s and He is mine, and I will continue to seek Him, so that others may desire to come to know the hope I have in walking with Him.”
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, I praise You this morning because I know You are a God of infinite wisdom and are aware of every detail of my life. I draw comfort and maintain hope from the testimony of Job’s life as You reveal both Your faithfulness along with Your purposes for using suffering in our lives to draw us nearer into a more intimate relationship with You. By Your grace and through faith, I trust You with the journey of my life and the paths You would have me travel. For I know Your promise to never leave me nor turn away from me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; Let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is sick and withered like grass;” (vv.1-4)
“My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.” (v.11)
One of the most difficult places to find oneself is in what we might refer to as a “Desert Place” where life seems to all but stop as you lose hope, peace, and motivation accompanied by the fact that taking each step further becomes more challenging day by day. Here we find the Psalmist in such a Desert Season in his own life where he’s calling out to God for help, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; Let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.” He’s calling out as if he feels he can’t hold on much longer under the conditions he describes, “For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is sick and withered like grass; My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.”
It is most difficult when we enter such seasons with cumulative days or weeks of lowliness, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness which simply linger. In addition to these struggles, further frustration may result as such occasions do not always provide definitive answers to the direct cause of our internal suffering or pain – it’s just there. Our days can seem to run together as the Psalmist says, “vanishing like smoke,” and our “heart may feel sick and withered like grass” as our body experiences fatigue from the daily battle. Finally, at the end of each day in a season such as this, we can all too often feel as if a “shadow” looms over us as again we are as “withered grass” tossed by the winds of a challenging and reoccurring struggle from within. However, in these times we must follow the example of the Psalmist and call out to the Lord for help, inviting Him into our circumstances as we find ourselves in these Desert Places. Traveling through these dry seasons can cause us not to see God clearly nor feel His presence, but in His perfect timing He reveals to us that He had been there carrying us all the time. It may appear that God is silent for a time, but in the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “Sometimes the silence of the Lord is His way of letting us grow.” When it does seem that God is “silent,” remember that He is never absent from us, but rather is always with us as He has promised.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for this day You have made, may we find true joy, peace, and rest in You. You are the One ever-present companion even in the desert places of our lives when our souls feel weary, withered, and worn. When we experience seasons of dryness which can produce depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and confusion – let us not become disillusioned if You are silent but for a time, instead help us to cry out to you in utter dependence. For this type of dependence is not a sign of weakness, but rather a demonstration of faith in Your promises to meet us right in the midst of our circumstances. May seeking You first become our default setting and not our last resort. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray.
In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay
My requests before You and wait expectantly.”
Has there ever been a time when you just needed to be heard? You just needed someone to listen, knowing they probably didn’t have the answers to your problems. However, a heart of compassion and a genuine listening ear would at least serve as a “release valve” to your weary soul. A close friend who is able to offer the precious gift of simply listening and walking with us in true companionship along the journey are two of the greatest blessings we have from the Lord this side of heaven. The Psalmist found this attentive ear and close companionship with his Lord, along with the comfort that God had complete knowledge of David’s circumstances. He writes, “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament (to mourn, or express sorrow). Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray.” David is clearly in a place of trials, pain, or deep sorrow in which he desires the comfort, presence, and assurance of His Lord as he pleads for help inviting Him into his circumstances. We also see that David recognizes God as his supreme authority who is in control and able to work in all circumstances as he refers to his heavenly Father as “my King and my God.” This statement by him emphatically recognizes God as the Lord over any and all things that could possibly touch David’s life.
With full assurance David writes, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.” He is not merely praying and hoping for the best, but rather placing his full faith in the One he knows holds his very life in His hands. We too, can choose to pray with “expectancy,” and instead of worrying, be able to spend our time actively “waiting in assurance” on the Lord to move in our circumstances. For the Lord always knows what is best for us, yet it is in His perfect timing that we must remember He will move. A very wise mentor of mine in the faith shared with me long ago that, “The Lord doesn’t always move quickly, but when He is ready to move He will move suddenly, often when we least expect it.” Therefore, today do not lose hope nor lose heart, but keep seeking the Lord – inviting Him to be a part of every area of your life, and wait expectantly on Him, for He Hears Your Voice.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, today I thank You for the abundance of promises in Your word that assure us that You hear our cries for help. Whether we’re able to articulate very detailed specific prayers or simple “arrow prayers” shooting directly to You in our moments of desperation such as, “God help me!”, You promise that You are listening. May we draw nearer to You with our deepest needs and heart-felt requests knowing that You will not turn away, but understanding that You are intimately acquainted with every detail of our lives. Lord, in our weakest moments of trial, suffering, hardship, and pain may You give us the strength and grace we need to reach for Your loving hands to guide us out of darkness back into the light of Your living hope. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, and labor on what
does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
eat and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live…”
What is intimacy? If any number of people were asked such a question, inevitably a variety of answers would be given. Several adjectives that I certainly believe would be included in those responses would be “closeness” or some sort of “bond” or “connection” between two people. Most likely, these connections or sense of closeness would be positive experiences enriching the lives of those involved. Other aspects of the “intimacy” question would be “time” and “things invested” that become both the foundation and maintenance aspect of such a relationship. When we speak of intimacy with someone, it must have had a beginning point (i.e. if marriage, a courtship; if a close friendship, a variety of experiences) which strengthened the close bond between those individuals.
What about intimacy with God? This question is one which can be more difficult for us to answer based on our knowledge, understanding, and personal experiences with God. Working backwards with our equation above, first the beginning point or foundation for our intimacy with God must be our relationship with Jesus, coming to know Him as our personal Lord and Savior. Second, our intimacy with God must have both a growth and maintenance aspect which would include time spent with him, including Bible study, prayer, and daily pondering the Cross of Jesus (understanding the freedom we are given because of our salvation). Pondering the cross reminds us of what Jesus sacrificed for us, providing us forgiveness of sin, mercies renewed every morning, and grace poured over our lives moment by moment along our journey.
Our connecting point with God each morning and throughout each day is to simply bring ourselves to Him as described in Isaiah 55:1-3, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, eat and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me that your soul may live…” Coming to Jesus daily, surrendering every area of our lives to Him, asking Him to reveal Himself to us through scripture and prayer, and connecting with Him through the presence of His Spirit within us, leads us into a deeper intimacy in our walk with Him.
If we are thirsty, Jesus promised to provide us with “living water” (John 4:10), and if we walk closely with him, “through us will flow streams of living water” (John 7:38). If we are hungry or thirsty, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) Jesus also promised that, “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (The Goodness of God) shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) If indeed, these things become most important in our lives, and we commit ourselves to them, we will begin to enjoy an intimacy with God we’ve never experienced before. Through God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness renewed every morning we are provided the opportunity for intimacy with him that is beyond compare.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for desiring to have a more intimate relationship with us in our lives. Give us a desire and willingness to draw nearer to You every morning and throughout our day. Father, when our lives feel empty and barren You provide nourishment for our souls as we hunger and thirst for You. For only You can provide the things which ultimately satisfy the deepest longings of our soul and lead to a deeper walk with You. Father help us daily to listen, to be still, and to purposefully pursue a more intimate connection in our relationship with You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
5Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
A soul disquieted is one that “lacks a certain level of peace or tranquility,” due to internal or external circumstances, or a combination of both. There can be many contributing factors to such a condition by which hopelessness and discouragement causes an anxiousness or depressed sense of the soul and disrupts one’s functioning physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. The Psalmist wrestles with such questions within himself as he pens these words, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” We gather from previous verses within the stanza, that he can recall brighter days in his past, which were accompanied by hope-filled experiences with the people of God as they marched toward the House of the Lord praising His holy name.
Yet, in this season of which the duration is unclear, his soul is downcast, disquieted, grieved, or unsettled within him. The exact cause is also unknown, yet the effects are unmistakable – a depression causing him for a time, not to see the glorious grace and truth of God. These blessings of God which he had known shortly beforehand, having found true joy and exuberance in life, walking with God, worshipping Him along with His people had all but dissipated. Much like the Psalmist, we can find ourselves in a season in which our soul is downcast or disquieted, causing us to lack peace in our lives – peace of mind, body, soul, and spirit. There is not always a “cause & effect” process that is readily clear when we find ourselves in these places of darkness, of being downcast, or feeling that our soul is disturbed within us. Sometimes there are just no easy answers to the lowliness or heaviness of spirit we may experience. However, in these seasons or circumstances we can take a cue from the Psalmist as he purposefully alters the focus of his mind in order to find true hope once again.
The Psalmist wisely turns his heart toward God, even in his distress he proclaims, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” His realization that God is his ultimate source of hope and his proclamation that regardless of his circumstances he will yet praise him, reveals his faith in and loyalty to the Lord who is faithful to never leave him and to walk with him through all things. Turning to the Lord in these times of the disquieted soul is an essential part of keeping a sense of ultimate hope alive in one’s life. We have access to all that God is and all He provides in our lives – comfort, strength, purpose, grace, unconditional love in every moment and at every twist & turn of life. Especially on our most difficult of days, it is of utmost importance to get our mind, heart, and soul refocused on Him, and to surround ourselves with those who will constantly remind us of His faithfulness along this journey.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for the comfort of Your Spirit and the promises of Your word to bring hope to the disquieted or weary soul. Thank You Lord, for being constant and unchanging when there appears to be no rhyme or reason for the heaviness we may feel within our spirit. Please grant us your grace and strength in those most difficult times to turn our hearts back toward you in order to find true peace and rest. You are a good, good Father and we praise you even when we cannot clearly see You or feel Your presence, because You are faithful and never leave us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Philippians 4: 6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
If you’re one of us who are prone to worry or struggle with anxiety you’ve probably had these two verses of scripture quoted to you on one occasion or another by a well-meaning individual whose heart was in the “right place,” yet the timing of their counsel was simply not quite ideal, nor did it help to sooth the difficulty of your immediate circumstances. Often times wise counsel can be shared, even biblical references, but if not given at the appropriate time can cause a person to find themselves more discouraged and feeling even more defeated than when they first shared their concerns. Therefore, we must always proceed with caution and with much prayer as we seek to help those around us who are struggling along their journey with anxiety.
In his book, Can God Use My Anxiety For Good?, Author, Pastor, and Therapist Rhett Smith shares some very powerful insights into how God just may have some remarkable plans to use anxiety in your life to do His amazing work. He first poses a very important question to his readers, “What if God is using anxiety in your life to speak to you?” Then secondly, he speaks a word of CAUTION to anyone attempting to half-heartedly or quickly counsel those who struggle with anxiety and the possible setbacks it can cause for those individuals, “If we simply quote scriptures toward others such as the “catch-all” scripture quote, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6) we inadvertently deflect our helplessness to help others who are struggling and in turn, they are no better off in their personal struggles with anxiety. When we discourage others from safely expressing their anxiety, then we are essentially saying to them that anxiety is a bad emotion, and that it is something to be done away with. It communicates to them that something is perhaps wrong with their Christian faith and they begin to internalize the message, “I’m a Christian. I’ not supposed to be anxious.”
Rhett continues in his book to explain how God can use our anxiety to motivate us to move forward in our daily lives to press into Jesus, being able to break free of things that once paralyzed us, and learn to walk freely in the grace the Lord has given us to follow Him without worry and fear. Rhett states, “Perhaps anxiety is a gift of grace because it encourages us to face our fears, so that that we can then choose to freely follow God where He is calling us to go. Anxiety beckons us not to allow our lives to get stuck in a rut. If God gives us freedom and allows possibility, then maybe God has hardwired anxiety into us as part of those choices in a way that propels us to seek after Him and continually grow in the process.”
Today, remember that if feelings of anxiety, worry, restlessness, and the heaviness of life come calling, God is near – invite Him directly into your circumstances through praying specifically about your situation “making your requests with thanksgiving.” With the active response of reaching out to our Lord and Savior, we do receive this promise in verse 7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What a comfort to know that we can boldly approach our Lord through His grace moment by moment in our time of need, and that He will indwell us with His Spirit of peace.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, I thank You today for Your promise to meet us in our moments of anxiety, worry, or fear and to deliver Your all-surpassing peace within our circumstances. Thank You for always being available to hear our heart-felt requests for help and reminding us of Your faithfulness. May You use the anxious moments of our lives to cause us to pursue You more diligently and to be moved toward a greater depth of faith as You carry us along the journey. Give us strength to step out in faith in the midst of our anxious moments allowing You to meet us on those paths to spiritual victory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Seasons of life bring with them a myriad of challenging emotions from anxiety to depression, from grieving to restlessness, from fear and hopelessness, to weariness and heaviness as we walk through different stages, situations, and circumstances. These various ranges of emotions cause us to become unsettled in our day to day life experience of the world around us, and can disrupt what are daily opportunities to enjoy the abundant life and true peace that Christ has promised us as we walk with Him. However, for so many there is this lack of peace and enjoyment, this unrest or lack of ability to take in the abundant life and all that comes with it.
All too often long battles with anxiety, depression, or simply the heaviness of life can cause life to look and feel much different, lacking the peace and stability of knowing and walking closely in step with Jesus. We can draw hope and encouragement from the very words of Jesus as He spoke a very important promise to His disciples which He also extends to us as well, “26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The world can never provide us with the true peace that God has promised, especially when life begins to look very differently than it has before. His Holy Spirit living with us is the “Spirit of Peace and Comfort” when we need Him, and can fill these deep voids in our lives, thus Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” which is tied to His promises such as He will “never leave us or forsake (turn away from us).” Taking small steps of obedience in prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter and speaking God’s truth into our immediate circumstances will enable that ultimate sense of True Peace to overwhelm us. Never forget that we have the greatest source of peace living within us, whom Jesus Himself sent to us to provide His peace regardless of the season or situation we find ourselves along life’s journey.
Connecting Faith & Life:
Father, thank You for the promise of Your Holy Spirit as our ultimate source of peace that surpasses all understanding. As Jesus said, it is not a false sense of peace such as the world gives, but a True Peace only found in Your promises and in the overwhelming presence of Your Spirit in our lives. Thank You, that in light of Your peace and Your promises our hearts need not be troubled nor afraid in the midst of trying or troubling circumstances, because we may find rest and refuge in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.