What You Need to Know about Grief Cycles

by Debbie Wilson

I wish someone had warned me about grief. Maybe no one knew, or perhaps I wouldn’t have heard. In case you ever need to know, here are two words to remember after you’ve lost a loved one: three months.

The three-month anniversary of a loss feels like grief has started over. We buried my mother on Mother’s Day weekend weeks before my high school graduation. Three months later, grief blindsided me on my first weekend of college.

Years later, Daddy passed away in August. That Thanksgiving I found myself summoning all I had to hold it together. What was happening?

In a grief class by Norm Wright, I later learned grief cycles in three-month intervals during the first year after a loss. Those tidal waves of sorrow are normal, and their intensity usually passes after several days. I’ve seen the cycle play out many times in others’ lives as well my own.

Unexpected waves of grief surprised me like an unexpected ocean wave. Those who’ve spent time at the beach know the difference between the cold slap of a small wave, the fall from a medium wave, and the merciless dunking of a big surge that flips you and holds your head under the water while you pray your breath will last until it releases you. For me, grief’s three-month mark was like that last wave.

When this happens, the griever questions whether the grief will ever subside. Be assured, you haven’t digressed. This is the normal cycle of mourning.

Grief can look as different as the fingers that touch it. Whether the one suffering processes their grief through busyness or through quietness, grief is never a straight line. It dips and dives. It twists and turns. Even years later, an event such as a news event or a song playing in the grocery store can open an old wound.

If you or someone you know is grieving, grant grace. Don’t tell them or yourself to snap out of it. Share good memories and tears. Feel the anger, then let it go. Grief reminds us that we aren’t home yet.

One day Jesus will wipe away every tear.

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4 NIV).

Give yourself grace to mourn. And don’t be dismayed when grief resurfaces.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been overwhelmed by grief?

Sometimes We Discover God Amid Disappointment

by Debbie Wilson

My teenaged heart awoke to God while lying on my back on a dock staring at stars only visible to someone away from city lights. The smell of the marsh, the rhythmic lap of the river, and the chirping night symphony cast a spell that made me feel small, yet part of something magnificent. David surely felt this magic when he wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1).

Abraham also felt it. “For the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith’” (Rom. 4:3 NLT). Genesis says this happened while he gazed at the stars.

Abraham had just defeated four wicked kings to rescue Lot, and he’d given up his rightful monetary reward. Perhaps he worried these kings would seek retribution. Or, in hindsight, had he been foolish not to take his fair share of the booty? Maybe he was just worn out from battle. Whatever his state, God understood and said, “Don’t fear, Abraham. I am your great reward.”

Now, if God told you He was your great reward, how would you respond? Would you bow speechless and amazed? Would you leap for joy?

Abraham said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless?” (Gen. 15:2).

“What can you give me?” Whoa, Abraham. Do you know whom you’re talking to?

His reply reminds me of the little girl who prayed, “Thank you for the baby brother—but I prayed for a puppy.”

Did Abraham’s Frankness Offend God?

No. Abraham and God were close. Abraham didn’t need to fake a pious response. God understood his disappointment and longing for a son. He promised Abraham a son and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”

Count the stars? Impossible! But Abraham gazed into the heavens anyway. The cold lump of disappointment melted as he watched new stars emerge. Belief warmed his core and spilled out in laughter and tears. Yes, he would become the father of many. The Creator, the One who spoke worlds into being, would do this.

“And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:5–6 NASB).    

Why would counting billions of stars help Abraham believe he would father a son? God gave Isaiah similar instructions. “Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing” (Isa. 30:26 NLT).

Abraham began to count the stars and was overcome. Nothing was impossible for the Creator of all of this. Scripture says he believed in God, and God counted his faith as righteousness.

The promise of a son was no longer remote when Abraham saw the size of God. The promise of great nations coming from an infertile couple was nothing to the Creator of the Milky Way.

In the end, God took Abraham’s weakness and turned it into a staggering promise. Not one heir, Abraham—billions.

What has discouraged you or left you feeling powerless? Have you brought your disappointment to God? Maybe it’s time for a little stargazing. Impossible problems are no problem for a big God.

O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! Ps. 8:1 NASB

*Adapted from Little Faith, Big God, Leafwood Publishers

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Is there something in nature that speaks to you of God’s greatness?

The Comfort of Knowing the Creator

by Debbie Wilson

I stepped onto my front porch and spotted a huge spider web. I grabbed my broom and stomped back ready to remove the offensive visitor when my son stopped me. “Mom, what are you doing? Stop. Sit and watch the spider with me.”

Was he kidding? I could tell he wasn’t. I put down my broom and sat to watch the spider with him.

My son was right. The spider’s patience and skill at weaving a complicated design was marvelous to watch. Who taught a spider to measure and create such intricate lace?

In the book Tortured for Christ, Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand describes a Russian couple he met. Living under communism, they learned there was no God. But the wonder of creation began to make them question the possibility of a creator.

Both were sculptors who worked on a statue of Stalin. One day, the wife began to ponder the importance of her thumb. She concluded that if God had not created heaven and earth, as Marxism taught, but had created only the thumb, He was worthy of praise. Since the communist said nobody was in heaven, she decided to worship the “Nobody” who’d created the thumb.

Upon hearing her story, Wurmbrand introduced them to the One who’d made not only the thumb but also heaven and earth. Learning Christ’s name thrilled them. Learning the Creator of the Milky Way loved them so much He had died for them, so they could one day join Him in heaven gave them unspeakable joy.

Worshipping the Creator

Believing God created the world is essential to strong biblical faith. It also puts us in the company of those commended for their faith and impacts the quality of our everyday relationship with God.

“By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen” (Hebrews 11:3 NLT).

Although it takes faith to understand that God formed the universe by simply speaking, the visible world points to a creator. No one stumbles upon a cabin in the woods, smells bacon wafting from an open window, and doubts human involvement. The miracle of birth, of daffodils bursting forth after the dead of winter, of an eagle teaching her young to fly all reveal intelligent design.

“What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19–20 NIV).

If we doubt God created the world, then what hope do we have that he can handle our trials? How can we trust his promises if the Bible got this wrong? But, if he made the universe by speaking, then nothing is too difficult for him.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17 nasb).

No matter what we face, the creation that surrounds us reminds us God is near and powerful. When we can’t fathom how our prayers will be answered, creation whispers, “Remember your Creator.”

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV).

Adapted from Little Faith, Big God, (Leafwood Publishers)

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What specific things in creation reflect the Creator to you?

Whose View of Freedom Are You Living?

by Debbie Wilson

My husband and I zipped along I-95 South, heading home from the busy DC area. Occasionally, wanna-be race car drivers cut in and out too close for my comfort. I marveled at how a tight space could hold so many speeding vehicles. But that changed when we reached an area marked, “Warning: Unmarked Pavement Ahead.”

Without lines delineating the last two lanes, the space that had safely held four speeding lanes of traffic shrank to three tentative lanes. The benefit of clearly marked lanes couldn’t be clearer. Well-defined boundaries increase everyone’s speed and safety.

I imagined traveling I-95 without marked lanes and shuddered. Then I thought of our culture. In the name of freedom, we’ve erased limits that ensure our liberty and protection. We all suffer as a result.

Have you ever driven into a parking lot without marked spaces? Even a crowded parking lot benefits from defined limits. A populated world needs clear boundaries to prosper. The Bible provides timeless parameters to protect our travel through this world. When we live within those limits, we avert needless mishaps and heartaches.

God’s instructions protect us from harm. The enemy wants to remove this guardrail. As we remember God’s character, we won’t fall for lies.

“The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living” (Psalm 19:7-8 NLT).

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105 NASB).

The Problem with Adding Rules to God’s Word

Sometimes we add to God’s standards, turning God’s protection into a heavy burden. Jesus blasted the religious leaders of His day for this very offense. The apostle Paul pointed out the fruitlessness of using man-made rules to corral sinful impulses.

“‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’?Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires” (Colossians 2:21-23 NLT).

If you grew up under religious rules that turned you off to biblical standards, Jesus understands. Look at His invitation.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).

Dismissing God’s commandments brings suffering and heartache. Adding to them steals our joy and puts the focus on self-effort instead of faith. What is the solution?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17 NASB).

We must welcome God’s commandments as guardrails of liberty and invite the Holy Spirit to live through us every day in applying them.

Don’t be duped by our culture—religious or secular. Biblical instructions keep our lives safe and protect our liberty.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 NLT

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Which boundary in God’s Word do you consider essential to healthy living?

Are You Worried You’ll Make the Wrong Decision?

by Debbie Wilson

Did you ever play blindfold games when you were a child? I remember one in which the blindfolded partner navigated through a maze by following instructions from a trusted partner. “Three steps forward. Stop. Sidestep right.” Success depended on a trustworthy guide and a trusting listener.

Sometimes, trying to discern God’s will in a decision feels like playing blindfolded.

When I pray, I hope to receive clear directives like: Go with this doctor. Attend this conference. Send your child to this school. Move to this neighborhood. Instead, like the childhood game, God often says, “Take two steps forward; stop.”

It seems more efficient to say, “Put your child in this school,” than to say, “Call Sarah; see how her children did there. Sidestep. Attend a homeschool convention. Turn around; visit your public school.”

As in the blindfold game, God wants my full attention. He wants me to trust Him instead of trying to figure out the straightest route.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV). This Scripture indicates God doesn’t hide His will from us. However, instead of lighting up the path with a floodlight, He walks behind me whispering His directions as I go. My heavenly Father wants me to enjoy His company on the journey.

When I’m predicting everything that might happen or hurrying and worrying through to a decision, I miss the pleasure of His presence.

I’ve realized some of the stress I experience while trying to make the best decision comes from my effort to maintain an illusion of control. Like Eve, I want to be like God—in control.

God created us to need Him. Psalm 23:3 (NIV) promises that our good Shepherd guides us “along the right paths for his name’s sake.” His reputation is on the line. He watches over my every step. Providing for my needs is His job. Trusting Him is mine.

Here are some questions to consider to help take the angst out of a decision.

  • Why does this matter to me?
  • What am I trying to attain or avoid?
  • Do I feel my well-being (physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial) or someone else’s rests on this decision?
  • Does my perspective change if I shift my view from making the right decision to trusting God to be my provider, healer, source of joy, and strength?

For example, if you’re in the process of choosing the right place for your child’s education, why does that decision matter so much to you? Are you afraid for your child’s safety, career future, the influence of peers, or something else? Are you trying to avoid pain or regret? Do you believe God wants the best for your child? Do you feel your child’s welfare is up to you?

When I identify what I fear a wrong decision could cost, I am able to bring that concern to God.

Even when God gives a clear answer, it doesn’t eliminate the need for faith (Heb. 10:38). Ask Gideon. Having God personally tell him His will for his life didn’t erase all of Gideon’s doubts. A wise decision won’t eliminate the need for trust, either. So whether in making a decision or trusting Him with how a choice turns out, we must exercise our faith muscles.

Look at that decision again. How can you turn this into an opportunity to experience God? Perhaps the first step is to thank Him that He already knows your needs and praise Him for being your good shepherd.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6 NASB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced God’s direction? How did He show you the path you were to take? Please share!

How Do I Know Jesus Loves Me?


by Debbie Wilson

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John. 3:16 NIV

Jacob lifted Anna, spun her around, and lightly set her down. “Oh Jacob,” his wife smiled and gently stroked his ear. “How I love you.”

The touch on his ear took Jacob back to the day the awl pierced it. Six years of serving his master and five years of loving his wife had made the decision between freedom and Anna easy. He wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of his days serving his master and loving his bride.

Your Husband Loves You: Look at His Ear
Under Old Testament law, a Hebrew could sell himself into slavery to pay his debts. The Mosaic Law limited his service to six years. If his master provided a wife while he was a slave, then his wife and any children born during his servitude belonged to the master. The day he gained his freedom would be the day he said good-bye to his family.
“But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 2:5-6 NIV).

A slave’s pierced ear showed he’d chosen slavery with his wife over freedom without her.
The Psalmist used this custom to describe devotion to the Lord. “Opened” can be translated pierced as it is in Psalm 22:16: “They pierced my hands and my feet.”
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—but my ears you have opened [pierced with an awl]’” (Ps. 40:6, 8 NIV).

Jesus Loves Me: Look at His Scars
Christ changed one line when He quoted this verse. The late Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee explained that Jesus was showing that His body, not His ear, was pierced for us (Isaiah 53:5 NIV).

“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;…’ “Then I said, ‘Here I am— …I have come to do your will, my God’… And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5-7, 10 NIV; the phrase Jesus changed is italicized).

If a slave’s pierced ear showed his devotion to his wife and master, how much more does Jesus’ pierced body show His love for His Father and for us, His bride. When the wife of a slave who’d sacrificed his freedom for her questioned her husband’s love, she had only to look at his pierced ear. If we ever feel unloved, we need only look at Christ’s pierced body.

Jesus’ scars say, “I love you!”

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’” (John 20:27 NIV).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: How do you know Jesus loves you?

Time to Soak Up the Son-Shine

by Debbie Wilson

Riding home one Saturday night, I caught myself grumbling. My husband and I had picked up Thai takeout for dinner. While we waited for our food, I felt like an alien. Everyone wore facemasks and avoided eye contact. What happened to the friendly South? We rounded the bend and the bright moon interrupted my grumbling. “Look how bright that small sliver of moon is!”

The moon’s brightness stood in beautiful contrast to a day that had been gray, windy, and even briefly snowy. Seeing it helped me understand an admonition from Scripture I needed to ponder, especially with what is going on in our country now.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:8-16 NIV).

God wants His children to live as children of light. He warns us to be very careful in how we walk, because the days are evil. Evil and darkness are synonymous in Scripture. As the lines between good and evil blur, we need the light of true goodness to guide our steps.

How do we shine light in darkness? The same way the moon does.

When Astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin walked on the moon they didn’t discover a glowing orb. Photos of the moon look like pocked concrete. Yet, who hasn’t felt the enchantment of a full moon? Even that small sliver of bright moon made me smile.

Craters and dark areas mar the moon’s surface. It’s beauty and light don’t come from the moon itself. The moon is beautiful only when it reflects the sun.

Whether we deal with the darkness of an inner attitude, bad habit, or what is going on in our nation and the world, we find our way through darkness, not by staring into it, but by following the Son.

Focusing on a bad habit won’t make it go away. In, fact, it’ll probably make it worse. Fretting over the evil and deception around us won’t heal our nation. But focusing on Jesus—the way, the truth, and the life—illuminates our paths and shines on those around us.

Have you felt overwhelmed by the darkness? I have. We become light when, like the moon, we allow a purer light to illuminate us. Here are some tips to help you soak up the Son.

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate any area where the world has shaped your thinking instead of the Word.
  • Write it down.
  • Write out 1 John 1:9 over your list. Then tear up the sheet and throw it away.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with His light and help you live wisely (Ephesians. 5:17-21).

The darker the night the more we must keep our eyes glued on Jesus, the true light. Then we will shine as light, walk wisely, and help others find their way.

Everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:13 NIV


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Has darkness felt overwhelming to you this early spring?

Are You Missing the Benefits of Joy and Play?

by Debbie Wilson

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

This quote struck me, because in many ways, I lost my sense play last year. 2020 was one of the hardest years I can remember. I lost one of my closest friends to cancer; several of my friends lost loved ones in unexpected tragedies; we were isolated, experienced national chaos, a worldwide pandemic, and an election like none I’ve ever witnessed.

Under such circumstances, to talk about fun may sound frivolous and out of touch. But I have good reason to believe joy is exactly what we need.

Research shows that fun can trigger the release of endorphins which promote an overall sense of well-being. And happy people have better relationships. The Bible supports turning on the joy even—or especially—in challenging circumstances.

Joy Is Biblical!

From prison the Apostle Paul wrote: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT).

King Solomon, the wisest of kings, wrote: “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).

A Psalm addressing the injustice of the wicked getting away with their evil schemes includes this admonition. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4 NLT).

Considering these biblical admonitions, today is the perfect day to count our blessings—not our woes. God made us to celebrate and to enjoy Him. Paul said that rejoicing in the Lord is a safeguard for us (Philippians 3:1).

Oswald Chambers said, “I am ever playing in God’s Presence as well as praying in it.”

Considering this has helped me give myself permission to enjoy life’s daily blessings and carve time for activities I enjoy. I’ve been reminding myself throughout the day to “Rejoice in the Lord!” Just saying those words aloud helps me smile.

This year, I am working to put strong boundaries on my thought life and rejoice in the Lord always.

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! Nehemiah 8:10 NLT

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What role do joy and play have in your life? How do you incorporate them into your day? If you are good at this, I hope you will share a tip to help the rest of us incorporate more joy and play into our daily lives.

Who Jesus Was, Is, and Will Be

by Debbie Wilson

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.  2 Cor. 8:9 NIV

This verse plays through my mind at Christmas. In light of it, let’s consider who Jesus was before the first Christmas, what He gave up to come here, who He is now, and the glorious future promised to all who know Him.

Before the First Christmas—Jesus Was Rich

Hundreds of years before Jesus came to earth Isaiah saw Him in His glory (Jn. 12:41). Look at Isaiah’s description. “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne. The bottom of his robe filled the temple. Angels were standing above him. Each had six wings: With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They called to each other and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory. Their voices shook the foundations of the doorposts, and the temple filled with smoke” (Isaiah 1:1-4 GW).

At the First Christmas—Jesus Became Poor

The One Isaiah saw “made himself nothing” by coming to earth as a baby and later dying on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11). “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. … ‘This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” (Luke 2:7, 12 NIV).

Today, Jesus Reigns on High

Jesus reigns in heaven in indescribable glory today. “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:12-18 NIV).

That You Might Become Rich

Before Jesus returned to heaven, He promised He would prepare a place for us in heaven so that we can join Him (John 14:2-3). Read how this Scripture describes our glorious future with Him.

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children’” (Revelation 21:3-6 NLT).

Has your image of Jesus grown beyond the baby in the manger? This Christmas let’s rejoice in the One who, “died for us and was raised to life for us, and…is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (Romans 8:34 NLT).

This article was brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What does the fact Jesus gave up so much to come and dwell among men mean to you?

One Good Reason to Trust God with Unanswered Prayer

by Debbie Wilson

“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25 NIV

What if I told you unanswered prayer may be a sign of God’s favor? You might argue that since biblical days, many have taught otherwise. That if you’re sick, or God has closed your womb, then you’ve fallen from grace.

What if I told you the Bible shows the reverse was true for some of God’s chosen ones?

In the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, one line spoken by Elizabeth, after she became pregnant, speaks volumes about the pain she suffered during her years of unanswered prayer. “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people’” (Luke 1:25 NIV).

The Jews believed Elizabeth’s barrenness represented God’s punishment for some hidden sin. For decades, Elizabeth, a descendant of the High Priest Aaron and a priest’s wife, felt disgraced among her people. I can imagine her begging God to show her what she had done to lose God’s favor.

We know God’s delay in answering Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer wasn’t because of His displeasure. But they didn’t know that—until much later.

The Bible describes Zechariah and Elizabeth as “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).

In their culture, righteous and barren didn’t go together. But what her peers saw as disgrace, God saw as special favorHe had not overlooked Elizabeth. He had chosen her for a special honor. He’d chosen her to raise the forerunner of His Son!

When the angel told Zechariah that God had answered his prayer, I picture Zechariah scratching his head. Which prayer? Since they were both very old, I’m sure they hadn’t prayed for a child in ages. Listen to the angel’s words:

“But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’” (Luke 1:13-17 NIV).

If God had shown Elizabeth His plan when she was young, whose plan do you think she would have chosen? Would she have chosen to fulfill her friends and family’s expectations by having an ordinary child at the expected age? Or would she have chosen to be a part of the miracle of Christmas and bear the son Jesus described as, “among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11 NIV)?

Do you have a prayer that has gone unanswered? Have you felt judged by others or forgotten by God because of it? From the perspective of time, we seeGod’s plan for Elizabeth was better than her own. Will you trust Him with your desires too? Elizabeth provides one more reason to trust God with unanswered prayer.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with unanswered prayer?