Finding Light for Your Path

by Debbie Wilson

One night, my tender-hearted husband let our two standard poodles into our bedroom to sleep. All 87 pounds of Max stretched out on the floor beside me. His younger and smaller brother settled close beside him. Afraid I’d trip over them if I got up in the night, I decided to move them to their usual sleeping spots.

I trudged upstairs with Strider, my smaller boy, in tow and headed back for stubborn Max. Climbing the steps, Max met me. Good, I didn’t have to drag him to his bed.

Finally, I could settle down. I strode the few feet to my bed in the dark and tripped over a wadded rug—Max’s final protest at being moved. My fall meant multiple visits to the chiropractor and an aching shoulder.

Why did I fall on the familiar jaunt to my bed? The darkness hid the unexpected snare that lay between me and my bed.

We need light. We live in a dark world. To complicate matters, Satan and his emissaries masquerade as angels of light. Wolves dress as sheep—sometimes as shepherds. How do we safely navigate life?

We walk in the light. Even a few steps over familiar territory can prove dangerous in the dark. “Your word is a lamp to my feet. And a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105 NASB1995).

The Psalmist describes God’s word as a lamp. Imagine walking on a dark night with a lantern. How far ahead would you be able to see? A lantern would light only the next step or two, not the whole path.

Sometimes we want God to light the whole road before we take the first step. But to walk in the light means to walk by faith and take the step lit before us.

God’s word is not a GPS that shows every turn along the path. When we’re yoked to Him, He shows the next step. He walks with us and helps us with the snags we face along the way. “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Ps. 119:165 NASB1995).

The turmoil in our world can cause us to fret. Should we buy farmland, retire, buy or sell a business or a home, or stay put?

Trust God to Lead You. Years ago, my husband and I wrestled over whether to buy a lot for a house we wanted to build. As we sought the Lord, my daily Bible reading presented verses saying, “Wait on the Lord, and He’ll give you the land.” I told Larry, I’m not sure what this means, but wait and land” keep showing up. We decided to wait.

A year later, the Scriptures of notice changed to “When you go into the land and build your fine houses…”

Larry said he’d been sensing it was time to act, too. During our wait we found a better house plan for our sloping lot and fine-tuned what we needed. Twenty-five years later, we’re in the same house and are thankful we listened to God and waited.

When we walk with the Lord, step by step He lights the way to the right place at the right time.

Oh, the joys of those who … delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:2-3 NLT

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

About the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie writes and speaks to connect sojourners to the heart of Christ. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit ministry offering life and relationship counseling and Bible studies. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, she still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Has God directed you very clearly in the past? Please share!

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Why You Need to Use Your God-Given Discernment

by Debbie Wilson

Are you using your discernment? When I was seven, my uncle brought his fiancé to meet the family. She was striking in appearance and wore a big smile. But something about her made me uneasy. “I don’t like her,” I confided to my mother.

After my uncle married, this woman’s cruel nature came out. My mother then remembered my words and wondered if children pick up clues that adults can miss. I’ve thought about that when I’ve tried to talk myself out of uneasy feelings. Because trusting feels loving. Believing the best seems kind. Yet, over the years, my instincts have often proven true.

How do you handle wary feelings? How do you respond when your child doesn’t like someone? Sometimes, well-intentioned parents tell their children, “Now, we’re supposed to love everyone,” incorrectly equating love with trust (John 2:24).

Jesus told us to be discerning (Matthew 7:15-20; 6:16). When He warned against casting pearls before swine, He was talking about unsafe people, not livestock.

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

God placed an internal radar in us. Proverbs, among other books, provides wisdom on awareness. Sometimes we ignore warnings, such as displays of tempers (Proverbs 22:24) or manipulative charm (Proverbs 31:30) because discernment feels judgmental. However, as a fire alarm sounds to protect us, so internal warnings alert us to danger.

Our radar may not tell us what’s wrong. It just tells us to beware. We don’t have to understand why. We just need to heed it. In some cases, our safety depends on a swift response. Other times we can take our time to process our feelings and gather more data.

A friend traveling overseas stepped into an airport elevator. Three men followed her inside. Her internal alarm sounded. She stepped out of the elevator even though she was rushing to make a connecting flight. She doesn’t know what would have happened if she’d stayed in the elevator, but she heeded her alarm and returned home safely.

When I worked as a counselor, people who’d suffered harm from someone often recalled warning signs they’d ignored because they wanted a job, a relationship, or something else to work. They hadn’t wanted the hassle of explaining their change of heart or risk losing something that might turn out good. But the ensuing heartache made them wish they had been less trusting.

Sometimes uneasiness rises because an old wound is tapped. If we discover we’re reacting because someone reminds us of someone else, like finding your smoke detector needs a new battery, that info is still helpful. And that old wound may have heightened your discernment.

A former Navy Seal who runs a training program to help children and adults prevent assaults shared some chilling statistics. He said nearly eighty percent of attacks come from people we know. He teaches women to listen to their creep factor feelings.

Tuning in to your radar is one of the best ways to protect yourself from harm. It’s not ungodly to pick up negative vibes. Don’t let the fear of feeling mean, guilty, or foolish stop you from using discernment.

The spiritual person judges all things.  1 Cor. 2:15 ESV

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

About the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie writes and speaks to connect sojourners to the heart of Christ. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit ministry offering life and relationship counseling and Bible studies. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, she still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What warning signs have you heeded in the past?

The Unexpected Frustration of Aging

by Debbie Wilson

Those watching me heave a carry-on suitcase into a plane’s overhead bin wouldn’t believe I was the arm-wrestling champion of our 5th grade class. The legs that earned me a blue ribbon for speed, in my 6th grade, city-wide relay competition, and scaled any tree with ease, almost failed me when I took the second step of a stepladder with no hands.

I am painfully aware I’m no longer fast, strong, or young. What happened?

Aging not only brings limitations, it taps fears when our limbs—and mind—lose the speed and strength we’ve learned to depend on. The recent experience of some friends reminded me that the challenges that unnerve us don’t surprise God. He never leaves us.

My friend’s husband slipped during a vacation and injured his back. Instead of getting better, the pain grew worse. After numerous doctors’ visits and tests, he heard the news no one wants to hear. Cancer. Of the bones. And he needed back surgery.

The surgery left this formerly active husband and father with a back brace and a cane. His wife struggled with responsibilities he’d previously carried with ease. Sometimes the loss of the life they’d taken for granted and the frustration over lack of youthful strength boiled over.

One such day, she fumed to herself and her husband as she hurled boxes that contained a lifetime of accumulated junk and memories into the dumpster at the local junk yard. “Why didn’t we prepare for old age before it was so hard?”

In her rant, her keys sailed with her belongings into the huge dumpster. Suddenly my friend’s frustration turned to desperation—and then to God. “Lord, forgive me for complaining. Please have mercy and rescue my keys!”

Halfway down, the keys dangled from protruding trash. She asked two burly men, “Please, would you crawl in and rescue my keys?”

One man fished out a long pole with an attached magnet and snagged the keys. “No problem.”

Has weakness, frustration, or lack of planning dropped you into the middle of a mess? Have your limits or those of someone you love raised fears for the future? We can’t predict or prepare for everything. But we can take refuge in the One who cares enough to rescue even lost keys, for He has promised:

Even to your old age and gray hairs; I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Is. 46:4 NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your many promises. I choose to trust you to rescue me in my stumbles and carry me when I can’t walk. Amen.

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

About the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie writes and speaks to connect sojourners to the heart of Christ. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit ministry offering life and relationship counseling and Bible studies. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, she still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What fears do you have about aging?

Looking for Contentment in All the Wrong Places

by Debbie Wilson

My husband’s seminary professor bought the BMW of his dreams. The high lasted—about a week. Michael Hyatt’s book made the New York Times Best Sellers list. The thrill lasted—maybe 24 hours. These men’s honesty over their short-lived satisfaction busts the common myth: Contentment means getting what I want.

Since Proverbs 13:12 (NIV) says, “a longing fulfilled is a tree of life,” why didn’t these men’s fulfilled longings bring contentment? Accomplishing dreams can only bring satisfaction when we’re pursuing the right dreams and aren’t expecting them to provide more than they can deliver.

Scripture provides helpful insights on contentment. The Greek word autarkeia is translated contentment in 1 Timothy 6:6 (NASB) and means “satisfaction with what one has.”[1] “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” 

The same Greek work is translated sufficiency in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB) and means “sufficiency of the necessities of life.” [2] “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” 

When we believe God supplies all we need (Ps. 23:1), we experience contentment. Knowing our Lord deeply loves us, protects us, and provides for every material, emotional, and spiritual need changes our perception of what we need. When we think we lack some necessity, then even the pleasures and accomplishments we possess lose their luster.

I experienced this on a wedding anniversary. A 25th anniversary carries certain expectations. We’d watched friends take special trips. Ours arrived at a financially tight time. We couldn’t afford a weekend away, let alone a week in Europe.

Some friends invited us to share their tickets to a charity ball that fell on our special date. I pictured a fairy tale night. One problem, Cinderella had no dress for the ball. I searched second-hand stores and couldn’t find anything I liked. I felt poor.

Then unexpectedly, someone gave a large donation to our ministry the week before the ball. Larry withdrew some much needed back pay which meant I could afford a new dress. Now that I no longer felt poor, I no longer cared if I wore a second-hand dress. That donation reminded me God loves me and delights in meeting my needs. I had a wonderful time in a borrowed dress.

Feeling poor created a longing for a new dress. However, my real need was to know God cared for me. When I felt taken care of and could afford a new dress, I no longer wanted one.

I believe in working toward our dreams. However, possessions and accomplishments can’t plug a hole in our souls. “But the cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Pro. 15:15 NIV).

If you struggle with discontentment, consider these questions:

  • Am I feeling poor, unloved, or insignificant?
  • Do I tell myself: “When I get ______, then I’ll be content”?
  • How would believing God loves me and wants to satisfy me change my perspective?

Be honest with God. Ask Him to fill your empty places and open your eyes to the riches He has for you.

Contentment doesn’t come from getting what we want but from appreciating what we have—and knowing God loves us and meets all our needs.

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10 NIV).

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

About the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie writes and speaks to connect sojourners to the heart of Christ. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit ministry offering life and relationship counseling and Bible studies. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, she still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the Conversation. When have you experienced true contentment?

Acorns and Oaks—Becoming What God Sees in You

by Debbie Wilson                                         

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

Before I was even out of my driveway, the GPS app on my phone said I’d arrive five minutes late. Groan. I was on my way to a group that had invited me to visit after discussing one of my books. My cheeks burned at the thought of walking in late.

Why can’t you leave on time? What’s wrong with you? My thoughts chided me.

This line of thinking neither helped me make up for lost time nor prepared my heart to encourage the women I’d see. I thought of a novel I’d recently finished with an imperfect heroine. If she ran late, I empathized with her. So why was I so hard on myself?

I shifted my thoughts off myself and onto God. I thanked him for making me who I am. I asked him to help me with my weakness, to work this situation out for good—and to help me arrive on time!

A woman pulled in behind me as I parked my car. She jumped out of her car and raced to open the door. “I was so glad to see you drive up. If I walk in with the speaker, I’m not late.” We both laughed.

God used my timing, or my lack thereof, to build a bond. I entered relaxed and happy to be there. Would that have happened if I’d stayed self-absorbed, brooding over my weaknesses?

Reading how God dealt with his flawed children in Hebrews 11 has helped me give myself grace when I mess up. God gave Jacob a spectacular dream in which the Lord stood at the top of a ladder that spanned the gap between heaven and earth, with angels ascending and descending it.

God blessed Jacob in the dream and promised to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan. He was bequeathing the promise of Abraham. What amazed me about this scene is its timing. Jacob had just deceived his father and cheated his brother Esau.

God showed similar grace to Abraham when he lied about the nature of his relationship with Sarah, and to Samson with all of his moral failures. If God is patient with his children, shouldn’t we emulate him and extend grace to ourselves as well? Living in regret doesn’t move us forward. But if we surrender our flaws and flops to God, he will use them for his glory and our good.

Perhaps the key to accepting ourselves—which precedes the ability to unconditionally love others—comes from seeing ourselves as our Lord sees us. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4 NLT).

When he looks at us, he sees what we will be. The ancients of Hebrews 11 confirm the hope of this truth: “And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory” (Romans 8:30 nlt).

Adapted with permission from Little Faith, Big God.

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

Bio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie writes and speaks to connect sojourners to the heart of Christ. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit ministry offering life and relationship counseling and Bible studies. Despite time in Boston, the Midwest, and Southern California, she still says y’all. Her family, which includes two mischievous standard poodles, calls North Carolina home. Find free resources to refresh your faith and connect with Debbie at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the Conversation. How might God see you differently than you see yourself?

What Everyone Should Know about Confession

by Debbie Wilson

Thomas Dewar quipped, “An honest confession is good for the soul but bad for the reputation.” Well, here is my honest confession: I have avoided confession.

Sometimes, I use Ken Boa’s Handbook to Prayer to guide my morning prayers. It divides daily prayers into sections of adoration, confession, renewal, petition, thanksgiving, and more. The confession section begins with a Scripture and asks you to invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sins. I was surprised at what God revealed.

I realized I often speed through this part hoping God won’t point out anything. You know I’m doing the best I can. I don’t have time to address anything new.

I’d slipped into viewing the Holy Spirit as a grumpy school principal who wanted to find fault with an imperfect student. I knew better. Yet there it was. I was avoiding the Spirit’s searchlight.

So, here is a reminder of the wonder of confession.

“Confess” comes the Greek word homologeo, which means “to say the same thing as another.” When we confess to God we say the same thing He says. We agree with God and align our wills with His values and perspective.

The Psalmist prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart;  Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24, NASB).

The Psalmist wanted to know if and where he had veered onto the path of pain. Sin always brings pain. “But he who sins against me injures himself” (Proverbs 8:36, NASB). Besides hurting me, it also grieves the Holy Spirit and hurts other people. Asking the Holy Spirit to reveal sin is asking Him to deliver us from the path of pain.

Sin is missing the mark. It is falling short of God’s glory. When I fail to love others or myself as God does—I’ve missed the mark. When I’m not thankful because I don’t see my circumstances from His perspective, I’ve fallen short.

But, when I agree with the Holy Spirit on the truth He reveals, He cleanses me from pain-causing sin (1 John 1:9). To confess our sins is to agree with what God says about our sins. He says:

• Sin falls short of His glory, grieves Him, and injures us (Ephesians 4:30).

• Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross (Hebrews 10:10).

Confession is not a time of condemnation (Romans 8:1). It is:

• A time to express our regret to God and affirm His cleansing
• A fresh start
• The removal of a painful splinter so we can dance again

Understanding biblical confession makes me welcome the Spirit’s searchlight. Confession is not only good for the soul, but it is also God’s miraculous provision to keep me close to Him.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 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]

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: How will what you have just learned impact your prayer times with God?

Why Wise People Don’t Believe the Best About Everyone

by Debbie Wilson

“Debbie, thank you for your prayers. But we lost. Instead of looking at the man’s extensive record of abuse and drug addiction, the judge chose to believe the best. The man promised to do better, so the judge granted joint custody.”

Emotion choked me. How could this happen?

My years as a counselor opened my eyes to the lasting impact an abusive family holds over the children they raise. When adults use children as pawns to punish one another, the children suffer—sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Research shows childhood injuries can impact not only social and emotional health but also physical health. (Learn more about ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences, here.)

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matt. 19:14 NASB).

Heartbroken parents have told me, “I didn’t think my parents would hurt their own grandchildren.” Yet those same parents had abused the adults that sat before me when they were children. If they harmed their own child, why would they be different with their grandchild?

Discernment feels mean to some people. They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. They think good people believe the best. Yet, that is not what Christ practiced.

Jesus cared more about a person’s eternal soul than their feelings. He never sacrificed the innocent to help a corrupt person feel better about themselves. He even warned God’s people against their religious leaders.

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them’” (Matt. 23:1-3 NASB).

When a person speaks God’s truth, we follow the truth. But we separate the truth from the corrupt person. Just because someone says something that is right doesn’t mean we can trust them to live right.

Jesus also warned the hypocritical leaders. The late Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee pointed out how Jesus used “scathing, biting, sarcasm.” Here’s a sample from the Gospel of Matthew:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. … Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? (Matt. 23:15, 27, 33 NASB).

Years after the phone call about losing full custody, the caller contacted me again. This time she was in tears. The impact of the judge’s foolish decree had played out on the child and family. They were ready to try again and prayed for a righteous judge. In other words, they were practicing biblical love which “always protects, … always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:7 NIV).

We must stand against evil. We must fight to protect our children against wicked influences. Don’t believe the best because of what someone says. Watch what they do. Discernment is godly and good. Jesus practiced it and told us to also.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? Matt. 7:15-16 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]

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 failed to separate what someone says from what they actually do?

Do You Feel Less Loved?

by Debbie Wilson

“Did you feel less loved, because you had less toys?” I asked my son, who’d just told me the reason he didn’t invite friends over was because “we didn’t have many toys.”

“One of my friends asked why I didn’t have many toys.”

My daughter piped in, “I bet I know who.” My son nodded at the name.

“Yeah, they have lots of toys,” she said.

Growing up, I played with dolls and balls. But climbing trees and creating an imaginary world out of what I could find were my favorite forms of entertainment. And back in olden days, I don’t remember large stores dedicated to toys. So I guess I assumed that was enough for my children too.

Gary Chapman’s book, 5 Love Languages, points out we express and feel love in different ways. Good news for some husbands: your wife may feel more loved by a sincere compliment than a piece of jewelry. On the other hand, we might overlook expressions of love that don’t meet our expectations.

I considered my son’s words. I’d given up involvement in a ministry I enjoyed to home school him when he struggled academically. This decision to step out of my comfort zone cost me hours each day plus an investment in educational programs and personal training. Of course, he couldn’t know what that gift cost me, and doing schoolwork didn’t feel like love to him.

My son’s childlike view pointed out a way we can all stumble. When others have more toys or less loss than we do, we may forget what God has done for us and what His love cost Him.

Let’s review God’s love.

Jesus gave up heaven and temporarily set aside the perks of deity to become human so you can have heaven (Philippians 2:5-8).

“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 Corinthians 8:9 NIV).

Jesus dreaded the cost of suffering on the cross, in becoming sin on our behalf. If there had been another way to save us, He wouldn’t have gone to the cross.

“He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44 NLT).

“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, ‘My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.’

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again” (Matthew 26:38-39, 42-44 NLT).

Jesus endured the cross because He loved you more than He despised the pain and shame.

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).

Comparing my life with someone else’s may lead me to conclude I’m less loved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus paid the highest price in the universe for you and me. Jesus loves us more than we can imagine.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 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: Do you struggle with the temptations to compare your life with someone else’s?

How to Experience the Power of Easter

by Debbie Wilson

Did you know that you can grow up in the church and miss the meaning of Easter? I know, because for many years, I did.

I started attending church nine months before I was born and could recite the historical facts of Good Friday and Easter. I even memorized John 3:16. But, somehow, I missed the personal ramifications of Easter.

That changed when a speaker at middle school camp spoke on the cross, and I realized God didn’t just love the world in general; He loved me. God so loved me that He gave His only Son, that if I would believe in Him, I would not perish but have everlasting life.

It crushed me to realize Jesus had to die for my sins. Yet, after processing what this meant, incredible joy welled up in me. I was clean. My sins were forgiven, and heaven was my destiny. I returned home higher than a helium balloon, singing the camp songs I’d learned. But my high didn’t last.

I was still the impatient person I’d always been. One thing did change. Before I gave my life to Christ, I thought I was a pretty good person. I lost my temper but reasoned I wouldn’t have if someone hadn’t provoked me. After I invited Christ into my life, my impatience bothered me.

Every night, I promised God, “Tomorrow, I’ll do better.” Yet, every day I failed. Knowing Jesus had paid the penalty for my sins comforted me. But I needed power for daily living.

In college, I joined a small group Bible study. The women in the group enjoyed the kind of relationship with God I lacked. They lived as if God was involved in their day-to-day lives. Even though I attended church and read my Bible, I didn’t view the Bible as relevant to my daily living.

My view of God grew as I got to know Jesus better, and the obstacles to trusting Him shrank. I realized my ability to trust the Bible was directly related to how I saw God.

A big God can

  • Communicate with His children.
  • Preserve the integrity of His Word.
  • Provide timeless truths.

I discovered why I hadn’t been able to control my temper. I’d been trying to live the Christian life in my own strength. I learned that only one person has ever successfully lived the Christian life, and He wanted to live through me. The power that raised Jesus from the dead on that first Easter is available to every child of God now.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephes. 1:18-20 NIV).

Easter is more than a historical fact or holiday; it is the source of hope and power for daily living. God created us to live by faith in His Son. We celebrate Easter every day we live by faith in the Son of God.

“The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 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]

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 is most meaningful to you this Easter?

Are You Trying to Straighten What God’s Made Crooked?

by Debbie Wilson

The book of Ecclesiastes contains some thought-provoking proverbs. What do you think the following from Ecclesiastes 7:13 (NLT) means?

“Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?”

As one who values efficiency, this verse challenges me. It also helps me trust God when life doesn’t flow in a straight line—which is most of the time. Old Testament Joseph’s life provides a good example of the futility of trying to straighten God’s path.

The Lord gave Joseph two dreams predicting the amazing plan God had marked out for Joseph. What expectations would these divinely inspired dreams of Joseph’s family bowing before him have raised in teenaged Joseph? Surely God’s plan was bigger than anything Joseph could have imagined. But God’s plan included torturous twists and setbacks.

God moved Joseph from the position of Jacob’s beloved son

  • toa slave in Egypt
  • toa prisoner in Pharaoh’s jail

before

  • He made him second in command in Pharaoh’s palace
  • He gave him the double blessing traditionally given to the firstborn son

God’s plan was greater than Joseph could have pictured, and it came at a higher cost than Joseph could have imagined.

“Wait,” you say. “I thought sinful people caused Joseph’s pain. Surely you can’t say this was God’s plan for Joseph.”

Psalm 105 says God orchestrated Joseph’s steps.

“He [God] called for a famine on the land of Canaan,
    cutting off its food supply.
Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.

Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,[a]
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
    he became ruler over all the king’s possessions” (Psalm 105:16-21 NLT).

This was God’s path for Joseph. No human could have straightened it. Not Joseph, not his father Jacob.

Accept the way God does things. God’s ways are higher—better—than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Joseph’s years in prison and slavery weren’t a mistake. God used those experiences to take Joseph from a pampered son to a princely leader. Even Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

If Joseph spent time and energy ruminating over what he could have done differently, it would have been time wasted. Joseph couldn’t have straightened his path to reach God’s goal sooner. The path to glory includes pain and suffering (Romans 8:17).

I need this reminder. Life isn’t a straight line. Twists and setbacks are part of God’s perfect plan.

Has a challenge caused you to question your calling or God’s love? Have you tried to rescue your child from disappointment or shortcut your path to a goal? Take heart from Joseph and Jesus. The path to glory includes painful twists and setbacks.

But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:17 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: Have you experienced twists or setbacks to what you thought to be God’s plan?