When the Dogwood Dies

by Julie Zine Coleman

You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have untied my sackcloth and encircled me with joy. Psalm 30:11 NASB

It had been a long two years, watching my mother battle Leukemia, only to succumb to death in the end. She and my Dad had relocated to Houston, Texas, to receive experimental treatments at M.D. Anderson in a last-ditch effort to save her. Nothing had worked, and now she was gone. We sadly packed up their little apartment and headed back to Connecticut.

In the hours following her funeral, my dad and I took a walk around his yard, inspecting the plants and trees that had been without his green thumb for almost a year. We stopped at his front garden. “Do you see this dogwood?” He asked. “As we were leaving for Houston, I asked God to please take care of it for me. I told Him, ‘I don’t care if we are burglarized or the house burns down. Please just keep this beautiful tree alive.’” It had been a rainy summer, and everything in the yard was lush, green, and thriving.

But that dogwood tree was dead as a doornail.

In an instant, all of the pain and loss came rearing up to engulf me. “Really, God?” I silently demanded. “The man has just lost the love of his life. You couldn’t even keep a stupid dogwood tree alive for him?”

Throughout the years of Mom’s suffering, I had repeatedly cried out to God for a sense of His presence. It was like shouting into the wind. I got nothing. And now this disregard for my poor father’s plea? Standing by that dead tree, I began to doubt the existence of God.

Suffering and grief can do that to a person. Everything superfluous in our lives fades to the background, and we zero in on the things that matter. As we try to make sense of it all, God can seem distant or even non-existent. It happened to Job. Satan had accused God of flooding Job with good things so that He would worship Him. But would he continue to worship if those things were removed? God gave Satan permission to destroy Job’s wealth and family. He even let him tamper with his health. (See Job 1-2 for the whole story.)

Heartbroken, destitute, and in physical misery, Job sat mourning by a fire, scratching himself with a bit of broken pottery. His wife lashed out at him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9 NASB).

Friends came to lend support to Job, but after seven days of silence, they begin to reason with him. They accused him of sin, for obviously this all was a punishment from God. Not helpful. Job turned to God in agony, begging Him for relief. For thirty-seven chapters, Job got nothing. God remained silent.

Finally, in chapter 38, God speaks. As they interact, Job is given an ability to understand God like never before. “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 NASB, emphasis mine).

God used Job’s terrible experience to bring him deeper into relationship with Him. He had used it, not only to answer Satan’s accusation, but for Job’s great benefit. God transformed the source of his anguish into a source of joy.

He did that for me, too, beginning on that walk around Dad’s yard. That dead dogwood tree spurred me on to figuring out what I could depend on when it came to God. I began to write and study His word in earnest. He was faithful to take me beyond anything I could have imagined. He eventually transformed my grief and disillusionment into strong conviction that led to joy.

Suffering can be that kind of pathway. Even Jesus knew His suffering would ultimately would become something beautiful: “…Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).

Is there something you are enduring right now that makes God seem aloof and uncaring? Hang in there with Him. He will make something beautiful out of it in the end. Your relationship with Him will never be the same. It will be worth it all.

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

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt that God was aloof and uncaring?

Who to Believe

by Linda Rooks

When I read an article in the newspaper saying certain foods we had all considered nutritious for years were now considered toxic, I was alarmed. The scientific certainty of former studies had been undisputed. We had relied on their veracity. Now they were saying the exact opposite.

At breakfast, I reasserted my confusion. “I don’t know what to use in my cooking now,” I said to my husband. “I don’t know what is healthy and what is not.  They’ve always said . . . .”

“Who is they?” he said.  “They say this. They say that.  But then it all changes. They change.” Even who we consider to be experts – that changes too. “

I said, “Yes, I guess there’s only one thing that we can always count on as being true: God’s Word in the Bible. It doesn’t change.”

As I thought about his comment and my response, I realized how that applied to all of life. It’s so easy for us to rely on common beliefs, the current thinking about something, scientific findings, and “what they say . . . .”

But there is only one thing we can always count on as being absolutely true, and that is God and His Word.  When we see one kind of truth coming from the world and another truth coming from God’s Word, which one should we believe?

Paul is clear about the answer. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile’” (I Corinthians 3:18-19 NKJV).

Even the evidence in archaeological findings attests to the truth of God’s Word and triumphs over doubters of its accuracy. In the early 20th century, critics mistrusted the Bible’s historical reliability, regarding much of the Bible as myth. But little by little, archaeologists began to discover cities and artifacts that proved the existence of previously disputed biblical accounts and locations. The Hittite Empire, referenced 40 times in the Bible, was generally considered a myth by critics until 1906 when Hugo Winckler uncovered 10,000 clay tablets that documented the lost Hittite Empire. With each new revelation, critics have been forced to seriously reevaluate criticism of the Bible’s historical reliability.

Whether it is about morality, how to live life, who God is, history, or even science, the Bible trumps the world’s wisdom. The world with its changing theories, beliefs, histories, morals, and philosophies cannot be depended on. But God’s Word “is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105 NKJV).  If we build our life on the world’s theories alone, there may come a time when we look back to see we have built our life on sand. But when we build our life on the rock of God’s truth, everything we build will stand.

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:47-49 NIV).

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

About the author: Linda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her award winning book, Fighting for Your Marriage while Separated, and her earlier book, Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation walk with those in the midst of marital breakdown to bring hope and practical guidance to those desiring reconciliation. Linda writes for both adults and children. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including multiple Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian Woman, and Home Life. She and her husband reside in Central Florida and thank God for the many reconciled marriages they witness through their ministry and the classes they lead.

Join the conversation: What do you count on to keep your world in order?

Arise Under the Sun

by Christina Rose

“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, a futile grasping and chasing after the wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14 AMP

King Solomon asked God for wisdom when he ascended to the throne, so that he could rule the people justly. God favored Solomon by giving him more wisdom and wealth than any other king of the earth. During his 40-year reign, Solomon wrote many proverbs and songs, amassed tons of gold, completed many building projects, including the Jewish temple, and built a fleet of ships.  Unfortunately, among the 700 wives and 300 concubines he had were many foreigners who led him into idolatry in his old age. This became a diversion that he reflected upon as he neared the end of his life.

Solomon considered his many accomplishments and the years of earthly striving. “But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere” (Ecclesiastes 2:11 NLT).  He had finally realized that after a lifetime of chasing everything the world had to offer, obeying God and fearing his word was the only thing that made sense. Once we put God first, we are free to enjoy the gifts of life he has bestowed upon us.

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 NLT

In the early years of my career, I enjoyed a glamorous life in San Francisco. I worked in one of the most prestigious offices in the city and was treated to extravagant restaurants, parties, and events. One evening on a dinner cruise under the Golden Gate, I noticed the colorful sails of windsurfers racing back and forth. Within weeks I had signed up for lessons, and before long, I was flying across the waves under “The Gate,” where I met and married another surfer. We were addicted to the thrill of chasing the wind under the sun until we learned we were expecting our first baby. My carefree life changed instantly when I was confined to bedrest out of concern for her. I was now slowly turning into a baby whale while I laid in bed, often alone, praying for my baby’s safe arrival. In the silence, I relentlessly searched for God and asked for his help.

Labor completely humbled me. I thought I had been so fearless surfing the waves, but as Solomon points out, there was a vanity in chasing the wind. It was easy to be fit and strong for all to see, but now I was a vulnerable, young mom in labor, hooked up to a monitor, dependent on those around me to help me give birth. Hours later when I laid eyes on my new daughter was the moment that I knew God was real.  There was no other explanation for such an exquisite miracle. Her birth was the beginning of learning to understand the greatness of God which continues to be an amazing journey each day, many years later.

Over time, many of my windsurfing friends stopped windsurfing.We came to see that we were just going back and forth across the waves but not accomplishing anything of significance.  Those years long ago of youth and adventure are glorious to remember, but having that life ripped out of my hands and confined to bedrest made me rethink everything. It was during those times of darkness and doubt that I searched for God and prayed for his help. He answered me with a perfect baby daughter that was a blessing far greater than the life I had been living.  

During this time of the Pandemic many, lives are being drastically altered. People are searching for answers in darkness and doubt, just as I did many years ago. They may be wondering if God is real and if he hears them. For those of us who know that he is real and hears our every cry, we are being called to arise to be a light to help others walk through this time of uncertainty.  In the process, God will birth something new and wonderful that one cannot see in the darkness as he draws us into his light.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV

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

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: For what answers are you searching in this season of darkness?

Seven Ways to Know God is Watching Out for Us

by Janet Perez Eckles

The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5 NIV

Fall is almost here. We go into it with memories of hot summer days, walking on the sand and splashing in the water. This not-so-silly episode in one of Florida’s beach stands out…

“C’mon, Nana.” My granddaughter impatiently pulled my hand. Even at four years old, she knew to lead her blind Nana.

“Don’t go too far,” hubby said, from where he relaxed on a lounger.

With her small hand tight in mine, our feet sunk into the hot sand as we drew closer to the water. We jumped over the waves, giggled, collected shells, and giggled some more.

After a long while I realized I had no idea where we were—maybe too far from hubby. Was he still watching us?

I got on one knee and held my granddaughter’s wet cheeks between my hands. “Sweet baby, look at me, do you see Papa anywhere?”

“Nope. C’mon Nana, let’s jump.”

Suppressing the panic that cramped my stomach, I said silent prayers, the kind that blurts out from the heart. The kind you want to word just right so God would be quick to answer. And my silent pleas were those that bordered on self-pity. “Oh, if I could only see a little bit, this wouldn’t happen.”

With all traces of patience tossed into the sea, I quickly drew closer to a group of folks talking. “Excuse me,” I waved in the direction of their voices. Would you have a cell phone?” I said. “I think I lost my husband.”

As I gave the first few numbers for them to dial, I heard a familiar voice right behind me. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, there you are.” I grinned with relief at my hubby.

“I was watching you both the whole time,” he said.

A little shame swept over me. Not because of what had just happened. But I remembered how often, during tough times in my life, I doubted, I panicked, I feared that God took His eyes off me. I worried I had drifted too far from His love, His provision, and His care.

We all do that sometimes, don’t we? We listen to the news; fear grips us. We learn of the growing statistics of the virus; anxiety invades our peace. And the whole time, we wonder is God there? Is He watching? Does He care?

Even in the midst of our well-meaning prayer, doubt creeps in, because we’re still walking on the hot sand of uncertainty. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fear leaves, doubt ends, and faith comes. They do when we follow these seven steps:

1. Readjust our priorities. Do we seek the answer to our prayer with more passion than we seek God Himself? Some seek answers first, but here’s God’s order of priorities: “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

2. Resist the temptation to recite memorized, perfect prayers, with lovely words and deep insights. God simply wants the genuine expression of our heart. He’s listening. He even knows what we need before we ask Him, “…when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7 NIV).

3. Recognize that sometimes we don’t know how to pray or what our requests should be. So, we can freely ask for Him to show us what to pray for. Confident that He’s aware of every detail, we whisper to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV).

4. Remember that His answer is always in His timing, not ours because a thousand years in God’s sight are like a day that has just gone by (Psalm 90 NIV).

5.Relax and relish in the fact that while we wait, He’s at work in us, in our heart, in our situation because, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

6. Remove anxious thoughts. In the silence of the moment and in the power of His presence, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

7. Embrace profound confidence, not in the world or government, but in the power of God because “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15 NIV).

Father, we praise You because You have Your watchful eye on us and You observe our anxious moments. Knowing that each tomorrow is in Your hands, peace fills us. In Jesus name we thank You.

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Seven Ways to Know God is Watching Out for Us – insight from author Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez eckles

About the author: Janet Perez Eckles is an international speaker, author and founder of J.C. Empowerment Ministries. Through her books and conference messages, she empowers thousands to overcome fear, conquer worry and live triumphantly. Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: What is your favorite go-to verse when you struggle with doubt or fear?

When God Speaks

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

God is always speaking to His children, guiding us toward His very best, but sometimes His voice grows faint amid the noise and confusion all around us.

Early in my parenting days, I was probably the most insecure, and often confused, mother around. I felt bombarded by advice, warnings, and contradicting tips from so-called experts. As a result, I routinely felt overwhelmed. Initially, I tried to raise our daughter in my wisdom and strength, largely because I hadn’t learned to discern God’s voice. I gave too much weight to the faulty and often shifting “insight” of others and falsely believed I could make sense of it all.

Relying on my own intellect characterized every area of my life, and in fact, had for some time, but it rarely brought the results I wanted. I did not experience the peace and confidence I craved.

Granted, I did pray. Oh, how I prayed. But I wasn’t always alert to God’s answers—in part because I rarely sat still long enough to hear Him. And when I did, though my heart would prick with the confidence and assurance that can only come from God, all too soon “common sense” or popular opinion overshadowed His perfect wisdom.

I often resembled a woman caught on an inflatable in the middle of a tumultuous ocean. James 1:5-8 describes this scenario. The principles found there apply to all of life. James began by encouraging us to seek God’s guidance, saying, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

God doesn’t expect me to know it all. He doesn’t expect me to have life all figured out, or even to know His will perfectly. Rather, He invites me to seek Him, and when I do, no matter the question, no matter the struggle, He responds with grace.

Yet, responsibility comes with this access and invitation, for he goes on to say in verse 6, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

When we doubt the very truths God Himself deposits into our souls, our thoughts become divided and disordered. We become unstable, pushed and pulled in whatever direction feels strongest or screams loudest. What an unsettling, if not terrifying, place to be!

Have you ever tried to swim or paddle in choppy water? It’s exhausting and defeating!

Years ago, our family vacationed to Hawaii. One afternoon, my daughter and I went paddle boarding in the ocean. Rather than paddling, I relaxed and allowed the waves to gently rock me. At some point, I realized how far I’d drifted. The people on the beach looked so small and the water surrounding me vast and deep!

I immediately began paddling back, but I didn’t seem to get anywhere against the waves.

Though I did ultimately make it back, the experience painted a vivid reminder of what life feels like when we’re not anchored to truth.

That’s not to say we’ll never experience doubt, but when we do, may we always bring our questions to the One with all the answers and choose to believe His Word.

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When God Speaks – encouragement on #FollowingGod from @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published author, ministry, and the host of the Faith Over Fear Podcast. Find her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com, find her ministry at WhollyLoved.com, and find her podcast at LifeAudio.com and other popular podcasting sites.

In her new podcast, Faith Over Fear, Jennifer helps us see different areas of life where fear has a foothold, and how our identity as children of God can help us move from fear to faithful, bold living. You can listen by clicking on the link below or by visiting LifeAudio.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever inadvertently ventured away from the truth? How did God speak to you?

The Importance of Thinking Truth About Who God Is

by Grace Fox @gracelfox

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.                                                                                                                                                               Philippians 4:8

Human artists can paint a canvas, but only God can sweep and blend colors across the heavens. Every time I see the sky ablaze with red, pink, orange, and yellow, my mind is filled with awe and wonder and my heart is moved to worship. If I’m feeling discouraged about something, my heaviness lifts at the thought of this amazing God cradling me and caring about every aspect of my life.

The thoughts we think about God are the most important thing about us. That’s because they shape our beliefs. Our beliefs then influence our behaviors, and our behaviors determine our destiny.

For example, imagine facing a tough situation. A cancer diagnosis, perhaps. Or an unexpected job layoff. If we think God is truly good, then we’ll believe He cares about every detail of our circumstances. Our beliefs cause us to turn to Him for help and to trust that He hears our cries. We pray in faith believing His answer is the best answer. Even though we might not understand why He allows these circumstances, we experience inner peace for which there’s no human explanation.

Now imagine facing the same situation thinking God doesn’t give a rip. Those beliefs result in our feeling anxious, angry, and abandoned. We make fear-based decisions believing the outcome rests solely on us because, after all, God doesn’t care. Or so we think.

The Bible story about the twelve spies demonstrates this principle (Numbers 13:25-14:25). Upon their return from scoping out the Promised Land, ten spies focused on the fortified cities and the powerful giants who occupied them. “We can’t go against them!” they cried. “They’re stronger than we are!” Their discouraging reports spread throughout the Israelites who, in turn, wept all night, spoke about returning to Egypt, and plotted to stone the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb.

These spies’ thoughts about God were small. This mindset led them to believe He would allow their enemies to crush them, so they refused to do battle. Their destiny? Death.

Joshua and Caleb demonstrated a different mentality. “We can conquer the land!” they said. They believed God would fight for them and give them victory. They were eager to obey and encouraged the Israelites to do likewise. Their destiny? They entered the Promised Land.

I can identify countless situations when my behaviors reflected inaccurate thoughts about God. Like when our family entered career missions and I stressed big-time over financial uncertainty. Or when He called me to write Moving from Fear to Freedom and I argued with Him for a year because I doubted His ability to equip me for the task. Or when I gossiped, ignoring the fact that He could hear every word and knew I was dishonoring Him. Goodness, my list could go on forever.

By human nature, our thoughts about God are often small and inaccurate. Those thoughts influence our beliefs and behaviors and ultimately determine our destiny. If we want God’s blessing, then we need to fill our minds with the truth about who He is and live from that truth.

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The Importance of Thinking Truth About Who God Is – insight from @GraceLFox on @AriseDailyDevo (click to Tweet)

Grace FoxAbout the author: Grace Fox is the author of nine books. She’s an annual contributor to Mornings With Jesus (Guideposts Books) and a member of the writing team for “First 5”—a Bible study app produced by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Grace’s book, Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation, will not only show you how to face your fears but to actually let fear be a catalyst for change. Learn how to stop hiding from God develop a deeper relationship with Him by experiencing Him in new ways.

Join the conversation: What is the most meaningful thing about God that you know?

How to Trust God with My Biggest Battles

by Kristine Brown @kristinebrown43

What do you do in that moment when you realize a battle is eminent? Your enemy has waged war against you, and the news punches you right in the stomach. Do you feel fear? Shock? Uncertainty of where to go, or what to do next?

For me, when a report of bad news comes, and I realize an attack is on its way, I immediately switch to defense mode. I pray, ask God for help, and even boldly claim my trust in God with my words. But sometimes my actions tell a different story. I try to convince myself that my situation is just a bad dream and waking up will make everything OK. And in a desperate effort to wake up from that dream, I start fighting the battle in my own strength.

We’ve all been there, on the front lines of impending battle. In that frightening place, it’s easy to see the magnitude of what we are facing and forget one important detail. There’s a huge difference between the way we see the battle and how God sees it.

King Jehoshaphat knew this. When Jehoram, King of Israel, asked Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, to join him and go to battle against Moab, Jehoshaphat agreed. The king of Edom also joined with them. But after marching seven days with no water for their men or animals, Jehoram lost faith.

“Then the king of Israel said, ‘Alas! The Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.’” 2 Kings 3:10 ESV

But Jehoshaphat wasn’t ready to give up so easily. He called for a prophet, so they could see what God had to say about it. God’s words to these three kings revealed a powerful truth that still applies to our battles today.

“And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand.” 2 Kings 3:18 NKJV

What we see as our most difficult struggles are the simplest matters to God.

God spoke through the prophet Elisha, telling them He planned to fill every dry stream bed with water, so they would have plenty to drink. That was His first promise. Then He also added another minor detail. God would do one more thing; He would deliver the enemy into their hands. Amazing.

You see, God had a plan all along. King Jehoram couldn’t see it. All he could see was three armies of exhausted, worn out, thirsty men without water to drink. How would they ever be able to fight?

I hear you, Jehoram. I’ve been in that place of doubt. We all have. We look around at our circumstances, and our human minds can’t possibly foresee a good outcome. We’re exhausted, worn out, and thirsty. Yet it’s in those moments God calls us into a deeper level of trust.

“And when they rose early the next morning and the sun shone on the water, the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood.” (2 Kings 3:22)

The enemy thought the kings had turned on each other, so they went after the spoil. But when they came to the camp, the Israelites rose up and took them down. God used the water to confuse the Moabites and win the victory even before the battle began.

Just like Jehoshaphat, when we trust God with our biggest struggles, He will bring us to a place of victory in the most remarkable ways.

Are you facing a battle that seems insurmountable? Are you ambushed by feelings of fear, shock, or uncertainty? Instead of taking matters into our own hands, let’s take our trust to a new level today. Our biggest battles are God’s simplest matters.

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?                                                                                                                                                   Jeremiah 32:27 NASB

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How to Trust God with My Biggest Battles – insight from @KristineBrown43 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kristine brownAbout the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing insight with her readers in relatable  ways. Her life experiences serve as a backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions at kristinebrown.net or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you ever question whether you measure up? Kristine’s book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan,  learn the solution to a battle all women face. Through practical Bible teaching, find contentment in your God-given uniqueness and take simple steps to claim victory over comparison. Learn how to say “I’m over it” and mean it!

Join the conversation: What have you entrusted to God lately?

 

At Crossroads

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”                                                                                                                                                                 Jeremiah 6:16 NLT

 Years ago, my husband and I enjoyed a trip to Scotland. Planning took months—flights, lodging, and itinerary. We flew to England, rode the train to Edinburgh, rented a car, learned to drive on the wrong side of the road, and traveled up through the highlands. We saw lochs, stone castles, ruins, and the remains of ancient roads. We heard the history of battles and conquests and royalty.

I made reservations ahead of time at inns along the way, breaking the trip into what seemed like manageable chunks of driving time. But when we got to the western isles, everything took longer than expected. We had to make a ferry crossing, but the schedule was different from what was posted on online. We lost precious hours of daylight waiting for the next ferry.

Once on the other side, the road was literally a rutted cow track. We bounced and jostled through fields and over hills, often pulling aside to let other vehicles pass on the narrow lane. At one point, I was almost in tears. It felt like we were hopelessly lost. I begged my husband to turn back, but he said we’d gone too far to give up.

Eventually, we found a phone box and called the inn where we had reservations. The innkeeper assured us we were on the correct road even though we still had hours of driving time remaining. It was comforting to know we were traveling in the right direction.

Night descended, and at last, a light glowed in the distance. When we finally reached our destination, exhausted and weary, the innkeeper greeted us warmly. Rest was sweet.

The next morning, we woke to the sounds of bells and looked out to see cows grazing in the front yard. After breakfast, we climbed into the car again and drove to the tip of the island, the farthest western point in Great Britain. The spectacular view across the ocean was like nothing we’d ever seen, making the arduous trip worth it.

We are all pilgrims on the journey of life, and often stand at intersecting paths and wonder which direction to take. Sometimes we embark on a project or task and find it full of obstacles. Then we’re faced with the decision of whether to give up or continue. Other times, the road is smooth, but insight reveals we’re headed in the wrong direction. No matter what type of fork in the road we face, the words of Jeremiah 6:16 apply—stop, ask the Lord for direction, walk in the good way, and rest secure in your decision.

Often life circumstances cause us to face crossroads with confusion. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions and seek counsel from those who have answers. Look to God for wisdom, through prayer and scripture, and make the best decision about which direction to take based on direction from the Holy Spirit. When you seek God’s guidance, you can rest in the knowledge that you haven’t made the decisions in your own strength and reasoning. Comfort comes in knowing God is guiding, especially when the journey is arduous and filled with twists and turns.

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At Crossroads – insight from @CandyArrington on walking with God @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Have you doubted a decision that you have made? Share your story!

The Whistler

by Nan Corbitte Allen

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.                                                  Isaiah 55:9 NASB

I’m a whistler. I admit it.

But I come by it honestly. My dad was a whistler, too. In fact, the family could locate him in the house or in the yard just by following the sound. Maybe he’d be rendering a Southern Gospel tune, a hymn, or a ‘40s classic, but we always knew what was in his heart by what song came from his lips.

Maybe it’s genetic, because I often find myself whistling from my own mental repertoire, which is quite varied: from “Auld Lang Syne”, to my high school fight song, or to something we sang at church last Sunday.

Recently, after many decades of surrendering to this habit, I decided to actually analyze my playlist, making notes and tracing the tune from whence it came. Sometimes it’s produced from a line in a movie or TV show that I’ve just watched. The “Theme from Jurassic Park” or “Darth Vader’s Theme” are personal favorites. So is “Gone Fishin’,” the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. But for sure, somewhere in my the top five is the old chorus “God Is So Good.”

You’ve heard the saying, “God is good—all the time and all the time—God is good.” While I whistle this often, seeing the effects of evil on this world can make me question His goodness. If it was true, how could there be so many that are hungry, oppressed, or dying?

In Dr. James Dobson’s book When God Doesn’t Make Sense, one his first points is that God isn’t obliged to explain Himself or His ways to us. In fact, Dobson writes that God chooses to hide Himself from us—for reasons we cannot know. The word why falls often from our lips, and yet God does not reveal some answers no matter how fervently we beg.

Isaiah reminds us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, or His ways our ways. He knows we can’t possibly comprehend the grand design of life; only bits and pieces, and small ones at that. I believe that the jigsaw puzzle picture won’t come clear on this side of eternity. I don’t like to admit that. I want to see His plan more clearly, especially when I see human suffering and mortality. Sometimes it feels as though God has lost control or, worse, has abandoned me.

In the biblical account of Job, God attempts to explain why bad things happen to good people. But even that story puzzles me. The only takeaways I have to that story are Job’s takeaways from his experience. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 NJKV). “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God…” (Job 19:24-26 NJKV, emphasis added).

While he began the story as a man of commendable faith, through His struggles, Job learned something of God he had not fully understood before: “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted….Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:2-3 NASB).

While there is evil in the world, and hard things we will never understand, God will use it all to reveal Himself to us as we struggle.

So, when anyone asks me, “How’s life?” I say, “Life is life, but God is good.” I have to believe that or NOTHING makes sense. And I’ll whistle my tunes, especially the one favoring this simple message about God’s goodness.

P.S. If my sons pick up this habit, does that make me Whistler’s Mother?

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The Whistler – Nan Corbitt Allen on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Nan Corbitt AllenAbout the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 40 years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis live in Cleveland, GA where she teaches English and Creative Writing at Truett McConnell University. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the seemingly insignificant routine experiences can have great impact on a life. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you about Himself lately?

Accidental Daughter

by Peggy Cunningham @Inca_Writer

“I will remember the works of the Lord…” Psalm 77:11 KJV

Some of my memories are funny ones and some bring tears. Some do both, like the birth of our granddaughter. I can both cry and laugh out loud every time I think of it. After her entrance into this world, we headed home with our son-in-law. An hour later, a phone call broke the silence of the peaceful night.

Our son-in-law rushed out the door telling us to call our daughter––she would explain. We heard our daughter’s frantic voice on the other end. Kayla had stopped breathing. They had her on machines to keep her breathing and to monitor her.

Exhausted from a lost night’s sleep, my husband and I left for the hospital early the next morning. Kayla’s breathing stabilized but there was still no explanation why she couldn’t breathe on her own.  I headed to our daughter’s room while my husband tried to get information about the baby at the nurses’ station. Standing at the door of my daughter’s room, I froze in my steps. What happened to her? She didn’t look like herself at all. Her face seemed changed. Her hair was the same, the room was the same, but who was the strange man sitting by her bed holding her hand?

The man sitting by her side asked in a sweet soft voice, “Can we help you?”

Oh no! This was the birthing room from the day before. This was another young mother-to-be in labor. She looked so much like my daughter, they could have been sisters. Embarrassed, yes! Relieved beyond words, yes! Apologizing over and over, yes! Funny––not at the time!

I found my daughter’s room. Our whole family had already arrived. Reluctantly, I told them about my misadventure. The entire hospital must have heard the howling coming out of that room that morning. But that wasn’t the end of their fun.

The following morning, we returned to the hospital. We first stopped at the NICU to see Kayla. As I put on the gown, I couldn’t take my eyes off our helpless incubated baby. As I sobbed, a kind nurse comforted me and explained Kayla’s condition. Grateful for this hospital and staff, we headed to my daughter’s room.

After exchanging kisses and hugs, my son-in-law flung open the curtain that separated my daughter and her new roommate. To my surprise, it was the new mother from the birthing room the day before! She smiled and said, “Hi, Mom!” Her whole family also sat behind the curtain for the big reveal.  I’m sure the roar of laughter from that room on that day is one for the hospital’s records.

The next day, we were told that Kayla had been born with pneumonia, but she was on her way to a full recovery.

Seeing God provide both healing and laughter during those days is something I remember whenever I begin to doubt God. He has proved Himself and His goodness over and over in our lives. And with each difficulty and trial, He has revealed Himself a little more.

Job had that experience. Because of his faithfulness to God, he was targeted by Satan, who took everything from him. Job suffered in agony for some time. Finally, God revealed Himself to Job. And what Job learns absolutely blows him away.

“I know you can do all things,” he told God. “And that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You…” (Job 42:2, 5 NASB). In the hard, Job’s understanding of God’s goodness and power grew. God’s new revelation changed everything for him.

I’m thankful for the healing and laughter that God provided during Kayla’s first days. It is a wonderful reminder of His faithfulness that can keep me from floundering when the hard times come.

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Accidental Daughter – insight from Peggy Cunningham, @Inca_Writer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Peggy CunninghamAbout the author: Peggy Cunningham and her husband, Chuck have been missionaries in Bolivia, South America, since 1981. In 1999, they founded Rumi Rancho Ministries. Rumi Rancho is their ministry base and home outside the city of Cochabamba where they work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is also a published author of children’s books and women’s devotionals.

Shape Your Soul: 31 Exercises for Faith that Moves Mountains is Peggy’s latest devotional book for women. Experience the miracles, supernatural encounters, and everyday blessings of an ordinary missionary gal with the same physical and spiritual challenges as you—albeit different circumstances. Train in God’s Gym … exercise guru not required!

Join the conversation: What has God revealed to you in the past that can help you with doubts in the future?