Holding onto Hope When Winter Lingers

by Grace Fox

Winters are long, gray, and soggy where I live in southwestern British Columbia. Lack of sunshine for extended times can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) characterized by depression, lethargy, and irritability. Those who struggle with it find October through April particularly difficult.

I haven’t experienced SAD, but winter brings challenges of a different sort my way, because I live on a sailboat. For instance, condensation is a problem despite our running a dehumidifier around-the-clock. As a result, I’m constantly on a seek-and-destroy mission against mildew inside cupboards and around our mattresses. Doing the laundry means backpacking our dirty wash to the marina facilities a city block away—in the rain. And walking on slippery docks and steep ramps requires extra caution. Twisting my ankle and doing a face plant taught me that lesson.

This year, amidst damp cold and increasingly tight pandemic restrictions, I began feeling as though winter came with no expiration date. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered pink blossoms on a leafless tree in early February. The sight lifted my spirits. I stood and stared at the flowers in awe and wonder. I couldn’t resist posting a picture on Facebook. “This is not fake news,” I wrote. “Spring is on the way. There is hope after all!”

Sadly, an Arctic blast swept through our province a couple weeks later. Temperatures plunged and the flowers froze. But despite their sad demise, my anticipation of spring lingered. Their presence had reminded me of warmer, sunnier, longer days ahead. They’d given me hope, and an Arctic freeze could not take that from me.

Life occasionally hands us seasons that resemble long, dreary winters. We begin to wonder whether our circumstances will ever improve. We spend our energy trying to persevere and praying for what feels like forever without seeing progress or change, and we begin to lose heart.

Sometimes we experience an Arctic blast. Winds of sudden change blow, bad news chills us to the bone, and we wonder whether we’ll survive to see warmer days ahead.

No matter how difficult our situation, the truth remains: God’s presence and promises bring hope.  

The apostle Paul knew what it meant to suffer. As a minister of the Gospel of Christ, he’d experienced slander, criticism, beatings, and imprisonment. He’d learned how to thrive despite the storms, and he shared his insights with the Corinthian believers so they might learn to do the same.

Paul encouraged them to not lose heart, and then wrote, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV).

Paul’s words still apply to us today. Our difficulties—our winter of the soul—might linger longer than we wish, but the Holy Spirit’s presence within us renews us and gives us strength to persevere. Our troubles might appear to have no expiration date, but rest assured, they will eventually pass. The purposes that Christ is achieving through them, however, will last forever. Therein lies hope.

Like the pink blossoms in mid-winter lifted my spirits, so God’s truth brings hope in seasons of hardship. Hold on, my friend. An eternal glory that exceeds imagination lies ahead.

Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her new devotional Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her website, blog, or on Facebook.

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

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). Her new devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her website, blog, or on Facebook.

Join the conversation: Have you seen God at work within you during these difficult times?

Peace Like an Inlet Creek

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord!    Isaiah 26:3 TLB

A number of years ago, my cousin and her husband owned a second home on a coastal island. They purchased the house and surrounding property from an old sea captain and renovated it. The house was a sprawling ranch-style, with quarters on one end of the home for the captain’s crew. On the other side of the house were tattered ruins of slave quarters, remnants of the plantation that once dominated the island. Live oak trees dotted the yard. Spanish moss dripped from their branches and swayed like long, gray tresses in the ocean breezes.

The house backed up to the marsh and was situated on an inlet creek. At high tide, the water level rose sufficiently to allow shrimp boats to navigate up the creek to an ancient fish processing plant. Their net extensions bobbed like wide-open arms as the boats made their way past the house.

The way in by car was a sandy side street off the main paved road. Once on it, the outside world faded. On the right was the house of the lady with too many cats; cats who lounged on the porch and in the yard and on the roof. On the left, colorful cinder block houses and palmetto woods lined the drive. Finally, the house came into view, low and long, beside the creek and marsh. In the evenings, as the sun slipped down, the  swath of orange and pink on the horizon were a stark contrast to the gray-green marsh grass.

At a time in my life, when I was struggling with many concerns, my cousin asked if I would like to use the house for a week. I gratefully accepted. That week, early each morning, I took my Bible, prayer journal, and a mug of hot tea down to the picnic table at water’s edge to read, pray, and watch the marsh come to life.

One morning, as I poured out my concerns to God, I said aloud, “Please give me a sign that you hear me!” Moments later, a dolphin surfaced in the creek and exhaled so close to me the spray touched me. It was as if God breathed on me. I laughed, and then cried, thanking my Heavenly Father for the quickest answer to prayer I’d ever received. In that moment, I experienced a sense of peace that flooded my mind and heart like the ripples of incoming tide up the inlet creek.

Sometimes, the reason we don’t experience peace is because we really don’t trust God. We spend lots of time worrying, trying to work out problems on our own, or escape them, instead of praying and trusting God to provide answers. But Isaiah 26:3 (NIV) reminds us: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Perfect peace hinges on trust, and trust is a by-product of frequent encounters with the Lord.

Perhaps you are navigating a difficult season of life and need a flood of reassurance that God knows your circumstances and is near. Take time to pray, asking for wisdom and direction. Trust that God is aware and working on your behalf. Although you may not receive an immediate resolution to your situation, watch with peace-filled expectation for what happens next.

TWEETABLE
Peace Like an Inlet Creek – encouragement from @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy Arrington

About 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: Has God ever reminded you of His presence in an unmistakable, obvious way?

 

Have a God Day

by Crystal Bowman

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.                                                                                     
Psalm 5:3 NIV

For several years I was prayer partners with two mutual friends. Every Monday morning, we would email each other to share our personal requests and praises. We had a deep level of trust and could share whatever was on our hearts. Prayer requests for health issues, difficult decisions, and the challenges of raising kids filled the content of our emails.

Knowing we were praying for each other and our families created a unique bond of friendship. We prayed through countless doctors’ appointments, business meetings, parenting difficulties, extended family concerns, and more. Anything and everything could be shared with no rules or boundaries other than confidentiality.

As the months and years went by, we carried each other’s burdens and celebrated each answered prayer. We truly lived out the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:15 (ESV):  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

One Monday morning, as I finished typing my email, I closed with a typo. Instead of saying, “Have a good day” I typed, “Have a God day.” My friends responded with delight, assuming my closure was intentional rather than a typo. We all had a good laugh, but from then on, we always ended our prayer emails with “Have a God day.”

I have come to love that phrase, even though its origin was a typo. I’ve thought about what it  means to have a God day. We often ask God to be with us throughout the day, but the truth is that He already is. Rather than asking God to be with me, I’ve learned to pray, “God, make me more aware of your presence.” If I begin my day with prayer or reading God’s words in Scripture, I am aware of His presence. When I look at the glory of a morning sunrise or hear the melody of cheerful birds, I acknowledge my Creator. As I face my to-do list, I ask God to give me the wisdom and energy to accomplish  my tasks. As I think about my loved ones, I ask God to give them health, strength, and protection for the day.

King David lived in full awareness of God’s presence. Many of his Psalms are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. In Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV), he writes: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. David recognized that all of creation basks in the fullness of God’s presence and shouts His name. If God’s creation acknowledges and praises Him day after day, how much more should we, who are created in His image, live in daily union with Him.

The more we communicate with God throughout the day with praise and admiration, the more we will be reminded of His continual presence. And when we give Him our requests and concerns, we can eagerly anticipate His answers. God is with us all day, every day. May we live in a greater awareness of dwelling in Him.

Have a God day!

TWEETABLE
Have a God Day – encouragement from a typo – Crystal Bowman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Crystal BowmanAbout the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids. She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

Ten percent of women struggle with infertility. Mothers In Waiting—Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms contains 30 hope-filled stories from contributors like Valorie Burton, Katie Norris, and Shay Shull, whose journeys through infertility and miscarriage to adoption and miracle births will buoy your faith. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Join the conversation: How had you noticed God’s presence today?

 

Receiving Peace in the Night

by Judy R. Slegh

A while ago, an event precipitated a sleepless night for me. It involved a choice my son made to hang out with friends over the weekend. Because of past compromises proving his inability to say no, I became fearful of what might happen while he was away. As I wrestled with the reality of placing my loved one into the complete care of God, I asked Holy Spirit a simple question.

“Holy Spirit, am I awake due to my spirit being unsettled or due to my soul (mind, will, and emotions) being unsettled?”

Immediately I heard, “It is your soul.”

He chided me saying, “Your loved one isn’t having a sleepless night, why should you?”

I then repented for allowing my soul to rob me of my peace and my sleep. I deliberately handed the issues with which I had been struggling to God. He assured me He was taking care of the situation and I could sleep restfully now. Within minutes, I fell asleep and stayed asleep for the rest of the night.

In the morning, I searched Scripture to validate this conversation with God.

I came across Psalm 16:7-9 NIV which states,

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

The prayerful interaction I had in the night was God counseling me! Remembering His watchful concern and care prodded me to stop worrying about possible catastrophic events. I had let my mind race out of control. He was urging my mind to not be shaken so I could rest.

Then I was reminded of a verse I learned long ago. Isaiah 26:3 (NIV) states: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Once again, this was a confirmation to my mind and gave me peace.

I also asked the clarifying question, “What should I have done if my spirit was unsettled?”

Quickly I heard, “It would be an unction to intercede as needed for your loved one. I will keep you up as long as is needed, and then perfect and peaceful sleep will come easily.”

At times, this has happened after I ask the question, “Is it my spirit or soul?” and heard that my spirit was unsettled. I obediently and groggily got up and contended in prayer for about an hour. Sometimes it is more. Sometimes is it less. Then I sense it is time for sleep. This has been a great revelation to align myself to His promptings in the night and get peaceful sleep when He tells me everything is fine.

Asking the right questions has brought incredible peace to me at night. Especially when my children were in their teen years. Now they are spread across the world. It has been a stretch for me to let them go in obedience to the call of God, but asking the right questions in the night has brought many restful nights.

Paul assures us to trust Him in prayer, even when we don’t know the details. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 NIV

TWEETABLE
Receiving Peace in the Night – insight from Judy R. Slegh on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

judy sleghAbout the author: Judy R. Slegh is passionate in helping others get free of emotional baggage through healing prayer. She leads and mentors the growing team of prayer ministers and prayer intercessors at Nephros Ministries. Being a Minnesotan, she enjoys kayaking on lakes and rivers as well as bird watching with her husband Daryl.

In her first book, Help! I Have a Prodigal, Judy offers compassion and hope to those wearied by the turmoil of loving someone who has turned away from the faith and value systems of his or her upbringing. Experience compassion, hope, and healing through devotional readings, thoughtful questions, and prayers designed to help you identify and unpack your emotional baggage, freeing you to welcome your prodigal home.

Join the conversation: Has God ministered to you in the night?

Mourning Peace

by Louise Tucker Jones

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

It had been several sad and lonely weeks since my three-month-old son, Travis, died suddenly from previously undiagnosed congenital heart disease. In fact, the weeks had now turned into months. The sadness was more than sad, and the grief still so raw, it cut my heart in two. The shock of his death brought me to my knees, as I held onto God with all of my strength.

But now my heart was so broken that I couldn’t even pray. Questions assaulted me. Where was God? Why didn’t He prevent this? What kind of God takes babies from their mothers? I felt totally abandoned, and became so angry I vowed to never pray to God again.

There was just one problem. I had a four-year-old son, Aaron, who missed his brother dearly and would ask me questions daily. “Mommy, what’s Heaven like?” “Mommy, can I go to Heaven and see Travis?” Or, “Mommy, why can’t Daddy go get Travis and bring him home?” These are tough questions, especially when you are mad at God.

I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting Aaron with the bitterness that was consuming me. I had taught him every day of his young life that Jesus loved him, and I couldn’t bear to destroy that faith. I loved my four-year-old son with all of my heart, and seeing him in such grief was more than I could bear. I knew I had to find peace beyond my own grief so that I could be a good mother to Aaron.

Finally, one night, as I lay alone on my bed in the darkened room, I poured out my heart to God—my anger, bitterness and pain. I prayed, “Lord, I have tried to change but I can’t, so if you want me whole again, You will have to do it. But please let me know that my baby is okay. Please heal my broken heart so I can be a good mother to Aaron.”

Suddenly, the room was filled with an almost palpable peace and I heard God speak to my heart, “Louise, Travis is with me. He’s okay. He’s with me.” Then, to my amazement, I felt the weight of my baby son placed against by breast and I could almost smell his precious baby sweetness and feel his soft hair brush against my cheek. I couldn’t open my eyes as tears streamed across my temples, soaking my hair. I lay absolutely still, allowing God to comfort me in a way I had never known as I continued listening to His gentle whisper: “Travis is okay. He’s with me.”

How long I lay in the mighty presence of my loving God, I don’t know. I only know that when I awoke the next morning, the bitterness and anger were gone. I still missed my son, Travis, terribly. I still had no explanation as to “Why?” But I knew I had just had the most intimate encounter with God’s healing love and presence than I had ever experienced in my entire life.

Are you in a place of pain? Even when we can’t understand the why or feel His presence, God promises to never leave us. As David wrote: “He restores my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3-4 NASB). We will never struggle with pain alone.

TWEETABLE
Mourning Peace – insight on finding God from Louise Tucker Jones on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet) 

Louise Tucker JonesLouise Tucker Jones is speaker, columnist and award-winning author. Her poignant life stories will touch your heart or tickle your funny bone. Having a son with Down syndrome, Louise writes extensively concerning people with special needs, co-authoring the book, Special Needs—Special Ministry. Married to Carl for 45 years before he relocated to heaven, Louise is a mother, grandmother, professed chocoholic, and founder of the support group, Wives With Heavenly Husbands.

Louise’s book, Extraordinary Kids, is a Gold Medallion award winner. It provides parents with vital information to help celebrate, nurture, and prayerfully champion their special-needs children.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced God’s discernible presence? Please share your story!