Selah Serenity

by Pam Farrel

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7 NIV

I love strolling the beach, because the waves beating rhythmically against the shore reminds me of the faithfulness of God. I love pushing pause to think in a deeper, soul-refreshing way about Him. The Psalmist calls these valuable moments, Selah, expressing a pause to ponder, a rest note in the melody of life.

In today’s uncertain days, we need to cultivate these Selah moments. Ever feel like you are drowning in bad news? Tough times are coming at you like a torrential down pour?; Negativity making you feel like you are caught in a riptide? That is exactly how the author of Psalm 42 felt.

Life is Hard

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Deep calls to deep is a reference to all the water in the world—and reminds us that God’s hand of mercy is holding back! In other words, things could be worse! We can thank God for what He is protecting us from. The roar of your waterfalls references the power of water to keep us down and under– those times we feel like circumstances threaten to drown us. During a particularly stressful year in our life, my prayer was, “Help God! I can’t breathe!” Been there too?

All your waves and breakers have swept over me is a word picture of being caught in the crushing and crashing waves hitting the shore. Swept over me is both a cry for rescue and the comfort of knowing eventually the waves will sweep past us. This verse gives us hope!

God is Good

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

Here is a two-part solution for getting out of the waves and out from under the blows of the downpouring life waterfalls.

Pray expectantly, Pray believing that the Lord is directing and dispatching his steadfast love to you. Believing that even when life is bad, God is good brings a heavenly perspective. If you continue to read Psalm 42 and 43, you will see a repeating statement:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God

This reinforces that in the many times we feel downcast, depressed, discouraged, disturbed and even desperate, when we put our hope in God, and praise Him, we will gain inner strength and ability to stand firm.

My definition of hope means to wait patiently and expectantly for God to show up and show off in your life for your good and God’s glory. But how do we hope expectantly?

Praise repeatedlyDuring the day, I thank God for His traits and attributes and for being with me. At night, when times are tough, I go to sleep with praise songs, hymns, and the audio Bible playing. When I accumulate praises of God during the day (in my Selah journal), then add in songs of praise as I fall to sleep, it moves me little by little. My paradigm shifts, and I can envision the difficulties being used by God to better me or my life. If I keep praising, I move even further away from the desperation, and the spray of the waterfall becomes a mist of refreshment, because I am I anticipating how He will  “work all things together for my good” (Rom. 8:28). Charles Spurgeon captured this sentiment: “I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.”

Find a quiet place near water: a fountain, a pool, a lake, the ocean, or your own bubble bath— a Selah setting to pause, ponder and praise the goodness of God.

This article first appeared in Just Between Us magazine for Women.

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

About the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 50+ books and the co-author (with Jean Jones and Karla Dornacher) of the Discovering the Bible series of creative Bible studies (Harvest House Publishers). She and her husband, Bill, make their home on a boat docked in Southern California. To download your Selah in the Psalms Creative Guide and other resources, go to www. Love-Wise.com.

Join the conversation: Have you experienced the crushing waves of disappointment and despair? How did it work out for you?


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?

Love Never Ends

by Linda Ray Center

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

Each morning my mother, Claire Ray, faithfully drew close to the Lord. She often sat in her favorite wingback chair before breakfast to prepare her heart for prayer. Her routine began with one of her devotional books, then finished with a chapter or two from her Bible. Claire went through several Bibles in her ninety-four years. She always penned the date on the cover page after she finished reading through her Bible. Her total was forty-eight times.

Mother loved and trusted Jesus more than anything. On her hospital bed last November, before she took her last couple of breaths, my sister overheard her whisper, “Jesus, what is taking you so long? I’m so ready for you to come and get me.” Mother’s words told me she anticipated going to a place where everything that is best remains. What a tremendous relief to know she looked forward to embracing the loving arms of her Lord and Savior. His divine love surrounded her as she prepared for her heavenly departure.

 Later, a friend sent me a condolence card. In the card was an outline for a “Letter to Heaven.” I used it to write a letter to honor my mother and another to honor my deceased husband. As I filled in the blanks, I caught sight of heavenly hope.

Since Valentine’s Day is in February, you might wish to remember a special someone who has left earth to reside in a place where everything lasts forever. Write why they were special to you, maybe a favorite memory or thing you miss most about them. Remind yourself that some day you will see them again and spend eternity together in the presence of the Lord.

Heaven is a place where love fills every heart. Scriptures tell us to 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. Scripture is God’s love letter to us. It contains so many promises and expressions of His love, like these:

On earth, my dear child, as it is in Heaven, you can love because I first loved you. (1 John 4:19)

You can depend on My goodness, and that I will always do the right thing for you. (Psalm 23:6)

Nothing can separate you from My love. (Romans 8:28-39)

As I curl up in Mom’s favorite wingback chair, I’m renewed by Scripture:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV

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

Crystal Discovers The Glow by [Linda Ray Center]

About the author: Linda Ray Center is a writer and inspirational speaker. She writes nonfiction for women and fiction for children. She has published The Relationship Dance and Crystal Discovers The Glow. She is also a contributing author to Abba’s Answers, 2020 Florida Writers Illusion Collection, Whispers of Grace and SuperBudZ. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Good News, Joyful Living, Keys for Kids, and Unlocked. She encourages women and children to follow God’s design in their life experiences. Linda resides in charming Chattanooga. Connect with her at lindaraycenter.com or on Facebook and Instagram.  

Join the conversation: How does your heavenly hope affect your here and now?

Detours—No Camping Allowed

by Terri Gillespie

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 TLV

Are there scriptural passages that are painful to read for you? I have a few. The above is one of them. Why? I have several “deferred hopes” — people and situations I’ve prayed about for many years. Answers that haven’t come to fruition. These are not wants or desires—like a Christmas list—but heart hopes of an eternal nature. Salvations. Deliverances. Restoration. Family.

Sometimes, it feels like deep holes in my heart, that for whatever reason, our loving Heavenly Father has left unfulfilled. Sometimes, I feel isolated with my discouragement — out there in the dark of doubt. Do you know what I mean?

So, knowing the longings are there and not knowing when, or if, they will be fulfilled can get a bit disheartening. And there are times when I am heartsick. But I can’t “camp” there.

A painful detour . . .

When my heart takes a detour, it’s generally caused by some area in my life that is weak. Those things that remind me that my heart hope is still longing. I must be especially vigilant to not get lost but find my way back to the path of faith.

One of the ways I do this is to focus on GOD’s truths. Verses that re-direct me into His loving arms — reminders of His sovereignty and love. Reminders of His love for those I love. As I come across them, I add them to my journal.

Here are a few passages meaningful to me [emphasis mine]:

  • Looking at them, Yeshua [Hebrew for Jesus] said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God!” Mark 10:27, TLV
  • Fulfill Your word to Your servant, which leads to reverence for You. Psalm 119:38 TLV
  • I am sure of this very thing—that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 1:6 TLV
  • And the shalom [peace] of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua. Philippians 4:7 TLV
  • Chazak [Be strong]! Let your heart take courage, all you who wait for ADONAI [the LORD]. Psalm 31:25(24) TLV
  • Never snatch out of my mouth a word of truth, for I hope in your judgments. Psalm 119:42 TLV
  • When my troubling thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations comfort my soul. Psalm 94:19 TLV

I’m sure you have your own passages of hope — verses that shift the focus from waiting for an outcome to trusting in the Father, come what may.

While I would love to see my heart hope fulfilled in my lifetime (Psalm 27:13), but like Abraham and the fathers and mothers of Scriptures, not all lived to see their promises fulfilled (Hebrews 11:13). And, I must be okay with that.

Once I return to that understanding, I’ve exited the detour and am back on the right path.

Have all your heart hopes been fulfilled? Or are some still deferred? Just know we don’t have to take the detour of discouragement, and camp alone in the darkness—at least not for very long. Because He gives us plenty of reminders of that love, we just need to pay attention.

May we trust and remember the goodness of our Father, my friends—and may our detours be avoided or brief.

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

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus. She tries to avoid spiritual detours.

Terri’s weekly devotional, Making Eye Contact with God, for women only, enables you to really see God in a new and fresh way. Using real life anecdotes, combined with scripture, author Terri Gillespie reveals God’s heart for women everywhere, as she softly speaks of the ways in which women see God.

Join the conversation: What passages are your go-to when you are discouraged?

Hope for a Broken Mess

by Nancy Kay Grace

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 NIV

I ordered a gift for a family member, expecting it to be delivered in time for Christmas, so I could wrap it in bright paper. I imagined it was the perfect gift for the person.

When it arrived, I shook the box and heard pieces rattle on the inside. Something was wrong; the corner of the box was crushed. Upon opening it, small pieces of porcelain fell to the floor. The special gift was a broken mess; my hope of giving it crumbled.

Often we find ourselves in the broken mess of life, sifting through pieces of shattered dreams. We expect things to be perfect, but they end up a disaster. Expectations fall apart.

The world is a broken mess on a large scale, as we’ve seen this year with the many challenges that have made us weary. Individuals are broken mess on a smaller scale with physical or mental health problems, financial troubles, or relationship difficulties. The result is the same, no matter how large or small the scale—pain, disillusionment, and hurt. discouragement and loss of hope abound.

The good news is, that in the middle of our mess, God brings hope.

At just the right time in history, God intervened with a redemption plan for all eternity through the birth of a baby who would be the Messiah. His plan brought a different kind of hope, an eternal hope.

God became like one of us. Jesus came to bring hope to the broken mess of sin in the world. Jesus left the majesty and splendor of heaven to enter our sinful world, for us—to breathe our air and walk on our soil. To redeem our hurting lives from pain and bring us hope in our mess.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus Christ coming into the broken world.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1 NIV).

Jesus read these words from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah at the beginning of his ministry and stated they were fulfilled (Luke 4:18-21 NIV).

What does the prophecy and purpose mean for you and me? When I am poor in spirit or lacking provisions, I can turn to the Savior for hope.

I can rest in the Messiah’s love when I am brokenhearted. God’s word offers comfort. When I need recovery from spiritual blindness, the Lord opens my eyes to see his truth. Jesus offers freedom and forgiveness from the chains of past mistakes and hurts. The love of God reaches us, right where we are, bringing hope to our broken mess.

Whatever you’re facing, may you look to Lord to find hope. It’s one of perfect gifts from the heavenly Father.

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of hope in the broken mess of life. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God’s grace in our lives.  

Please visit https://www.nancykaygrace.com to sign up for the monthly Grace Notes devotional newsletter. https://www.facebook.com/nancykaygrace https://www.instagram.com/nancykaygrace/

Join the conversation: How has the Lord directed you in the past?

Out of Tragedy God Brings New Life

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

I called my friend Nikki, anticipating her lively voice and was shaken to hear her sob, “Debbie, we just found out our son died.”

I’d called in response to an earlier text. That was not why she’d texted me. But God had timed my call perfectly. Even though I couldn’t take away my friend’s pain, I could share in those initial moments of shock and grief.

Nikki felt the need to contact Justin’s birth mother. The woman was devastated. She’d never be able to meet her son on earth. She wanted to fly across the country for the service. With Nikki’s permission I share what she wrote about their meeting.

For the first time ever, we met on Thursday. Both of us felt extreme emotions about this meeting, but together we walked, and together our hearts connected in ways only God could have worked. We saw each other, our hug was 33 years long, our embrace was extreme in love, joy and compassion for each other. This Holy moment that God ordained since the beginning of time, was fragrant and beautiful, pure and Holy. Nothing could ever surpass the delight that came from our hearts in those first moments.

Justin’s memorial service was Saturday. Nikki shared that not long after having their daughter, she had to have a hysterectomy. “I asked God one time for a child we could adopt. But then I left it in His hands. I thought, How could I ask for another woman’s child?”

Thirty-three years ago, God completed their family with Justin. Nikki told us, “Justin came just in time.”

Pastor Chuck recalled funny and poignant stories of Justin’s escapades. Then he shared the hope those who know Jesus have of heaven. He invited all who didn’t know Jesus to receive Him as their Lord and Savior. As he closed, he asked those who’d invited Jesus into their hearts to stand.

“I’ll count to three,” he smiled. “One, two, three.”

One person stood—Justin’s birth mother.

Overcome, Pastor Chuck covered his face and turned aside. Because of Justin’s untimely death, the woman who’d chosen life for the son she could not keep will enjoy him for eternity.

Texts to Nikki and her husband revealed two internet attenders who also stood and gave their lives to Jesus—including a ninety-year-old cherished friend!

So much in our world is broken. Untimely death, pain, and loss have marred 2020 for many. We need to remember, this is not our home. And as Pastor Chuck proclaimed after he’d recovered his composure, “If it ain’t good, it ain’t over.”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

TWEETABLE
Out of Tragedy God Brings New Life – encouragement from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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

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

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

Join the conversation: Have you ever witnessed God changing tragedy into good?

In the Bag

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord.” Jonah 1:3 NIV

In my role as the preschool Bible Story Lady at church one Sunday, I told the story of Jonah and the big fish to the four-year-olds.

The hard part wasn’t bringing the bit about Jonah deliberately running away from God down to the their level: little people who still get their fannies smacked when they run away from adults. No. They got that all right.

The hard part was how to tell it so they’d understand that some grown-ups are silly enough to think they can hide from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God. Not even a four-year-old would believe that.

So I asked how many of the children like to play hide-and-seek. Every hand went up.

“Have you ever picked a really bad hiding place like this one?” I put my hands over my eyes and said, “Okay. I’m hidden. I can’t see you so you can’t see me either, right?”

The kids laughed hysterically.

“Or how about this one?” I tried to squeeze my jumbo adult body behind an itty-bitty kiddie chair. “Can you see me now?”

They howled.

“Or maybe you’ve been here.” I returned to center stage, carefully unfolded a paper bag, plopped it over my head, and reached out with both hands – searching, groping, even becoming a little tearful as I fell to my knees.

“Did you leave me?” I called out in faux panic. “Oh no! I’m all alone in this cold, dark, horrible place. And I’m so scared! Won’t someone help me?”

No laughter this time. Something had resonated with those little people.

I hadn’t expected this. Silence, so thick you could cut it with a knife. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

The kids apparently identified with my aloneness, with Jonah in his disobedience. With all humankind when we choose to dig a hole of disrespect to our Creator, then lie in it, isolated … frightened … confused.

Suddenly a little voice piped up. A warm voice heavy with empathy. “It’s okay, Miss Debbie. We’re still here. Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone.”

And then I heard footsteps mounting the stage and felt a tiny hand take mine. Then dozens of small hands found me, surrounding me with comfort and hope.

There I was, kneeling on a stage with a brown paper bag over my head and a huge lump in my throat, swarmed by a horde of uninhibited children who understood what it felt like to be alone and afraid – and didn’t want it to happen to me.

I was incredibly moved.

Running from God is something we silly grown-ups do, isn’t it? We actually think that secret sin of ours is secret and an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God somehow doesn’t know about our hidden shame.

So we isolate that part of ourselves and try to hide it in a cold, dark spiritual place that reeks like the innards of a gutted fish. We feel alone. And scared. Because our heavenly Father isn’t there.

But He is. He is. Like Jonah, we only have to call for help to be heard. “Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish” (Jonah 2:1 MSG).

Then Papa God’s warm, comforting hands will reach out from the darkness, enveloping us in forgiveness, redemption, second chances … hope.

That flash of blindness with the preschoolers truly opened my eyes. It was one of those rare teachable moments of adulthood that knocks your well-ordered world off its axis and cracks open the door for a glimpse into a higher realm.

Maybe I should carry a head bag around with me all the time.

Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant. Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.” Psalm 119:76-77 NLT

TWEETABLE
In the Bag – encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debora-coty-250x250About the author: Debora Coty is a speaker, columnist and award-winning author of 200+ articles and over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over 1.2 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide. Besides donning her floppy flowered hat as the Bible Story Lady, she enjoys teaching piano, mountain hiking, choco-scarfing, and playing tennis. Debora lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband and five feisty grands living nearby. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Have you had a rare teachable moment with God lately? Please share!

 

What Hope Can We Have During This Pandemic?

by Lee Ann Mancini

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.    Psalm 27:14 NIV

Every morning when I open my eyes, I say, “Thank you, Lord, for this day! Let me serve and honor you.” Once I have finished praying, I like to start my day with a cup of coffee and the morning news. I don’t know about you, but the news is getting harder and harder for me to watch. I feel like we are moving through this pandemic at a snail’s pace. I want my old life back! I want to go out to dinner with my family and friends. I want to go to the movies with my husband. I want to go shopping! And I want to do all of this without a face mask. I’m sure you feel the same way. Plus, if you have grandkids, I’m sure you want to hold them in your arms again as soon as possible.

Although I long for my life to return to normal, I recognize that I am very blessed. There are many people in our country who have suffered much more than a simple disruption of their daily schedule. Many have lost their jobs, their income—or worse, their loved ones. Meanwhile, others have developed severe physical complications or mental illnesses, such as anxiety and panic disorders, that will last them a lifetime.

Given the horrible consequences of this pandemic, I suspect that most of us have wondered, “Can any good come out of this situation?” The answer is a resounding yes! Every day, we see new heroes rise up who have gone unrecognized for too long: doctors, nurses, teachers, truck drivers, grocery clerks, mail delivery drivers, and many more. They are brightly shining lights that are truly living out the Lord’s command, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV). During this pandemic, we should follow the example of these unsung heroes in our society. Perhaps we are called to step out of our comfort zones to help an elderly neighbor, to volunteer at a food bank, or to sew masks. Whatever the case may be, our new lives should reflect the love of the Lord for others, now and always.

Where can we find hope in difficult times? Surely, all of us recognize that we can find hope in God’s Word. But specifically, we can find hope in the stories of the heroes of the faith who waited patiently on the Lord to rescue them in times of distress. Think of David, who was persecuted by King Saul to the point of death for many years. Throughout this fearful time of testing and trial, David was determined to obey God and trust in His provision and protection. When given the opportunity to kill King Saul, David refused to take matters into his own hands. Instead, David waited patiently on the Lord, and God blessed David greatly for his faithfulness.

In another example, consider the story of Joseph. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery in Egypt, and on top of all this, sent to prison under false accusations! Yet in spite of these terrible events, when given the opportunity, Joseph refused to take revenge against his brothers. Instead, Joseph forgave them! He trusted in the Lord’s providence and provision, and God rewarded Joseph for his faithfulness.

These are just two examples of how we can trust the Lord during difficult times. The Bible is filled with many such stories! We simply need to dig deep into the Word of God and trust that the Lord will take care of all our needs according to His perfect plan. We can endure the present negatives that surround us by focusing on the future positives that await us. Psalm 27:14 states, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (NIV).

Throughout this pandemic, I have had to remind myself to trust in God’s promise that He will take care of all my needs and desires. Some days are easier for me than others. But whatever the day brings, I will actively choose to trust the Lord and help others in any way I can. After all, I know that God loves me, and He will take care of me and reward me for my faithfulness. With this new perspective in mind, as I watch the news and drink my cup of coffee in the morning, I will not fear. God is in control!

TWEETABLE
What Hope Can We Have During This Pandemic? – encouragement from Lee Ann Mancini on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lee Ann Bio PictureAbout the author:  Lee Ann Mancini is an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is the author of the Sea Kids books and executive producer of the Sea Kids animation series https://seakidstv.com that helps children to build a strong foundation in Jesus.

Join the conversation: What other Bible stories inspire you to trust in God?

 

 

Choose Hope!

by Stacy Sanchez

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.”                                                                                                      Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.                                                                                                                                                         ~Helen Keller

“Hope Ashley will be her name!” I decided right then and there, lying on the table as the sonogram tech wiped the gel off of my pregnant belly. She had just revealed that I was having a girl. The tech was so certain of the babies’ gender that she bet me a trip to Hawaii on it. (I should have taken that bet.)

At nineteen, I was not ready to be a mother. I was living at home with my parents without a way to support a baby. The father of my child – who had just pledged his undying love to me the week before – decided he didn’t want any part of this and left me to figure it out on my own.

“I choose hope,” I repeated over and over to myself. Probably to make sure that I believed it. “Please, God, bring hope from these ashes.”

Four months before the sonogram appointment, I sat in a doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of my pregnancy test. As the doctor walked into the room, I could tell by the look on his face the answer. Emotionless, he announced, “You’re pregnant. Don’t make this into a bigger problem. Get an abortion and get on with your life. Schedule it at the front desk.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. Silently, I hung my head in shame. Across my chart the doctor wrote in large letters: ABORTION, and exited the room, leaving me alone to dress.

There was no sleep to be had that night. I didn’t want to have an abortion. I believed abortion to be wrong. But I didn’t know what else to do. As I tossed and turned under the embellished sheets that expressed my youth, my mind raced with what people would think of me. I was a “good girl”. It would be shocking to learn that I was pregnant. (Thirty-three years ago, there was a stigma placed on a teenage, unwed mother – especially among Christians.) And, now, I had an abortion scheduled?

Although I may have been too young to be a mother, I made up my mind that I was going to have my baby. Thankfully, I had a supportive mother and church that rallied around me. They became “Jesus with skin on” for me. They loved me through this and helped me learn to love myself again.

“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me” (Philippians 3:12-14 CEB).

God uses our mistakes and hard times to grab hold of us and not let go. He wants us to grow up into Him for his glorious purposes. I held on tight and chose to hope. Everyday? No. Was it easy? Heck no! It was crazy hard. But, I chose, very purposefully, to be hopeful. Not a Pollyanna type of hope, but one that balanced realism with optimism. A hope that recognized my present difficulty and believed that somehow, someway, God would bring good from this. And, he did!

Just like the many redemption stories in the Bible, God resurrected the ashes of my life for his glory. I not only gave birth to a precious baby BOY!—yes, boy!—but when I was eight months pregnant, God brought my husband into my life. Together, we went on to become a family of seven.

I wish that I could say that I learned all that needed to know about God’s faithfulness in those hard days. Instead, I have given God more opportunities to prove himself faithful than I want to admit. But, in turn, He has given me many more reasons to be hopeful and to pursue it.

Lord God, when we are experiencing hard times, please help us to choose hope, even when everything seems bleak and utterly hopeless. Only you can take our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. You bring hope from ashes and turn sadness into exceeding joy. Father, you have proven yourself faithful over and over. Thank you! Help us to put our trust in you – again. Amen.

TWEETABLE
Choose Hope! – #Encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: How has God proved Himself faithful to you?

God’s Got This

by Kristine Brown @kristinebrown43

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.                                                               1 Samuel 30:6b ESV

I’d been praying about my situation for weeks. Friends as well as our pastors were praying for me, yet I still wasn’t at peace. This particular Sunday when I walked into church, the pastor must’ve sensed my discouragement or seen it by the look on my face.

During the worship service, he walked up to me and said, “God’s got this. You know that, right?”

I nodded in agreement. I knew God had it all under control, but the pastor’s question kept echoing in my brain. I mulled it over all afternoon. Did I really trust God with my situation? And if so, why was I still feeling down?

When we offer our most desperate prayers to God, we trust Him to work on our behalf with His love, mercy, and peace. We know we can rely on Him in our daily decisions and toughest challenges. But honestly, when I’m facing those challenges, it’s hard to stay positive, even when I’ve given it to God in prayer.

David knew this. In today’s key verse, David felt alone because of his circumstances. He had no one to turn to for prayer support. In fact, all his men were so distressed, they talked about taking it out on David. When he had nowhere else to turn, he knew where to find encouragement. He “strengthened himself in the Lord.”

“Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, ‘Bring me the ephod’” (1 Samuel 30:7 NIV). (The ephod was a decorated priestly garment that Abithar had brought to David in 1 Samuel 23:6.)

Holding the ephod, David sought the Lord and His will in their situation. Even though surrounded by men weeping in despair, David turned to God and discovered hope: the promise for certain victory over the enemy.

Sometimes in life, we will be surrounded by the faithful prayers of family and friends. Our hearts will be uplifted as we know others are holding us up in our trial. Then there will be other times when we feel alone and unsure where to turn. We’ve prayed, but we still feel discouraged. In those moments, we cannot give in to despair. Instead, we must encourage ourselves with the Truth.

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Are you in a place of discouragement, even after crying out to God in prayer? Are you struggling to feel the peace that passes understanding? Let’s take our example from David today. We will have moments when we feel down, but that doesn’t have to stop us from seeking the One who never fails us. God promises to provide for our needs, and we can trust Him. Let’s remember His promises as we say these words together:

I will encourage myself today in what I know to be true. God’s got this.

TWEETABLE
God’s Got This – encouragement from @KristineBrown43 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kristine brown

About the author: Kristine Brown is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan. Discover more encouragement from Kristine to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website,  kristinebrown.net.

In her new book, Over It. Devotional for Teen Girls, Kristine uncovers the truth about comparison. Teens will discover that they are not alone in the struggle and will find contentment in their God-given identity. Through personal stories and easy-to -understand biblical thinking, Over It offers help and hope. Come along for the journey, beautiful girl. This book is for you.

Join the conversation: What do you know about God that encourages you to trust Him?