When Our Greatest Need Turns into Our Greatest Blessing

by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery

What if your greatest need, your greatest challenge, strategically leads to your greatest blessing?

My mind likes to shoot straight to fear. When our car breaks down, or our daughter struggles, or someone I love experiences a health challenge, I’m tempted to forget. To forget that God is with me, with us. To forget He’s ever present, certain and true. That His love is big enough to cover every need and hurt. But most of all, I’m tempted to forget that He is in my difficulty, using the situation to reveal hidden lies lurking in my heart. Shining His light on what is diseased in order to bring life and light to what’s gone dead.

For years, I felt food-insecure. Even with a full pantry and well-funded savings account, financially, everything felt uncertain. I remembered my time wandering the street of Tacoma, eating potatoes, and let’s be honest, consuming large quantities of malt liquor.

My vision from that time was selective, distorted. I remembered the hard more than God’s hand. And so, I lived in fear. Fear that, at any moment, the life I’d created—that I thought I’d created—would unravel.

In essence, I made much of myself and little of God. I placed my husband’s paycheck, or working car, or our checking account in place of my faithful Provider. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my fearful heart, I intuitively knew that none of those things had the power to carry me. But in focusing on all those lesser, powerless, ever-shifting provisions, I forgot who has always been holding me.

My focus on the “bread” hindered my view of the “Baker,” and this kept me from resting firmly in His embrace.

This was precisely what happened some two thousand years ago, when Jesus and His disciples encountered a large crowd of hungry people. We likely miss the magnitude of this situation as most of us have never truly been food-insecure. When we want something to eat, we run to the store or hit the nearest restaurant. But for ancient humankind, hunger was a real and pressing concern.

And so, seeing the crowd was hungry, Jesus said to Philip, one of His disciples, “You feed them.”

To which Philip replied, in essence, “Um, what?”

“Philip answered Him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’” (John 6:7, NIV).

Peter responded in much the same way, saying “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8, NIV).

In that moment, their need felt huge, and, it appears, their God felt small.

Have you been there? I have, but the Lord never chastises me or turns me away. Instead, He draws me close and says, “What you have is enough, because I, Who always am enough, will make it enough.”

That’s precisely how He responded to His disciples. He told them to have everyone sit down. Then “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish” (John 6:10-11, NIV, emphasis added).

Notice: Jesus didn’t just feed the people enough to hold them over until they could find another meal. He gave them as much as they wanted, an over-abundance, because He is the God of abundance. He alone, not our jobs or our paychecks, will meet our needs.

In the middle of your struggle, what lies are rising to the surface? That God doesn’t care? That He won’t provide for or protect you? That He’s distant or not listening?

What does truth say?

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? and yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear: you are more valuable than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31 NASB

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When Our Greatest Need Turns into Our Greatest Blessing – @JenSlattery on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer SlatteryAbout the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.

Join the conversation: What are you facing today? What might God be showing you through it?

What NOT to Say to a Drama Queen

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

I recently had a conversation with someone who volunteers in a nonprofit organization. Something she said sent up red flags for me. She was complaining about her clients, who were so dramatic over trivial problems. “Everything that happens to them sends them into a tizzy, even the smallest things. So I just tell them: you need to have more faith.”

Not the best response.

First off, the people she is serving have not had easy lives. Many have experienced major trauma somewhere along the way. Many have only recently come to know the Lord and are only now learning what healthy looks like. From my (albeit brief) foray into counseling training, I learned that trauma victims react strongly to “small” things for a reason. On a scale of 0-10, what would barely register at a 1-2 for a healthy person can be a 10 for the traumatized. Why? While a normal baseline is 0, the traumatized are living life at a steady 7 or 8. Unresolved trauma keeps them on continual fight-or-flight mode. So it doesn’t take much to get them to 10.

In ministering to someone in the healing process, one of the least compassionate things we can say is “you have to have more faith.” Because in doing so, we will only add to their burden, which is already too much to bear. It’s just one more way they are not measuring up. So while “you need to have more faith” might sound like good advice, it’s actually more damaging than helpful.

Second, Jesus said if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith as small as a mustard is enough. Faith is not quantified in the Bible. You believe or you don’t. It is the line in the sand that sets believers apart from those who have not believed. It’s the only difference between saved and perishing.

Where believers struggle is not in how hard they believe. The problem is in doubting the object of our faith, in thinking Him to be only selectively involved in our lives. That while He may be capable, He is not concerned with the little things that matter to us. After all, we all prioritize what deserves our attention. You can’t jump at every little thing.

That’s true for us…but not for God. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He knows when a sparrow, the commonest of birds, falls (Matthew 10:29-31). He knows what we are about to say before we say it (Psalm 139:4). He holds our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He is a Heavenly Father who delights in His people and gives good gifts to His children (Psalm 149:4, Matthew 7:11). He is a God who is INVOLVED. In all of it. Even the things that might seem too trite to bring before Him. (Because really, what would seem big to God, anyway?)

So the answer to trusting Him in the “little” things is to learn about His intimate care for us. That He is not only capable, but interested. The better we know Him, the better we can trust Him.

After the conversation, I started thinking about what would have been a proper response to that volunteer. How should I have responded to  her frustration? (I am very good at “I should have said”s. In fact, it may be my spiritual gift.) What could she say to help someone on the path to healing? What would I have said if I were confronted with the same drama?

Thinking through what I know about God gave me the answer. I could encourage them with what I just listed about Him above. I could let them know that what is important to them is important to Him. That we can trust Him, no matter what is smacking us in the face at the moment. Because He is a God of details. And He is good.

There’s no burden in knowing God better. There’s no guilt induced for someone in hearing how deserving He is of our trust. And maybe, after receiving that encouragement, they will gain ability to place what has sent them into crisis into His capable hands.

Incline your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For you are my rock and my fortress, for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3-4 NASB

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie 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 walking her neurotic dog. 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 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: What do you know about God that could be an encouragement to others?

Left Hanging—Learning to Wait in Faith

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

The day was clear and crisp, just perfect for spring skiing. When we arrived at the slope, we purchased our lift tickets, quickly donned our skis, and got in line for the lift. So excited to have a full day of skiing ahead of us.

Four of our group sat together on the quad chair – me, Wayne, our oldest daughter, Kelley, and our friend Connie. About a quarter of the way up the hill the chair lift came to an abrupt halt. That happens fairly often – usually to wait for someone who has fallen getting on or off – so we weren’t concerned. But then minutes ticked by and we remained stopped.

For the next two hours we alternated between long stretches of stillness and brief forward movement. The first time the chair began to move we cheered, but after just a few feet we stopped again. After that, each time we moved we held our collective breaths. But alas, we only moved a short distance.

It was a warm day for April in the Canadian Rockies, but when you’re hanging off the ground in the wind with the weight of your skis and boots pulling on your dangling legs, a chill can set in quickly. The four of us huddled close for warmth and told stories to pass the time.

After about two hours I started eyeing the ground. If I dropped my skis would it be close enough to jump? Then I checked to see how far it was to the closest support tower. Is it possible to shimmy across the cable?

 But just before I made rash decision to act dangerously, someone shouted at us over a bullhorn. “We’ve been working to get the motor going, but it won’t stay running. We’ll try one more time. If that doesn’t work we will get you down another way.”

Another way? Seriously?! What does that mean? Fork lift? Helicopter? Giant eagle?

 Just as I was taking another look at the ground, we started moving. All four of us were praying. Fifty feet to the end. Forty. Thirty. Twenty. Ten. Now, stand up and put your skis on the ground!

After more than two hours, no feeling remained in our legs but we managed to get out of the chair and move away from the lift.  The resort paid for our lunch and refunded our lift passes. After eating and warming up in the lodge, we spent the afternoon skiing for free.

For the majority of those two hours we felt like the ski resort had simply left us hanging. We didn’t see any activity on our behalf. We saw very little forward progress. But as we learned later, an entire team of mechanics was working frantically to get us down to safety.

Sometimes life feels like that. Sometimes we may feel like God has “left us hanging.” Sometimes we might think He’s not doing anything while we struggle. But Scripture teaches us the truth:

  • God is always working (John 5:17).
  • God cares about every aspect of our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).
  • God is all-powerful and always in control (Jeremiah 32:17).
  • God is with us in our trials (Isaiah 43:2).
  • God is good, loving, and faithful (Psalm 145:17).

When you doubt God is working, when you wonder if He cares about you and your situation, remind yourself of the truth. Even if you can’t see it, He is working. Even if you don’t feel it, He loves you.

Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31 NASB

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Left Hanging—Learning to Wait in #Faith – @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study. Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Has there ever been a time you felt like God “left you hanging?” In retrospect, how was He working?