Sustaining Grace

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

 I woke in the middle of the night and the rawness of it all washed over me again. Our family faced a serious situation. I tried to fix it, but it seemed hopeless. I knew sleep would not come easily. I had no words left for prayer. I was prayed out.

Anxiety welled up and I reached for God. The Holy Spirit began to bring Scriptures to mind, so I began to “pray” them. Soon peace started to push out the anxiety until it was gone. Somewhere in the first chapter of 1 Peter I drifted off to sleep.

At the time, I was away from home staying with my oldest daughter. My grandson was just a few days old, and I was helping out. The next morning, Kelley reported on how Micah slept the night before. Then almost as an afterthought she added, “The second time I came back to bed, Jeremy asked me to pray with him. He felt strongly we should pray for you right then.”

“What time was that?” I asked.

“About 3:15, 3:20,” Kelley replied.

That was the same time I lay awake in bed with anxiety threatening to take over. I know because I had looked at my phone. God did not fix the situation like I’d hoped, but He was not idle. He saw my need and He cared. He poured out His grace through the heart of my son-in-law and gave me the peace and strength I needed to keep going.

Sometimes God intervenes in our trials in physical ways. He heals. He frees. He delivers. But not always. Often God works in far more miraculous ways. He pours out His grace to cover our soul needs.

The apostle Paul wrote about how he experienced God’s sustaining grace in the midst of his trials, after he had pleaded with God multiple times to remove his “thorn.”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV

Like this instance in Paul’s life, God may not change our difficult circumstances. But He will strengthen and sustain us with His grace.

God also used my experience to teach me more about Himself and His ways. First, this experience changed the way I respond to prompts by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prompted my son-in-law to pray. Jeremy obeyed and God answered His prayer by filling me with peace. Now, when the Spirit prompts me to pray for someone or urges me to call someone or send a card or give something specific, it’s because He wants to use me as a tool for His grace. I want to be a part of that!

Also, anytime I am tempted to think God doesn’t see my need or doesn’t care, the Spirit brings this moment to mind. And I know, God does see me. He knows my need. He does care. And He will graciously provide what I need in the midst of the trial.

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Sustaining Grace – thoughts on walking through the trials of life from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight booksKathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, http://www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagramor Pinterest

This post was adapted from Kathy’s book “Embraced by Holiness.” Do you long for a deeper, more intimate walk with God? Embraced by Holiness is a focused six-week Bible study that will take you on a guided, deep, and consistent look at biblical principles on holiness.

Join the conversation: When has someone’s obedience to the Holy Spirit blessed you?

A Sunrise of Strength

by Katy Kauffman @KatyKauffman28

One morning I couldn’t shake the gloomies. Although I was half-awake, I started focusing on the wrong thing, and I needed God’s help to refocus my attention and strengthen my heart. Even though I wanted more sleep, I opened my Bible, and my eyes fell on the verse I needed.

Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! Isaiah 52:1 NKJV

The “awake, awake!” part got my attention. But more importantly, this verse called on God’s people to put on strength. This passage in Isaiah talks about God restoring His people after they had been in captivity. My own heart had been held in captivity to impatience and restlessness a few years before, and I was still feeling the effects of its bondage even in my freedom.

Is your heart help captive by something? Or are you still feeling the effects of a struggle that exhausted your strength and determination to win? Even when we’re involved in ministry, our hearts can become captive to sorrow, fear, worry, anger, or sin. We can become lulled into despair or apathy. We may think, Things will always be this way, or I just don’t care anymore.

God calls us to “awake!” and depart from our captivity. To depart from the after effects of our struggles and heartaches. He wants us to leave behind the burdens of guilt and despair (Hebrews 10:22), and to embrace His ways instead, His ways that are good for us and build us up in godliness (Colossians 3:12-14, 3:8-10). He wants us to put on strength and to share life’s journey with Him in the fullness of His joy and power (Nehemiah 8:8-10, 1 John 1:7). When we draw close to God, remember who He is and all He has given us, and step forward into the light of His goodness, the darkness of weakness and helplessness shatters into a sunrise of strength.

After realizing that I had the choice of moving past sadness and adjusting my focus to be on God, my strength returned, and I was able to tackle the day. If a struggle has lulled you into a not-wanting-to-deal-with-it stupor, awake into God’s bright sunshine of joy and strength. He has not left you to handle life on your own. He is always with you. Find strength in His presence with you and in the hope and guidance that’s found in His Word. Put on your strength!

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 NKJV

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A sunrise of strength – thoughts on dealing with discouragement from @KatyKauffman28 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

headshot_katykauffmanAbout the author: Katy Kauffman is a Bible study author and teacher, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. Her writing tends to focus on winning life’s spiritual battles, and she loves connecting with writers and creating compilations such as Breaking the Chains: Strategies for Overcoming Spiritual Bondage, a 2018 Selah Awards finalist. Katy makes her home in a cozy suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

Her latest book, Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, is a 2019 Selah finalist. How does God make our character more like Christ’s? What is His part, and what is ours? This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage it. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us wisdom to handle such real-life issues as unwanted change, grief, loneliness, financial debt, and difficult people.

Join the conversation: What still holds you captive, sapping your strength?

When You Can’t Go Any Further

by Cindi McMenamin

Nancy had been on long rides before. But nothing like this.

For months, she had pedaled it hard on an upright bike at the health club, training for the 40-mile bicycle ride with her friend, Donna, across Whidby Island in Washington State. But the workouts on the stationary bike didn’t prepare her for the steep uphill climbs she was encountering on this ride.

Nancy’s friend, Barb – and her husband, Rick – followed Nancy and Donna on the long-grueling ride up the hills, offering support by driving ahead of them in a pickup truck, then coming back and briefing them what they would encounter around the next corner.

But after a couple steep climbs, Nancy was exhausted. Each time they made a turn and started up a hill again, she struggled, without saying a word. Donna rode on ahead of her, apparently unaware of her struggle.

But Rick saw it. And after driving back down another time to tell the women what lay ahead, this time he did something different. He stopped the truck, got out, picked up Nancy’s bike, and put it in the back of his truck. Then he let her into the truck, and drove her up the hill. Once they were up, he got out, lifted her bike out of the truck and put it back on the ground for her to resume her ride.

“He did that over and over again and never said a word,” Nancy told me later, with tears in her eyes. “That was grace.”

Nancy was right. That was grace.

We often face struggles. And in our pride we are determined to pedal harder and wear ourselves out working through them. Sometimes we complain to others. Sometimes, like Nancy, we don’t say a word. But God knows what lies ahead, around the next bend. And instead of saying “Come on, you can do it, pedal harder!” God quietly carries us up those hills.

In Isaiah 40:29-31, we are told that God gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. And even though the young and energetic may fall, those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength as if they’re soaring on eagles’ wings.

Are you struggling through something right now because you’re trying to do it completely by yourself? If so, recognize help where it exists. And just yield. Yield to the One who knows what lies ahead and is there to carry you up the hill.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness….” 2 Corinthians 12:9 CSV  

Lord, thank You for always being there to not just encourage me, but to carry me at times. Help me to humble myself and rely on Your help to get me through whatever lies ahead of me.   

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and When You’re Running on Empty. For more on her books and ministry, or to learn more about her coaching and consulting services for writers, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Has God ever carried you when you could not go on alone?

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Listening for His Song

by Cindi McMenamin

Alice remembers the day she felt desperately alone. But only for a while. She lay on the cold exam table as she was moved into the tube-like chamber. She was undergoing an MRI of her brain to determine why she was experiencing headaches.

“Other people told me about the experience, but nothing really prepares you for it,” Alice told me a few days after the procedure.  At first she kept her eyes open when the hood enclosed her. But then she realized she needed to close her eyes and think about something else.

All sorts of sounds were occurring. A crashing sound, some pinging. As she closed her eyes and tried to relax she put the sounds together and made a song. “I pictured the sounds as notes to a song, rising up and going down,” Alice said. “I created in my mind a little symphony with the sounds, trying to picture the notes as they happened.”

Alice was creating a symphony of praise in the middle of uncertainty. Oh, how that helps when we’re anxious or fearful.

From the time my daughter could talk, I taught her to sing about whatever she was experiencing. If she was hungry, we’d sing about it. If she was excited or if she was bored at having to wait for something, we would come up with a song. Often it was the same tune and we just created new words. This kept her focused not on her situation, but on the song. It was a way of distracting her from worry or uncertainty and causing her to keep a song – and some joy – in her heart.

That must be what God is doing in our lives when He gives us songs. He’s distracting us from our distress.  Like a loving Heavenly Father, God turns our hearts away from worry by tuning us into a song.

In Psalm 40, David sang of waiting in a pit for God’s deliverance. When God pulled him out of the sinking mud and set him on solid ground, David says that God put a new song in his mouth. God not only gives us songs of praise after our victories but songs of surrender while we’re still in the pit!

Are you in a place of uncertainty today? Whether you’re on an exam table, in a hospital waiting room, alone in an unfamiliar place, or waiting in what feels like a pit, He can fill you with His songs. Let Him help you pull together the sounds and situations of your life into a symphony of praise to Him.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God…” (Psalm 40:3a).

Lord, when I feel anxious, afraid, lonely, or depressed, fill my heart with a song of praise to You.

About the authorView More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindi: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, Drama Free and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her books and ministry, or to learn more about her coaching services for writers, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: What songs bring you the most comfort in uncertainty?

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How to Rest from Worry

by Debbie W. Wilson

I can worry with my eyes closed. In fact, I’ve done some of my best fretting in my sleep. Even when I’m alert, worry drones on beneath the surface looking for an opening to pop through.

My worries appear reasonable. Physical facts support them. But—and this is a big “but”—they leave out the character and nature of God.

When I experienced some health issues that included fatigue and brain fog, assorted fears taunted me. The realization that aging could make me frail and vulnerable frightened me. I realized that when I feel strong I know that with God I can handle life. But when my ump to push though evaporates, my confidence fizzles.

I reexamined my premise: with God can handle anything. I had to ask myself if I believed God could cover everything when I couldn’t help. Was my confidence in Him or in me? Physical, mental, emotional, and financial proficiency brings the illusion of security. Lack of those brings a terrible awareness of vulnerability.

Nature supported my perception. Strong animals dine on the weak and wounded. Ruthless people exploit the poor and aged.

But God gently, but strongly, interrupted my fretting. The Bible Gateway app I’d set on continuous play got stuck on Deuteronomy 33. Even after I manually moved it forward, every time I opened it to continue where I’d left off, it went back to this particular chapter. Since I tend to listen to it when I’m doing other things, I couldn’t always readjust it. I decided God had something He wanted me to hear.

Sure enough, verse 12 continued to stand out. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders” (NIV).

One morning, while listening to praise music, that verse opened up for me. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him.” God offered security. Would I let myself rest in Him?

That morning I decided to “rest secure in Him.” I pictured my Shepherd lifting me onto His shoulders, as a shepherd would a lamb, and carrying not only me but also all the cares I’d picked up. Relief washed over me.

What cares has the world laid on your shoulders? Will you let yourself rest secure in Him? Jesus offers rest to us. We choose whether or not we’ll receive it.

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 25:28 NIV

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Join the conversation: What are the things in your life that are making you yearn for rest?

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We Don’t Have What it Takes to Care for Our Parents

by Kathy Howard

When my husband and I were young parents, our church friends had an ongoing joke that reflected the challenge of raising little humans. We designated that carefree time of life before the arrival of the first offspring as “BC” – before children. Before children we enjoyed spontaneous outings, a little extra spending money, and a good night’s sleep.

But after the children’s arrival, all that changed. Grocery store trips required hours of preparation. Paychecks often ran out before the next payday. And we regularly navigated our days in a sleep-deprived state. Caring for little ones was tough. Then they grew to be teenagers and parenting stretched us to new lengths.

Now, with our children grown, we can look back and clearly see how God sustained us with His grace through every stage of parenting.

Then we totally skipped the empty-nest stage. The summer our last child left for college, my 80-year-old father-in-law arrived. One young birdie flew out and one old birdie flew in.

Granted, Pappaw only needed a little assistance during the first years he spent with us. Then his health began to decline and he experienced one major problem after another. As doctors, medication, lengthy hospital stays, surgeries, and rehab dominated his life, he needed us more and more.

For a season, I was helping both my husband with his father and making regular trips to care for my own parents. I desperately wanted to do the right things, but the responsibilities felt heavy, draining.

I quickly realized I don’t have what it takes. I’m ill-equipped to make good decisions for my parents. I lack the spiritual strength to love and care for them unconditionally. One minute I want to hug them and tell them everything will be alright and the next I want to force them to “listen to reason.”

Many of you are there now – overwhelmed with the needs of your parents. With the responsibility of caring for them. Like me, you don’t have what it takes to do it well.

But I know Someone who has everything we need and more. Caring for aging and ill parents challenges us daily and can stretch us to the breaking point. But, by His power and grace, God will give us everything we need to care for them and live a life that pleases God “through our knowledge of Him who called us” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV).

As we abide in Jesus, God’s powerful provision flows through this life-giving connection. The power is Christ in us, working through us to minister to our parents. Caring for our parents is a joint venture with God. As we step out in obedience, God provides the power to fuel our efforts. God doesn’t promise the task will be easy. But He does promise our efforts in Him will make a difference.

Today, let’s take a deep breath and settle into the amazing truth that our powerful God will provide everything we need for this journey. Let us draw close to Jesus and hold tight.

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB

Kathy HowardAbout the author: Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.

 Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner 30DaysHope_AgingParentsCover 300RGBfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Kathy’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What can you do each day to purposefully stay connected to Jesus? How will abiding in Jesus strengthen you for your God-given task?

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