When All Is Lost

by Marcia Clarke

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12 NIV

Looking back on the past two years, when our nation had no choice but to be still `the pandemic, I began to think about how much worse it could have been. Imagine arising one morning and everything was gone. Everything that you’d diligently worked for lost.

When the COVID-19 virus took over our lives, our lives turned upside down. We had to adjust to the loss of family or friends. Our children were educated through a computer screen. Families struggled with learning to communicate in limited space. We found ourselves experiencing things like depression, increased anxiety, worry, and fear. There was no telling when it would ever end.

The pandemic is a great example of how at one moment we can have it all and in the next lose it. Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12 NIV).

Paul was humbled by his experiences. He had learned to embrace both abundance and scarcity. To Paul, the only thing that mattered was his work in reaching out the God’s people. Despite his circumstances.

As I write, I am experiencing the harsh wilderness myself, waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises. Ironically, my passion is to motivate others to trust and hope in God for all things. But honestly, I would love to fold up in a corner and cry day and night in hope that something would change.

Like Paul, I know that God will meet all my needs according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). I need to remember that while I am working and waiting, God is working behind the scenes to move me through the wilderness to a place where I can drink in His refreshing presence and continual love. There is no drought in the presence of God, only water to restore your soul.

What about you? Did you lose something or someone during the pandemic? As we continue to experience inflation, job loss, and the likes, let us hold fast to the word of God and allow it to permeate our hearts. God provides in all kind of seasons. He is the way-maker and the promise-keeper. When all is lost, God, your compassionate God, will restore you, picking up the scattered pieces (Deuteronomy 30:3).

Let us not loose heart. Let’s not take anything for granted. We have so much to live for. Most importantly, let us live our lives for Christ.

Father, we give you glory and honor for your continual presence in our lives as we trust in you in and through all things. When tough seasons hold us bound, we look to you where all our help comes from. When all is lost, help us to remember that you are the God who restores in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

About the author: Marcia Clarke writes daily encouragement for meditation and spiritual enrichment. Writing to help people through difficult seasons is her greatest passion. She loves sharing encouragement and practical devotion through her daily blog and enjoys the practice of meditation, yoga, and daily affirmation to create balance in her life. Marcia is the author of Journey to Abundance with content-rich affirmation for your meditation experience. Marcia’s most recent book, Thirty Days of Grace contains prayer for every season. Visit her at her website for more information.

Join the conversation: Have you needed restoring after the pandemic?

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God Can Handle Our Questions

by April Newbell

When I was a child, I was constantly asking my parents questions. I am sure this was probably annoying, especially if they were busy. My daddy would often ask me (because I was asking so many questions) if I was studying to be a lawyer. I suppose I just had an inquisitive mind and wanted to know the why’s and how’s of everything.

After recently losing my husband to a tragic motor vehicle accident, my heart and mind are again filled with so many questions. Why did this have to happen? How do I go on without him? What do I do now?

I have often heard it said that we should never question God. When times are tough and senseless things happen, we should just have faith and never ask God the reason.

I do not believe this is true. He is a big God and He can handle our questions. He is like an earthly father who wants us to come to Him with everything: not just victories but our questions, fears, and hurts as well.

Remember Job, who lost so much: his children, his property, and his health. To make matters worse, his wife and his friends were not much help to him, either. He was so filled with grief and suffering, like any of us would, he questioned God.

I will say to God, “Dont declare me guilty; tell me what you are accusing me of doing. Does it seem good to you that you oppress me, that you reject the work of your hands and cause the purpose of sinners to shine? Do you have physical eyes; do you see like a human? Are your days like those of a human, your years like years of a human, that you search for my wrongdoing and seek my sin? You know that Im not guilty, yet no one delivers me from your power.” Job 10:2-7 CEB

God answers Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” Job 38:4-5 CEB

God shows Job (and us) that His ways and thoughts are higher than Job’s. He alone is God, and we as His creation have limited understanding. God knows our beginnings and our endings and everything in between.

We may never have all the answers, but we can trust the One that does. We can trust God to hold us close to him and strengthen us. He sees. He knows. He cares.

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

About the author: April Newbell is a retired office manager for a family medicine office and an aspiring writer. She has previously published two devotionals on christiandeovtions.us. She enjoys writing devotions to which everyone can relate and apply to their lives. April and her husband, along with their dog, live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Join the conversation: What questions do you have for God?

A Limited Picture

by Lori Vober

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 NLT

Do you often have a picture in your mind of a particular event that takes you back to that time of year or a particular season?

My husband and I lived in Minnesota for the first five years of our marriage, so every September signified the change of seasons: fall colors, cooler temperatures, and most importantly, the State Fair.

The State Fair meant cheese curds, unlimited cookies and milk from the cookie truck, beef jerky, 4-H, smelly animals, and buying things we probably would find useless. It is the fun event we would go to every year, spending lots of money on food and unnecessary items, but to this day, we still have wonderful memories.

Life is a lot like that. We have in our mind how things will turn out, and sometimes things do work out just right. However, many times our journey turns out much differently than the picture we had in our mind. When that happens, we have to decide how we are going to handle the unexpected.

God has plans and a great purpose for each of us, but many times we can’t see that bigger purpose, like in the middle of a medical journey, difficult challenge, or a detour. We must keep our eyes on Him and remember what we know about His character and goodness. Someday we will know God’s purposes and plans. Until then, we choose to trust in who He is.  

A great example of trusting God’s character and promises is in the Genesis story of Joseph. He never lost faithfulness and always looked for the bigger purposes of God. Joseph was his dad’s favorite, and received a special gift: the multi-colored coat.

Unfortunately, between the coat and Joseph’s dreams of glory, which he shared, his brothers were very jealous of him. They threw him into a pit, and sold him into slavery. Even in such dire circumstances, Joseph remained faithful to God and served to the best of his ability. God rewarded him at his master’s house with a position of great responsibility. When he was thrown into prison after being falsely accused, the prison warden also gave him responsibility due to his faithful attitude.

Had Joseph had a bad attitude, each situation would have been very different. However, because he continued to trust and depend on God’s bigger purpose, he was eventually given the place of second in command by the Pharaoh. In the end, Joseph truly saved all of the people from a terrible famine.

His life is a great example that life is not always easy, but our trust in God will be rewarded. Sometimes during the journey, we don’t see God’s bigger purpose but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

We have a limited perspective. God is unlimited: He can see the future and moves in circumstances and hearts to bring about His purposes. When we can’t see ahead, He is already there.

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

About the author: Lori suffered an intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke at age twenty-nine, and then developed epilepsy due to the stroke. She is a walking miracle, and felt called to share her story, and her journey of faith and perseverance, to encourage others.

Lori believes God has a plan for each of us, but life is about choices! Even with her difficulties, she was able to become an adoptive Mom of a sibling group of three. She just published her first book through Trilogy Publishing titled, “CHOICES: When You Are Faced with a Challenge, What Choice Will You Make?” Lori and her husband, Dainis, have been happily married for twenty-four years and reside in Goodyear, Arizona. Her website is www.lorivober.com.

Join the conversation: What has challenged your trust in God’s plan in the past?

Discontinued

by DiAnn Mills

Last Friday evening, dear friends invited my husband and me to dinner. We had a great time; we always do. The food and conversation lasted long into the evening.

I complimented the hostess on her beautiful dishes. She told me the pattern was called Rosenthal and the collection came from Germany. Her mother had given them to her, but one plate had been broken, and, unfortunately, the pattern had been discontinued and could not be replaced. While I was admiring the various fragile pieces, the word “discontinued” stayed fixed in my mind.

How sad when the pressures of life cause us to label our faith as discontinued. Other descriptors crossed my mind like antiquated, obsolete, unnecessary, and joke. Those words dishonor our faith and cut to my heart, profaning the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross for our sins. Imagine how God feels when we replace His Truth with an ungodly worldview.

Let’s be honest and admit that sometimes, when we encounter insurmountable problems and face brokenness, we don’t believe God can or will respond to our needs. When we fail to embrace His ways and look to the world for a better solution, we are turning our backs on the only true solution. The world offers merely a shoddy substitution to the wisdom of God.

My dear sisters, I encourage you to trust our God who holds us securely in the palm of His hand. His ways are true power, not discontinued, antiquated, obsolete, unnecessary, or a joke. His mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV), and He longs for the world’s inhabitants to have faith in His Word.

The Bible tells us God hears our prayers and cares about our trials and misfortunes. He always answers our prayers, and while we wait, His love comforts and strengthens us. He doesn’t discontinue us. Neither do we want to exchange our faith for something the world has to offer. So, don’t let the trials of today discontinue your faith. God is in the business of continuing His love and provision.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV

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

About the author: DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn teaches writing all over the country. Connect here: http://www.DiAnnMills.com

Join the conversation: What worldly ‘wisdom’ have you been foolish enough to follow in the past?

Hearing from God

by Marilyn Bay

In May of each year, I let my flock out to pasture for the first time. It is always mass confusion, as lambs lose their mothers and then are reunited. If I lived within earshot of a neighbor, animal control would undoubtedly be called because of the loud baahing of the ewes intended to bring the lambs to their sides. Even louder is the high-pitched bleating of the panicked lambs, who until this day have lived in a small pen with mama never more than 100 feet away. Remarkably, when the sun is low in the sky and it is time to call the flock back to the pen for the night, the ewes run back, their lambs flanking them.

Because sheep hear well and are highly sensitive to danger, they can be taught to come in from the pasture when their shepherd calls. My ewes have a very keen ear for my voice, but teaching them is a process that starts when they are lambs. First the lambs learn to come back in with their mothers. When they are weaned and turned out to pasture by themselves, I make sure to put some nice, leafy alfalfa hay in their feeders just before I call them into the pen. They soon learn that good things await when they respond to my voice. Once they are mature ewes, they rarely fail to come running when I call.

After decades of sheep farming, I’ve learned that much like sheep learning to hear my voice, believers must learn to hear the voice of the Great Shepherd. Like my sheep, I am learning that when I heed the call of my Shepherd, good things await me. I’ve also learned that when I respond to His call, the easier it to hear Him the next time.

The other thing about shepherding is that sheep will only respond to their own shepherd’s voice. As Christians, we must learn to hear our Savior’s voice and not confuse it with other voices. These other voices may seem the same, but they are not.

Not long ago, my sister was at my house, and when it was time to do evening chores, I asked her to call in my sheep. She called, just like I instructed her, but they completely ignored her. She had to get our herding dog and circle behind the flock before they made their way to the pen. As they got half way in, I called to them. Their heads shot up, and they high-tailed it to the gate.

There is probably no one whose voice sounds more like mine than my sister’s, yet the sheep could tell the difference. They ignored her voice but recognized mine and obeyed. The more time I spend with the Good Shepherd, the easier it is for me to hear His voice and to ignore counterfeit voices.

John 10: 3-4 and 27 (NKJV) say, To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. . . . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

About the author: Marilyn Bay grew up on a sheep farm and has raised lambs commercially for over two decades. She lives in rural Colorado and writes historical fiction and non-fiction, including “All We Like Sheep – Lessons from the Sheepfold,” co-authored with her mother Mildred Nelson Bay. For more truth and hope from the prairie, visit her website: www.MarilynBay.com.

Join the conversation: How have you learned to recognize the Savior’s voice?

Cryptic Jesus

by Julie Zine Coleman

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.   Ephesians 3:20-21 NASB

The town was several days into the wedding feast. The food and wine had flowed in abundance, provided by the groom’s parents. But then the wine ran out. And Mary, in concern for the hosts’ embarrassment of not having enough, went to Jesus, who was in attendance with several of his disciples. “They have no more wine,” she anxiously informed him. She knew him better than anyone, as only a mother knows her child. He had always shown himself to be wise and capable. Maybe he would have an idea to help their hapless hosts.

But his response was not so warm and fuzzy as we might expect. In fact, it gave me pause as I studied this passage for a book I was writing. He replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

Some commentators suggest Mary was overstepping her bounds, and Jesus was drawing a line in the sand. But would Jesus treat his mother with such callous disregard, especially in light of the concern she had just expressed for the wedding hosts? Not likely: Jesus actually rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting their parents (in light of the fifth commandment: Honor your father and mother). It is inconsistent to think that Jesus would turn his back on Mary when he qualified others’ disregard for their parents as erroneous.

A closer look at the story provides a different purpose to Jesus’ puzzling words.

The literal translation of his response is “What to me and to you?” It was an idiom of the time. Other idioms are common today, like: “he has a chip on his shoulder”, or “to rub someone the wrong way”. We don’t take the words literally, but understand the meaning behind the metaphor.

So what then was Jesus doing with his cryptic response?

It is helpful to compare this conversation with another mother, the Syrophoenician Woman (Matthew 15:21-28). She also came to Jesus with a request: that he would deliver her daughter from demon possession. He also refused her at first. Then he gave a reason why he should not help, just as he did at Cana. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:24, 26 NASB).

What turned the tide in both conversations? Expressions of faith. The Syrophoenician Woman said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table” (Matthew 15:27 NASB). Jesus commended the Syrophoenician woman for her great faith. He then granted her request.  

Same with Mary. She told the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it” (John 2:5 NASB). With this instruction, Mary was expressing faith in Jesus. She trusted him to work things out in his perfect way, in his own time. And as he did with the Syrophoenician woman, Jesus responded to her faith with a miracle.

Jesus’ initial refusal in both accounts were really a means to an end. He drove both women further in their trust relationship with him. His puzzling words were merely a way to move them forward. The wine he provided through his first miracle was of superior quality, better than anything the hosts had already produced. Faith was the conduit for God’s abundant blessing.

Hebrews tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things not seen…and without faith it is impossible to please Him…” (Hebrews 11:1, 6 NASB). When we ask in faith, we are acknowledging that God is capable and powerful enough. But we are also submitting to his good and perfect will, which might not necessarily align with our request. We are trusting him to do the best thing, no matter how that might look in light of our specific desire.

Trust is what God wants from us. We tend to think that our actions are most important to God. But how well we behave or how many accomplishments we achieve for him cannot be the basis for any request. Jesus miraculously changed water into the very best wine. It came through someone choosing to trust him, no matter what he did.

Trust in the integrity, wisdom, and goodness of our capable God. He will always do the best thing.

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

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

Many Christian women are torn between the church’s traditional teachings on gender roles and the liberty they experience in secular society. But what if the church’s conventional interpretations aren’t really biblical at all? Julie’s new book, On Purpose, releases today!! It is a careful study of the passages in the Bible often interpreted to limit women in the church, at home, or in the workplace. Each chapter reveals timeless biblical principles that actually teach freedom, not limitation.

Join the conversation: What is the biggest challenge to your ability to trust God?

Red Alert

by Patti Richter

The voice of the Lord is over the waters…. –Psalm 29:3 ESV

A dark image flashed before me, waking me from a sound sleep at 2 a.m. I couldn’t ignore the internal alarm.

I left my sleeping husband, Jim, and went to our teenage son’s room. Wes was 7000 miles away from home, in China, for a semester of Mandarin language studies. The days had ticked by slowly for us, though peacefully—until this night. For the first time since he left, I climbed into his bed to pray.

Our adventurous, youngest child had visited China before with a group from our church. But this time, alone, he adjusted to classrooms with no heat in freezing temperatures and classes where neither the students nor the professor could speak any English.

When the weather began to moderate in late March, Wes felt secure enough in his surroundings to explore the city. He enjoyed using a wide-range camera with a large zoom lens he’d purchased for his trip.  Jim and I looked forward to our twice-a-day Skype calls with our son. But a 13-hour time difference meant our days and nights were reversed.

Before his return home, Wes asked us if he could travel to a city in Southeastern China that he previously visited with the church group. He had kept in touch with English-speaking students at a large university there, and his contacts would help him find a place to stay on campus.

Jim and I had misgivings about our son’s travel plan. However, with his housing arrangements assured, we agreed to let him go.

When Wes arrived in Xiamen, his expected accommodations were unavailable, so he stayed in a nearby hotel—alone.

He soon began meeting with college students at an “English Corner” group they attended to improve their language skills. Wes also enjoyed venturing out into the colorful port city with so many historic landmarks. He took a ferry boat to a small, pedestrian-only island where he could explore without road traffic. He walked along the island’s narrow brick streets past hundred-year-old buildings from China’s colonial days and climbed a rocky outcropping to capture panoramic images of the mainland.

Though he checked in with us daily, our son’s growing independence concerned us. We experienced peace by day, knowing he was sleeping. But we grew uneasy at night, knowing Wes would be sightseeing again. At bedtime, we prayed for him, and I specifically asked the Lord to wake me for any circumstance needing prayer.

So, the disturbing image that night put me on high alert. I propped two pillows against our son’s headboard and leaned back, trying not to panic. I believed the Lord woke me to pray, not to make me afraid. When peace returned, I fell asleep.

The familiar Skype-tone the next morning brought great relief! Wes sounded normal, with little to report until mentioning high winds that day.

The terrible image flashed before me again: my son in dark waters.

“Were you out in the wind?” I asked.

“Well, yes. I visited the island again. I hadn’t planned to go, or I would have asked you first. The ferry ride was rough.” 

“Did you stand at the rail?”

“Yes.”

“Were other people by the rail?”

“No. But it was fine.”

“Did you have your heavy camera around your neck?”

“Yes. I wanted to get better pictures this time.”

That’s when I told Wes about my prayer alert. And though he discounted the idea of any real danger, I believed God had spared us from a tragedy.

Days later, I watched my son stroll casually out of the airport customs area—safely home.

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. Psalm 50:15 ESV

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

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been awakened by an urge to pray?

All in God’s Time

by Karen Wingate

A long line stretched up a flight of stairs toward Customs at the Dulles International Airport. Wearily, I checked my watch. We had less than two hours before our next flight, the second of three flights that would bring us from Austria to home in the States. My aunt caught my action and shrugged. “It’s the airline’s job to get us where we need to be. If we miss a flight, they’ll get us on the next available flight. We will get home.”

I’ve thought about her words many times since then. I’ve realized how often I get tense over time: reaching a destination, waiting for dinner guests, worrying that someone’s tardiness will mess up my schedule. The problem is that I’m on my time clock and not God’s.

He knows what He has planned for me. He knows my future and my destination. It’s His job to get me where I need to be so I can accomplish the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11). So, if I put him in charge of what He has promised to accomplish with my life, I don’t have to stress over the timing. Whatever He wants me to get done will get done.

I wonder if David stressed over schedules snags like I do. God had promised through the prophet Samuel that one day, David would be king of Israel. Samuel had even anointed him with oil, a sure and certain sign that this was God’s plan. Yet the current king, Saul, chased David over wadi and wilderness for what Bible scholars believe was a twenty-year period.

Did David ever wonder when and if this king thing would ever happen? Did he fear for his life? Or did he grip the memory of that special day years ago that promised someday he would be king of Israel? Perhaps that’s why David was able to act with such calm when he had the chance to kill Saul twice (see 1 Samuel 24 and 26). He knew God had promised he would be king. It was God’s job, not David’s, to get David to the throne at the time of God’s choosing.

If it was true for David, it’s true for the rest of us. I need to have the attitude that I fit into God’s schedule; it’s not my prerogative to ask Him to fit into mine. When I take that perspective, it changes how I approach situational snags. God has promised to get me safely home to Heaven at the time of His choosing. He has promised in the meantime to never forsake me and to give me good work to do in His name.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Your time snag might be God’s redirection, asking you to align yourself with His plans for you for that day. That time crunch may lead you to intersect with someone who needs an encouraging word or the salvation message of the Gospel. He may be sending you to an oasis where you can spend precious moments with Him. Or He may have a growth lesson for you as He challenges you to trust Him in a new and different way.

So, when things don’t go according to plan, we can relax, knowing God has the master schedule and it’s His job to get us where we need to be. It will all work out in the end.

The next time you think you might be late to a dental appointment, your spouse is late from work, or your child makes a mess at a time when you don’t think you have the time clean up, relax. God will work out the timing. And He’ll use the intervening moments to magnify His purposes in some pretty amazing ways.

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

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About the Author: Karen Wingate, author of With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind, loves to see the world, whether on a short term mission trip to Austria, a visit to her grandson, or the mountains surrounding her hometown of Tucson, Arizona. Karen writes for the Proverbs 31 ministry’s Encouragement for Today devotional and blogs at www.karenwingate.com.

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Discover a world you’ve never seen before in the pages of With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind. You’ll find hope and wonder as you take a fresh look at what God has done and what He has promised to do for each of us.

Join the Conversation: How have you seen God work through a recent time scheduling snag?

Embracing the Future

by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

As January rolls around each year, I always hear the term “embrace the future.” Because God wired me with a positive personality, I’m usually eager to do that. But some seasons present greater challenges than others. How do you embrace an unknown future?

Since life in the last couple of years has resembled a roller coaster, it’s easy to wonder if the ride will ever end. I’m not alone. Some are emerging like ants from their underground tunnels, still spinning and reeling with pandemic emotions. Losses hang in the air like early morning fog, and we may be asking God to heal our wounds and remove any unwanted baggage that’s weighing us down.

At the beginning of each year, I usually spend intentional time with God simply to re-evaluate and invite His perspective on my life. This year is no exception. I’m asking God to sweep away any foolish mistakes, wrong decisions, or any harmful habits I might have collected in the past year that cloud my vision and prevent me from seeing the beautiful opportunities He is preparing for me.

Embracing the future means I’m choosing to leave the past behind. I refuse to beat myself up or second-guess any mistakes and misconceptions. Instead, in my prayer to God, I’m asking: “Lord, like the yard art in my backyard, would you recycle those into beautiful, positive lessons I can learn, actions that will propel me forward, not backward?”

And He is doing that. But God is also teaching me the value of remembering. I will not make idols of good things from the past, of accumulated credentials, or God’s surprise blessings amid uncertainty. Those tracks of God’s faithfulness will continue to humble me and lead me into a questionable future with joy and trust in the One who is good and who works all things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

I don’t want to let the past define me. Instead, I’m asking God to use it to refine me. As long as God gives me breath and life, I can choose to believe the best and let His hope influence my attitudes for the present and in the future. God is still the God of the impossible, and He not only wants to transform me daily, but He promises to finish the work He started in me (Philippians 1:6). That’s a truth I want to remember and celebrate daily.

Will that be easy? No. Some days I may question what to do, or ask Jesus what He is doing. But I know that faith keeps going, reaching, and believing that Jesus is in control. For me, embracing the future means welcoming whatever Jesus wants in my life to make me more like Him.

As I close my evaluation time and my prayer to God, He reminds me of one more thing. While forgetting the past and remembering the past and present are so important, God’s Word also whispers to me to reach forward and keep my eyes on the right goal—Jesus. When I do that, He will help me discover the life for which I was made and uncover the purpose for which I was created.

One day, hearing His “well done” will make “embracing the future” all worthwhile.

One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

About the author: Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a day-voted follower of Jesus who helps others find intimacy with God. She is also a bestselling author of eleven books, and winner of the Serious Writers 2021 Book of the Decade. With the pen of a poet and the heart of a disciple, Rebecca encourages others from years of Bible study and teaching experience, in over 2000 greeting cards and other inspirational books and articles, and through her website and blog at rebeccabarlowjordan.com, visited by guests in over 170 countries.

Join the conversation: What does embracing the future mean to you?

Though Resolutions May Fail

by Patti Richter

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

It usually happened every year around the end of January; I had to acknowledge my failure to keep those well-intended New Year’s resolutions. When I finally reckoned with my poor track record—the rabbit-like start, tortoise-speed progression, road-kill finish—I decided to quit making resolutions.

For years, I believed my annual objectives were superior to my husband’s simple, very practical goals (such as “replace all weather stripping”). Yet by year’s end, his list faithfully emerged from his top desk drawer with a bold checkmark beside each entry. My own list remained hidden from view, deep in the belly of an overstuffed journal.

Though I no longer trust my lofty aims for self-improvement, I still appreciate the idea of a fresh start. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan points out the benefit of looking ahead to new days. He says the past might be beyond repair, but we have the future, “vast, unbroken, pristine, radiant.”

A new year is like a door to the unknown, which leads to surprises, including some unpleasant ones. But what happens if these challenges find us February-weak instead of January-strong? Limping instead of running.

While most of us distain weakness, God values this condition as more pliable working material than our self-confidence. Especially when we come to admit our powerlessness to change ourselves or our circumstances. According to 2 Corinthians 12:9, we will find God’s power available when ours fails.

This makes me think of a recent shopping trip to a big-box store. A sudden power outage left me standing at my cart in total darkness. Then, behold, the store’s generator—unseen and unappreciated until now—took over and saved the day (and thousands of pounds of refrigerated items).

The Old Testament is full of stories of men and women who experienced God’s power despite their weakness. Many of them are honored in the New Testament’s “Hall of Faith,” as chapter 11 of Hebrews is sometimes called. In forty verses, this chapter commends those who “conquered kingdoms… stopped the mouths of lions… escaped the edge of the sword…” (vv. 33-34 ESV), not by their own might but by faith in God.

Abraham appears in this chapter because he “obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8 ESV). The others mentioned endured challenging circumstances not unlike ours today: family strife, relocations, sinful influences, childlessness, poverty, affliction, and so on. Yet, through faith, they “were made strong out of weakness….” (v. 34 ESV).

Acknowledging our dependence upon God is a cure for the kind of willful determination that keeps us from experiencing his power. We can instead emulate those by resolving to embrace the singular goal they had in common: Live by faith.

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

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What are ways that you keep your faith strong?