Hope for the Hard Days

No one is immune to trouble.

Job 5:7 but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

For some reason, we tend to walk around in Christian circles believing that no one else struggles with the same challenges we have. Or that no one is dealing with sin like we do. We bury our real and true selves under a façade of fake smiles and trite expressions when in reality the moment we share that we really have had a bad day, or week and the other person smiles in relief with a “me too!”

If we are to bear each other’s burdens, there is a sacrifice that must be made. And make no mistake we are to do just this, but sometimes we underestimate the weight of that burden.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I don’t know about you but when I read the headlines of the latest news broadcast and check in on Facebook to see the latest child abduction post, political rhetoric from all sides, and just the debauchery that exists in our world, I find my mind goes to a very negative place. Add in the prayer requests and needs of those who have lost loved ones, who are fighting the vicious monster cancer, and yet others who bear unbelievable heartache and heartbreak, it’s easy to believe that life is just too much.

In these times I am reminded that while I am told to bear each other’s burden, I am not doing any of this alone. As a matter of fact, the One who has given me my purpose and job to do here on this earth has already told me His yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

How can this be, when there is so much to be weighed down with that is just what’s outside of me? When I add the weight of the sin I struggle against, the unexpected bad news I hear, or the prayers I pray for my own family – I must immediately turn to the One who knows, sees and hears all.  Laying my burdens and cares at His feet is the ONLY way that I can move forward in this life and help care for others in the way that they need from me. Just a few verses before He tells us His yoke is easy, He tells us in vs. 28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The enemy is crafty –he seeks to steal our joy in a multitude of ways, including the words that others say or don’t say, the pressure he applies to those walking outside God’s protection, and the rampant sin at work in our world. All of this combine to bear much weight on the Christian and even more so the Christian in ministry – because we feel those things so keenly. My heart literally hurts physically when I know that others who I care about, or who entrust me with their cares and woes need my support and prayer. Speaking and ministering at conferences can weigh me down quite literally where I need to rest for several days after. Writing and laboring over words that others need to hear can be physically exhausting because of the spiritual battle that is also taking place. Physical rest becomes necessary because of the mental, emotional and spiritual battles taking place.

This is why I sympathize for those in any position of Christian ministry and for their families. The weight they bear is heavier than we can know. The weight of their knowledge can be unfathomable.  The hits in ministry continue without an end in sight.

If you’re not in ministry, you still know the weight. As women we bear these burdens as well. Burdens for our family, our friends, and our church.  The Christian life MUST be lived in our consistent walk in the Word. The consistent practice of filling our minds with the words of Christ, then combined with the act of submission in prayer leaving the burdens we bear at the feet of the only One able to carry them for us.  If we avoid this, or underestimate its importance, we run the risk that our minds will be filled with the difficult news, the negative attitudes and the disappointing and sorrow filled headlines that scream for our attention. And the truth is what we fill our minds with becomes what we live out in our lives.

This morning I read in Hebrews 12 and I continued thinking through this further. This is part of the race we run.  See vs. 1,2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

And then further vs. 12-14

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

All of this rests squarely on our understanding that He is the source. The Holy Spirit power that resides in each of us at salvation.

Our hope truly rests in Him today. Without Him we can do nothing, and as much as we think we can carry our burdens on our own, we will fail miserably.

John 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If we can’t bear our own burdens in our own strength how can we even begin to think that we can bear the burdens of others as we are commanded in Scripture?

Obedience follows obedience and our comfort and peace are in Him alone. While we cannot live in a vacuum and avoid the bad news or negative spirits around us, we can and must prioritize the place of His Word and prayer and meditation in our lives above the other noise.

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Face Your Goliath

by Angela Jamison

Last week in my Women’s Small Group we discussed the Bible story of David and Goliath. We pondered on how brave David was to stand up to Goliath after soldiers twice his size ran in fear and how much faith he held to do so scantily armed and with little doubt. Even when Saul attempted to talk him out of it or Goliath himself laughed in his face, David stood strong in the belief and knowledge that God had saved him from adversity before and He would do it again.

David stood up to Goliath.

After a brief discussion, I proposed a question …

What Goliath in your life do you need to stand up to? 

 We all have one, a giant in our life that we spend more time and energy on avoiding than simply facing. These are the moments when the Bible, and it’s truths, come alive for me.  The moments when I can insert myself into the story, see and feel, the depth of it’s meaning.

David and Goliath could be a fairy a tale. A fairy tale of the underdog winning against the big bully, taking him down with one well placed stone. It could be.

But it’s not. 

David and Goliath is a story of faith, a story of the necessity of believing in God’s mercies and arming ourselves, every day, with his power and love. David didn’t win because he had a large stone, was a top-notch pitcher or kung-fu master. David won because he believed he could and he trusted in the One who had protected him always.

David won because he had God.

The best part of this story? We can win, too! Just as David did, we too can face our Goliath and take him down because we have the strength and the power and the love of the most strong Almighty Father.

 It’s so easy to be like the hundreds of other soldiers running from Goliath in fear. It takes faith to stand up and be like David. So again, I ask …

What Goliath in your life do you need to stand up to?

 Sometimes our Goliath is an outside force, another person or situation, but often times, our Goliath lives within ourselves. Sometimes, our Goliath is the doubt, the fear, the self-deprecating talk we allow to manifest in our hearts and minds. We are our own worst enemy, our own Goliath.

David won because he had God and we can win too. Wrap yourself in the blanket of truth of God’s word, knowing and believing He will deliver you from whatever giant you are facing, inwardly or outwardly. With Him, you are capable and through Him you are strengthened.

Stock your arsenal with these Bible verses to help you stand up to your Goliath…

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.  -Psalm 119:114

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all – Psalm 34:19

headshotAngela Jamison is a mother of four and works with young children as the Director of a Christian Preschool. She derives joy from children and is passionate about connecting with mothers to encourage and reiterate God’s design for the toughest job on Earth. 

 After struggling with infertility, Angela and her husband entered the world of foster care and began the journey to create their family on God’s terms.

When she is not entertaining children, or buying LulaRoe, Angela loves to read, write and explore the path being laid before her by the most perfect parent, our Heavenly Father.

Read more of Angela’s writing and journey at www.angelajamison.com

When “no” is best…

I don’t know anyone that likes to be told “no.” Doesn’t matter if they are two and want a cookie instead of a nap, or forty-five and desiring a book deal. Hearing no as the answer hurts sometimes.  It’s also practically impossible for some of us to say!  I have the hardest time telling people no to almost any request. It’s challenging to find the right balance. Sometimes I just know deep down that I have to say no but I can’t explain it to people, and sometimes it makes no sense to anyone else. So for a very long time I was a “yes girl.

“Vicki, we need someone to bake muffins for visitation.

Sure, I can do that. “

Nevermind that the kiddos need my attention in the afternoons when I’m baking,

and I’m working from home full-time.

“Vicki, we need a meal for someone who just had a baby.

Sure, I can do that.”

Nevermind that I won’t be home all week because the kids have practices

and I’m teaching in between.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. I have struggled with saying no to extra responsibilities for YEARS.  I like being a yes girl and I like being patted on the back or thanked for being so helpful. Pitiful.  Drive myself into the ground and become #1 grump to my own family, just for this.

Over the last few years, the Lord has been working in my own heart to learn to be honest in my abilities and capabilities instead of just relying on my default yes.  See I know the Bible teaches the principle of “counting the cost.”  Check out these passages – Luke 14:28-30, Ecc. 2:11, and Prov. 11:1.

Sometimes it’s not the monetary cost, it may be time, or having to say no to other things later, because you committed to this. Sometimes it’s rest, time in the Bible, you name it – the cost of saying YES is high and before we say it we should consider if we are willing to make that commitment for ourselves and sometimes for our families also!

Recently, I reflected on this year and thanked the Lord for the work He had been doing in me to start learning to say No.  Now, by no means have I perfected this … I still struggle, but I’m working on it.  I’m working on being honest with people about my limitations, because honestly that’s something I don’t want anyone to think I have. Now that’s just sinful pride right? we all have limitations, why do I feel that I should hide that? No idea my friends, but it’s almost hardwired into me. So I’m a work in progress.

But this work in progress said no earlier this year. About six months ago I said no to a wonderful opportunity and something that took me a couple of days to respond back to because I was trying to justify, work out an angle, anything to be able to say yes and feel right about it. But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me. I knew deep down in my core I shouldn’t accept the offer, and eventually told them no.

I was disappointed because it would have been wonderful. Something that would have been work, but would have been enjoyable and I would have loved it.

What I didn’t know is what God knew.  In His omniscience, He knew that in June I would be working on a new book that I hadn’t even proposed yet.  He knew that I would be on a short deadline, and I would have either had to say no to the book deal, or I would have been a literal crazy person trying to accomplish both BIG things not to mention doing life with my family.

I’m so grateful that I listened this time and trusted there was a reason I needed to say No. I really cannot imagine if I had said yes.  There would be regret. There would be a huge emotional toll. The cost would have been far greater than I thought at that time. God in His provision spared me the pain. My friend Dawn Owens recently released a new book Like Me or Not dealing with an approval addiction.  She drills down into how this looks and manifests itself, and then shows how wrong it is by using Scripture to reveal the dangers in this behavior.  The thing is she does it in a very real way.  She lays out her life, her experiences, and her pain in the process of detailing how this has affected her life.  If you struggle with your no’s, you will benefit from reading her story and her challenges to let God deal with your heart.  You can purchase it at a variety of book stores or click the link to get it on Amazon.

Do you struggle with saying No? Do you like to be a yes girl like me, always volunteering and saying yes, even when you know deep down you should say no?  There’s tremendous freedom in learning to trust the Lord and lean on His wisdom.

I pray that you are encouraged today to take responsibility for the “yes” and “no” answers you face today.

 

 

Psalm 37:4 Delight before Desire

by Rachel Schmoyer

I felt restless. Unsettled. This feeling was illogical. Nothing on the surface of my day to day life had changed. I was still cooking, cleaning, teaching Sunday School, directing Vacation Bible School, reading voraciously—all the things I’ve always loved and longed to do. However, I noticed I didn’t have a driving passion for them anymore.

At first, I thought my restlessness was because God wanted to move our family to Africa, but nope. After my husband returned from a missions trip to Tanzania, he didn’t say “pack up we are moving.” Instead, he said, “I am more convinced we are exactly where we are supposed to be.” For him, that meant a renewed passion for ministry. For me, that meant I was stuck.

I was stumped. What was missing? Was their something else I was supposed to be doing? Why didn’t I feel like doing all the things I had always wanted to do? Since I wasn’t able to figure this out on my own, I asked my older and wiser friend. After listening carefully, she shared Psalm 37:4.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I was surprised she choose this verse. Normally, this is a go-to verse for those who want something and need to know if God wants them to have it.

Something like this:

I want a new car.

Does God want me to have a new car? I don’t know. How can I find out?

I’ll delight myself in the Lord to check to see if God wants me to have a new car, too.  

The problem is, this litmus test approach to the verse is backwards. It puts the desire first and follows it up with delight. However, in the verse, the delight comes first before the desire.

My job was not to focus on myself and my desires. My job was to delight myself in the Lord.

Psalm 46:10 puts it a different way.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.”

The answer to the restless feeling in my soul was not to frantically search for a desire. That would be striving, trying to fix my life in my own strength. The solution to my unsettledness was to delight myself in the Lord. These verses were like a sigh of relief after holding my breath for too long. I began to replace my restlessness with a season of freedom to delight in the Lord.

What does it look like to delight yourself in the Lord?

  • Read. Spend time in God’s word, delighting in His promises and His plan.
  • Pray. Not just a list of requests, but praise, delighting in who God is.
  • Rejoice. Delight in what the Lord has done for His people in the past. Not just the long past, but the recent past, too.

The result of my season of delighting was that God gave me a desire to write. Writing had not been on my radar—ever. This passion could only have come from delighting in Him. My challenge now is to keep delighting in Him so that every one of my writing goals is a desire from Him.

You might be in a season of unsettled. You may have a life transition coming up and you don’t know what your role will be in that transition. Maybe you don’t know what you want to be when you “grow up.”

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.


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Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife and a mom of four in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. She writes at Read the Hard Parts (https://readthehardparts.com/) to encourage and equip Christians to find simple truths in complex Bible passages. Her devotionals have been published in Light from the Word, The Secret Place, and The Quiet Hour. You can connect with her on Facebook @ReadtheHardParts, Twitter @schmoyer_rachel, and Instagram @schmoyer_rachel.

Life Lessons with Lightning McQueen

by Angela Jamison

When my youngest son was three, he was introduced to Lightning McQueen. From the first meeting, they were best of friends and he is still attached to him five years later. It’s one of the longest toy loves in my household.

My son still has numerous different McQueens – from wind up to color changing, mini to stuffed. It’s safe to say that you can find a Lightning McQueen in any given room of the house.

As with many things from when the kids were young, I’ve forgotten a lot of the turmoil that came with this Lightning McQueen love. I had forgotten the incessant watching of the movie and the hours long searches for exactly the right McQueen.

Today, this picture appeared in my memories.Picture1

This picture is a snapshot of my life just a few years ago. Here is my son, in his Lightning McQueen shirt, with eleven Lightning McQueens in reach. He’s panicking here because, “I can’t find Lightning!”

He couldn’t find Lightning McQueen…

To this day, this picture makes me smile. There are obvious Lightning McQueens right in front of him, yet he’s still searching, unsatisfied.

How often does this very picture represent us in any given aspect of our lives? How often does God lay out our desires right in front of us yet we continue searching unsatisfied?

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

Psalm 20:4 NIV

God intends to give us the desires of our heart. He wants to make all our plans succeed. He often lays out in front of us exactly what we need, willing us to seek Him.

Satan muddles with our perception, confusing our eyes and causing distress. He lines up the McQueens in front of us while whispering that we haven’t found the right one. Satan plants the seed of dissatisfaction and waters it while prolonging the search.

Busy yourself not with Satan’s lies, but rather God’s promises. Break free of the Lightning McQueen traffic jam in your life and embrace the blessings right in front of you. Live in the joy of your heart’s desires.

 

headshotAngela Jamison is a mother of four and works with young children as the Director of a Christian Preschool. She derives joy from children and is passionate about connecting with mothers to encourage and reiterate God’s design for the toughest job on Earth. 

After struggling with infertility, Angela and her husband entered the world of foster care and began the journey to create their family on God’s terms

When she is not entertaining children, or buying LulaRoe, Angela loves to read, write and explore the path being laid before her by the most perfect parent, our Heavenly Father.

Read more about Angela on her website https://angelajamison.com/

 

 

 

 

Hurricane History

by Victoria Duerstock

In the aftermath of Harvey, I have thought long and hard about my experiences once again living on the Gulf Coast of Florida for many years.  We saw many hurricanes over the years, some with very little damage and others with devastating effects for many months.  I hurt for the people of Texas, knowing that very soon, the rest of us will move on with our lives, while they start the very long and difficult process of rebuilding their lives, their homes, and their mental health.

Anytime a hurricane develops, I feel a familiar pit in my stomach.  Although it’s been several years now since the landfall of a major hurricane on the mainland United States, the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ivan on me, and my family personally, remain, likely forever.  As a wife and mom, the effect of the hurricane was not just in the packing and evacuating but also in the separation and difficult decisions that had to be made not just before the storm but after.

While I, my mom, and the kids evacuated from Hurricane Ivan just prior to its landfall on the panhandle of Florida on September 16, 2004, my husband remained behind to help with rescue and recovery efforts.  My husband stayed because he was a volunteer fireman in our local fire department and felt his presence was vital to help our community with recover. He and the crew evacuated just far enough inland to still be accessible once the hurricane had passed through as they were ordered to stay off the roads until the all clear.

Enjoying this post?  Head over to w2wministries.org to read the rest!

Life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies

by Angela Jamison – featured columnist

Life is hard.

After a particularly difficult day not getting everything exactly how she wanted it, my daughter, age six, went into a meltdown. The stars were not aligning properly and she just knew that if she had new barbies life would be perfect. My eight year old son, clearly wise beyond his years, simply told her, “Well, life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies.”

Life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies.

Hilarious, yet pertinent and insightful commentary. It’s true – life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies. Sometimes we feel entitled to “cupcakes and barbies” because we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but that’s not what is promised to us. Eternal salvation is promised. Earthly ease is not.

In fact, life is sometimes down right crumby.

As Christians, we have the tendency to assume our place in the family of believers as one of Christ’s children means the absence of trials, tribulations or difficulties. That’s simply not the case. Satan is hard at work here on Earth and he will continue to rear his ugly head.

Being a part of Christ’s family does not mean life will be easy, but it does mean that we will never have to travel alone. The burden of pain, heartache, or trial will be shared and there will be an unyielding hope that resonates within us.

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

God is not wishy-washy, he’s commanding. He commands us to be strong and courageous, not afraid or discouraged.  He commands these things because He, the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go. Not once does he imply that we won’t face trials that frighten us or defeats that discourage us, but rather commands our behavior and attitude for when we do.

God prepares us with his word and his promise is steadfast. Even on the hard days, we are not alone.

Life may not be all cupcakes and barbies, but it is faith, hope and love.