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

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.

Rainy Days and Long Winters

I think often of the change of seasons and how it relates so intricately with our lives.  We seem to just get settled into Spring around here and boom it’s Summer! Let me tell you in Northwest Mississippi you know when summer hits.  The seasons come and go, and our lives seem to ebb and flow with the same motion. Young adults who get married, work jobs, have children, raise children, retirees, etc. The seasons move along and before we know it the time has gone and we wonder how it happened so quickly.

All except winter that is…winter lasts FOREVER. Or at least it feels that way every February.  This Florida transplant still struggles with February and I try so hard not to let the weather get me down, but it’s hard when it’s nothing but rain and gray skies.

Have you found yourself feeling the same? Why do all of the other seasons fly by while Winter drags by slow and stale.  It hasn’t helped  that the last couple weeks have brought their share of minor struggles.  You know the little things that accumulate and make you discouraged or disheartened along the way.  It’s easy to become distracted and encumbered with those weights but even as Paul encouraged us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb.12:1) My challenge is to do this in the midst of the rain and cold.

When things are smooth sailing, I find this task much easier to do! But the task is not only to be managed in the easy season, it’s also for the Winter of the year and the soul. When we are parched, and raw and yearning for the warmth of the Sun and the Son, we have only to remember those words from Lamentations and know that by His mercy which is new every morning, we can do exactly the job God has for us each day. The purpose that we are here to fulfill on this earth, the precise reason for our living and breathing and moving.

If you find yourself struggling today with the burdens of this life, I pray you’ll turn to the One who bears all our burdens with us, and treasure the promise of the seasons – they are not forever, the next season is right around the corner.

 

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/

 

 

 

 

This is My Life

by Featured Writer Angela Jamison  headshot

Some days I’m exhausted by 9am.

The process of getting four, independent, listening-impaired, beautiful children out the door for the 8am school bus is comparable to an interval training workout. There are bouts of cardio while searching the house for lost items mixed with strength training of quite literally dragging sixty pound bodies out of bed.

Most days, we make it to the bus stop, with full bellies and a few minutes to spare. Most days, I don’t look too disheveled (I hope), but on the inside I’m feeling ragged and exhausted. I’m feeling grateful for the reprieve of school and guilty that my kids didn’t have a healthy, home-cooked breakfast with a June Cleaver-like mother.

We can all relate, right? Whether it be one child, four or simply getting ourselves out the door, we all understand the stress of the morning. We read articles, study Pinterest and a number of other things with the hope of achieving a flawless start to our day.

Today, my morning started as typical with a few bleary-eyed, blanket clad kids stumbling through my doorway at 615a while I desperately try to become presentable before the flood gates of life open. Clothes are picked, kids start getting dressed and it all goes down hill.

The oldest has managed to tie his shoe in a bazillion tiny knots, tighter than your jeans at Thanksgiving.

The youngest has the dog in a headlock, attempting to release the leg of her precious baby alive.

The middle daughter is still lying in bed, eyes fixed to Monster High on the television, oblivious of the chaos around her.

But the middle son takes the cake. He is grumbling, huffing and puffing as he tries to tie his shoe. He’s stationed himself in the middle of my bathroom floor, exactly where I need to walk to finish getting ready myself. I ask him to move to another location and when he puts his foot down, he begins frantically searching the bathroom.

“What are you looking for?”

A bit panicked he says, “My shoe is missing!”

…It’s on his foot.

He is frantically searching for his shoe that is solidly on his foot. The same foot he’s using to search for said shoe.

This is my life.

It may look strikingly similar to your life or you’re reading this with memories of the past flashing through your mind. Either way, we all have those moments of chaos, searching for something that is right in front of our faces. Sometimes what we’re searching for is Jesus.

Like my son’s shoe securely on his foot, Jesus sits right in front of us simply waiting for us to notice and we miss it because well…chaos. Our lives our chaotic and the devil uses that to separate us from our peace maker. How easy do we make it for him!

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV 

Take comfort in that the Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save. He is with us amidst our chaos; we simply need to seek him. Zephaniah continues to say that He will save and whether that means he will save me from my chaos, save the baby alive from the dog or the shoes from the garbage I am not sure, but what I do know is that even his smallest save is a big gift.

Some days I’m exhausted by 9am. Some days chaos overwhelms me. Even yet, all days, I am in the midst of a God who saves