Tag Archives: getting through hard times

Keep Your Eyes and Focus on Jesus

Keep Your Eyes and Focus on Jesus

Keep Your Eyes and Focus on Jesus

It’s easy to lose spiritual focus and get distracted when things don’t seem to be going our way. It’s especially true when we see or experience injustices, trouble, unethical behavior or wrongdoing. However, the Bible encourages us that even, and especially in those times, we should keep our focus and our eyes fixed on Jesus.

God has been showing me some of that lately. I tend to get more frustrated and discouraged when I rely on myself and my own strength instead of remembering that I have a God that will give me the strength I need to handle and endure anything that comes my way if I’ll just look to him.

Sometimes things just get under our skin so much that we forget about God’s role and ability in the whole process. For example, state budget cuts and administrative changes have completely affected education where I live. I teach at a local community college, and we’ve experienced some significant negative effects as well.

Take this upcoming semester, for instance…

In my department alone, over half of the classes have been canceled, instructors are receiving fewer teaching assignments but still have increased workloads, and a tremendous amount of autonomy has been eliminated. It’s super frustrating for both professors and students alike. I had a class canceled this semester, and a good friend of mine did as well, even though she was guaranteed a certain number of classes in return for some uncompensated work that she did.

In these situations it’s extremely easy to focus on the injustice. It’s easy to spend time stewing and trying to think of ways that we can make things right, change our circumstances, and/or make people see the error of their ways. What I should be doing instead is just focusing on God and the things that are in my control. I have to choose to shift my focus from the negative to God. 

Park’s tree

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Scriptures for Waiting on God

Scriptures for Waiting on God

Scriptures for Waiting on God

Last week we were talking about the patience and endurance needed when waiting on God. One of the things we discussed was the importance of encouraging ourselves with God’s promises. I mentioned that we need to find some scriptures to focus on during the waiting periods. So today I thought I’d share a few helpful scriptures for waiting on God.

Scriptures for Waiting on God

“I wait for your salvation, O LORD.” Genesis 49:18 (ESV)

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalms 27:13-14 (NIV)

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” Psalm 31:24 (ESV)

“We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20 (NIV)

“Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:7 (NLT)

“LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.” Psalm 38:15 (NIV)

“I have waited with hope for you to save me, O LORD. I have carried out your commandments.” Psalm 119:166 (GW)

“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5 (NIV)

“Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.” Proverbs 20:22 (NIV)

“So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4 (NLT)

“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:25-26 (ESV)

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) Continue reading

Be a Light in the Darkness

Be a Light in the Darkness

Be a Light in the Darkness

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

It seems like lately there has been so much awful, negative stuff going on all around us. There have been numerous devastating hurricanes and storms one right after another. Tragedies, attacks, murders and threats are happening both on grand scales and at individual levels affecting families all over the world. Suicide is wreaking havoc on the families and friends of its victims. Racial tensions are causing division. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. A lot stuff going on in the world lately just really kind of sucks to be honest! It’s dark. It’s broken.

Be a light in the darkness...The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.

The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.

On a side note…I have a friend that’s endured a lot of dark and tough times throughout the course of her life. No matter what she has gone through or continues to go through, she continues to stay positive even during some of the toughest times. She consistently remains a light in the darkness and a beacon of hope. This year for her birthday I got her a bracelet that reminded me so much of her that said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” More Christians need to follow her example to be a light in the darkness. 

Just this past weekend my pastor did a message on “What Difference Does God Make…In the Face of Evil?” One of our pastors pointed out that in dark times it’s an opportunity for Christians to shine even brighter. One of my devotions this week also emphasized the importance of sharing hope and bearing witness of Jesus. It’s kind of been a theme that I’ve seen repeated lately—that we need to be a light.

Now, how can we practically do that?

Practical wisdom on how to be a light in scripture

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Scriptures for Troubling Times

Scriptures for Troubling Times: God gives us promises throughout scripture. We can apply these scriptures to our situations and circumstances to give us peace, to build our faith, to encourage us, and sometimes to even turn the situation around.

Scriptures for Troubling Times

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shared about preparing for the storms of life and some ways to endure those storms when they come. One of the practical ways we can endure and overcome these storms is to utilize God’s word. We can use scriptures for troubling times.

God gives us promises throughout scripture. We can apply these scriptures to our situations and circumstances to give us peace, to build our faith, to encourage us, and sometimes to even turn the situation around. God also tells us to remind Him, or put Him in remembrance, of His Word. When we remind God, we remind ourselves too! (Here’s a great post on the subject by Victoria Osteen.)

“Put me in remembrance; let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right.” Isaiah 43:26 (ESV)

In order to remind God, we have to find and know the verses first to be able to use those scriptures for troubling times. It’s helpful to make a list of some go-to verses to access when those times arise. I’ve put together just a few of my personal favorites here. 

General scriptures for troubling times:

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19 (ESV)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NIV)

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 (NLT)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

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Preparing for the Storms of Life

Preparing for the Storms of Life

Preparing for the Storms of Life

Last week we talked about how we can be like palm trees through the storms of life. Jesus warned us that these storms WILL come. However, He also told us to take heart because He has overcome the world. After all, even the winds and the waves obey him!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

“The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”” Matthew 8:27 (NIV)

Sometimes we don’t have advance notice when the storms of life hit. It could be a lost job, an unfaithful spouse, the death of a loved one, or a sudden illness or injury among many other possible things. Therefore, since the timing of trouble is so unpredictable, it’s important to always stay prepared and ready. We need to make preparations in advance. We can’t wait until the storm comes. At that point it’s too late.

Just like one would prepare for an approaching hurricane by boarding up windows, gathering supplies, getting gas, and taking shelter, we too need to take precautions to be able to weather the potential storms of life that could come our way. 

Take Some Practical Steps to Prepare for the Storms of Life:

  • First, make sure to build your life on the right foundation–on God and His principles and teachings.

Homes built on sand will blow and wash away when storms come. A house built on a firm foundation, a rock, will outlast the storm. God is our rock!

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2 (NLT)

  • Next, build and develop your faith.

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Be Like Palm Trees Through Life’s Storms

Be Like Palm Trees Through Life’s Storms

Be Like Palm Trees Through Life’s Storms

Over the past weekend, I’ve been watching the Hurricane Irma footage. The Weather Channel‘s Mike Bettes commented numerous times about the palm trees and how they were taking such a beating but still standing. He said this was because they were so aerodynamic. It got me to thinking…We should be like these trees in our storms of life–bending but not breaking. Then I remembered that the Bible actually compares us to palm trees.

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”” Psalms 92:12-15 (NLT)

I did a little bit of research on palm trees to study some of their characteristics and what enables them to stand and survive during some of the harshest of conditions. Interestingly, it’s a lot of those same qualities that will help us to survive and thrive too. Let’s take a look!

Strong root systems 

roots of palm trees

Palm tree roots

Palm trees have a wide network of fibrous roots that create layers in the soil. These layers hold a tremendous amount of soil and are very heavy which forms an anchor for the tree. These strong root systems enable the tree to withstand immensely forceful winds without being uprooted.

Likewise, if we remained rooted and anchored in God, we too can withstand extreme conditions and brute force attacks. We need strong roots. The Bible says we need to be rooted in God’s love. Knowing we’re loved completely, unequivocally, and unconditionally can help us to endure quite of bit. Being rooted in God, Himself, and standing firm on His promises will keep us stable and steady. Hoping in Him will anchor us through life’s toughest storms and keep us firm and secure.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17 (NLT)

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19a (NIV)

“For they call themselves after the holy city, and anchor themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name.” Isaiah 48:2 (KJ2000)

Sturdy yet flexible trunk

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Whether Happy or Hurting Remember Immanuel

Whether Happy or Hurting Remember Immanuel

Whether Happy or Hurting Remember Immanuel

This week I would just like to share with you a short and sweet post and reminder that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

I learned of some very sad news a couple of weeks before Christmas. Denise McGee had passed away (see a Celebration of Life for Denise here). Denise was the wife of Joe McGee, one of my favorite Christian teachers/speakers who I’ve referred to here on the blog on a number of occasions. My heart just broke for Joe and their 6 children and grandchildren—especially at Christmastime.

I was thinking, “How hard it must be to lose a loved one at this time of year. Will every Christmas be a negative trigger for them now?” However, one morning as I was doing my daily quiet time and devotions, I was reminded of something. Part of Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth, should not only be to celebrate the human birth of Christ but to recognize and remember his deity as well.

We need to remember that one of his names is “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. God came to be with us. We are not isolated and alone. In a lonely, hurting and isolated world God said, “I want to come be with you. I want to help you. You’re not alone.”

God is Immanuel to the McGee family in their time of hurting. God is with them. So maybe Christmastime can be less painful with that in mind. God knows they are hurting and what a good time of year to remember that God is Immanuel; God is with us. Maybe He will say to them and remind them this year and every Christmas hereafter, “I am with you. I am here.”

At Christmas and all year, Jesus is Immanuel

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” Matthew 1:23 (NIV) 

Take Some Practical Steps To Remember Immanuel:

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God Is Our Rock

God is our rock. Learn the characteristics of rocks that God displays and how they are helpful to us in times of need.

God Is Our Rock

“No one is holy like the LORD! There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2 (NLT)

We are living in a time where so much is going on around us. It’s a world of change, unsettling events and circumstances, and things going awry all around. We face disturbing political conditions, natural disasters, crime, death, racial tensions, unstable economies, moral corruption and breakdown, and the list could go on and on. Quite honestly it’s pretty depressing. We need something steady and calm to ground us in times like these. We need a firm foundation in a shifty world.

Quite honestly the same could probably be said for many generations. I’m sure they felt much the same in biblical times as well. So, we can lean on the same principles that gave them rest and peace in unsettling times. One such principle is that God is our rock. He is strong, dependable, never shifting or changing, always there to protect and shield us from the storms of this world. 

Here are some of the characteristics of rocks that help us understand how God is our rock:

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