Saturday, February 24, 2024

Trusting in the Unknown

 By: Grace Metzger

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run
and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Isiah 40:31

Trusting in the Lord while facing a unknown situation is difficult for a lot of people, me included! The world loves to constantly remind you of the bad scenarios. I remember when I was 16. I just had my surgery on my left leg which caused nerve damage and the inability to pickup my foot. I wish I could say I handle this situation with grace and unfaltering trust, however, I acted how I assumed most 16 year olds would act. I was mad, confused, depressed, and hurt that this happened to me. I faced a situation of not knowing if I could ever walk normally again with fear and anger. But a few years later, by the goodness of God, I regained the ability to pickup my foot and can walk normally. I look back on those times with shame. What would have happened if I decided to trust God in those moments, if I decided that instead of being anger I would praise Him?


This has been on my mind a lot lately as I am starting to face another unknown situation. I have spent a lot of time in my Bible trying to figure out how I can avoid going through this again, trying to figure out how I can face this situation with a trusting heart that knows that my God will protect me. The story that has been standing out to me was the story of Mary.

 Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord;
 let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38

Mary was unwed at this point. When the angel Gabriel came to her and told her that she will give birth to Son of God, she could have had a lot of reactions. This could have ruined her life, ended her engagement to Joseph, made her an outcast in society, made her family turn against her. I know that most people will answer this with a big "no!" But not Mary. Mary trusted in God no matter what. She wasn't ignorant, she knew this could lead to a lot of bad things but she trusted that God will keep her safe no matter what. 

That is the trust in God I want! The trust that no matter what bad or unknown situation I face, I remain faithful in my trust to God. This kind of trust is possible! This is something that we can all have.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow
of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
Psalm 23:4

Even though we might be walking in the valley of the shadow of death, even though there are a million things that can go wrong, we know that God is there with us. He never leaves us! He is walking hand and hand us as we go through this, He won't forsake us. I know that it's hard to remember when you are faced with a million bad scenarios, when every path seems to lead to pain. But it's so important to remember! Trust me, as someone who's gone through these situations with a lack of trust, it's so much better to walk through this with God at your side. He's our comfort, so let Him be there to comfort you! 

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the
Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.
Isaiah 12:2

So do whatever you can to remember that God is with you. Whether that is placing sticky notes with reminders everywhere, rereading Isaiah 12:2, pray daily for God to be with you, whatever you can do to remember do it!! God is with you! He doesn't leave us, we just have to remember to place our trust in Him despite all the uncertainties. 


Discussion Question:

1.) What helps you to remember God is with you?

2.) What is your favorite verse that reminds you God is with you?


 


Friday, February 23, 2024

A Spark of Hope

By: Lauren Thomas 

The enemy of our souls takes so much. His schemes are to kill, steal, and destroy. Where we see any kind of death or destruction, we know he has been at work. But there is something he cannot take from us, something he cannot destroy. 

The spark of hope. 




 

God has put something in our hearts that tells us there is more. It tells us that the bad things we see and experience are not playing out the way they ought. It tells us God intended better. 

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart

Ecclesiastes 3:11a ESV (emphasis added)

 

When we hear of a young life tragically taken, we know in our hearts, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

 

When we see suffering, we know, “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” 

 

When families are torn apart by any number of evils from war to interpersonal conflict, we know, “this isn’t right.”

 

C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book, Mere Christianity:

 

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. 

 

This is the spark of hope. Satan cannot take this spark from us. 

 

He might destroy our dreams, our expectations. Maybe even at times it feels that he has stolen our hope. But our hearts know intrinsically a greater, purer, more beautiful ideal. Our hearts hold up this ideal against every evil we encounter. That is something that the Enemy can never take away. It is a reminder of the Garden, a homesickness for Heaven. It is a spark of hope. 

 

When that spark of hope is fanned into flame, it becomes a hope that will not, cannot disappoint.

 

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. 

Romans 5:5a NLT

 

One day, with Jesus in heaven, when he restores all things, where every tear is wiped away, where there is no more sickness, no more death, no more struggle, the eternity that God placed in our hearts will find its home. And our hope will be satisfied. 

 

If you feel hopeless, remember this: your desire for better is a spark of hope, placed in your heart by our Creator. It cannot be taken from you. And one day, that hope can be fulfilled in Jesus. 

 

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6-9 ESV

 

Reflection:

Where do you currently see the enemy working in your life or in the life of a loved one?

Dare to name that spark of hope… What broken thing in your life do you see, yet believe that God has better plans for?

Take these before God in prayer! Ask Him to fan that spark of hope into a flame of hope that will not disappoint. 




Thursday, February 22, 2024

Loving Others Well

 




By: Donna Bucher


In a month often focused on “Love”, with various worldly definitions and expectations of love, I turned to the one pure Love for guidance on loving Others Well.

Full of exhortations for loving others, the entire New Testament calls us to the task as evidence of our love for God. (1 John 4:20) While difficult apart from the Holy Spirit, ultimately God asks we love from the overflow of the fullness of his love within us.

We learn much about how to love others from the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus not only showed us who our true neighbor is, but how to love them.

Just as the Jewish lawyer faced his own prejudice in this parable, we face our own daily, as God presents us with opportunities for loving others.

Love Takes the Initiative

Three men saw the injured man lying in the road; only one acted on what he saw. Having business elsewhere, the Samaritan stopped and attended to the injured man.

Becoming more aware of the people around you, even during the busiest days, opens your eyes to needs. Staying connected to God’s presence with you, tunes your heart to his leading to love.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:18

Love Offers Compassion

After taking the initiative, acting upon what he saw, the Samaritan drew closer and upon seeing the injured man’s true condition, acted in compassion. Both the Levite and priest saw the injured man but offered no compassion.

Compassion seeks to offer comfort, support, and presence, from a heart of mercy and kindness. How can you draw near to someone in need today providing the comfort of presence?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

 

Colossians 3:12

 

Love Pays the Price

 

Remarkably moved by what he saw, compelled by compassion, the Samaritan used his own resources in caring for the injured man. Ultimately expending the cost of two days wages and the loss of his time, he further offered to pay for subsequent needs.

Love exacts a price. Whether financial, material, or time related, authentically loving others demands a premium. Often it may challenge our emotions, preferences, and prejudices, as God leads us out of our comfort zone.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Love Suffers Inconvenience

Loving the injured man required the Samaritan handle the bloodied, naked body of a stranger, placing him and personally supporting him on his own donkey. Additionally altering his own plans by taking the injured man to an inn and providing for his care.

While authentically loving others requires intention fueled by choice, God seldom nestles opportunities neatly into our schedules. At times authentic love is messy, demanding and terribly inconvenient!

 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

1 Corinthians 13:7

Love Stems from Mercy

While every one of the Samaritan’s actions demonstrated authentically loving his neighbor; mercy ignited his love and drove his actions.

The center of God’s love for us, mercy compelled the Father to send His Son, who willingly gave his life to redeem us as his peculiar treasure forever. (John 3:16)

Mercy sees the hurting and binds up their wounds, mercy sees the hungry and feeds them, mercy sees the lonely and gives them the gift of presence and mercy sees the marginalized and offers them safety. Mercy impassions love to not only feel compassion, but to fulfill the need.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

 

Ephesians 2:4-5

 

Apart from God, loving others well becomes impossible. Selfless, unconditional biblical love surfaces in the heart embraced by the everlasting love of God.

A heart surrendered completely to God loves others from the bottomless fountain of God’s love, lavished upon him from the depths of God’s mercy.

Make it Practical:

Which aspect of loving others well is most difficult for you?

What one step can you take today to love others well around you?













Find more encouragement and FREE Resources at Serenity in Suffering!

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share on social media with the buttons below!

Photo from Canva.com


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Don't Miss Your Blessing

By: Jenifer Metzger

All the Israelites complained about Moses
and Aaron, and the whole community told
them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt,
or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why
is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by
the sword? Our wives and children will become
plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back
to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let’s
appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Numbers 14:2-4 CSB

If you are following along with our Bible reading plan, we are currently in the book of Numbers. Today we read of the Israelites complaining, again. This time they threatened to push Moses out and find a new leader to take them back to Egypt, where they were slaves. When Joshua and Caleb stood up to them, they threatened to stone the men.

Don't Miss Your Blessing #obedience #faithfulness #Christianliving

God's anger burned towards the Israelites for their disobedience and unfaithfulness. He decided strike them down with a plague. But Moses went to God on their behalf. God decided to let them live, yet, because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, He took away their blessing of the promised land.

The Lord responded, “I have pardoned them as you
requested. Yet as I live and as the whole earth is filled
with the Lord’s glory, none of the men who have seen
My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the
wilderness, and have tested me these ten times and did
not obey Me, will ever see the land I swore to give their
ancestors. None of those who have despised Me will see it.
Numbers 14:20-23 CSB

As I read these words, it made me wonder, how many blessings have I lost out on because of my own  disobedience or unfaithfulness? How many times has God had to withhold something from me because I didn't follow His plan?

It's not that God withholds blessings because He is mean or holds His giant thumb over us, it is because He is a loving Father. Last night my grandsons were over for dinner and they did not want to eat. We told them if they didn't eat their dinner, they wouldn't get dessert. They didn't eat, therefore they didn't get dessert. It isn't because we're mean grandparents, it's because we love them and know they need more than just sugary sweets, they need nutrition.

God is a good Father and He knows what is best for us. If we choose disobedience, just like with our children or grandchildren, we are choosing to forgo a possible blessing.

Do we obey and remain faithful only for blessings? Absolutely not. We obey God and remain faithful to Him because He is God! Period. That alone is reason enough. He is God and worthy of our praise, obedience, and faithfulness. We obey and remain faithful because we know that He loves us, sees the big picture that we cannot see, and He knows what is best for us. Because we know that obeying Him and remaining faithful to Him brings us to a place of peace and grows our relationship with Him.

Blessings are just the byproduct of being obedient and faithful. Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. From a big financial blessing to having a steady job. From a restored relationship to the wisdom of knowing when to walk away from a relationship. From a vacation to a good night's sleep. Blessings can be big and can be small.

No matter what the blessing may be, we don't want to miss out on what God may have for us by being disobedient or unfaithful to Him. We need to live and walk in obedience and faithfulness to God.

Discussion:
1. Have you ever missed a blessing because of your disobedience or unfaithfulness to God? If you don't mind sharing, what was it?
2. Have you ever thought of your disobedience or unfaithfulness as a cause of missing out on a blessing?




Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Exceedingly Abundantly Above -Even in the Hardest of Seasons

 By: Rebekah Hargraves




Photo Courtesy Of: Rainier Ridao



"Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or thinkaccording to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

~Ephesians 3:20-21



The Lord walked with me and my family on a hard journey the summer of 2022. Though I cannot share all the details publicly, suffice it to say that our family unit thought for a time that summer that we were on a path of smooth sailing to see the fulfillment of a lifelong dream finally come to fruition - in quite an astounding way, I might add! Plans were made, connections lined up, daydreams discussed and entertained, only for everything to come to a screeching halt at the end of June that year in a really hard, painful way. Now, a year and a half later, we don't know if that plan and dream will every come to pass or not. Everything is very much still up in the air, and there are painful issues and hurt feelings that still have to be sorted through and worked out. There is, as of yet, no pretty bow completely tying up this story. We are in limbo still. We are still a bit discombobulated. And we don't yet know what it is that God is doing or why He allowed things to unfold as they have thus far.

Which has sent me (and, really, Owen and me both at times!) reeling at times over the past 18 months. 

Because this is not at all how God operated during Owen's 7 month deployment that spanned from last July 2021 to February 2022.

During the deployment, we (particularly Owen, though as his wife, it affected me, too!) went through some incredibly hard, scary, painful, overwhelming, and soul-crushing experiences. We cried out to God to provide a way out, to save us from what the enemy had thrown our way. 

And you know what? 

He did! 

In huge, Ephesians 3:20 ("above anything we could as or think") type of ways. He answered in a truly miraculous ("the military never does this!") way. And though the deployment was hard up until that point, once that miracle happened, there was a smooth path laid out in front of us, with one clear step in front of the other, and no wondering what God was doing or wondering how we would find a way out of the mess. It was a linear path.

What we have been going through now is not. There is no linear aspect to this, no clearly laid out path. If anything, the clearly laid out path was ripped out from underneath us. There is no clear one step in front of the other. Instead, it's a roller coaster, a here, there, and everywhere path, a road full of u-turns and detours and directions that are getting us lost down some side road. 

And that has been discombobulating. 

Why? 

Because what I discovered is that I had been wrongly thinking that God would alway operate in the exact same way, that He would always make the path really clear and really smooth and really big and clearly miraculous.

But He doesn't.

And what I'm finding now is that there is a really good reason for that (albeit hard and painful and confusing!) reality. 

If He always operated the same way every time, what would happen? Well, we would begin to rely on our own understanding (as we discovered in last Tuesday's devotional is an issue!). We would begin to look back, see how God moved in the past, and automatically assume we know what He will do in the future (which, I might add, Moses and the Israelites were guilty of, as well!). We would stop seeking His face, stop relying on Him, stop being in fervent prayer, and stop asking Him for wisdom, help, and strength. We would simply look back on what we know what the case in the past, lean on our own understanding that things will happen that exact way again, and strike out on our own without a thought to the Lord or our need for a daily, intimate relationship with Him, as we waited and watched for what we just "know" is going to happen.

And what I am discovering in this season in the midst of what has been a frustrating, confusing, hurtful season is that the fact that the Lord does not always act in the same predictable way is actually a good thing! It is a faith-building thing! It is a force-you-to-actually-turn-to-and-rely-on-the-Lord thing. And that is precisely what we need in this life. What we need is to walk by the Spirit, to daily have a close, personal, one-step-at-a-time looking to the Lord for guidance and direction, way of doing life. And that is what we are forced to gain when we find ourselves in situations that are not unfolding as they did before. 

I don't know what you may be going through at this moment, friend, and if you are going through your own painful season, I am so sorry. I know how hard and discombobulating that really is. But please hear me when I say that what I do know is that this forced reliance on the Lord and His work and His plan is a good thing. That trusting, attentive, reliant, submissive, prayerful posture is the best place for you and me to be. And we can rest in that, come what may. Because our God is still in the business of doing exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ask or think. 



Reflection Questions:

1) Has there been a time when you have assumed God will always work in the exact same way? How did that harm your faith?


2) What are you going through right now where you can prayerfully anticipate the Lord coming through in an Ephesians 3:20 way?