Tag Archives: strength

Saturday Short – When Hard Gets Even Harder – God

img_9157

When you get an early morning text from your sister-in-law who is caring for your dad, and the message is “Call me”…you think the worst.

This morning…it was the worst…for her.

Not anything related to the dad she has cared for for weeks now, with the help of hospice and family…not our dad this time.img_9580

…but her dad.

Last night, her full-of-life, golfer dad – who had just dropped by for a visit earlier in the day – had a massive stroke.

This father of daughters…barbara-with-dad-and-sisters

…now surrounded by his daughters…in a hospital with nothing but bad news.

My sister-in-law and I have talked on and off through the morning…and we (and many others…thank you) have prayed since the news of his stroke.

Will God ever give us more than we can handle? How are we to manage when hard gets even harder? We know from God’s Word that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)…yet the temptation to despair can be overwhelming sometimes. Then we’re given 1 Corinthians 10:13 to comfort us through those temptations. John Piper writes kindly and plainly about that situation where God gives us more than we can handle (here).

I’m reminded of a saying: “God may give us more than we can handle, but He will not give us more than He can handle.”……I cling to that…the saying less so than the truth I know through His Word and experience of going through hard, with Him.

Then…an incredible coincidence happened as we reeled from the news of this gravely stricken father.

A dear friend messaged me on Facebook and said that I had come to mind when she was reading this morning…it was a passage from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie Burd) Cowman. This is one of my favorite devotional books (other favorites are linked below).blog-streams-in-the-desert

Christianity.com posts online the daily devotionals from Streams in the Desert. The December 3 devotional which my friend sent me follows in total. So led by the Holy Spirit of a completely good and wholly loving God.blog-stream-in-desert-sharing-horizonsPhoto Credit: Sharing Horizons

Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well (2 Kings 4:26).

Be strong, my soul!
Thy loved ones go
Within the veil.
God’s thine, e’en so;
Be strong.
Be strong, my soul!
Death looms in view.
Lo, here thy God!
He’ll bear thee through;
Be strong.

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone–Thou art with me, Thou art my Friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”

And we should not be satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
–George Mueller

Afflictions cannot injure when blended with submission.

Ice breaks many a branch, and so I see a great many persons bowed down and crushed by their afflictions. But now and then I meet one that sings in affliction, and then I thank God for my own sake as well as his. There is no such sweet singing as a song in the night. You recollect the story of the woman who, when her only child died, in rapture looking up, as with the face of an angel, said, “I give you joy, my darling.” That single sentence has gone with me years and years down through my life, quickening and comforting me.
–Henry Ward Beecher

E’en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;
Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall
Has blossomed on the other, side?
Death doth hide,
But not divide;
Thou art but on Christ’s other side!
Thou art with Christ, and Christ with me;
In Christ united still are we.

Thanks for reading…hopefully you are also encouraged by the words above…they were a balm to my own soul. Appreciate your prayers for these I’ve mentioned. God is with us…through every joy and every sorrow.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Morning & Evening with Oswald Chambers – Devotions for Morning and Evening With Oswald Chambers Complete Daily Devotions of My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall

Joy and Strength for the Pilgrim’s Day by Mary Tileston

Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston

If You Don’t Have the Answer You Need – Wait – Just Be Held – and Let God Sing To You

Blog - Just Be Held - Psalm 46,1Photo Credit: LifeHopeandTruth.com

You know that experience of being face down, not knowing what to do, wet with sweat from wrestling with questions that seem not to have answers. Sometimes, I’m on my knees, praying. More than not, it’s laying across my bed, hot tears down my face or too weary to cry.

When we lived in North Africa and it was in the hottest part of summer, I would just lay stretched out on the marble floor, cool against my cheeks. Then there comes that moment in prayer…I know you know it…when, whether the answer comes or not, the peace comes. I roll over on my back. Looking up, and finally resting in God’s love and strength.

Whether I know what’s ahead or not, He knows and He wraps His arms around us and  infuses us with His strength, His confidence, His grace, His love.

It is enough for today.

Actually, at some point, we all have to make that decision, take the next step, fill in the check, or whatever it is that sends us to our knees. It’s huge for me that the decision pales in comparison to the relationship we have with God. That is what turns sorrow into joy…always.

Casting Crowns does this beautiful song, Just Be Held,  written by Bernie Herms and Matthew Joseph West. Lead singer, Mark Hall, tells an audience that they had sung that song for over a year when he finally realized it was a word from God TO HIM.

The lyrics follow, but one line, in particular, resonates today and makes my heart glad:

“Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”

Whatever your decision today or tomorrow, I hope you’ll be encouraged by the words and truth of this song – Just Be Held:

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

Lyrics & Story Behind the Song

YouTube Video – Just Be Held – Story Behind the Song

Casting Crowns & the Album Thrive

Blog - Just Be Held - Casting Crowns

 

Worship Wednesday – I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe

Blog - I am Not Alone - Kari Jobe FacebookPhoto Credit: Kari Jobe, Facebook

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God.” – Isaiah 43:1-3

The hardest battles are the private ones. We could be surrounded by coworkers, family members, friends, yet we can’t really bring to words the terror in our hearts…the questions…the sense of loss. We are not usually overcome by such things; it’s not who we are. Yet, there are days when it seems, seems, that we are alone. Everyone else is rocking with the latest turn in life…but me. I am alone in this.

First…if you could speak, you would find others with questions and wonderings. You are not alone. Especially in the deepest places. Then, remember again: we have great and many promises that God is with us through all of where He takes us. Most importantly, He sometimes orchestrates these places of weakness for us to remember His strength. It is for us to trust Him. His desire is for us to see and manifest His glory meant for our good and for those around us. This sometimes comes through those dark, desperate times of seeming aloneness. We. Are. Not. Alone.

Yesterday, I heard a seminary professor, Chuck Lawless, teach on spiritual warfare. He reminded us, through passage after passage from God’s Word, that our battles belong to God. He will fight for us. We are not alone.

“We turn to Job when our own life hits the wall. Job 1:20 – Job worshipped. I hope if I lost everything, I would still worship God. In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Spiritual warfare – It’s not escaping from the battle; it’s worshipping God in the battle.  Job is in a battle he can’t win. He trusts the Lord anyway. And we must as well.

It is in our weakness that we find victory. When the noose is around our neck. When we can come to a place where we’re content with the worst…then Satan can’t affect us. We lean on God in our weakness – we lean on God. We can say, “I’m o.k. with this.” We don’t like spiritual warfare because we want to hang on to our stuff – our dreams, our idea of ourselves, our position – whatever it is. Hang on to God. Alone.”

When our job is on the line or we are facing an uphill battle in our work, when we face a devastating diagnosis or diminishing health in our elder years, when our marriage is in trouble or there seems no hope for marriage for us…whatever our situation. We are not alone.

As I sat listening to Dr. Lawless, I looked around the room and watched various colleagues walk by outside the door, and my heart filled with love for them, even more than before. We may not speak of these hard places we wrestle with in our own lives…but we know they are there for each other, because they are there for us.

We take each other to God in prayer…preemptively. Proactively not just reactively. The more we do this, the more quickly we will remember that the battle belongs to the Lord. [2 Chronicles 20:14-18] Satan would have us divided against each other, feeling on the outside of whatever is the inside, stuck in thinking we are missing whatever is the better part. Not true! God fights for all of us. Remember the Truth; cling to Him. Pray confident that we are not alone. Ever.

Blog - I Am Not Alone - cloudfront.netPhoto Credit: Cloudfront.net

“The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You” – Kari Jobe

Worship with me:

When I walk through deep waters
I know that You will be with me
When I’m standing in the fire
I will not be overcome
Through the valley of the shadow
I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see Your light is breaking through
The dark of night will not overtake me
I am pressing into You
Lord, You fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as Your own

You’re my strength
You’re my defender
You’re my refuge in the storm
Through these trials
You’ve always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul.

Written by Kari Jobe, Marty Sampson, Mia Fieldes, Ben Davis, Grant Pittman, Dustin Sauder, and Austin Davis

Lyrics to I Am Not Alone – KLove

YouTube Video – I Am Not Alone – Kari Jobe – Worship Video with Lyrics

Kari Jobe Explains Story Behind ‘I Am Not Alone’; ‘God Fights for You…You Need Only to be Still’

YouTube Video – Kari Jobe – I Am Not Alone (Live)

YouTube Video – Kari Jobe – I Am Not Alone (Lyric Video/Live)  – walk through a forest

13 Truths About Spiritual Warfare for Leaders [or any of us] – Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless on Spiritual Warfare – Website

God is Always with Us

Worship Wednesday – Breathing In Your Grace, Breathing Out Your Praise – Your Grace Finds Me by Matt Redman

Blog - Grace 2

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). – Ephesians 2:4-5

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. – 2 Timothy 1:9

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.2 Corinthians 12:9

“Grace means undeserved kindness. It is the gift of God to man the moment he sees he is unworthy of God’s favor.”Dwight L. Moody*

The fact of God’s grace overwhelms me this morning. A friend is in the hospital in labor, a month early, preparing to give birth to her baby girl. Another dear one is daily receiving friends to lavish her with love in her battle with a raging recurrent cancer. Family members come to mind who have landed their dream job, while others endure difficult job situations, or no job at all right now. I watch friends celebrate long years of marriage and pray for others whose marriages are interrupted by a spouse dying or leaving.

There is grace for all of us. God’s grace. Undeserved…but full and free…His strength in our weakness.

blog - grace 5Blog - Grace 13 Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 023

I grew up in church singing hymns about grace. One we all know is Amazing Grace. Another one is Grace Greater Than Our Sin. What an incredible gift that God gives us – this grace that covers all the darkness (and illuminates all the good) in our lives and fills all the gaps between us and God. Rejoice in this last stanza of that old hymn:

“Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?” – Julia H. Johnston

Worship with me now, if you can, with the lyrics of a contemporary hymn of grace by Matt Redman:

It’s there in a newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me
Yes, Your grace finds me

It’s there on the wedding day
There in the weeping by the gravesite
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

It’s the same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

Lyrics – Writers: Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me with lyrics by Matt Redman

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me (Life from Lift – A Worship Leader Collective

Story Behind the Song Your Grace Finds Me

Photo Credit:  Matt Redman

Grace Quotes – Precious Grace

Top 12 Quotes on Grace

*8 Enlightening Quotes on God’s Grace

17 Awesome Christian Quotes About Grace

Clear Winter Nights – an Interview with Author Trevin Wax

A Dispenser of Grace by John Ortberg

Grace Greater Than Our Sin (Grace, Grace, God’s Grace) – great old hymn

Grace Greater Than Our Sin by Bart Millard on the album Hymned AgainBlog - Grace 3

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Blog - Plumb Need You NowPhoto Credit: fbcoverstreet.com

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy & find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:16

Some things we won’t understand until Heaven. Like the audacious, relentless love of God for us sin-riddled, distractible children. His tender and severe mercies. His seeming silence in a world gone mad. His quiet, unobtrusive protection in the day-to-day “just keep breathing”. His blanketing grace in the unimaginable.

Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, better known as the singer/songwriter Plumb, writes about this God in deeply intimate ways that resonate with my experience of Him. Especially in the darkness of life…and in that moment when light breaks through. Plumb reflects so vividly the different sides of our lives. All-out rock star gorgeousness and yet, turn around, and there’s this wife and mom trying to keep all the balls in the air…and through it all, this daughter of a watchful, tender God.

She writes my experience of Him. We are driven to prayer sometimes by what’s happening in the world around us…and by those closest to us going through hard times. Marriage struggles. Needing a job. Infertility. Loneliness. Health issues. Growing old.

At night, I have times when sleep doesn’t come until my troubled thoughts turn to trusting prayer. We are like that child, burrowing his face, damp with angry tears, into his father’s shoulder. Then finally comes the release when that child settles in, the strain of the moment is broken, and his weight is transferred to the father. Then sleep comes…and peace.

I have a picture of a couple of friends of ours on my bedside table.  It reminds me to pray daily for them. They are Jeannie & Tom Elliff. Blog - Tom & Jeannie Elliff

For a few short years we lived in the same city. Now we are states apart, but not in the heart. They taught us so much about this walk with God. This walk of faith – praying hard and leaning in on a God who loves completely. Their stories of God’s provision through great losses and great gains fuel hope and joy in our journey with Him.

Blog - Tom & Jeannie Need You NowPhoto Credit: Jeannie’s Facebook

In looking toward another God-ordained turn in their road, Tom said this: “So here’s what I want you to know—you can rest assured in this—we’re going to run through the finish line.” [Not ones to say they weren’t up to it or drop their bags and give up, Elliff said he and his wife would run the course the Lord set before them with wholehearted reserve.]  [www.texanonline.net]

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:11-13

Worship with me:

Well everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there’s beauty here
Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here

(Chorus)
How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan
Wondering how I got to where I am
I’m trying to hear that still small voice
I’m trying to hear above the noise

Chorus

Oh I walk, oh I walk through the shadows
And I, I am so afraid
Please stay, please stay right beside me
With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?
And how many times have you given me strength?

Chorus

I need you now
I need you now*

Tom & Jeannie’s prayer – and one we can pray for ourselves, as well – resting in God’s strength on the roads we did not plan. Whatever the road, He is with us.Blog - Pray for Tom Elliff  Jeannie Elliff (2)

My Blog on Tom & Jeannie Elliff at the Homegoing of Tom’s Father

*Lyrics to Need You Now

Songfacts of Need You Now written by Plumb, Luke Sheets and Christa Wells

YouTube Video – Plumb – Need You Now – Official Music Video

YouTube Lyric Video – Need You Now (How Many Times) by Plumb

Plumb: How Songs of Healing Helped a Disintegrating Marriage

YouTube Video – Plumb Talks about Need You Now and Going Through Times in Her Marriage

Modern Rocker Turns to a Softer Sound – Plumb

Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of GOD

Blog - Habakkuk 3, 17ff

A Hymn of Faith – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives me hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

When God Alone is Sufficient – A sermon by Jeff Miller, Trinity Bible Church, Richardson, Texas

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe?