Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘God’s promises’

Life’s Journey Is Hard !!!

SOURCE:   Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Sojourning with and Resting in the Lord

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Exodus 33:14

     Dear heavenly Father, the promise of your presence with us, and the gift of rest for us, is “spot on,” timely, never redundant, and ever precious. Like the children of Israel traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land, we too are on a journey between the resurrection and the return of Christ. Thank you for the promise of being with us in every season and step of our sojourn, and for being our Rest, giving us rest—both now and ultimately.

     Some of us are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and we have fresh heart wounds and empty chairs at our tables. Father, hold us tightly. Thank you for not cringing at our questions or despising our tears. How long will it take to grieve well? When will it not hurt with such breath-taking force? Grant us grace for the whole process.

     Some of us are walking through different types of transitions, and we feel vulnerable, fearful, and excited, all at the same time. Keep us from looking back, and fantasizing and idolizing the past. Free us from looking around, and envying other people and other situations. Keep us from looking within ourselves, as though we’ll find our competency and comfort there. Keep us looking up—into your face of grace and your heart of mercy.

    Some of us are walking in difficult relationships, and we need wisdom, strength and hope. Father, help us to remember that our children are really your children—gifts from you to us—whether they are walking with you or not. Help us to love them as unto you, not as a means of saving face, reducing our fears, or redeeming our past.

     Father, help us to deepen our relationship with our ultimate Spouse—Jesus, that we might walk the rest of this journey with our earthly spouses in kindness, forgiveness and encouragement—even when that’s not reciprocated.

     Lastly, help us walk with our friends, in the next season of life, treasuring the moments, sharing our weaknesses, and growing in grace.

     Father, thank you for never leaving us. Thank you for the rest we already have in the gospel, and for the consummate rest we will enjoy in the new heaven and new earth. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ bold and beautiful name.

Good Families May Produce Prodigal Children: What Gives?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  D.A. Carson [April 3, 2014 post]

The proverb “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6) is so well known that it cries out for comment.

Recall that a proverb is neither case law nor unqualified promise (review meditation for March 22).

When children go wrong, very often the careful observer can spot familial reasons that have contributed to the rebellion. But this is not always the case.

Sometimes young people from evidently wonderful families kick the traces. Some return years later; some never do. Good families may produce prodigal sons.

This proverb must not be treated as if it were a promise that fails periodically. Rather, it is a proverb: it tells how God has structured reality, and what we should do to conform to it.

This is the principle of how families work; it includes no footnotes and mentions no exceptions.

3 Things God Never Promised

SOURCE:  Ray Deck III/Faithlife

In Scripture, God makes a lot of promises. He keeps them all, but there are a few things he never promised that might surprise you. Here are three; can you think of others?

Justice on earth

God keeps score. He promises to heal the wounded, reward the faithful, and punish the wicked (2 Corinthians 5:10). But he doesn’t promise to do any of that until after heaven and earth are remade without the curse of sin. He promises justice. He does not promise swift justice.

God is patient with us all (2 Peter 3:9). That’s a great comfort until we realize that he’s also patient with those who harm, oppress, and offend us.

To my regular frustration, Scripture never gives permission for us to enforce our own interpretation of justice (Romans 12:9). Instead, we’re told to wait on God’s perfect plan to be carried out on his perfect time (Psalm 37:7).

Comfort

Many television preachers have built a personal empire on the false promise that obeying God will lead to material prosperity and success. But God never promised his followers an easy life. In fact, he warned us to expect the opposite (John 16:33)—hardship and persecution from the world, and even correction from his own hand (Hebrews 12:7).

The Christian life is not a comfortable life, but it is a fulfilling one. (Click to tweet)

Instant change

I love hearing stories of miraculous life transformation. They fuel my faith in the transformative power of God’s Word more than anything else. But they also plant a desire for the same sort of instant change in my own life. Yet still I still wrestle with entrenched habits and besetting sins (Hebrews 12:1). Much as I love to see instant change in others, and long to experience it myself, I must remember that God has promised to change me, but hasn’t promised to do it instantly.

He has promised to complete the transformative work that he’s begun in me (Philippians 1:6), a promise that implies this change is going to take a while.

Depression: The Good News

SOURCE:  Living Free

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” Hebrews 13:5-6 NIV

Millions of people suffer from clinical depression.

Most people suffering from chronic depression feel so utterly unlovable that they cannot bear the pain of even trying to experience love in a relationship with either God or man. They feel like a failure and that anyone who disagrees with that assessment just doesn’t know them very well. Even if you are not suffering from chronic depression, you may experience feelings like this from time to time—most people do.

If you are feeling this way, think about this good news:

  • God knows you better than you know yourself, and he loves you. He knows you are not perfect, but he loves you unconditionally.
  • He loves you so much that Jesus died on the cross for your sins because he wanted to provide a way that you could be with him for eternity.
  • God loves you so much that he has promised never to leave you.

The Bible tells us that:

  • He is full of compassion for you (Psalm 145:8).
  • He takes pleasure in you (Psalm 149:4).
  • He loves you and gives you honor (Isaiah 43:4).
  • You are precious in his sight (Isaiah 43:7).
  • He promises that he will love you forever (Jeremiah 31:3).

The Bible says Jesus loves you so much that he seeks after you. You are never alone. Right this very moment you may feel alone, but you are not. Jesus is there with you. Seeking to help you.

Say yesYes to his love.  Yes to his help.  Yes to Jesus.

Lord, thank you for loving me no matter what. Thank you for promising to be with me … always. When I start to feel alone, please remind me that you are there. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

  Understanding Depression: Overcoming Despair through Christ by Donald G. Miles, Ed.D. 

9 Reasons You Can Face Anything

SOURCE:   Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

God’s sovereignty is a precious reality.

Now chances are this truth didn’t seem too precious when it first confronted you. The natural, fallen response to hearing we aren’t the ones in control is to white-knuckle our will and refuse to bow. Humans tend to like the idea that we are the captains of our own destinies. Motivational glib like that will pack out self-help seminars. But sooner or later, and hopefully sooner, we learn how bankrupt it all is. We are not in charge, and that’s a good thing.

Any peace and hope we have in our lives right now can be traced back to the fact that God alone is God, that he is the sovereign power behind everything. And this has future-creating wonder. God’s sovereignty, John Piper explains, is not mainly a theological problem with the past, but an invincible hope for tomorrow.

God’s sovereignty means the good he intends for his children will not be deterred. This means we can face anything. All his promises to us will be fulfilled. Pastor John lists nine such promises.

By the blood of his Son, God has promised infallibly…

  1. I will meet all your needs according to my riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
  2. My power will be made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  3. I will strengthen you and help you and hold you up with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
  4. I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
  5. I will not let any testing befall you for which I do not give you grace to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  6. I will take the sting away from your death with the blood of my son (1 Corinthians 15:55f).
  7. I will raise you from the dead imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52).
  8. I will transform your lowly body to be like my glorious body, by the power that enables me even to subject all things to myself (Philippians 3:21).
  9. I will do this without fail because I am absolutely sovereign over everything and therefore, I can do all things, and no purpose of mine can be thwarted (Job 42:2).

This list is adapted from the sermon When Jesus Meets Disability.

Addictions – the Stone Gods

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

As kids, none of us sets out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction. Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, enslavement is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors.

In certain key situations, addictions become our masters, the key authority in decision-making moments. So by definition, God is then subject to the addiction. A small percentage of people can feel the enslavement and lack of control. But most of us are fooled into thinking we aren’t enslaved, thinking we still have control, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a long period of time. The reality is that we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the pathway to enslavement.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face. For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, alcohol, caffeine or pain pills. Subtler and more frequent options include control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parenting tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless! Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble. Yet you still do them! That is enslavement. In the end, we exalt ourselves above God and we want to feel good … no matter what.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered our life as a useful coping skill, tool, friend, or savior, quickly became a cruel master. The problem with idols is that we choose them because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, and we give them priority and ultimately, our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long-term relief that going to God will actually bring in full.

Today, readily admit you have an addiction. Be open with another person about what your top addiction objects are. Know as a Christian, that the Holy Spirit is in you to empower your pursuit of putting God on the throne of your heart, moment by moment.

Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ. therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.” This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us and in Him we are free. We slip daily. But don’t let Satan roll you over. Confess and understand why you turned to your idol instead of to God. With steady honesty and submission, and by applying God’s instruction and promises, you will be set free. When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. God or ??? It’s your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, my dreams, and my hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

Galatians 2:20

How God Thinks of Me

SOURCE:  Living Free

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NLT

Perhaps you have suffered abuse from a parent or spouse or another “trusted” person. Maybe you have suffered a traumatic personal loss. Or perhaps you have made poor choices and are suffering from the consequences.

God promises that despite all these things, you can have overwhelming victory through Christ. Come to him for help … and forgiveness. If you do, nothing … absolutely nothing … can separate you from his love.

Sometimes it is easy to look at scriptures about God’s love and think, Yes, God loves all people. But in our innermost being we don’t include ourselves in the “all people.” We think I’m different … I’m just not good enough … that’s alright for other people, but I’ve made too many mistakes. It’s too late for me.

But God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that you are included.

No matter what you have done. No matter what other people say or think about you. No matter what you think about yourself. God loves you. Jesus died for you. Nothing can ever separate you from his love.

And as you walk with Jesus, you can have overwhelming victory over every problem and obstacle in your life. 

The problems might still be there … the obstacles may still come. But you won’t have to face them alone … and Jesus will give you the strength to overcome.

Lord, thank you that these promises are not just for other people … but they are really for me. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you that no matter what has happened in the past or comes my way in the future, I can walk in victory through Jesus. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W. This study helps to minister to families caught in the cycle of abusive relationships. 

The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer

SOURCE:  Gerald Sittser/Discipleship Journal

Sooner or later we all wrestle with God’s silence.

 

Stories of unanswered prayer wear down our defenses until we can no longer dismiss them as the rare exceptions we would like them to be.

Each stabs us with pain, reminding us of personal experiences we would like to forget and raising all the old questions about God’s trustworthiness.

Each makes us wonder if it is worth our while to pray to a God who doesn’t seem to hear our prayers or, even worse, doesn’t seem to want to answer them.

Recently our interim pastor, Bob Mitchell, a former president of Young Life, preached a sermon in which he quoted from a letter he received in May 1955. The letter was written by Jim Elliot, who had recently moved to Ecuador with his young wife and baby daughter to pioneer a new missionary outreach to the Auca Indians.

The Aucas lived in a remote area and were considered hostile to outsiders. Elliot expressed gladness that “the gospel is creeping a little farther out into this big no-man’s land of Amazonia.” He also mentioned that a mutual friend and partner in ministry, Ed, had already left to make contact with the tribe. With a sense of excitement and foreboding, Jim asked Bob to pray for them, especially for Ed: “There are rumors that the same tribe is scouting around there now, so don’t forget to pray for Ed—that the Lord will keep him alive as well as make him effective in declaring the truth about Christ.”

Bob prayed for his friends’ protection and for the success of their ministry. But several months later those courageous friends—Ed, Jim, and three others—were murdered by members of the very tribe they wanted to reach.

Bob’s prayer seemed to go unanswered.

Problematic promises

I have heard similar stories, less sensational perhaps but no less wrenching.

A young Christian prays for guidance but fails to receive any sense of direction.

A mother prays for a daughter’s healing but watches helplessly as she falls prey to the ravages of cancer.

An elderly couple prays for a neighbor’s salvation but sees no results.

It would be easy to discount such stories if these praying people were the peacetime equivalent of “foxhole Christians” who turned to God only in a panic and a pinch. But many people whose prayers go unanswered are sincere, mature believers.

Jesus’ outrageous promises appear to be part of the problem. He promised that if we ask, we will receive; if we seek, we will find; if we knock, the door will be opened (Lk. 11:9). He taught that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it (Jn. 14:14). Jesus’ promises awaken an expectation that our prayers will be answered. This leads to profound disappointment when our prayers go unanswered.

Ironically, the answers to prayer we do receive exacerbate the problem.

If God never answered our prayers, then we would surely stop praying, dismissing it as futile. But we have all had enough prayers answered to know that God is real, willing to meet our needs, and eager to respond to our pleas.

Why does He answer some of our prayers but refuse to answer others? Does God judge our motives, weighing each request according to its polish and purity? Or is He capricious, like a moody monarch? Is prayer simply a vain exercise, nothing more than the haunting cry of our own voice?

Is it our fault?

I do not ask these questions as a disinterested observer. I, too, have experienced the devastation and bewilderment of unanswered prayer.

My wife, Lynda, wanted to have a big family, but she was unable to conceive. Every day I prayed that God would grant us the gift of children. My prayers were finally answered when Lynda gave birth to four healthy children in six years. She was delirious with joy and embraced the calling of motherhood with enthusiasm and confidence.

Every morning I pleaded with God to protect and bless our family. I prayed such a prayer on the morning of September 27, 1991. But something went wrong that day. A drunk driver lost control and smashed into our minivan, killing Lynda; my daughter Diana Jane; and my mother, who was visiting us for the weekend.

To this day I have been unable to understand what made that day different. What prevented my prayers from getting through to God? Did I commit some unpardonable sin? Did I fail to say the right words? Did God suddenly turn against me?

Why, I have asked myself a thousand times, did my prayer go unanswered?

I have no answer to that question.

I have pondered the traditional and biblical reasons why God does not answer prayer: willful sin (Ps. 66:18), lack of persistence (Lk. 11:5–8), selfish motives (Jas. 4:3). All of these are valid. Unanswered prayer can be our own fault, as we all know. We are well advised to search our souls when God does not answer, daring to discover if we are shamelessly disobeying Him or praying foolishly.

Yet these explanations leave me cold. Sooner or later such introspection must stop. The problem of unanswered prayer is too complex to reduce it to the simple issue of personal sin.

I spent months in torment trying to figure out why God did not answer my prayer that morning. I finally gave up in frustration and exhaustion. Perhaps I deserved what happened. Then again, maybe I didn’t.

I will never know.

But I do know that prayer is intended for the weak, not the strong; for sinners, not the perfect. Jesus did not commend the self-righteous Pharisee who used prayer as a platform to exalt himself; instead, He embraced a sinful tax collector who cried out to God for mercy (Lk. 18:9–14).

Hints and clues

So I am left asking the same question: Why unanswered prayer?

It is a mystery to me.

I find hints here and there that point to an explanation, but I cannot find a definitive answer. The Bible boldly proclaims that God is near and wants to answer our prayers; it also tells us God can seem strangely distant at times (Psalm 88:102).

What clues, then, does God’s Word provide?

First, Scripture encourages us to express our frustrations and disappointments. Nearly half the psalms express lament, some with a great deal of emotion. Jesus had one such psalm on His lips as He died: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1, Mk. 15:34). Jesus did not silence Mary and Martha when they accused Him of failing them, nor did He shame them when they wept. Instead, He welcomed their complaints and wept with them (Jn. 11:1–44). Revelation promises that at the end of history God will wipe away every tear, which implies that we will shed many tears before the end comes (Rev. 21:4).

Second, however distant God seems to be, Jesus urges us to pray with boldness and persistence. He commands us to pray like the woman who approaches an unrighteous judge to settle her case, refusing to take no for an answer (Lk. 18:1–8). Somehow persistence itself builds faith in God, increases longing for God, focuses attention on God, and purifies motives before God. It affects us more than it affects Him. God does not have to be persuaded to answer our prayers; we have to be disciplined to keep asking.

We can see the importance of persistence by observing how children function with their parents. Most of their requests fade as suddenly as they appear. In those few cases when they want something really important to them, they cannot take no for an answer, no matter how long it takes to get their way.

Third, Jesus reassures us that God wants to answer our prayers.

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

—Lk. 11:11–12

God is our Father. He delights in giving gifts. He is not abusive, turning our requests into occasions to torture us. He overflows with bounty and generosity.

If anything, God is so gracious that He wants to give us the best gift of all. That gift is not some cheap toy that wears out after a week of hard play. God gives us the very best; He gives us what we really need (though not always what we think we need). He sends us the Holy Spirit, which is the answer to all our prayers, even the prayers we do not think to utter.

The Holy Spirit is God’s greatest gift because He enables us to live life well, though our outward circumstances would tempt us to think otherwise. The Holy Spirit transforms us from within.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

—Lk. 11:13

Finally, Jesus charges us to view life from a redemptive perspective. There is more to life than meets the eye when God gets involved. He works things out for good. Think about how the stories of Joseph, Esther, and Jesus turned out. Could anyone have imagined that Joseph would be reconciled with his brothers, that Esther would save her people from annihilation, that Jesus—who in the eyes of His followers seemed to fail miserably as the Messiah—would save the world from sin and death? We view unanswered prayer from the perspective of our immediate experience and our limited vision. But God is doing something so great that only faith can grasp it, wait for it, and pray for it.

An unlikely answer

There is more to Bob Mitchell’s story than that one ominous letter. Years later Bob attended an international conference for evangelists. He happened to meet an old friend who introduced Bob to a South American evangelist. Bob learned that the evangelist was one of the Auca Indians who had murdered Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries. Bob suddenly realized that his prayers had been answered. The Auca Indians had become Christians.

I refuse to offer trivial answers to the problem of unanswered prayer. No easy answer will mitigate the difficult questions.

The Apostle Paul prayed three times that God would remove some “thorn in [his] flesh” that had tormented him for years (2 Cor. 12:7). God did not answer Paul’s prayer. Instead, He did something even greater. He showed Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul’s weakness, which seems to us an odd way to answer such a prayer (vv. 8–10).

It is all a mystery to me, both wonderful and terrifying. It is a mystery that draws us ever closer to God, who, in His glory and holiness and utter beauty, is the answer to all our prayers.

I Can’t Pray — But I Can Look At The Promises

SOURCE:  Richard Sibbes/Tolle Lege

“Look at the promises”

“A Christian complains he cannot pray. ‘Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!’

But has He put into your heart a desire to pray? Then He will hear the desires of His own Spirit in you.

‘We know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. ’My groaning is not hid from thee’ (Psa. 38:9).

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in His ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries ‘O Father,’ not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea.

These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt Him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

‘Oh, but is it possible,’ thinks the misgiving heart, ‘that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?’ Yes, He will accept that which is His own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him.

Let not, therefore infirmities discourage us. James takes away this objection (James 5:17). Some might object, ‘If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.’ ‘But,’ says he, ‘Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.’ He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him because he was without fault? Surely not.

But look at the promises: ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee’ (Psa. 50:15). ‘Ask, and it shall be given you’ (Matt. 7:7) and other like these.

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are His own children, and they come from His own Spirit, because they are according to His own will, and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and He takes them, and mingles them with His own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour.

Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is His own.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/1998), 50-51.

Suffering Together

SOURCE:  Jerusha Ann Clark

Allowing pain to nourish your marriage

I’m not sure how long Jeramy and I sat in the hospital parking lot. It might have been fifteen minutes; it could have been forever. The bitter cold of Colorado winter wrapped its arms around our silver Jetta, scattering ice crystals on the windows. Maybe on a different night they would have been beautiful to me.

For me, any response to the world would have been a welcome relief. I hadn’t been able to carry on a normal conversation in weeks. Often Jeramy would catch me staring off into space, but when I “came to,” I could explain neither where I’d been nor what I’d been thinking. As far as I can remember, I only thought, breathed, and lived pain during those hellish days.

St. Stephen’s loomed in the not-so-distant foreground. It was one of those seventies-style concrete hospitals that looks more like a communist tenement than a place of healing. It was a psychiatric hospital.

I had been placed on a 5150, a psychiatric hold for people who are a danger to themselves and others. The social worker who did my intake evaluation told Jeramy that, based on her 20-plus years of experience, I was suffering from the most severe level of postpartum depression possible. At least they let Jeramy drive me from the ER to St. Stephen’s. Still, he had to leave me there—alone. Not until years later did he tell me that he wept for the entire 40-minute drive home.

Neither of us knew what to do. Neither of us felt the comfort the Bible promises for those in pain. Neither of us could pray with any conviction of hope. We knew God was there, but he seemed distantly cold. The pain was wreaking havoc on our marriage.

We were Christian authors, a pastor and pastor’s wife, a couple who wanted to honor God with life and marriage. We were in agony. Up to this point, we didn’t understand what it meant to suffer together, and—to tell you the truth—we didn’t want to learn how to let God walk us through the valley of the shadow of death…together. We would have traded what authors have deemed the “gift of suffering.” And yet we would have missed the very things that have shaped our marriage and ministry in the most powerful ways.

An Era of Pain

It seems as if every marriage is hurting during these difficult times. Several of our closest friends are facing financial ruin. Husbands and wives are looking at one another across the dinner table, wondering how their relationship dissolved into an endless string of loveless, lifeless days. Two couples we’re close to are going through divorce and custody battles. Infertility is robbing those we love of the joy they desperately want to experience. The children of our friends are straining their parents’ marriages with choices to live alternative lifestyles, to cohabitate—seemingly without guilt—to stridently abandon the faith of their youth. The death of loved ones, the news that it’s cancer, teen pregnancy, horrific violence in elementary schools—it’s hitting everyone we know. We live with the constant awareness of deep suffering.

Christians may understand this on an intellectual level: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3). We want to do this. But did anyone ever teach you how to suffer as a couple? Our premarital counseling didn’t address it, and we had the “best of the best” mentoring us. What we’ve come to realize is that the joy of suffering together can be won only by actually suffering together.

Since we fought the battle against postpartum depression, Jeramy and I have faced other pains: a best friend’s betrayal, suffocating challenges at work, confusion about the future of our work and ministry, my diagnosis with fibromyalgia, the murder of a family member. Life overflows with pain, doesn’t it? But what we’ve learned about suffering together has changed the way we face pain.

We choose—though we don’t always do it well—to let suffering together untie us and bless others.

The Hidden Invitations in Suffering

Although most of us have figured out there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all formula for how to suffer with our spouses, we also know that our Father gave something far better—his Holy Spirit, the Comforter, God’s indwelling presence to guide and guard. The Spirit who walks alongside us picks us up when we stumble and screw things up and ache from the consequences of our sin or the awful, uncontrollable circumstances we never could have planned for.

The Spirit who guides us directs tenderly and compassionately. Suffering is an invitation to know the Spirit on a level more preciously intimate and real. Do you desire this? Will you walk with your spouse through pain to experience it?

Suffering together produces fellowship with Jesus, God the Son, who agonized here and understands well our pain. I love The message translation of Hebrews 4:15-16: “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” His mercy is there for you and your spouse. Do you ache for it? Will you reach out for it together? Jeramy and I have had to choose this. It hasn’t happened naturally. Every one of the pains we’ve faced together has extended us two invitations: draw close to one another through Jesus or allow the wedge of anguish to drive us apart.

Suffering together is likewise an invitation to know the character of God the Father, not as a list of Sunday-school attributes, but as the very life and breath of our marriage. Grace, peace, hope, goodness, faithfulness—these are not resources God metes out. They are the incarnation of his person within us. Love isn’t merely a characteristic of God; it is the very essence of his power and presence, pouring himself into you and through you to your spouse.

I realize that very few of us would opt to know God through the agony of suffering. But as A.W. Pink wrote, the truth is “the promises of God never shine as brightly as in the furnace of affliction.” You and your spouse, suffering together, can know the truth of who God is in a way that would not have been possible on a road unmarked with pain.

But how do we do that?

Okay, so we don’t have a formula. We’re invited to know God on a deeper level. But how do we walk—day by day—through the pain?

Jeramy and I, not only in our battle with postpartum depression, but also in the anguish of various broken dreams, unmet expectations, and delayed hopes, have discovered some practical helps for suffering together. Perhaps these three will encourage you.

1. Offer one another the gift of presence. Suffering often drives couples apart, and it’s far easier to stay a few extra hours at work than come home to a house in chaos, a house filled with pain. It’s easier to check out emotionally than to talk to one another about what you’re facing. But, just as Emmanuel— the God with us—models, we are called to be present to and for one another.

The Greek verb tense used in Galatians 6:2, “Share each other’s burdens,” might be better translated “Keep onsharing one another’s burdens.” You can share in carrying the burden only if you are present with one another.

It takes so little…holding her hand, speaking a word of respect to him, offering to serve in a way that enlivens and unites the two of you. I remember the night Jeramy came home from Wal-Mart with two movies I loved as a kid: The Three Amigos and Ghostbusters. All we did was sit on the couch together and watch. I could barely laugh. I’m not even sure—to this day—what Jeramy was thinking. But he was next to me; he spoke love to me without words. He was present with me.

After I was physically and mentally stable, Jeramy needed to work through anger, resentment, and confusion about what we’d gone through. I listened, trying as far as I was able to be present with him.

2. Choose to press in. All of us would like to end our suffering right away. Who wants to prolong pain? Often, we think that rushing through the valley of the shadow would be best for everyone involved. Instead of trying to escape or just “get through this,” what if you pressed into what the pain says about you, your spouse, your marriage, and your God?

Jeramy and I went through months of therapy—together and individually. During one of the sessions, my counselor asked that I read Matthew 5:4 aloud. “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I parroted the words, not feeling blessed in the slightest. She asked me what the verse meant. Seriously? I thought. I just got out of a psychiatric hospital. You want me to exegete Scripture? I looked at the words again, and it hit me with ferocity. Tears of illumination burned in my eyes. “I have to go through the mourning to get the comfort, don’t I?” Yes. Yes. We cannot escape the pain, but we can allow it to lead us further up and further in.

It didn’t happen all at once, but slowly, as Jeramy and I pressed into the pain rather than avoiding it, we found that we were not alone there. Jesus was with us and we experienced it, not just “knew it.” And as we grew in intimacy with Christ, we grew in intimacy with one another.

3. Remember the days of your suffering. Over the years, Lamentations 3 has become a beloved passage of Scripture for Jeramy and me. This portion of God’s Word is most famous for its declaration that “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Verse 23).

Perhaps it’s been a while since you read what comes before and after this beautiful assurance. In verse 1, the prophet Jeremiah wails, “I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD’s anger.” You do not need to bury the memory of your suffering. Indeed, you cannot. The memory of his anguish was what allowed Jeremiah to shout, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness” (21-23).

This can be your experience, too. As you and your spouse allow the memory of your pain to nourish your marriage and spill out of your relationship into the lives of those around you, you will be able to help others see “No one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

Perhaps it’s difficult for you to imagine exactly how remembering your suffering as a couple can help anyone else. Here are a couple of ways that has worked in our marriage. Together, we actively remember significant dates. We choose to recall the day I was admitted to the hospital. We remember the moments in therapy—individual and couples—when God broke through our suffering in order to heal. We don’t try to erase those memories. We embrace them as ways to recall God’s faithfulness.

Letting God use your memory and your openness isn’t always easy. But it is true and good and beautiful. And, as is so often the case, allowing God to use us becomes every bit as significant a blessing and source of healing for us as it is for those we desire to bless. Picture this for a moment: how different might the world be if all of our marriages proclaimed the truth that pain can heal, can unite, can be transformed into praise, can bless the body of Christ, wounded in so many ways?

Our hope as a couple, and my prayer through these words you’ve read, is that God will comfort your marriage with the comfort he has given ours.

Indeed, in everything we can choose to say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May it be so, Lord, for Jeramy and me and for my brothers and sisters.

————————————————————————————

Jerusha Ann Clark is a writer who lives in Escondido, California. She is the author of several books including The Life You Crave: The Promise of Discernment.

“Unanswered” Prayer From A God Who ALWAYS Answers

SOURCE:  Pastor Mark Driscoll

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:23-25

If you have breath, you’ve probably said a prayer that hasn’t been answered. How do we reconcile unanswered prayers with Jesus’ words in Mark?

Unanswered prayer is an issue that challenges believers and non-believers alike and often challenges our perceptions of God’s goodness. C.S. Lewis famously observed, “Every war, every famine or plague, almost every deathbed — is the monument to a petition that was not granted.”[1]

More recently, Philip Yancey confesses to “…obsessing more about unanswered prayers than rejoicing over answered ones.”[2] And it’s not unusual to hear about medical studies showing no real correlation between prayer and physical healing.[3]

Therefore, Jesus’ statements in Mark 11:23-25 provide a difficult problem: do these verses promise that God will answer every prayer, every time?

Two polar views on prayer

In Christianity today, there are two polar views on prayer: prosperity and poverty.

On one hand you have those who preach a false gospel of prosperity, which views God as a cosmic genie who answers our every desire and whim. Want a new Porsche? Pray. Have a debilitating illness? Pray. Need a bigger house? Pray. If you have enough faith, God will grant your wishes. Underlying this belief system is a misunderstanding about faith. It’s assumed that if you don’t have your prayers answered, it’s due to a lack of faith. Jesus promises he’ll answer your prayers if you believe, the teaching goes. So, unanswered prayers must mean a lack of belief.

Unfortunately, this is simplistic, not true, and often damaging, as many people devastated by the effects of sin in this world are deceived into thinking they must work harder in order to earn God’s favor. Only then will he answer your prayers. Even worse, this teaching most often revolves around what is known as health and wealth. God’s will, it’s taught, is to make you rich and healthy. The sign of faith, thus, becomes one’s bank account and material possessions and one’s ability to avoid contracting viruses. This effectively makes anyone poor or sick not victims of sin, but rather victims of a God who doesn’t deem their faith to be substantive enough to warrant answered prayers.

Essentially, the prosperity gospel places the power of answered prayer in our hands and places limits on God’s ability to answer prayer by making him rely on our faith, which is not only unfortunate but also absolutely wrong. God is sovereign over his creation, not the other way around (Isaiah 22:44, 45:5-7; Psalm 115:3, 135:6; Daniel 4:35, Matthew 5:45, Deuteronomy 32:39).

On the other hand you have those who preach a poverty gospel, which views God as cosmic curmudgeon who doesn’t desire to give good gifts to his children. Instead of encouraging people to pray for good things, the poverty gospel teaches an aestheticism that calls for denial of material goods. Want a nice car (or even one that runs)? Sin. Give to the poor instead. Have a debilitating illness? Thank God for salvation, that is enough. Want a bigger house (or even a house at all)? Stop asking. Be glad you have a roof over your head.

Unfortunately, this is also simplistic, wrong, and often damaging, as many people experiencing the effects of sin in the world are deceived into thinking that God is happy to save us but not to enrich our lives in any way outside of spiritual sustenance.

The effects of the poverty gospel result in a people who mark their faith on how little they can get by on rather than the fullness of God’s mercy and love for his children and wrongly views those enjoying God’s blessing as lacking in faith because they don’t sell everything they have and force their children to wear hand-me downs and their spouse to use second-hand tea bags. God is our perfect Father who desires to give us good gifts and to take care of both our earthly and spiritual needs (Luke 11:13, Genesis 12:2, Exodus 23:25, Deuteronomy 7:13, Psalm 67:6).

Tota Sola Scriptura

The distortions on prayer found in both prosperity and poverty theology stem from not taking into account all that the Scriptures have to say on prayer. Those that advocate prosperity theology only take into account those verses that talk of God’s blessing. Conversely, those that advocate poverty theology only take into account those verses that speak negatively about riches and that call for sacrifice.

The answer, as is almost always the case, is a both/and, taking into account all that Scripture has to fully say, and ultimately hinges on a fully biblical view and understanding of God’s sovereignty and his will. A few key verses help us navigate the middle ground of the Scripture’s teachings on prayer.

In 1 John, the apostle teaches, “This is the confidence which have in [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him (5:14-15). Elsewhere, Jesus teaches us to pray according to God’s will, asking that it be done (Matthew 6:10), and he exemplifies this in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

As Wayne Grudem reminds us, when we pray, we can first determine God’s will by reading his Word. Thus, we know that we cannot ask God to grant a prayer that is contra to his Word. For instance, if we ask for a new spouse because we’re tired our current one, we know that no matter how hard we pray, God won’t answer, as it’s asking for God to help us sin.

On other matters, we simply can’t know what God’s will is because the Scriptures don’t speak to our request.

However, there are many situations in life where we do not know what God’s will is. We may not be sure, because no promise or command of Scripture applies, whether it is God’s will that we get the job we have applied for, or win an athletic contest in which we are participating (a common prayer among children, especially), or be chosen to hold office in the church, and so on. In all these cases, we should bring to bear as much of Scripture as we understand, perhaps to give us some general principles within which our prayer can be made. But beyond this, we often must admit that we simply do not know what God’s will is. In such cases, we should ask him for deeper understanding and then pray for what seems best to us, giving reasons to the Lord why, in our present understanding of the situation, what we are praying for seems to be best. But it is always right to add, either explicitly or at least in the attitude of the heart, “Nevertheless, if I am wrong in asking this, and if this is not pleasing to you, then do as seems best in your sight,” or, more simply, “If it is your will.”[4]

This means that we can pray for the whole range of needs and wants in life without feeling guilty because we’re free to ask our Father and also free to rely on the comforting truth that he will accomplish his will. This moves prayer from what we do or don’t have to what we can always be assured of, God’s sovereignty and that he will always do what is good for us and his plans in this world (Philippians 2:12-13).

The Context of Mark 11:23-25

As Jesus taught on prayer in Mark 11:23-25, the Dead Sea was visible from the Mount of Olives. It’s easy to see where the imagery of verse 23 comes from.[5] Many of Mark’s references to “the sea” are referencing the Sea of Galilee but also occasionally reference is made to the destructive power of “the sea.”[6]  In 11:23, “Mark portrays Jesus as utilizing the generally destructive power of the sea for his own purposes.”[7]

The reference to moving mountains has parallels in the teaching of early Rabbis,[8] and as the ESV Study Bible says, “Moving a mountain was a metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible (Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; cf. Matt. 21:21–22). Those who believe in God can have confidence that he will accomplish even the impossible, according to his sovereign will.”

However, Jesus’ specific claim that faith could move mountains was without parallel. The restructuring of the natural world was meant to reveal the presence of God’s future kingdom, a thought that was emphasized by the Old Testament[9] as well as other Jewish texts.[10] Therefore, Jesus’ statement in verse 23 was meant to indicate that the day of salvation had already dawned.

Still, Jesus’ words indicate that prayer is effective. In the Old Testament, for example, God caused the sun to stand still in response to Joshua’s prayer (Joshua 10:12-14). Does God desire to answer prayer? Would a father give his child a stone instead of bread (Matthew 7:9-10)? Prayer is indeed effective so long as it is rooted in God’s will—this is why Jesus tells His disciples that “if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14, emphasis added).

The Burden of Unanswered Prayer

Even in scripture we see the emotional burden of unanswered prayer. The psalmist laments that “I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (Psalm 22:2). Paul’s prayers that God remove the “thorn in the flesh” go unanswered (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Even Jesus’ own prayer to have the cup of God’s wrath removed was not answered (Luke 22:42). We are no better than our savior and can expect that not everything we ask will be granted by God, but just as Jesus rested in God’s will, so can we.

There may be several reasons why God chooses not to answer prayer:

First, there is simple logic: God cannot go against His own character. God cannot build a square circle. Nor can He answer a prayer to approve of sin.

Second, God’s perspective differs from our own. Some suffering is used to reveal God’s glory (cf. John 9:3). We cannot always know God’s purposes; even the very worst tragedies might later be used for God’s glory.[11]

Third, some desires are selfish (James 4:3). God’s greatest desire might not be for our job promotion or the new car. “For prayer is not a means by which God serves us. Rather, it is a means by which we serve God. Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven, but a means by which God gets His will done on earth.”[12]

Finally, Mark 11:25 seems to assume a condition to prayers of forgiveness: an unforgiving heart may result in a lack of God’s forgiveness.

Conclusion

To answer our initial question, Jesus’ statements cannot be taken to mean that God will grant every prayer for every person at every time. Prayer, therefore, has less to do with obtaining things and more to do with an ongoing life with God.

A helpful matrix I like to use when it comes to prayer is yes, no, and later. When we pray, God answers sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes later—just as a father does with his own children. Sometimes the later is later in this life. Sometimes the later is in the life after this life. But God does hear and answer every prayer. We must be content with his answer and trust in his sovereignty. For example, one friend of mine was praying for years and finally was healed from an illness that plagued him. Another died and was then healed forever in the presence of Jesus after praying the same kind of prayer for many years.

At the end of the day, the real purpose of prayer is not to obtain things from God, but to relate to God. Philp Yancey writes:

Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. …In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I, or any of us, play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.[13]

Still, we should seek God in prayer for all things. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help [us] in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). To not seek God for our needs and desires is not a mark of maturity, but the absence of it.

Jesus’ message in Mark 11 is that a relationship with God is greater than a religious system. It’s purchased by His blood. We may therefore enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom, including access to God’s throne. When we see prayer in this light, even unanswered prayers become a part of our relationship with God.


[1] C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.  (United States: Mariner Books, 1964), p. 58.

[2] Philp Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p. 16.

[3] Benedict Carey, “Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer.” New York Times, March 31, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all.  Accessed November 7, 2011.  The article sites six studies that do not seem to show correlation between patients’ healing and prayer.  This simply reflects the cultural expectation that prayer yields near-immediate results.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 383.

[5] William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark.  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 410.

[6] Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark, (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 58-9.

[7] Ibid., p. 78.

[8] Rabbinical texts include the following statements:

T. Sol. 23:1 A demon says to Solomon: “I am able to move mountains;” b. Sanh. 24a.: “You would think he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other,”b. Bat. 3b: “I will uproot mountains;”

[commenting on Lev 6:13] Lev. Rab. 8:8: “[Samson] took two mountains and knocked them against one another”

Cited in Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20.  (Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2001), p. 189.

[9] Cf. Isaiah 40:3-5; 45:2; 49:11; cf. 54:10; Zechariah 14:4-5.

[10] Pss Sol. 11:4; Bar. 5:7.

[11] An excellent perspective on this is the well-known post on the Desiring God website entitled: “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  Written February 16, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/dont-waste-your-cancer.  Last accessed November 7, 2011.

[12] Norm Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), p. 374.

[13] Yancey, Prayer…, p.  29.

God’s Assurance

He Himself has said . . . . So we may boldly say . . . —Hebrews 13:5-6

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me.

God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ’The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance— they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.

What are you fearing?

Whatever it may be, you are not a coward about it— you are determined to face it, yet you still have a feeling of fear. When it seems that there is nothing and no one to help you, say to yourself, “But ’The Lord is my helper’ this very moment, even in my present circumstance.” Are you learning to listen to God before you speak, or are you saying things and then trying to make God’s Word fit what you have said? Take hold of the Father’s assurance, and then say with strong courage, “I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in our way, because “He Himself has said, ’I will never leave you . . . .’ “

Human frailty is another thing that gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us— “I will never. . . forsake you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s keynote?

Are we continually filled with enough courage to say, “The Lord is my helper,” or are we yielding to fear?

I Have Prayed, and Prayed, and Prayed, BUT . . . .

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministry

Trusting in God’s promise to provide

Are there circumstances you’ve been praying about for years? Have you repeatedly placed certain situations before the Father but still feel as if He will never intervene? Perhaps it is a long, drawn-out illness, lingering unemployment, or a relationship that hasn’t turned out as you hoped it would. When promising opportunities arise but then fail to be the answer you longed for, the immense disappointment can lead to doubting God will provide at all.

Despite the promise of Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” you may be unsure that He’ll really come through. And as the Thanksgiving season begins, your heart may be so broken, dreams so shattered, and needs so painfully unmet that you wonder if there will ever be anything for which to thank the Lord.

At times like this, remember: God is absolutely faithful. This may be a truth you embrace on a factual level while still feeling very disheartened. Why? Because in focusing on the persistence of your problem, you inevitably head down the road of discouragement and unbelief. If you want to grow in godliness while waiting, you must begin with the truth of Scripture and God’s trustworthiness as heavenly Father. Where you center your attention determines how you think and make decisions, which ultimately determines your path.

God promises to meet all our needs.

The reality is that God does, in fact, meet all our needs. And as believers, you and I are called to walk by faith in Him, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Therefore, as we await His answers to prayer, we should pursue a deeper relationship with Him and discover what He’s trying to accomplish in and through us. With this in mind, here are three essential truths that will guide us as we wrestle with unmet needs.

God wants to meet your needs. Throughout Scripture, the Lord invites us to petition Him with our requests (Matt. 7:7-10Phil. 4:6-71 John 5:14-15). As our heavenly Father, He wants to provide for us, and the greatest proof of this is the gift of His Son. Jesus came to earth to meet people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs by teaching the truth, healing the sick, casting out demons, and finally, dying on a cross to save us. If God didn’t spare His own Son from death on our behalf, won’t He graciously give us all things as well (Rom. 8:32)?

The Lord knows your needs. Although we’re told to make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:6), the purpose of prayer is not to inform Him of our needs. He’s omniscient and already knows what we’re going through. The reason for seeking God’s help is to acknowledge our dependence upon Him. The goal should be to voice our concerns and then leave the method and timing of answering them to Him, trusting in His wisdom to do what is best.

Because God’s knowledge reaches beyond ours, He is also aware of needs we don’t realize we have. From His divine perspective, He looks deep into our hearts, as well as into every situation we face. Although our preference is immediate relief, He focuses on our spiritual and eternal needs. That is why it may appear as if He’s not keeping His promise—because He may be working to meet an even more important need in your life.

God is able to meet your needs.  Nothing can thwart Almighty God. He plans the solution to your problem, arranges the events, and brings about the answer at just the right time. Jesus’ promise to His disciples still rings true today: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). No matter how big the problem may be, God is bigger. He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

But what if my needs remain unmet?

When difficulty or suffering continues, how can we reconcile the Lord’s promise with our unanswered requests?

Differentiate between needs and desires.  Since the promise of Philippians 4:19 applies exclusively to needs, the first step should be to determine whether you have a need or a desire. A need is something that is essential to fulfilling God’s purpose for your life. This would include the basics of food, clothing, and shelter (Matt. 6:31-33), but it could also be something specific that’s required to fulfill your personal calling from God. For instance, if you’re a missionary who delivers Bibles in China, having some form of transportation would be necessary for you. But how the Lord meets that need is up to Him. He may provide a mule instead of a truck, but He will supply a way.

In contrast, desires are for our pleasure or enjoyment. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. God is not pro-need and anti-desire. In fact, in Psalm 37:4, we’re promised, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Sometimes God puts a longing in our hearts for something that aligns perfectly with His will. He’s a generous and loving Father “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).

Determine the origin of your need.  Knowing where a need originates helps us understand God’s way of meeting it. Whatever created it will determine how He provides. Some of our problems are simply the result of living in a fallen world. Then the Lord works to strengthen us so we can endure and respond to life’s problems with godly attitudes and actions (1 Pet. 2:12). Other needs are created by our own unwise choices. In such cases, He may delay the answer in order to teach us a lesson that will protect us from going down the same foolish path again (Heb. 12:11-13).

But what if you can’t determine the specific cause of your need? You might have a vague sense of dissatisfaction or emptiness, but you can’t put your finger on the source. This kind of neediness is sometimes a heart issue. It may be the result of past experiences—perhaps as far back as childhood—which have damaged your self-esteem. In this case, the Lord’s method of healing your soul may require years of gradually renewing your mind to align with who He says you are in Christ (Eph. 1:3-7). No person, possession, or accomplishment can fill this void; only Christ can do that.

Learn what your responsibilities are.

Sometimes God steps into a situation and supplies what’s needed without any effort on our part, but more often than not, we will have a role to play.

Our first and most obvious responsibility is to ask the Lord for help.  Perhaps He has withheld the solution simply because we haven’t asked, or have asked with wrong motives (James 4:2-3). In doing this, He isn’t being hardhearted; He’s just drawing us to Himself. He wants us to talk with Him about our concerns, depending on Him for guidance and provision.

Our second responsibility is to wait for God to meet our need in His time.  When a situation is prolonged, we tend to conclude that the Lord wants us to fix it ourselves, so we jump in and try to resolve the issue. By doing so, we miss out on what He has planned. Not only that, but we often end up in a bigger mess.

The third responsibility is to do exactly what the Lord tells us to do.  Now you may be thinking, I never hear God tell me to do anything. Well, if you’re a believer, I can guarantee He’s speaking to you. The problem is your spiritual hearing. If you will spend time alone with the Lord, reading and meditating on His Word, you’ll soon start hearing from Him. He may guide you by means of a Bible verse or a quiet nudging of your heart as you pray about the matter. The important thing is that you obey Him. This isn’t always easy. Since God doesn’t think the way we do, some of His instructions may seem illogical (Isa. 55:8-9). But if you follow His lead, He will guide you straight into His divine solution to your problem.

It’s Your Decision – Choose Well!

SOURCE: Adapted from  Stepping Stones

We trust in a lot of things to save us. The strength of a chair to save us from falling. The power of a bridge to support our weight so we don’t plummet to the river below. The ability of a driver in oncoming traffic to stay on his side of the yellow line to prevent us from crashing.

Webster defines trust as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.” When we trust in Jesus, we believe that He is God’s Son and that His sacrifice pays the price for our sin. We are relying on and trusting God’s character … and His ability to do what He has promised. Ultimately, we are trusting His character and integrity to be who He promised, and in His power and strength, and ultimately, in the truth of His love.

Trusting in Christ is the foundation, the first step, to a relationship with God. Faith that Christ paid the penalty that was due for all our sins. Realizing nothing else could erase the barrier of sin that stands between God’s holiness and us. Saving trust is the greatest coping mechanism we can ever use, as it restores our relationship with God forever, and assures our eternal place in Heaven with Him.

Satan is working hard to get us to believe one of two things. 1 – We really aren’t that bad, don’t need a God (even if He does exist), and can earn His favor by doing lots of good deeds. 2 – We are so wretched that God doesn’t love us or can’t save us from our sins, or we have to work to re-earn His favor instead of trusting in Jesus’ death for our payment. Then, if we do trust Jesus for salvation, we get complacent and start trusting other worldly elements for our daily safety.

Today’s scripture is one of many that explain the gospel message. We all fall short of God’s standard … we all have sinned … and so none of us can have a relationship with God on our own merit or power. The good news is that God loved us enough to send his Son Jesus to make a way for us. Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for every sin committed by man … past, present and future. That is the incomparable power of the Cross. Our responsibility is to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When we do this, we are made right with God and can enjoy a personal relationship with him. We cannot, nor do we need to add to the Cross. And thankfully, nothing we do can undo the power of the Cross once we have trusted.

Today, ask yourself these questions: Have I trusted in Jesus? Have I received His love and His sacrifice for my sin? If I have, do I express that in my attitudes, perceptions, and actions each day? What is the evidence I trust in God and not in my intellect, bank account, friends, looks, health, etc? If I lost any or all of these things would I still trust in God? He loves you with a love you can’t even begin to comprehend. And He is trustworthy. He will never leave you. He will never disappoint you. He will always love you. In this world of uncertainty, there is no hope. But in Jesus there is every hope. That, you can trust in.

Your decision; choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I realize that I am not worthy to be in Your presence. But I believe that Jesus paid the price for my sin and that through Him I can come to You. I receive Him now as my savior. Don’t let that be the last step, but just the first step of my growing trust in You … for all my daily matters in this world, not just for my life in Heaven. Please forgive my sins. I want to follow and trust in Jesus. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One you sent to set me free, Jesus Christ.

The Truth

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:22-23

The Depression Epidemic

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Ministry

Transformational Thought

25% of the US population…75 million people…will suffer from clinical depression in their lifetime.  Most people suffering from chronic depression feel so utterly unlovable, that they cannot bear the pain of even trying to experience love in a relationship with God, with self, or with others.  They feel like a failure and think that anyone who disagrees with that assessment just doesn’t understand.  Even if you are not suffering from chronic depression, you may experience feelings like this from time to time…almost every person does.

If you are feeling this way, think about this good news:  God knows you better than you know yourself, and He still loves you.  He knows you are not perfect, but He loves you anyway…unconditionally.  He loves you so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, to die on the cross for your sins because He wanted to provide a way for you to be with Him…for eternity…no matter how sinful or worthless you think you are.

God loves you so much, He has promised never to leave you. The Bible tells us that He is full of compassion for you…takes pleasure in you…loves you and gives you honor…You are precious in his sight. He promises He will love you forever.

If you suffer from depression, seek professional help.  Often, medications, even though they don’t cure depression, are incredibly helpful for the symptoms of depression.  This will allow you to work on some of the underlying elements that are fueling your depression.

If you aren’t depressed, then work on developing a solid spiritual and psychological foundation of understanding who God is, who you are, and how to be a Godly decision-maker in all you do.  This will renew your mind, the actual biology of your brain chemistry, and be the most preventative strategy for warding off depression and other mental health struggles.

Today, help yourself by reading the short bible passages below.  Let His message sink deeply into you.  The Bible says Jesus loves you so much that He seeks after you.  You are never alone.  Right this very moment you may feel alone, but you are not.  Jesus is there with you, seeking to help you.   Say yes.  Yes to his love.  Yes to his help.  Yes to Jesus.  The Holy Bible is true. Y ou can believe it.  He is the Word and the great healer, so His word does heal.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I thank You for loving me no matter what.  Thank You for promising to be with me…always…and for honoring that promise, even though I don’t sense it sometimes.  Help my radar tune in strongly to know You are always there.  Thank You for showing me reminders each day of Your presence, and help me not to overlook them.  When I start to feel alone, help me rely on Your instruction book and not my own.  I pray this and all prayers in the name of the one who bled every drop of His blood for me, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!

The Truth

God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?’

Hebrews 13:5-6

The LORD is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and rich in love.

Psalm 145:8

For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

Psalm 149:4

Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.

Isaiah 43:4

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

 

 

 

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