One key to finding joy during trials

I know this might sound too simple.  I know you could be rolling your eyes as you read this. But give this a chance.  A huge key to regaining some of your joy during challenges or after a heartbreaking event is…to focus on the things for which you can be thankful.

All of us tend to focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have.  By doing so, we become bitter, jealous, and depressed women.  Now if you actually enjoy being bitter and depressed, you just go right on concentrating on what’s wrong in your life.  However, there is a better way to live.  God recommends it in the Bible.  It’s called being thankful for what you do have.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances“.  This means disciplining your mind to focus on what is good and right and beautiful. God puts it this way in Philippians 4:8 “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Do you have shelter and plenty of food to eat each day?  Wow! You’re in the top 10% of the entire world!  Do you have someone in your life (husband, mother, friend, child) who loves you?  Wonderful!  Do your legs and hands work?  Can you see, hear, and taste?  Thank God for the health that not everyone enjoys.  Has God made himself known to you and drawn your heart to him?  Awesome!  That means he thinks you’re special and he decided before the beginning of the world to select you to adopt as his child!

Yes, there is a time to grieve losses in our lives.  But we can’t stay camped out there!  Let’s make a concerted effort to focus our minds on being thankful.  Little by little, you may find your joy returning, even during hard times.

A key to persevering during challenges

It’s inevitable.  You will eventually hit some rough patches in your marriage, and in your life in general.  So how do you hang on and press through those storms?  If your husband is caught in a pattern of sin against you, you will need to respectfully confront the problem.  If you guys just plain disagree on how to handle something, you’ll have to work for a compromise.  But when the situation in your marriage seems hopeless, or when a challenge in life feels insurmountable, that’s when we have to learn to persevere.  That’s when we must remember that God isn’t finished writing our story!

One huge key for me in terms of perseverance is reflecting on the many times in the past that God has answered my cries for help.  When I look back and take an inventory of the miracles he’s performed in my life and the times when he clearly orchestrated events…then my faith is increased.  As my faith increases, I can more easily persevere through the current crisis.  By recalling the past deeds of God in my life, I find peace knowing that He was in control then and He’s still in control now.  This is the counsel given to us in Psalm 77:11-12 “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

 One of the best ways to remember the past deeds of the Lord is to write down “God-sightings” in a journal. I have a journal filled with little notes about answered prayers or “God-wink” moments where I can see that God orchestrated something amazing in my life.  I re-read these entries several times a year, and my faith is increased once again.  As my faith in God builds, I can persevere more easily during my current trial.  Do you have a “God-sighting” journal?

Making it through the seasons of marriage!

Since we all know what to expect with each season of the calendar year, we can prepare ahead.  However, when it comes to the seasons of a marriage, most of us are completely ignorant!  In our ignorance, we are easily caught off guard. We haven’t adequately prepared.  So, let’s be intentional about preparing for each season.  As Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit…”

So, let me offer a little insight into the seasons of a marriage, now that I’ve seen some seasons come and go 🙂   The first season is an exciting sprint to the altar.  We are giddy with excitement and anticipation.  As a bride, we are the center of attention.  The world revolves around us.  We feel like the princess in a fairy tale.  We love this season.  It feels like summer, when everything is in full bloom and the sun warms your skin.

However, once we return from the honeymoon, and life goes back to “normal”, we can feel let down.  It’s not all about me anymore!  Often, husbands feel like they’ve won the prize and get to relax now.  Sometimes the romance falls away.  We plug along, but it’s beginning to feel like fall.  The leaves are falling off the trees.  If we don’t pay attention, our marriage can become stripped of its vitality.

Then, children enter the picture.  We’re so excited, just like we enjoy the first snowfall of the winter.  It’s beautiful.   Sometimes this “winter season” is wonderful, but often we pay too much attention to the children and little or no attention to our marriage during this time.  If we don’t intentionally nurture our marriage, Satan sneaks in to cause trouble just like a cold draft sneaks under a poorly sealed door.

Ah, but then there’s spring.  If we’ve made it through those challenging winter months, and if we’ve been nurturing the relationship with our husband, our marriage begins to really bloom again!  The kids are growing up or are already out on their own, and you have some free time available.  You now have time for shared hobbies, shared adventures, shared pursuit of ministry opportunities, shared smiles with the grandchildren.  Spring is a wonderful reward for paying attention to your marriage during the other seasons.  It might include a little rain now and then, but hey, the rain helps bring new life.

— or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO HERE

3 things you should do during hardship or trials

It’s so very easy to sink into self-pity, despair or flat-out depression when life throws you a curve ball.  It happens when you receive bad medical news or when your husband does something hurtful or when your child starts following the wrong crowd or when your get laid off at work.

However, you do have a choice in how you’re going to view this sudden development.  You can choose to feel sorry for yourself and become consumed with resentment and hopelessness….or you can choose to do three much more productive things!  You can choose to make the most of your hardship by….

  1. Praying without ceasing for God to intervene in the situation (read Luke 18:1-8)
  2. Seeking guidance from God on what possible actions you should take to improve the situation (read Psalm 32:8)
  3. Asking God what He wants you to learn through this situation so that you grow in character and faith (read Romans 5:3-5)

— or view this topic as a 4 minute VIDEO HERE

Don’t miss out on the life you have!

We are all so prone to dwell on what we don’t have.  For instance, you might spend lots of mental time and energy longing for a more romantic husband.  Or maybe you rehearse over and over again the many qualities your husband lacks!  You may be a single woman reading this devotion, and you may be spending lots of energy and time trying to capture a man who can become your husband!

Here’s the thing.  We can easily spend so much time focusing on what we don’t have…and trying to manipulate people and circumstances to get what we want…that we don’t even enjoy the many blessings God has actually given us.  We can miss out on the life we have!

Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  You and I need to focus on the many things for which we can be thankful.  What good people has God placed in your life?  How has God provided for you?  Dwell on those things and be thankful.  When you stop focusing on what you don’t have, you’ll finally be able to truly enjoy all the blessings that you do have!

When you’rein the pit of despair

In our marriage and in all our relationships, we will face challenges.  In response, we often wring our hands in despair, get mad at God, sink into depression, lash out at people around us, get really grouchy, and on and on.  We act as if we’re surprised that we’ve encountered heartache and trials.  Well, here’s a news flash for you.  Trouble is normal and to be expected.  After all, Jesus says in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble“.  Drat.

However, God has a plan to do something wonderful in the middle of our challenges…if we decide to move out of despair and self-pity.  God wants to teach us something.  He doesn’t waste any opportunities for our personal growth!  In the middle of our suffering, God gives us the choice to either wallow in depression or contemplate what He might be trying to teach us.  Romans 5:3-5 sums this up well: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

 The choice is yours.  You can stay mired in despair if you want to, or you can anticipate a time of great personal growth and shaping of your character.  Could God be teaching you patience, or perhaps teaching you to be courageous in confronting abuse, or maybe teaching you to help and comfort others who share a similar heartache?  Maybe the Lord simply wants to teach you to draw even closer to Him and to trust in Him completely.

— or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO HERE

The good news during trials and dark valleys

None of us welcomes emotional pain and heartbreak.  Yet, on this earth, we know we will encounter trials and pain. Often, that pain is experienced in our marriage.  We can get really frustrated that God doesn’t seem to be answering our prayer to “fix” our marriage or husband!   But Jesus never promised he would take away all our problems during our temporary stay on earth.  In fact, he said in John 16:33 “in this world you will have trouble.”  Fantastic.

However, if you look closely, you will discover two rays of sunshine in the midst of your darkest hours.  First, Jesus finishes that verse in John 16:33 by saying, “But take heart!  I have overcome the world“.  That is a great reminder that though we will have temporary troubles here, Jesus has prepared an eternal destination for us that will be completely free of heartbreak and suffering.  It will be glorious beyond our imagination!

Secondly, and here’s the point I really wanted to make….it is at the time of our biggest heartbreak that we often experience God’s presence in a way we’ve never known before.  When we choose to cry out to him and seek him during our time of grief and suffering, he promises to come close.  Very close.  Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit“.  If you’re in the middle of a really difficult time in your marriage, don’t miss the opportunity to draw close to God and encounter his love, compassion and comfort at a spectacular level!

Harnessing the “power of one” in your marriage

Each weekday, I offer a devotional intended to help wives. Yet, I have a funny feeling that some of you might be questioning why I’m always urging wives to change their behavior, look for ways to bless their husbands, and be more selfless in their marriage.  I can almost hear you asking, “What about him? Am I the only one who’s supposed to work on this marriage?”

Well, here’s a news flash for all of us.  We can’t change our husbands!  Only God can change a man’s heart.  We can establish boundaries.  We can encourage our men and offer wise counsel to them, but at the end of the day, we can’t control them.  We can only control us!  However, by changing the way we interact with our men, we can dramatically and positively impact them.  It’s the amazing power of one person to make a difference!

So, let’s all commit to working on ourselves.  Let’s look for ways to encourage our men, help our men, respect our men, and serve our men.  If your husband is engaged in a pattern of sin against you or your kids, commit to respectfully and lovingly setting boundaries on that behavior.  As you continue doing this week after week and month after month, I bet you’ll see a change in your husband and an improvement in your relationship.

Don’t give up. Don’t be pessimistic.  Press on.  Meditate on this wonderful promise found in Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

3 ways to start to regain your joy

Sometimes, life just gets plain hard.  You forget to pay a bill on time and get hit with a giant “late fee”.  You catch your husband looking at pornography.  You teenager lies to you.  Your child accidentally drops an entire jog of milk on the kitchen floor.  Ugh!

At times like these, it’s easy to feel weighed down.  It’s so common for us to give into despair and depression.  But instead of conceding defeat, we can regain our joy by practicing 3 things:

1) Recognize this is a scheme of the enemy to try to steal, kill or destroy your joy  (John 10:10 “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy”)

2)  Remind your soul of the enemy’s inability against our mighty God (1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”)  *Sometimes I even laugh at Satan’s pitiful attempts to drag me down!  I like putting him back in his place!

3) Trust that God will carry you through this challenge and even redeem the circumstances so that something good comes about in the long run. God is an expert at turning lemons into lemonade! (Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”)