Finding joy despite hardship

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.

** or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

Finding true comfort during distress

All wives inevitably hit a rough patch or two in their marriage.  In fact, there will likely be moments when you think “Why did I even marry this man?!”  He may break a little piece of your heart when he forgets your anniversary, or is overly harsh with the kids, or develops a habit of satisfying himself while viewing pornography instead of making love to you.  At these moments, you need comfort for your broken heart.

It’s our tendency to reach for something easy and tangible as a source of comfort.  You might try to find some joy in buying lots of new clothes. YouI might turn to excessive food.  But neither one of those choices truly comforts us.  They actually lead to additional grief in the long run!  Instead, we need to train ourselves to run to God at those heart-breaking moments.  He is waiting with open arms.  Plus, Jesus knows what it feels like to suffer grief, betrayal, and a broken heart.

I love these two verses of comfort.  Psalm 103:2-4 “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion”.  And Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.  Meditate on those 2 verses and ask God to come close to you.  He will, and I believe you will experience the warmth of his love! 

One additional tip:  I’ve found it especially helpful to find a quiet place of solitude (no cell phone, no noise!) where I can just sit with the Lord in stillness for 5 or 10 minutes, letting his peace and comfort wash over me.

Do you need encouragement?

Life often seems like a winding highway full of potholes.  We get bounced around by people who disappoint us.  We disappoint ourselves.  Satan loves to plant that seed of doubt about whether we can make it through current challenges in our marriage, with our kids, at our job, etc.  We wonder if we can handle what’s around the bend.

That’s why we need encouragers in our lives!  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “encourage one another and build each other up.”  My question for you is:  Do you have a friend who encourages you?  Or do you spend a lot of time with women who are negative, critical, and “downers”? 

If you don’t have an encouraging woman in your life, ask God to reveal a woman who seems to have the gift of encouragement.  Then ask her if you could regularly get together, perhaps once a week or every other week, just to chat and mutually encourage each other.  That’s right.  You can be her encourager too.  We all need it!  Let’s link arms together ladies!

Best question to ask when dating

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after observing many Christian marriages over several decades, it’s that ANY two people can build a fantastic marriage IF they both are seeking to honor the Lord and seek his guidance on all things.

Think of it this way.  Whoever you date is going to be imperfect, just like you also are imperfect.  However, if both of you are regularly seeking God’s guidance in His Word and seeking to obey his guidance, God can then start smoothing out the rough edges!  When a husband and wife are both striving to follow the Lord and his promptings, God can refine them day by day.  He can heal their broken places. He can teach them new healthier ways to communicate and handle conflict. 

It’s all about seeking God above all else!  This reminds me of the verse that finishes the famous section of Scripture about worrying in Matthew 6.  Jesus says stop worrying about everything and seek to follow him and he will take care of everything.  Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Another verse also comes to mind.  Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make you path straight.

So what is the number one question to ask a person you’re starting to date?  Here it is:  What has God been teaching you lately?  Then be quiet and listen.  If the person has that “deer in the headlights” look, that’s probably a good indication that they really aren’t seriously seeking God and his guidance! 

Finding hope when life is hard

We’re all a bit anxious right now…some are even downright fearful.  How will we make it through skyrocketing inflation that’s draining our bank account?  Will I be one of the people who gets seriously ill from covid-19?  Are we on the verge of World War 3?  And, if you’re not worried about that, then there are a myriad of other things that might be stealing your joy and your hope.  Perhaps your marriage is falling apart or your kids are making poor decisions. 

The truth is that, until we get to heaven, we will all experience tough times here on earth.  And of course, Satan loves to pile on by whispering negative, hopeless thoughts into our minds when he sees that we’re struggling.  We tend to start reciting a list of complaints and fears…about people in our life, health problems, finances, the way we look, and on and on.  Instead of reflecting the love of Jesus to those around us, our facial expression portrays “woe is me”.

For a believer, that’s ridiculous!  If you’ve made Jesus your Lord, you have his protection and power at your disposal.  Your prayers are powerful!  James 5:16  “The prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective”.  And even if your prayers aren’t answered EXACTLY how you think God should, you can trust Him to redeem every hardship in your life.  I love what He tells me in Psalm 103:4 “He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion”.  When life gets discouraging…when anxiety starts eroding your hope…bring your concerns to Jesus and relax into his strong arms.  

I grasp hope and peace when I choose to trust in Jesus.  He is at work!  His ways are perfect.  Seek His perspective on all that’s happening. Ask him to help you understand what he’s doing in this challenging moment.  Ask him to redeem your seemingly hopeless situation.  He’s so creative!  He’s working behind the scenes right now. 

Reason to persevere in marriage

Are you in a season within your marriage where you’re feeling battle-weary?  Do you feel like you’ve done everything you can, you’ve prayed with everything you’ve got…and still, your husband is making choices that are extremely disappointing?  First, I want to say my heart goes out to you.  You are definitely in a desert place.  But I want to encourage you to take a different perspective.

You see, awhile back, my husband and I were talking about the ripple effect of our lives.  We may work and work to make a difference with a specific person (such as your husband), and feel greatly discouraged if we see no change.  But here’s the thing, OTHER people are watching how you’re handling this challenge in your marriage.  Perhaps you have children, and they are watching.  Maybe your mother-in-law is watching.  It could be that one of your friends is being affected by how you are dealing with this situation.  As you strive to reflect Jesus in your marriage, others are drawn to Christ.  This is the essence of Matthew 5:16 which says “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I know it’s tempting to feel defeated, but please realize that you ARE making a difference in the lives around you.  If you are respectfully, but firmly, drawing a line on immoral behavior in your marriage, you are blessing your children by providing a great role model for how a wife should act.  If your mother-in-law is an unbeliever, she may be attracted to the “Jesus” she sees in you.  Your efforts to be a shining light for Jesus do have a ripple effect….and that’s worth it!

Feeling alone in your struggle

We’re all struggling with something.  It could be your marriage or your kids or your finances or your health or the political divisiveness that is separating longtime friends!  Often when we’re in the middle of a big challenge, we can feel very alone, even if we’re surrounded by people.  It seems like no one really understands what we’re going through.  We feel all alone in the battle.

But we’re not alone!  And this is not just a Christian bumper sticker or a warm and fuzzy saying on a Christian greeting card.  As some of you know, I recently lost my husband to illness.  He was the love of my life, my companion, my best friend, my encourager, my partner in ministry, and so much more.  Talk about feeling alone when he departed this earth!

For several months, I grieved, and that is totally appropriate and necessary.  That grief turned even more heavy when I realized I was all alone.  I might have family and friends, but I had lost my constant companion and best friend and partner in life.  But then I sensed God bringing to mind some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples.  In Matthew 28:20 he told his disciples something HUGE!  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  

God was reminding me that Jesus is truly with me…every day…in every struggle…during my reflective morning coffee time to my search for guidance during the middle of a struggle.  He is my constant companion.   I’m finding that in the middle of a challenge, the question has changed from “What should I do?”  to “What should WE do, Jesus?”   I’m even inviting Jesus to join me during mundane tasks and grocery shopping and an afternoon walk.  He is always with me.  I’m not alone.  Is it time to invite Jesus to be your constant companion?

** or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO BELOW

How to refresh your weary soul

Are you feeling weary, discouraged or burdened?  Perhaps you’re feeling frustrated with others or even yourself.  This remedy might seem strange, but God says that when we meditate on His principles and begin applying them in our lives, our souls will be refreshed!  Psalm 19:7-8 says “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Maybe your soul is weary or discouraged because you’ve been trying to handle difficult people and circumstances with your own wisdom.  Maybe it’s time to search out God’s wisdom instead.  For instance, if you are depressed about your husband’s continuing verbal abuse toward you and your children, maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for dealing with someone who is sinning against you.  You might want to read Matthew 18:15-17.  

Perhaps you’re dealing with a rebellious child who isn’t responding to your explanations about why he or she should listen to you.  Maybe your soul will be refreshed as you read God’s instructions for molding your children into people of character.  You might want to read Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” 

If you’re in the pit of despair…

In your marriage and in all your relationships, you will face challenges.  In response to those challenges, 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.

Maybe the Lord is planning to answer your prayers in a way that will blow your mind!  When I’m in a time of discouragement or challenge, I like to give my concern to God in prayer and then encourage myself by saying this…”I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!!!”

Are you missing out on your life?

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!

** or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW