Try this when discouraged

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.

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 multiple-choicing God?

I don’t know about you, but I fall into a really crazy and unproductive pattern when I seek God for advice and direction.  I intend to be a good listener, but instead of quieting myself and really straining for God to speak to me through his Holy Spirit, I keep….talking!  In fact, one second after I ask God the question “What should I do about …..?”, I start mulling over the options.  My thoughts start ricocheting in my head and after a few minutes, I feel like I’ve boiled down the choices to 3 or 4 options for God to choose from. Yikes! 

The other day I found myself doing this again.  This time, however, I heard God speak a word of correction (or what some might call rebuke!).  I heard him say “Why are you multiple-choicing me?”  He reminded me that He doesn’t need me to lay out options from which to choose.  He reminded me that, often, his answer or direction is not even listed among my multiple-choice options!  I heard him whisper to my spirit, “What if my answer is “e” and you have only given me A-D from which to choose?”

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that I need to do less talking and more listening. This is the essence of James 1:19  “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”

By the way, one tip that has helped me quiet my thoughts so I can actually hear the Lord’s whisper of guidance is this:  Close your eyes and envision being with the Lord. (I like to envision walking beside him in a beautiful meadow next to a quiet stream).  Then, while your mind is occupied with that vision, ask your question.  Within a few moments, I usually sense Him whispering a word to me, or giving me a vision, or bringing a Bible verse to mind that will guide me.

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If desperate for guidance or help

Are you in the middle of a really difficult challenge in your marriage or in some area of your life?  Are you consumed with worry or outright fear about the future?  It’s at those times in our lives that we need to press into prayer in a more earnest way.  Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, we see that when God’s people were extremely troubled or worried or bewildered, they sought God with every fiber of their being by…fasting. 

What is a fast?  It’s a time where you go without some types of food or all food for a specific period of time in which you seek God with your whole heart.  Sometimes, people give up something other than food, such as media.   I remember a time when I fasted from all food for 3 days as I earnestly sought God’s counsel regarding a relationship.  At the very end of that fast, God gave me a vision that made my path very clear.  Praise God!

In Ezra 8, we read that the Israelites fasted and implored God for a safe journey through enemy territory and Ezra says, “God listened to our entreaty“.  Is it time for you to enter a time of earnest prayer and fasting of some type?  Please consult your doctor if you have health issues that could be adversely affected by fasting from food, but otherwise, fasting may be just what you need for a breakthrough in prayer!

God won’t waste your suffering

No one really embraces heartbreak or suffering.  We usually do everything we can to avoid it, and we often complain to God when He doesn’t put an end to it at our first request.  But maybe he is allowing the suffering for a really good reason.  Maybe He has purpose even when he allows us to experience disappointment or even heartbreak.

I think of several stories from the Bible.  Joseph’s story in Genesis, chapters 37-50, is a prime example.  Even though Joseph endured great suffering for many years as he wrongly spent time in prison, God had a masterful plan he was executing behind the scenes….a plan that would involve Joseph rising to great power in Egypt and helping his family gain food during a famine in Israel.  I also think of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  They were beaten and thrown into prison, but God later miraculously freed them from prison and their story inspired many to follow Christ.

The Bible reveals that there is purpose in suffering and heartbreak.  Romans 5:3-5 says “…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.”   So, perhaps instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or feeling anger toward God, maybe you and I should choose to trust God even in the midst of heartbreak.  Maybe we should ask God to use our suffering to build our character.  God won’t waste your heartbreak.  He will use it to do something beautiful.

God can use you to sculpt your husband

If you and your husband are followers of Jesus, then you are both being sculpted.  The Bible says in Isaiah 64:8  “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  God is molding and shaping us each and every day.

God uses many tools to shape us.  He sometimes allows us to make foolish decisions and then experience the natural consequences of those decisions.  Hopefully, we learn something valuable from those painful lessons!  But when it comes to your husband, God has another powerful tool in his tool belt…you!  As a wife, you have the unique ability to encourage your man.  You can choose to be the voice that points out his good qualities.  When you do that, most husbands seem to grow 2 inches taller.  Your words of encouragement often become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy for your man.  As you affirm his good character qualities, talents, and spiritual gifts, he feels emboldened to step into those things with more confidence and vigor.

God may even want to use you as a tool to lovingly but firmly confront your husband if he is entrenched in a pattern of sin.  You know your husband better than anyone else, so you’re the one who will likely notice if he is caught in a sinful pattern.  Pray and ask God if he wants you to have a loving conversation with your husband about that sin pattern.  Does God want you to request your husband see a counselor, attend a 12-step group, meet with the pastor, join a men’s ministry?  Does the Lord want you to draw a firm boundary with your husband, thereby putting pressure on him to do whatever it takes to get free from this sin?  (Read Matthew 18:15-17 for more guidance on this)

Will you be a tool in God’s tool belt?  Pray and ask the Lord to show you if and how he wants you to be a tool!

How to develop true love for God

Many Christians are familiar with the verses in Matthew 22:37-38 where Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment.   Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 

Well, I’ve been asked lately about how to develop this actual love for God.  You see, it’s very difficult to truly love someone you’ve never experienced.  You and I must experience the Lord’s power and love for ourselves in order to truly fall in love with Him.  Otherwise, we have head knowledge from the Bible, but no heart knowledge!

Looking back at my own journey with Christ, I realized that I’ve grown to truly love Him as I earnestly sought His help through prayer and then saw Him answer those prayers in loving and powerful ways. I experienced God!

 So I urge you to begin seeking the Lord with your whole heart.  Come to Him with your deepest needs, but make sure you’ve done your best to obey Him first.  After all, God says in James 5:16 that the “prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”.  So, in other words, God powerfully responds to the person who truly seeks to obey His commands and follow His promptings.  After you’ve done all you can do to obey the Lord, pray earnestly for His help.  When He shows up, take notice!  God just connected with you and allowed you to experience His love, power and help!  Now, you have heart knowledge of the Lord!

3 questions to ask when discouraged

Sometimes, we feel like we’ve reached the end of our rope!  You may be discouraged because you’ve been praying for God to change your husband’s attitude or behavior, and it’s just not happening.  You may be discouraged because you hoped your children would turn out a certain way, and they seem to be making bad decisions.  You may be discouraged because you’ve been searching for a new job and you can’t find one that fits your abilities and availability.  Now what?

Well, first, don’t give up praying.  In Luke 18:1, the Bible says…”Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”  So, keep asking God for a miracle.   However, maybe it’s time to put on a new set of glasses.  Maybe you’ve been insisting that God do what YOU think is best, instead of praying that God’s perfect will be done.  Now is the time to ask God to reveal his perspective on this issue.  Why don’t you ask him these 3 questions, and then spend some quiet time listening for his response:

1)  Lord, can you help me to see this situation through your eyes?

2)  How are you trying to change me or teach me through this situation?

3)  Is there a lie the enemy is trying to get me to believe about this situation?

The good news during 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!

3 ways to get your joy back

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”).  Don’t allow him to take you down!

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.”)

Do you have an “impossible” situation?

Does your husband have a destructive addiction? Do you have a serious problem with self-control yourself?  Are you and your husband arguing so much that you’re not sure your marriage will survive?  There are some practical things you can do about all the above scenarios, but more than likely, what you really need is a miracle.  You need God to supernaturally intervene to change hearts, expose schemes of the enemy, and fill both of you with the Holy Spirit so that you are radically changed.  The good news is He can do all that!

Your part in all this is to pray…earnestly, without ceasing, and with total faith in the power of Jesus Christ to perform a miracle!  It really is critical for you to trust in the power of God to do the impossible!   In fact, when Jesus walked this earth, he was unable to do miracles of healing in towns where there was too much unbelief!  (Mark 6:5-6)

I have seen God perform modern-day miracles, and I know he can do a miracle in your marriage.  Here are 2 verses that may encourage you to pray with great faith. Matthew 21:22 says “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  And in Matthew 9:29, as Jesus is about to heal some blind men, He says, “According to your faith, will it be done to you.”