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Archive for the ‘Worry’ Category

More than 1,000 miles east of the Philippines lies the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of earth’s oceans—so deep it reaches into the earth farther than Mount Everest reaches into the sky.  That’s more than 36,000 feet, or close to seven miles.

Not even today’s sophisticated submarines can submerge to that depth without imploding from the pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch–the equivalent of a full-grown elephant standing on your big toe.

But in 2014 oceanographers constructed a cube-shaped basket, attached it to cables, and dropped it into the depths of the trench.  The descent took four hours. 

They left the basket in place for twenty-four hours, to gather data by camera and hopefully collect samples of life—if it existed at all in such inhospitable conditions.

At the end of twenty-four hours, they used acoustic signals to release the weights that had caused the basket to fall.   With the help of flotation devices, it then rose to the surface.  Against all odds, here is what the scientists found in the trap:

The new species of fish, about eleven inches long, received the name Mariana Snailfish.

Video revealed their activity in the depths—swimming, tail-swishing, foraging—what you’d expect from healthy fish.  They appeared to be perfectly content, unfazed by the bone-crushing pressure of the water around them.

So how do they survive?

God has especially equipped them.  For example, instead of bones snailfish skeletons are made of cartilage that can withstand pressure. These fish also produce certain fatty acids that help cell membranes stay flexible. Even at the molecular level, the muscles of the Mariana Snailfish contain certain enzymes that help them flourish at the bottom of the ocean.

In addition, scientists believe the following characteristics also contribute to their survival: big stomachs,  transparent skin, thinner muscles, and incompletely closed skulls. 

Just as the Mariana Snailfish can withstand extreme physical pressure, we can endure extreme mental, emotional and spiritual pressure—with God’s special equipping.

First, he’ll gladly help us develop resiliency—the ability to handle significant sources of stress. The snailfish manifests several characteristics in the physical realm that can be applied in the spiritual.

A Big Appetite

The large stomach reminds us that those who have a big appetite for God’s truth in the Bible also tend to be survivors; they’re strengthened to withstand the pressures of life.

Abraham Lincoln was just such a person, enduring great pressure from politicians, the press, and the burden of civil war.  He had this to say about scripture:

Transparency

This quality reminds us to be transparent about our concerns–before God and a few good friends. Just telling someone else about our stresses has been proven by researchers to reduce anxiety—a truth scripture has taught all along.[1]

It’s worth noting that just as the Mariana Snailfish lives completely at peace in the midst of physical pressure, we can live completely at peace in the midst of emotional stress as God frees us from worry and trusted, grace-filled friends support and encourage.[2]

Flexibility

These fish are also examples of flexibility—deep down at the cellular level.  You’ve probably heard the maxim, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”  The flexible person will look to God for the adjustments needed to handle the pressures of life  and search out his guidance for how to cope.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, would have us remember:

If we allow the stresses of life to accomplish the latter, they will not only be survivable, they will be accompanied by the deep contentment of nearness to God.[3]

Notes:

[1] Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

[2] James 1:2-4; Philippians 4:6-7; Proverbs 12:25

[3] Philippians 4:11-13; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1

Sources:

  1. https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/11/28/theres-a-deeper-fish-in-the-sea/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01158-x
  3. https://theconversation.com/the-deepest-dwelling-fish-in-the-sea-is-small-pink-and-delicate-88991
  4. https://www.natureasia.com/en/research/highlight/12923

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.pxfuel.com and http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.maxpixel.net.

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In the cool of morning two weeks ago, I sat on our deck before the sun had cleared the distant trees–much less those close by.   Below, the creek bed of lush foliage loomed dark and still, but above me birds chattered happily while one lone cardinal out-sang them all.  Thankfully the cicadas hadn’t started their ruckus yet.

a bit later in the morning

From several blocks away, commuter traffic already rumbled, and high in the sky the occasional jet roared northward.  Yet the serenity of my immediate surroundings superseded the extraneous noise.

And I sensed God saying to me:

Breathe in the stillness, in spite of traffic din and aircraft drone. 

I’m referring to the serenity you feel in your spirit because of what you see around you:  quiet trees unmoved by breeze, the tranquil creek bed, and the peaceful yard to the east where golden light silently presses against deep shadow—portraits of stillness in spite of the noise.

Be mindful that, as the sun faithfully turns darkness into day, my face shines faithfully upon you with the golden light of peace (1).  I push back the shadows of worry and fear while the noise in the world clamors around you—political factions arguing against one another, loud voices contending for self-serving agendas, terrorists, criminals, and thugs wreaking havoc, and more (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

Learn from the birds and woodland creatures who find refuge in the thick foliage of bush and tree. You too can find refuge—in me.  In fact, peace grows in direct proportion to time spent with me (2).

Picture yourself surrounded by my protective, calming presence and affirm:

  • I will never stop caring for you or supplying your every need (3)
  • I will never leave you to struggle alone (4)
  • I will never fail you, no matter how the future unfolds (5)

Focus the eyes of your spirit on such promises. Feel their truths calm your heart (6).

Even as the noise of this world grows louder because the end of time draws near, breathe in such peace-generating realities often.  Let them usher you into my Presence, surround you with comfort, and encourage your soul (7).

I long for you to live within the tranquility and protection of my Presence.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    

Thank you, Father, for even wanting to be my shelter. Thank you for your loving care expressed in countless ways over the decades.

I know you are trustworthy. I praise you for your unfailing love that will see me through whatever the future holds. In addition, you will provide quiet refuge within my spirit where I can rest in you.

Help me keep focused on you, to live in the shelter of your love no matter the noise of the world.

(1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 32:10;

Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 119:114)

Notes:

  1. Numbers 6:24-26
  2. Isaiah 26:3
  3. Philippians 4:19
  4. Isaiah 41:10
  5. Hebrews 13:5c
  6. Psalm 119:50b
  7. Psalm 119:165

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; www. heartlight.org.

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If you happen to visit the Cincinnati Zoo tiger exhibit at just the right time, you’ll get to watch the enormous cats walk right past the observation glass. Then you’ll realize how massive they are, with heads the size of beach balls and paws the size of saucers. Our zoo’s Malayan species aren’t even the largest.

 

 

The Siberian tiger wins that distinction, growing to eleven feet from head to tail, and weighing as much as 660 pounds. Their canine teeth are longer than any other predator—up to three inches in length.

 

 

Experts say if a Siberian tiger and grizzly bear ever battled one another, the tiger would win. They are stronger, more muscular and agile, more active and aggressive than any other mammal. Tigers epitomize fierceness, intensity, strength, and power.

You may be wondering, why all the tiger talk? Because they can teach us a thing or two about getting ferocious ourselves. And what do we need to get ferocious about? Our fears. These days we have plenty to worry about:

  • The COVID death rate, perhaps to rise again during the winter months
  • The financial future of family and friends who’ve lost jobs or businesses
  • The future of those American cities plagued by violence
  • The upcoming election—likely contested—and its serious implications for the future of our nation
  • Troubling situations on the world scene

But how do we get ferocious against such fears? Here’s a strategy that might not readily come to mind: GRATITUDE.

 

 

To some that might seem silly. Gratitude sounds like a pretty weak strategy against fear. And who would choose the adjective ferocious to describe gratitude?

But Ann Voskamp firmly states from her own experience:  “It is impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear” (1). Why? Because thanksgiving teaches us to trust.

So how do we get ferocious with our gratitude? By fierce attentiveness throughout the day, pouncing enthusiastically on every small blessing that presents itself:

  • Sunbeams turning floorboards into burnished gold
  • Raindrops-become-rubies on a backyard bush

 

 

  • A close encounter with one of God’s creatures—a soul-delight if ever there was one
  • Discovering family members among the contacts of the day—members of the family of God, that is—and sharing a word of blessing

Those are examples of what we could call grizzly-bear-gratitude—fiercely seeking out moments of joy even in the midst of trouble or pain. I suppose we could compare such a search to a bear’s quest for honey, even amidst bee stings!

 

 

And then there’s ferocious-as-a-tiger gratitude—the toughest, most intense kind of gratitude there is, but the most impactful over fear. Are you ready to get really ferocious? Thank God for those troubling and painful situations.

 

“When we thank God for sorrowful intruders,

frustrating circumstances, or maddening relationships,

we are indicating to God that we trust him

to work out in our lives that which is best for us.”

–Valerie Bell (2)

 

When we exercise that kind of fierceness, fear will slink away.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, O God, for giving us the wherewithal to battle fear. May we become ferocious fighters knowing that, even while traversing the darkest valley, you are working out your perfect purpose through it, and the other side is radiant with your glory.

(Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:28; L. B. Cowman (3)

 

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 203.
  2. A Well-Tended Soul, Zondervan, 1996, p. 105.
  3. Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reiman, Zondervan, 1997, March 14.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (Paul Everett); http://www.wikimedia.org (Greg Hume); http://www.wikimedia.com (Rolph Dietrich Brecher);  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixaby.com.

 

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While perusing old photos, I came across this one, taken when our middle granddaughter was a toddler.

 

 

E. loved to be buried under those pillows, then explode out of them like a jack-in-the-box.  She’d stand tall with arms stretched toward the ceiling, and look up at me with triumph—all while giggling with delight.

It occurred to me: what if all those pillows represented our fears about the coronavirus? Our worries for family and friends? Our anxiety about losing income?   Our uncertainty of how long self-isolation might continue? Our apprehensions about the economy and the added debt we’re accruing?

Altogether these concerns may appear to be a heavy, insurmountable burden. But just like E. under her pillows, we can cast off our anxiety, stand tall, and look up in triumph.

How?

We can cast off worry with prayer and gratitude.

When the realization dawns that we’re buried in worry, our best tactic is to follow Paul’s instructions in Philippians 4:6-7. You’re probably familiar with these verses already. Now might be a good time for us to post them around the house–even memorize them:

 

 

Did you notice the word thanksgiving sandwiched in the middle there? Now why would God consider that important?

Because gratitude expresses trust in him. It’s an affirmation that God is always at work, bringing hope out of despair, joy out of sadness, and peace out of turmoil (1).

It’s not that gratitude takes away our difficulties, but it does transform us for the better in the midst of them (2).

We can stand tall in Christ’s strength.

Let’s admit it. We’re weak. But the omnipotent One of the universe is our Heavenly Father. And what has he promised? First, he never assigns an overload, and second, his strength equips us for all circumstances (3).

With such firm promises as those to bolster our confidence, we do possess the wherewithal to stand tall.

We can look up in faith.

Way up–to Jesus. And where does he sit? In the highest place, at the right hand of God (4).

He is:

  • Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)
  • Head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:10)
  • Ruler over all (Colossians 1:17)

 

 

Our circumstances can change overnight. One day we’re free to come and go as we please; the next day we’re self-isolating except to pick up necessities or handle emergencies.

But Jesus is our never-changing Hope. If we habitually make him our focal point, we’ll never walk in the darkness of ignorance and fear (5).

“Worry looks around but faith looks up.

—Barbara Johnson (6)

Years ago, I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks (7) tell about this exchange:

He asked one of his students how he was doing, and the young man replied, “Well, under the circumstances, I suppose I’m doing alright.”

Dr. Hendrick’s response must have caught the student off-guard.

“Under the circumstances? What are you doing under there?”

Those words have stayed with me through the decades, reminding me that under the circumstances—buried beneath fear and apprehensionis not where I belong, as a believer in Jesus, and it’s not where I want to live either. I’m guessing you feel the same.

Let’s determine to put our energy into casting off our burdens with prayer and gratitude, standing tall in Christ’s strength, and looking up consistently with faith.

 

 

And then let’s add a flourish of joy—just like E. with her squeals and giggles as the pillows tumbled.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, O God, for the joy of your comforting presence, your residing power enabling us to persevere, your hope-filled promises, and the joy that results from contemplating your magnificence. Thank you for providing the way to triumph through our Savior and your Son, Jesus.  AMEN.

(Psalm 16:11; James 1:2-3; Psalm 119:162;

Psalm 92:4; Psalm 126:3, 1 Corinthians 15:57)

Notes:

  1. John 15:7; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 126:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:16
  2. David Vryhof, https://www.ssje.org/monasticwisdom/gratitude/
  3. Psalm 55:22; 1 John 5:5; Philippians 4:13
  4. Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:3
  5. Hebrews 12:2; John 8:12
  6. Joyful Journey Daybreak, Perpetual Calendar, May 20
  7. Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, author and speaker (1924-2013)

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.uihere.com.

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

“Your thoughts run your life.” That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection–nor the inclination–when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to twenty and reciting the ABCs at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore; it’s accomplishing nothing. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”

                           

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, or quoting an uplifting scripture, or listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation.

For a start, the bold-print quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

“There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

“I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).  Restoration will come.

“I am never going to succeed.”

 Not true.  God says [he] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

“I have no idea how to proceed; maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

“Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?”

It is God who made me the way I am, with specific plans and purpose in mind:  to do good works according to the gifts and talents he’s given.

_________________________

If the comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

“Outlook determines outcome” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, p. 22).

(https://quotefancy.com/quote/931807/Warren-W-Wiersbe-Outlook-determines-outcome)

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the comments section below!

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com.

 

(Revised and reblogged from April 16, 2015, “Focus Determines Direction.”)

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A homeless woman slumped against the familiar brick wall of the warehouse, then grouped her plastic shopping bags snugly around her. Next she looped several bag-handles on her legs, and stretched her arms over the rest. The worry of losing to theft any of her treasured possessions kept her vigilant. Once settled, she succumbed to a fitful doze.

A man approached. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he called gently. “Are you Genevieve Bartlett?”

The woman startled awake, instinctively clutching her belongings more tightly. “What if I am?” she grumbled.

“Well, if you can answer a few questions for me, I may have some excellent news for you,” he replied calmly, recognizing that defensiveness in her position was only to be expected.

Genevieve returned his gaze with a scowl, but sat up straighter, readying herself to listen. The questions were easy: what were the names of her deceased parents and grandparents, when and where had she been born, and where had she attended school.

The man handed her his card and began to explain. “My name is Henry Lewis. I’m a lawyer, here to inform you you’re the last surviving Bartlett of your family, and you’ve just inherited fifty million dollars. If you’ll come with me, we can take care of the details at my office, and start the process of…finding a more comfortable situation for you. Would that be to your liking?”

 

 

Genevieve didn’t move for several moments. “Fifty million dollars,” she repeated slowly, and studied the lawyer’s face. Could he possibly be telling the truth? But why else would he seek her out at the warehouse?

Genevieve suddenly slipped the bag-handles off her legs, stood up, and announced, “I’m ready, let’s go!” Without even looking back, Genevieve left her shopping bags and their worthless contents on the pavement.

Out of several interpretations for this story, consider the shopping bags as representative of our fears. Don’t we sometimes hold on to them—worthless as they are—as tightly as Genevieve held on to her belongings?

But as God’s children, we possess tremendous wealth, worth much more than fifty million dollars, because “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure” (Matthew 13:44). And unlike Genevieve during her homeless days, we have access to a good part of that treasure now, if we let go of our worries and lay hold of our wealth.

 

 

So what might that treasure include?  Consider the following:

1. God’s Glorious Provision. Unlike Genevieve, we know a glorious inheritance is waiting for us.  Ours is in heaven—an inheritance so magnificent, when we arrive there, we’ll look back on our earthly lives “as an insubstantial dream from which we have happily awoken” (Austin Farrer).

2. God’s Involvement. He is always at work. Take note of his wisdom in creation, his engineering of life-circumstances, and his generosity in the blessings he bestows. God even makes joy available in the midst of trouble. 

3. God’s Sovereignty.  No doubt Mr. Lewis designed a plan for Genevieve to provide for her well-being. God too has designed a perfect and purposeful plan to accomplish much good, in the world at large and for each of us individually.  Whatever we entrust to him, he will take care of much better than we can.

 

 

4. God’s Unfailing Love.  We can leave our worries behind, as Genevieve did her shopping bags, when we dwell on the lovingkindness of God. In fact, peace of heart is guaranteed–if we keep our focus upon him. 

5. God’s Constant Presence. He is always with us—even as we wait for him to act. The attentive person recognizes his presence in the aria of a songbird, the sunbeams of a morning, the spontaneous hug of a friend.

 

 

6. God’s Kindness and Care.  Surely Genevieve marveled for the rest of her days how Mr. Lewis had changed her life.  We can draw strength and great delight from remembering God’s gracious provisions of our past.

7. God’s Powerful Word. Scripture offers indispensable comfort and encouragement, reminding us that God is our protective Shield and dependable Rock, our caring Shepherd and devoted Helper, our loving Provider and strong Confidence.

 

 

In these seven ways and more, God generously shares his inheritance with us now, giving us the opportunity to overcome anxiety with joy.   After all, every fear about our future, safety, health, suffering, death, financial woes, inadequacy, and events beyond our control are good-for-nothing baggage.

The question becomes: Will I let go of my worthless bags of worries and lay hold of my glorious inheritance?

 

 

Scripture Notes for:

  1. 1 Peter 1:3-4
  2. Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 94:19
  3. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Romans 8:28
  4. Psalm 94:17-18; Isaiah 26:3
  5. Psalm 23:4
  6. Psalm 92:4
  7. Psalm 3:3; 18:2; 23:1; 46:1; 78:23-29; Proverbs 14:26

 

(Genevieve’s story is based on an illustration from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “To Give You the Kingdom.”)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; wwww.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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Expect to find trouble in this day.

At the same time, trust that [God’s] way is perfect,

even in the midst of such messy imperfection.

—Sarah Young (1)

 

Wait a minute. Trouble and perfection sound like opposites to me. Trouble is pain; perfection is bliss. How can those two concepts possibly coexist in our experience?

Sarah didn’t answer my question, so I headed to scripture to find out how God’s way could possibly be perfect for us in the midst of trouble.

My first stop occurred in Deuteronomy 32:4. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”

 

 

And if I virtually click on a few words of that verse, the following truths reveal themselves:

  • God my Rock is utterly reliable and unshakably trustworthy
  • All of his works perfectly execute all of his plans
  • His ways reflect right judgments and highest wisdom
  • God is devoted to his children and faithful to his Word
  • All his actions are founded on absolute justice and supreme equity

But when trouble enters our lives, our Rock foundation can feel unreliable and untrustworthy. We might question the perfection of his plans, the wisdom of his ways, and the trustworthiness of his promises.

 

 

Then more than ever we must affirm: “Our inability to discern why bad things sometimes happen to us does not disprove God’s benevolence, it merely exposes our ignorance” (2).

Our finite minds cannot understand the all-wise, far-reaching, untraceable workings of a perfectly blameless and righteous God (3).

 

 

So the choice becomes ours. Will we: A) give in to worry, defeatism, and frustration, or B) seek to displace those emotions with scriptural truth and perhaps discover a better way to live?

I prefer Plan B!  I’m guessing you do too.  And a profitable place to begin is in the book of Psalms. We can collect numerous statements of God’s perfections at work on our behalf, even as we navigate through trouble.

For example, our Heavenly Father:

 

 

  • Watches over us (1:6). He knows what’s happening.
  • Gives us refuge (2:12)—not from trouble, but in the trouble.
  • Sustains us (3:5) with hope.
  • Hears us when we call to him (4:3), and is already working to bring beauty out of the ashes of adversity.

 

 

  • Fills our hearts with great joy (4:7)—despite the circumstances.
  • Encourages us (10:17) with his Word.
  • Turns our darkness into light (18:28), as he brings bright blessings out of dismal situations.
  • Arms us with strength (18:32) to endure.

 

 

  • Makes our ways perfect (18:32) as he gives us everything we need.
  • Guides us along right paths (23:3) toward maturity, serenity, and fulfillment.
  • Infuses us with peace (29:11) as we remember all things are possible with God.
  • Shows his wonderful love to us (31:21). And as we celebrate each day the manifestations of that love, our trust and contentment grow (4).

 

 

There you have it—a perfect dozen promises for troublesome times, gleaned from the first thirty-one chapters of just one biblical book. Many more are tucked within the pages of our Bibles, waiting to be discovered and embraced.

But worry, confusion, and discouragement don’t easily give up front-and-center attention in our minds. We must continually replace such thoughts with statements of faith, reminding ourselves: “The God who made us can equip us for the road ahead, even if it is an unpleasant road” (5).

 

 

After all, he’s in the driver’s seat, he has an impeccable driving record, and he deeply desires to accompany us toward our destination in heaven—to perfectly protect us, counsel us, and guide us safely all the way home–even through trouble.

 

P.S.  An update on my husband, Steve:  Many of you know he is fighting liver cancer right now.  Next week he will undergo another chemo treatment and radiation.  Our prayer is these procedures will eradicate the last tumor and no more will develop before he receives a transplant, perhaps early winter.  Thank you again for your love, support, encouragement, and prayer.  We are cocooned in God’s peace!

 

Notes:

(1) Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, 2004 p. 160.

(2) Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? and Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith, Zondervan, 2003, p. 46.

(3) Romans 11:33-36.

(4) The following twelve scriptures provide further support: Psalm 139:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Romans 15:13; Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 94:19; Psalm 119:50; Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:13; 2 Peter 1:3-4; James 1:2-4; Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:4, 12.

(5) Karol Ladd, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, Howard Books, 2009, p. 47.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.ymi.today; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net’ http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr (Chris Bartnik); http://www.geograph.org.uk.

 

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Recently I read about a woman named Rachel, persevering through very difficult circumstances. She knew that praising God was a smart strategy to implement.  Praise invites his presence, and it is in God’s presence we can experience absolute joy (Psalm 16:11)—even in the midst of trouble.

But putting praise into practice proved challenging. Her situation wanted front and center attention; her mind kept returning to the worry and what-ifs.

Rachel decided to make her morning swim a time of praise. For each letter of the alphabet, she tried to name a descriptor of God’s goodness while she lapped the pool.

Her tactic worked. Focusing on praise first thing in the morning helped to establish a positive frame of mind, easing stress and worry for the rest of the day (1).

 

 

The author did not include Rachel’s list. I had to wonder: Could I name twenty-six facets of God’s goodness, each beginning with a different letter and affirmed by scripture?

The effort turned out to be a delightful, uplifting exercise.  Below is my alphabet of praise.

Our God is:

A – Attentive to every need of every person in his realm (Matthew 6:25-33)

B – Benevolent beyond our dreams (Ephesians 3:20-21)

C – Compassionate toward those who are hurting (Psalm 86:15)

D – Dependable to support, sustain, and keep us secure (Psalm 55:22)

 

 

E – Eager for all to know and understand truth, to receive his gift of eternal life (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

F – Faithful through all generations, as enduring as the earth he created (Psalm 119:90)

G – Gentle in his guidance and care for his children (Isaiah 40:11)

H – Honoring us (!) with all needful favor in this life and admittance to glory in the world to come (Psalm 84:11 and Barnes Commentary)

I – Impartial to all who come to him, no matter our circumstance or appearance (Romans 2:11; Psalm 145:8-9)

 

 

J – Just in all his ways, choosing what is exactly right (Isaiah 5:16)

K – Kind, considerate, and helpful as he continually demonstrates his caring nature (Jeremiah 9:24)

L – Loving to the extreme; sending his Son to the cross as the supreme sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10)

M – Merciful beyond belief, exchanging our shame for his glory when we turn to him (Ephesians 2:4-7)

N – Never-failing to accomplish his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

 

 

O – Omnipotent over every event, every circumstance (Psalm 103:19)

P – Patient to refine us, day by day, into the best version of ourselves (Philippians 1:6)

Q – Qualified to rectify or redeem any situation (Matthew 19:26)

R – Righteous and perfect in all his ways (Psalm 145:17)

 

 

S – Sheltering us under his powerful, protective wings (Psalm 57:1)

T – Tender yet practical in his continual thoughts of each of us (Psalm 139:17-18, 32:8)

U – Understanding of our foibles and weaknesses (Psalm 103:14)

V – Victorious over all sorrow, crying, pain—even death—when Jesus returns (Revelation 21:4)

 

 

W – Wise beyond human understanding (Romans 11:33-36)

X – X-pert at all he does (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Y – Yearning for all his children to come home to him (2 Peter 3:9)

Z – Zealous to fill us with hope, joy, and peace (Romans 15:13)

 

 

And this is just a sampling of who our God is!

Think of it: ALL that we need is found in ALL that he is.

 

“With the goodness of God

to desire our highest welfare,

the wisdom of God to plan it,

and the power of God to achieve it,

what do we lack?”

—A. W. Tozer

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Help me, O God, to soar on wings of praise, even in the storms of life. May I keep my eyes on you, my sovereign and powerful Heavenly Father, in whom I can wholly trust. Hallelujah!

 

(1) ______, God’s Little Lessons on Life, Honor Books, 2001.

 

What facets of God’s goodness would you add to the list?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.peterson.af.mil; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.)

 

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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‘Ever drive on a highway carved out of a mountainside or high hill where craggy cliffs border each side? Signs along the way warn drivers: Beware of falling rocks.

 

 

I wonder how much good those signs accomplish. Is it really possible to stop in time, should a rock come plummeting down the hillside right in front of your car?

When falling rocks do cause accidents, insurance companies usually categorizes the event as an “act of God.” It’s considered an unavoidable natural disaster that no amount of cautionary measures could have prevented.

Not that God would deliberately cause such an accident. Every good gift comes from him (James 1:17).  But he has set into motion certain natural consequences and laws that govern his creation. Erosion and gravity would be two examples at play in the case of falling rocks.

So what are we supposed to do when the road from Point A to Point B includes potential danger? (And doesn’t it always?)

 

 

For that matter, what are we supposed to do when the road of life includes potential danger? (Again, doesn’t it always?)

Many of us allow worry to niggle in our minds:

  • How many rocks do you suppose have fallen along this stretch already?
  • Does the Corps of Engineers check regularly for erosion?
  • Is that jutting rock up ahead breaking loose?
  • What’s up with that pile of rocks by the side of the road? That can’t be a good sign.

How do we steer clear of such thoughts? A good way to begin:

 

 

  1. Replace fearful thoughts with faith-filled thoughts.

“The only happy way to deal with [falling rocks and other such adversities] is the way of faith: faith in the purposes of God, in the presence of God, in the promises of God, and in the power of God” (Peter Marshall*).

  1. Affirm that God does indeed have loving purpose in it all. 

Even when rocks fall?

Yes, because God is sovereign (Psalm 103:19) and God is good (Psalm 145:9). Many saints through the ages have endured pain, suffering, and calamity, yet came to understand that God accomplished positive purpose(s) through it all.

 

 

Just one such saint out of many: Elizabeth Elliot.  Perhaps you already know the story. Her young husband, Jim, was one of five missionaries brutally murdered by Auca Indians in Ecuador, 1956. Their daughter was just ten months old. Yet Elizabeth was able to write this:

“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.”

And no doubt, those two realities in Elizabeth’s life, the presence of God and the love of God, were precious treasures indeed.

In addition, hundreds of young men and women vowed to become missionaries as a result of the example and inspiration of those five young martyrs.  Most amazing of all, numerous members of the Auca tribe eventually became Christians, including the killers of Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries with him.  (You can read more of the incredible story here.)

 

  1. Decide like the Apostle Paul: the only thing that really matters is exalting Jesus (Philippians 1:19-21).

 

 

And exalting Jesus can be achieved in any circumstance.

 

  1. Understand that tests and challenges are “sheer gifts” (James 1:3 MSG).

Why? The testing of faith develops perseverance. And perseverance leads to maturity and strength of character (vs. 3-4).

I like the sound of that: maturity and strength of character. So when I’m the victim of falling rocks and start to give in to self-pity, worry, or complaining, please remind me of these principles.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Thank you, Father, for providing the way of faith on the treacherous road of life.  We can trust your purpose for all things, your presence in all situations, your scripture promises of hope and comfort, and your power to see us through.  Hallelujah!

 (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 13:5b; Psalm 145:13; Matthew 19:26b)

 

(1) Author, pastor, and chaplain of the United States Senate in the late 1940s.

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com (2); http://www.pexels.com & Nancy Ruegg;  http://www.inspirationalchristians.org; http://www.pixabay.com & Nancy Ruegg.)

 

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