Tag Archive | Faith

Handling Stress with Prayer and Thankfulness

This Tuesday was a very stressful day for our family. Our special needs son David was having problems that appeared frightfully like what happened to him last summer during Hurricane Harvey.

First, on Sunday we noticed his tube feedings were leaving large residuals – undigested formula in his stomach – forcing us to either delay or totally skip feedings. This was also our first sign last August that David was getting sick.

Next, Monday afternoon we noticed some mild congestion, which could easily be cleared away with suctioning. But Tuesday morning this was no longer true. The congestion was much worse, it was causing David’s oxygen saturation levels to drop dangerously low, and while extensive suctioning by David’s nurses would get him clear for a short time, a few minutes later the congestion would be back.

This was beginning to look like a repeat of last summer, when David was so ill that we were in a major battle to save his life.

The world doesn’t give us any real, lasting solutions to the major stresses and strains of life, like those I have walked through this week. But God’s Word does. One of my favorite Scriptures on the subject:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

These verses give us two keys to turning anxiety (and the fear often associated with it) into peace.

  1. Prayer and petition, presenting our requests to God. 
  2. Giving thanks to God in the midst of the difficult situation.

Notice, prayer isn’t presenting our DEMANDS to God. True prayer is an act of humbling ourselves before the Lord, recognizing our own weakness in the situation and inability to do anything to change it, and turning to God for help. He truly is bigger than even the biggest problem we might be facing.

My time of prayer included honestly sharing my fears with God but also reminding myself of the character of God, of His love and compassion, His power and strength to work in what we were facing for our good and His glory. No, my emotions didn’t immediately change, but I had an inner confidence that God was at work.

My time of thanksgiving – which actually wasn’t one time but several times throughout the day – was marked by focusing on how this situation was different from what we went through last August and how God was working to help us.

First, I thanked God that we were not in the middle of a major hurricane and cut off from medical help. That the two nurses most skilled in David’s medical care were on duty, helping us through this challenging day. That we had an army of prayer warriors supporting us in this battle, both locally and online.

And when we learned that David’s doctor wanted him to be taken to a certain hospital emergency room, one that the ambulance drivers would not be legally able to go to if his condition worsened during transport because it wasn’t the closest facility, I prayed for God to make a way for him to get where we had been told to take him and thanked Him when He did. These are just a few of the things I brought to God through prayer with thanksgiving in the midst of the day.

With access to God’s Word and prayer, we are not powerless when stressful situations touch our lives. We are not left to our own resources. The resources of the God of the universe are available to us. But we must be purposeful in taking hold of the resources He has provided. Honest, humble prayer and giving thanks to God in the midst of the fear and uncertainty are two keys the Lord has given us to open the door to perfect peace.

Today (Wednesday), I’m walking in God’s peace, even though yesterday’s trip to the ER confirmed our son David does have pneumonia. Today I’m giving thanks that we learned what was going on while the pneumonia was still relatively mild, that the ER doctor gave David one dose of IV antibiotics to begin treating the illness and prescribed oral antibiotics to continue treatment, and that he decided home treatment by the people who best know our son was the best option. The battle still isn’t over, but we are already seeing some improvement. And today God brought a couple familiar verses to mind, verses I have been holding onto, lifting up to God in prayer, and thanking Him for.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Are you currently facing a stressful circumstance? If so, try using these two keys of heartfelt, trusting prayer and giving thanks to God in the midst of the situation to open the door to PERFECT PEACE today. Even if your situation doesn’t immediately change, the gift of God’s peace will strengthen you to keep moving forward.

 

Advertisements

Entering the Trail to True Freedom

Today is a special day in the United States of America, the birthday of our nation and the day we focus on the liberty and freedom God has blessed us with as a nation. But there is an even more essential freedom than political freedom.

As I was reading today in Breaking Free, by Beth Moore, I was reminded that the key to true freedom is knowing Jesus Christ personally. As Beth says, “Christ is the only entrance to the freedom trail.”

John 8: 36 expresses the truth so clearly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

One of the most beautiful elements of salvation is its simplicity. Christ has already done all the work on the cross. Your response includes four elements:

  1. Recognize that you are a sinner and that there is nothing you can do to save yourself.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and only He can save you.
  3. Believe that His death on the Cross paid the penalty for your sin, that He died on your behalf
  4. Surrender your life to Him and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord.

If you do not know Christ personally, there is no better time to make that decision than today. If you already know Christ, is your relationship distant, close and personal, or somewhere in the middle? Knowing Christ begins with an initial decision, but growing in our knowledge of Him is an on-going process. My prayer for this day our nation turns it’s focus on freedom is that each of you will experience the freedom that comes from personally knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and growing daily in your knowledge of Him.

Peace with God & the Peace of God

During this second full week of our Perfect Peace Bible Reading Plan, two verses stood out to me (all verses from ESV).

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭

Jesus Christ is the one described by the prophet Isaiah as the Prince of Peace.

We live in a world filled with war and violence. Peace is sought but often fleeting in both world politics and human hearts. So how is Jesus the Prince of Peace?

The Hebrew word shalom, translated peace in this verse and many other verses in the Old Testament, goes beyond our normal understanding of peace. It speaks of a complete peace, a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony. The calm and tranquility that are characteristic of this kind of peace can be between individuals, groups, or nations.

As Jesus went around and ministered to the needy, He demonstrated He had the authority to bring peace. One vivid example comes to mind. As Jesus and His disciples were in a boat, a storm arose. The disciples became fearful, even awakening Jesus from sleep and accusing Him of not caring if they perished, but with His words Jesus stilled the storm. “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark‬ ‭4:39‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yet Luke 12:51 tells us Jesus did not come to give peace on earth. The peace He primarily came to give was an inner peace in the lives of individuals like you and me. A peace that we can experience regardless of what is going on around us.

As He said in John 16:33, He came“… that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

This deeper, more foundational peace for those who believe in Jesus Christ is twofold:

  1. Jesus came to make a way for us to have peace with God, the spiritual harmony brought about in each individual’s life when they believe in Jesus as the substitutionary sacrifice for their sin.
  2. Jesus also came to give those who put their trust in Him access to the peace of God, His own peace, poured out on us when we ask.

We have peace with God if at some point in our life we accepted Christ’s sacrifice as our own. We received forgiveness for our sin and our relationship with God, once broken by sin, was restored. This is described in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace with God is a constant in the life of a believer in Christ Jesus. It is an eternal peace.

In contrast, the peace of God is something we must take hold of by faith on an ongoing basis. It can be disturbed any time we turn out focus on our circumstances and off of the God who is ultimately in control of our circumstances. This peace is one of the fruits of the spirit which God desires to manifest in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23) It is the inner sense of rest we experience when instead of giving place to fear and anxiety, we come to God and ask His help. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7)‬ ‭

 

img_6430So how do we take hold of and continue in this peace of God that allows us to walk undisturbed within regardless of the storms howling around us. There are four keys that come to mind.

  • Recognize the peace of God is one of the fruits of the Spirit, not something we can manufacture in our own strength,
  • Remember the way God has given us to take hold of His peace, by humbly bringing our requests to Him by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.
  • Remain in the place of perfect peace by steadfastly keeping our focus on the character and promises of our God.
  • Finally, if in our human weakness we allow our focus to shift back on our troubling circumstances, repent and once again turn our eyes on God, committing our circumstances afresh into His capable hands.

 

 

Perfect Peace Is Found In Jesus

Last Friday I started this month’s topical Bible reading study by Rachel Wojo, entitled Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus. Today, I want to share a few insights I’ve gained from the Scriptures through this week’s study.

Life is full of of peace-stealers, of people and circumstances which in the natural definitely do not lead to peace. Today’s reading in Psalm 120 is an example.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” Psalm‬ ‭120:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

So what do we do when we find ourselves around people who by their lifestyle show a hatred for peace? Or when we face stressful circumstances that take away our peace? There’s only one answer, and it’s given in verse 1 of this Psalm: turn to the Lord in our distress, and cry out to Him. He cares about what we are going through, and He will answer us.

Walking in peace – especially in circumstances or relationships that do not promote peace – requires a purposeful decision. Much of the battle for peace is waged in our minds, so we need to learn to take our thoughts captive in obedience to the Word of God. Lies need to be replaced with truth.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬ ‭

Next, walking in peace requires power beyond our own. God has not left us to our own resources in this decision to walk in peace. Jesus is our source of peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭

There is only one requirement to receive this peace Jesus offers us, and that is us being IN CHRIST. That simply means we have accepted His sacrifice on the cross as payment in full for our own sin. Because of faith in Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven and brought into a right relationship with God. And the peace that comes from our standing in Christ can sustain us and give us hope and joy, even during times of turmoil or suffering.

I also learned this week, that MEEKNESS and PEACE go hand-in-hand. Psalm 37:11 says,

“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

The biblical concept of meekness is often misunderstood in our culture. Meekness is not weakness. It is not resignation to circumstances we are powerless to change. Biblical meekness is an active and deliberate acceptance of whatever circumstances God has permitted to touch our lives, whether they be desirable or undesirable, based on the understanding that God is in control and He will work everything in our lives for our good and His glory.

This doesn’t cover the verses I read this week, but these are the points that stood out to me during my daily study times. If you are doing this study with us, feel free to share what God most strongly impressed upon your heart in the comments. And choose during this weekend and upcoming week to stand against the peace-stealers you are currently facing, renew your mind daily in God’s Word which is truth, and walk in biblical meekness. As David said in Psalm 29:11, may the Lord give you strength and may He bless you with peace regardless of what you are currently walking through.

Being Thankful Is a Choice

Matthew Henry, the eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible scholar whose commentary is still widely used today, told a story of a time when he was attacked and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following in his diary:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

God calls us to give thanks in every situation we face, and in these words Matthew Henry was obeying this command. The “attitude of gratitude” is a clear command and expectation of God. Intentional gratitude causes use to see even the hardest of circumstances from a God-centered perspective.

There are several benefits of expressing gratefulness.

  • It pleases the Lord, who has instructed us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • It brings us closer to God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
  • It changes our perspective of what we are walking through.
  • It motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstance.
  • It is the path that leads to joy and peace.

Are you facing one or more turbulent, unsettled situations in your life? Take time today to practice intentional gratitude. Following Matthew Henry’s example, find at least three things you can choose to give thanks to God for in the midst of your circumstances.

Thanking God in the Midst of Uncertainty

Last Friday, I had an unusually healthy day. I woke up feeling well rested and with very little pain. After spending some time reading my Bible, my husband and I left for what I expected to be a routine doctor’s appointment.

At my last appointment a month earlier, my doctor had stopped both of my high blood pressure meds, after losing a few pounds had put my blood pressure in the ideal range. Today’s appointment was to see how I was doing after a month off these meds and to go over the results of a full body bone scan she had ordered when recent blood work had shown some abnormalities which she thought were related to my bone health. I received a great report in both of these areas. My blood pressure was still in the ideal range and the bone scan ruled out the bone problems she was most concerned about.

After she went over the positive results, my doctor asked and I answered a long list of questions concerning my health. Yes, I had been purposely trying to lose weight. No, I wasn’t having any digestion problems. No, I wasn’t having a problem with bloating or abdominal pain. No unusual weakness or fatigue.

In essence, my doctor was trying to rule out all the things that could have caused the abnormality in my blood work, which she now told me was even worse with the last lab results. She ordered new blood work and talked about some possibilities of what might be going on. Basically, she had ruled out just about everything that would explain the worsening results except for major problems with my liver or pancreas, mentioning cancer as one of the very real possibilities.

I came home that day suddenly facing a future filled with unknowns. Now that I have the results of last Friday’s blood work, which didn’t show any improvement, I know the next steps, a CT-scan of my liver and pancreas and a bone density test, both scheduled for next Friday. I’m taking the steps medically that seem wise at this point. But I’m placing even greater attention on taking what I’m facing to God’s throne of grace, asking for His mercy and grace in my time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

This past week, I’ve been doing lots of praying, asking God to help me see this situation from His perspective. And God reminded me that this situation was out of my control – but it wasn’t beyond His control. Nothing could touch my life without His allowing it, and anything He allows is for my good and His glory. I heard, “Don’t be afraid. Trust Me.”

img_6266

Last week, my blog post was on giving God thanks in everything we face, and I’ve been trying to take my own advice this week. How do you give thanks for a new health crisis? For a season filled with unknowns? It all comes down to truly knowing the God we serve. As Kay Arthur said, “God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks – not because of the situation but because of the One who directs and rules over it.

One of my favorite ways to give thanks in the midst of uncertainty is by writing Scripture-based prayers of gratefulness to God for who He is. The following passage was in my scheduled Bible reading for Wednesday, May 16 (the day I was writing the first part of this article, for a Thankful Thursday post with God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness), and it was a perfect Scripture to turn into a prayer of gratefulness.

Thank You, Lord, that You are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you will answer me. (Psalms 86:5-7 ESV)

This morning, as I began my regular quiet time by reading today’s devotional in Praying God’s Word Day By Day, by Beth Moore, the two-fold message I’ve been reflecting on all week was again repeated: This situation is under God’s control, and my focus right now needs to be on God’s character, especially on His steadfast love for me.  Beth’s Scripture prayer based on Psalms 116:15 was,

“Lord, sometimes my only answer will be that You are sovereign… One day I will have all the answers. But until then, I must trust that You have power and dominion over all things and that You know best. Help me to believe this even when I don’t feel it.”

And the other half of her message, based on Psalms 119:76-77, 81 was,

“May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your compassion come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight. My soul faints with longing for Your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your Word.”

Reading this led me to a shift in my Bible study plan for the day, as I did a topical study on God’s steadfast love. Here are a few of the verses that encouraged me this morning (all verses in ESV):

  • Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.” 3‭‭Psalms‬ ‭6:4‬
  • But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭
  • All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭25:10‬ ‭
  • Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭33:18‬ ‭
  • But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.” Psalms‬ ‭59:16-17‬ ‭‬‬

And as the last verse above encouraged me to do, I closed my quiet time by singing aloud of God’s steadfast love, using several songs including this one.

Thanking God When You Feel Like Complaining

Some days it’s easy to give thanks to God, but what about those days when life isn’t going well? When our circumstances make us feel overwhelmed, definitely not grateful. Are we still to give thanks on those days?

For example, perhaps you are in so much pain you lose patience and yell at your children simply because they’re acting like children. Or maybe you use the pain as an excuse to indulge in a huge bowl of ice cream and blow your diet once again.

Pain – whether physical or emotional – can cause us to easily fall back into old habitual patterns. We’ve made a commitment to God to change this bad habit and we’ve failed again. At such times, complaining comes naturally and gratitude is a struggle. Are we still supposed to give thanks to God? According to 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the answer is YES.

So how do we give thanks when we simply feel like complaining? For example, if I am struggling to break a bad habit and once again I blew it, how can I give thanks? Do I say, “Thank You, God, that I’m still struggling in this area”? Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? If our repeated failures cause us distress, they certainly don’t please God.

But even in a situation such as this, there is a Scriptural way to give thanks. We can give thanks to God based on His character and the promises of His Word.

For example, in the area above, where we are struggling to overcome a persistent sin, we could pray something like this:

Father, forgive me for failing again in this area of ___________. I receive Your forgiveness. Help me not to use this pain as an excuse to sin. Thank You that You have promised to finish the good work You have begun in me in this area. Thank You for the progress I’ve already made in overcoming this besetting sin in my life. And thank You for Your mercy and grace toward me when in the weakness of my flesh I fail again. I trust You to be faithful in finishing the work You have started in this area of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Is there an area where you are struggling to give God thanks? If so, find a attribute of God’s character and a promise of God’s Word that fits your situation. And use this pattern of thanking God based on His character and the promises of His word to share a prayer of thanksgiving with us.