Trusting God During Uncertain Times
With less than two months until graduation, I received an announcement email stating that my graduation from Divinity School would be transitioned to online and the physical ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Though God prepared me for this announcement just two days earlier by placing in my heart that there would likely not be a physical graduation in May 2020, I was still torn between understanding the decision and disappointment. A day that I had looked forward to for years would be an online experience instead of in-person where I could celebrate with family, friends, classmates, and professors. After years of studying, writing papers, and missing out on family and friends’ events, I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my Master of Divinity degree. I was sure that many of the other 2020 students felt a similar disappointment, so I was saddened for them as well.
Graduation was just the first event that I had to process the cancellation of. I also had a post-graduation trip out of the country, a family vacation, a mission trip, and several speaking engagements that were either canceled or postponed. I quickly decided that processing each disappointment was important to me so that I could be in an emotionally and spiritually healthy place, free from any bitterness or hard-heartedness.
Proverbs 16:9 (NASB) says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
In my walk with the Lord, I have aimed to make plans but to allow God to alter those plans as He sees fit. During the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, it seemed that my plans were rapidly changing, and my disappointment was growing. My heart was also breaking for my friends and other people around the world who were experiencing great losses of loved ones, income, and more.
Spending Time in Prayer
In the midst of my changed plans and my anxious thoughts, I received word that a distant relative passed away from COVID-19 related complications. Several friends of the family also passed away due to COVID-19. As I wrestled with the weight I felt from the worldwide grief and suffering, along with my own disappointment, anger, and anxiety, I decided to pray for people who were sick, lost a loved one, lost a job, or were simply afraid. I also decided to trust God in the midst of all of the changes I faced in what I thought would be a time of pure celebration.
Through this time of prayer, God began to heal my heart and give me peace. It may seem strange to those observing me from the outside that I would have so much peace. This is precisely what the peace of God tends to do, it surpasses all understanding.
Receiving the Peace of God
I was reminded of the scripture that says in Philippians 4:7 (NASB),
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God can be present in our lives even as we are facing uncertain times, grief, and pain. God’s peace is meant to surround us and guard our hearts and our minds.
May you know the peace of God no matter what difficulty you are facing today.
Stain on the Brain
by Fred Alberti, crosswalk.com
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.- Psalms 119:11
I watched Caleb as he sat there in deep concentration just staring at the book. Finally, I asked him what he was doing. His response was one I had never heard before. He said, “I’m staining it into my brain.”
He was memorizing Scripture verses for AWANA Club.
The thing is he knew what he was doing. He knew that he was trying to burn the words into his memory so he could pass on to the next challenge.
I like how today’s verse applies to Caleb’s staining power. The psalmist gives the reason why he is hiding God’s Word. What is it? So that he will not sin against God.
The reason for Bible memorization is to help us to abstain from sinning.
Oftentimes we resist Bible memorization. Instead we choose to stain our brain with TV shows depicting adultery, murder, and obscenity. Then we get ourselves into a moral bind and we wonder how we got into that place. We shouldn’t wonder. We should realize that what we choose to watch and/or memorize is what is going to stain into our brain.
“Oh, that sex scene isn’t so bad, at least they muted the sounds.”
“Why yes, the whole point of the show was that the husband didn’t get along with his wife and had an affair. But at least he was able to get a divorce and the mom was able to keep the kids.”
“Well, sure there was a lot of swearing but the story was great and the murder scenes were so realistic. Cinematography has really advanced these last few years.”
Folks, these are stains. They will stain your conscience and your heart and those of your family.
What are you staining your brain with these days?
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. — Proverbs 15:1
Often I can remember the turning point of a conversation when it went from good to bad or from bad to good. At times, I could hear the Holy Spirit warn me: “Stay calm, lower your voice, answer gently. Don’t say what you want to say, but listen to My still, small voice and speak My words instead.” Sometimes I am obedient and listen… Other times I just try to sneak in one more comment before obeying and find out just how costly my foolishness is.
I have found the secret to being heard. It really is quite simple: If you want to be heard, say it the way you would want to hear it.
My children, my husband, my employees, my dog, everyone, in fact, listens more when I say things the way I want to hear them. I know I prefer to be spoken to in a gentle, respectful tone. I hear so much better when I am not being yelled at. It is not the volume level or the repetition of words that grabs the attention, respect, and commitment of others. It is the importance of what we speak and the tone in which it is delivered. No one takes a person seriously if they are throwing a fit. Oh, they may get their way for the moment, but it will cost them later. We throw fits and raise our voices for many reasons. Here are a few:
- We are afraid we are not being heard.
- Yelling has produced results (getting our way) in the past.
- We want to intimidate or control others.
- It is what we lived as a child.
- We are still angry over an unresolved issue.
- It’s a bad habit.
Most of these reasons are rooted in fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We will yell and throw fits when we feel powerless. We will seek to intimidate and control others when we are self-serving. We will revert to our past when perfected love has not yet cast out fear. We will overreact whenever we have carried the weight of yesterday’s issues into today.
As we renew our mind, bad habits are broken and the tyranny of fear is thwarted. I found out a long time ago that no matter how things appear, I am not in control of them. I can control myself, but God is ultimately in control of everything.
Accepting this truth puts us in the right state of mind to communicate in such a way that lets us be heard.
“When the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel … The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel.” – Judges 3:9-10 NASB
Israel had disobeyed God. They had served other gods and defied His Word. As a result, they fell under the control of a rival nation. It must have seemed like a hopeless situation. They seemed perpetually destined to be dominated by others. Then, finally, they cried out to God, and everything changed.
He responded by sending Othniel to lead them. We don’t know much about Othniel, but we know that his name means “the force of God,” and he led them to victory. Othniel rescued God’s people after “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.”
The Spirit gave him the wisdom to know what to do and the winning strategy. The Spirit gave him boldness and the gifts needed to be a good leader. The Spirit opened doors and enabled them to be victorious.
This pattern applies to us today. If we sin, God is ready to hear us repent. When we call, He is prepared to help us. He is ready to send His Spirit to give us the ability, strength, and wisdom we need. We must remember that we are saved not by our efforts, but by God’s force and by His Spirit. God will give us the boldness and the victory we need when we call on Him.
In your life, remember that God is ready to direct and empower you, to save you by the power of His Spirit. Call on Him right now!