By Annie Yorty, Crosswalk, com
“Let all who fear the Lord repeat: ‘His faithful love endures forever.’ In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free” (Psalm 118:4-5 NLT).
“Ewww.” I scrunched my face at the sight of fat, juicy earthworms littering the path to my mailbox. Too lazy to go back inside the house for shoes, I tiptoed around them, wary of touching the wriggling invertebrates with my bare feet. A drenching rain after a hot, dry spell had floated the worms to the surface seeking oxygen. Now the July sun blazed overhead, quickly heating the pavement and baking the slimy creatures. An hour later, most of the worms lay shriveled and dying on the sidewalk. Only a few escaped the carnage wrought by the sun. Those creatures from the mud remind me of things hidden in my life—past wounds and sins I’ve buried—that resurface during stressful times.
Wounds burrow into our lives from our earliest days—cutting criticism from a teacher, a bully’s insults, parents who split up, a father who abandoned the family. I have a friend whose beloved grandma died when he was ten years old. No one helped him understand his grief, so he stuffed his loss deep inside. Another friend cannot escape the echoes of her older brother’s jeers about her appearance. Children display remarkable resilience because they often absorb and normalize these painful events. We assume all is well because they seem to move on, but their wounds lurk in the dark.
Adults also bury hurts. Rifts in relationships, being passed over for a promotion, rejection, and many other wounds and sins litter our lives. Wounds usually come from the poor choices of others. But what about the pain we inflict in the form of both unconscious and deliberate sins? Left unconfessed, these also dig into our lives and find lodging.
God warns about how bitterness demoralizes us when wounds and sins remain under the surface, unexposed. “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT).
Did you catch that? Bitterness troubles you and corrupts others. But this verse also offers hope—the hope that God’s grace overcomes every awful effect of bitterness. God’s grace comes in many surprising forms. Sometimes it washes over us like a soft rain gently nourishing the earth. Other times, we find His grace in the middle of flashing lightning and cracks of thunder.
Just as a driving rain floats worms to the surface, so too the stresses of life bring out lingering bitterness from painful wounds or sins. I confess this is true in my own life. I skip along my path happily ignoring some old problem I’d rather not address. Sooner or later, though, stress triggers me to lash out according to my past, unresolved hurts. My “worms” lay exposed on the sidewalk of my life, ready for the light of God’s grace.
Maybe you, like me, have chafed at the discomfort, embarrassment, or regret you feel when God exposes issues we’ve carefully hidden. Have you considered that God, in grace and mercy, may be using your circumstances to push them out from underground to shine His healing light upon them?
Though God’s intense light glares painfully, exposure is the first step toward true healing. In Ephesians 5:10-11 NLT, Apostle Paul advises, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” God’s light of grace shrivels bitterness that has grown fat in darkness until it can no longer tunnel back underground.
Why not cooperate with God when He allows pressure-filled circumstances to uncover what’s wriggling under the surface of your life? Begin by thanking Him for the grace of struggles that reveal your slimy worms. Then settle yourself under His examination light while it burns up any bitterness your circumstances revealed. Praise Him as He clears away dried-up carcasses from the past, so they no longer control you. Finally, revel in the freedom to walk barefoot without tiptoeing around the worms of the past.
A Prayer to Help You Find Courage
By: Betsy de Cruz, Crosswalk.com
“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12b, ESV
Afraid doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when it got dark and my daughter didn’t come home. I called her five times but kept getting a recording. Finally, I telephoned the friend she’d met earlier in the day. “She left an hour ago to catch the bus. Isn’t she home yet?” the girl said.
My husband and I felt desperate and didn’t know what to do. He grabbed the car keys to go out and look for her, but how on earth could we find our daughter in a city of four million people?
An hour later, she walked in the door, and relief flooded my soul. She’d gotten lost and her phone had died.
Have you ever been caught in a hard place where you just didn’t know what to do and felt afraid of possible outcomes?
Maybe you’re there now.
My situation only lasted a few hours, but yours may still be going on. A health problem, financial crunch, or troubled marriage can make you feel like you’re at the end of your rope.
For situations when fear and uncertainty are getting the best of us, I love the story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. When a great multitude comes to attack Judah, King Jehoshaphat is scared to death, but he resolves to seek God. He proclaims a fast, and all of Israel comes together to seek God.
God then speaks to His people through a prophet, “Do not be afraid…the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15b). The following day as Jehoshaphat’s army begins to sing and praise the Lord, God sets an ambush against their enemies.
This story teaches us several life principles to help us navigate hard situations with courage:
1) If you’re feeling scared, keep your eyes on God. Set your heart on seeking Him.
2) Remember the battle is the Lord’s. He is fighting for you.
3) You will see victory as you praise God.
When you’re at the end of your rope, remember all you have to do is keep your eyes on Jesus. At the right time, He will show you how to move forward.
Keep your eyes on Him today, friend. Raise a hallelujah and take courage. Victory is on the way. We don’t know how and when it will come, but in Christ, we are more than conquerors. Let’s praise the God who goes before us.
The Powerful Practice of Fasting
From: Intouch Ministries
The Powerful Practice of Fasting
Nehemiah’s brother arrived from Judah with some bad news: the Israelites living in Jerusalem were in great trouble. After hearing about their plight, Nehemiah fasted and prayed to the Lord for several days. During this time, he discovered God wanted him to ask the king of Persia for help.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps us center our attention on the Lord and discover His will so we may act according to it. People fast in different ways: some abstain from food while others refrain from various activities. The period of time can vary as well. But the focus in each case is to be the same—to seek God and know His will.
When we begin to deny ourselves, several things happen. First, the Holy Spirit will enable us to set aside earthly matters. Relationships, work, and pleasure will take a lesser place in our mind as we concentrate on Him and His purposes. Second, our attention will shift from ourselves to the Lord. Thinking will become clearer, and our ability to understand God’s plans will sharpen because we are not distracted by other things.
Third, the Lord is probably going to do some spiritual housecleaning in our lives. His Spirit will convict us of sinful attitudes or behavior. Upon confession of our sin, we’ll be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9).
When unexpected news greets us, we—like Nehemiah—may find our emotions in turmoil. He wisely sought the Lord through fasting and prayer. This powerful practice can also help us to hear clearly from our heavenly Father, who knows the best way through every situation.
How To Regain a Hope-Filled Perspective
Lee en español, Crosswalk.com
“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” Isaiah 43:18 (NLT)
“Show me your last cool trick!”
With this phrase, my kids knew the time had come to dry off at the swimming pool. They also knew this was their moment to show off and shine. Underwater flips transformed into twirling handstands. Cannonballs became an opportunity to go for gold at the Olympics. I could always expect that the “last cool trick” from yesterday would pale in comparison to what they’d perform today.
Watching my kids made me realize that sometimes I fear God has done His last cool trick in my life. Discouragement convinces me that my best days lie behind me — or that my situation is too complicated or insignificant for God to intervene and do something new.
Sure, God still does great things in other people’s lives, just not mine.
Maybe you’ve thought something similar. Perhaps God healed you several years ago, but the health crisis staring you down now makes you doubt God could ever do that miracle again. Or maybe God showed up years ago in your marriage in some wondrous way, but fear whispers: That was then, and this is now.
When doubt limits our belief about what God can do in the future, we risk developing the same mentality as the people to whom Isaiah prophesied. During the Babylonian captivity, the Jews lived in a foreign land with adversaries who dragged them more than 1,600 miles away from Jerusalem. Yet God gave them a message of hope because He wanted to lift their eyes beyond their current situation.
The Jewish captives had become stuck in the past. For centuries, they dwelled on the parting of the Red Sea and couldn’t imagine God doing anything more spectacular. (Isaiah 43:16-17; Exodus 14:21-30)
But God wanted to turn their gaze toward the future. Reflecting on this miraculous event, God declared, “forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do” (Isaiah 43:18). Why would God want them to forget one of the most powerful miracles in their exodus from Egypt?
Because God had something new for them!
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)
Even when our situation and future look as dry as desert sand, we can remember that, for generations, God has specialized in doing a new thing in wastelands. Fear should never hold hostage our hope. Our situation will change. God will never abandon us.
This week, pay attention anytime you place a lid on a household item: the coffee can, leftovers, the crockpot. Ask yourself, Where am I putting a lid on my faith?
We can regain a hope-filled perspective by remembering that God’s response to us remains the same today as to the ancient Israelites. God is always doing something new, and we can rest in His proven track record of faithfulness.
Lord, I can relate to the Jewish captives who thought their situation would never change. Thank You for how You’ve worked in my life in the past, and help me remember that my circumstances never limit Your power. Keep reminding me that You care about my situation and You work on my behalf even when I can’t see any evidence yet. Please lift my eyes beyond my current situation. Do a new transformative work in me as I trust in Your faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.