Devotions for Tough Times
Part of these devotions will be recommendations from Followers. (You can submit one for consideration using the contact form at the bottom of page, and I will get back to you.) Some are readings that have been uplifting for me. Others will be original writings. We will be rotate these devotions regularly, so check back frequently. For daily devotions for hurting people, see Joni and Friends and Rest Ministries. May God use these writings to encourage you as you navigate through life.
Back in 1983, my friend, Gracie Rosenberger, was a freshman at Belmont University. Gifted in music and vocal talents, she chose a double major in both vocal performance and piano in their School of Music. The rigorous schedule was exhausting, and only nine weeks into the school year, Gracie fell asleep at the wheel resulting in a completely life altering car accident. Ultimately, the collision left her with multiple health issues, as well as, the amputation of both her legs, but Gracie clung to Jesus. Her relationship with Christ gave her grace and strength not only to endure, but also to have a passion for life.
Recently, Gracie and her husband Peter returned to Belmont University—their Alma Mater (Peter was also a music major). They noticed the special parking place, originally installed for Gracie after her accident, had been slightly modified. Peter texted me a photo of the spot and said, “They’ve since added the word “visitor,” which I think is appropriate. As believers, no matter what the disability, we’re all just visitors to suffering… it’s not permanent. And THAT is cause for praise and thanksgiving.” Isn’t that such a good reminder? It’s just what 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” No matter what pain you are going through, you are just a visitor to suffering. That pain is infinitesimal compared to the glory your patient response will receive in heaven. So, hang in there…your perseverance is worth it!
©Joni Eareckson Tada, 2017. Used with permission from the Joni and Friends International Disability Center.
Rain: Affliction or Blessing?
God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering (Genesis 41:52)
A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.
Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the, intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”
Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your storminess and suffering-free life.
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You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.
No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could never produce in your innermost being. J. M. M.
Songs across the Storm
A harp stood in the calm, still air
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;
A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;
The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;
And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes
While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.
Taken from Streams in the Desert. Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Edited by Jim Reimann. Copyright © 1997. June 15. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
God Has Loving Plans
”Consider the lilies, how they grow.”
I need oil,” said an ancient monk; so he planted an olive sapling. “Lord,” he prayed, “it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers. “Lord,” prayed the monk, “my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray Thee.” And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. “Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,” cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.
Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. “I, too, planted a little tree,” he said, “and see! It thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition, I fixed not ways or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.’”
Still they grow.
Taken from Streams in the Desert, March 29 by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. © 1998. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Faith Is …
God who does not lie, promised. (Titus 1 :2)
Faith is not conjuring up, through an act of your will, a sense of certainty that something is going to happen. No, it is recognizing God’s promise as an actual fact, believing it is true, rejoicing in the knowledge of that truth, and then simply resting because God said it.
Faith turns a promise into a prophecy. A promise is contingent upon our cooperation, but when we exercise genuine faith in it, it becomes a prophecy. Then we can move ahead with certainty that it will come to pass, because "God ... does not lie.” Days of Heaven upon Earth
I often hear people praying for more faith, but when I listen carefully to them and get to the essence of their prayer, I realize it is not more faith they are wanting at all. What they are wanting is their faith to be changed to sight.
Faith does not say, "I see this is good for me; therefore God must have sent it." Instead, faith declares, "God sent it; therefore it must be good for me."
Faith, when walking through the dark with God, only asks Him to hold his hand more tightly. Phillips Brooks
The Shepherd does not ask of thee
Faith in your faith, but only faith in Him;
And this He meant in saying, "Come to me.”
In light or darkness seek to do His will,
And leave the work of faith to Jesus still.
Taken from Streams in the Desert. Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Edited by Jim Reimann. Copyright © 1997. May 1. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Two Questions to Ask When Trials Come
By Graham Cooke
We’ve all been in a situation where we had absolutely no idea what to do, or how to extricate ourselves. Usually we find ourselves with a sudden hankering to take one or two steps back to where we were before the problem arose. That rising panic and desperate wish to be somewhere else are key parts of the fight or flight reflex.
If we’re fortunate, we’re rarely if ever placed in a situation where the fight or flight reflex requires literal fight or flight, but our brain is trained to stimulate that response when stressed and afraid. Just because there are no giant animals trying to eat us and just because we don’t have rival tribes threatening to steal our spot by the river, so to speak. It doesn’t mean we don’t have problems.
So we may panic. We may fume and fuss. We may wish we were elsewhere and then, whether it’s an hour or a year later, we finally sit down and deal with matters. We may focus on the problem, and we sit within that problem, stewing over how to alter the circumstances so that we come out on top, or as close to on top as humanly possible. Every fiber of our being is devoted to sorting things out so that the problem goes away. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Most of the time, it’s somewhere in-between.
Whatever the outcome, at the very least we’re left down a peg or two from where we started, whether it’s financially, emotionally, physically, or some horrible combination thereof. And we’re always absolutely, completely and thoroughly exhausted.
That’s because it’s hard work, sorting our lives out. And the worst thing is that difficult circumstances don’t just go away. They replace themselves on a regular basis, because it doesn’t matter how rich you are, how happy you are, how alienated and isolated you are from life and all its trials. Adversity is a beautiful part of life.
But it’s not our circumstances that define us, or even how we deal with each individual problem. No, what defines us as people, as the men and women that we want to be, is how we deal with adversity.
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In any circumstance, the best possible route for us to follow is that which leads us towards a deeper and upgraded relationship with God in the Spirit. Everything that God does is relational. Everything.
Upon the Day Of Pentecost, people were faced with a situation that had no precedent for them: the coming of the Holy Spirit in its fullness upon the apostles. The people observing this phenomenon were baffled, and more than a little scared, but the questions they asked were perfectly tuned to get the most out of their experience: “What does this mean?” and “What shall we do?”
When we reach moments of adversity, our first response must be to step back into God and ask, “What does this mean?”
The issue we’re presented with is just that: an issue. But the significance of that issue, within the context of how it affects our fellowship in the Kingdom, is something that will remain long after the issue itself has been settled in the world.
Focusing on the trial we’re facing doesn’t change the nature of the trial itself, and very often it will bring in negativity and unhelpful emotions that aren’t in any way connected to the relationship in the Spirit that we should be pursuing.
The fact is, as Christians, we don’t live in the world. We live in the Kingdom, and dealing with problems that arise in the world without involving the Kingdom means that we are stepping back into a person and a history that we are no longer a part of. We’re dead to that person, and frankly, we should leave grave robbing to Indiana Jones.
It’s crucial to ask God how our relationship with Him must develop as a consequence of the trial that afflicts us at that moment. Faith works by love, and it works best and easiest in the context of relationship.
If we’ve asked God “what does this mean?”, we should already be excited. The answer is that God has plans for us and for our fellowship with Him. Excitement is precisely the opposite of the feeling that adversity normally engenders in people. This is excellent! It means we’re on the right track. As we think about how God will use this situation to bring about something wonderful in our relationship with Him, our first reaction is to rejoice and give thanks. We’re already thinking brilliantly.
The second question—“what should we do?”—is the only possible question we can ask next.
It’s literally asking, “what’s next, Lord?”
At this point, the Spirit has us looking straight through adversity with a happy heart and walking forward with a spring in our step. It’s so far away from the floundering we’re used to in the world that you’d be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t drowning at all. And, of course, you’re not. Not anymore.
Here’s what ‘s great about “What does this mean?” and “What should we do?”
Both of these questions are open questions. Closed questions require a single answer, usually a yes or a no. Open questions allow for the answer to go into some detail. They express a desire to know more, rather than to simply confirm information we already hold or a bias we already possess. By opening ourselves to the Spirit in this way, we allow God to empower us as to the outcome of our circumstances. Focusing upon the outcome at the beginning of a situation fixes out hearts on that outcome. It becomes real to us, more real that whatever problem has arisen in our lives.
When God’s outcome for us is more real than the adversity we face, we’ve already defeated it.
Remember, remember, remember: every problem that we face isn’t about the trial and it isn’t about the problem. It’s about the relationship that we have and the relationship that we want with God.
© Graham Cooke, Brilliant Perspectives. Used by permission.
Connected Carole's notes: Some of these thoughts are difficult for us who live in unending storms, but we have to remember the eternal perspective: this life is not all there is. And we don't have God's knowledge nor power, so trusting Him is the only answer.
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