After receiving stitches for my dog bite, the nurse gave me special footwear. The ugly black shoe extended past my toes and was built to fit either foot. A thick flat base prevented me from rolling my foot and opening the stitches. The top opened with two sets of Velcro to ease pressure on the wound and allow me to get in and out of the shoe. It wasn’t as clunky as the medical boots, but still marked me as the walking wounded.
Upon returning to work, I was amazed at how many people stopped to empathize. At first, I thought the shoe was giving me away. Then I realized my slug’s pace was another clue. Apparently, many people had experienced foot or leg problems and remembered their trials. Once I chatted with three strangers in a hallway, all of us with leg issues. We shared our struggles with mobility and encouraged each other.
Their comforting words kept me going. Because they were in the same predicament, they knew my difficulties. If they could do it, so could I.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
God comforts us in our hard times. Yet, this verse points out an interesting reason as to why He comforts us. So that when others are troubled, we can extend to them the same comfort we received from the Lord. We aren’t to hoard our comfort, but empathize with others and seek to help them. Even the areas where we feel entitled to be selfish are really to point the glory back to God.
In high school, I dropped a moving ramp on my other foot and tore the tendon to my big toe. The doctor gave me emergency foot surgery that day, and I later had to go under anesthesia at the hospital for them to fix it. I started high school on crutches, enduring raw skin under my arms and gaining uneven leg muscles. Ever afterwards I tried to hold doors for people on crutches and extend empathy when possible. It helps to have a recent reminder to care for others.
God knows that down the road, someone will need our help. If we have walked a similar path ourselves and survived, we are better equipped to encourage them. Those people can gain strength to continue because they know others have gone before them. God doesn’t waste our hurt, but transforms it into something marvelous for His glory.
While I still find the black shoe ugly, I know the empathy I’ve gained from wearing it will make me more beautiful inside. And with large scars now on both feet, I may never win any beauty contests. However, I pray for beautiful feet that will carry the gospel and love of Christ wherever He leads me.
Guest Blogger: This week, I am blessed to have my friend April Estes guest blog for me. We met at the first writers conference I ever attended and connected instantly. We literally shut down the party as we were the last ones in the lobby at 11 pm the first night. She just published her first book The Pearl of Great Price. The book explores the struggles Christians have to stay strong in our marriages in a very genuine and relatable way. I thoroughly enjoyed her book! Here she shares a lesson on love from one of the scenes.
I’ve recently published a book, The Pearl of Great Price. In the book there is a touching scene between the main character, Lacey, and her grandfather. Lacey had just suffered a break-up, and tearfully bemoaned to her grandfather how she had made a fool of herself, “jumping in full force into a relationship with no guarantees of any kind of return” - giving her all without knowing how things would turn out.
“But, sweetie,” the grandfather tenderly says, “That’s what love is. That’s what it does.” (That quote inspired one of my songs that says, “That’s what love is, that’s what it does: jumps full-in at full throttle, just because...”)
You see, love sometimes DOES look ridiculous: it’s a father running to his wayward, prodigal son; a mother placing her son in a watery basket; a queen risking her life for a minority people; the savior of the world coming to save, through death. But that’s what love does: it gives all - not without fear, but in spite of it. It gives everything it’s got with no guarantees, no promise of return. The Bible says love “isn’t selfish, thinking one’s own self,” but, rather, is “full of hope, believing all things are possible.” (I Cor. 13). So, today, if you’re feeling a bit “ridiculous,” fear not! That’s what love is! That’s what it does!
Biography: April Estes was born and raised in middle Tennessee, where she enjoyed growing up in a small, Southern town. She attended Freed-Hardeman University, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Mississippi State University with an Elementary Education degree. She taught school in Americus, Georgia, before starting a family and moving all around the South USA, homeschooling four children. She enjoys songwriting in her spare time.
Recently, I felt so low that I wanted to crawl under my desk and sob. God’s grace kept me in my seat, and I made it home in one piece physically. Mentally and emotionally, I was torn by painful life circumstances that only seemed to get worse. I called a friend that night to vent and was surprised at the venom spewing from my lips. Something had to change.
My focus was skewed. All I could see were dark stains of heartache, instead of seeking God’s light. I needed to look for joy instead of letting the whirlwind sweep me away. That night I made a top five gratitude list:
First, the sunset displayed God’s splendor. If I only saw the gray cloud surrounding my circumstances, I would’ve missed God's majestic pink and purple masterpiece in the sky that evening. It reminded me that the Almighty Artist was painting my life so that He received glory. The canvas wasn’t complete and needed contrast from shadows.
Second, third, and fourth, God provided for my basic needs of shelter and clothing. The day before I’d met a homeless woman. She was an alcoholic. Her husband had kicked her out of the house and then sold it. I offered to call her insurance for help, but she wasn’t interested. She took a scarf and blanket as she told me that she slept in a cemetery. My life was amazing by comparison.
Fifth, I had friends to encourage me during my season of darkness. God had not left me alone. My friend graciously let me rant and rage about how I wondered if I was cursed because so many terrible things kept happening. It felt like a game of whack-a-mole, with the large hammer walloping me as soon as I was brave enough to venture out again. I concluded that we live in a fallen world. Even as Christians we are not immune to suffering.
Yet, despite our suffering, we are to praise. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” My mom cautioned against using words like always and everything because usually there were exceptions. However, the Bible tells us we are to rejoice always and in everything give thanks. Does this mean I am supposed to be happy about horrible things beyond my control? No. Does this mean that if I look for good in the midst of trouble, I’ll find something to be thankful for? Yes.
Thankfulness is a spiritual weapon that brings peace. Philippians 4:7-8, “Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” When we offer our petitions to the Lord, we come with thanksgiving. Sometimes, maybe all we have to be grateful for is the breath in our lungs. That counts. If you can’t find much, ask God to show you. The list is probably much longer than you imagine.
Another place where Scripture connects the concepts of thankfulness and peace is Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Since I wrote the gratitude list above, I've prioritized writing what I’m thankful for every night before going to sleep. I’ve even gotten out of bed twice to ensure that I captured my blessings on paper.
The power of gratitude is unstoppable. The process is starting to change how I think. Recently, while commuting to work, I wondered what my list would look like that night. When I started looking for things to be grateful for, I discovered five things was insufficient. My circumstances remain the same, but my peace has multiplied.
Maybe you feel like you are living at the bottom of the pit of despair with no way out. Cry out to Jesus with your petition, and season your prayer with gratitude. I can’t guarantee that your life will miraculously fall into place tomorrow. However, God’s peace will start to rule your spirit. As you enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart, may His peace be the walls that guard your heart and mind.
When I was a little girl, I colored in long strokes with a permanent red marker on my blue bedspread. Eager to show my mom my artistic abilities, I wasn’t prepared for her distress. She apparently saw my masterpiece as a stain to eliminate. The washing machine worked overtime. My mom went through half the bottle of stain remover as she scrubbed it many times until the bedspread was pristine. I never played with red Sharpies again.
Jesus' sacrifice serves as the permanent stain remover for our sins. In the Old Testament, everyone, even the priests, had to continually offer sacrifices of bulls and goats to cover their sins before God. Now we have a different standing with God. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (NKJV). Jesus only had to offer Himself once to make us spotless for eternity.
When He died on the cross, His blood flowed backwards to cover the sins of humanity. Romans 3:24b-26a says, "Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness" (NKJV). God knew His Son Jesus would obey the Father and drink the cup of wrath that we deserved so He passed over those sins for a time. The coming Messiah made it possible for everyone who ever lived to go to heaven. All salvation pivots on the work of the cross where every sin was washed white.
Jesus not only paid for the sins of people in the past, but for our sins on this side of the cross. We can come to the Lord with confidence when we request forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NKJV). We will be restored by the blood of the Lamb when we acknowledge our sins before God. We agree with God that our actions violate His commands. Then we thank God that He has already forgiven us through the finished work of the cross. We hide our lives in Christ so the Father sees His righteousness when He looks on us.
While you’d never wash your clothes in blood, His blood is the only detergent that can cleanse our consciences. Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Guilt and shame, once inevitable, are now banished by the blood. We are free to have peace with God.
The cleansing power of the blood encompasses all people, past and present, permanently. Jesus’ gift of laying down His life provides the means to restore our evil minds to an inconceivable purity. I thank Jesus for the stain removing power of His blood to wash me clean from the inside out so I may walk in new life.
My guest blogger this week is Ed Windhausen, a friend from my Word Weavers writers' group. I love his poetry and children's stories. He also has a heart for missions. I am pleased to share his insights with you, and hope you enjoy the devotion!
What am I doing?
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was all a big blur. How had I gotten here? What had I done to make it to this place, this dark, cold, brown, dangerous, yet beautiful place? The dust choked us as we drove. Too many of us packed into a 1964 Land Rover, bouncing and jostling into each other as we bumped along what really wasn’t what any of us recognized as a road, but rather a collection of jigsaw pieces of asphalt between large soil filled holes. Hours and hours of zig-zagging to avoid damaging the precious vehicle our host missionaries relied on for their travel, safety, and a majority of the work being done in this remote area of the Zambian bush.
Upon our arrival into camp, we had to clear the grass under the trees to make space for our tents. Tents that we had to figure out how to set up under the minimal light of the headlamps we used. We were all exhausted after two days of travel through four airports. We had experienced long lay-overs, close quarters in coach, way too much dairy on our French airline, and the six-hour wild car ride we had just endured. But, once the tents were up, another team member summoned me into a nearby field. It was then that I saw, the first of many amazing sights I would experience on this excursion. As I gazed into the heavens, I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my life. I felt both small and enormous as I contemplated my role in God’s plan for His fallen world. The twinkling of the stars blurred as my eyes watered at the enormity of what was taking place within my heart. I was being changed, whether I liked it or not, but what was I doing?
Sleep came quickly even though it was a chilly 45 degrees in the bush that night. The exhaustion of travel and pending excitement assured that I slept through the night. The rooster crow that awakened me before dawn the next morning, I suspected had come from our host missionary who seemed to delight in confusing the bleary eyed, sleep drunk westerners with his antics. I got dressed quickly to prevent the chill in the air from entering my bones, and was greeted with tail wags and whimpers from the camp dogs as I emerged from my tent. The crisp morning air was evident in the clouds of vapor lit up by my headlamp as I exhaled. I never knew it could be so cold in Africa. We had learned in our training that regions south of the equator experienced winter opposite of our seasonal calendar up north; therefore, our trip was in the middle of a Zambian winter.
For breakfast we had real coffee brewed over a campfire along with scrambled eggs and toast cooked the same way. We ate sitting around the campfire with plates on our laps, wondering what we would do in this remote place. During our training we had learned to be FAT; flexible, adaptable, and trainable, but were we prepared for what was about to happen? Would we be able to manage the shock of being plucked from the comforts of home, and dropped into the deep bush of Africa?
After taking care of Mother Nature’s call in a dark hole dug in the ground, I was about to find out if I had what it took to serve my Lord in a difficult way. It wasn’t digging into the dry, hard, dusty ground that posed the greatest challenge for me. I was glad to help establish an orphanage in this place that was being ravaged by a horrendous disease that robbed children of their parents, and often became their companion for life. It wasn’t the food, which consisted mostly of a mash of ground corn and small, cardboard consistency, salty fish for protein, if they were available. I could handle the discomfort of sleeping in a tent in the bush. I wasn’t bothered by the cold nights and hot African days. It wasn’t even the possibility of encountering the dangers of venomous snakes, scorpions, or very large spiders. What scared me the most was that burning question; what was I doing?
How would I help? The fact was, most of the people I encountered were blissful in their ignorance of the fate of their souls. But, I knew. I knew that these beautiful people, who would welcome me into their homes and schools, were destined to an eternity of suffering and separation from the Creator who loved them, simply because they had been born in a place that did not have access to the truth of Jesus Christ. This broke my heart in a way that I had never, or would never again experience. I had already fallen in love with these people, and I could not figure out why.
What was compelling me to pause and stand on the side of a dusty path, speaking aloud to my Lord as I walked to the morning briefing before starting our work? What power was making me promise Him that if He wanted me to do this, I would? If He wanted me to turn my life upside down in service to His children, I would. If He asked the greatest sacrifice from me, I would gladly lay down my life to bring just one soul to His side. As a husband and father, I understood commitment to those I loved, but to contemplate dying for a stranger. What was I doing?
We worked. We ate. We prayed. We loved. We sang. We slept. I cried. I wept because I knew. I knew that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was not at all about what I was doing, it was about what was being done in me. All my worries, all my anxieties, all my feelings of self-loathing, were being healed. I was there to help people I had never met before, but I was being helped more than all of them combined. God was giving me a gift that would change my life from this point forward. God was showing me who I was in His kingdom. God was giving me the chance to use the gifts He had so generously given to me. Phillipians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). Along the way I was discovering that it is not at all about, what am I doing? But, it is all about, what God is doing.
Ed Windhausen is a life long student who has not yet made it out of preschool, a field in which he has worked for the last 25 years. A recent graduate of George Mason University, with a master’s degree in early childhood special education, he has a heart to advocate for those who are not able to do so for themselves. Ed is currently serving his home church as a deacon and chair of the mission’s committee. He can also be found singing in the choir or playing harmonica at men’s ministry events. While he has a passion for writing, his devotion lies with Jesus Christ. Ed is the happiest while serving the Lord and spending time with his two grown daughters, Briana and Lindsey.
Have you ever been somewhere that you didn’t speak the language? Perhaps you were on a mission trip, vacation, or maybe even working an international business deal. For people to understand each other, one person holds a key role – the interpreter.
Interpretation is an art. The process communicates the meaning of what is said in a thought-for-thought manner. Sometimes word-for-word translations don’t make sense across cultures, especially if you use idioms. Interpreters usually only share a couple of sentences before listening to the main speaker again. Their job is not to say new things but to faithfully convey the message of the speaker.
The Holy Spirit serves as an interpreter between believers and God. He is fluent in both languages and knows how to bridge communication barriers. On one side, you have the infinite wisdom of the God of the universe. On the other, you have finite human beings with limited minds. We can’t hope to understand God without help.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (NKJV). The only way our peon minds can begin to understand almighty God is when the Holy Spirit reduces the messages into bite-sized chunks.
The Holy Spirit Interprets God to Us
John 16:13-15 says, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (NKJV).
The Holy Spirit only speaks what He hears. He doesn’t make stuff up, but takes from Jesus to give to believers. Jesus clarifies that because the Father has given Christ everything, the Spirit shares the things of God. The Holy Spirit speaks truth and tells us things to come. He simplifies the vastness of God’s instructions so we can digest them. God want us to understand Him. We are blessed to have the Holy Spirit so that we can know God’s truth.
Sometimes I beg God for reasons for the turmoil in my life. I want to know what God is doing and why. I ask God for the roadmap and timing of when I will escape my trial. While God knows how much longer it will last, usually all I hear is “Trust Me.” Several times my circumstances have deteriorated before they improved. The Holy Spirit, knowing that at the time I didn’t have the capacity to think of things getting worse, simply told me to trust God. That was all my finite mind could grasp. It was enough.
The Holy Spirit Interprets Us to God
Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (NKJV).
I have sat down to pray so distraught that no words would form in my mouth. When all I could do was cry, I have felt the Holy Spirit intercede on my behalf. My heart groaned, unable to breakthrough despair. Sometimes a good cry is healing, because I release stress. When I ask, the Holy Spirit takes my shattered heart and turns its cries into heavenly words that the Father understands.
The Holy Spirit has saved me from misguided prayers so many times. I can remember guys I was interested in, jobs I wanted, and travel I desired, none of which have happened. I’m so thankful that God said, “No.” Had I actually dated those men, worked those jobs, or gone to those places the results would have been terrible.
In one specific instance, I can imagine the Holy Spirit interpreting my prayer to God as, “She asked for this job. However, if she knew what You’ve shared with me God, she wouldn’t want it. In a few months, her friend is going to get really sick. She needs a slow-paced job to take time off. The other job would require her to work a lot, and she couldn’t leave. So, on her behalf, I ask that You don’t give her the job.”
The Holy Spirit interpreted my prayer accurately. Thank God I didn’t get the job. I traveled many times over the next six months to visit my sick friend. Though I’d been bored, God knew where He needed me so that my management would allow me to go. God was looking out for my best, even though the initial answer was disappointing.
Sometimes, I still forget what God has done and get frustrated when God says, “No.” Fortunately, God has said, “No” enough times now that have blessed me, that it’s easier to accept. Developing trust muscles comes through experiencing God’s repeated faithfulness in our lives.
I can trust the Interpreter to do His job wisely. He will stay true to what He hears and make known to me only what I need so I may walk in the wisdom of the Lord. Thank God for giving us the Holy Spirit as our Interpreter who intercedes only for God’s glory and our good.
I’ve recently thought of taking juggling lessons. I figure with juggling all the stressors in my life, maybe actual juggling would be a healthy outlet. My family, friends, and work all clamor for my attention. When I think I have one area is relatively stable, another starts to fall. I can’t seem to keep things aloft.
While juggling lessons may provide some physical outlet, they still won’t give me peace. I need real rest. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (NKJV).
Too often, I think I have to pull my own weight. Subconsciously, I think I’ve got all the answers and have to do it myself. Usually when I think “I’ve got this,” it has not turned out well. I fall on my face, feeling like an idiot with blood on my nose and dirt in my teeth. When I let God guide me, He carries the weight. In Biblical times, oxen were trained by yoking a large ox to a young ox as the young ox learned to work. The larger ox took the heavier brunt of the load. God invites us to let Him carry the burdens that cripple us. His burden is light. He wants our souls to rest. God is not prideful, but lowly in heart.
Often, I can get overwhelmed by circumstances. Some people think that God will never give us more than we can handle, but that is not Biblical. If I could do it alone, my head would swell with pride. First Peter 5:5b says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (NKJV). God resists my pride and allows situations that are beyond my control so that I will acknowledge my need for Him. This breeds dependence in my life, which God loves.
But despite needing to learn dependence, sometimes I don’t realize my need until late in the game. I try to do it alone and burn out, feeling like the end of a candle with a wick that won’t light. God invites me to let Him be our light. He is the wick that burns eternal. As I melt into Him, He displays His glory for all to see.
The Lord has started asking me to give Him my burdens. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (KJV). Before I go to bed at night, I stick my hand out and visualize the hardships I am carrying. I name them one by one and physically enact handing each burden to God. My heart lifts as I realize I don’t have to fix everyone and everything in my life. I like how the KJV says God won’t suffer the righteous to be moved. He isn’t putting up with that junk. God sustains me in my difficulties.
Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah” (NKJV). The NIV says, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” God both daily loads us with benefits and bears our burdens. He gives us good and takes the bad as we receive a lighter load. God did not design us to walk through life alone, and is always ready to answer our cry. May we learn to walk beside Him and let Him share the weight of our burdens.
Someone asked me why I always talked about depending on God. Couldn’t I do anything for myself? Didn’t I want to develop some life skills of my own instead of always running to God like a weakling? I admitted that many a time I have tried to do things on my own. When things are going well in life, I tend to run along on my merry way thinking that I have got this. But I don’t got this. I always wind up falling on my face. It takes humility to rely on God because it strips me of my pride to ask God for help. God allows me to fail to remind me that apart from Him, I can do nothing. (John 15:5)
What does it mean to depend totally on God? Does it mean that I sit on the couch and relax while God does all the work because God is in control? No. God did not call me to be lazy. Does it mean that I do all the work, and ignore God? No. Total dependence on God is a process whereby I allow God to go both before me and beside me. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (NKJV).
God Goes Before Me
God goes before me and clears the path. I must take my directives from God and not my own ideas. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (NIV). Often, I think I understand the best thing to do, because it makes sense to me. However, I need God to direct my paths because He has the greater perspective.
God’s ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). He doesn’t always do things the same way twice because He wants me to seek Him first for guidance. I think of Moses and how he got water from rocks in the wilderness. The first time God told Moses to strike the rock, and water poured forth. The next time, however, God told Moses to speak to the rock. In his anger, Moses struck the rock. His disobedience bared Moses from entering the promised land. Fully relying on God requires me to seek Him for every decision.
Does this mean I go to God for guidance over each shirt I wear or what I eat for lunch? Yes and no. While, no, I don’t think that God wants me to be crippled by indecision with worrying over a cheeseburger or a hoagie, He does care that what I wear and eat honor Him. So, yes, I need choose clothing and food that I won’t be ashamed of before God. I decide beforehand that what I put on and put in my body will bring God joy.
God Walks Beside Me
I must go beyond getting God’s guidance to obeying. James 1:22 say, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (NKJV). I’ve heard that obedience is God’s love language. Obedience requires action. Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Therefore work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). I have to work out my own salvation. God provides me the desire to answer His calling and actually equips me to do so. What a good God! When I tap into His unending strength, I can obey His commands.
My washing machine broke recently, so I ordered a new one. Then my new washing machine wasn’t working properly. If I sat around waiting for God to fix my washing machine, I’d never have clean clothes. Instead, as I talked with God, He directed me. I made six trips to Home Depot, video-chatted with the company’s vibration experts, and had installation folks visit my house three times. Finally, things are better, but I needed God’s endurance to keep going. Even in the middle of frustrations, I knew that God will take care of me in the long run. Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV). God completes what He starts. He doesn’t drop us on our heads as we seek to obey.
The Lord blesses obedience and curses disobedience. Deuteronomy 30:19-20a says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days” (NKJV). Now, blessing, does not mean a life of ease, but one where God has promised that “He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV). God is with us through every hill and valley we face. As we fully depend on God, our faith muscles grow and our relationship with God deepens as He leads us in the way we should go.
This week I had the opportunity to guest blog for Katy Kauffman's series "Sustaining Life's Victories." I share how Biblical accountability has grown my relationship with God and give practical tips for creating accountability in your own life.
Here's the first paragraph and a link to the rest of the article:
I had one sin that crippled me for years. I shoved it into the deepest corner of my heart so no one would know my shame. Satan used that guilt to keep me entrenched in sin. I remember sobbing by my bed, begging God to rid me of the pain. I didn’t know what to do. God showed me that surfacing sin is one of the surest ways to strangle its grip on my life. When I finally confessed it, the stronghold broke, releasing the sin’s hold on me.
Everyone wants prayer, even if they aren’t aware of it. My church has held a free prayer booth at the fair the last several years as a local mission trip. This year our booth was relocated from the entrance to the center of the park. While before we thought of ourselves as the welcome committee, now we had to be much more direct. Several of us stood out front with offers of “Free Prayer.”
While some people walked by, it astounded me how many responded to our call. From the woman asking prayer for her daughter to remain sober, to the man who casually asked us to pray for his wife as he continued past the booth, to the people who barely spoke English, but wanted prayer, we prayed with them all.
We all have things that trouble our hearts and pain that seems inescapable. Deep down we know that since we can’t fix it ourselves, there has to be someone who can heal us. The answer to our longing is Christ. He is the Great Physician, able to mend all our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual brokenness.
Weeks later, I still remember one woman in particular. She’d given me a sideways glare when I’d asked if she wanted prayer and kept walking. We’d had worse responses, so I wasn’t fazed. A man returned with his friend who knew someone struggling with sickness. She began asking me to pray for her friend’s health and for personal peace about her friend’s situation. Then the lady who’d stared at me reappeared.
“I’m an atheist, and I need to hug you,” she said. She proceeded to embrace as if I was her long-lost friend. I hugged her and prayed as she lingered. When she pulled back, she said, “You and I are different. We come from opposite sides, but I needed to hug you.” I stared into her eyes and saw turmoil storming inside. No one wakes up one morning and decides to become an atheist. Often times they’ve been hurt by someone in the church or had a time when life’s circumstances were so crushing that they couldn’t conceive of God’s existence.
My heart went out to this woman. I figured I was a stand in for someone she wanted to hug. I remembered John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” I felt like the body of Christ, holding someone to display His love for her. She began to leave. After a short internal struggle, I shouted “God bless you.” I decided that even if she didn’t believe in God, He knew her and wanted to bless her. I prayed that strongholds would break inside her and that the Lord would begin to heal her hurts and reintroduce Himself as the lover of her soul.
I turned back to the other lady whose prayer had been interrupted and prayed for her friend’s illness and for her to be supportive. Prayer flowed through me for the rest of the day. My two-hour shift extended to five and a half hours as I couldn’t tear myself away.
God showed me before I left that I could pray both for those who asked for prayer and for those who didn’t. They needed prayer just as much and maybe more. I prayed for Holy Spirit eyes to see people the way He did and reach through their hurt with the hope of Christ. God would point out someone with colored hair or a bright shirt to catch my eye, and I’d pray for that person. God knew their needs, even if I didn’t.
The next week, I realized I needed to make every day a local mission trip instead of just a Saturday at the fair. People needed prayer daily. I can prayer walk at the grocery store or in my workplace. God knows how to apply my prayers. This is what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV). Prayer needs to become my lifestyle. When I am in tune with the Holy Spirit, He can accomplish great things through my prayers. I have to focus on the eternal instead of the hectic craze of my day. This transforms the mundane into the extraordinary as God provides divine appointments where He lets us be His hands and feet. I pray God syncs my heart with the Spirit so I extend the gift of free prayer everywhere I go.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.