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.
I heard a nudge in my heart to turn around. I was driving home in the middle of the night after a violent storm had swept through the area. After cresting a hill, I’d nearly run into a large branch in the road. I swerved just in time to miss it.
Turn around and move that branch.
Ugh. I did not want to go back. It was after 3 am. I was so tired that the lines in the road swam before my eyes. All I wanted was my pillow.
Then I remembered a story my pastor shared about a time when the Holy Spirit had led him to turn around late one night. He had found an empty car on the side of the road where the driver had been ejected from her seat into the nearby woods. He called 911, and the woman received medical treatment. Maybe I should move that branch.
I turned around. I parked along the roadside near the fallen tree. My heart raced as I ran to lug the branch out of the way. I worried that if anyone passed, they’d hit me because it so dark. My exhaustion level was too high for this type of excitement.
When I drove off, I felt peace for obeying the Holy Spirit’s prompting. In my rear view window, I saw another car driving down the part of the road where I’d just been. It warmed my heart to know the path was clear.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (NKJV). I believe God prepared beforehand for me to turn around and move that branch. Honestly, it wasn’t very glamorous, but I obeyed. God desires to use His children for His glory and has individual assignments for each of us. However, too often I miss those opportunities by refusing to listen.
What if I had decided I was too sleepy and kept driving home? Maybe if I hadn’t moved that tree, the person behind me would have gotten into an accident. I’ll never know. I had to be ready to listen to the Holy Spirit, even when it seemed inconvenient.
Psalm 25:14a says, "The Lord confides in those who fear Him” (NIV). The God of the universe shares His secrets with those who fear Him. When He knows that our ears are open to hearing His whispers, His Holy Spirit calls us. We just have to be willing to hear and obey.
I also realized that my heart was softened to hear the Holy Spirit ask me to do something random like turn around in the middle of the night because my pastor had shared a similar story. This enhances my understanding of verses like Psalm 9:1, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works” (NKJV). When God does something good in and through us, we need to boast of what He has done. We share our stories because they give God glory. They also encourage others to be obedient when their times come.
God also reminded me about how well He protects us. Psalm 121:8 says, “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore" (NKJV). I wondered how many times God had cleared my roads, physical or otherwise, without my knowledge. Some people ask why God doesn't prevent bad things from happening. I suspect He stops way more things than our minds could begin to conceive, we just don't know. By listening to the Holy Spirit, God used me as an instrument for salvation that night. I pray we tune our ears to listen to the Holy Spirit, obey His prompting, and sing His praises to everyone we meet.
The Holy Spirit Reminds Us of Truth
Last time, we examined how the Holy Spirit teaches us truth. Now we will build on that concept by exploring how we soften our hearts to be taught by the Holy Spirit. As a reminder, the verse we are looking at John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (NKJV).
The second half of John 14:26 explains that the Holy Spirit reminds us of what Jesus said. For Him to do this, we must memorize God’s Word. We can’t recall what we haven’t already stored in our hearts. I almost hear the Holy Spirit saying, “Help me, help you.” We must do our part to enable the Holy Spirit to bring to mind God's truth in our lives by hiding God's Word in our hearts.
I heard a story once about a child who prepared to battle a dragon. Sadly, his only weapon was a pencil, and the dragon consumed him. We also fight a great dragon called Satan. While it helps to remember a few verses like John 3:16, if that is our whole spiritual arsenal, we will be eaten alive. I have learned to dig into the Bible to learn many Scriptures that pertain to my personal struggles. I study them so that when the enemy strikes, my weapons are ready.
This past weekend, a family member was hurt very badly. Initially, we had a lot of unknowns. Fear sought to strangle our hearts. The Holy Spirit reminded me of Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (NKJV). God wasn’t done with my sibling yet. He was still in control. God would make a way forward. Because I’d already deposited truth in my heart, it was easily accessible for the Holy Spirit to use to comfort me in my distress.
Ways to Memorize Scripture
One way to memorize Scripture is to read the verse aloud several times. Ten years ago, I tried to memorize Philippians, but got bogged down. Later I started again, and learned it. I studied the verses every night. First, I reviewed the verses I had previously memorized. Then I read the new verse aloud several times and recited it without looking at least five times or until I got it right. It took a whole year, but I finally learned it all.
Other methods of Scripture memory include writing the verse out longhand many times, putting it on sticky notes around the house to read, and finding a Scripture buddy to text verses to daily. A fun way of memorizing verses is through music. In elementary school, one of my children’s Bible study teachers turned a verse into a song that we sang for weeks. I still know that verse today. Music sticks in my brain. If you’ve ever had a song you can’t get out of your head, you know what I mean. Make up your own tune or find a song you love, and sing verses of truth into your heart and mind.
Even if you’ve had trouble before, start anew memorizing God’s Word. Don’t feel like you have to tackle a whole book. Take it one verse at a time. Let it dwell in you richly and renew you day by day. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know God’s Word. He’ll be glad to assist.
Stir Up the Holy Spirit's Power
May we always seek to unleash the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives as we learn to love God’s Word. Even though the Holy Spirit won’t leave us, we can treat Him as if He wasn’t there. After you put chocolate syrup in milk, it technically is chocolate milk. However, unless you stir the milk, the chocolate lays idle on the bottom of the glass. Moving the chocolate distributes it throughout the milk. I pray we stir up the Holy Spirit daily and invite Him to teach and remind us of truth.
When I surrender what I want, it frees me to receive something better later. One summer, I shopped for a duvet cover for my sister. A friend helped me dig through mounds of linens. A white duvet cover with royal blue tea cups caught my eye. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do. Because I was too lazy to carry it, I shoved it under a stack of sheets until I returned to check out.
Later when I circled back, I saw another lady toting around the thing I’d hidden. I was crushed. Those linens were supposed to be for my sister, yet someone else had them. I turned to my friend near tears, unsure what to do.
“It’s not yours,” she said. I was skeptical, but she reasserted, “It’s not yours. If God had wanted you to have it, she wouldn’t have taken it.”
She started to look through the sheets again. I stood by in shock that God has allowed someone to take what I’d intended to give my sister. Then my friend waived a cream-colored duvet cover with a white trellis design.
I was stunned. Not only was it my sister’s style, but it included the pillowcases and cost less than the other one. God had something better for me, I just had to keep looking. I would have settled, but God wouldn’t let me. The lady taking the other duvet cover was a blessing. It wasn’t what God had saved for me.
Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus [emphasis added] (NKJV).” So, when I don’t get what I think I should, God reminds me it’s not mine. It must not be one of my needs, or He would have provided it. I must surrender my desires to get God’s best. Sometimes, He gives it to me almost immediately, like with the duvet. I had needed it that weekend to give to my sister. Other times I have to wait.
Often, I get impatient, wanting everything right away. It’s hard to wait for God’s timing because it never seems like mine. There have been jobs I thought I deserved and didn’t get, only to get better positions later. Some of my relationships have ended before I was ready, but I realized later they weren’t what I needed. I’ve missed countless buses that I’ve chased, yet still eventually got to where I was headed. You see, those jobs, relationships, and buses—they weren’t mine. I had to wait for the right ones, but they were worth the wait.
Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” God strengthened me when I waited for those jobs, relationships, and buses and saved me from the wrong things. He reminded me that He was in control and would provide my needs. Even when my situation didn’t change, I realized I don’t know what would have happened if I had got what I wanted. Maybe someone would have accosted me on the bus had I caught it. God protects me from myself by providing the right things at the right times.
This assurance helps me when I don’t get what want in my timing, which happens more than I’d prefer. Recently, I went clothes shopping, trying to find the right outfit. I went to several stores and looked online, only to have things disappear hours before I decided to buy them. My disappointment ran deep because I got my heart set on the dress during the hunt. When it didn’t pan out, I got frustrated with God for preventing me from getting what I wanted. God told me it wasn’t mine. Because God has provided for me before, I know He will again. I don’t know what it is. I just have to wait.
Matthew 6:28-30 says, “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
This verse comforted me. God loves me more than grass. He has the right clothes for me, and I will look beautiful in them. God is holding my dress for me. I don’t need it immediately, so I can wait. I choose to walk by faith and not by sight. The God who owns all things will generously provide me with the right thing when I need it. I can only gain when I wait for His provision in His timing.
Seek God first, and you will never be a nobody. Our society focuses on looking out for number one. How can I make my dreams come true? How can I excel and make a name for myself? I would like to say as a Christian I am immune to these longings, but the call of greatness beckons at the back of my mind. No one wants to be a nobody. We want to be known and respected by a wide audience. When we don’t have that, it feels like something is missing.
My favorite Christmas movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Every year I watch this movie to remind myself that even when my life doesn’t go as I planned, it can still have value and meaning. George Bailey never left Bedford Falls, but unknowingly, he enriched the lives of everyone who lived there. His reach extended even further because he saved his brother’s life, who in turn protected others in World War II. We may never know the ripple effect of our lives.
Though I love this movie, it frustrates my friend. She is galled that George never leaves Bedford Falls and none of his dreams come true. He doesn’t get to see the world, but is stuck working in the Savings and Loan. She thinks that he should have been able to go places, earn a good salary, and make a difference. His desires mattered. He shouldn’t have to miss out on his hopes. There must be a way to have personal happiness while also bringing good to the world.
While I understand her angst, this line of reasoning directly opposes what I see in the Bible. Our lives aren’t supposed to be about fulfilling our own dreams and having success as defined by the world. When we strive for these things, even when we get them, they don’t bring the joy and fulfillment we expect. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV). When we seek to build God’s kingdom instead of our own, we experience the abundant life and utter joy God desires to give us.
I am so thankful for the times God has forced me to surrender my demands in favor of His plans. Several years ago, I tried to get a job in my favorite town. I felt qualified for the position, and figured God would give me what I wanted. He didn’t. Instead I got a job in a city I’d never lived in and had no idea what to expect. However, that was a much better place for me to live in because it was closer to my sister who was doing missions work. We visited often and deepened our relationship. I also joined a local Bible study, where people encouraged me in my walk with Christ. God knew my needs better than I did.
Mark 8:35 says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (NKJV). Praise God He convinced me to try something new because I would have missed out on so many good times. I let go of my demands to go where I wanted and gained sweet memories instead. My dreams pale in comparison to what God has planned for me.
Another area where I struggle is wanting to feel like I’m somebody who has left a positive mark on the world. I want recognition for my good work, and can get insecure if I feel like my efforts are unnoticed. However, John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (NKJV). My goals are backwards if I try to make myself big instead of honoring God’s name. God must receive all the glory. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images” (NKJV). God rightfully deserves all the glory. When we live for our own renown, we will never get enough recognition and always be frustrated. It is ok to be a nobody for God if He so calls you to that. George Bailey may have felt like a nobody, but he made a huge impact on the world.
Sometimes, God allows us to be nobodies for a while to humble us and prepare us for what He has next. He has to ensure we can handle success before freeing us to fulfill our destinies. Think about how Joseph sat in prison for years having done nothing wrong. God had to strip him of the pride he had displayed with his brothers before raising him to second-in-command over Egypt. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (NKJV). When we allow God to mold us in the shadows, He ushers us into the light to reflect His glory at the right time.
Focus on being who God has made you to be for His glorify instead of trying to promote yourself. God knows best how to use you for His greatest glory. Philippians 4:12 says, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (NKJV). When we learn to be content in all circumstances, no matter where God has us, He will get all the glory. God’s glory lasts for eternity. If you want to be somebody with eternal impact, seek God first. In the end, only His Name matters.
God doesn’t owe us anything. Sometimes I forget this truth. I bemoan my life and don’t understand why I don’t have what everyone else seems to have.
A while ago, a friend and I ran errands to get care package items for the people on her mission trip. She felt loved with acts of service, and I liked quality time, so a trip to Walmart to buy gifts was perfect. I returned to her place to change clothes because I was heading straight to another friend’s wedding that evening.
I complained that it seemed unfair that she got to go on a mission trip and my other friend was getting married. What was I doing with my life? Nothing. I explained to her that even though I tried to obey God, read my Bible, and pray regularly, my life looked nothing like I’d expected. Tears of frustration welled up in my eyes. Why wasn’t I going places or getting married? Didn’t God know I was doing my best? Didn’t God love me?
My friend introduced me to a story from Luke 17. Jesus reminded His disciples that after a servant came in from tending sheep, his master didn’t offer for him to sit and eat first. No, the master expected the servant to make food for the master and rest later. Luke 17:10 says, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (NKJV).
Her illustration rubbed me wrong. I didn’t want to be an unprofitable servant who simply does her duty. I’m not a robot. My friend highlighted that our pride causes us to bristle. We want to feel worthwhile in and of ourselves, when all of our worth and value comes from God, not from our works.
We don’t serve God because of what we get from Him, but because of who He is. God is worthy of more than we could ever give Him. If we approach our relationship with God as a series of transactions, we will lose every time. We can never do enough to earn God’s blessings. It is naïve to even think so, yet we do. The only exchange happened when God sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment for our sins on the cross. Jesus took our sins, and we get His righteousness and eternal life in heaven. That is a much better reward than trying to earn the American dream through bribing God with my works.
Years later, my life still doesn’t look like everyone else’s life. I’ve decided that’s a good thing. If the world is living to serve themselves, my life shouldn’t look like theirs. I live to serve Christ. Over time, God has opened unique doors for me to serve His kingdom that wouldn’t have been available if I’d taken a more traditional road. And that joy I thought would come from having it all, actually came as a byproduct from seeking God first. Obedience is its own reward. Now my goal is to get to heaven one day and hear my lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:23, NKJV).
To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes … that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 NKJV
God can change even the worst things into beauty.
When I visited Iceland, my tour guide drove the group by the volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010. He explained the hardships the farmers endured trying to salvage their crops, which were covered by ash. The sheep usually roamed the hills, but had to remain indoors so they wouldn’t inhale the smoke. Iceland had suffered during the economic crisis in 2008 and hadn’t recovered by 2010. The immediate repercussions seemed insurmountable.
For those who survived the initial turmoil, the volcano brought good in the long run. By blanketing the ground, the ash made it fertile. Also, the locals believe the volcano put Iceland on the map. Tourism skyrocketed.
God turned something as tragic as a volcanic eruption into something good for Iceland. Those ashes were recreated into beauty.
God does the same in our lives. Sometimes our dreams seem to go up in smoke as we struggle. We suffer loss we don’t understand. But God doesn’t waste our pain. He transforms it into something more glorious than its original state. He builds spiritual endurance in us during the dark times that He can use for His purposes in the good times. Often, no other way exists to obtain that strength other than by going through the fire.
If you have had your dreams explode and your life turned into ashes, ask God how He wants to use these times for His glory. He has plans to use the darkness as a backdrop to better display the light of His kingdom’s work.
Ask the Lord to bring beauty from the ashes of your life.
Used by permission Christian Devotions Ministries.
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.