Tag Archives: trouble

In the Hard Times

Crow in the rainThese days I have two prayer lists near to my heart: eight teens numbing their pain with choices that make it worse, and five couples dealing with serious illness. And a third mini-list of friends with heavy burdens.

Trouble is alive and well, and what do we do about it? We can’t wish it away, and we can’t turn into whiners. Here are three posts that pointed me in the right direction this week:

Why do bad things happen? Glynis Belec knows there’s no easy answer and yet she finds strength to face a new round of battle. Bitter-sweet (at My Journey)

In the middle of global or personal suffering, how do we cope? Violet Nesdoly shares the value of a good lament. Job’s Lament (at Other Food: daily devo’s)

Mary DeMuth’s open personal lament shows the difference bringing our hurts to God can make. A Mourning Prayer (at Live Uncaged)

Of the many “songs for the hard times” the one I’m hearing today is from the Newsboys: “When the Tears Fall.”

Joy and Security

Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalm 63:7-8, NLT*

I’ve been reading this psalm daily for a few weeks now, and although it’s short, it’s powerful. David is longing for God, and he’s aware of his enemies pressing in, yet the verses overflow with words like praise and joy and sing. He has his faith perspective in place.

I know about pressing through in prayer, bringing God our fears and troubles. Leaving those troubles with Him. Praying until it becomes about Him rather than about us. Until we’re worshipping. Praising.

I don’t do it nearly as often as I should.

That’s what David’s doing here. He hasn’t forgotten the desert or his enemies’ plots. He’s not denying or ignoring them.

But he sees God. He knows God is enough.

He’s not perching timidly in the shadow of God’s wings, trembling in that strong hand because the danger might snatch him away. He has no thought that God might drop him or fail to protect him.

Our God, You are strong and mighty to save. You are our strong tower, our refuge, our shelter and our Defender. You are our Good Shepherd. We know the words, but so often we don’t act like we believe them. We run to You and keep watching our troubles as if they might break through Your defenses. Faith tells us that can’t happen. Help us listen and be confident in You.

The classic Newsboys worship song, “Strong Tower,” is a good confidence-builder.

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Best Response to Trouble

Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens.
May your glory shine over all the earth.
Psalm 57:11, NLT*

This is another David-hunted-by-Saul psalm. It’s only 11 verses long, and twice David repeats the lines above.

He cries out to God for help, describing his danger and the strength of his enemies. Then he first calls for God to be exalted and glorified. The context implies “bring glory to Your name by defeating my powerful enemies.”

When I look at troubles and dangers and ask God to be glorified, that’s what I mean too.

But David keeps on writing. Now he’s talking about his confidence in God, how he can praise God and how he’ll thank Him. Present and future. Because of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness.

Then he repeats “Be exalted… may your glory shine.”

David’s faith response, and his confident trust in God despite the circumstances, also exalts and glorifies God. Isn’t that something we can do, too?

Holy and majestic God Most High, be exalted. Let Your glory shine. We pray to see Your intervention in the troubles that shake us—and our world. Strengthen our faith so we can stand like David in hard times. Be exalted, let Your glory shine, through us, Your children, as we trust You.

Third Day’s “Your Love, O Lord,” is a good song to keep us focused in worship and trust.

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Self-pity or God-praise?

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
2 Corinthians 11:23, NIV*

The Corinthian believers have been listening to trendier leaders than Paul, and while those leaders may have a better delivery they aren’t delivering the truth. In this passage, Paul is reminding these Christians of his “credentials.”

His litany of sufferings prove he’s serving Christ—to the point of enduring persecution. But he’s not talking like a victim, nor a beaten-down fighter.

Instead of “poor me” he’s boasting about this. Not that he’s proud of the suffering as such. He’s saying “See how much Jesus trusts me—He knows I’ll keep focused on Him, and others will hear.” And “See how good He is to sustain me and to advance His kingdom even when its enemies throw everything they’ve got.”

That’s what happened in the jail in Philippi when Paul and Silas were singing praises to God. They showed how to “rejoice in the Lord always.”

Praise and thanksgiving really do work when we want to keep our spirits set on God.

Father, Sustainer of our spirits, most of us haven’t faced the abuse Paul did, and a lot of what we’ve endured hasn’t been because of persecution. But we still need to keep our eyes on You and our hearts tuned in praise and worship. You are God. Help us anchor in You. Strengthen us so others will see Your goodness and love even when we’re in hard times.

Casting Crowns’ “Praise You in this Storm” is a good song to keep us focused.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Our God is With Us

Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on their God.
Isaiah 50:10, NIV*

Our first desire in hard times is for escape, and if we can’t have it right away, we at least need to know there’s the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Even Jesus focused on the joy ahead of Him when His road went through the Cross. (Hebrews 12:2)

Sometimes we can’t even see that light ahead—either because the path looks so long or because the tunnel bends.

What do we hold onto then?


His character, His promises, His presence with us even if we feel all alone.

Each Christmas I think of this more. On one hand it’s a terrible time of year to be struggling, but on the other, the pain can remind us that this is why Jesus came.

We hope and pray things will get better. We thank God for what He’s doing that we can’t see. And sometimes we just have to keep on keeping on, acting in faith that God is still good and in control. Knowing that, worst case scenario, when life ends He will take us to Himself.

Sovereign and loving God, we praise You for Your care and for the many times You make our paths easier. Thank You for sending Jesus as our Redeemer, so that no matter what life brings, we can walk through it with You and we can be assured of a place with You when it ends. Give us the faith we need to trust in You in the dark and in the light, and the courage to live boldly as Your children.

Here’s Michael Card’s beautiful “Immanuel”. Enjoy.

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

We Are Loved

Years ago, back when we had to watch television without fast-forwarding through the commercials, there was an ad where people would tell about various hardships they were going through (job loss, health issues etc) and they’d always end with a big grin and “But I’m loved!”

I don’t remember if it was sponsored by a Christian group or by another religious organization, but my reaction was a sarcastic “yeah, right—that makes everything okay, then”.

These were painful struggles, but the glowing smiles implied happiness and laughter, puppies and flowers, all’s right in the world.

Sometimes life hurts. A lot. Denying the pain makes it worse, and that’s what I sensed in the ads: denial.

Yet, we are loved. And that assurance means more to me each year, each speedbump that rocks my life or those of my friends. The heavier the burden, the more we need to rely on God’s loving, strengthening grace.

Nothing can separate us from His love. If everything crumbles around us, if the very worst happens,  He’ll still be there to sustain us. And somehow He’ll make something beautiful, even if it can only be seen from the far side of eternity.

When fear or discouragement jab me these days, I’ve surprised myself by retorting “But I’m loved”.

It doesn’t numb me or give me a sappy grin, but it resonates in my spirit. It stirs my confidence in the God I’m learning to trust, the God who promised never to leave nor forsake me.

Maybe it’s because I’m learning that His staying has nothing to do with me and everything to do with His character. I can’t earn His love. It was never about that.

He loves me because He formed me. He gave His own Son to save me. He sent His Spirit to live in me. And He never goes back on His word.

Because of who He is, I can say, whatever my circumstances, through smiles or through tears, “I am loved.”

And I will trust Him.

To Know God Hears

I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
Psalm 116:1-2, NIV*

Psalm 116 comes from more than intellectual acceptance of the deity of God—it overflows with love and gratitude.

Three times in these first two verses, the writer says he called out. But what really thrills him is that God heard. And acted.

It’s the psalmist’s experience of God’s answer that compels his loving worship. If this is a David psalm, it’s not the beginning of a personal relationship with God. If it’s someone else, maybe this is the moment when he moves from faith by hearing to faith by experience.

People need to hear the truth about who God is and what Jesus has done to offer them rescue. But it’s the personal encounter when they risk calling out to God that makes it real. We each move from “I have heard” to “Now I know”.

I find myself praying for specific individuals today, and my prayer is that the aching Christians will know with certainty that God is hearing their cries. That His love and peace will sustain them.

And I’m praying for ones who are wandering to cry out to God and be amazed that God is hearing—and that His answer is distinctly personal and life changing.

I love you, LORD, for You  hear each voice, You hear each cry for mercy. Reassure us that You hear, and let us experience the wonder of Your deliverance from whatever is crushing us.  As we walk through Holy Week, I praise You for this ultimate proof that You have heard the cries and groans all through time, and that humanity can say, “when I/we was/were in great need, He saved me/us.” 

Here’s a classic from the newsboys: “Thrive.” When He touches us, we know we’re alive.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

A Jesus Prayer Day

When [blind Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Mark 10:47-48, NIV*

Into the middle of busy schedules and global crises, Monday brought the news that a young boy in our community had taken his life. He was maybe 15, 16?

How do you pray for something like this? There are words: “comfort the family, send them caring support, help his friends….”

I did some of that, but the need just felt too big. But I remembered reading about the Jesus Prayer in an online-only bonus article in Faith Today.

The NIV has eight references to a people crying out variations of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Trusting that the Holy Spirit intercedes when we don’t know how to pray, I gave Him the burden by repeating “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy.” Mercy toward family, friends, He knew best.

The peace surprised me, but it shouldn’t. I’d stopped trying to carry—and fix—the problem, and given it to the Master Healer and Builder.

Today I found two excellent links on the history and effectiveness of the Jesus Prayer at the Orthodox Prayer and Concentric Net sites.

The exact wording of the Jesus Prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s meant for more than forgiveness, for any kind of need. The “sinner” part is to remind us how powerless we are to help ourselves.

With all that’s going on in the world, near and far, we’re pretty helpless. Item 24 in my new gratitude journal is “Thank You for giving me the Jesus Prayer for when I’d need it.”

And thank You for Your great mercy, poured out in our lives. Open the grieving to receive it. Open us all to see our need of it. And I praise and thank You, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, that You don’t leave us as orphans in this world. That You care, and that You give the peace of Christ.

A song that comforts me in hurt is from the group Fee: “The Arms that Hold the Universe”.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Love Each Other Deeply

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8, NIV*

The Apostle Peter places a lot of emphasis in this letter on how Christians should conduct ourselves in relationships and in hardships. He’s already told us to “love one another deeply, from the heart [or from a pure heart]” (1 Peter 1:22b, NIV)

Now he reminds us again to love deeply, and says it covers a multitude of sins. He’s been urging us to live well in relationship, and I think this is the “how”.

Most translations that I checked speak of love covering sins. (I love Bible Gateway). The Message expresses it as “love makes up for practically anything.”  The Amplified Bible says love “forgives and disregards the offenses of others.

Peter’s not saying love will turn a blind eye, excuse or enable wicked or destructive behaviour. It seems to me the “sins” love covers are twofold:

People are irritating (rumour has it, this includes me!). If I choose to ignore the thing(s) that grate me in another person, choose to focus on that person’s value and to love him or her, that helps me obey Peter’s teaching and live like Jesus.

And by choosing to love rather than to be critical, I’m dealing with or negating sin in my own life. Jesus had lots to say about being critical and judgmental.

Father, You know true, Christ-like love doesn’t come naturally… or easily. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who longs to produce it in me. Please help me learn to rest more in Him and not hinder His fruit in me. Help me to love others, because You love them. Thank You for loving me too.

For this week’s song, I chose Don Francisco’s “I Could Never Promise You,” which is often thought of as a wedding song but which I think applies just as well to all of a Christian’s relationships. How can we promise to love others without Jesus’ enabling? At the end of the video there’s some conversation about that.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Knowing God’s Nearness Today

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:22-24, NIV*

As I prayed for a friend who has serious health trouble, the Holy Spirit seemed to prompt me to ask the Father to reassure her that He’d be with her whatever the future brings, but also that she’d know His nearness today.

We all long for some kind of reassurance for the future – specifically that things will be fine – but God asks us to focus on today. That’s the whole “living in the moment” thing I’m still trying to learn.

Definitely, we need a solid faith that God knows what lies ahead and can deal with it, but we’re not in the future. We’re in the present. And as Jesus said, today has enough troubles of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

Father, I’m so thankful that You know what tomorrow holds. Nothing will catch You off guard. Help me to trust the future to You and to live in the present – knowing You’re with me. Open my eyes to what you want to do through me today, who You want to touch. Help me enjoy Your company on the journey.

This week’s song is the classic “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” sung here by the group Selah.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.