Hello Faith Are You There? It’s Me Marita.

     One might ask how do I know I have faith? Some of you might have already read my previous writing about Faith asking what is it. Well now I am answering the question that I even ask myself…how do I really know if I have faith? Is it something I took and now it’s mine never to be stolen. Do I have to keep up with it? How did I get it? How do I strengthen it? What if I loose it on accident? What about doubts? Those suck! Did lingering poisonous doubt come into my mind and rob my faith? Well if you have asked yourself any of these question, guess what? So have I! I have been thinking about these questions a lot. I’ve been praying or meditating about it and thinking. Faith can be a confusing thing! Especially since we cannot see it. Even MORE confusing we cannot FEEL it and that is what I am going to get into and shed some light on. I think to myself uh faith; I don’t feel it at the moment. I know what I know but do I really know? I don’t feel anything at the moment that confirms this…welcome to the world of feelings led by doubt! I hate feelings! Did I mention they suck? I could do a whole article on feelings but that’s for another day. Today I am discussing faith and how we know we have it. How we strengthen it, and how we keep it. Now bear with me because I’m talking myself through this too! Haha

     If you are like me you know what it’s like to be an anxious or worrisome person. You know those people who are constantly freaking out about things out of their control or stuck in the domino effects of worrying about one thing that leads to the next thing to the next and so on until you’re in one big pile of worry that seems to be suffocating you and you cannot get out from all this weight on top of you? Those of you who don’t I envy you! Haha I know I shouldn’t say that, envy is a monster of it’s own and I kid! In some aspect though you know what it’s like to have worry and feel like there is no ridding it. I’m going to go back and define faith like I did in a previous article I wrote. Faith is such a huge thing that the Bible actually gives an exact definition of what it is in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. Interesting…I have to think about that one a moment.

     The best way for me to understand this concept of having faith without feelings attached was when I was thinking about this concept deeply and I started asking myself questions. Along with the feelings aspect I stared wondering well how do I maintain and increase my faith and keep it strong. How does that happen? I did get some great advice from a spiritual father of mine and he told me simply, it’s confirmation that strengthens your faith. Wow interesting I didn’t think of it that way! Of course it is though! I guess I just needed confirmation! HAHA! Now I believe along with my spiritual father’s advice sparking my train of thought it was truly the Holy Spirit guiding me through this thought process after the fact. I thought to myself okay Marita think about it this way as in a relationship. You are with Anthony. How do you know he loves you and cares for you? Yes he tells you but he shows you and by showing you you have confirmation, which in itself strengthens your beliefs in knowing he cares about you. Well the same applies to God and Jesus in our lives. Say we are dealing with an issue as we most of the time are haha and we pray and pray about it and nothing we do on our own is helping. Then one day something happens and it’s the answer to your prayers. The answer you’ve been looking for. No one else knows about your personal struggle aside from you sharing it with God and even so he knows what you need. This answer or blessing I should say stops you dead in your tracks. Ever have those moments when you think oh my this is exactly what I needed, the answer to my prayers and you just know. You know it’s a God thing. What is that? It’s confirmation that God hears you. It’s confirmation that not only does he hear you and give you exactly what you need, most importantly it confirms that he loves you, cares for you, and that you have been given blessings poured upon you. Then once you recognize that and know it’s a God thing. That right there strengthens your faith. It increases your trust and belief that God is with you and for you. It increases your faith in him. Now don’t get all jaded thinking oh I’ve prayed many times and God never gives me what I want. Okay that’s the problem right there. First off it’s what he wants not what you want and the sooner you realize that and humble yourself the sooner you will reap the rewards of his love. Submit to him and he will give you what you need and bless you with the rewards only set to stow upon his children. Confirmation is in the Word of God. It’s not only personal experiences and testimonies. Testimonies are some of thee most powerful confirmations in the world but God’s written Word is right there as proof as well but the way I like to look at it is that your testimony and experiences in life is the Word of God in action in your life. That’s confirmation.

     I touched on confirmation, well what about feelings? Can you tell I save that for last? Feelings get in the way and trick you. I could feel like not going to church but is it what’s best for me? No. Then what happens I go to church and feel amazing afterwards! So feelings are misleading sometimes and can be used against you and against fulfilling God’s will in your life. I’ll save you the lecture on feelings though and cut to the point. I find that one of the hardest things to acknowledge is this: “For we live by faith and not by sight” -2 Corinthians 5:7 It’s hard but what’s harder for me is how can I not be lead by feelings. You would think that feelings should dictate your life. Oh I feel too tired to go to church so I won’t go because my feelings must be the most important thing to follow. Oh I’m bored with reading scripture and I need something more interesting. Oh I don’t feel like forgiving that person because they hurt me. Oh I feel like yelling and being violent with that person because they insulted me. Do you see where feelings can get out of control? I could keep going but I think you get the point. Well it’s the same thing with what some might think are minor feelings about minor things such as feeling something is right or wrong. Just because something feels right doesn’t mean it is. What if it felt right for you to punch that other person in the face because they did something that upset you? Does two wrongs make it right? My point here is that feelings should not dictate our faith and determine its strength. Here is another example. Back to Anthony and I. Now I know Anthony loves me. How do I know this? Because of the confirmation we just talked about but let’s take it a step further. Do I have to feel something to know something? No. I know Anthony loves me. I know he is my boyfriend. Do I have to feel head over heels giddy all day long and every single time someone asks me if he’s my boyfriend to confirm that he is just based on my feelings? No. I know because of the confidence I have and the relationship I’ve built and the confirmation in my life that tells me he is. I do not need to feel giddy every time I confirm with someone he’s my boyfriend to confirm that. I guess the best point I am trying to make here is that I do not need to feel something all the time to confirm what is true. Truth is the truth and regardless of how I “feel” in that present moment, it is not going to change the truth. So faith is not determined by feelings and how I feel one day and how I feel the next. I know things to be true but I don’t need feelings to confirm what I already know. This may be a confusing thing and believe me it is! We live in a world where we live in the flesh. Our lives are controlled with how we feel. It’s confusing! It’s how we were brought up but thank God for Jesus and the word of God and his teaching! Then thank God for the blessings of knowledge and wisdom that he pours onto us when we ask because we need it!

     Overall the key thing to remember about Faith is that it cannot be determined by feelings alone. It is a God thing and confirmation from God and the building of that relationship with him is what makes your faith stronger. Look for those confirmations in your life. It may be subtle little things. It may be huge in your face things. Regardless confirmation is confirmation and no matter the size of it, it strengthens your faith. Remember after all, Jesus did say, “The mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.”…”If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible for you.” –Matthew 13:31, 17:20

fear…YOU SUCK! By Lsya Terkeurst

There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Decision
LYSA TERKEURST

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:6 (ESV)

Recently I surveyed people through Twitter and Facebook with this question: What do you think is the biggest reason people struggle to make decisions?

Overwhelmingly, fear was the answer.

• Fear of the unknown
• Fear of failure
• Fear of getting hurt
• Fear of what others will think
• Fear of rejection
• Fear of missing out on something better
• Fear of making the wrong decision

I absolutely understand all these fears. I wrestle with them myself. And some wrestling with fear is good. It can keep us from making poor choices. For example, my kids’ fear of being restricted often keeps them from missing curfews.

That kind of wrestling with fear is good. But then other times I can still feel like I’m wrestling with fear to the point where I’m paralyzed from moving forward.

Do you have a decision to make right now where uncertainty is making you feel stuck?

I often get analysis paralysis trying to figure out which choice is the perfect decision. And if I can’t discern the perfect choice I feel paralyzed.

Here’s the thing that keeps me from staying stuck: There is no such thing as a perfect decision.

Perfection is an illusion.

Are there good choices and bad choices? Yes, of course. But at this point in my life, I’m not getting tripped up as much in the good versus the bad decisions.

More often now, I find myself stuck between a good choice and another good choice, trying to figure out which one is perfect.

Should I let my girls take dance lessons they would love but that would require us to eat on the run? Or tell them no so we can have family dinners at home? Good and good.

Should I teach that Bible study every Tuesday night at church or be at home to help my kids with their homework? Good and good.

Should my 20-year-old daughter go on a date with the guy from our church or just keep things between them on a friendship level? Good and good.

What about bigger good and good things?

Should I go on a mission trip or to a marriage conference? Good and good.

Should I quit my job to start that ministry I keep talking about or bring more of a ministry-heart into my existing job? Good and good.

These good and good decisions happen every day. But here’s a secret answer you must know when trying to pick the perfect choice: There is no choice that will turn out perfectly in every way.

As long as you desire to please God with your decisions, no decision you make will be completely awful. Nor will any decision you make be completely awesome.

Every decision is a package deal of both.

In other words, since there is no perfect choice, I don’t have to be paralyzed by the fear that I’m not making the exact right decision.

Again, I want to please God with this decision. Our key verse, Proverbs 3:6, promises that He will make our paths straight if we acknowledge Him in all we do. So I also want to demonstrate my trust in Him by actually making a decision — having made peace with the fact it won’t all be perfect.

There is no perfect job.
There is no perfect school.
There is no perfect spouse.
There is no perfect church.
There is no perfect way to raise kids.
There is no perfect decision.

Each of these choices will have just enough imperfections to make them some combination of good and not so good.

So here’s where the certainty is: My imperfections will never override God’s promises. God’s promises are not dependent on my ability to always choose well, but rather on His ability to use well.

Dear Lord, I trust You beyond any fear I have of making the wrong decision. Today, I hand over all my uncertainties to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (NIV)

Release! By Lysa Terkeurst

God, I’m Worn Out

LYSA TERKEURST

“When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” Psalm 142:3 (NLT)

Have you ever had one of those late night come-to-Jesus moments where the weight of regret lays heavy across your chest?

For me, it usually happens because in the hectic pace of the day, I blew up at one of my kids, I brushed past a moment of connection with someone God put in my path, or I rushed through all the moments without stopping to enjoy any of them.

I’ve discovered a great source of stress, distraction and exhaustion in my life. I say yes to too many things. I take on too many good things, which causes me to miss my best things. It’s so hard to say no and let go of opportunities that come my way. But if I don’t learn the gift of release, I’ll wrestle with a lack of peace.

I saw this visibly a few years ago when I traveled to visit a friend. As soon as she picked me up from the airport and we started driving, I saw the fallout from the storm she’d tried to describe. A massive 20-inch snow in the middle of fall.

But it wasn’t the amount of snow still on the ground, or the snowmen proudly standing that grabbed my attention.

It was the broken trees. The branches were piled everywhere.

House after house. All down the street. Disastrous piles of limbs — big piles of trees — all still clinging to the leaves that hadn’t dropped yet. And because the leaves hadn’t dropped, the trees broke.

That’s what happens when a snow comes early. The trees weren’t designed to face snow before releasing their leaves. They weren’t made to carry more than they should. And neither are we.

I know the weight of carrying more than I should. And usually it’s because I’ve refused to release something before taking on something else. If I want to choose a Best Yes, it’s crucial I make room for it first.

Otherwise, a Best Yes can quickly become a stressed yes. And a stressed yes is like snow on a tree that refuses to release its leaves. It causes cracks and breaks at our core.

If we refuse to release before we add, we will get overloaded.

We see how refusing to release gets people in trouble all throughout the stories in Scripture.

Eve refused to release the forbidden fruit. And because she became hyperfocused on that one thing, she missed out on the best things in paradise.

Esau refused to release his urgent need for some stew. And because he became hyperfocused on eating that soup, he missed out on his birthright.

Moses refused to release his fear that just speaking to the rock as God commanded wouldn’t actually bring forth water. And because he struck the rock twice, he missed out on entering the Promised Land.

Each of these people paid a high price for their refusals to release — to let go of their ways so they could walk in the amazing way of God.

It wasn’t God’s desire for any of these people to suffer the consequences they did. Each of us has a free will, which means we have the freedom to make choices.

God tells us the right way to go, but we have to make the choice to do so. Choices and consequences come in package deals. When we make a choice, we ignite the consequences that can come along with it.

It was true for Eve, Esau and Moses. And it’s true for you and me. Refusing to release often means refusing to have peace. I trade my peace for a weight of regret.

Release is a gift to a woman weighed down, grasping her leaves in the midst of a snowstorm, so desperate for help. She can feel the twinges and hear the creaking sounds of a splitting break about to happen.

She knows she can’t take much more. She remembers Psalm 142:3, “When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” Tears well up in her upturned, pleading eyes. “God help me. It’s all too much. I’m tired and frustrated and so very worn out.”

The wind whips past her, trailing a whispered, “R-e-l-e-a-s-e.” She must listen or she will break. Her tree needs to be stripped and prepared for winter. But she can’t embrace winter until she lets go of fall. Like a tree, a woman can’t carry the weight of two seasons simultaneously. In the violent struggle of trying, she’ll miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.

I think sometimes I’m resistant to release because I fear missing out. But, in an effort to hold on to too much, I wind up stressed, exhausted and at my breaking point.

Release brings with it the gift of peace. There are some opportunities I need to decline today. There are some things I need to say no to in this current season. There are good things I need to let go of so I can make room for the best things. Then and only then can my beautiful, bare winter branch receive its snow. When we release in peace, we signal we’re now ready to receive.

Receive what’s next. Receive what’s best. Receive what’s meant for this season, right now.

I don’t know what you have to release right now. But I suspect you know. Just like I do in a few areas of my life.

So let’s release. With release comes more peace. I see that now. I believe that now. And soon, I pray you will too.

Dear Lord, only You can help me with this release. My heart seeks to obey You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (NIV)

Pride: The Spiritual Cancer! By Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Friend to Friend

I hate cancer! I have lost many loved ones to this dreaded disease and have come to despise its very existence. I need to feel the same way about spiritual cancer.

C.S. Lewis called pride a “spiritual cancer” that devours love and contentment. Pride is a sign of our own insecurity and feelings of inferiority. Pride and inferiority are actually opposite sides of the same coin and are both sin, a preoccupation with self that leaves little room for God’s spirit of humility. Spurgeon poetically warned us not to be proud of “race, face, or place.”

We all struggle with pride, and must constantly battle the tendency to measure every circumstance and relationship against the narcissistic viewpoint of “What’s in it for me?” Pride has no place in the life of a Christian because pride steps between God and us. To think that God stands in opposition against prideful people is a strong and sobering statement that should send us all running to the place of humility. Because He is a loving Father, God opposes pride, in part, for what it does to His children.

“Pride will destroy a person; a proud attitude leads to ruin. It is better to be humble and be with those who suffer than to share stolen property with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19).

Learning to deal with pride is an important and essential part of spiritual growth.

Pride prevents us from seeing others as God sees them.

Pride holds us back from laying down our rights in order to reach out to those who cross our path.

Pride slowly erodes the humble spirit God so wants to see in His people and in their relationships.

I suspect a good dose of humility would cure many of our failing marriages, broken family relationships and struggling friendships. Then the question becomes, how can we rid our lives of pride and prevent it from carving out a destructive stronghold from which relationship problems arise? The answer is found in a passage of Scripture written by the apostle Paul and directed to the church in Rome.

Romans 12:3 -6; 10 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Paul certainly understood what it meant to struggle with pride. Before his encounter with Christ, Paul had been a man of great arrogance. After all, he was a power broker in the Roman government as well as a highly regarded and chief persecutor of anyone following Jesus Christ. Paul had no idea what the road to Damascus held for him that day when God interrupted Paul’s life with His blinding love. Everything changed. Paul became a humble man, the walking definition of a servant, delighting in his new role of striving to be last among the least. Paul understood that he was a trophy of grace; that his heart had been captured by grace and his life completely transformed in the process. God’s grace was Paul’s starting place and finish line and the very reason Paul was so humble and so powerful. God says that in order to be strong we must choose weakness, and in order to be first, we must be content to be last.

The amazing truth is that grace is ours for the asking. God stands ready to pour His priceless grace into every heart and soul. His grace then produces an unexplainable peace, eternal life, unending joy, and freedom from sin through His unconditional love. Grace offers us the riches of God, at the expense of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.

Pride’s goal is to make us independent of God, duping us into believing that we are in control of our own fate and are able to call our own shots. What audacity we possess as humans to think we can live life on our own when, whether we admit it or not, we are totally dependent on God. Pride convinces us that we can play God, worshipping ourselves while erecting false idols shrouded in rebellion and sin. Pride is the universal religion of hell and a deadly poison.

A friend recently told me about a new product she found listed online. “Disposable Guilt Bags” first appeared in a few select stores to test the market. I could have told the creator that guilt exists in abundance and that people will go to any lengths to assuage their guilt. My friend explained that you could buy a set of Disposable Guilt Bags, ten ordinary brown bags on which were printed the following instructions: “Place the bag securely over your mouth. Take a deep breath and blow out all of your guilt. Close the bag and dispose of immediately.” The amazing part of this story is that the Associated Press reported that over 2500 kits had sold immediately at $2.50 per kit.

Nothing on this earth is powerful enough to erase guilt. We try to “fix” ourselves but fail. The only power that makes it possible to be forgiven is God’s grace. “In Christ we are set free by the blood of his death. And so we have forgiveness of sins because of God’s rich grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) When our lives are lived against the backdrop of grace, pride will die from a lack of attention.

Let’s Pray

Lord, please forgive my arrogant heart. I am so sorry for the pride I see in my life. Today, I ask You to search my heart and destroy the strongholds of pride and ego. Help me to recognize prideful thoughts and actions in my life. Give me the discernment to be honest and transparent before You and with others. I, too, am a trophy of grace. Help me to live like one.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Read the following verses and answer each question:

Psalm 10:4 (NIV)“In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” How does pride affect our relationship with God? Is this true in your life?
Proverbs 16:5 (NIV) “The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” What is God’s attitude toward those who are proud?
Psalm 40:4 (NIV) “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” How does pride encourage idolatry? Do you have any idols in your life? Name them and eliminate each one.
What decision do you need to make today in order to choose grace over pride? What would that look like in your daily life?

Taming Our Tongues! By Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalms 141:3, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Catherine and I set out for a lazy summer stroll through the neighborhood just before the fireflies emerged to celebrate the setting of the sun. We chatted about raising boys, working husbands, and decorating dilemmas. When we arrived back at her house, she invited me to come in and look at some fabric swatches for a new sofa. Before I knew it, a few minutes turned into a couple of hours.

“Oh, my!” I exclaimed. “It’s ten o’clock. I’ve been gone for over two hours! I bet Steve’s worried sick. He doesn’t even know where I am. I’d better give him a call before I start back home.”

When I dialed the number, the answering machine picked up. After I listened to my sweet Southern greeting, I left a bitter message.

“Steve, I was calling to let you know I’m at Catherine’s. I thought you’d be worried about me, but apparently you don’t even care because you won’t even pick up the phone!”

Click.

I said my goodbyes to Catherine and left feeling somewhat dejected. I’m wandering around in the dark all alone and he doesn’t even care, I mumbled to no one in particular.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed someone coming toward me. It was Sir Galahad riding his steed…his bicycle!

“Where have you been?” Steve desperately asked. “I’ve been riding all over the neighborhood looking for you! Do you know what time it is?”

“Oh you do care,” I said with a grin, giving him a big hug.

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I answered. “Let’s go home.”

What do you think was the first thing I did when I walked in the door? You know it, girl. I erased that message on the answering machine! Whew, I thought, that was close.

A few days later, Steve called me from work.

“Sharon, have you listened to the answering machine lately?”

“No, why?”

“Well, I think there’s something on there you need to hear.”

We hung up and I reached for my cell phone to call my landline home phone. The message on the answering machine went something like this.

(The voice of a Sweet Southern Belle) “Hello, you’ve reached the Jaynes’ residence. We’re unable to answer the phone right now…(enter the voice of Cruella de Vil) “I was calling to let you know I’m at Catherine’s. I thought you’d be worried about me, but apparently you don’t even care because you won’t pick up the phone! (Return the Sweet Southern Bell) At the sound of the beep, leave your number and we’ll get back with you as soon as possible.” Beep.

“Oh, my goodness!” I screamed. “How did this happen? How many people have heard this over the past three days?”

I called the phone company, and they explained that sometimes during a thunderstorm (which had occurred three days prior), lightening strikes the wires and answering machine messages get scrambled. The old message somehow got attached smack dab in the middle of the voice mail greeting.

I was mortified. It sounded like Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde reincarnate.

“Lord,” I prayed, “this is so embarrassing.”

“Yes, it is,” He replied.

Well, He didn’t really say that in so many words. It was more like this:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:9-12 NIV)

“OK Lord, I get the message.” I prayed. But unfortunately, so did a lot of other people.

As women, I am amazed how quickly we can flit back and forth between blessing and belittling, praising and putting-down, cheering and critiquing—all in a matter of seconds. God has given us incredible power in our sphere of influence, and it begins with the words we speak.

Few forces have as powerful an effect as the sounds that pass our lips. Our words can spark a child to accomplish great feats, encourage a husband to conquer the world, fan the dying embers of a friend’s smoldering dreams into a flame, encourage a fellow believer to run the race set before her, and draw a lost soul to Christ.

My devotions for the month of August will focus on the power of a woman’s words. We’ll ponder one of God’s most incredible gifts to mankind and consider the potential we have right under our noses…words.

Let’s Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, oh how I have a difficult time controlling my tongue! I pray that You will put a guard over my mouth. Help me to think before I speak. I pray the Holy Spirit will take control of my words and use me as an instrument of encouragement.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

A word has been described as the smallest unit of meaningful linguistic communication. But that tiny entity has great potential.

Read James 3:2-6 and answer the following questions.

How is the tongue like the rudder of a ship?

How is the tongue a bit in a horses mouth?

How is the tongue like a spark?

I wonder if you have ever said words that you later regretted? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could erase them from someone’s memory like I erased that message on the answering machine?

Refined Like Silver By Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver (Malachi 3:3, NIV).

Friend to Friend

The story is told of a group of women who met each week to study the Bible, hoping to learn more about the nature and character of God and how He works in our lives. The women were puzzled and even a little troubled by the description of God they found in Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” One of the women offered to do a little research on the subject and report back to the group at their next meeting. The woman found a local silversmith and made an appointment to observe him at work, explaining that she was particularly interested in the process of refining silver. She watched as the craftsman carefully selected a piece of silver for his demonstration. She thought the piece of silver was already beautiful, but the silversmith evidently saw something she could not see. As he held the silver over the furnace, the craftsman explained that in refining silver, the silver had to be placed in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so all of the impurities would be burned away.

The woman was silent for a moment as her thoughts drifted to the fiery trials she was facing in her own life. Honestly, she did not get it. Why would a loving God allow His children to suffer when He could so easily deliver them? In fact, why does God even allow bad things to happen to people who are seeking Him and really trying to live for Him?

The woman asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. “Oh, yes!” he replied. “I cannot take my eyes off the silver. If it is left in the furnace even a moment too long, it will be destroyed.” The woman suddenly understood the beauty and comfort of Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

Yes, there are times when it seems as if we will be swallowed whole by the fires of Hell itself. The pain seems too hard to bear. The fear is paralyzing. The doubt is overwhelming and questions flood our hearts and minds.

Is God really who He says He is?

Will He really do what He says He will do?

Will He really keep His promises?

Our trials are not random persecutions. Heaven is not in a panic, and where we are and what we are going through is no surprise to God. We may be knocked down and kicked around by life, but if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will not be destroyed.

Our lives are filled with excess baggage and waste – a cherished sin we refuse to relinquish or an addiction to which we are enslaved. What about the emotional garbage that weighs us down? How do we deal with the past that holds us prisoner? Fiery trials come to burn away the guilt of sin and then purify our hearts. From those ashes of freedom, the Father then creates a work of beauty.

I believe the words I just wrote. I know and accept the truth that trials and hard times make me stronger and strengthen my faith, but there are times when I want it all to stop. I find myself asking, “How much is enough, Lord? How many trials do I have to endure? When will the pain and trouble end?”

“How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” the woman asked. The silversmith smiled and answered, “Oh, that’s easy. The refining process is complete when I can see my image reflected in the silver.”

God is not committed to our comfort. He is committed to our character and to making us more like Jesus. Only God can exchange the ashes of our sin for the beauty of His forgiveness and grace. God alone can replace our despair with His peace that passes all understanding. Hope can only be found in Him. Our purpose in life is to know and become more like Jesus … and act just like our Father.

Let’s Pray

Father, I want to be more like You. Give me the strength to withstand the trials in my life. Help me love the people who are hard to love and forgive the people who have hurt and even abused me. Burn away the sin in my life, and empower me to live for You. Create a clean heart in me, Lord, and teach me how to live for You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Journaling is a powerful spiritual discipline and habit that I encourage you to cultivate this year. A journal can be a spiral notebook or leather bound book. You may write in your journal every day or once a week. Your entry can fill an entire page or one line. How you journal is not nearly as important as the fact that you journal.

Record new truths and insights God gives you as you read and study the Bible. Write your prayers and thoughts. Create a section in your journal where you can record the promises God gives you. Below are two entries from my journal.

God will direct my steps. Isaiah 48:10 “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (NIV).

God will never leave me. Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (NIV).