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Sunday, 04 December 2022 00:35

Mary wasn't alone

Mary had great faith but she was just a kid. Maybe as a teenager her naivety protected her from full understanding of what she would endure.

Luke 1:48-49 (NLT) “For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”

She believed the angel. Then God provided evidence to continue to build her faith.

Mary was highly favored. Luke 1: 28 (NLT) “Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Gabriel spoke these words over Mary before it all began. Yet, look at her life from a historical point of view. Mary was the only one who knew Jesus from conception all the way to Pentecost. Mary was at His birth, childhood, and first miracle. She witnessed His ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit empowered His followers. Reread that. Can you fathom the honor of her position? She sacrificed much but she witnessed the greatest events in history.

Not only was she visited by an angel, God prepared others to support her too. Older and wiser people walked along side her as she stepped into the position of mother of Jesus.It is another example of the importance of intergenerational relationships that empower each of us to live out our part of God's story.

Joseph – Her husband-to-be knew exactly what was happening. He loved God and loved her through it. (Matthew 1:20-24)

Elizabeth – Her cousin was empowered by the Holy Spirit to know the child Mary was carrying before Mary spoke a word. (Luke 1:41) Elizabeth, pregnant before Mary, it is believed that Mary stayed with her as little John came into the world. Her visit equipped her in her own motherhood journey.  

Simeon – The Holy Spirit guided him to the temple to meet Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as they came to present the baby to the Lord. He spoke words that confirmed Jesus was the Messiah. (Luke 2:25-35)

Anna – This prophet recognized Jesus immediately. She praised God and was filled with joy when she saw the family in the temple. (Luke 2:36-40)

Who in your life is there to support you and who are you called to support?

Mary remembered God’s promises and provision. Luke 2:19 (NLT) “but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” When times became confusing, she remembered God’s promise. This boy, her son, was the Messiah. God’s promised deliverer. His life purpose would come to pass.

She faced hopeless and helpless situations according to the world’s standards, but God saw it differently. She trusted God, although an ordinary woman, God did extraordinary things through her.  

Victor in Christ, faithful to belong, noble in character and ready now to follow His lead we will go forward into a new year.

Merry Christmas!

Published in Devotionals
Saturday, 19 November 2022 14:27

Ask This Mom: What is Truth?

Perplexed by the choice in front of her, she hesitantly expressed her concern. The din of the coffee shop almost drowned out her voice, and the cup she wrapped her hands around grew cold. We weren’t there just for the coffee that day, her face expressed the confusion she felt.

Repeated by today’s younger generation, this famous quote from Pontius Pilate feels hauntingly relevant. “What is truth?” With echoes of “false news” ringing in their ears, how can they measure God’s truth.

The Apostle John gave us a simple answer test the spirit.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

Confusion over truth is not new. John addressed this issue after the Gnostics introduced confusion about Jesus’ identity. The Gnostics claimed Jesus, a mere man, received God when God descended on Him at His baptism and left Him before Jesus suffered on the cross. This prompted John to encourage his readers to test the spirit.

John knew that Jesus, the Son of God, was God from conception on. This is an intricate part of our faith and one we stand on as truth. With acceptance of Jesus as our savior we receive Holy Spirit, also known as the Spirit of Truth.

The Spirit of Truth radiates out of us. It empowers us to live in this world, preventing us from to be pulled into legalism or grace without boundaries. None of us get this one hundred percent right every time. Just look at the history of the church. In hindsight we can see the errors. We need to look at each situation with humility.

Our job is to point others to Jesus, not fix their flaws. We need to recognize we don’t always get it right ourselves. I know I am flawed and can’t possibly be right in everything and neither can you. We need grace for each other, so much grace.

Our goal is to be self-aware, testing what we are learning.  Walking along side others as they are doing the same, guiding them gently and humbly into the truth.

When we are listening to others who are seeking spiritual truth, we can ask these questions so they can see it through the lens of Jesus.

  • Do they claim Jesus is God? Knowing their spiritual roots helps discern where the information is coming from. It doesn’t mean you can’t get good information from non-Christian sources; you just need to measure it accordingly.
  • How would Jesus respond to them? We see countless interactions in Scripture of Jesus response because Jesus loved people. He offered gentle guidance to those caught in sin and firm rebuke to the religious leaders who did not recognize His authority.
  • Do they reflect the character of Jesus? Do we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the people expressing this ideology? Does it fit with the Bible’s description of Jesus, the Word.
  • Does it line up with loving God and loving people? This is a tough one, I think we get this wrong so much of the time. We either extend too much grace or we extend judgement. That road is narrow just as Jesus described. We need to tread prayerfully forward.
  • Does it line up with Scripture? Does this information you are examining line up with the Bible. We must use Jesus’ Word, in His way, giving life.

If they are still uncertain after all these questions, then we err on the side of grace. As we walk with them through the outcomes. We ask Jesus to continue to teach us and prayerfully surrender each step to Him.

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Published in Devotionals
Friday, 04 November 2022 14:02

Nourish Faith

“I believe; help my unbelief!” I breathed the end of Mark 9:24 once again as we faced one more challenging event. The knot in my chest compelled me to my knees. I wanted all the pain to go away but I needed to face it, feel it, and walk through it.

Faith births itself in funny ways, often through difficult or stressful situations. Whether we’ve known Jesus a short or long time, we recognize faith is not stagnate. Faith requires nourishment on a regular basis. This is true for all of us.

Faith is there but I want to trust Jesus more. I prayed this verse many times during our transition year to the empty nest. I knew the truth, but I didn’t feel the truth. This prayer continued to build the bridge between my head and my heart. It teaches me that I am not alone in times of doubt, and I don’t have to stay there. It shows me, like the father in Mark 9, I can ask for a gift of faith when I am feeling weak. God will answer that prayer.

Faith is based on our hope in the unseen (Hebrews 11:1). Asking God to help build that faith like the man in Mark 9 is not an act of a weak faith but of a hungry spirit. I want to look for God in each day:

Lord, help me see you.

Lord, help me hear you.

Lord, I know you are here.

Lord, help me feel you.

He will answer those prayers, often our mysterious God does it in ways that are unique to us. Daily reapplying the truth of our faith allows it to grow. As those reapplied truths seep into our heart, mind, and spirit it becomes evident in our life.

One More Step

We often concentrate too much on the dos and don’ts of Christianity, instead of the how and why of Christlikeness. Our foundation, built on Jesus Christ, steadies us in this transition time. It is not a time to just endure but a time to thrive in new and fun ways. As we move into a new phase may each of us not forget the truth of the Gospel and what it means to us. It is important that we know and live God’s truths

Peter takes this one step farther in 2 Peter 1. He encourages us to add not only faith but goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. These are the truths that help us live a full life seeking after our new season with gusto. Oh, the joy that comes when we seek after these things in the power that only the Holy Spirit brings. A delight that brings freedom to live a fun life, full of laughter.

Fun people are life giving people.

Let’s choose to live full out, whole heartedly, and one hundred percent all in – which is not easy and why we need the reminders. May we project that truth through light heartedness and winsome ways that joyfully reflect our Creator.

Dear Father, thank you that we have access to your words and your ways. Help us to know the area we need to grow and nourish through reapply the truth. Help us to soften our hearts as we consume your words so we can become more like you. In Jesus Name Amen.

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Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 15 September 2022 14:42

Ask This Mom – Why are some Christians so divisive?

I opened the conversation as usual, “What would you like to discuss?”

Suddenly animated, the young woman across from me, hit the table with her fist and exclaimed “why are some people at church so angry all the time?”

“What do you mean?”

“You can’t disagree about anything without getting a lecture back.”

“What is your reaction to that?”

“I’ve stopped talking to them and I may even stop going to church to avoid it.”

Sadly, I’m hearing this question over and over.

I’ve tried to look at this topic from all sides, remembering that the end goal of our journey here is to build the Kingdom of God. Our society has developed an either/or culture. In general, it plays out as either you are with me, or you are against me.

With the pandemic we became more isolated, siloed with like minded people. We sought out information that we agreed with and interacted with only those sources, especially on social media. Once we reunited with others, many of us were set  in a cultural truth we believed.  In addition if you disagreed with me you were simply wrong.

To many those who disagreed were perceived as a threat to their way of life. This was true on both sides of each debate. So much so that their “either/or” became paramount in their mind and needed to be protected.

We became so entrenched in the “either/or” we have forgotten how to live in the AND. What does that mean?   You are welcome at my church AND can disagree with me. Jesus is the center of our unity. Yes, the fruit of our lives reflects our relationship with Him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit pours out of us with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patients, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness.

As young people inundated with information, you are continually making choices of right and wrong. Discussing and debating issues allows us to develop our ideas of the truth but it also needs to be in a safe environment.

We each need to answer Jesus’ question of Mark 8:29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” This is the foundation of our faith. However, even if you don’t agree with Peter, as I do, you can still be my friend if you accept me for who I am. A believer of Jesus and a minister of the faith.

To my older friends, on current events and cultural issues, I ask these questions:

 What do you value?

What causes do you care about?

Where do you want to grow?

How does that line up with Jesus’ teachings?

I follow up with their belief statements with:

Where did you hear that?

Why do you believe that?

In the process of examining our own answers to these questions we develop the ability to think for ourselves. This practice of critical thinking prevents us from the sway of the next social media influencer that comes along. The process of dialoguing develops relationships that grow with grace. It allows the participants to grow in understanding with unconditional love. It invites in, instead of pushing out.

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Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 30 August 2022 18:40

Take One Brave Step

I like change but also, I like things to stay the same. I get bored in the monotony of the same activities, day in and day out, but there is also comfort in the familiar. Transitioning into new seasons can reveal an uneasiness as we approach the unknown.

Now it is your chance, what fears are you facing today? From the silly to the serious, write them down. We’re friends now, so I can trust you with a deep-down secret. Have I mentioned I loathe slugs? The only thing worse than the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz would be flying slugs. I mean can you imagine? I shudder as I write these words, but really, I can spend my whole life ignoring this fear unless it keeps me from the activities I love. This fear does not keep me from gardening or hiking in the woods. Fears like that, although humorous, are not the ones we are addressing.

Checking items off our bucket list takes a little step of courage. Adventurous fun means taking a brave step that helps us feel alive. Recently, my husband and I took a trip to the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore along the lower coast of Lake Superior. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.

Our reservations for a sea kayak tour of the coast were postponed twice due to high surf. This didn’t calm my apprehension. I wasn’t sure to pray for cancellation or calm waters.

After the guides gave a detailed safety lesson, in which they detailed EVERY POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD GO WRONG, we boarded the boat for our excursion. However, they did not mention flying slugs. Wide eyed, I donned my splash skirt and life vest waiting for our turn to board our tandem sea kayaks.

Once on the lake, it took me a bit to get used to the wobble when Dave adjusted his position. My trust grew with each paddle stroke as we found the rhythm of working together. The wonders of this uniquely beautiful rock formation loomed before us. Close enough to touch, we were awed by the colors rippling through the cliffs. The beauty and exhilaration of Lake Superior touched a deep part of my soul. A small brave step turned into a trip of a lifetime.

I didn’t have to face that fear but I’m glad I did. However, there are fears we each need to address. My ongoing struggle rests in the roots of people pleasing. Implanted in me as a child, I must keep a watchful eye out for it as I move in the direction Jesus sends me. If I am not on guard, one negative comment can send me reeling. Not the best attribute for someone who speaks publicly. Therefore, my step of bravery is saying “yes” to situations that bring others attention to me. My goal is to redirect that focus onto Jesus, disregarding irrelevant criticism.

What keeps you from conquering your fears? Do you possess the gifts and talents required for that adventure? Are you brave enough to invest in yourself to gain the knowledge you need to fulfill that desire? Now that is what I call fun!

Pretend we are sitting across a table from one another. It is a safe conversation, what would you share that you’ve never spoken before?

Our courage fortifies us to move forward into the full life Jesus promised. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, we remember to be strong IN the Lord, (Ephesians 6:10). Yes, that allusive abundant life belongs to each of us. We just need to know how to embrace it in every stage of life.

Father thank you that you impart courage to us when we need it. We lay our fears at your feet, declaring they will not hinder us anymore. We stand in the waiting for your instructions. Holy Spirit nudge us in the direction You want us to go. We trust you to guide us and to strengthen us as we move forward. In Jesus Name Amen

If you need to go deeper into this subject, I highly recommend Annie F. Downs books Let’s All Be Brave and 100 Days of Brave. They will change your life if you struggle with courage.

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 19 July 2022 18:47

Ask This Mom - Why is my mom so clingy?

She staired into her steaming cup of tea, tension creased her forehead. A recent college graduate, she haltingly expressed her concern.

            “I love my mom but…”

            “But?”

“But she’s driving me crazy. She is constantly texting, calling, or dropping by. I feel guilty saying this, but she is so clingy!”

The words rushed out; a mix of emotions washed over her face. This wasn’t the first young person to share this complaint, so let’s dive in why is she so clingy?

Launching children into adulthood is a bittersweet event for most parents. If unprepared the parent can get lost in navigating the new landscape. As you mature into your new life of responsibility and independence, mom may not know how to respond.

Dear young friend, like you, your mom is in transition from one phase of life to the next. Her role until now, has been to get you to adulthood. From the day of your birth, her responsibility was to raise you to be an independent adult. This is a bittersweet time for your mom.

True confession, I’ve been tempted to be the clingy mom. I’ve said manipulative, guilt induced things which I later apologized for. Not be most stellar moment. I didn’t expect their launch into adulthood would leave me feeling discarded and old.

The negative emotions surprised me—I had higher expectations of myself. What should have been an exuberant time of my husband and I planning and pursuing our previously set-aside dreams became a dissatisfying lull I learned the Mayo Clinic identifies as Empty Nest Syndrome.

Which means the dynamic is prevalent enough to warrant a name. But since it’s not a clinical diagnosis, there’s not an exact or easy cure. 

Your mom is excited for the new life you’ve found. She misses you, but she’s also happy for them. You worked hard to achieve all your accomplishments. Living on the edge of new adventures we call adulthood you are ready to go and she’s wondering what happened!

Remember your mom is more than your mom, she’s a person. She may be experiencing emotions she’s never felt before. As you traverse this new territory, respectfully address your concerns. Think of ways you can support her autonomy without threatening your own independence.

Some moms need time to adjust, and others may never change but they will always be your parent. Scripture reminds us to honor our mother and father, my prayer is you will develop a stronger relationship with your mom that lets you easily honor her.

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Published in Devotionals
Thursday, 30 June 2022 13:02

I Think I Can

I love the children’s book  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Originally published in 1930, its message still speaks to us today. Small in stature, I identify with Little Blue Engine. Her determination moved her over the mountain. This age-old story, undergird our own journey by reminding us that our attitude matter. I keep a copy of this book on my desk to remind me of this important truth in furthering my own dreams.

Reflected in Biblical heroes like David, we see the greater advantage of God in our lives. We can because God is. David declared the enormity of God to a giant standing before him (David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17). David defeated Goliath through his trust in God.  Living our true selves, reliant on God, glorifies God to all who are in our lives.

I still believe I can do whatever I set my mind to do. I’m not going to go out and run a marathon. I could however, if I trained. Many women my age accomplish this goal, but I don’t want to do that. However, it is a great metaphor for life at this age. It may take longer to do some things but if we set our mind to it, we can. For most of us we may have less energy, but we’ve grown in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

Now is the time to tap into that knowledge and wisdom Jesus provides for us. Look at the benefit of living a Christ filled life stated in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” Jesus is the source of all wisdom; we need to listen to the part of our spirit aligned with the Holy Spirit.

Knowledge comes from learning God’s will for our lives. The abbreviated version of this is that He wants us to live as His child. That plays out differently for each of us but it is the cornerstone of the knowledge of understanding our identity. Where it becomes more difficult is discerning when to apply that knowledge in each situation with wisdom. 

Paul wrote this for us and it is my prayer for you:

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)

How we apply this understanding takes time a practice. You can learn more by studying Paul's words in Colossians 1.  In our mid-month challenge video we will explore this further, sign up here so you don'e miss out

Published in Devotionals

 

Is it okay that I question things I’ve been taught about my faith?

The short answer is yes.

Does that surprise you? I think we get confused between theology and faith; a tension between the two brings moments of confusion causing us to seek clarity.

Theology is defined as the study of God and religion. Theo means God and ology means study of, it is a pretty straightforward understanding of the word. As believers we seek knowledge to better understand who God is and how to build a relationship with Him. That knowledge, appropriately applied, develops our wisdom as to how to properly live what we know.

Scripture is clear that we are to seek after wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 assures us that the knowledge and wisdom is in Jesus, we just have to look for it. “2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Some of theinformation presented to us can be misunderstood or misrepresented. This is why we test and search out the truth. 

Faith, although related, is based on belief in God, spiritual comprehension instead of proof. As it says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith, pistis in the Greek, means a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is God.

Theology is knowledge based while faith is belief based. When we question theology, we are not to throw away faith. On the contrary, when we investigate, we are simply answering the why we believe to grow our faith.

As imperfect beings, we recognize we don’t know it all and we continue to seek wisdom and knowledge through our relationship with Jesus Christ. This builds a better understanding of who He is and who we are to become. Find a trusted friend and investigate these questions together. Accurately applying Scripture, while seeking Jesus, will help you sort out what He has for you.

Ask this Mom is a monthly post that investigates the questions that matter to you. 

Published in Devotionals
Friday, 29 April 2022 15:15

Chase Joy

It’s Good for You

How does celebrating shift our emotional response to day-to-day life? Celebration causes a physiological response in our body, lifting our emotions in the process. Acts of joy release dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters essential for brain health. In their presence we feel happiness. This same response comes with exercise, acts of service, and petting animals. However, our goal is more than a biochemical response, we want it to be an act of worship. A lovely cycle that invigorates us to move forward in life.

According to healthline.com, Celebrating is good for your brain, circulatory system and autonomic nervous system. As pleasure is stimulated in the brain our blood vessels dilate delivering more oxygen to our body. The ANS controls our fight or flight response, joy suppresses stress responses lowering blood pressure and breathing rate delivering an overall calm to the body. Fun is good for you! Now there is something to celebrate!

This physiological response is recognized in Scripture. Elizabeth’s baby John, leapt inside her when he heard Mary’s voice. His joy ignited Elizabeth’s, which in turn encouraged Mary.(Luke 1:39-45) David danced through the streets, emulate the dancing but don’t do it scantily clad.(2 Samuel 6:12-16) No, I’m not a prude, I just don’t want you to get arrested. Even the apostle Paul reminded us to rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and to celebrate with sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8)

Pick one joyful activity you can do right away, by yourself. What needs to be done to cross that item off your wish list? Now is the time to live it out. Make plans to do that one thing this month.

Second, pick something that includes your spouse or a friend. Work to find a mutual interest and make it an adventure. Keep in mind I’m using the word adventure loosely. Find something that you both are excited about that is out of the ordinary. Celebrate time together.

Third, pick something that will take some planning. What do you need to implement it? How do you need to proceed for it to come to fruition? It brings as much joy to a person to plan out a fun trip or activity as it does to do it, even if you don’t do it! Go for it, set a date, start saving, do what it takes to get this from an idea to action.

Here are some of my ideas:

  • I’m going to make something from my Pinterest boards. You know the pins put in place when there wasn’t time to do them? Now is the time. Keep in mind the process is as important as the product. Enjoy the creative part of it, not just completing a project on a to-do list.
  • My husband and I do Sunday adventures. We hike in local parks, go to farmers markets or a museum. These adventures include discovering new places and trying new activities. The actual event isn’t as important as getting out and enjoying time together.
  • We are planning a trip to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest. It won’t be possible for a while, but the planning is part of the fun.

How you choose to chase joy depends on your individual personality. Whether simple or splendid, the point is to do it. God’s goodness is not dependent on our circumstances. The purpose is not to eliminate sadness in our life, it is an important aspect of our humanity. Reveling in the good in our life lifts our spirits so that we don’t ruminate on what we’ve lost but recognize the joyous gains. Take time this month to seek joy and celebrate the good around you.

Published in Devotionals
Tuesday, 01 February 2022 13:51

Reaching Up

Reaching

Reaching Up

Amusement parks are an important part of our family fun. Taking our kids on their first roller coaster ride became a rite of passage. Nervously our middle child waited in line with me. She tried to grasp what this ride entailed, keeping up an excited chatter as we moved slowly forward. As our turn approached, her little hand grasped mine. I promised she would love it.

During the ride, uncertainty dominated her countenance. Her grip on the shoulder harness matched the grimace on her face. Later, I learned her inability to predict the experience overshadowed the ride. Yet, afterwards, she shared her delight and wanted more.

This is how I feel about the last few years. Except, I’m not enjoying the ride. Twists and turns have not brought thrills but pain. With both community and personal tragedies, I’m holding on tight. My ongoing effort to find fun needs to be a healthy adventure. Not to avoid the pain but to invigorate my life again. 

Proverbs 14:13 reminds us “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” I am not seeking fun to conceal my pain. If we do that the pain will fester like an untreated wound. I don’t want a puss filled heart. I know, gross, but we must face the sadness and dissatisfaction to live a life of freedom. When sad moments creep in remember that Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) Enhance your life by facing your grief and releasing it to the Lord.

The Psalmist understood grief. They wrote about it in repeatedly. I love that God allows these emotions to be expressed in His word. It encourages me to know that I am not the only one who felt this way. Psalm 42:5-6 “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” A key to the relief of our despair is worship. Praising God reminds us of who God is and He is in charge. It relieves our stress to know He is always there for us.

We need to ask ourselves the same questions posed by the Psalmist. What is the source of my downcast heart? Am I dealing with a real-life trauma or is this feeling wrapped in my self-worth? When we feel discarded, it can lead to depression. Like our Psalmist friend we need to turn to God in worship. He is not done with us! In trauma, God promises to be with us. Isaiah wrote “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10).

After turning to Jesus, turn to a friend. Confide your struggle to someone you trust. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling if you continue suffer. God provides wisdom and compassion through trained professionals. Healing will come, God desires to give it to you.  God is carrying us; we need to remember to each up and hold on.

Published in Devotionals
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