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Handling Life's Problems

How Are Your Roots?

In 2020, 60% of Americans struggle with anxiety…

In my back yard, I have a peace lily I planted almost a year ago. Throughout the winter and spring, it thrived. But when the hot Florida summer blasted on us, the lily wilted. The blooms disappeared. The leaves turned yellow. I had to bring water out to keep it alive.

I also have a big old tree in my back yard. I don’t know what kind it is, but I know it isn’t bothered by changes in the weather. Spring or fall, winter or summer, rain or shine, it flourishes. It continuously provides a habitat for birds, squirrels, and lizards, it shades my back porch, and I never have to water it.

What’s the difference between the lily and the tree? The difference is in the roots.

Are we the peace lily, wilted and distressed when we face difficult circumstances? Or are we the tree, confidently thriving regardless of our circumstances? It depends on our roots.

The Bible compares a person who trusts God to a tree planted by a river.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

A tree planted by a river always has access to water because its root runs deep and far. In the hot summer, its leaves stay green. Even in a dry spell, it still bears fruit. Regardless of circumstances, it is fearless because it has roots in the life-giving river.

This is how God wants his people to live—rooted deeply in him. When our roots run deep, we aren’t afraid, anxious, or stressed out when life get bumpy and unpredictable. We’re at peace because we’re rooted in a God of peace. We experience joy during trials because we’re rooted in the source of joy.

It’s sad and a little shocking that in April, 2020, a Gallup poll found 60% of Americans plagued by stress and anxiety. This isn’t God’s plan for his people.

The antidote for anxiety isn’t yoga or valium. It isn’t even a change in our circumstances. The antidote for anxiety is trust in God. When we feel anxious about the future, we can choose to focus on God’s sovereignty. We can dare to accept that those who trust God really are blessed. We can be audacious enough to believe that God’s promise to work all things for good applies to us.

Anxiety passes as trust in God increases.

– Max Lucado

We weren’t meant to live in a constant state of anxiety. We are meant to live calmly and confidently because our roots of trust to grow so deeply our anxiety evaporates.

God wants to heal that part of us that struggles with anxiety. For some, that healing may come with the help of a counselor or a doctor—and that’s OK. For all of us, our nights don’t have to be restless and fearful, and our morning doesn’t have to bring anxiety and stress. On the contrary, God wants us to sleep in peace and greet each morning with confidence in his fresh mercy, unending grace, and complete sovereignty.

Sovereign God, help me trust you more completely. Help me truly believe you are in control and good things are in store for my life. Give me roots embedded so deeply in you that anxiety has no power over me. Guide my steps and guard my heart. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

A Change of Seasons

Seasons come and go…

I like to laugh. Who doesn’t? I like it when everything in my life is smooth and easy. Who doesn’t? Personally, I would prefer not to ever have any sadness, problems, or even challenges in my life. How about you?

Life’s not that way. Life has seasons. There are times of laughter, but also seasons of tears. There’s a season to plant and a time to harvest. Just as we see spring turn to summer, and summer turn to autumn, we see seasons come and go in our lives.

Psalm 126 describes seasons of laughter as well as seasons of mourning. See if you can identify with the season of laughter:

It was like a dream come true when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion! We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness. All the nations saw it and joined in, saying, “The Lord has done great miracles for them!” Yes, he did mighty miracles and we are overjoyed!

I hope you’ve had many times of joy. Perhaps a wedding, the birth of a child, deliverance from illness, a new job, or a long-awaited vacation. I hope you’re in a season of laughter right now.

But, if not, check out Psalm 126:4:

Now, Lord, do it again! Restore us to our former glory! May streams of your refreshing flow over us until our dry hearts are drenched again.

Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, tells us there is a season for every activity under heaven. It says there is a season for crying and grieving, but thank God there is also a season for laughter and dancing. Seasons come and go. They aren’t forever—they’re for a certain time. As one season ends, a new one begins. Psalm 126:5-6 says:

Those who sow their tears as seeds will reap a harvest with joyful shouts of glee. They may weep as they go out carrying their seed to sow, but they will return with joyful laughter and shouting with gladness as they bring back armloads of blessing and a harvest overflowing.

Friend, if you’re in a difficult season now, lift up your head and look to your Father. This season will pass. Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). A season of tears gives way to a season of laughter. A season of grief turns to a season of dancing. God has an overflowing harvest of blessing planned for your life. Be confident—God hasn’t forsaken you. He will walk with you through this season and bring you triumphantly into the next.

Dear God, strengthen my faith. Help me believe you are in control, both in seasons of laughter and seasons of tears. You are God in the storm as well as the calm. Remind me that I’m in a season and that seasons change. I lean on you for strength, guidance, and peace. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

We All Need a Little Rest

When’s the last time you really rested?

They were travelling from town to town, preaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick. It was a busy time of ministry for Jesus and his disciples. Crowds followed them wherever they went. There were so many people with so many needs that Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to stop and eat (Mark 6:31).

In the midst of preaching repentance, performing miracles, and changing lives, Jesus said something that sounded crazy. Something unexpected. Instead of doubling down on the work, Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31).

Even Jesus recognized the need for rest. In our super-busy lives, we may find ourselves exhausted, depleted, empty, and grumpy. To be effective, we need time to rest and refuel.

When is the last time we really rested? Do we feel guilty when we take time to rest and recharge? Do we think someone is going to outdo us if we disengage from work?

Rest refreshes our energy and increases our ability to stick with our work over the long haul. It also makes space to bond with our family. Stepping away from work to relax with family is one of the most important things we do in life. It creates an essential bond and breathes life into our relationships.

Remember, after God created the earth and everything in it, he took the seventh day off to rest. In the Old Testament, God instituted the Sabbath, one day each week when everyone took a break from their work. While we are no longer under Old Testament law, the principle of rest remains.

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (Matthew 11:28). Psalm 23:2 says, “He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love…”

In the midst of our many tasks, appointments, assignments, and obligations, when we are worn out and exhausted, let us hear the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calling us to rest a while with him. He promises to show us how to relax, how to experience quietness and peace. He will show us the way to recover our joy and our lives.

Resting isn’t being lazy. It isn’t wasted time. Resting is an investment in our physical health, our mental health, and our spiritual health. So, take a deep breath. Slow down. Think about the goodness of God. Enjoy your family. You’ll feel better. You’ll do your tasks better. And you’ll please God.

Heavenly Father, give me wisdom to value rest. Help me recognize when I’m exhausted and when I need some quiet time to unwind and rest. Give me strength to work hard and help me balance hard work with seasons of rest. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Shake It Off and Move On

Sometimes trouble doesn’t want to let go…

I’ve never been shipwrecked, but I watched a lot of Gilligan’s Island when I was young. As far as I could tell, being shipwrecked was delightful. I couldn’t figure out why they kept trying to leave the island, and I kind of understood why Gilligan kept foiling their rescue plans.

Turns out, being shipwrecked is not as fun as they made it out to be.

Paul, falsely accused, left a Jerusalem prison and boarded a ship headed for Rome. After 14 days of storms and violent seas, the passengers were forced to abandon the ship and swim for their lives in the stormy ocean, ending up on the island of Malta.

It was cold and the castaways and natives were gathering wood to keep a fire going. Paul was doing his share, carrying a load of wood to the fire, but as he put the wood into the flames, a viper hidden in the sticks latched his fangs onto Paul’s hand.

Paul’s journey went from prison, to a storm, to the dangers of the ocean, to being bitten by a venomous snake. That’s a long string of trouble.

Acts 28:4 says the viper, “…latched onto Paul’s hand with its fangs.” Latched on means it’s fastened there, it’s hooked there. It’s locked on and doesn’t plan to let go.

Sometimes trouble seems to latch on and doesn’t seem inclined to let go. Paul was doing everything right. He was trusting God. He was gathering firewood. He did nothing to deserve an imprisonment and a ship wreck. He certainly didn’t deserve a viper latched onto his hand, but there it was. Life can be that way. Sometimes we do nothing to deserve trouble latching on to us, but there it is.

Here’s what Paul did about his trouble—he shook it off. He shook the snake off into the fire. The snake didn’t choose to let go. The snake didn’t apologize. No, Paul had to deliberately shake him off. With that viper hanging from his hand and viper venom burning through his body, Paul shook it off into the fire and he went on about his business.

Friend, maybe it’s time to shake the snake off and go on about our business. We may need to to shake off abandonment, discouragement, betrayal, fear, pain, or anger. We may need to shake off a situation we’ve been stuck in for too long. Our next step may be to shake it off.

Paul went through some stuff and we will, too. We will face opposition. We will encounter troubles. But God always has a plan. God’s plan turned Paul’s snakebite into a revival. The imprisonment, the storm, the shipwreck, and the snake may have been meant to harm Paul, but God used all of it for good. And God will do the very same thing for us.

Dear God, replace my fear with faith. Replace my pain with peace. Help me walk through my troubles as an example of what it means to serve the God most high. Let me reflect your love and glory to everyone I meet. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Difficult People: Our Response Matters

Our response determines our growth…

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, survived three years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He endured starvation, disease, and constant violence at the hands of prison guards. In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Dr. Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing—the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

In the face of dehumanizing violence, Dr. Frankl chose his attitude. He realized that between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose how we respond.

How we respond to difficult people matters. Those we consider “difficult people” can range from the guy who cut in front of us at the DMV to the person who treated our child unfairly to the one who destroyed our marriage. Whether the offense is small or great, the space to choose how we respond is always there. Choosing that response wisely can make a world of difference.

We choose our thoughts. We control what we think about. Philippians 4:8 says, “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.” When we focus our thoughts on those who hurt us or frustrate us, we feed the hurt and frustration and encourage it to grow.

We choose our words. My mom always told me to take a breath before I spoke. I’ve never regretted that pause before speaking, but I have often regretted not waiting and saying something stupid or hurtful. “My dearest brothers and sisters, take this to heart: Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry” (James 1:19). What we say can escalate or diminish a difficult situation. Take a second before speaking—and remember that sometimes saying nothing is the best response.

We choose our attitudes and actions.  Consider these instructions from Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “…Love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and pray for the very ones who persecute you.” We choose whether to love or to hate, to bless or to curse, to be kind or to be mean. We choose to seethe with anger at those who persistently mistreat us, or to pray for them instead.

Dr. Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Friend, there are some people and some situations we may not be able to change. But as we carefully choose our responses to those people and those situations, we will see God use those things to change our hearts, grow our character, and bring good into our lives.

Dear God, give me grace to control my responses to people who hurt me or make me angry. Help me choose uplifting thoughts, words, attitudes and actions. Bring all of my life under your perfect control. Protect my heart from becoming bitter or resentful through troubles. Instead, let me grow kinder and stronger through the difficult people and situations I encounter. I ask these things in Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Difficult People: They’re Everywhere

They’re at the supermarket, at work, at school. They’re in our families and in our churches. They’re even in the Bible. David had Saul. Nehemiah had Sanballat. Elijah had Jezebel.

Difficult people are everywhere.

If difficult people are a very real part of everyone’s life, how do we deal with them? How do we handle a person who annoys us, criticizes us, and drives us a little bit crazy?

Jesus probably dealt with more difficult people than any of us. The Jewish religious leaders were constantly angry with him. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied ever knowing him. Jesus had it so bad that after his very first sermon, people were so furious they wanted to throw him off a cliff (see Luke 4:28-30).

Here are three tips for dealing with difficult people in our lives the way Jesus dealt with the difficult people in his life:

  • Know who you are. Jesus knew who he was. In Matthew 3:17, God spoke these words about Jesus, “This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.” Friend, we are a child of God. We are his beloved and favored. Let’s walk in that identity. What others may say or think about us isn’t important when we know who we are.
  • Know what God called you to do. From childhood, Jesus knew he had a purpose given to him by God. Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life in exchange for the salvation of many.” Negative, angry people didn’t flummox Jesus because he was focused on his calling and his purpose. We also have a God-given calling and purpose. We’re here to bring glory to God. Negative, angry, difficult people become less difficult when we keep our focus on our calling.
  • Look at difficult people through God’s eyes. People who frustrate us look different when we look at them through God’s eyes. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looked at a crowd with compassionate eyes: “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’s heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.” When Jesus looked at these people, he saw how tired they were, how powerless and weak they were, and how lost they were. Sometimes, the people who hurt us, who make us angry, and who seem determined to judge and criticize us are actually weary, weak, and lost. When we see them through God’s eyes, we become less annoyed and more compassionate.

The bottom line is to treat people, even the difficult ones, the way Jesus did—with love and compassion, with a steadfast determination to fulfill our purpose, and with a heart of prayer for those we find difficult. Isn’t that how we would want others to treat us?

Dear God, draw me closer to you. Give me such intense joy in the work you have for me to do that I’m not easily distracted. Bless those people in my life who frustrate me. Give me a heart of compassion and wisdom in dealing with difficult people. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Run to the Father

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24)

I’ll never forget the first time I learned about leeches.

I was eight years old, happily playing in a creek near our campsite. When I came out, I noticed something horrible had attached itself to my leg. I couldn’t brush it off. I couldn’t pull it off. What was this terrible creature, and who could free me from it?

I may have been just a kid, but I knew what to do—I ran screaming to my father. He told me it was a leech, sucking blood out of my body—worse than I had imagined! Then my dad lit a match and touched the leech with it. The leech let go and I was delivered from its clutches.

When I couldn’t get myself free, I ran to my father. One touch, and I was delivered.

I was about eight years old when I learned I had a problem much more serious than a leech—I figured out I was a sinner. I knew I couldn’t fix this on my own. Who could free me from the consequences and bondage of sin and death?

I may have been just a kid, but I knew what to do. I ran to my heavenly Father. I knelt at an altar and poured my heart out to my Father. I found the forgiveness and deliverance I needed.

Running to God is always the right thing to do. Sometimes, as we grow up, we seem to get dumber instead of wiser. Sometimes, we run away from our Father.

Jonah ran away from God and ended up swallowed by a giant fish (Jonah 1:3). The prodigal son ran away from his father and ended up sleeping with the pigs (Luke 15:11-32).

We’re really no better than the prodigal son or Jonah. God says move. We want to stay where it’s comfortable. God says stay still. We want a change of scenery. We think our plans are better than God’s plans, and we find ourselves running away from God instead of running to him. Our sinful nature pushes us to want our own way and to turn away from the Father.

I knew what to do when I had a leech on my leg—I ran to my father. Do we know what to do about the sin in our lives? What do we do when we’re angry, unforgiving, selfish, or mean? Who can set us free from the bondage of sin? What in the world do we do? We must run to our Father!

Anytime you’re not sure what your next move should be, try running into the arms of your heavenly Father. Matthew 11:28 invites us to run to him: “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”  Running to your Father is never a bad choice. He will ease your burden and refresh your soul. He will forgive your sins. He will be your oasis in a dry, barren land.

Dear Father, you have given me so much. May I run to you often. When I run to you, I find forgiveness for my sin, a strong hand to carry my burdens, and refreshment for my soul. I love you. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Redeem the Wait

“Lord, how long must I wait? Will you forget me forever? How long will you turn your face away from me?” (Psalm 13:1)

I grew up on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Our winters were monstrous. Snow began in October and some years didn’t let up until May. We didn’t get a few inches, we got a few feet. In April, I foolishly thought it might start to warm up. Most of the time it didn’t, and all I could do was wait for the misery of winter to end.

Waiting is frustrating. It tries our souls. Does anybody enjoy waiting? No? I didn’t think so.

Waiting for cold weather to change is frustrating; waiting for a difficult season in our lives to change is much more frustrating.

Maybe we’ve waited for years for our child or spouse to give their heart to Jesus. Maybe we’re struggling with health problems that just don’t seem to resolve. Maybe we’ve prayed for a turnaround in our finances so long we’re starting to wonder if things will ever change. Perhaps we’ve waited and waited to find a spouse or start a family and it just isn’t happening.

Waiting happens to everyone. That’s just part of life. But how do we handle a season of waiting? What do we do to redeem the wait?

Consider these three ways to redeem your wait:

  1. Look for ways to serve others. “Every believer has received grace gifts, so use them to serve one another as faithful stewards of the many-colored tapestry of God’s grace” (1 Peter 4:10).  Even when Jesus was on the cross, he was still concerned about the thief hanging next to him and about forgiveness for those who crucified him. Don’t allow a waiting season to keep you from caring about others. While you wait, find a way to serve.
  2. Seek a closer relationship with God. “Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him” (1 Chronicles 16:11). Don’t let your relationship with God grow lukewarm during a waiting season. Read the Bible and pray. Go to church. Participate in a small group. Listen to worship music. Redeem a season of waiting by drawing closer to God.
  3. Believe God is working while you wait. “But those who wait upon God get fresh strength…” (Isaiah 40:31).  It may seem God is silent as you wait, but believe he is working on your behalf, even if you don’t see it. Believe he has a perfect plan for your life. Trust that your season of waiting is part of that plan and will result in fresh strength.

Sometimes, the words, “God’s perfect timing,” start to feel like a synonym for pain and disappointment. I get it. Sometimes the hope of spring in Michigan seemed like a cruel joke. But the truth is, spring always came, and God’s timing really is perfect. His plan is motivated by love, drenched in wisdom, and executed with impeccable timing.

Embrace the season you find yourself in today. If it’s a time of waiting, choose to redeem the wait. Trust that God’s ultimate plan for your life is flawless and his timing is precise and perfect.

Dear God, it’s easy to become impatient when things don’t happen according to my timetable. Help me trust in your wisdom and your plan. When I am in a waiting season, help me to be patient and redeem the wait. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Where Is God in All of This?

“…You always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, ‘I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!’ So we can say with great confidence, ‘I know the Lord is for me and I will never be afraid…’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

I’ve heard this old saying from as far back as I can remember: “Into every life a little rain must fall.” I only recently learned it was penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem, “The Rainy Day.”  The poem says, “Thy fate is the common fate of all—into each life some rain must fall.”

We expect a little rain to fall. We’re OK with some occasional misfortune or difficulty. But, sometimes a little rain turns into a torrential flood, and one problem piles on top of another until our troubles become more than we can bear.

Sometimes, as Princess Leia said to Obi Wan Kenobi, “This is our most desperate hour.” We are grieved by the loss of a loved one. The test results have turned into a seemingly-hopeless diagnosis. Our once-thriving business has failed, forcing us into bankruptcy.

In those desperate times, we wonder, “Where is God? How could God allow this to happen to me?”

Could God make the world utopic? Yes. Could he could fix every problem, erase every tear, and relieve every pain? Of course. But if he did, we would be mindless robots. God gave us free will. We can choose whether or not to serve him. He wanted us to choose to follow him because we loved him, not because he forced us. Free will means we must have the option of choosing evil.

Adam and Eve were free to choose whether they would obey God. They chose poorly, and their choice brought disease, destitution, and death to the earth. Because people are free to choose to do evil things, bad things happen to everyone. No one is immune.

But in our times of chaos and crisis, it’s easy to wonder if God has forsaken us.It’s easy to doubt God’s love and care for us. Has God forgotten about us when we are in our most desperate hours? Has God stopped loving us? The answer is emphatically, NO!

God is present in our problems. God cares for us through our crisis. When our lives are turned upside down and we can’t see his hand, he is still there, still in control, and still surrounding us with his unfailing love.

We may not feel it him. We may not see him. But we must stand on what we know to be true: God will never abandon us. He will never forsake us. He will always be with us and he will always take what the enemy meant for evil and cause it to work for good.

Friend, I hate to say this, but everyone on earth grieves. Everyone on earth suffers. The question is not how we can avoid problems in this life. The question is this: Do we want to face our most desperate hour alone, or with God walking beside us? We have free will. We can choose. Let us choose wiselyeternity hangs in the balance.

Dear God, thank you for your presence. Even when I may not feel you, I know you are there. I know you will never abandon me. Help me be aware of your presence, even in my most desperate hour. Bring good out of my struggles. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Before, During, and After

“The end of a thing is better than its beginning…” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

So many seasons of life can be divided into “before,” “during,” and “after.” We can point out the time before we lost the job, the uncertain time during the job hunting, and the time after starting the new job. A mountain climber has the before time of preparation, the during when they need every ounce of their skill and strength for the climb, and the after, when they stand top of the mountain and enjoy the breathtaking, panoramic view.

The before is comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s easy. The during can be challenging, confusing, scary, and painful. But, ahh—the after! That’s the exciting part when we see how the before and during led us to the place we needed to be.

Jesus’s life on earth had a before, during, and after. The before was amazing. His three years of ministry were filled with miracles, healings, victories over demons, and throngs of followers. On what we now call Palm Sunday, he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, to the acclaim of the crowds, who called out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

Less than a week later, the during began. Jesus was betrayed by one of those closest to him. The adoring crowds disappeared. He was arrested, beaten, tormented, and mocked. He was falsely accused and unlawfully sentenced to die. Jesus was actually forced to carry the cross upon which he was murdered.

The during was frightening and painful, torturous beyond imagination. But the during wasn’t the end of the story.

We know what happened after the crucifixion. The power of God was manifested by raising Jesus from the dead. Our salvation was procured. The bondage of sin and death was broken.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.” We are to emulate Jesus, to keep watching what he did and do the same. He endured the cross because he knew the joy that would come after.

We’ve probably heard people say, “It didn’t come to stay, it came to pass.” The during doesn’t come to stay. It will pass. The struggle is for a season. During that season, we learn, we grow stronger, and we gain a testimony to share with the world about the faithfulness and goodness of God. The end is better than the beginning. If it isn’t better, it isn’t over.

Dear God, I know you’re the God of every season of my life, the good times as well as the bad times. When I’m walking through a challenging time, give me faith to follow your plan and peace during the struggle. You’ve promised to never leave me alone. Whether I’m in an enduring season or enjoying the ease of the “after,” let me always be aware of your presence, your protection, and your peace. In Jesus’s name, amen.