A Time to Hope, Part 2

This article is the second in a three-part series on hope.

Part 2—A Hope-Filled Faith

Currently, there is war in our world, war in our minds, war on our emotions, and war on our hope. Life is a battle. An uphill one, at that. We labor and calculate to try to get through things, to try to get things to make sense, to survive to fight another day. We groan and weep. We suffer and retreat. We grieve and lash out. Our minds are muddled. Our hearts are bleeding.

We try to pretend we are okay, but we are not. We are deeply wounded. We are exhausted and empty. We are often biting our lower lips to hold back the tears. We don’t speak because we know our voices will crack. We don’t make eye contact because we know a look of sympathy will break us. We have heavy hearts, heavy burdens, and eyes that are heavy with tears. Even the air is heavy, and we feel like we are suffocating beneath the weight of it.

We are self-protecting and self-preserving, and at times we are going all out to mask our pain. And in whatever way we are trying to function and trying to cope, ultimately, we are operating in our own strength. And this is not faith. This is self. Self trying to do it all. Self trying to be it all. Self trying to conquer it all. Self trying to pull through. And the placement of our hope in ourselves is a misplaced hope. We ultimately cannot completely save ourselves. We don’t hold all the pieces and parts. We don’t have all the power and control. And, we never will. There has to be more than this futility and defeat. There has to be a better way, a better place to place our hope, something stronger in which we can place our faith. There is, but sometimes it is difficult to do so.

The challenges of life can challenge our faith. Obstacles, suffering, times of waiting, an overwhelming schedule, and the enemies of our souls can all be deterrents and distractions that keep us from believing in and reaching out to God. The very things with which we need help can be detrimental to our faith. But transformation can take place. Faith can become hope-filled when it is placed in God. And hope springs eternal when it is based on the eternal God.

So, when we place our hope and faith in the eternal God, and nothing more or less, what does this mean? How do we move through life with Him as our foundation? Does it mean our lives will be perfect? That we will never face trials and hardships? That we will not be hurt, rocked to the core, and broken? No, it does not. But what it does mean is that when we fall, we will get up again. When we mourn, we will laugh again. When we cannot see for the dark, we will see the light of His glorious face. This is hope-filled faith.

Faith is not a hope that there will be no difficulties. Faith is a hope through the difficulties. We can believe God is our Rock, and though the world shakes, He never will. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is perfect. Trustworthy. Omnipotent. Sovereign. We can know Who this is, this One in Whom we are placing our hope and faith. We can know His character. We can know His capabilities. We can know His heart.

God will sustain us, and with His help, our difficulties will not destroy us. Having hope in Him will strengthen our faith. The reality of our journeys can meet the reality of who God is. He is the God of hope. When we look to Him, we will see amazing things. When we seek His help, we will have a power we have never known before. He will love us at all times and in all seasons, when things look hopeless or things look hopeful. He will always be there even when we don’t think our hope is. Those who belong to God have the power of His Holy Spirit within them and can abound in hope.1 And, remembering His faithfulness to us and all of the generations before us will restore our hope.

The accounts of many people in the Bible show us how to have faith, and the Bible itself gives comfort, which in turn gives us hope.2 One prime example to examine during our troubled times is the life of Job. “Job experienced so many challenges that wore him down. The changes in his life touched him physically and then sank deep into his being; his mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships were all affected. He was devastated and bowed down in the dirt. He was in a sorry state of being and a somewhat sorry state of mind. Hope seemed lost. He could not help himself. He did not have the strength of stones or brass or any other resource to remedy the devastation in his life (Job 6:11–13). He needed God’s help and would not have rest until he allowed God to give it to him. And then, there was God. God touched Job’s life, and Job was able to get up and move forward. And like Job, we no longer have to lie there on the ground, defeated by the heavy loads of life; God can step in and make our burdens lighter too. Yes, the help of God can be found in us if He is found in us. He will give us grace and strength when we hope in Him and choose to walk uprightly. We can pass through our daily trials with strong and hope-filled hearts.”3

“Job’s trials were unbelievably huge, and yet, he had faith in the God who was bigger…Our souls can be still because God is on our side when we are on His side. He is for us when we are for Him. Not all circumstances will be good, but He will always be good. He is the Lord, and He does not change. … Keep the faith. He will always remain, and He will always remain faithful.”4

Hebrews chapter 11 is another place we can look to see the faith of believers on display. The first verse defines faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”5 These people placed their faith in God, not knowing what the outcome would be but knowing in Whom they were hoping. Daniel continued to pray to God despite being told petitions could only be made to the king. He was then sent to the lions’ den to face a painful death, but God sent an angel to close the lions’ mouths. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were told to worship an earthly king. They refused and stated they would only worship the one true God. They knew this choice was a death sentence, but they also knew God could deliver them if He chose to do so. They were bound and thrown into a fiery furnace to die, but God sent them rescue, and not a hair on any of their heads was singed; the smell of smoke was not even on their clothing.

There were other people, though, who did not live to see their faith realized, yet they still hoped. This was because faith does not have to know the outcome, faith just has to be demonstrated by action, and hope is then born of this faith as it is built on the certainty of the One in Whom we place our faith. Our belief allows us to hope because we are persuaded He can do anything, but it is also the reassured recognition God sometimes does not do what we want and when. He is not a vending machine or a genie. He knows the beginning and the end and everything that must happen in between. Our faith just needs to be in Him and His power and not in human wisdom and desires.6 So, let’s not lose hope. Let’s not stay home, give up, or check out. We can live to fight another day. God can become our companion in battle. We can allow Him to fight for us. Some trust in horses, and some trust in chariots, but we can trust in the name of the LORD God.7 Yes, even while we tread the broken roads of this fallen world, He can make our paths straight. While others try to squash us, He can make our spirits soar. When we think we have lost everything, we will find He has never left us. We can firmly believe in this God and give Him our loyalty and devotion. We can trust our pain will be turned to purpose, and we can know our lonely hearts are not alone. As King David said in Psalm 27:5 and 29:11, God will hide us in times of trouble and set us upon a rock; He will give strength to His people and will bless them with peace.

“God is the source of all hope (see Ps. 62:5) and the source of things that give hope. He is the source of salvation and eternal life. He is our rock and our fortress, our strength and stability, our protection from the enemy. We will not be shaken when we place our hope in Him because He is the unshakable God. We, like others, can have hope by recognizing the truth of who He is.”8 King Asa knew the size of the enemy did not matter because God is the one with all the power.9 Jonah knew his prayers would be heard when he called out in his time of difficulty.10 When we need help and answers, God is both. “It is God who can quash our hopelessness. It is He who can aid our helplessness. He has the power to help and to save, no ma­tter how large the enemy is that looms in front of us. He is hope itself.”11

When we trust Him, the heaviness will dissipate. When we allow Him to share in our pain, He will bring us comfort. When we accept His support, our stress levels will be reduced. His peace will surpass all understanding. He will bring true hope which will enable us to endure this life, “no ma­tter what has happened in the past, what we live in today, and what will come our way in the future. He is the Ancient of Days, and He is the contemporary. He has always existed, and He is here with us now. He is the everlasting God, and He will be with us throughout our futures.”12

“Psalm 142:1–7 is a good passage to read when feeling overwhelmed. These verses tell us that we can cry out to God and let Him know about our complaints and the trouble in which we find ourselves. He knows our paths. He is there for us when and where no one else is, even if it is the middle of the night and we are at our absolute lowest points. He is our refuge. He is our deliverer. He is going to bless us. Instead of le­tting our hearts be troubled, we should focus on our belief in Him and know that He is preparing a place in heaven for us (John 14:3). Be­tter days are coming.”13

God will always keep His promises throughout our entire lifetime, even during the tests and trials that come, even during the devastation and destruction of the fallen, natural world. Even when everything around us gives way, He is constant, He is faithful, He is still God. No ma­tter what happens, we can hold fast, unwaveringly, to our faith. When we cannot comprehend the incomprehensible, He is still the One who makes sense. And He is ever faithful to those who belong to Him.14 He gives His Holy Spirit to indwell those who believe, and the Spirit will counsel and comfort us, He will testify to our spirits that we belong to God, He will groan for us when we cannot find the words to pray in our pain, and He will empower us to go through each day, accomplishing the things God has called us to do. And He is the earnest of the promise that Jesus will return to take all believers home to the Father. Those who believe are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.15 For these reasons, and many more, we can look forward with a faith-filled hope.

True hope is built on a foundation of faith in God. Hope rooted in God is hope which cannot be taken away. We know He is always at work, His timing is perfect, and He keeps His promises. Our minds can know, and our hearts can believe, what our eyes cannot see. The evidence is all around. He has been there in the past, He promises to be there in the future, and we can know He holds us now. And this will fill our faith with hope.


NOTES

1 See Romans 15:13.

2 See Romans 15:4.

3 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 81–2.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 201.

5 This portion of Scripture quoted from Hebrews 11:1 was taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

6 See 1 Corinthians 2:5.

7 See Psalm 20:7.

8 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 217.

9 See 2 Chronicles 14.

10 See Jonah 2:7.

11 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 218.

12 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 80.

13 Ibid.

14 See 2 Timothy 2:13 and Deuteronomy 7:9.

15 See 1 Corinthians 3:23.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 8, 2022

A Time to Hope

This article is the beginning of a three-part series on hope.

Part 1—A Hope-Filled Foundation

We are living in very difficult times. Things look pretty bleak and hopeless a lot of days. More and more, people are succumbing to this hopelessness and falling into deep depression and even despair. But I want to speak a word of encouragement today and remind us that there is always a time for hope because there is God.

Romans 15:13 tells us God is the God of Hope, and when we believe in Him, our lives can abound with hope. He can enter our lives and situations and pervade them with hope. And even when we experience great loss, we will not need to fret and grieve as those who have no hope. Just as Abraham did, we can hope against hope, despite things looking dead and beyond hope. Abraham believed God could do anything, even bring life from a dead situation.1 And God proved Himself, over and over, and not just to Abraham, but to generation after generation.

God has power, and His words have power. He can bring hope and salvation to any who will believe, and He speaks clearly to any who will open their hearts to listen. It’s been a long journey, and there are more miles for us to tread, but we do not have to go it alone or go it without hope. In our struggle, pain, and desperation, we can hear Him speaking a message of eternal hope, help, and comfort.

How do we incorporate this hope into our lives? The hope itself is found in Him—proven to us through the life of Jesus—and the acceptance of Him into our lives will fill us with hope, down to our very cores, for all time and eternity. This hope will build the foundation. It will then be lived out in faith. And it will be looking to be fulfilled in the future. 

Hope is in the foundation. Hope is in the faith. Hope is in the future.

  • When we build our foundation on Jesus Christ and nothing more or less, we are building upon the surest foundation there is. His righteousness will cover us and connect us to God, the source of all hope.
  • When we place our faith in Jesus Christ and nothing more or less, our faith is being built upon the strongest faith there is. His salvation will cover us and connect us to God, the source of all hope.
  • When we place our future in Jesus Christ and nothing more or less, our future is being built upon the greatest future there is. His eternal grace will cover us and connect us to God, the source of all hope.

A foundation built on faith in Jesus Christ will bring us a future and a hope. Our faith will be forged in the fires of life and be found hopeful. And when we emerge on the other side, our future will still be stayed on the foundation of all hope.

When we give our lives to God, we can hold hope in our hearts because our hearts are held by Him. He will always keep His promises because He is faithful. No storm of life or dark of night can ever change the truth of Who He is. He is sovereign and omnipotent and can work all things for our good. We can confidently look to Him and wait on His timing, knowing He is our salvation and will hear us.2 We are victors because our victory is in Him. Our human eyes may not see it, but our eyes of faith can. And it is here where we have a decision to make. If we focus on our difficulties instead of on Him, fear and anxiety will grow and will begin to eclipse our hope; but if we focus on God rather than the circumstances, our hope will grow. When we focus on His character and abilities, we will be able to rest and find the ultimate source of hope. He holds it in His hand and offers it to us.

Sometimes, our lives are a mess and seem hopelessly out of control. The circumstances crush us and try to steal our hope. We might waver in living, and waver in believing. Our hearts might become anxious and fearful and forget Who holds the future and Who holds the now. Our days can become dark when we allow them to be darkened by fear and doubt, but they can be improved and ordered better when we allow God to get involved. God has all the power, and He will answer us when we call out to Him; and then our perspectives will change, and we will see rays of hope bursting through the clouds of darkness. At times, the circumstances will change, and at other times, they won’t; yet, He will always be there to help bear our burdens and see us through. Yes, regardless of the circumstances, He can help us thrive rather than just survive. Although the circumstances remain unchanged, we ourselves do not have to remain so. God’s power can be invoked, and it can make a world of difference. He can strengthen us with all might, according to His glorious power.3 He can take care of things in ways we never asked for, thought of, or imagined. He greatly loves and values us and will take care of the things we need. Just as He cares for each li­ttle sparrow, He will care for us. When we need help, when we are distressed, when things come crashing down upon us, He is there. And He always will be. 

There is hope and peace in His constant and abiding presence. He will lead and accompany us; and with Him at our right hands, we will not be shaken. Although times may come when the world shakes, our foundation will be sure. And upon this, we can build our hope and our lives.

In order to build in such a way, we need to move to the barest foundation of our lives. “We need to come to God with our hearts, not just our lips and actions (see Matt. 15:8–9). We can come to Him no matter how we are feeling inside, no matter our hearts’ conditions; He is able to handle it and act according to our needs. We can come to Him whole-heartedly, half-heartedly, or with broken hearts. If we have experienced tragedy, betrayal, discontentment, unfulfillment, or disappointment, we can come. If we are having the best times of our lives, we can come. If we are numb and do not even know what to think or feel, we can come. We can come to Him with our sorrow, when our hearts are broken and aching, because He is the Healer and the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). He binds up wounds and is near to those that are of a broken heart (Ps. 147:3). We can come to Him with our joy or lack thereof, whether we are rejoicing again or begging to have the joy of our salvation restored to us. We can share and exult in our victories with Him but also invite Him to share in our sorrows. We should come expectantly since deferred hope makes a heart sick (Prov. 13:12). …We can be hopeful even if today looks hopeless, because we have a living hope, not a dead one. The name of this hope is Jesus.”4

We can “come to Him during our times of desperation, when we are out of time, options, help, and hope. When we have come to the end of ourselves and have nothing else to cling to, we will find Him there, waiting for us. No ma­tter how low we are or how exhausted and beaten down we have become, we will find that He is there. He is with us in the pit, when we are overwhelmed and feel farther from Him than we ever have before. When life is overwhelming and we do not know how we can possibly continue on, He is there. His presence will go with us through all of our desperate times, and He will give us rest in the midst of them if we simply allow Him to do so. Even when the circumstances do not change, we can find rest in Him. Even when the circumstances change faster than we can handle, we can find rest in Him. He is the unchanging one who can help us in any and every circumstance. This God is our God—our rock, our anchor, our hope and stay.”5

This is a time for hope.


NOTES

1 See Romans 4:18.

2 See Micah 7:7.

3 See Colossians 1:11.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 112.

5 Ibid.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 27, 2022

The Sparrow Keeper

This is a revised version of an article I posted in 2020. This revised article is also available as a podcast episode on Eternal Purpose Podcast. You may access it via my website podcast page or by visiting Spotify or Anchor.

https://open.spotify.com/show/23NbWtwZBdGkm1LVIpFtu3

https://open.spotify.com/episode/02z8M2t5FddhQGrHvCPsFe?si=V4lTaL_GTAi6qTKM27RojA

https://anchor.fm/francee-strain/episodes/The-Sparrow-Keeper-e1l5ddm


I’m a birdwatcher. I peek out the windows, and I check on the happenings in my yard. Certain birdcalls send me running outdoors to catch the action. At times, you will find me with my mouth agape as I observe spectacular scenes unfolding before me.

Several of my hobbies revolve around wild birds. Some days, I get a finger cramp pressing the shutter button on my camera. I use my photographs in a multitude of ways. I have a feather collection. Bird figurines adorn my tabletops, shelves, fireplace mantel, and piano. There are framed bird prints hanging in various rooms of my house. I have bird identification books and a magazine subscription—this way, I can gaze at other people’s bird photographs and further my bird education at the same time. I’m not sure where my fascination with birds came from. I remember checking out bird guide books from the elementary school, and I sat at my bedroom desk tracing over the photos. Birds of paradise were always my favorite. But after that, I don’t remember too much of anything else related to birds—until several years ago—I acquired a birdbath.  At that point, I moved beyond being a bird watcher—I became a bird keeper.

A keeper is one who has the job not only to watch but also to protect and maintain what or whom is being cared for. Daily, I have taken to caring for the birds. I water them, fill up bird feeders with birdseed, and I cook up batches of hummingbird nectar. I chase away cats that are looking for a feathery meal, and I shoo away deer who believe the bird feeders exist for their benefit. Thus, I have become a sparrow keeper, along with being a keeper to more than thirty-five other types. It brings great joy to my heart to be able to share in the lives of these beautiful creatures.

When we look at sparrows, “beautiful” may not be the first word that comes to our mind.  We’re probably not impressed by their appearance or wowed by their size. We might think they’re a dime a dozen and are nothing in comparison to showy peacocks or powerful birds of prey. But, the Bible says not one sparrow is forgotten by God or falls to the ground without His knowledge. And we humans are told not to fear because we are of more value than many sparrows.1 Think of it!  If God cares for each one of these little creatures, how much more must He care for us?

But, how do we understand this when life seems to be flying out of control in many directions at once, like a flock of birds flushing out of the field? Right now, there’s noise, confusion, scrambling, blurring, fleeing, crying out, and fear. Things are startling us out of our peace and rest, interrupting us as we try to go about our normal lives, causing us to question what is happening and what to do next. We don’t understand the outside forces that are bearing down on us and making our hearts anxious and pounding. But, I want to encourage us not to fear. God’s eyes are on the sparrows, and He is watching over us, too.

There are songs that talk about God being a sparrow watcher. And when I think about this concept, I realize He’s not just a sparrow watcher, He’s a sparrow keeper. He’s not simply an observer of what’s taking place in our lives, He is involved in our care. He fulfills the definition of a keeper as He guards and cares for, protects and maintains. As we live our lives in the midst of a difficult and fallen world, He abides, faithful.

Indeed, we are told the very hairs of our heads are numbered.2 God is aware of each of us and is paying attention to the details. From our safe little perches and our huge falls to the ground in this big, overwhelming world that’s fraught with danger, He remains vigilant. When gale force winds, seasons of drought, firestorms, and famine come, He speaks peace. When we are separated from the flock, lost or abandoned, He’s omnipresent. When our feathers get ruffled, when we smack into the window while looking at the reflection of something we think we want, or when we get blown off course in the high winds, He sees. He knows. He remains steadfast. And He is available to help us recover. No one else can meet each need or save our very souls except Him. He has provided Himself, the living water and the bread of life. He guards souls from eternal death and is capable of keeping them in life. He is omnipotent and everlasting.

Yes, God is the world maker, star namer, and soul saver. He is the sparrow watcher and the sparrow keeper. From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.


Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.

He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.3


NOTES

1 See Luke 12:6.

2 See Luke 12:7.

3 Psalm 57:1–3

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photos Francee Strain, July 12, 2022. Original version posted August 16, 2020.

Five Years and Counting

I am celebrating the fifth anniversary of launching my website, and I would like to say thank you to you!

• Thank you for taking the time to read my articles.

• Thank you to those who have become site followers.

• Thank you to those who have shared how an article has impacted you.

• Thank you to those who have given me words of encouragement.

• Thank you to those who have written reviews and endorsements for my book to post on the website.

• And now, my podcast is accessible via the website, and I thank those who have listened.

I am grateful to all of you for being a part of my life. I truly appreciate your support.

Sincerely,

Francee

Cover design by WestBow Press

Podcast photo and text by Francee Strain with logo by Anchor


©Francee Strain, July 9, 2022

The Turnaround

What steps are you taking, and where are your steps taking you? Have they taken you somewhere unwise, unhealthy, ungodly? We have all been there. Actually, some of us are probably there right now. There is not one of us who has not chosen poorly. We make a mess of things. We make blunders and do foolish things. And then we wish our actions could be undone. We want to have a do-over, another chance. Other times, though, we willingly plunge headlong into sin. We think it’s cool, fun, trendy, harmless, or even expected. We think it hurts no one, not even ourselves, but the truth is, it does. It grieves the heart of God. It wounds those who watch us as an example. It disappoints those who thought we were something more. It dashes the hopes of those who were striving to become like us. And it keeps us from being who God created us to be.

Each decision we make, each action we take, has a consequence and brings us toward a destination. Where we are heading matters but so does where we are right now. And sometimes, we are somewhere we ought not to be. But although we cannot unsay what we have said, unsee what we have seen, undo what we have done, or change where we have gone, at this moment, we can turn our lives around and say something else, see something else, go somewhere else, and do something else with the time we have remaining in life. We can step in a new direction to come into alignment with what is right and good. We do not have to remain trapped in the wreckage. God’s hand is there to guide us out, every step of the way.

Every day is a new day, and God’s mercies are new every morning. So, if we failed yesterday—or even earlier today—we have the opportunity to be forgiven, to be made new, to be washed anew in the mercy of God. If we have failed in our weakness, we can let Him be our strength to move forward. If we have strayed off the path He has laid out before us, we can reroute our steps to match His. If we have been caught up in the ways of the world, we can be caught up in God’s arms just as the prodigal son was caught up in the arms of his father. If we have been wandering aimlessly, we can instead trust God to direct our steps. If we have unhealthy habits, He can heal us. If we have fallen into the depths of despair, He can raise us up to the mountaintop of joy. If we have been beaten down, He can pick us up. He is the cure for what ails us. What we are not, He is. He completes us. He is perfection. He supplies every need. And we can do all things through Him, including turn around.

Look at the life of Paul the Apostle. He said he sinned and did the things he hated to do and didn’t do the right things he wanted to do.1 We are just like him in this manner. We all struggle. We all keep messing up. We get set in perpetual patterns of sin. We have habitual hang-ups. But we also have the remedy for all of this available to us—Jesus. With Him, we can say we once were _____, but now we are _____. Saul, a persecutor of Christians, became Paul, the Christian missionary. And huge changes like he experienced all those years ago still happen today. For example, an extremist in Asia who used to persecute Christians has become a pastor and church planter, ministering to the very ones he used to persecute and sharing Christ with the ones he used to be like. An enemy of God has become His friend. A hearer of the Word has become a doer of it. A lost one is now found. A blind one now sees. An old man has become a new man. An old creation is now a new creation. The hopeless has become hopeful. The joyless has become joyful. The one who had wandered aimlessly is now moving with purpose. And all of these things can be true of us as well. This is the difference Jesus can make in a life. He can completely turn it around. There are so many possibilities, we cannot even imagine them all. But we do not need to imagine them, they can be realized:

  • If we are headed toward hell, we can change our destination. We can turn to Jesus for salvation and join Him in heaven for all eternity.
  • If we have been humiliated, we can have our heads lifted.
  • If the breath has been knocked out of us, He can breathe new life into us.
  • We can move from being lame to leaping in praise.

If we realize we are in a negative way, heading down a wrong path, making poor choices, and neglecting to follow the One true God, we can make a change. This is the turnaround. The place where we move from being a graceless wretch to a grace-covered child. We can’t start life back at the beginning, or somewhere during the last year, last month, last week, or last hour—we can’t undo what we have done—but we can make a change right where we are now. We can access God’s grace and forgiveness and seek His help to move forward.

Today is a new day, and it doesn’t have to look like yesterday. This hour is a new hour, and it doesn’t have to look like the previous one. This moment is a new moment, and we can choose a new direction. We can turn around. It’s not too late. If we have forgotten God, we can now remember Him. If we have turned our backs on Him, we can now turn and look upon His beautiful face. We can leave the darkness behind and enter into His glorious light. He is gracious and merciful, forgiving and compassionate.

Let today be the day of the turnaround.


Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.2

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.3

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.4


NOTES

1 See Romans 7:15–25.

2 Philippians 3:13–14

3 Galatians 2:20

4 Psalm 138:8

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 30, 2022

In the Name of Peace

The following is a repost of an article I wrote in 2020.


We need peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our homes. Peace in our own hearts. We long for peace. We yearn for peace.

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace.

Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.1 Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.

Peace is a matter of the heart. Peace is for hearts that matter. Peace is for you. YOU matter.

~~~~~

Grief can overwhelm us, and at times, we can become lost in it. Our hearts can break and bleed and cry out for relief. Our hearts can burn with questions hotter than Death Valley. “Why?” “Why God?” “Why are those three young boys going to be left without a mother?” “Why did he do that to me?” “Where were You when that was happening?” We can cry so many tears, inside and out, that we become dehydrated. Our throats become dry from crying, from screaming. We wander alone in deserts of pain and sadness, feeling like the vultures are circling overhead, their dark shadows coming for us next. So many unanswered questions. So much hurt. “Why?” “What good is there in all of this?” “What good is going to come out of this?” Our focus wanders from the well of water directly in front of us, to the blur of the heat waves rising from the burning sand all around us, to the pain of the scorching heat, to the howling of the desert wind. Our focus shifts to the pain and away from what can soothe the pain. But there is someone who can help us return from these perplexed states and find healing: God. We can mimic some of the words King David spoke in Psalm 25:16–18, asking for God to “turn” to us and “have mercy” on us because we are “desolate” and “afflicted” (v. 16). When the troubles of our hearts have grown, we can ask that He would see our afflictions and pain and then deliver us. And if we are in a state of grieving because of our sin, we can ask for His forgiveness (vv. 17–18). Calling out to Jesus is a good thing to do because He was acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). He knows what we are going through.

Immanuel. God with us. This is one of His names, one of His amazing characteristics, and one of His precious promises. He has said that He will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). When our hearts are heavy and our spirits are wounded, Immanuel. When our minds swirl and whirl in chaos and questions, Immanuel. When nothing makes sense and all hope seems lost, Immanuel. Storms rage. Dreams die. Immanuel. People leave. People die. Immanuel. Homes are lost. Possessions ravaged. Immanuel. Days are long. Nights are longer. Immanuel. Pits are deep. Scars are deeper. Immanuel. No one even understands our pain and the depths of it. Immanuel. In this name, there is hope and there is rest. Immanuel. Comfort can be found in knowing that we are not alone in what we are facing. We can rest, assured of His promise to always be with us. And because God always keeps His promises, we can cling to this name for all we are worth. Immanuel. When we are lost, we can find Him: Immanuel.2

~~~~~

Let Him care for your heavy heart. Let Him catch your tears. He knows your pain. He knows your name.

YOU are precious.

YOU matter to Him.

YOU are loved.


NOTES

1 See Isaiah 9:6.

2 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), pp. 64–6.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 17, 2022. Original article posted May 30, 2020.

Whatever the Day Holds

Fear is becoming chronic … and so is anxiety. Fear used to be occasional; now, it seems non-stop. Going about a normal day and a normal routine has become abnormal. We second guess whether we should take part in certain activities in certain locations because there could be risk involved. We shelter in place when there is no call to do so. We imprison ourselves because of the fear and the anxiety. 

Caution and prudence are wise, but living under the control of fear and anxiety is not. It is not good for our bodies. It is not good for our minds. And it is not good for our souls. It impacts every part of who we are. Instead of focusing on life and living, we are focusing on how to prevent death and dying. We see shadows everywhere and evil lurking in them. We move from being vibrant and healthy to shrunken and sick to death with worry. Our focus shifts from what is to “what if.” The trepidation has ramped up. The number of outings has gone down. Where is the balance? 

The balance is found by sheltering in God. If we turn our worry, fear, and anxiety over to God, He will replace them with His perfect peace. If we trust Him with our lives, we can also trust Him to hold us in death. As long as our souls are alive in Him, they will never die. We can step out then in preparedness, with peace, continuing to interact with others so they will know the love of God and eternal peace. 

He will give us the strength to face the day—whatever the day holds.


Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.

In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?1


NOTES

1 Psalm 56:3–4 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 17, 2022

This Moment

Will we live to see another sunrise? What if we do? Will we live to see the sun at high noon? How about to see the sun set? We have no guarantees of this. Time is passing, but life is fleeting. In a moment, everything we know can change. In a moment, life can be gone. If you have seen the news lately, that fact is probably pretty evident to you. This is something we typically do not like to think about, however. We are prone to quickly brush the thoughts aside and move on to something else to distract us, to comfort us, to cheer us. But it is of utmost importance that we take this moment to think on these things. 

We need to prepare for “this moment,” the time when our moments will come to an end. What have we done with our lives? 

First and foremost, we need to think about whether we are ready for the eternity that will come after our final breath. Have we prepared ourselves to meet our Maker? We have two choices in this matter. We can choose His plan and spend all eternity with Him, or we can reject His plan and spend all eternity separated from Him. His plan is to love us forever, shown by the provision of His Son, Jesus, to provide salvation to all who will receive it. We have this moment to choose whether to receive it. 

After we have finished this moment of decision, the next thing to consider is how we will spend each moment until the time of eternity. As we move from moment to moment, time is passing; and every moment matters. We have the opportunity right now to make each moment count or not.

“Life is made up of moments, a whole compilation of them—moment after moment after moment. And suddenly, they have made a lifetime, and a life has been made, whether it is long or short. A personality has been formed, a character developed, a reputation established.

Although each moment is different, something happens within each one that is the same: life happens, and choices are made. Will we choose to love, forgive, serve, and heal; or will we choose to hate, grow embittered, act selfishly, and wound? Will we choose self, or will we choose God? Will we live each moment in the flesh, or will we live in the Spirit? Will we walk independently, or will we cling to His hand? This is the time to decide, in this moment—once it passes, it cannot be changed; and we do not know how many moments will comprise our lifetimes.

Moments are gone in an instant, and so, too, can be our testimonies, reputations, credibility, and opportunities. Life itself can be gone in a moment, before we have a chance to change, improve, or make amends. Don’t wait another moment. Turn your moments into a beautiful legacy.

Choose this moment for Jesus.

Choose this moment for love.

Choose this moment for life.

This is your moment.”1


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.2

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 3

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.4

[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.5

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.6


NOTES

1 Repost of a blog entitled “Moment by Moment,” ©Francee Strain, April 23, 2018

2 John 3:16

3 Romans 10:13

4 1 John 4:15

5 Romans 10:9

6 2 Corinthians 6:2b

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, June 9, 2022. The photo features an American robin at sunset.

Hearts That Don’t Quit

Why is this happening to me? This is not what I had planned for my life. This is not what I signed up for. And this is not where I thought I would be by now. There are castles crumbling all around me. Teardrops are falling relentlessly. There are cold hearts, cold glares, empty words, and unfulfilled promises. There’s brokenness everywhere I look. Brokenness in them … and brokenness in me. Yes, we are broken. And we are brokenhearted.

The brokenness comes because we possess broken hearts. We have stepped out of God’s perfect design and into lives marred by sin. We make, and others make, poor choices. Wrong choices. Hurtful choices. Selfish choices. And now, what can we do?

Oh, my heart is heavy, and it’s broken for the pain I’m seeing. I have cried and cried. I have also cried out to God. And, He has whispered to my heart to take heart and not give up, even in the midst of deep pain, even in the midst of such a broken and messed up world.

We’ve all seen it. A day can start out going in one direction, and within seconds, change to a completely different one. By evening, the landscape has changed, and sometimes it’s become completely unrecognizable. Death and destruction have come, despair and derailment are our new realities, and shattered hopes and dreams lie at our feet. In moments, our lives are forever changed. The despair can be overwhelming. The sense of hopelessness can be suffocating. The darkness closes in. And the pain is unrelenting. Our souls are anguished. They are crushed. They seem beyond repair.  And all we can do is ache. Sometimes, all we can do is curl up in a fetal position and sob. And sob. And sob. Our broken hearts spill out into our teardrops.

And in the midst of all this pain is the search for answers, for peace, for help, for hope. And what hope is there? Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be any, and we just want to give up the fight. We become too tired to fight any more. And that’s just it. We’re tired because we are fighting. There is another Who can fight for us, with us, on our behalf. When our lives seem to have come to an end, we can grasp the source of Life: God Himself, the One who gives life, the One who is all-powerful. He’s there when we get to the end of our rope and our strength. When we need peace, we can obtain it from the Prince of Peace. When life no longer seems meaningful, He can fill it with His presence and the ability to press on to find the good. There is an eternal purpose for us to find and live throughout the remainder of our days. We never have to be alone, and we never have to just survive and try to make it through the day. Whatever looms over us, God can help us face it and keep moving forward.   

I’ve encountered so many people who are searching, so many who are suicidal, so many who are paralyzed by grief. Times are so difficult, more difficult than they’ve ever been. It’s so understandable why these thoughts and emotions come. Our hearts are slammed, crushed, torn. Everything we thought we knew and could depend on is no more. Our heads are spinning. Our hearts are racing. Our tears are falling. Our nights are sleepless. If you look deeply into eyes and hearts, it will break you. There has to be more. There is more. And all of us, we need to know this. 

Problems don’t magically disappear. Time does not reverse. So, we need to discover a solution and a way to move forward. That solution is God. God will listen to our cries. He will catch our tears. He will hold us in the palm of His hand … if we will let Him. A real and lasting peace is available to us. A comfort like none we have ever known is there for us. He is the ultimate source. He wants to carry us and guide us like a shepherd who lovingly cares for the sheep. He wants to provide a place of rest and meet our needs. He wants us to hear and know His voice. He is the Great Provider, the Great Healer, the Great Comforter. He is I AM.

Since before time began, a call went out to us. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking our hearts as individuals. God gave an invitation with each of us in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for us, for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before we were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that we might have eternal life. We have the opportunity to respond to that invitation. We’ve been offered a most amazing gift: eternal life. And until the time of eternity arrives, we’ve also been offered an invitation to move forward with His presence and His power in our lives and have life itself.1

If you are someone who is hurting, grieving, feeling alone right now, know that I see you, and you are loved. And know that God sees you and loves you. If you are someone who is suffering and shattered right now, know there is hope and healing. It’s available. We can cast all our cares on God, because He cares for us. We can seek Him and find Him when we search for Him with all our hearts. He is the sure foundation when the world shakes, the steady Rock where all else is shifting sand, the One who will hold us securely and never let us go. If we choose to become His child by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we have the promise that He will never let us go. He is the God of the brokenhearted. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted [a]nd binds up their wounds.”2

When desolate and dark times come, His light will still shine. When life is cold and bleak, the warmth and comfort of His presence will enfold us. When we feel lost and unsure of which way to go, He will hold our hands and guide our steps. His heart is for us, and He won’t quit. He went so far as to give His Son for our redemption. He has proven how much He loves us and wants to be with us for all time.

So, take heart, and let His love speak to your heart. His heart is for you.  

Take heart, and don’t quit.


NOTES

1 Adapted from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4.

2 Scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Parts of this article are adapted from three other articles I wrote entitled “The God of the Brokenhearted,” “Take Heart,” and “Don’t Quit.”

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 25, 2022

Passing Time

This month marks the 20th anniversary of my family living in our current house. This realization brings with it a flood of memories and a flood of gratitude. The years seem to have passed by very quickly. Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how quickly time is passing. This year contains many significant milestones and other events that are marking the time for my family. My parents have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. I will turn 50 years old later this year. I’ve been married for 30 years. My oldest child is almost a quarter of a century old. This year is the fifth anniversary of my book’s publication. My youngest child got married and made me a mother-in-law six months ago. I began a podcast two months ago. And a month has passed since we celebrated Easter. This got me to thinking about how we view the passing of time. Once the days are gone, it seems we put most of them out of mind—unless they are milestone days—but even those get buried in the forward motion and busyness of life. I wonder how many of us have already put out of mind the significance of Easter: the pain of the sacrifice, the depth of the love, the power of the Resurrection, the salvation made available, and everything to which these events point. But although we may have moved beyond thinking about that event, what took place that day is significant for every day of the year. As a matter of fact, it is the most significant thing for our lives and eternity. 

On Easter Sunday, people are known to say, “He is risen!” Some will even respond to this declaration with the phrase, “He is risen indeed!”1 Have you ever said these words? To whom have you spoken them? Is this a common practice in your family and church? Or are these possibly new phrases to you? What thoughts and feelings arise when you say these words? What are the ramifications of these words?

Have you ever heard of 1 Corinthians 15 being called “The Resurrection Chapter”? Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 and list the names of those who were able to utter the words that Jesus was risen indeed. These people saw Jesus with their own eyes. There was living proof right in front of them that He was risen from the dead.

This knowledge brought hope and joy to the world almost 2,000 years ago, and the resurrection of Jesus still brings hope and joy to our world today. And we sure do need it these days. Heartbreaking things are happening. People are in dire circumstances and desperate situations. Perhaps you are yourself. Hearts are full of questions, and fear, and anxiety. Hope is wearing thin, dwindling away, and for some people is already gone.

Was any of this happening when Jesus walked the earth? Yes. The circumstances were different, but the hearts of people are the same through all time. And so is Jesus. Jesus cared for people back then, and He cares for us today. He never changes. His heart is filled with compassion and a longing to help us through this life. He can bring hope into the darkest of times. We do not need to get to the end of the tunnel to see the light; we can see it now. He is the Light of the world.

In our times of difficulty and darkness, we only need look up and cry out. He will come to our aid. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today through the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus left here to help us while He returned to heaven to prepare a place for those who would believe.

God is still on the move, and the return of Jesus is moving ever closer. Time is passing quickly, and we need to be ready. We are living in “post-Easter” days. We are living in “pre-Second Coming” days. Someday soon, we will be seeing Jesus face-to-face. Look up, you who believe in Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior, for your redemption draws nigh! The tomb is empty, and one day the sky is going to be full—full with the glory of God, as Jesus returns for His own.2

And if you are someone who does not know Him yet, the fact that you still live and breathe gives you an opportunity to know Him. Please, don’t let another moment of time pass you by. The God of the universe loves you, and He wants to have a relationship with you. He sent His Son, Jesus, to remove the barrier of sin that keeps people separated from Him. Jesus died on the cross to atone for that sin, and He offers forgiveness to all who will ask Him for it. Simply believe in who He is and what He has done for you, acknowledge your need for Him, ask for His forgiveness, ask Him to save you, and you will become a child of God. You will be saved from eternal separation from Him and will be welcomed into heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 3, 4


NOTES

1 See Matthew 28:6 and Luke 24:34.

2 Paragraphs two through six are taken from an April 12, 2020 article I wrote entitled “He Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!”.

3 John 3:16 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

4 Feel free to send me a message via my contact page to let me know your decision or to ask questions.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 22, 2022