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

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

Faithful Faith

What does your faith look like?  Do you have any?  And if so, where have you placed it?  In yourself?  In financial security?  The government?  Good deeds?  Church attendance?  False gods?  Grandma’s faith?  Ephesians 2:4–9 says we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not anything we produce ourselves or achieve by doing good works.  It is a gift of God.  Faith comes through the grace of Jesus Christ.  He is the author and finisher of faith.1

Once we have placed our faith in Him, how do we then use that faith in our lives?  Is it fiercely focused, distracted by deterrents, hanging on by a thread, or put up on the shelf?  Faith is made for a day-by-day, moment-by-moment experience.  It keeps our eyes looking forward in hope and our hearts reaching forward to God. 

When we are distracted, we are chasing our own desires, fretting about world events, seeking after beauty and longevity, and trying to gain fame and fortune.  We are looking for bigger and better, more and more, greener grass, and no suffering.  We become selfish and insatiable, and we become misdirected and apathetic about true faith.

On the other hand, when our faith is focused, it is a faithful faith.  This kind of faith withstands the test of time, the stormy gales, the fires and floods.  It says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  It is calm and collected, peaceful and patient, tried and true, strong and sure, ready and real. Even though it is battle-scarred, it is beautiful.  It is built with grit.  It is not overwhelmed or overflown.  It is not downtrodden or despairing.  It is not helpless or hopeless.  It presses on when it is pressed down. It rises up when it is laid low.  It pushes forward while being pulled back.  With faithful faith, we are more than conquerors.  God’s grace is sufficient.  He gives peace that passes understanding. He loves His own with an everlasting love. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Faithful faith is unshakable, persevering, enduring, stalwart, steadfast, and vested.

Faithful faith is not like deterred faith that is snatched away by lies, choked by cares, deceived, temporary, and based on favorable circumstances.  Faithful faith is not a fair-weather friend.  It sticks it out through the difficulties, the ugly times, the dark nights, and the cold winters.  Faithful faith is tried in the furnace and found genuine.

This sounds like being perfect, doesn’t it?  Well, none of us are perfect.  So, what then?  What if we have failed?  What if we have set our faith aside?  What if we have disowned it?  We have plenty of examples to look at of people who have done this and what the outcomes were.  The apostle Peter claimed he would always be faithful to Christ, yet, he messed up—big time.  He denied Christ.  But then, he came back; and then, he went forward.  David failed, multiple times. Then he repented, received forgiveness, and moved forward.  The apostle Paul said he struggled with his flesh fighting against the Spirit, but he continued to press on, day after day, year after year.  He moved forward.  Yes, faithful faith moves forward after failure, moves forward in the face of fear.  It moves forward forgiven and hoping for the future.

Faithful faith comes when Christ is put first.  He is given preeminence, and all eyes turn to Him.  Faithful faith worships through war, blesses through battle, remains courageous in calamity and chaos, perseveres, trusts, and hopes—because God is love, and He is loved.

So, hold on, my friends, no matter how dark the night, for joy comes in the morning.  The day will dawn when we will see the Bright and Morning Star.  Let’s be faithfully faithful to the One who is the author and finisher of our faith.  Let’s turn our eyes to Him, turn our hearts to prayer, and turn our feet to godliness. Let’s determine that life will be lived in Christ alone.  Our God will hear us, and His presence will be with us.  We can keep believing, trusting, and moving forward.  Yes, our faithful faith can keep us moving forward.  Even though it may have gone through a start-and-stop cycle, it continues the journey.  The road to faithfulness never ends.  This God is our God forever and ever, and He will be our guide until death.2  Let’s set our hearts toward Him and determine to finish the race and keep the faith.  The past is past, and we cannot change it, but we can move on forward through this day and into tomorrow.

Scary and shaky times will come.  How will we respond?  We can choose to go in the strength of the Lord God.  Our spirits can be willing although our flesh is weak.  He can help our unbelief. Moving forward is how faith works.  Understanding the definition that faith is the evidence of things not seen means we have to move forward without knowing.3  But, that doesn’t matter, because we know Him, the God of the universe, the One with all power and all knowledge.  We can trust Him.  We can keep being faithful because He is always faithful.  His faithfulness is great, and His mercies are new every morning.4  We can keep moving forward after mistakes, times of doubt, and unbelief.  There is no need for us to be distracted and turn aside after vain human things which cannot satisfy us or deliver us.  His mercy is available, and we can come boldly to His throne of grace for help.5

So, when the questions come, fear rises, emotions erupt, and our hearts break, may we entrust ourselves to God’s hand and God’s plan.  Let’s not harden our hearts, turn our backs, set faith aside, or call it quits.  And let’s not put our faith into storage until the next crisis comes along, but instead, access it day by day.  Let’s allow the author and finisher of our faith to grow our faith and bring it to completion.

We can consider the great things He has done in the past and look to the future with the faith that will help us live now.  David faced Goliath and won.  Moses faced the Red Sea and crossed it on dry ground. Joshua faced the walls of Jericho, and they fell.  Jesus faced death on the cross and triumphed over it.  All of these situations looked insurmountable, but each person set his face to God, chose to do His will, and moved forward with faithful faith.  And God was faithful to bring the victory.


NOTES

1 See Hebrews 12:2.

2 See Psalm 48:14.

3 See Hebrews 11:1.

4 See Lamentations 3:23.

5 See Hebrews 4:16.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 15, 2022

There in the Midst

I was the new kid on the block, except that I was already an adult and was about to turn twenty-one years old.  I went from being a military daughter to being a military wife.  I arrived in a new state fifteen months after newly arriving in the previous one.  Friendships are difficult to develop while one gallivants around the country.  Yet, in this newest place, something extraordinary happened—within two months, I was invited over to someone’s apartment for lunch.  A young mother of three extended an invitation to me.  And this is how the story of her investment in my life began.

I had been married only eighteen months and did not have any children.  I came from a different world than this woman did, and even though we were now in the same world, I did not live like she lived.  Our family backgrounds were different, our ages were different, our current family situations were different, our careers were different.  Whatever could we have in common?  Jesus.  That is what we had in common.  A passion and love for Christ dwelled in each of our hearts, and something magnificent happened when we came together in friendship—He was there in our midst.  We moved from being friends to being sisters.

The investment turned from sandwiches and tea to fervent prayers and tears.  Tears of joy and tears of sorrow flowed down our faces as we allowed one another to truly see what others had never seen.  My friend gave her time, energy, listening ears, and shoulders to cry on.  She encouraged me, comforted me, consoled me, and gave me a talking to when I needed it.  She saw me at my best, and she saw me at my worst.

Almost 29 years have passed, and this woman has helped mold me into who I am today.  She did not do this of her own power but through the power of Christ moving within her and working through her words and deeds.  At the times I could barely lift up my head, she lifted it for me.  At the times I could barely place one foot in front of the other, she cheered me on.  When all I could do was lay in my bed with messy hair and pajamas for my daytime wardrobe, she sat at my bedside while the casserole she had brought cooled on the counter.  In my pits of despair, God moved her spirit to touch mine.

Agony in life, marriage, health, parenting, career, grieving, disappointment, and rejection all found her at my side.  She was there by phone, by text, by greeting card, and by physical presence, pouring into my woundedness the very things God knew that I needed.  Elation in life, marriage, parenting, career, and other arenas found me running to the phone to share the mountaintop experiences with her.  She rejoiced with me when I rejoiced, and she wept with me when I wept.

How many hours of herself has she given for me?  Countless hours I am sure I will never know about— countless hours spent in prayer—and yet, these ones count as much as the obvious ones.  In my heart, I know that at all of these moments I was loved with the love of Christ.  Through her life, I see God’s unconditional love, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness, patience, and determination to help me succeed in the things for which He has purposed my life.  When she invests in me, she invests in God’s kingdom.  She spurs me on to love and good deeds and reminds me of who I am and what I am here for.  She is the one who invested, but I am the one who found the treasure. 


A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.1


NOTES

1 Proverbs 17:17 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 13, 2022.  This is a revised and updated version of an article I wrote in December 2017. 

The mug pictured in the photo was gifted to me by this friend.

A Season to Bloom

It is our season to bloom.  Not because it is spring, and not because the flowers are blooming, but because we are to bloom in every season of life for our entire lives.  We do not know how long our season will be.  We do not know the number of our days.  But we can know the things to do to cause life to bloom or wither.  We can grow up into Christ and shine forth, or we can shrink back and shrivel.  We can showcase the beauty God has instilled in us, or we can hide it from the world.

Life is not a perfect garden.  Things are often difficult and thorny, the ground dry and rocky; yet, we can let our roots go deep.  We can hold on to Him through the storms, the howling wind, the driving rain, the pounding hail, and the periods of drought.  We can keep pressing on until the harvest.  And when that time comes, we will have produced fruit.  We can be representative of how to survive and thrive, if we abide in the Vine.1  We can bloom when and where we are planted through the strength and the power of God. We can then show the beauty of the finished product and what the world has been needing.   

God has us here for this moment.  And even in difficult times, we can have peace and share peace because Jesus gives peace.  And when it is all said and done, He can bring a glorious harvest from our lives.  So, bloom where you are planted, whether it is in the aisle of a grocery store or the waiting room of a clinic, the deck of a cruise ship or the sand of a beach, the street corner of a bustling city or the counter of a country café; and do it whether you are there for hours, days, weeks, or years.  Every moment of life, every location, is an opportunity to bloom with beauty and spread the fragrance of Christ.2

He has an ultimate purpose for our lives, and every day and every decision moves us either toward that purpose or away from it.  What about when it’s difficult, when we are tired, upset, and everything is going wrong?  Yes, even then.  At all times, and everywhere we go, we are to represent Him.  He is worthy of our praise, at all times and in all circumstances.  So, when the ground is rocky, grow.  When the land is parched, flourish.  When the sun doesn’t shine, reflect His Light.  When this isn’t what you signed up for, complete the mission.  When no one is kind or loving, you be the one to rise to the occasion.  Are we perfect?  Not even close.  But we can always strive to do our best.  He gave His life for us.  Can we, with gratitude, give ours in return?  Can we make His name known, shine His light, show His love, and bring Him glory?  Yes.  Every season is a season to bloom.   


NOTES

1 See John 15:1–8.

2 See 2 Corinthians 2:1417.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 1, 2022

Spring Forward

Hello, and happy spring! It is the season of new life and renewal. New life is appearing for the first time, and life that has been dormant is blooming again to showcase its beauty once more. How is your life?  Are you celebrating spring?  Or are you still living in a dark winter?  Are you being held back by something?  Perhaps even yourself?  Or are you allowing yourself to enter into spring?

There are so many things that can hold us back and tie us down to the old season and prevent us from springing forward into the new. There are difficult circumstances that seem to hold us back, and there are things we cannot or will not let go of, so we hold our own selves back. But God is the giver of life, abundant life on this earth, and eternal life in heaven. Are you moving toward experiencing those? Have you taken the first step to make life a reality?

Jesus gave His life to give us life. And He lived His life to show us the best way to live ours. So, even though our circumstances do not change, our lives can. A new perspective and a different focus will help us through the difficult circumstances. God’s presence can dwell with us—give us hope, comfort, assurance, guidance, and peace. And our souls can also know peace by accepting eternal life through Jesus Christ.

What about those things you are holding on to and struggling to let go of—the disappointments, hurts, anger, and bitterness, for example. Jesus can adjust your perspective to help you focus on the good and see the blessings around you. He can heal your hurts. He can help you overcome your anger. And He can help you to forgive so that the root of bitterness can be burned up in the fire of forgiveness.

When you allow yourself to be set free from the cold winter, a beautiful spring can bloom. Beauty that you have never known or showcased before will appear. You will become someone who radiates life and reflects it onto those around you. You can become an example of the change that Jesus Christ can make in a life. Storms will still come and go, but the cold freeze, the dark days, and the dormancy can come to an end. No matter what the circumstances are, new life awaits you. Spring forward to receive it. 

I have an example for you of someone who was brought from winter into spring: Lazarus.  Lazarus received an invitation that changed him forever.

“Lazarus was not doing anything when his invitation arrived. He was getting nowhere in life. Actually, He was dead! But despite that he no longer lived and breathed, he received an invitation. This was a most extraordinary invitation, and it did not come in the mail! It was personally delivered by Jesus Himself.

John 11:144 gives the account. Jesus had been preaching in another town when word arrived that His good friend Lazarus was ill. Jesus did not immediately depart for the city of Bethany in order to heal Lazarus; instead, He remained where He was for two more days, finishing up what He was there to do. When it was in God’s timing, and after the work had been completed in the place where Jesus was, He then traveled to see Lazarus.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was greeted with criticism and the accusation that He was arriving too late because Lazarus had already been dead for four days! Count them—four. Four days of being dead. Four days that passed while Jesus worked and traveled somewhere else. But Jesus did not allow this unwelcoming reception to stop Him from delivering His invitation to Lazarus. He went to the tomb where Lazarus was buried, told people to move the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, and then proceeded with His commanding voice to issue an invitation for Lazarus to live again. Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43), and Lazarus came out of the tomb. Here we get a really good look at what Lazarus was doing in life. He was dead in a tomb, sealed behind a stone, and bound in graveclothes. But extraordinary things happened when Jesus showed up on the scene. First of all, an invitation was given to a dead person. Second, God’s resurrection power was seen. Third, a dead man got back to living his life. If this does not prompt us to come when God calls, I do not know what will!

God extends the same invitation to us that He extended to Lazarus. God is calling us to come out from death unto life—from spiritual death unto spiritual life. This is eternal life: to know Jesus Christ (John 17:3). No matter what stones are trapping us in life, no matter what we are wrapped up in and tied up in, no matter what stench we are covered with, no matter what cold darkness we are surrounded by, no matter how alone and laid out flat we are, no matter what others say about us, no matter how hopeless things look—even if it appears that our best days are behind us—He wants to free us from spiritual bondage and restore us to life and relationships. He wants us to be healthy and vibrant again, breathing and glowing, being and doing, loving and being loved. He wants us to live! He has placed the breath of physical life into us, but He also calls us to live with the breath of the Holy Spirit.

But does it ever seem to us, instead, like God is far away—in some other city or some other universe? Does it seem that He is ignoring both our pleas and the pleas of those who are telling Him we need help? Are we surrounded by people who are lamenting our situations? Do we have people in our lives who are like Mary and Martha, who accuse God of letting us suffer? Do they believe that if He was truly in our lives, things like this would not be happening to us? At one point, my son questioned why he should continue to pray for me when God was not giving me physical healing. Several people who are saddened by my chronic illnesses tell me that these illnesses should not be a part of my life. What do all of us honestly think and feel?

Does it seem like God is taking His time in getting to where we are and responding to our needs? Has it been more than four days—a lot more? Are we wondering whether He will ever come? Do we fear that He is too busy taking care of other things in other places to have any time for us? Do we think it is already too late and that the situation has passed beyond His power to help? Have we resigned ourselves to permanently live in our current states? Have we given up the fight? Have we stopped asking for help? Have we almost ceased to breathe? I have news for us—good news. We can change, although our circumstances remain the same. We can have a full and joyfully abundant life now—despite the pain— because Jesus came to give us that abundant life. It seems improbable, impractical, and impossible, yet it is true. But we have to make the choice to come out of the tomb and get out of those graveclothes. We have to come forth from the unpleasantness. We have to respond to His call to leave behind the things He wants us to leave behind, and live.”1

You can live, too.  Spring forward to life.


NOTES

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 28–30.  Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 2, 2022.

Available as a podcast episode on Anchor and Spotify.  Please visit the “Eternal Purpose Podcast” by Francee Strain to access it.

Chronically Ill and Ceaselessly Blessed

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  Yet, this is a phrase that describes my life.  I have a long list of health problems which are life-limiting, at least in the usual sense of what most people are able to do.  I will spare you the extensive details and just mention a few areas that pose a challenge: I’m unable to hold a job, I cannot make ongoing commitments (I frequently cannot even keep occasional ones), I rarely leave the house, it’s a challenge to accomplish housework, and I can rarely keep the refrigerator stocked on my own.  Getting through each day is often a monumental task.  But, I am blessed!

Sometimes, I hear comments such as “I don’t know how you do it.” or “I wish you didn’t have to suffer so much.”  Many times, I just hear the silence of isolation.  Few people understand. Fewer take the time to do so. Some cannot fathom what it is like.  And some don’t care to know.  It often feels as though I am forgotten as the world moves on without me.  But, my cup of blessings overflows!

How do I cope?  How can I say I am ceaselessly blessed?  First and foremost, I cling to the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9 which say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  I have God, and He gives me the amount of grace I need to get through each day.  He gives me strength I would never have on my own.  I hold two other verses close also: “God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.”1 and “I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”2  He is my helper, at all times, in all ways. What a blessing!

He also sends me comfort.  Sometimes, it is a bird, or a flower, or a breathtaking sky.  Sometimes, it is a song in my heart. Sometimes, it is a card, or a call, or a text.  Sometimes, it is a family member taking up my slack.  Sometimes, it is a friend grabbing a few groceries for me while she is out.  God sends me reminders of His love and care.  He cares for the birds of the air.  How much more does He care for us!He gives good gifts and great blessings!

And in my current state, I have come to know Him deeper than I ever did before—back when I had a frenetically-paced life, when I was self-sufficient, overachieving, and too busy for Him.

So, in the midst of the difficulties you face, seek His face.  In your struggles, look for the blessings He is pouring out. In your weaknesses, seek His strength.

He daily loads us with benefits, and His salvation is available to us.4

The help of His countenance will be the health of ours.5 


NOTES

1 2 Samuel 22:33

2 Psalm 71:16

3 See Matthew 6:25–27.

4 See Psalm 68:19.

5 See Psalm 42:5, 11.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, March 27, 2022.

Take Heart

Writing has been difficult lately. I’ve been hampered by illness, occupied by travel, and facing writer’s block as I process the intensity of the pain around me. My heart is heavy and broken for the pain I am seeing.  I have cried, and have cried out to God. And He has whispered to my heart to take heart.

A day can start out going one direction, and within seconds, change to a completely different one.  By evening, the landscape has changed, and sometimes it has become completely unrecognizable. Death and destruction have come, despair and derailment are realities, shattered hopes and dreams lie at our feet, and lives are forever changed.

And in the midst of all this pain is the search for answers and peace, help and hope.

Recently, I encountered several young people in their twenties who were going through very difficult times.  They were hurting, searching, and suicidal. I looked into their sad eyes and drawn faces, pained that I could not fix their problems and make their hurts go away. But thankfully, I was still able to help them. I gave them my time, my listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a hug, a prayer, and ultimately hope.

What hope do I have to share?  For those who want to give up the fight, I can tell about the One who fights for them. When they want life to end, I can tell them where Life begins. When they want to know peace, I can introduce them to the Prince of Peace. When they think life is meaningless, I can show them it has eternal purpose.

And if you are someone who is hurting and alone right now, know you are seen and loved. If you are someone who is suffering and shattered right now, know there is hope and healing available. Cast all your cares on God, because He cares for you. Seek His face and His strength forevermore. When all else shakes, He is the sure foundation, the Rock, the One who will hold you securely and never let you go. In times that are desolate and dark, His light still shines. When life is cold and bleak, the warmth and comfort of His presence can enfold you. When you feel lost and unsure of which way to go, He will hold your hand and guide your steps.1

Take heart.  His love will speak to your heart. 

Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation? This call has gone out directly to you. God is offering you a most amazing prize: the gift of eternal life.  This gift was given in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “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” (John 3:16 NKJV).2

His heart is for you. Take heart.


NOTES

1 See 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 105:4, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 62:5–8, Micah 7:8, John 14, and Proverbs 3:5–6.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, March 20, 2022.

When Mountains Stand Strong, 2022

Mountains of difficulty stand in front of us.  They loom over us.  They look insurmountable.  But, I want to encourage us to hold fast, to continue pressing on, to endure.  Let us take hold of the One who will never let us go, and with Him beside us, we can traverse any mountain.

The following is a repost of an article I wrote several years ago.  I hope it will encourage you.


I am on the mountain of heartbreak, and I don’t want to climb it anymore. Every muscle in my aching body screams for me to stop, to give up, to turn around and get off this mountain—to run and hide rather than face what looms before me, to maybe wander off into a green pasture, to lie down beside a calm stream, to spend hours listening to the symphony of birds in the trees and crickets in the grass—anything but put one foot in front of the other on these craggy ledges and dangling precipices. I am tired from this journey that presents nothing to me but pain and arduous struggle.

The problems that loom in front of me are mountains of immense proportion. Their enormity is overwhelming. Just one look at them can cause my heart to sink into the lowest valley. Their height seems to reach to the heavens, and the length of the mountain chain seems to go on for miles with no end in sight. Whatever can my human heart do when this is what stands in front of me, staring me in the face with its cold, hard reality? These mountains are formidable opponents. Some people don’t survive the battle against these giants. Sometimes, I wonder if I will.

Why can’t I have it the easy way? Why can’t I have the things that look so much more desirable, and that appear as though they will bring me so much more peace? Why do I have to labor and exert myself for hours on end to head to a destination that I can’t even see, that seems so far beyond my reach? Why do I have to do it? Because this is what He has called me to. Because this is His perfect plan for my life. He knows something that I do not know. He sees something that I do not see. He knows what I will find when I get to the end. He goes before me, He goes beside me, He holds me up from behind, and when the finish line is finally in sight, He will be there with arms outstretched and waiting to enfold me—to tell me well done, to tell me that I have gained the prize. It is His wisdom that outweighs mine. It is His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His love that will spur me on. I have to choose. I get to choose. Will I be spurred on? Or will I turn and walk back down the mountain to a destination where He is not? To a place where He is not walking beside me, or upholding me, or spurring me on to finish. Which will I choose? Which direction will I go? I choose Him. In all things, I choose Him. No matter what lies ahead, what difficulties I must face, what trials I must surmount, I choose Him. I would rather have Him than anything. This is what I do when mountains stand strong: I stand stronger because of His strength in me.

So although I am enveloped in a thick, confusing fog, with winds howling all around me; although the storm clouds rage and break upon my face, their roaring thunder striking fear into my heart; although there are sudden avalanches that make the situation even more unstable than I thought it already was, and torrents wash away what I thought I knew, I can look up. Yes, at these times, I can look up. My fear and unbelief will then be washed away by grace, because when I lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help, these heavy things have to flee and give place to hope, peace, and eternal love.

In my newly-washed perspective, I see God—the source of hope, peace, and eternal love. I see His goodness. His power. His strength and majesty. My heart can hope, and it can rejoice. Yes, although my feet are in the valley, my soul can soar above the mountaintops. I can stand strong because my Maker causes me to stand strong. Nothing compares to the awesomeness that He is. Nothing can lift my head like He can. Nothing can lift my soul like He can. Nothing can move my heart like He can. And nothing can move mountains like He can. He can give me the mustard seed of faith that can say to these formidable mountains, “Be moved into the sea!” When my Mountain, my Rock, battles against these mountains, they are no match, because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. There is power in the name of this great God. There is none else like Him. When mountains stand strong, He stands stronger.


You are my rock…
Into Your hand I commit my spirit…
You have known my soul in adversities.
1


NOTES

1 Scripture portions taken from Psalm 31:3, 5, and 7 of the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

© Text and photo Francee Strain, February 27, 2022. Original post © Francee Strain, March 2, 2018.