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

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.

Names and Numbers

“What’s your name? Tell me a little bit about yourself.” This might be how a conversation with a stranger begins. Someone’s name gives significance to their presence. It brings acknowledgement and recognition. But sometimes, it feels like we are a number, and no one cares what our name is. Sometimes, we become a case number, or a record number, or a file number. Sometimes we are a telephone number, representative of someone who can bring a profit to the caller.

How do we feel at times like these, when we are “just a number” rather than a name? Do we sigh in resignation; or do we go to the opposite extreme, striving and laboring to make our names known and prove we have significance, perhaps even pushing into the realm of trying to become famous? 

What do we do when being “just a number” causes our hearts to hurt?  The times when we feel alone in a crowd? The times when everyone used to know who we were, but now those days are long past? Times when we feel washed up, dried up, and put up on the shelf?  I can imagine what we do, because I know how it feels.

Or what about the times when we look up into the night sky, scanning the universe, and we feel so small and insignificant? The times when we wonder how our lives could matter amidst such a vast expanse. I can imagine, because I know how that feels. We can begin to question who we are and why we are even here. We question whether anyone really sees us and if our lives actually matter.

I can tell you that they do. We are not just one number among many. We have a name. A significant name.

One night, “I looked out the window before heading to bed and found I was looking at a sky full of stars, a sky packed with stars—stars as far as the eye could see. It was a cloudless night, and no one had their porch lights on. I stepped out onto the back lawn, overcome with awe and wonder. My heart leapt in worship. And then, God spoke to my heart from the vast, cool expanse. He was reaching out to talk with me, and my heart reached back. He reminded me that He has named every star and knows my name, too.”1

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament shows His handiwork. 

Day unto day utters speech,

And night unto night reveals knowledge. 

There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. 

Their line has gone out through all the earth,

And their words to the end of the world.2

How blessed we are that the God of all the universe has created such beauty for us to behold. And how wonderful it is to know that the stars were all named and put into place with His perfect knowledge and plan. But if we stop here—at this head knowledge—our hearts will miss out on something: this God of everything wants us to know His name. He wants us to understand He has made us and placed us here, and He wants to have a relationship with us. He reveals Himself; He shows us who He is. Will we recognize Him? Will we search out the path that leads us to Him rather than wandering down another which leads to a fruitless end?3

The God who created it all, the God who knows it all, also created us and knows us. From before time began, from before we were ever a thought in a human mind, God had thought of us, and He knew our names. And not only did He know our names, He knew why He was creating us, what purpose we would fulfill in this life: to be a part of His magnificent design and purpose. 

It is important to take time for reflection, to think about who we are and why we are here. We are part of the magnificence of His Creation and His purpose. We were made with His wisdom, and our names are known, just as He made the sun, moon, and stars and knows them by name. “And here are some amazing thoughts to treasure: He thought of us with so much love that He gave His life for us. He paid off the debt of our sin. The work of redemption has been done once and for all; we do not have to strive to do it. Jesus made the way for us to have peace with God by dying on the cross in our place.”4

Believing this will give us an additional name: no longer will we just be a creation of God, we will be a child of God. No longer will we be a number, a face in the crowd. We will become one of the members of God’s family. Are you counted among this number? This is a good number to be known by—one of those who has put their faith and trust in Jesus. This is one number I definitely wanted to be known by, so at the age of eight, I made the decision to give my heart to Jesus. 

Becoming a child of God will bring us near to God, and we will be able to call Him Father. This relationship will make all the difference in the world—and in the world to come. He will care for us individually in the midst of the crowd. He will know our hearts like no one else ever will. He will see every tear we ever cry. He will meet our needs. And, there is an enormous number of blessings He wants to pour out upon those who are called by His name. And then, there will be a great celebration someday, when it is time to dwell with Him forever. There will be much rejoicing as believers meet the God of the universe face-to-face—the One who loves them. I will be counted among this number, and I hope you will be too! But, time is limited, and we do not know the number of our days, so please be sure to RSVP to God so that your name can be written in the Book of Life.

“There is joy, life, and peace in knowing this God, the star-creator and the star-namer.”5 And after this life on earth ends, those who have accepted His Son, Jesus, will be able to know Him in eternity, in all His fulness. They will be in the presence of the creator of all, the Name above all names.


NOTES

1 Excerpt taken from “The Star-Namer,” ©Francee Strain, January 6, 2021.  You can find this article posted on my website at https://franceestrain.com.

2 Psalm 19:1–4 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

3 Adapted from “The Star-Namer,” ©Francee Strain, January 6, 2021.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 190.

5 Excerpt taken from “The Star-Namer,” ©Francee Strain, January 6, 2021. 

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 6, 2022

This article is available on my podcast. You can access it via Anchor or Spotify at “Eternal Purpose Podcast.”

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.

Hello, Readers!

This post is a bit different from the usual. I wanted to share some exciting news with you. I have launched a podcast this week! It is entitled “Eternal Purpose Podcast” and is available on Anchor and Spotify. There are currently five episodes posted. I hope you will take a listen and click to follow.

You can learn more about the podcast by visiting the podcast page on my website at https://franceestrain.com.

If you have any feedback or a suggestion for a topic you would like to read about or hear about, please reach out to me through my website contact page.

Feel free to share the news!

Thank you,

Francee

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.

Comfort Zone

I’ve cried so many tears this month they have likely comprised a measurable amount. There is so much pain and sorrow in my life, my family’s life, my friends’ lives, and the world around us.  I find I am in a zone where I need some comfort.

What do we consider to be comforting within our zones?  Our homes?  Being surrounded by family?  Having a cuddly blanket?  Experiencing some peace and quiet?  Eating chocolate?  These might be our default settings for times of difficulty, but what about the comfort zones we erect during days that are not filled with grief—a comfy couch, our favorite shows, a good book, good friends, our hobbies?  Whatever the comforts are, and in whatever seasons of life we seek them, there is a commonality—they are mostly all about ourselves.  But God did not design us to remain focused on ourselves. We are supposed to live to bring Him glory through our love and service to Him and others. 

It can be a scary prospect, or an inconvenient one, to step outside our comfort zones, but the truth of the matter is, life is not designed to be stationary.  We are to move forward in the purpose for which God created us.1  We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.2 And in order to do that, we have to enter their zones.  We have to be aware of others and be involved with them.  

There are an untold number of people who need us to enter their zones and bring them comfort.  How do we accomplish this? If we know the God of all comfort, then we are capable of bringing comfort to others.  He will comfort us in all our difficult times, and later, we will be able to use that to comfort others.  God can bring comfort to our minds, knowing we will spend eternity with Him after these difficult days are over.  He can bring comfort to our hearts, knowing He is sovereign.  In the midst of the bewilderment and grief, the comfort of His presence can be known, but how many people remain unaware of this fact?  Unless we move out of our comfort zones, they may never know.

We have the good news of the gospel, and people could really use some good news right now.  But in order to deliver the news, we need to shift the focus from ourselves onto others.  In order to love God and love others, we have to take action.  We have to move past ourselves, let go of our selfishness, forego our self-interest, shift our self-focus, and surrender our self-preservation. Our purpose here is not to “get all we can and can all we get,” making ourselves rich, pretty, and famous.  God placed us here to serve Him and serve others.  Our treasures are not to be in earthly things but in things of eternal purpose.

At times, we will need to linger in our comfort zones while God is ministering to our hurts and our needs, equipping and preparing us for what’s next, but then comes the time to step out, to cross the line and enter the zones of others—showing them the way of hope and peace, showing them Christ, showing them the God of all comfort.


Let all that you do be done with love. 3

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.5


NOTES

1 See Philippians 3:12.  

2 See Romans 12:15.

3 1 Corinthians 16:14

4 2 Corinthians 2:14–15

5 2 Corinthians 1:3–4

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 29, 2021

On My Side

IMG_5193 (3)

God is for me, not against me.

It seems I have heard that phrase frequently as of late. As a matter of fact, I encountered the phrase three times in two days. I believe God wanted to draw my attention to this fact, to examine the reality of this statement and remind me of its truth. What was my conclusion in thinking about this phrase for a while? I concluded without a doubt that He is on my side. Why would I draw such a conclusion? Because the proof is there—the foremost being the proof in His side, where He was pierced after being crucified for my sins—and I trust in His goodness.

It seems so many people are questioning God and whether He is truly on their side. Many blame Him when bad things happen, even when the consequences result from their own choices. He gets blamed when people don’t get their own ways, when things don’t turn out like they want them to or think they should. He gets blamed when life is unfair, when there’s loss, when things are hard, and when He allows tests and trials. He gets blamed for sin and the choices resulting from free will. That is a lot of blame, and it covers everything from A to Z. But the reality is, we live in a broken world with broken people. We also have enemies of our souls—Satan and ourselves. What do we do about the brokenness? How do we see and find the good? How do we get the help of almighty God on our side, to push through these things and make it to the other side? We take a step and move to His side.

God draws near to us when we draw near to Him. And actually, He already stepped near to us about 2000 years ago. He came to our side when Jesus was born and then gave His life for us on the cross. Jesus, God’s own son, stood in the gap between sin and holiness and provided us with a rescue, a way of escape from ever having to be apart from His side. When we choose to do life with Him and for Him, He will never leave us nor forsake us. Choosing to stand on God’s side by choosing His son as our Savior will keep us from ever being plucked from His hand. We will never again walk alone. He will walk beside us as a traveling companion in this life. He will be our provider, source of strength, listening ear, supporter, and encourager. And when this life ends, we will forever be in His presence.

So, before that final day, we all have a choice to make. Will we choose to have God at our sides? As for me, I choose Him. I can confidently say, “God is for me, not against me; He is on my side.” He is always watching over me, and thus, I can walk in peace, knowing all things are working for my good. I need not be anxious about anything, because regardless of the situation, I can still commune with Him and be blessed. I can rest in the knowledge that His will, not mine, is being done. Worry is unnecessary because He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Even when all the world is crumbling or is against me–when the enemy surrounds me, when I falter and fail, when everyone forsakes me–He will keep His promise to never leave me nor forsake me. He will be at my right hand, and I will not be moved. He will fight for me, and I will hold my peace. He will be an ever-present help in time of need.

Yes, I choose to move to God’s side, and thus, have Him on my side.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 24, 2019. Reposted August 8, 2021.

The Cares of This World

Sometimes, the cares of this world are just too much—too much to think about, too much to handle, too much to bear.  Their heaviness can weigh on our hearts and minds until our spirits are downcast and we can barely lift our heads. 

I found myself this week sighing in my spirit.  The grief was palpable.  I was distracted from my tasks of the day as my mind started listing the burdens one by one—mine, his, hers, theirs, ours.  The tears welled up and spilled over.  “God, please help us; We need your help,” I pleaded.  And instantly, He was there, speaking comfort to my soul, reminding me that His shoulders are here to carry the loads, His strong arms are here to lift me up, and His hands are here to hold me close. 

We do not need to be anxious about anything.1  God cares about every detail of our lives.  We were not made to carry this weight, and definitely not made to carry it alone.  If we are focusing on our burdens, it will keep us from focusing on our Source of help, whereas trusting in Him will render perfect peace. 

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.2  We cannot change the past, but He can heal us from it.  The present may be completely out of our control, but He is present.  And instead of worrying about and dreading the future, thinking “What if ___________happens,” we can replace those thoughts with ones about His character and presence, ones like “He is loving.  He is good.  He is sovereign.  He is all-powerful.  He is.” 

Remembering the truth lifted the weight from me.  The problems and pains remained, but healing and strength had come to my heart.  A lilt of joy entered in, and I continued the tasks of the day, going in the strength of the LORD God, the One who cares for this world. 


Carry Me

When the road is long, carry me.

When I’m not strong, carry me.

When all is wrong, carry me.

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

Carry me straight to You.3


NOTES

1 See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

3 ©Francee Strain, August 2017

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 25, 2021