A Season of Heartache

I am looking across the table into eyes filled with tears. I am hearing quavering voices over the telephone. I am reading between the lines of texts and emails and seeing the pain and exhaustion. And I see it in my own reflection in the mirror, I hear it in my own voice, and I read it in my own words. Many of us are in a season of heartache. The reasons that brought on the season vary, but our hearts are all in the same place.

Life right now is hard. The days drag on with heaviness. The nights drag on with sleeplessness. Minds are overwhelmed. Bodies are in pain. Pocketbooks are being drained. Spirits are being wounded. Fears are growing larger. And hopelessness is clouding vision. 

Life is never perfect—there is always some amount of pain—but there are some seasons where heartache rules the day…and the night. Difficulties. Loss. Stormsliteral and figurative. Situations we’ve never navigated before…and never want to navigate again. How do we keep pressing on? How can our aching hearts keep moving forward?

Each season has both good and bad. Spring is too muddy. Summer is too hot. Fall is too wet. Winter is too cold. But spring also has buttercups and shining rainbows. Summer has refreshing showers and prolific flower petals. Fall has sweet scents and sprays of vibrant color. And winter has a breathtaking calm, beauty, and sparkle. Each aspect of a season shapes the season, but our perspectives shape it, too. Do we enjoy wearing rainboots, digging in the dirt for countless weeds, filling bag after bag with fallen leaves, and sliding under silvery skies? Some would say yes. Some would say no. Perspective matters.

So, too, now with our seasons of heartache. Can we lift our eyes to see the beauty behind the pain? Can we see the treasure of someone’s listening ear and warm embrace while we sob our hearts out? Can we hear the crowd along the sidelines lifting our names in prayer? Can we hear the heartbeat of the Savior who stands with outstretched arms ready to enfold us in our grief? My grandma used to tell me to crawl up into Jesus’s lap and tell Him my problems. Jesus is acquainted with grief. He went through a season of heartache like nothing we could ever imagine. He sees people fall to sin. He sees the backs of people when He wants to see their faces. He walked the roads of earth, despised and rejected. And then He was crucified like a criminal although He had never done a single thing wrong. But as He walked to the cross, there was joy set before Him because He knew His sacrifice would purchase our redemption and the opportunity for us to be with Him forever—if we would choose to do that.1

Can we look for that joy? Can we remember that He is there before us, waiting to give us the life He purchased for us, waiting to give us help, hope, and peace? He will help us keep pressing on, and pressing through, to the other side of this season, no matter when or how it ends. We can survive. We can thrive. We can showcase the beauty of the season, if we are refreshed by His presence, if we let Him root out the things which keep us from blooming, if we exude His fragrance, if we reflect His light. We can show His beauty and His power when we persevere; we can show it to a watching world, and we can show it to ourselves when we look in the mirror and when we commune with our hearts upon our beds. We will find He has never left us nor forsaken us.2 We will know deep down in our spirits that He is working all things for our good.3 Always. 

These afflictions are for a moment, but time with the healer of broken hearts is for all eternity.

Peace to you, my friends. He has overcome the world.4


NOTES

1 See John 17:3, Romans 10:13, and Hebrews 12:2.

2 See Hebrews 13:5.

3 See Romans 8:28.

4 See John 16:33.

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

The Cares of This World, Round 2

I wrote the following article more than a year ago, but when I reread it the other day, I could completely relate to what I had written then. It is because I am in a similar place in life again—trial after trial, in my own life and the lives of others surrounding me. There are times when it seems we keep the facial tissue manufacturers in business because we cry so many tears. This is one of those times.  And the solution and truths I state about where I find my help and hope are still completely true and are known with even more certainty than a year ago.

(Repost)

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

See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

Strain, Francee. “Carry Me.” 2017.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 30, 2022. Original article posted July 25, 2021.

A Time to Hope: A Hope-Filled Foundation, A Hope-Filled Faith, A Hope-Filled Future

This post contains all three articles from the “A Time to Hope” series.

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

See Romans 4:18.

See Micah 7:7.

See Colossians 1:11.

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

Ibid.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 27, 2022

This entry was tagged A Sure FoundationDifficult TimesHope in ChristThriving in Hard Times.


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

See Romans 15:13.

See Romans 15:4.

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

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.

See 1 Corinthians 2:5.

See Psalm 20:7.

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

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. Revised August 9, 2022.

This entry was tagged Difficult TimesFaithGod’s FaithfulnessGod’s HelpTrusting God.


Part 3—A Hope-Filled Future

As we conclude this three-part series on hope, we are going to look at the future. Although these are dark days which crowd out the light of hope, it is still there waiting for us. It is still there because God is still there, and He is the source of all hope.

The hardships we are facing right now will affect our futures, but how those futures look will vary depending upon the choices we make about where to look for help and hope—whether we are looking to God or somewhere else. God can bring something good out of these difficult circumstances, and we can discover hope in knowing this. We can wait expectantly for how God is going to intervene. Actually, He is already at work, whether we see Him or not. Even though we may feel paralyzed by pain and our circumstances, God is moving. And because He is, we can find hope to move forward into the future by knowing nothing escapes His knowledge. He knows every pain we experience and knows every anxious thought we have. When our hearts quake, when we struggle in our weaknesses and failures, when we lose our spark and drive, when we feel alone, rejected, and opposed, God is aware. And in spite of all these troubling things, we can place our hope in Him. And because of all these things, He is the best place to place our hope.

When our minds begin to worry, and our peace begins to flee, we can find hope and rest by changing where we focus. We can remember He is God and knows what we need. He holds us today, and He holds all our tomorrows. He holds us securely, so we can hold fast to Him with faith and hope. He sees what our eyes cannot, He knows what our minds cannot, so our hearts can trust Him and know hope.

Our burdens will not overpower us, if we turn them over to the all-powerful God. His strength will break the power of hopelessness. He is omnipotent and can do the impossible, and His inexplicable power is available to us. “We do not have to wait until we get to the end of the tunnels to see the light; we can see it now, even though it is dark all around us. We can see the light of God’s glory shining through the darkest of clouds and the darkest of nights, radiating brightly through the darkness of hopelessness and the darkness of despair. God gives strength beyond strength and peace beyond peace. He is there with us through His Spirit, and He is there with us in love. He does all things well and will be there with us every moment of every day. He is for us, and He has eternal purpose in each day. He is the fountain of life, and in His light, we will see light (Ps. 36:9).”1

We know He came in the past, and He has told us He is coming back in the future, but He also comes in the interim, in the present. And having Him here with us now influences what the future will be like for us. Will we accept His help and hope? He shows Himself in many ways, but will we see Him and recognize Him? Sometimes, His presence is quite noticeable, and other times, it is subtle. He is there in our ordinary days, and He is there in our storms. He is there when things are fine for us and at the times when it seems all hope is lost. He will accompany and carry us to our destinations, speaking peace to the wind and the waves, speaking peace to our hearts. His power can pervade each situation and carry us from the crashing waves of hopelessness to the solid shore of hopefulness. All we need to do is believe and extend our shaking hands with the hope of our faith. And He will reach back.

“We can have strong hearts when we are filled with God’s hope (see Ps. 31:24). Hoping in Him and what He is going to do—rather than fretting, worrying, or being anxious—will bring rest to us. Hope raises us above the despair that tries to drag us down. We can rest and not be moved because God is our rock, Jesus is our cornerstone, and faith is our firm foundation. We can build our hope on Him because He is a strong stay and a mighty fortress. ‘I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.’ (Ps. 16:8–9).

“As we move through life, we do not need to be hopeless and paralyzed by fear but instead need to be anchored in God, our hope. We can release the fear and place our hope and trust in Him. If we set the Lord always before us and keep Him at our right hands, then we will be stayed and moored in a strong place. He is where our hope, strength, and rest will come from.”Imagine looking over at Him, the King of kings, there beside us, bearing our burdens, offering us comfort and hope, fighting for us, and giving us peace. There is true hope surrounding us and going before us, as His presence is with us, and He goes before us. And our ultimate hope lies in the fact we won’t much longer have to imagine seeing Him, as He is going to come again, and we are going to see Him face to face. This return will not be subtle or known only in the quietness of our hearts and minds. His return is going to be seen by all!3 How exciting to think one day our own eyes will look upon hope itself, upon the King who has come! And today, we are one day closer to that day.

“He always keeps His promises, and no one can thwart what He purposes. ‘For yet a li­ttle while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry (Heb. 10:37).’ … Will He see our faith in Him when He comes looking for it (Luke 18:8)?”4 When that day arrives, all who have placed their trust and hope in the salvation of Jesus Christ will have their hope fulfilled for all eternity. And for anyone who has not yet done this, today is a day of opportunity to gain hope for the future. It just involves making a choice to take hold of the gift and reply “yes” to the invitation to receive it. Jesus is the door to life, and we can choose to walk through it. And if we choose to walk through that door, our expectations of a better life will be fulfilled with the best life—eternal life with Him.

Those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus have a hope-filled future. That future will be filled with life and be empty of death, sorrow, crying, or pain. God raised Jesus from the dead and will raise us, and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He will strengthen the hearts of all who hope in Him. Even now, Jesus is preparing a place for us, and when it is time, He is going to return and take us there. Holding this in our hearts will strengthen our hope and strengthen us. In the midst of this life, we can find life—life that will someday be eternal and life that can now be abundant. Jesus came to give it, and He can fill our days and hearts with many blessings.5

God’s plans and purposes for us are good, and having this knowledge will bring us hope and peace. Any pain, any trial, can be touched by His hand. We can be transformed through these times and even find these things useful to us in the future. I have many examples which have already occurred in my own life, and I trust more will come. At the time, I could not see how anything good could ever come out of such terrible situations, but God saw something I did not. He saw the future. And He took those scars and poured blessing over them. From those ugly things, beauty grew. His hope can help us see beyond the circumstances and see beyond the now. Looking for the beauty in the brokenness brings hope, and we can look forward to deeper healing as time goes on and a reworking of the trajectory of our lives. God is the redeemer and restorer, and He makes all things new. He can change circumstances and change lives, but He can also change hearts and perspectives in the midst of the storms and in their aftermaths. There is something else on the other side of these difficult times, and our faith and hope in Him will carry us through the difficulties and over to that point. He can bring healing to every part of who we are and can work in lives around us, too. Nothing is hopeless when He is involved. Evil will not win the day. The locusts will not have the last leaf. God’s hand can intervene, visibly or invisibly. He is near and available when we call out to Him. Let’s turn our eyes away from these temporary trials and turn them expectantly toward our eternal rescue. He is coming. Let us stand on our foundation, pressing toward the prize of the high calling, awaiting the future with hope.

The pages of the Bible are like a treasure chest. Reading through, we will discover page after page of reasons to have hope, from the knowledge of God’s very character to His actions. There is proof in the review of His past actions, the observation of His current actions, and the revelation of what His future actions will be. He is faithful, and we can build our hope on Him. If He said He will do something, He will do it. He is faithful and just and forgives sin. He gives new mercy every morning. He never leaves His children. And He has said His own will be with Him forever, so we can stake our hope on that. Throughout all time, He has proven Himself. When His children have gone through difficult times, have had to accomplish feats which seemed overwhelming, and have faced death, His presence and help have been there. He has always held their lives, their breaths, and their souls, and will continue to do so.6

He cares about our lives down to the last detail. He gives wisdom when we ask. He supplies our needs and our strength. He is a refuge for us. And He gives us His everlasting love, peace, comfort, support, and kindness. As we progress through life, He will be with us, and we will not lack anything we need. When we draw near to Him, we will find hope, because when we draw near to Him, He, the source of all hope, will draw near to us. We have been assured of His constant presence and help. He will be with us all through life, and then we will dwell with Him forever.7

When He holds our hearts, we can look forward to what lies ahead when our journeys end because a foundation built on Him and faith placed in Him will give us a hopeful future. The proof of it is extensive. And for now, while we move toward that future, we can trust Him to do above and beyond anything we can ask, think, or imagine. As the present of today becomes the past, and we continue on into the unknown future, we can know this One who holds the future and hear Him speaking over our lives while He waits to welcome us home with open arms. So, let us continue on in our journeys, seeking His face and listening for His voice, giving Him our hearts and our trust.

Dear friends, our foundation can be hope-filled, our faith can be hope-filled, and our future can be hope-filled if He is the hope of our foundation, the hope of our faith, and the hope of our future. This is a time to hope.


Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.8


NOTES

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 181–182.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 239–240.

See Matthew 24, Mark 13, and 1 Thessalonians 4.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 259–260.

5 See Psalm 31:24, John 3:16, John 10:10, John 14:1–3, 1 Corinthians 6:14, and Revelation 21:4.

See Exodus 33:14, Joshua 1:9, Lamentations 3:22–25, Acts 7:55–56, Hebrews 13:5–6, 8, and 1 John 1:9 for a few examples. 

See Deuteronomy 33:27, Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 23, John 16:33, Romans 8:16, and James 4:8a.

Psalm 42:11 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

The scripture quotations in my book excerpts were taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 18, 2022

This entry was tagged ComfortDifficult TimesEncouragementEnduranceFuture LifeGod’s HelpJesus’s ReturnStrength.


©Text and photos Francee Strain, August 18, 2022

A Time to Hope, Part 3

Part 3—A Hope-Filled Future

As we conclude this three-part series on hope, we are going to look at the future. Although these are dark days which crowd out the light of hope, it is still there waiting for us. It is still there because God is still there, and He is the source of all hope.

The hardships we are facing right now will affect our futures, but how those futures look will vary depending upon the choices we make about where to look for help and hope—whether we are looking to God or somewhere else. God can bring something good out of these difficult circumstances, and we can discover hope in knowing this. We can wait expectantly for how God is going to intervene. Actually, He is already at work, whether we see Him or not. Even though we may feel paralyzed by pain and our circumstances, God is moving. And because He is, we can find hope to move forward into the future by knowing nothing escapes His knowledge. He knows every pain we experience and knows every anxious thought we have. When our hearts quake, when we struggle in our weaknesses and failures, when we lose our spark and drive, when we feel alone, rejected, and opposed, God is aware. And in spite of all these troubling things, we can place our hope in Him. And because of all these things, He is the best place to place our hope.

When our minds begin to worry, and our peace begins to flee, we can find hope and rest by changing where we focus. We can remember He is God and knows what we need. He holds us today, and He holds all our tomorrows. He holds us securely, so we can hold fast to Him with faith and hope. He sees what our eyes cannot, He knows what our minds cannot, so our hearts can trust Him and know hope.

Our burdens will not overpower us, if we turn them over to the all-powerful God. His strength will break the power of hopelessness. He is omnipotent and can do the impossible, and His inexplicable power is available to us. “We do not have to wait until we get to the end of the tunnels to see the light; we can see it now, even though it is dark all around us. We can see the light of God’s glory shining through the darkest of clouds and the darkest of nights, radiating brightly through the darkness of hopelessness and the darkness of despair. God gives strength beyond strength and peace beyond peace. He is there with us through His Spirit, and He is there with us in love. He does all things well and will be there with us every moment of every day. He is for us, and He has eternal purpose in each day. He is the fountain of life, and in His light, we will see light (Ps. 36:9).”1

We know He came in the past, and He has told us He is coming back in the future, but He also comes in the interim, in the present. And having Him here with us now influences what the future will be like for us. Will we accept His help and hope? He shows Himself in many ways, but will we see Him and recognize Him? Sometimes, His presence is quite noticeable, and other times, it is subtle. He is there in our ordinary days, and He is there in our storms. He is there when things are fine for us and at the times when it seems all hope is lost. He will accompany and carry us to our destinations, speaking peace to the wind and the waves, speaking peace to our hearts. His power can pervade each situation and carry us from the crashing waves of hopelessness to the solid shore of hopefulness. All we need to do is believe and extend our shaking hands with the hope of our faith. And He will reach back.

“We can have strong hearts when we are filled with God’s hope (see Ps. 31:24). Hoping in Him and what He is going to do—rather than fretting, worrying, or being anxious—will bring rest to us. Hope raises us above the despair that tries to drag us down. We can rest and not be moved because God is our rock, Jesus is our cornerstone, and faith is our firm foundation. We can build our hope on Him because He is a strong stay and a mighty fortress. ‘I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.’ (Ps. 16:8–9).

“As we move through life, we do not need to be hopeless and paralyzed by fear but instead need to be anchored in God, our hope. We can release the fear and place our hope and trust in Him. If we set the Lord always before us and keep Him at our right hands, then we will be stayed and moored in a strong place. He is where our hope, strength, and rest will come from.”2 Imagine looking over at Him, the King of kings, there beside us, bearing our burdens, offering us comfort and hope, fighting for us, and giving us peace. There is true hope surrounding us and going before us, as His presence is with us, and He goes before us. And our ultimate hope lies in the fact we won’t much longer have to imagine seeing Him, as He is going to come again, and we are going to see Him face to face. This return will not be subtle or known only in the quietness of our hearts and minds. His return is going to be seen by all!3 How exciting to think one day our own eyes will look upon hope itself, upon the King who has come! And today, we are one day closer to that day.

“He always keeps His promises, and no one can thwart what He purposes. ‘For yet a li­ttle while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry (Heb. 10:37).’ … Will He see our faith in Him when He comes looking for it (Luke 18:8)?”4 When that day arrives, all who have placed their trust and hope in the salvation of Jesus Christ will have their hope fulfilled for all eternity. And for anyone who has not yet done this, today is a day of opportunity to gain hope for the future. It just involves making a choice to take hold of the gift and reply “yes” to the invitation to receive it. Jesus is the door to life, and we can choose to walk through it. And if we choose to walk through that door, our expectations of a better life will be fulfilled with the best life—eternal life with Him.

Those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus have a hope-filled future. That future will be filled with life and be empty of death, sorrow, crying, or pain. God raised Jesus from the dead and will raise us, and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He will strengthen the hearts of all who hope in Him. Even now, Jesus is preparing a place for us, and when it is time, He is going to return and take us there. Holding this in our hearts will strengthen our hope and strengthen us. In the midst of this life, we can find life—life that will someday be eternal and life that can now be abundant. Jesus came to give it, and He can fill our days and hearts with many blessings.5

God’s plans and purposes for us are good, and having this knowledge will bring us hope and peace. Any pain, any trial, can be touched by His hand. We can be transformed through these times and even find these things useful to us in the future. I have many examples which have already occurred in my own life, and I trust more will come. At the time, I could not see how anything good could ever come out of such terrible situations, but God saw something I did not. He saw the future. And He took those scars and poured blessing over them. From those ugly things, beauty grew. His hope can help us see beyond the circumstances and see beyond the now. Looking for the beauty in the brokenness brings hope, and we can look forward to deeper healing as time goes on and a reworking of the trajectory of our lives. God is the redeemer and restorer, and He makes all things new. He can change circumstances and change lives, but He can also change hearts and perspectives in the midst of the storms and in their aftermaths. There is something else on the other side of these difficult times, and our faith and hope in Him will carry us through the difficulties and over to that point. He can bring healing to every part of who we are and can work in lives around us, too. Nothing is hopeless when He is involved. Evil will not win the day. The locusts will not have the last leaf. God’s hand can intervene, visibly or invisibly. He is near and available when we call out to Him. Let’s turn our eyes away from these temporary trials and turn them expectantly toward our eternal rescue. He is coming. Let us stand on our foundation, pressing toward the prize of the high calling, awaiting the future with hope.

The pages of the Bible are like a treasure chest. Reading through, we will discover page after page of reasons to have hope, from the knowledge of God’s very character to His actions. There is proof in the review of His past actions, the observation of His current actions, and the revelation of what His future actions will be. He is faithful, and we can build our hope on Him. If He said He will do something, He will do it. He is faithful and just and forgives sin. He gives new mercy every morning. He never leaves His children. And He has said His own will be with Him forever, so we can stake our hope on that. Throughout all time, He has proven Himself. When His children have gone through difficult times, have had to accomplish feats which seemed overwhelming, and have faced death, His presence and help have been there. He has always held their lives, their breaths, and their souls, and will continue to do so.6

He cares about our lives down to the last detail. He gives wisdom when we ask. He supplies our needs and our strength. He is a refuge for us. And He gives us His everlasting love, peace, comfort, support, and kindness. As we progress through life, He will be with us, and we will not lack anything we need. When we draw near to Him, we will find hope, because when we draw near to Him, He, the source of all hope, will draw near to us. We have been assured of His constant presence and help. He will be with us all through life, and then we will dwell with Him forever.7

When He holds our hearts, we can look forward to what lies ahead when our journeys end because a foundation built on Him and faith placed in Him will give us a hopeful future. The proof of it is extensive. And for now, while we move toward that future, we can trust Him to do above and beyond anything we can ask, think, or imagine. As the present of today becomes the past, and we continue on into the unknown future, we can know this One who holds the future and hear Him speaking over our lives while He waits to welcome us home with open arms. So, let us continue on in our journeys, seeking His face and listening for His voice, giving Him our hearts and our trust.

Dear friends, our foundation can be hope-filled, our faith can be hope-filled, and our future can be hope-filled if He is the hope of our foundation, the hope of our faith, and the hope of our future. This is a time to hope.


Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.8


NOTES

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 181–182.

2 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 239–240.

3 See Matthew 24, Mark 13, and 1 Thessalonians 4.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 259–260.

5 See Psalm 31:24, John 3:16, John 10:10, John 14:1–3, 1 Corinthians 6:14, and Revelation 21:4.

6 See Exodus 33:14, Joshua 1:9, Lamentations 3:22–25, Acts 7:55–56, Hebrews 13:5–6, 8, and 1 John 1:9 for a few examples. 

7 See Deuteronomy 33:27, Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 23, John 16:33, Romans 8:16, and James 4:8a.

8 Psalm 42:11 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

The scripture quotations in my book excerpts were taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 18, 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

Powerful

(This article is also available as a podcast episode.  Please visit the podcast page on my website at https://franceestrain.com or visit “Eternal Purpose Podcast” on Spotify or Anchor to listen.)

A life lived for God is a life full of power, but sometimes that power goes untapped.  There is power in His name and power when He acts, but sometimes we ignore His name, and we ignore His acts, so we miss His power.  I want to spell the word powerful with two L’s because that is what He is.  There is more impact.  He is full of power and operates with full power. 

How do we get access to this power?  God Himself is powerful, and for those who have placed their faith in Jesus’ atonement for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them.  And the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in them.  There is resurrection power available to our dead souls and our “dead” lives.  And we have 24-hour access to this power.  We’re not limited to one hour a week while we attend church or perhaps another hour when we’re at a prayer meeting or a Bible study class.  No, the power does not come from our schedules, our words, our location, our making a formula for it, our having good behavior, or anything else for that matter.  The power comes from God Himself, from Him and His authority, from His omnipotent character.  He is the King of the universe, and He’s at our right hands when our lives belong to Him.  His presence will be with us.  He will hold our hands and lead us and guide us.  He will also hold us in His capable and mighty hands and shelter us with them.  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High dwells under the shadow of the Almighty.1

So, when we approach God in prayer, we are inviting Him to act.  When we pray and ask, we invoke His power.  We access His strength.  We receive His help.  We are no longer alone, and our strength is no longer human strength; it is now supernatural.  He has all wisdom, power, and authority.  He is mighty to save.  We fight the right way when we fight on our knees, asking for Him to be involved in our lives.

But sometimes, we forget this truth.  How many times have we realized that He could have intervened long ago before things got to be such a mess, if only we had talked to Him about it?

Sometimes, it feels like I’m standing in the middle of a field with gusts of wind trying to blow me down.  There’s no shelter, no cover, no stoppage of the relenting and howling force.  Other times, I feel like a tree in the rainforest being perpetually drowned with overwhelming and regular downpours.  Sometimes, I feel like a beach with wave after wave crashing upon me, and breaking over me, and grinding me into sand.  But then, I remember.  I remember, and the power comes.  I set my mind on Him: the One who commands the storms and calms them, the One who commands life to return and death to flee, the One who commands the supernatural and brings miracles out of the impossible, the One who commands creation to exist and keeps it in perfect order.  I remember my feet are planted on the rock, the solid rock, the sure foundation.  I am not on shifting sand.  I remember who hears my prayers.  I remember who gives me the breath of life.  Yes, I remember the One who holds my very life in His hands. 

Yes, the situations may be beyond our control, but they are not beyond His.  God is still in control.  We may be a diligent worker whose work unravels before our eyes through no fault of our own.  We may experience the death of a loved one that seems to steal our very life and reason for living.  We may experience damage in our physical lives that cannot be undone.  We may have health issues that can’t be resolved.  We may be financially savvy yet take one financial hit after another.  But remember, we are not helpless; we are not hopeless; we are not abandoned; and we are not alone.  God never leaves us.  And because of that fact, that means the power never leaves us either.  Grief doesn’t have to shroud us.  Despair doesn’t have to imprison us.  Unchangeable circumstances don’t have to define us.  We are His.  We are heard, seen, known, loved, and helped.  Peace, be still.  God has an eternal purpose for us.  We can keep moving forward through the storms, through the fires, through the floods, through the pain.  Nothing can thwart His plan. 

We can move from hopeless to hopeful, from wandering aimlessly to having each step guided, from having a mind filled with worry to one filled with wonder.  Yes, when we look upon His power, we will be in awe—in awe of who He is, of what He does, and how He loves us.  His grace is sufficient for us, and His power shines in the midst of our weaknesses.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but when we abide in Him, we live attached to the ultimate power source.

King David could leap over walls; Joshua shouted and walls fell; Moses walked between two walls of a sea, parted for his safe passage.  We, too, can face the impenetrable walls in front of us because no one can close the doors God opens.  He will make a way for us to press on.  We can have the courage to go, to do, to say, and to be.  We can be bold, unafraid, fearless.  He is our Helper.  We can enter the promised land when we follow His leading.  We can enter into the things He has for us.  Nothing is impossible with Him.  Tragedies can be turned into triumphs.  One stone made the giant fall.  One week of obedience and one shout made the walls of Jericho fall.  One death on the cross made death fall.  Jesus overcame victoriously, and He lives to intercede for us.  He has resurrection power.  Believe.  Pray.  Ask.

We can press on with hope and purpose.  We can press on with power, the power of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the faithful God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.  We get to choose this day whom we will serve.2  And this is whom I have chosen. 

His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.


For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.3


NOTES

1 See Psalm 91:10.

2 See Joshua 24:15.

3 Ephesians 3:14–21 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

There are many Bible passages that discuss God’s power.  Here are a few others I accessed for this article: Joshua 1:9, 2 Samuel 22, and Psalm 89:13.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 22, 2022

The Victorious Heart

IMG_4425 (2)

(Repost)

Life is a struggle. A battle. An uphill climb.

They say it takes heart, but my heart is weary. It is overloaded with pain and the cares of the world. It strives. It aches. It weeps. I feel like I am losing the battle and losing heart.

What can turn this around? Is there anything that can be done?

YES!

  • I can offer my heart to the Healer of brokenness.
  • I can offer the heart of this warrior to the one who leads the host of heaven.
  • I can place this lost, wandering, confused, and lonely heart into the hands of the One who knows every trail and trial, every battlefield and tear.

Every step of my journey is already seen and known before I have even stepped. Every battle has Someone to come alongside me. Every hopeless moment is waiting to be filled with the God of all hope. And every desolate battle cry (that sounds more like a whisper) can find its voice in I AM–the One who spoke the world into existence.

No longer will my heart lie downtrodden and defeated. No longer will it fold inward in silence. It will rise up in the power of God’s Spirit, and I will press on. For it is not by my might or power, but by His Spirit. He will lead me to victory. I will see it. I will taste it. I will know it. My heart will know it–because my heart knows Him.

This is the heart of victory.

 

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 13, 2020.  Reposted February 7, 2021 and February 13, 2022.

Author’s note: This article is one of three featured in a post entitled “The Heart.”   You may access the other two articles individually by searching the archives for “Hearts of Stone” and “Your Heart Can Rest.”

Still Running

How are the New Year’s resolutions coming along?  Did you happen to set a resolution to exercise?  If so, are you still walking, running, or working out at the gym?  Well, I am not a runner anymore, at least not in the physical sense.  I am more so focused on my spiritual running.  I am taking note of where I am right now and how I can keep pressing forward.  And as I look around at others, it seems like spiritual running is the needed conversation. 

So, I will begin the conversation with a question, and as I ask you, I am asking myself: Are you still running?

What type of running, you ask?  Running—in your heart, mind, and soul.

Are you still running from God?  Is your heart closed off to Him?  Is your mind resisting Him?  Is your soul cut off from Him?

Have you heard Him call for you? He wants to love you and save your soul. Have you let Him do this?  We cannot save our own souls by doing good deeds, following religious rituals, or sitting in a church pew every weekend.  Only our belief in Jesus’s atonement and the acceptance of His forgiveness can save our souls.  We just need to ask Him for this salvation.  He is drawing us to Himself with an everlasting love.

Have you heard Him ask you to do something?  Are you stuck running in place or even running away from what it is, perhaps because you are afraid, disinterested, or not in agreement with what it is?  

Are you still running from your past? From the need to forgive or to be forgiven?  

Are you still running the race of faith?  Did you ask Jesus to be your Savior at some point but have since slowed to a walk or even left the course?  Have you run off to find fulfillment in other things?  These days are very difficult.  They are full of many challenges, myriad distractions, and much pain.  But let us lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily besets us, and let us run the race with patience.1  Let us endure.

Don’t quit.  Don’t abandon God.  Keep on keeping on.  Run in such a way that you may win the prize.2  Jesus finished His course, and this completion purchased salvation for all who would accept it.  Your course has an important purpose as well. 

May our dying breaths find us still running the race of faith and then running toward His open arms.


But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.3

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.4


NOTES

1 See Hebrews 11:1.

2 See 1 Corinthians 9:24.

3 Isaiah 40:31

4 Hebrews 11:1–2

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, February 6, 2022

Don’t Quit

It seems to me so many people are battle weary, downtrodden, and living in defeat. But we are not defeated, for the battle belongs to the LORD. The victory is His.

In the midst of these dark times, let’s look for the good He is bringing and the new beauty. Let’s look for the blessings in the brokenness.

Remember these seemingly impossible situations? 

  • The Red Sea loomed in front of Moses and Pharaoh’s army behind him, but God parted the sea and crushed the enemy.  Moses proceeded on dry land, untouched. 
  • Goliath loomed over David, but God helped him defeat the giant.  David proceeded forward and became a man after God’s own heart. 
  • The wall of Jericho loomed over Joshua, but God gave the instructions that toppled the wall.  Joshua marched forward into a miracle and the Promised Land. 
  • Death loomed over Jesus, but He arose from the grave.  It looked like life was over and all hope was lost, but Life and Hope were just beginning.

You do not have to be in the battle alone.  Whatever looms over you, God will help you face it and move forward.  When David came against Goliath, he said he was doing so in the name of the LORD of hosts.1  God is the one who has all power and authority.  Be battle ready and let Him fight for you.

How can you become battle ready?  Guard your heart.  Listen to the voice of God’s truth.  Wear your spiritual armor.  Prepare with prayer, the Word, fellowship, and obedience. Follow the instructions of the LORD God. Nourish your soul with the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Allow God to give you His peace.  Ask for courage. Take in the good. Release the sin that entangles you.  Trust in Him at all times.  He sent redemption and will keep His covenant with His people.2   

Don’t quit. 

Press on. No retreat. No surrender. Sure-footed and strong. Safe in His hand.

If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us so.3

Give it your all, for His glory.


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Psalm 23:4–5

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57


NOTES

1 See 1 Samuel 17:45.

2  See Psalm 111:9.

3  See Romans 8:31, 37.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 16, 2021

Times of Refreshing

I noticed this week that my lawn was brown, dry, and crunchy.  My bare feet were not enjoying the jabs and pokes of sharp blades of dead grass and dried pine needles.  It is April.  This is not what I would expect for a spring lawn and definitely not what I desire.  I found myself longing for soft, green, vibrant, and lush but was instead facing the reality of a pine needle tip stuck in the bottom of my foot.  Yet, in my heart and mind, I held out hope, hope that the rains of spring would come.  And come they did.  Today was a time of refreshing from the LORD.  Tomorrow’s trek through the lawn is going to feel different.

I see many parallels between the state of my lawn and the state of life.  Things seem dead, noisy, sharp, broken, and painful.  We are dry, exhausted, ill, hurting, grieving, longing for hope and the good days.  We long to be refreshed.  What can we do while we wait for the times of refreshing to come?  We can set our hearts to be right with God and look up to the sky in anticipation.  He will refresh His people.  We are simply between seasons.1

I hope the following reposted blog will encourage you.

*****

Between Seasons 2

These are difficult days. Long. Hard. Tiring.

We beg for relief from the firestorm that blazes around us. Will these days never end? Aloud we commentate. Silently we muse. In our hearts we wonder. In our minds we question. Confusion and chaos seem to reign supreme. But I want to encourage you to hold on. Hold on to hope. A change of season is coming. Refreshing rains. Beautiful colors interspersed amongst the landscape. The fruit of harvest.

Things will not always be as they are now. We are simply between seasons. Beyond what our eyes can see and what our minds can comprehend stands Jesus Christ, reigning supreme over all. Fully aware. Fully engaged. Fully planning to keep His promise to return for His own.

But something amazing can happen before the time of His return—He can speak peace to our storms even now and cause the raging winds to cease. We may not see it with our eyes, but we will know it in our spirits. Rays of light and hope will burst in and pervade the darkness and despair hanging over our heads. Peace will flood these plains of anxiety. Rivers of calm we have never known before will fill our quaking hearts.

We can invite His presence to enter into our situations. Today. Now. Even while this relenting heat beats down on our heads and tries to scorch every drop of hope we have remaining within us. He will come if we ask. We won’t need to fret or worry about what tomorrow holds because His power is real, His plan is perfect, and His peace is available.  He created the world from nothing, and in Him all things exist and subsist.

So, while we are here between seasons—enduring difficult days and bracing for more yet to come—we can access His strength.  He will enable us to pass through this dry season into a bountiful harvest.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.”
Psalm 29:11

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.”
James 5:7


NOTES

1 See Acts 3:19–21.

©Text and photos Francee Strain, April 24, 2021.  “Between Seasons 2” originally posted July 26, 2020.

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