Eyes Looking Forward

What are you looking forward to in life? A celebration? A promotion? A reunion? Rest?

I am looking forward to all of the above. I have set my gaze forward, and I await the day when I will be promoted from this earthly life to my heavenly one, my labors finished, celebrating my reunion with the Savior of my soul for all eternity. 

Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He would see them again and their hearts would rejoice.1 He also told them He was going to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him and that someday He would return to take them there to be with Him.2 But what would they do while they awaited His return? What will we do? I am looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.3

With the eyes of faith, I have seen Him for the first time, and when He returns, I will see Him again, face to face, and my heart will rejoice. Until that day, my eyes need to continue looking forward to the eternal, undistracted from the cares of this world and the sin which so easily besets me. He has given me an eternal purpose, and for this reason, I press on toward the goal.

Will you join me in looking forward?

“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. It does not involve living vicariously through someone else; it involves you living directly. The rewards of answering this invitation are beyond anything you could ever imagine. 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).”4

If we come forward to receive this gift, we can look forward to eternal life.5

Faith in His salvation will be our salvation. Jesus conquered the power of sin and death to save our souls, and if we accept His gift of eternal life, the things of this temporal life grow dim. Eyes that look beyond the now to the eternal purposes of God find life, and hope, and peace.6

“Eyes that look forward see life is not just about waking up, eating three meals a day, going to work for a shift, and filling the evenings with family and recreation. These eyes don’t focus on the mundane or the chaotic. They don’t look inside themselves for answers. They don’t focus on the pain, the past, the addiction, the fear, the comparison, the discontent, the regret. They look forward. They look to God. He created us for a purpose. He gave His Son to save us. He has a plan for our lives and a desire to commune with us. He will do amazing things in us and through us, if we look to Him. He will watch over and care for His own. His eyes and heart will be with them. And beyond the now, those who have placed their faith in Jesus will see more than what their hearts know; they will see Him, face to face. We have this to look forward to.”7


NOTES

See John 16:22.

See John 14:1–6.

See Hebrews 12:1–2.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4. Scripture quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

5 Paragraphs one through eight are taken from my blog article “Looking Forward,” August 1, 2021, https://wordpress.com/posts/franceestrain.com?s=looking+forward.

6 Adapted from Francee Strain, “Eyes Forward,” June 13, 2021, https://wordpress.com/posts/franceestrain.com?s=eyes+forward.

7 Francee Strain, “Eyes Forward,” June 13, 2021, https://wordpress.com/posts/franceestrain.com?s=eyes+forward.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, January 21, 2023.

A Joyous New Year

A joyous new year to you!

Do those words make you joyous, or do they make you bristle? Is your year off to a great start or a terrible one?

Honestly, mine has been a bit rough. And I know I am not the only one. Some friends and family are going through many difficulties as well. 

My mind could easily run off on a tangent thinking of all the stressors and pains because there are plenty of them to think about: poor health, financial obligations, bad weather, broken relationships, missed appointments, housing issues, heavy disappointments, and dismal failures, just to name a few. But instead of letting my thoughts run roughshod over my brain, I have decided to rein in my thoughts and let Jesus reign in them.

When the tears course down my cheeks, I remember He is with me in the course of this life. 

When my heart and body ache and break, I remember He is the Great Physician and the Great Healer. He will strengthen me and help me.

When the anxiety and fears rise up to overtake me, I remember that my Savior has conquered the grave, and His power lives in me.

The knowledge and understanding of Him brings knowledge and understanding to my world. Pain and problems are no match for the One who holds the universe in His hands. He has defeated hell and death and the enemy of my soul.

When the wind-tossed waves of life threaten to pull me under, He will carry me through the floodwaters, and they will not overwhelm me.

When the storms pound relentlessly at my door, He will speak peace into my heart because I have allowed Him to enter there.

When my problems are perplexing and paralyzing, I can hold on to His faithful hand, and He will guide me through.

I can rejoice, and I can do it always, because the Source of all joy dwells within me; and He will be with me as I traverse every day of the new year, even if it is the most painful day I have ever faced. His presence will go with me, and He Himself will be my joy in the new year.

(The following is from an article I wrote in January 2022)


Joy to the World

Just over 2,000 years ago, the angels brought good news of great joy which was for all people. The Savior of the world had been born!

Jesus, the bundle of joy, was born to bring us a bundle of joy: joy resulting from us having a savior, from having a way to have our sins forgiven, from being gifted eternal life, from having the help of His Spirit, from having the constancy of His presence, from having the provision of our needs.

Jesus brought joy as He grew up. He was bringing love, help, hope, and healing to an untold number of people.

Jesus then brought joy in His resurrection from the dead, offering eternal life to all who would receive it. 

Jesus brings joy now to all who give their hearts to Him.  He walks with them and talks with them and tells them they are His own.

And Jesus will bring joy again when He returns to the earth to gather His own. In His presence there will be fullness of joy, and at His right hand there will be pleasures forevermore.1

Joy to the world!  Jesus came for us and He is coming again!


[W]hom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. 2

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.3


NOTES

1 See Psalm 16:11.

2 1 Peter 1:8–9

3 John 3:16

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

© Text and photo Francee Strain, January 15, 2023.

The Persevering Heart

(Part 3 of 3 in “The Runner” series)

(This is a revised and updated version of a February 2021 post.)

“Mrs. Strain? This is So and So’s doctor’s office. I am calling to let you know that we found something on the ultrasound indicating something may be wrong with the baby. It is something with the spine. It could be spina bifida. You will need to come in again in a few days and have another ultrasound performed.” These were not exactly words a pregnant mother wants to hear to start off her week, nor are they words a pregnant mother wants to hear ever, on any day of the week. My reaction? Fear gripped my heart. Tears spilled down my cheeks. And then…I prayed. And then I asked others to join me in praying. I’d already been through a high-risk pregnancy two years prior—a risk to both me and my baby. Many people had prayed, and my miracle baby girl was born safely and was healthy. And now, for days, many prayed again, and when that next ultrasound was performed, a perfect spine showed on the screen. And five months later, a perfect little boy joined our family.

“Mrs. Strain, I’ll be right back.” The pediatrician left the exam room while I kept my nine-month-old son laying on the exam table. The doctor was gone for what seemed like an eternity, and when he came back, he was not alone. Two other doctors followed. Talk about fear gripping a mother’s heart. The pediatrician instructed the doctors to examine my son and perform certain motions with his legs. They did so, and all left the room. What is going on?! The pediatrician returned presently and informed me that he believed my son had a neurological disorder, and we were being referred to a specialist.

“Mr. and Mrs. Strain, your son may never walk. He has a genetic muscle disease.” What?! I had always joked that I wanted my son to be a musician like me rather than an athlete like his father. And now? All I wanted was for him to be an athlete. A mother’s mind races at times like these. The chest tightens. The tears spill. And the fears come. “Mr. and Mrs. Strain, we will put him into some physical therapy and see what happens. There are one of ten possible diseases he has. Do you want to do invasive testing now or just wait and see if he deteriorates?” We opted to wait on testing for a bit and see what would happen with some therapy. And people prayed.

“Mrs. Strain, your son is late in reaching physical milestones.” (He had sat up late, didn’t crawl other than army crawl, and he wasn’t standing or trying to walk yet.) “If we have some custom braces made for his feet and ankles, that may help him.” And so, off to the orthopedist we went, and then back to therapy, and all the while, people prayed. The therapist said most children with my son’s condition do not progress—they give up and sit there. Well, this is when things got good. My son walked, threw balls, and climbed on things. 

“Mrs. Strain, your son will lag behind other children physically, but it looks like he will be able to do things okay as long as he keeps building muscle strength. Eventually, that strength will offset the disease, and people may not even know he has it. He will have to wear the braces until early elementary school when he’ll eventually have enough muscle strength to compensate for the disease. After that, he will always need something in his shoes for shaping and support.” Eventually, we did not have to go to neurology appointments or physical therapy anymore, just the orthopedist and podiatrist.

And then, my son ran. And he has not stopped running since. And people prayed, and have not stopped praying since. My son ran around the house with his sister and out in the yard with the dogs. He is the one who led the way in new physical endeavors. And in second grade, he began his athletic career (after he’d had some piano lessons, of course!). 

In second grade, he completed a 5K and got 2nd place. He competed in other races while in elementary school and even placed first. He built a collection of ribbons, medals, race tags, and participation t-shirts. In 7th grade, he played football in the fall and ran track in the spring.

And then in 8th grade, my son, whom we were told might never walk, became a long-distance runner on the cross country team. In high school, he trained by running over ten miles at a time. Who can do stuff like this except God?!

As the years have passed, difficult seasons have come for my son, as they do for us all. He went through years of bullying which included physical injuries. Challenges came in school and college and the workplace. But, he got up every morning, and he pushed through. While our hearts ached along with his, he continued to do the hard things, the right things. We undergirded his life with our persevering prayers and supported him with hearts full of persevering love. And we all persevered in keeping our eyes on God.

Yes, hearts that have persevered in prayer and petitioned God have seen God in His great mercy and grace give our son a persevering heart.

Every day we have to get up and do the hard things, the right things. But we remember, whether the valleys are dry or they are flooded, whether the sun beats down on our heads relentlessly or we never see it, we can persevere. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us who believe in Him, and we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.1 Because our hearts belong to Him, we can persevere.


I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.2


NOTES

1 See Romans 8:11, 35, 37–39.

2 Philippians 3:14 is taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

Author’s note: the above conversations with the medical professionals are not direct quotes but rather paraphrased summaries. And just a fun thing to note: in addition to becoming an athlete, our son also became a musician on several instruments. He is now married and doing very well in life. We are very proud of him, our daughter, and now our daughter-in-law. Our cup overflows, and so do our hearts! Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; His mercy endures forever (see Psalm 107:1)!

©Revised and updated text Francee Strain, November 8, 2022. Original post February 28, 2021.

Photo credit goes to my aunt Cheri. She took this photo of my son while visiting us in April 2014, fifteen years after that first phone call regarding the ultrasound findings.

The Weary Heart

(Part 2 of 3 in “The Runner” series)

“Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. … I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”1 Have you ever said these words, or perhaps something similar, something with the intent of expressing your arrival at the end of your limits with a situation? These words were spoken by King David millennia ago. He was fleeing for his life, and he had to do so for quite some time. And this was not the first time he had had to do such a thing. Living under the constant threat of dealing with traitors and the constant fatigue of a broken heart became a bit too much to deal with. Sometimes, the things we face in life become a bit too much to deal with. We long for things to be different, but our longing does nothing to change our reality. We pine for the days of old. We fear what our new futures may look like. Our thinking grows muddled. Our tears grow plentiful. And eventually, our hearts grow weary.


(Repost)

The following excerpts are taken from my book, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose. 

THE CALL TO THE WEARY

“Have you found yourself nearing the end of your energy supply? Are you past that point and already running on empty? Forget the running; are you dragging yourself through, day after day after day? Do you want the world to stop so you can get off it for a while? Do you wish it would all just end? Are you consumed by bitterness? Are you tottering on the edge of a nervous breakdown? Are you feeling joyless and unfulfilled and wondering if there is something wrong with you? Are you wanting to go away somewhere where no one knows who you are? Are you wishing to go to a different church where you can sit and be fed and truly worship rather than run helter-skelter, taking care of everyone else’s needs but your own? Are you wishing you could just start over? Are you wishing you could reinvent yourself? Are you regretting that you ever said yes to this or that? I have had every single one of these thoughts and many more.

“Sometimes we find that we are about out of strength and energy and have nothing left in our reserves to fuel us. We feel trapped in never-ending marathons of trials and relationships and often find ourselves wishing to escape the course so we can rest. At times, these wishes are truly a need and not just a want. King David formulated some words thousands of years ago that seem to echo in our hearts and minds today. He said, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. … I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest”(Ps. 55:6–8). We all want to run away at times. And we are not the first ones to think like this—we are just the current generation who is doing so.”2

“We can become so tired that we feel we just cannot take it anymore. We wonder if there is anyone who will allow us to rest, if there is anyone who even calls us to rest. It is easy to feel like this because more often than not, we are told to “get to work” or to do something where work is implied. How many parents tell their children to go do their chores? And what about the honey-do list? Even being asked particular questions calls us to work and not to rest. “Did you get that report done?” “Did you do your homework?” “Did you drop off the dry cleaning?” Even the dentist tells us to do something: schedule our biannual appointments and remember to floss each day. Although these are the frequent words and cares of life, there are actually a few times when we are told to take a break.

“Sometimes, people recognize the need for rest and say or do something about it. When friends see our marriages headed for trouble, they might tell us to find babysitters and have date nights. When our health is in trouble, our doctors might tell us to slow down or lower our blood pressures so that we don’t have heart attacks. When we see loved ones headed for burnout, we may encourage them to take some time off. Sometimes, we might even talk to ourselves if we recognize that we have problems. We might tell ourselves that we need to take breathers or take some time to clear our heads. There are times when we are under great deals of pressure, self-inflicted or otherwise, and we know that we need to rest our minds. Some of the pressures imposed on us by ourselves or others are totally unnecessary. We are good at digging holes for ourselves and then making them deeper and wider until there seems to be no way out unless someone comes along to save the day. That someone who can save our days and save every aspect of our lives is Jesus. He tells us to come to Him and rest.”3

“His provision is great and His provision is all-encompassing. He is our sustenance for life. He is a place where we can rest as we journey. He is a place where we can linger when we are weary. We can draw deeply from the well of His salvation. In His presence, our souls can be rested and replenished, and then we will be able to rise up and go through all the days ahead of us. May coming to Him be elemental to our lives.”


He is inviting us. He has said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 5

Giving Him our weary hearts will enable us to stay in the race, to keep on running.


NOTES

Psalm 55:6–8 is taken from the King James Version of The Holy Bible, public domain.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 40.

Ibid., 41.

Ibid., 48.

Matthew 11:28–30 is taken from the New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, © 1982.

©Revised text and photo Francee Strain, November 1, 2022.  Original article posted February 21, 2021.

The Runner’s Heart

(Part 1 of 3 in “The Runner” series)

(This is a revised version of a February 2021 post)

I well remember the burn. I remember the shin splints. And I remember the moment I said, “I hate running.” 

It was track season, my junior year of high school. The coach was making us run long distances, and to a sprinter, that was awful. I had been a speedy little kid. I had won some races and some ribbons and even a fifty-cent piece. I had done well in some other races although I did not win. And then there were some races where I wondered if I should have just stayed home that day. Yes, my relay teammates may still be upset at me (thirty-some years later) for accidentally disqualifying us at the district meet, all because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You win some, you lose some. And some you don’t even qualify for, apparently. 

Anyway…there is something else I remember, which brings me to this particular article you are reading.

I remember the heart that was needed for running. Not just a strong heart muscle that could propel a body to the finish line, but the inner heart—the passion, the drive, the mental fortitude, the competitive spirit. You train, you prepare, and you enter the race. And then, you run for the prize. You run in such a way that you may win. 

When you run a race, you know there is an end to it, a finish line; but that end may not be in sight. There may be twists and turns in the racecourse. There may be falls and injuries to your body. There may be high hills and low valleys. And sometimes, the pain is too much. Every ounce of your body screams for you to stop, to quit, to give in, to give up. But it is then that the runner’s heart needs to kick in. The faith needs to be rekindled. The mind needs to remember the hope of the finish line. And then you dig in. And you dig deeper. And sometimes you cry tears. And sometimes you cry words. And you keep on keeping on. And suddenly, you crest the hill, round the bend, or enter the last lap, and there it is: what you have been striving for is now within reach. And then your heart pulls ahead of your body. You push through to the end, and you hear the words “You did it! Well done!” For the joy that was set before you, you finished the race.

My brothers and sisters, the Christian race is like this. Sometimes, we just want to sprint on through to the finish line and cross over into heaven. We want to avoid the burn and the shin splints, the hills and the tears. But the reality of life is that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon. And the course is sometimes filled with difficulties. Sometimes, we need to dig in for more faith and cry out for more help. We might want to quit, to give in, to give up. But remember our example—Jesus. He did not quit, give in, or give up. He dug in deep, surrendering His will to the will of the Father. He pushed through the trials and walked up the hill of Golgotha. For the joy that was set before Him (eternity with those who would believe in Him), He endured the cross. He completed the course that was laid out before Him. He crossed the finish line. His race was well done. His heart for us won the prize of atonement unto eternal life.

And now, He waits to welcome His own into their eternal home, awarding their faith in Him with eternal life. Press on my brothers and sisters. We can do this. Let’s not grow weary. Have faith. Long to hear the words “Well done.” Trust what you cannot see but know in your heart. Cry out when it hurts. Cry out for help. Remember your training. Hydrate with the Living Water. Nourish yourself with the Bread of Life. Be energized by the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember the joy that is set before you. Keep the faith. Stay the course. Finish the course.

I am cheering you on and praying you through. See you at the finish line!


Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

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)

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. (Hebrews 12:1–2)

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:9)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)


NOTES

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

©Revised text and photo Francee Strain, October 25, 2022. Original article posted February 14, 2021.

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