Take Heart (revised)

Back in the spring, I wrote an article entitled “Take Heart.” That title just won’t leave my mind. The past few days, it has been ringing in my heart. And after eight months, I still find that article is just as relevant, perhaps even more so today with the way world events are unfolding and with the holiday season approaching and the difficulties that come with it. And so, I am going to share from this article again today. We can all use a reminder from time to time that there is still hope.


My heart is heavy, and it’s broken for the pain I’m seeing. I have cried, and I have cried out to God. And He has whispered to my heart to take heart.

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

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

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

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

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

Take heart. His love will speak to your heart. 

“Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation?2

“This call has gone out directly to you. … God is offering you a most amazing prize: the gift of eternal life. This gift was given in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life'”3

His heart is for you. Take heart.


If you are struggling right now, please reach out for help. There are people who can listen and help you 24 hours a day. The National Institute of Health has listed some numbers that you can reach. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached by calling 988. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741. If you are a veteran, you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or you can send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder.4  


You may also contact me through email or my website if you need a listening ear or someone to pray with you. My email address is eternalpurposepodcast@gmail.com. My website is www.franceestrain.com

Remember, you are never alone. Take heart.


NOTES

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

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

3 Ibid.,4. John 3:16 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

4 Information taken from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention

©Revised text and photo Francee Strain, November 23, 2022. Original article posted March 20, 2022.

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 Moment of Weakness

Do you ever have a moment of weakness? I sure do. All day. Every day.

Journeying through this life is challenging. Moment by moment, decisions have to be made about what we will do or not do in the next moment. And our choices have consequences, some more significant than others, but consequences nonetheless. And bit by bit, these decisions shape who we become. And if we fail to think before we act, develop poor habits, sink into old addictions, and mindlessly while away the hours, we will soon find ourselves in a season of weakness.

We’ve all done it, and we all continue to do it. We experience moments of weakness and do what shouldn’t be done, or don’t do what should be. Our moments of weakness may occur because we make excuses, are afraid, hold stereotypes, and worry about what will happen next. Our moments of weakness may cause us to second-guess what we are supposed to do in a given situation, and then we miss the opportunity to do anything at all. At times, we walk in the flesh and not the Spirit. We rationalize, justify, and excuse our behavior. We hold on to selfishness, pride, and our own comfort. And our actions cannot be undone. What we have seen cannot be unseen, what we have heard cannot be unheard, what we have said cannot be unsaid, and the fact that we went somewhere cannot be erased. But, there’s hope because this is a new moment, and we can choose differently for our next actions.

For example, a few days ago (okay, even a few hours ago), I had an inappropriate thought. It seemed minor, inconsequential. I didn’t act on it, I just thought it. No one besides me knew I had thought it, no one that is except for God. But that is what really matters. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.1 It was wrong in His eyes, and so, it was wrong. I was shocked. I gave myself a talking to. But then in the next moment, I was right back where I started. Once again, I realized this thought process was not pleasing to God. I confessed. I repented. I asked for His help with this situation. And the next moment, my thoughts changed to something pleasing to Him. I did not do this in my own strength and power. If it was up to me, my thoughts and I would have continued on down this negative path, adding to the collection as we went along. It was when I called out for help and strength to redirect my thoughts that the next moment became a beautiful one.

As we journey through life, we need to remain aware and present in the moment. A moment becomes a season when we allow it to go past the next moment. And if we are not vigilant, a beautiful season can disappear, and we can be left standing in an ugly one. When we let our guard down or look the other way, we neglect the Spirit. And if we are out of step with God, our steps are going to be out of step. The strength that could be ours will go untapped. But things do not have to be this way. We can allow Him to reorder our steps and set us back on track. His power knows no limits, so whether it is a small thought or a huge, terrible deed, there is help and hope. We will continually have moments of weakness, but God has strength that will never go away. He never grows weary. He will always give power to the faint, and for those who have no might, He will increase their strength. Those who trust in the LORD will mount up with wings like strong eagles. They will run the race like strong athletes. They will walk through life without being done in by it. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, and will also be the author and finisher of our strength. 2

We may have acquired undesirable names and may have developed negative reputations due to our actions, or lack thereof, but our names and our reputations can change to the opposite now because God can change our lives now. We can be made into new creations. We can be forgiven for the things committed and omitted. And there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Today is a new day. This is a new moment. This is a new moment for grace.3

A moment of weakness need only last for a moment because in the next moment we can call out for God’s strength, and He will give it to us. If we are facing something we ought not be doing, in a moment we can receive His help to turn away and do something else. If our moment has become a season of moments, He can remake our lives, and in a moment, bring us into a new season. His help is available to us before we even ask for it, and while we are yet speaking, He will hear us. Before a word has been formed on our tongues, He knows it altogether.4 His power is exceedingly great toward those who believe. God resurrected Jesus and set Him at His right hand in heaven. He is far above all principality, power, might, and dominion, so we can come to the logical conclusion that He is able to give us strength.5

Walking with God is a moment-by-moment endeavor. Every moment, we have a choice: to continue walking with Him or go our own way. Every moment, we need His strength. Every moment, we need His sustaining power. And when we are weak, we can be strong, if we will allow His strength to pervade us and our situations. His power is incomparable, and it is available at this very moment.


NOTES

1 See 1 Samuel 16:7.

2 See Isaiah 40:28–31 and Hebrews 12:2.

3 See Romans 8:1–14 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

4 See Psalm 139:4, Isaiah 65:24, and 1 Corinthians 10:13.

5 See Ephesians 1:19–21.

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

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

Hearts That Don’t Quit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take heart, and don’t quit.


NOTES

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

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

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 25, 2022

Passing Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NOTES

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

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

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

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 22, 2022

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

Names and Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament shows His handiwork. 

Day unto day utters speech,

And night unto night reveals knowledge. 

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

Their line has gone out through all the earth,

And their words to the end of the world.2

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

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

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

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

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

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


NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 6, 2022

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

Spring Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can live, too.  Spring forward to life.


NOTES

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

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

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

Hello, Readers!

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

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

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

Feel free to share the news!

Thank you,

Francee