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

Chronically Ill and Ceaselessly Blessed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


NOTES

1 2 Samuel 22:33

2 Psalm 71:16

3 See Matthew 6:25–27.

4 See Psalm 68:19.

5 See Psalm 42:5, 11.

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

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

Take Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take heart.  His love will speak to your heart. 

Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation? This call has gone out directly to you. God is offering you a most amazing prize: the gift of eternal life.  This gift was given in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).2

His heart is for you. Take heart.


NOTES

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

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

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

When Mountains Stand Strong, 2022

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


NOTES

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

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

The Victorious Heart

IMG_4425 (2)

(Repost)

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

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

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

YES!

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

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

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

This is the heart of victory.

 

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

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