The Cares of This World, Round 2

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

(Repost)

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

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

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

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.2 We cannot change the past, but He can heal us from it. The present may be completely out of our control, but He is present. And instead of worrying about and dreading the future, thinking “What if ___________happens,” we can replace those thoughts with ones about His character and presence, ones like “He is loving.  He is good.  He is sovereign. He is all-powerful. He is.”  Remembering the truth lifted the weight from me. The problems and pains remained, but healing and strength had come to my heart. A lilt of joy entered in, and I continued the tasks of the day, going in the strength of the LORD God, the One who cares for this world. 


“Carry Me”

When the road is long, carry me.

When I’m not strong, carry me.

When all is wrong, carry me.

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

Carry me straight to You.3


NOTES

See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

Strain, Francee. “Carry Me.” 2017.

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

A Time to Hope, Part 3

Part 3—A Hope-Filled Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 18, 2022

Stand on the Sea

The world seems to be a raging sea in a relentless storm.  There are storms of war, famine, disease, natural disaster, political difference, family brokenness, and more, and the waves are threatening to overtake us.  What do we do in times like these?  Where do we look for help and hope?  Where do we look for peace?  How do we withstand the storms?

We need to make sure our foundation is firm—this is what will enable us to stand on the sea as if it is solid rather than raging.  If we are planted firmly on Christ as our foundation, then we are planted firmly upon the Rock.  Though the rains come, and the winds blow, He will not be defeated, and we will not fall.  The storms may not dissipate, but our fear and anxiety can, if we keep our eyes fixed ahead on the One stretching out His hand to us, urging us to trust Him, offering us His peace.

Just before Jesus was crucified, He spoke these words to His followers: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jesus conquered sin and death, and He makes His power available in our lives.  Yes, we live in a broken, fallen world, but He can lift us up and bring us healing.  He can bring a great calm to us in the midst of the storms.

We can scale the highest height, descend into the deepest deep, and traverse the darkest night because there is nowhere we can go where He is not.2  He whispers peace to our anguished hearts and weary souls.  He whispers peace to our racing minds and trembling bodies. 

Peace, be still. 

Peace, with Him. 

Be with Him. 

Peace, be still, with Him.


Stand on the Sea

You can stand on the sea, with eyes kept on Me;
I am with you in the midst of the storm. 
Look up, don't look down.
I'll never let you drown; 
I am with you in the midst of the storm.


Fears will rise.
Child, lift your eyes; 
Look at me in the midst of the storm. 
Courageous and strong, 
With me you belong; 
Look at me in the midst of the storm.


Cares pile heavy, high, and wide.  
Child, it is I who's by your side, 
Who holds you in the midst of the storm. 
Winds will rage both day and night, 
And you'll feel too weak to fight;
But I am with you in the midst of the storm.


Stand on the sea, child. 
Look at me, child, 
In the midst of the storm, in the midst of the sea. 
You can endure.  You can stand. 
And you’re safe.  Hold my hand.
In the middle of the storm, my child, stand on the sea.3 

NOTES

1 John 16:33 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

2 See Psalm 139:7–12 and Romans 8:35–39.

3 “Stand on the Sea,” Francee Strain, ©2021.  These are some words of peace He spoke to my heart.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 21, 2021

On My Side

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God is for me, not against me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Mountains Stand Strong

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(Repost)

For those who are facing mountains right now, I have been there.  I originally wrote this post from a different place than I am writing today.  Some mountains have fallen into the sea; some have yet to fall.  New ones have risen–sometimes multiplying faster than I can count.  To you, I say: Hold fast.  Keep on keeping on.  Grab hold of the One who will never let you go.  With Him by your side, you can face any mountain.*


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.”
(from Psalm 31:3, 5, 7 NKJV)

*Intoduction by Francee Strain, July 27, 2019
**Original text by Francee Strain, March 2, 2018
Revised photo by Francee Strain, May 23, 2020

The Heart (3-part series)

Part 1:
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Hearts of Stone

Have you ever had a heart of stone? I have. There was a point in life when I was burned out. I had more to do than I could do. More places to go than I could go. More people to see than I could see. Too many irons in the fire and too much on my plate. I had no feelings. No joy. Seemingly nothing to look forward to. Nothing that is except work…and more work.

Those were difficult days. How did I wind up in such a circumstance? How did I get so lost? What became of the me that used to be? What became of the relationship with God that I had enjoyed? Frankly, I left it behind in pursuit of other things. I let Him hang by a thread while I grasped on tightly to the hands of everything else besides Him. I let go of His heart. And I let go of my heart.

I knew that I needed to come out of this type of life. I wanted to come out of this type of life. But how could I do it? The answer came when I read the words of Ezekiel 36:26 which say, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”*

The summation of the answer was that I needed a heart replacement. Who could perform such a surgery? I certainly could not do it–I was stuck. Stuck in a rut, stuck in a pattern of living that was not pleasant and that was not true living. Only God could perform such a surgery, so I asked Him for it. I began to pray.

I prayed that He would take my heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. And that is exactly what He did. I went from being a rock in the dirt to a living, breathing, fire of spirit. Before I knew it, I went from wanting nothing to wanting everything. I was filled with zeal, passion, hope, and overflowing love. I wanted to do. I wanted to live.

Yes, He took my heart of stone and made it beat again, feel again, live again. And He can do the same for you.

And now my heart of stone is external, a heart-shaped stone that lies in the field in front of my house. When I walk past it, instead of seeing a heart of stone, I see a heart of love. My mind’s eye sees a memory of what once was and is filled with gratitude for what now is. That heart of stone reminds me of the love of a Great Surgeon who can make all things new, including hearts of stone.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, August 2017
(Ezekiel 36:26 KJV, emphasis mine)

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Part 2:
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Your Heart Can Rest

“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?

When God invited David to seek His face, David decided that his heart would do so (see Ps. 27:8). We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.” *

The words of Hebrews 13:5 are personal for us who call Him “Savior.” These precious words of God are: “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Did you read that? He will never leave us. Never. In the midst of this process of life, through all of the struggles we are currently immersed in and the ones yet to come, as we sleep through the night and toil through the day, He will never leave us. His presence will go with us, and it will be He who give us rest.

Yes, our hearts can rest. Your heart can rest…if you will let it rest in God.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 8, 2020
*Paragraphs one and two are taken from my book, rom my book, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4, 116.

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Part 3:
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The Victorious Heart

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

When Mountains Stand Strong

For those who are facing mountains right now, I have been there.  I originally wrote this post from a different place than I am writing today.  Some mountains have fallen into the sea; some have yet to fall.  New ones have risen–sometimes multiplying faster than I can count.  To you, I say: Hold fast.  Keep on keeping on.  Grab hold of the One who will never let you go.  With Him by your side, you can face any mountain.

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Repost:

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.”
(from Psalm 31:3, 5, 7 NKJV)

 

Original text by Francee Strain, March 2, 2018

Revised introduction and photo by Francee Strain July 27, 2019

Strong to the Core 2

It is a new year. New resolutions. New realizations: some of the same old same old found its way into my new year last year, and I expect the same will happen again this year—unless I go on the offense.

I find myself with this priority at the top of my resolution list: I am going to work on strengthening my core. Those flabby parts and over-sized sections that ought not to be there—the ones from the distant past that keep showing up, along with the new ones I tacked on in 2018—those are my focus. The weakness that resides within me—I am going to replace it with strength. I have a great personal trainer lined up for the task, and I have a willing spirit. Ready. Set. Go to Jesus.

Yes, I am going to be trained by Jesus. I need to work on the core of my spirit. The neglect of the previous years has caused me to grow flabby. Unwanted things like frustration, disappointment, prayerlessness, despair, and fear have grown in size. As I have neglected to deal with these problems, not removing them and replacing them with better things like love, forgiveness, hope, patience, joy, and boldness, I have grown weak.

I am my own worst enemy. If I do not wake up early enough to go to the gym before heading out the door to work, the slippery slope of neglect begins, because often by the end of the workday and the home tasks, I am too tired. I tell myself I will try and do better tomorrow, but tomorrow usually never finds me doing so. Change takes desire and commitment, time and attention, a want-to and a know-how. I want to. He knows how. So, let’s do this!

I look to my trainer, and I ask Him what I need to do. He tells me to approach Him and watch what He does, and then follow His example. I come to Him, trusting in His perfect knowledge and unfailing skill. He is kind, loving, and patient. He forgives me when I fail. He walks right along beside me, offering encouragement and further instructions. I take a step forward, and then another, and then another. And before I know it, I realize this is what I was made to do, and I am becoming who I was made to be.

My focus changes. My tone changes. My ability changes. I mature as I remain teachable. Soon, I have a passion for rising up to begin my day by being infused with strength. When my day comes to an end, I look forward to more of His presence beside me tomorrow. I close my eyes in sleep, and I know in my core that I am strong because of the strength that has been placed within me by the hand of God.

“[T]hat 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.” Ephesians 3:16-21 (NKJV)

© Francee Strain, January 2, 2019