Category Archives: Encouragement

Attempting Your Impossible

mountain-climbing

I grew up reading about people who did truly great things for God. Built orphanages by faith. Rescued children from the jaws of torture and death. Cut through jungles and defied wild animals to carry the gospel to more villages.

I always thought maybe I would do something kind of like that. Something great.

I remember hearing sermons about living for a cause greater than yourself and attempting something so great that unless God was in it, it would fail.

I thought I’d like to do something like that. Something so great that it was actually impossible. Continue reading

6 Gifts God Gives in the Wilderness

desertscape

Sometimes I imagine a conversation between an Israelite woman and a foreign guest in the Promised Land. The Israelite woman (whom we’ll call Sarah) was among those who spent four decades in the wilderness, and her new companion (we’ll call her Fatima) has recently trekked the same territory. They are eager to swap stories and compare experiences:

Sarah: Remember the sandstorms?

Fatima: Yeah, there’s nothing like being sand-blasted by hot, wind-driven sand. We had some days we couldn’t journey at all until the wind died down.

Sarah: Exactly. We had to watch for when the cloud or the pillar of fire moved from over the tabernacle.

Fatima: What? (She gives a suspicious glance and wonders if Sarah is okay.) We didn’t have a tabernacle. And we definitely didn’t have pillar of fire with us.

Sarah: That’s too bad. I mean, there were days I wanted to go forward when we couldn’t and days I wanted to stay when we had to move, but all in all, I was thankful for God’s presence with us.

Fatima: And you say this…this presence was in a pillar of fire? Continue reading

13 Ways to Break Out of Self Focus (When Your Whole Life Is Already Built around Serving Others)

ocean

Perhaps you’ve heard that one of the best ways to overcome an inward focus (and the discouragement and depression that it can bring) is to serve others.

This is good advice. But what if your entire life is already built around serving others?

Let’s say that you’re a mother or a teacher or a caregiver or you serve in ministry…and practically everything you do is already either serving someone else or structured around the times and ways you serve.

And let’s say you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, and your emotions are turning in on you.

How is adding one more act of service supposed to feel like anything less than an extra burden? How is baking cookies for your neighbor, for instance, going to feel like anything other than one more thing to do for one more person?

And if baking cookies won’t help, what can you do to break out that self focus?

Here are thirteen ideas: Continue reading

Strategies for Victory: 10 Practical Ways to Apply Biblical Truth to Your Emotions

sunrise-path

Let’s assume that two things are true in your life:

  1. You know that only God’s Word is sufficient to win in your emotional struggles.
  2. You are in the midst of a struggle right now.

I hope the second isn’t true this moment. But if you’re like every other person on the face of this planet, there are times that it is.

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of using God’s Word as the only sure escape from the emotional rollercoaster we all find ourselves on at times. But in this post, I’d like to give ten practical ways to bring God’s Word into focus during these times.

When your emotions feel out of control, how do you bring the truth of God’s Word into your reality? Continue reading

Emotional Rollercoaster? There’s an Exit.

rollercoaster

I’ll never forget my first rollercoaster ride. Neither will my sister, Michele—my unfortunate companion.

Poor Michele. She, who even at ten years old loved rollercoasters, didn’t know that during our hour-long wait in line, my second thoughts were multiplying. This was my first rollercoaster, and I was beginning to think this wasn’t such a great idea. By the time we were being seated, I was truly afraid.

As we pulled the lapbar down from above, I remember saying, “Why am I doing this? I want to get off.” But it was too late; we were already chugging up that first incline for the first drop.

Emotions are a little like roller coasters, aren’t they? Up and down and looping around. Even as you’re going up, you find your stomach bracing for the coming plunge. And that’s on the good days.

Then there are the really scary days when the coaster takes us upside down, and we feel like we’re turning inside out. Sometimes we get stuck spiraling through loops of anxiety, depression, anger, or other emotions from which we fear we’ll never escape. Continue reading

How to Pray When You’re Overwhelmed

waves-on-rock

I almost drowned once. It was at a friend’s birthday party, of all places. I think I was six. Thankfully, I was rescued, but I still remember that sense of helplessness as I was engulfed in the water and knew I couldn’t swim.

(Days later, I remember telling my sister, “I should have just gone down to the bottom and walked back to the shallow end of the pool.” Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy when you’re drowning.)

Do you know what it feels like to drown?

I’m guessing you do. Maybe you didn’t slip into the deep end of a pool, but you’re over your head in responsibilities. In grief. In fear. In need.

How do you even pray then? Continue reading

When God Moves in Mysterious Ways through Mental Illness

clouded-sunrise

One of the most shocking biographies I remember reading was that of William Cowper.

Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve probably sung his hymns (including “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”) or used the phrase he coined, “God moves in a mysterious way.”

It’s been years since I read his biography, but in recent research, I came across his name and reflected for a few minutes on some of the most extraordinary and meaningful aspects of his life.

Cowper’s salvation testimony is remarkable because he was saved as a direct result of admittance to a mental asylum after failed suicide attempts. The doctor who treated Cowper was a born again Christian who shared the gospel with him. The night and day difference in Cowper’s life after his salvation is undeniable.

Most of us would be very comfortable with Cowper’s testimony if it ended there. But it didn’t. Although he didn’t struggle mentally to the same degree after his salvation as he had before, he did battle mental illness (including severe depression and two more mental breakdowns) for the rest of his life.  Continue reading

3 Snapshots of What Exceeding Abundantly Above Actually Means

snapshots

Snapshot 1

When I was in second grade, I read a children’s biography of Benjamin Franklin, and in the depths of my heart, I knew what I wanted to be—a printer.

It must have been a picture in the book of Ben Franklin’s printing days, because somewhere I got a firm mental picture of my future. In my picture, which I can still see in a clear black and white drawing (yes, it must have been a picture in the book), I was settled back in a comfy chair with my feet propped up on a workbench. To my left was a printing press rolling out new pages, and in my hands were the first pages of the freshly printed manuscript.

What a life! Relaxing, printing, and getting paid to read. A little girl’s dream.

Snapshot 2

Fast forward several years—twelve years ago this weekend to be exact. I’m driving three boxes with five hundred copies of a brand new magazine for its first distribution. Continue reading

What to Do When You’re Missing Chapter One

open-book

Have you ever read a fictional or biographical book minus the first chapter?

I remember as a young child sitting in the book closet of our home (I never realized until I just typed that phrase that we had a “book closet” rather than a “linen closet”! I’m thankful my parents cared that much to keep us stocked with good reading!) and reading Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John.

The book so profoundly affected me that as seven year old, I determined I was going to be a wood carver…and for several years saved money to purchase carving tools. In hindsight and judging by my decidedly un-artistic abilities, it’s probably good that this dream never materialized into mangled pieces of wood. But I digress.

One aspect I remember most about reading Treasures of the Snow was its missing cover and front pages. The story begins with a Christmas Eve scene in the Alps of Switzerland. In the first chapter, the main characters and their relationship both to one another and to the plot of the story is set…but I missed some of these pages. Without these important details, I struggled to make sense of following pages.

It’s too bad to miss the beginning of a book you’re reading. But what if you miss the beginning of the story you’re living? Continue reading