The Thoughts of God—Encouragement for Troubled Souls

Most people familiar with Scripture are familiar with the Jeremiah 29:11 translation that says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I recently read it in the New King James Version and it really stood out me like never before. It says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I don’t know about you, but I really love that translation. It is now my favorite. God’s thoughts toward me…that warms my heart.

In this present evil world, we must choose to believe and remember that God is in control, He is alive, and that He moves powerfully in the lives of those whose hearts are wholly devoted to Him. If we are not living wholly devoted to the Holy One who works ALL things for good, we will never be able to become all that He has intended for us to be. We may have temporary success and happiness, but it is meaningless and leaves us empty. I have learned that nothing good, truly good, comes from anything that is done apart from God. Yes, He wants us to enjoy this life, but not apart from Him. Not if it means that He is no longer number one priority in our life.

I am 52 years old and weeks away from receiving my AA in psychology. For the first time in my life, I am graduating with honors. I have been accepted at the university I applied for and I am set to transfer for the Fall 2018 semester to continue in my undergraduate work. The only thing that I can clearly see as to why I am doing this is because it is God-led. I would not be putting myself through this otherwise! There is no doubt that God is guiding because of the amazing opportunities that I have had to share about Him with specific people on campus in the secular world. Not to mention how everything is working out, every single class I have needed has become available for me while others students have not been able to get into the same classees. It took a while to realize that my returning to school is not for me at all. I thought it was at first, but God has made it clear that I am on a mission. I am blending in with students that are much younger than me, but it works because I do not look like I could be their mother…thank You, LORD for that! Not only am I learning some amazing things in psychology, I am learning to watch for those doors that only He can open, to speak the words that only He can give me, to the hearts that only He can prepare to have an encounter with. This desire He has placed on my heart makes all the hard stuff and tears worth it.

This journey has brought moments of confusion, pain, and tears. It has brought heartache and a few weak moments where I wanted to get drunk to forget about things for a bit. But just like Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken me except what is common to mankind. And GOD IS FAITHFUL. He will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I can bear…” Amen? Amen! I love His Word on my heart so I can see those escape routes and endure whatever the tempest throws my way.

Even so, I have many moments when I cry out to God, “Why in the world am I am doing this, Lord? I am old and tired”, but then I remember that I do not have to understand His perfect plan. It helps to remember so I can stay encouraged when I do not get an answer. I am learning more and more to trust Him. It is true that His grace is sufficient. People say it all the time, but I am learning to really live it. I am learning that His power is made perfect in my weakness. Besides, God has never given me a reason not to trust Him. I am learning that while I do my part, He is always doing His. I get to do my passion of ministry while I walk as a student and even though the degree in the world’s eyes does not seem like much, God will use it for His good purpose. I live in God’s economy and God’s Kingdom and He can move godly and ungodly hearts to make whatever He wants happen. It is an amazing way to live.

I will be honest, the dark valleys I walk through at times cause me to desire that the work that His Word says He will complete in me, will be completed very soon. Sometimes I do not want to stay here. But God always brings me back to my right mind and strengthens me to carry on. I have learned that it does not matter that I do not know exactly what God has in store for my life. Every once in a while, He blesses me with tiny glimpses. The ministry moments on campus have been incredible and I think He allows me to see Him touch a heart or two so I can stay encouraged. I realize just how blessed I am because most of the time, we do not get to see what He does with the seeds we sow for His Kingdom.

At the end of a fast-track class this semester, I had an opportunity to share that God became real in my life and I recently celebrated eight years of sobriety. Someone who had decided to stop believing in God and become an atheist in his late teens heard my story. At the end of his presentation, which was hours after mine, he said, “Deborah, your story really inspired me. Maybe what happened for you, will happen for me.” If that wasn’t God moving in his heart…WOW. I will never forget that day. THAT is why I am taking classes on campus.

When I am battling the thoughts to give up, I remember God’s Word. I remember He has a plan for my life. I remember He has thoughts toward me to give me a future and a hope—a future filled with hope! His thoughts are nothing like my thoughts. I remember that Jesus came to find the lost…ME! He gave me a chance to be saved. He brought me from death to life and I choose to live it for Him now no matter how challenging it is.

Thanks for listening. Whatever you are dealing with in life that has you wanting to give up, I pray that you will allow the Lord Jesus—the Spirit of the Living God to come into your heart and change it and fill it with love, hope, and peace. Will you let Him? You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am grateful that I did. I discovered that the hope of Jesus is worth living for and He is the One that keeps my heart beating and singing. He gives me the peace that I will never be able to understand. Peace in the midst of my troubled (broken) mind that keeps trying to convince me that my journey is meaningless. Peace in the midst of all the other lies that find their way in that want me to give up on the Hope of Jesus and die. I know that if I lose my hope, I will lose my life. So many lives that gave up hope are gone.

I can give up, or I can choose to keep hoping in Jesus anyway—to keep living in the habit of hope. I am choosing Hope. I am choosing life. I am receiving His Peace and I pray you will too.

I will end with more words that I am grateful for. They are words that Jesus spoke to His disciples before He ascended into heaven—His promise to each of us, “I am with you always…” incredibly comforting words for us to hold onto every single day.

Choose Jesus. Choose Hope. Choose Life. †

Jesus

My Time is Not Yet Here: Turning Triggers of Despair into Triggers of Hope

They say that suicide is not the answer to end the pain. Well, it is an answer, but it is the worst possible answer. I am pouring my heart out in this writing for those who are weary and may be thinking that death is the only way out of suffering. It is my lifelong hope and prayer, my grown-up Christmas wish, that what I share reaches the hurting. I pray that there will be something from this chance I am taking that will allow God inside to change your heart and change your life in ways you never thought possible. Even through my own painful battle that takes place in my mind every now and then, I believe with all of me, that life is worth living. I could not see and probably did not want to see this for years, but I can see it clearly now. Suicide does not end all pain. It only transfers even greater pain over to those left behind and I have seen it come with guilt and shame. I think it is one of Satan’s best weapons to hurt God’s heart. He does it by hurting God’s children to the point of hopelessness which leads to death.

I thank God that I am still alive to share my heart with you. My miracle sobriety continues. I am two months away from it being 8 full years and I praise God for that miracle that He continues in me. But I have noticed that the longer I am sober and learn to live for the Lord, the more I seem to struggle with triggers. I have discovered through my journey that others who commit suicide is a huge trigger for me. At first, I was ashamed by how it affected me. Especially after all the great and powerful things the Lord has done in my life. And before I was given the courage to write this and openly share it, the only person whom I had been able to share my heart with (other than crying out to the Lord) was my mentor who is also my pastor. I thank God for her. She knows that these triggers set me back a bit when I start to battle the old memories of pain and knowing what it is like to be tormented to the point of wanting to end it under my own terms.

My biggest trigger occurred when a colleague of mine lost all hope and committed suicide in October of this year. His death truly set me back. It was unexpected. It caused me to feel lost in the dark for a time. Although it was a short time, it felt too long. Thankfully, my mentor’s words of love and truth pointed me back to my God of hope. She reminded me that although some have not made it, I have. I am ALIVE. I have not become a victim of the thoughts that torment me on occasion. My faith and the growth of my relationship with the Lord is becoming stronger and deeper and is what keeps me from being overcome by the struggle. She is right. I am victorious. I am victorious with an extremely tender and broken heart that has a great desire to help others lean on God so they too can rise above and see the invisible that keeps me choosing life no matter what. Besides, I have learned that my time has not yet come. When I die, I want it to be in God’s appointed time, not mine. I love God too much to throw away this wonderful gift He went through so much to give. He sent Jesus to die so that I may live. I want to live! Yes, I would prefer to live completely healed on this side of heaven, but even if He does not heal me the way I think I want to be healed, my hope is forever in Him alone. It’s either that or going back to the black hole of despair that almost killed me. I am not going back.

My pastor prays that I would learn to turn these triggers of despair into triggers of hope and victory. I believe God is answering her prayer. I was given some amazing words through an Advent devotional called “We have found the King.” Through it God has given me a way to reframe those triggered destructive thoughts that sneak in and try to take me down. God is quickly changing my heart and the way I think and I must share this beautiful gift that came to me through the devotional.

The writer reminded me of the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is fleeting. It is only a temporary sense of delight that fully depends on external things. Happiness is a feeling; joy is not. Joy comes from knowing.

Unlike happiness, joy exists regardless of immediate circumstances. In Philippians, St. Paul describes how joy not only exists in the presence of suffering, but is strengthened by it.

Joy is deep within. It is a gift from God that gives us peace and a calm assurance that the best is yet to come. Ah, yes…the best is yet to come. I believe!

Joy comes from knowing that Jesus cried out as he was dying on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” but that God did not forsake him. Joy is knowing that after the pain and sorrow of Good Friday comes the beauty of Easter morning and the promise of Resurrection.

Joy comes from knowing that God is in charge; knowing that as the present evil world becomes darker around us, God is still on the throne. No matter how we are treated, we experience joy when we trust in God.

Joy is the gift of the Christ child and the redeeming grace He brings. Hallelujah!!

May God’s truths that I have received and have just shared with you change your heart and mind like they are changing mine. Life in Christ is worth living. One great day, all this pain and suffering and all the evil will be no more. But we who are in Christ will live forever with our King. God said it, and I believe it and I pray you will too. “For God so loved the world (you and me!!), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

So joy to the world and joy to my soul, the Lord has come…forever. Holy Father, I pray that You would also fill my friends up with the joy that comes from knowing Christ, our Savior and King. Our Deliverer. I pray more hearts will know Your love and live. Amen.

Merry Christmas, beloved! ♥

My Hope Is God Alone (Even If He Doesn’t Save Through The Fire)

Scripture teaches us that it only takes a little faith to move a mountain. Well, I am grateful that I always have at least a little faith. Looking back over the past seven years of walking fully sober with Jesus, I truly believe that I have developed mountain moving faith. I have prayed and believed that God would move some mountains in my own journey and those mountains did get tossed into the sea – a mountain of alcohol abuse, a mountain of a cancer-causing virus, and a mountain of depression. I have seen God move mountains in other lives as well which is so awesome for a young Christian to see God answer prayers in such powerful ways.

Even so, there have been times where I have felt disappointed and maybe even a little shaken. I am sure we all experience this from time to time. Some of us grow stronger and closer to God, and some of us give up. I never want to give up. I never want to go back to a life of hopelessness ever again, so I keep pressing on even when life hurts. There was a time not very long ago when I prayed so fervently for a woman by the name of Peggy who was suffering from cancer. She had such amazing faith and had touched so many lives as a teacher. She was a Kingdom builder for sure. She was not ready to go. I heard her say so. She tearfully prayed for more time to serve the Lord. She knew my pastor and when she could, she would come a pretty good distance to visit our church a few times for prayer. Shortly after, she became too week to come anymore. I never saw her again. I did not personally know her, but I was honored to be one who got to place hands on her with other powerful prayer warriors taking turns praying. I will never forget that moment. When I touched her and spoke God’s Word of healing over her, I felt such a deep spiritual connection with her. After that morning, God put her on my heart to continue praying and believing, and that is what I did. My personal prayer sessions speaking God’s Word of healing for her were so powerful. Tears would stream down my face every single time and I would be thanking God that He had answered. I believed with all my heart that I would be hearing praises that God had miraculously healed her like we have heard for others. I felt like a little child who had no doubt that her Mighty God would hear and save Peggy from cancer. But God didn’t move the mountain. Not this time. I had received word that Peggy’s mountain of cancer overcame her and she passed away surrounded by family. I celebrate the fact that Peggy is now whole and with Jesus, but I would be lying if I said that it did not sadden me greatly that she was not healed on this side of heaven leaving behind her husband and family. I guess it really hurt because I had been so excited for that miracle that I had no doubt would come. And when it didn’t come, well, I do not think I need to describe any further how my heart felt at the time.

Now I could have let that stop me from pressing on in this journey of faith, but I am thankful for the strength that God gives me to keep pressing on no matter what comes. I think it will help me to remember that I am to be walking in His will, not my own, so there will be mountains that He chooses to leave unmoved. I have learned that nothing can get in God’s way for His purpose to be done, so I think I need to be okay when certain mountains do not move. Just because they seem to be in my way or the way of loved ones, it does not mean that they are in God’s way. At least, that is how it seems to me.

There are a lot of mountains – fiery health trials happening lately with people I love. I keep lifting them all in prayer knowing that God is able. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He can save every one of them through the fire with His mighty hand. But what if He doesn’t? I mean, He didn’t for Peggy, so what if He doesn’t for others that I pray for as well? Well, God is God, and I am not. I cannot know His plan, so, I will continue in faith and pray for healing. I will also pray for the strength for all of us, no matter what, to be able to say, “It is well with my soul.” Our only hope is God alone. Let us not forget what He did for us! (John 3:16) Amen?

While my heart was struggling with unmovable mountains and fiery trials, a Mercy Me song (Even If) was playing and really touched me. If you listen to the song, you’ll see that it inspired this writing from my heart. I hope it will encourage your heart like it did mine. It reminded me of the OT Bible passage in Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace for not worshiping the king’s golden image. They fully trusted Almighty God to deliver them from the fire, but stood strong in faith stating that even if He does not deliver, that they would not serve or worship the king’s false god. Wow. Super strong faith. They knew they had God on their side no matter what and had nothing to fear but God alone. That is the kind of faith I hope that I continue to develop. When we fear God, we need not fear anything else.

I dug a little deeper into this passage and read a Matthew Henry commentary and I love what he said about Daniel 3:17-18, and I hope that it helps you as it did me. Henry said, “God will deliver us either from death or in death.” Yes! It was no accident that I came to that commentary. I really needed to hear those words. It made me realize that Peggy WAS delivered after all. God delivered her from cancer and took her home to be with Him forever. She would have liked to stay longer, but she was not afraid because she knew where she was going. That is a beautiful truth and God will deliver every single one of His faithful ones so we also need not be afraid. I know we would like deliverance and healing on this side of heaven, but whether it is here or in heaven, it is a win-win for those of us in Christ.

If you are struggling like I was, I hope you will remember that the Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34). It is okay to grieve the loss of our loved ones who leave us behind, but it is not okay to grieve like those who have no hope. We are going home to Paradise, to be with our Lord for eternity. We have the blessed hope of heaven and it is not wishful thinking kind of hope!

Oh, breathe on us breath of God, so that we will never die. Be blessed my friends and may God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus whether your mountains move or not.

Psalms 34

When Christians Hurt with Words…

Are we helping or hurting with what we say? Are we truly walking in God’s righteousness as He has called us to? I see and hear the word idiot and other harsh words about people and things out of our control quite a bit, so today on I want to focus on words. I think most of us have heard how powerful our words can be. The words we speak can bless and bring life into the hearts of others, including ourselves, or we can speak hard or hard words and word curses that hurt others. Did you realize that these types of words can also create strongholds in our own lives? Did you realize that they can block God’s blessings? So, I have to ask. Which words are you choosing to speak?

I will never claim to be a perfect Christian, but I have learned how to NOT be a blessing blocker — as much as humanly possible. I have learned some difficult and painful lessons in my journey, and as someone who used to be a blessing blocker more than not, I must put this out there. I know of several Christians (many that I care deeply for) that are in need – some are in desperate need of breakthroughs. For example, some need restoration, physical healing, financial, or emotional healing. I have seen some things that have triggered concern and I am being led to put this out there for others to seriously consider – please be aware that the words we speak (think and write–God knows all) may keep us in bondage if we are not choosing our words wisely.

Our mouths can really run away from us and I think it can happen easily if we are not spending enough quality time seeking God with our whole hearts. Some of us try to squeeze God into our lives but it never works because we never have enough time when we do not keep Him as priority time. We might make a better effort to be with Him only once in a while, but then the busyness of life usually gets in the way. We might praise Him in the good times and try our best to praise Him during the hardships, but sometimes we are just too weak to do it because we are operating under our own strength which cannot compare to His. We then humble ourselves and pray in the name of Jesus, and then we wait, and wait, and wait some more for the breakthroughs to come. When it seems that nothing is happening, we start to wonder how long we must wait for an answer – we may ask, “Does the Lord really hear me?” Sometimes the wait seems forever and we have no idea that we might be the ones causing the delay.

If you feel that you might be at this point, I want to encourage you to not give up. Do not lose hope. Do not lose heart! But know that it is a must that you still yourself before the Lord more than once in a while. You might even do what I like to think of as a self-check. If you cannot see what might be wrong in your life, ask God. You can ask something like, “Lord, am I getting the way of Your blessings? If so, please show me and give me strength to change. I want to bring You glory.” If you go to Him wholeheartedly, He will listen and He will answer. But you need to be still and listen. This is also a perfect opportunity to grow in your trust relationship with the Lord. For me, I am so grateful that I have learned to make it a constant practice to do a self-check because I certainly do not want to ever block the blessings of God. Been there, done that. When I am on the right path, I grow stronger in my wait for the Lord. When I am not on the right path, He shows me and lovingly corrects me. It is a win-win for me.

Remember, the invisible enemy is behind the temptation to run off at the mouth so as it is written in James 4:7 (New Century Version): “So give yourselves completely to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you.” Amen! The enemy and his minions always run in terror in the name of Jesus.

How can you learn to always be mindful and speak in a way that brings glory to God? IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE WORD OF GOD. Do it day and night. If I sound like a broken record to some of you who know me, I am glad. I speak the truth from love and I speak it from experience of a 7 year journey (and counting) of many trials and triumphs. I am so thankful that I have learned many things the hard way because God has used it all for good and has made me confident and bold in what I share. And just like my wonderful and loving spiritual leaders, I now get to lead by example and I am extremely grateful for the gift to share my heart.

The more time you spend soaking in God’s Word instead of participating with the harshness (to put it politely) of the rest of the world which is Satan’s snare, the more you will desire to change your words and your ways. You will not be able to help but be drawn in and grow in knowing and loving God and wanting to glorify Him more and more in everything you do. You will be living out Scripture (God’s Living Word!), like it is written in James, for example. James taught us about becoming “doers” of God’s Word, not just listeners. I encourage you to read the entire epistle of James. It was a part of this inspired writing.

God wants to bless us abundantly, but it is hard for Him to do when we do things that His Word clearly tells us not to do. If you have a problem controlling your tongue, you are not alone. As a side note, I love how Joyce Meyer shares about her struggle with her tongue. I am sure she must have a book on it. Controlling our tongues may seem impossible at times, but with God, ALL things are possible and we can do ALL things with Christ who strengthens us, Amen? Do not let it hold you back from God’s best in your life.

I am praying for those who struggle with this. I am praying for your breakthroughs. The saying is true — change your words, change your life. Remember, in Christ Jesus we are Kingdom builders but we are not going to be able t draw people in for God with words that tear people down.

God will do His part, but you need to do your part in breaking the strongholds and enslaving yokes today. Stay out of His way. Choose to speak words of life. Just do it. You will be much better off (just like when you forgive). I will pray that the floodgates of heaven pour upon you like never before – I believe breakthroughs are in store! Thank You, Lord!

To God be the glory, forever. ♥

“God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.” James 1:20 (The Message)

19 Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; 20 for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us].” James 1:19-20 (Amplified Bible)