Category Archives: DEPRESSION

Standing strong, like the hummingbird

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Hummingbird Feasting on God’s Presence. In the corner of my bedroom, on top of the cherrywood chest of drawers where my father put his watch, wallet, and keys every night and where, twenty-five years later, I changed my infant daughter’s diapers, stands a light maple jewelry chest, a gift from my daughter. A three-inch hand-carved wooden dog, also my father’s, leans against the jewelry chest. Behind the jewelry chest, a tall, slender faux crystal vase holds a spray of white flowers. On the wall above, where the eye is naturally drawn, hangs a gilt-framed picture of a ruby-throated hummingbird, hovering beside the open face of a crimson day lily, feeding on its nectar.

That picture is my reminder that, as the hummingbird must eat five to eight times per hour to survive, so my soul and spirit must feast continually on God’s presence and God’s Word. Hard experience imprinted that truth on my heart.

Although it was difficult, I thank God for the months of affliction that taught me to seek, to inquire for and require God as my necessity and to truly seek Him with all my heart and mind and soul and life (Deuteronomy 4:29) I now understand why we must always seek the sweetness and strength of His presence. I can truly say that “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey God’s Word.” (Psalm 119:67, NIV)

Image result for royalty free picture of woman with jesus We can be strong in the Lord. “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides.] (Ephesians 6:10. AMPC)

Toward the end of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides.] Notice verse 10 says that our union with Him is what empowers us and makes us strong. We draw our strength from Him, and His strength is boundless, without measure, because it comes from His very nature, His omnipotence.

In the months required to overcome fear and depression, I learned that God’s presence—being in communion with Him– kept me strong. Only God kept me at peace and gave me hope and perseverance, though the path was often rocky.

How did I learn to stay in His presence more often? (I say more often because I still strive to make it constant.) By keeping my mind fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3), keeping His Word in my sight and within my heart (Proverbs 4:21), and constantly praising and thanking Him for His goodness (Psalm 119:164). Practicing these three disciplines never fails to restore me.

How gracious is our God to give such fullness of joy in His presence so that we, like the hummingbird, may ever be drawn to that nourishing sweetness!

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Trophy God makes us successful.Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies, that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil”. (Ephesians 6:11, AMPC)

God gives us weapons to fight this great spiritual battle that is the life of every believer. Verse 11 says that I “may be able successfully to stand up against ALL the strategies and deceits of the devil” if I use all the armor God has provided. That spiritual armor includes: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and His Word as well as prayer (from Ephesians 6:14-18). Read the passage from verse 10 through 20. It shows us that victory as a believer requires drawing our strength from God and using the armor He provides, which includes prayer, and standing strong in our place. To fight the good fight, I MUST have the constant, strengthening nourishment of God’s presence and His Word . . . like the beautiful, delicate but mighty hummingbird.

God knows we face impossible odds.For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. (Ephesians 6:12, AMPC)

Hummingbird, Flying, Portrait, Wildlife It seems impossible that any living creature could manage to feed itself five to eight times per hour for all its life. God knows hummingbirds face impossible odds in feeding themselves, so God gives His tiny birds the means they need to obtain their 120 to 192 meals each day. He gives them a heart that beats 1200 times a minute; wings that beat 50 to 200 times a second; and aerobatic skill to fly forwards, backwards, sideways, and straight up. They can hover for 50 minutes, and furthermore, do instant 180s while hovering. (www.worldofhummingbirds.com) Possessing those amazing attributes, mature hummingbirds have almost no natural enemies. They simply outfly and outmaneuver them.

Faint of heart! (I am talking to myself here!) How much more then has our all-loving, all gracious, tender-hearted, compassionate, and adoring Heavenly Father given us what we need to face and conquer our impossible odds in the spiritual realms? His Presence and His Word are available to all His children who ask. “God is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you (2 Chronicles 15:2, NIV).

Image result for royalty free picture of roman soldier standing guard God enables us to stand our ground in hard times. “Therefore put on God’s complete armor that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger]; and having done all the crisis demands, to stand firmly in your place] (Ephesians 6:13, AMPC)

To “stand your ground” is a battle term. It means to stand and fight to defend the ground on which you are standing when the enemy attacks. Think about that and think about it in light of verses 10 through 12. Do you see that drawing on God’s strength and using the armor He gives us enables us to resist the enemy and keep standing, firmly in our place, keeping our life settled and safe?

The Word says we will be able to stand firmly in our place. That means we will not lose one inch of our ground. We will fight, yes, but our feet will stay firm, planted, in our own place. We will not grope around with our feet, seeking a firm place to support us. No! With our God we can not only stand firm but with our God’s help we can advance against a troop! We can scale a wall! (Psalm 18:26)

If we, like the hummingbird, constantly seek out the life-sustaining sweetness of God’s presence, as if our life depended on it, we will draw on His boundless strength and, thus, we will stand, firmly, in our place. Image result for royalty free picture of hummingbird

 

Desperately needing God

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of clock Radio In The Dark  A desperate seeker. “Meowrp” My eyelids fluttered open. My beloved Barny was seldom vocal. In the darkness, the blue numerals of the clock radio glowed 9:00 a.m. as I scritched his chin.

“I got up and gave you both halves of your breakfast, Barn, at 6:00 and again at 8:00,” I mumbled, pulling the blanket to my chin. “But you have not gotten on the bed,” I thought, “since you went blind two months ago, and you have not gotten me up when I oversleep either.”

My hand reached to pull back the covers before the thought completely formed in my mind. “Barny is asking, no begging, for our brushing time! How sweet! Thank You, Lord, for that!”

I had always brushed him and given him catnip. But, since learning of the cancer, each morning I sat on the floor, let him lick a tablespoon of catnip out of my hand then spent fifteen minutes brushing his coat, gently running my hands the length of his small body, caressing his ears and face and, of course, crooning. This morning, Barny had insisted and required this of me. Food alone no longer satisfied. He craved my attention and affection. He had a desperately seeking heart. Why? He had experienced what 15 minutes of pure joy felt like. He wanted more!

A rich blessing of affliction. Talking with a friend last week about seeking God brought to mind my recent experience in seeking greater awareness of God’s presence. I thought I loved God and truly depended on Him, and I did, but after two years of depression I learned that when God says “Seek My face (Psalm 27:8)” He means to desperately insist and require His presence.

During that struggle with depression, I did everything I heard of, including lots of counseling and many times of special prayer. It all helped but each day was still miserable. Some days were a ceaseless torment. Slow improvement came when I overcame my reluctance to take an antidepressant. But the struggling continued, without peace, until I began studying the Word of God, for myself, in my areas of need, and began thinking and speaking the Word as often as I could remember.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of ClockAfter some weeks of success in finding peace through pondering Scriptures during daily activities, I recall thinking I did not have the strength or even want to be like Joyce Meyer and other Bible teachers who sounded like the Word was all they thought of all day long. My sin, rebellion, weakness, doubt, laziness, and the enemy’s lies are obvious in that attitude! But, God graciously gave me a willing heart and renewed a steadfast spirit in me (Psalm 51:10). I soon saw that thinking on His Word all day long was just what I needed (Proverbs 4:21).

So, I began studying the Word MUCH more and spending more time learning new Bible passages or repeating ones I already knew, out loud as well as silently. The more minutes of the day I kept His Word on my mind and in my mouth, the more hours I searched His word and discovered truth I needed, the more healing came. Month by month, discouraging, self-critical and thoughts and fears overwhelmed me less often. Gradually, my mind was renewed enough so that I remained in peace, keeping my mind fixed on Him. (Isaiah 26:3) His Word was becoming life to me and health to my whole body. (Proverbs 4:20-23)

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Food and WaterGod tells us to desperately seek Him. In Psalm 27:8 God tells us, “. . . Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need].” And the psalmist replies “My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]” (AMPC). Notice that God tells us to ask for His presence and require His presence as our vital need. If something is vital, it means we must have it to live, like oxygen, food, and water. In older times, a wound was called vital if it was fatal. Ponder this and you will see it means we are to seek God’s presence as the number one thing in our lives. I did not do that before my affliction, but I do now! I know only God can keep my heart at peace.

An excellent Bible study is to type “seek, inquire, and require” into the search window of a website like Bible Gateway, where you can search the AMPC translation for that phrase. You will find 33 results, which will show you that, when God says seek or search, He does not mean a casual, haphazard, if-you-feel-like-it effort.

Image result for Royalty Free Clip Art of Heart  Ask God to make your heart willing. I did not consistently find God’s presence until I desperately pursued Him. My motivation was the fear that anxious, depressing thoughts would return. I say with the psalmist “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word” and “It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn You decrees.” (Psalm 119:67 and 71, NIV) I cannot explain how it works but God He does indeed make everything turn out for our good (Romans 8:28) and trials and temptations do help us become “. . . mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That is why James 1:1-4 tells us to rejoice about trials and temptations. Like the goldsmith’s refining fire, hardships purify us.

Desperation for God is good. God knows just what works with each of us because He knows our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10, Acts 15:8), and if we ask for something good, He will give us good things, not bad (Mathew 7:9-11).  God never withholds any good thing from those who walk blamelessly before Him. (Psalm 84:11b) Cling to that promise as you draw nearer to God! He is with you when you are with Him. (2 Chronicles 15:2). So, I say, dear friend, if you want a closer closeness with God, pray Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV) along with me:

  1. Create in me a pure heart, o God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
  2. Do not cast me from Your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
  3. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

God’s presence is a priceless gift. How blessed we are that He makes it available to anyone who seeks Him – desperately!Image result for royalty free picture of gift

 

Can love endure forever?

Image result for royalty free picture of college classroomRepetition aids memory. I leaned from side to side, then twisted left and right, trying to do so unobtrusively. It had been a long day of sitting at work. These three hours of class made it even longer. I took a sip of lukewarm coffee and popped another peanut M and M in my mouth. The freedoms students exercised in class puzzled me when I first returned to school three years earlier, but now I quietly ate snacks during lecture, too.

How I loved school! This Tuesday night class on human learning was my favorite. I hastily put the styrofoam cup down and picked up my pen when I heard, “Now, this is something you can make good use of yourself. Repetition is the key to getting information into long-term memory. So when you study . . .” The professor kept going but I heard that one phrase over and over. That was many years ago, but I hear it now whenever I work on Bible memory. It helps me persist in the necessary repetitions.

God knows how memory works. Obviously, God knows how memory works. God not only tells us to impress His commandments on our children by talking about them when we “. . . sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NIV) but He also tells us to keep them where we will see them all day long as we go about our daily life (Deuteronomy 6:8.) I say, thank the Lord for index cards and sticky notes!

Two key facts about God. Psalm 136 teaches us two facts about God. [1] God is good, and [2] His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIV). When I first began pondering these two truths, I thought they were in Psalm 118. I was driving and so could not access my Bible. When I got home, I saw it was Psalm 136 and that the phrase repeated 26 times is “His love endures forever.” The “God is good” phrase is only stated in the first verse of this psalm.

His love endures forever. It is comforting to know that God’s perfect love will last forever, especially when we read I Corinthians and see what God means when He says love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV).

We would do well to take each of those phrases and use them as the responding phrase in Psalm 136. For example, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His patience endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His patience endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His patience endures forever.”

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Gold NuggetThe phrase “His love endures forever” is repeated 26 times. I have found that I must repeat the phrases of a Bible verse or passage I am memorizing MANY times. Repeating a nugget of truth 26 times is a small price to pay to acquire pure, refined gold straight from the hand of our loving and all-powerful God.

What does God want us to remember? It is my opinion that this must be one of the things God wants us to remember most of all, this unbelievable fact that His love will last forever, that He will never stop loving us. If you have been privileged to study the Bible even a little you know God repeats His fundamental truths many times, in multiple ways. Yet no other phrase is repeated so many times so close together. I think I should pause and think about that!

God IS good. As a believer, it hurts when I hear people disrespect God and when I hear people doubt His goodness. The enemy has attacked God’s goodness from the beginning. He successfully tempted Eve in Eden by lying about God’s goodness. (Genesis 3:4-5). He does the same thing today. How often does someone say there is no hope for mankind or that, if there is “a god”, then He cannot be good because He lets so many bad things happen. Lies, all lies.

How do we fight against that hateful darkness of the enemy? With the Sword of Truth! Look up scriptures about the goodness of God, ponder and memorize as many as you can, to get them down deep into your own spirit, and then speak the truth, with love (Ephesians 4:15) when you hear our wonderful Father in heaven slandered.

God hears our cries for mercy. I am so grateful to have my own copy of the Bible (actually, several translations!) so that I can write in it like the textbook it is. When I was in school, I underlined, drew arrows and brackets, made notes in margins, highlighted . . . anything to enhance understanding. In my NIV Bible, Psalm 118 is well-marked. It sums up the goodness of God and His enduring love in rescuing me from a season of deep depression.

Image result for Royalty Free Picture of Jesus rescuing Lamb“I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned his ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘O LORD, save me!’ The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” (Psalm 116:1-7, NIV)

Fellow pilgrim, has God been good to you? Has He proven to you that “His love endures forever”? Then thank Him and tell someone else! He more than deserves our highest praise and gratitude. . . for God “ . . . is good and His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1, NIV)

The unseen wind of the Spirit

Image result for royalty free picture of morning in the city“As you do not know the path of the wind”  I stepped from the bus onto the sidewalk and into that strange light of predawn, just before orange enflames the edge of gray sky. I hitched the straps to my purse and lunch bag higher on my left shoulder and glanced at the index card in my right hand.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8, NIV)

The cold wind blew open the flap of my coat, partly exposing a bright pink dress, one of three from my Mom. The pink clashed with the burgundy walking shoes, also a gift from Mom, but I was grateful the dress was not frayed and that the shoes were not tennis shoes, which they would have been but for her generosity.

As I walked, the biting wind whipped across the empty lots here at the edge of downtown, chilling my fingers holding the index card. I found myself wishing for gloves. As a single mom, money was spent with care, as was time. Each hour from pickup to bedtime I focused on my daughter. Bible study and prayer came after she was asleep or before she woke. Travel to and from the office was for memory work.

As I burrowed into my coat, I focused on verse 8. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“Yes!” I thought, “you cannot see the wind, but you know it is there by the effect it has, like moving tree branches. And the same with God’s Spirit. We know He is there by the effect He has!”

I pondered that nugget all that long day at the office. More often than I can count through the ensuing 30 plus years God has brought that truth to mind, just when I needed it. I am grateful for every bit of Bible truth I have hidden in my heart, but I do wish I had been more consistent with memory work. Why is memorizing the Bible so difficult?

Image result for royalty free clip art of hard workWhy does Bible memory seem so hard? Three obvious reasons come to mind.

[1] The enemy of our souls understands and fears the Word of God, so he attacks with all his might to keep us from getting the Word safely inside our heart, where he cannot steal it and where we have it ready to use at a moment’s notice. God’s Word is a blessed shield and sword in battles where the enemy shoots arrows of thoughts that can lead to negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression.

[2] An “I can’t” mind set. It may take countless repetition (especially if you are older, like me!) but we can do it. You did memory work at one time in your life or else you would not be reading these words. Our minds are not as quick as when we were children, but God will help us as we try.

[3] Making new habits takes persistent effort. Again, God will help if we try.

How to memorize. Hiding the Word in our heart is God’s will so we can ask for help, with confidence. “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.” (I John 4:15-16, NLT)

[1] Be strategic. Use a concordance to pick a verse or passage in your area of greatest personal need.

[2] Focus on one phrase at a time. Repeat that over and over until you know it. Do the same with another phrase. Then link the two phrases, repeating them until you know them both. Continue.

Image result for Royalty Free Clipart Of Index Cards[3] Keep the Word you are memorizing before your eyes. Carry your index cards with you and look at them during the day. Post another copy of your verse on your bathroom mirror, over the coffee maker, or the sun visor of your car. This is one modern-day version of Deuteronomy 6:7-9, of talking about the Word all day long and of keeping it visible before your eyes, as a reminder. If you have children, follow God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:7-9 and talk about the Word with them throughout the day.

[4] Be systematic and keep a record. Begin with your area of greatest need and ask God to lead you from there. Maintain a list of the verses you have memorized and review them regularly.

Benefits of memory work. Again, there are multiple benefits of hiding God’s word in your heart.

[1] You can resist the enemy at the outset of temptation or weakness, immediately and in instances where you cannot access a Bible, like Jesus did in Luke 4.

[2] God will bring verses to your mind when you need them, for yourself or for others. (Matthew 10:19)

[3] You will experience greater understanding in your Bible study, because you will have a bigger foundation of Bible facts in your mind. (Isaiah 28:10)

[4] You are obeying God and He will bless you. (Jeremiah 7:23)

My recent experience with memorizing. God has been so very gracious this past year to help me overcome life-long depression and fear. Diligent studying of the Word in my areas of need has made the biggest difference. I had to dig into the Bible for myself, me and Holy Spirit alone, rather than rely on what someone else had dug out of the Word. Memorizing scriptures has been a key factor as well. During my routine at the gym, while watching my grandkids play in a park, while standing in line at the grocery store, throughout the day I repeatedly repeated phrases from notes I carried with me everywhere.

Image result for royalty free picture of grass blowing in the windHis Word bears fruit in the garden of the heart over and over.   I got the idea for this blog post late one afternoon, while returning home after playing with my grandsons all afternoon. Leaving the warmth of family and facing the empty-feeling condo can be hard. But, I noticed the wind gently bending the lush grass bordering the sidewalk. Suddenly, I remembered that morning, more than 30 years ago and how often that piece of the living Word in John 3 had helped. And I found myself repeating the chain of scriptures I had memorized about God’s love and tender care. With my mind turned back to God–and out of the self-pity snare — the Lord, my Barny cat and I had a wonderful evening together.

I urge you: Persist! Perhaps you are like me, with years of sporadic memory work. Friend, you and I must in this, like Paul, forget what lies behind and press on in our journey with God. Ask God for His forgiveness, avoid that deadly snare of regret, and move forward, knowing that God delights in your efforts to draw closer to Him! He will help you. It may be in ways you do not understand and could never imagine. . .

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in the womb, so you do not understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

 

Hope from a horse race

Image result for Free Picture OF Secretariat“Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray.” (Job 39:19-21, NIV)

Beauty inspires us. Is anything more beautiful than a running horse? Its muscular chest thrust its powerful legs forward while its mighty hindquarters propel the rear legs in perfect symmetry. Power and poetry. Beauty beyond the telling.

Beauty inspires us. God designed us that way, and He filled the earth with beauty so that wherever we look in His creation, we see His touch and feel pleasure in what He has created for us. Horses, in particular, inspire me, and one famous horse race in particular never fails to stir the embers of my hope, no matter how discouraged I may feel.

A most famous race. On June 9, 1973, a race horse named Secretariat (or “Big Red” as his multitude of fans called him) won the Belmont Stakes in a world record time of 2 minutes 24 seconds. His record stands today. Secretariat’s speed averaged 37.5 miles an hour. And he finished 31 lengths, or 82.6 yards, ahead of the closest horse.

To see this famous race, search the internet with the words “Secretariat at Belmont”. As you watch the race, you will notice that the other horses stayed fairly close to Secretariat at the start. Then, however, that legendary horse pulled ahead. Then he kept stretching his lead until he was way, way out ahead. Then, as the announcer said, he was “. . . alone. . . moving like a tremendous machine!”

How can I not have hope? I liken Secretariat’s race to the way the enemy of our souls tries to outrun and defeat us in this race of daily life we are each running. He may keep up with us for a little while, just as Sham kept abreast of Secretariat for a bit, but when God’s power surges up in our hearts, we pull ahead further and further and further. The enemy is totally defeated. No contest whatsoever. He is not even in the running. And God longs to do this for us every day!

So, when the bills add up, when the body complains, when the everydayness of life gets me down, or when a trial goes on a looooong time, I sometimes watch Secretariat run his unbelievable race. And I ponder the omnipotence of my loving heavenly Father. And I find fresh hope. The One who created and sustains the universe loves me dearly. With Him on my side, the enemy does not have a chance to win. I am confidently expecting to win because I know the powerful One who lives on the inside of me.

What does hope do for us? To hope means to expect or to trust that something will happen. My confidence, or expectation, that I will be victorious is based on God, not on circumstances or on my own or someone else’s ability. The Bible does not use the word hope in the flimsy, half-hearted way we often do in our culture. You may hear someone say, “Well, I hope I can get a better job”, or “I hope my child does not get the flu.”

Bible teacher Joyce Meyer defines hope as “a positive expectation that something good is going to happen.” That is the kind of hope God is talking about! That is the hope I feel surge up as I watch Secretariat pull away from the other horses and finish nearly a football field length ahead of them.Image result for free clip art of hope

God’s truth about hope. There is a beautiful chain of truth about hope in Romans 5:1-5. The verses in this chain of truth reassure us that we can and will have hope. Here is that hope-giving chain of truth.

In the NIV, Romans 5:1-5. Romans 5:1 to 4a, tells us “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Switching to the AMPC for verse 4a and continuing through verse 5, we read “. . . And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”

The process that leads to hope. In looking at Romans 5, verse 1, we notice the word “Therefore”. The “Therefore” in verse 1 tells us that what came before that verse is linked with and sets the background for what follows. So the lessons in Romans 4 are the foundation for the lessons in Romans 5. And what does Romans 4 teach us? That we are made right with God through our faith, not through “observing the commands of the Law” (Romans 4:13, AMPC). That means we do not earn our right-standing with God. It is a gift, so we do not have to be perfect!

So, because of our gift of right-standing with God, or “therefore”, we have the promises of Romans 5, verses 1-5:

[1] Verse 1: We have peace with God, and we are right in His sight, through Jesus being our Lord.
[2] Verse 2a: Because we have believed in Jesus, we are already standing in God’s grace, which the Amplified Bibles defines as “the state of God’s favor”. Remember, we do not have to work to earn it!
[3] Verse 2b: We can rejoice and exult because we hope—we are expecting– to experience and enjoy the glory of God. The AMPC says “And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God”.

[4] Verses 3-4: Moreover, we can be full of joy now, while we are IN our sufferings, because God says that our suffering will produce—through a process–something wonderful for us. The process that leads to that something wonderful is given in verses 3-4: sufferings produce perseverance, which produces character (mental and moral qualities), which produces hope. The order of the steps in that process is: suffering, perseverance, character, and then hope. The AMPC tells us that character of “approved faith and tried integrity” is what “. . . produces [the habit of joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.” In other words, if we keep persevering in hardships, God will eventually develop our character so that we habitually are joyful and we will confidently hope in our eternal salvation, which begins for us as soon as we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

[5] Verse 5 promises that hope like that never disappoints us because “. . . God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:b, AMPC)

I strive to remember one special fact in verses 3 and 4, which is that we can be joyful now, smack in the middle of suffering, because we know that the hardships are creating in us the kind of character that makes us habitually joyful and confident as we anticipate our eternal salvation.

Hope of eternity helps us NOW. I wish it were not true but I must confess that for a long time when I heard teachers and preachers and friends talk about problems in this life and then say, “But one day, all the troubles of this life will be over and we will be with Jesus” I felt somewhat disappointed—because I always wanted to hear some solution to my troubles here on earth, now.

As I have become more mature, more healed, and more whole, I find that thinking of heaven does indeed make me happy now. Precisely because of the trials I have walked through with God during that long season of depression and anxiety, I now value unseen things like love and peace and joy, which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18), more than anything that happens to me here on earth. But it was the suffering that made me desperate enough to seek God with my whole heart. And it was because the sufferings persisted that I had the opportunity to persevere. And it was because I persevered that Holy Spirit, my Strengthener (John 14:26, AMPC), had the chance to form in me the characteristic of seeking God whole-heartedly–until it became a habit. And as I have continued living life, with this habit as a daily part of life, I have begun experiencing great joy and great victory over the very trials that formerly stole my peace and joy. No, I have not arrived at perfection but I now press on toward more maturity with daily joy!

God wants you joyful! Dear friend, let me urge you to study the Word to gain deeper understanding into how God uses problems for our good. Three Bible passages provide comfort and guidance for us in this regard:

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[1] John 15:1-8 – our loving Father uses trials to cleanse our hearts and make us more fruitful,
[2] James 1:2-18 – trials and temptations are blessings from God, and
[3] Hebrews 12:1-33 – God trains or, “disciplines”, us for our good so that we can become more like Him.

Surpassing abundance. As I watched the movie “Secretariat”, I learned that the jockey never pushed Secretariat, that he never really asked the horse to give him more speed. Secretariat was just running his own race. The jockey gave Secretariat his head, which means the rider lightly holds the reins and lets the horse be in complete control. Secretariat just ran like he wanted to, for the joy of it.

And dear friend, that is another picture of what our beloved Heavenly Father is like for us as we live our daily lives, as we run our individual races here on earth. Without our even asking Him, He makes our lives far and away better than if we stayed back in the pack with most of the world. That is because God is “. . . able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond all we ask or think according to His power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). Now, that gives me hope!

A personal note from me to you—what I experienced as I wrote this

I initially wrote the first part of this blog post in 2016, when I first began blogging and when I first began dreaming of finally writing the books I had carried in my head for many years. However, three years of emotional healing and further maturing needed to happen first. I can look back now and see what God was doing, but dear friend, during much of the last three years, I felt like I had failed in many areas and that I would never be able to write. However, during that time, while I was struggling so long with depression and anxiety, the desperation drove me to seek the Lord and His Word as I never had before.

Even now as I struggle and stumble on my way to resume the habit of regular blogging and writing, God is teaching me more about the importance of leaning on Him, not myself, and of the need to dig deeply into the Word. I was straining to get this blog post finished – so I could “get something on the website”. But, as usual, once I finally got the seat of the pants in the chair and began actually typing and then studying the Word for the topic I was writing about, God kept leading me deeper and deeper into the Word.

I began revising this blog post a few days ago, intending to add a little bit beyond the point where I ended it in 2016, which was just above the heading “What does hope do for us?. When I was writing in 2016, this blog post would have been finished at that point. But every time I write now, in 2019, God keeps putting Bible truths into my thoughts. So, the writings are far, far stronger and more helpful to you – and me, too!

As an example, the post as it was in 2016 had only the one Scripture from Job 39 about the beauty of horses. But when I started revising it, Scriptures about hope came to mind. As I studied versed three through 5 of Romans 5, the passage about hope that God put in my mind, I saw I had to explain the first two verses. Then I saw the “therefore” in verse 1 and knew I had to address Romans 4. So, when I write now, in 2019, it is Bible study for me and more of God’s beautiful life-giving truth for you.

I am so, so, so grateful to our loving Father for carrying me through three years of healing and pruning. I am equally grateful He taught me that He requires patient and careful study of His Word, giving it my best and thorough effort, before I dare try to share my thoughts with you.

He is also using my effort to serve Him, through writing, to mold me and give me a happier life. For instance, I began revising this post a few days ago in the morning. That same afternoon, I muddled around the house for 30 minutes, wondering whether to take time to stretch my sore back. I was fighting a headache and feeling frustrated the whole time. I began to fret (DANGER, DANGER!) about how I will ever make writing a regular habit. Then I realized it was just plain old fear knocking at the door.

Murmuring “I will not fear, God is near, I will not fear, God is near” I sat down, unscrambled some sentences, and resumed studying Rom ans 5. Then, the headache disappeared as I saw the promised joy in Romans for you, and for myself, too, the very thing I needed at that moment! How good God is when we just try our best to do our part!

So, friend, as you ponder the path ahead of your own life, as you run your own race, as the Apostle Paul puts it, be confident that you will win. Remember that you have The Champion in your heart and He is opening up the lead over every obstacle in your life moment by moment as you trust and obey Him (Proverbs 4:18). Run your race to win, and enjoy it!

Be blessed as you bless others in your own daily world today!

Love and prayers, Freda

P.S.: Please tell me whether this detailed look into my own life is useful to you. If it is, I will add personal notes like these sometimes to the blog posts.

Studying Security – Part One

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Feeling secure . . . feeling loved. As I steadily walk further away from that pit of depression and anxiety, I need mega doses of the security, love and peace God promises in Psalm 91.

            “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely and in Him I [confidently] trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2, Amplified Classic)

            Stable and fixed. “Hmm, stable and fixed” I pondered as I read.  Hmm . . . notice the chain of thought in Psalm 91. The priceless promises of provision and safety are conditional. Verses 3 and 4 say then God will deliver us, then He will cover us. Verse 9 says because we make God our refuge and make Him our dwelling place, or our home, and verse 14 says because we set our love upon Him. Please study Psalm 91 for yourself in the Amplified Classic Version (available free on line at Bible Gateway and other websites) or another translation of the Bible – but study!

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I recently told my counselor that, although the medicine has greatly helped, the biggest reason I am so much better is time in the Word and meditating on it throughout the day. Each morning, I study the Bible—for myself!–for help in areas like finding peace, feeling God’s love, and overcoming fear. In studying the Word and pondering it all day, I am making God my home, the place where I am secure and the place where my needs are met.

Study for yourself. And I am going directly to the Word now and trusting Holy Spirit to speak to me, rather than relying on other people’s teachings. 

I read slowly, using the Amplified Version, and talk to the Lord about it. I look up cross references, and most days I write a passage in long-hand and carry that around with me all day, repeating the phrases to myself. This has now, praise God, become a habit. Out of His mercy and goodness, God is renewing my mind (Ephesians 4:23) I am so grateful to Him!

I always read the Bible and studied it, but for a while I lost the self discipline to study it. I also lost the self-discipline to do much reading outside the Psalms. No wonder my spirit became so weak and my mind such easy prey for the enemy’s thought arrows! 

Having the Word in my mind all day is one way God is showing Himself to be that “ever present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Obedience brings blessing. I am finding as I continue writing, that God has some definite things He wants me to say to you, including sharing my failures and sins. (James 5:16) Being so vulnerable is challenging, but I want to help you and . . . I want to stay free!

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What things are you thinking about?


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Four a.m. ideas. Two hours before the tinkly melody of my phone alarm would sound. I lay awake, like a child on Christmas morning, thinking about the afternoon ahead with my grandsons. After pickup from school, I would bring my five-and-a- half and seven-year-old delights back to my home for a comic party, their latest creative idea for which they had prepared all week at their own home. They did not know I had planned two games of my own invention and decorated my tiny home with balloons and streamers.

            Though my hip and feet ached a bit, I smiled as I pulled the quilt to my chin. Then, a gentle thought: “You are happy now because you are “thinking on good things”

            “Thank You, Lord, yes, Phillipians 4!”

            For the preceding many months of depression, early morning awakening had meant hours of lying sleepless in the dark, my sluggish mind tormented by cycling fears and fretting. Daily, this has improved.

            Prompt obedience. I smiled into the darkness. “Thank You, Father, thank You so so much!” I took my mussed hair, unwashed face and uncoffeed mind straight to the computer, stopping only to feed my beloved Barny cat.

            My loving Heavenly Father was, again, guiding with tender pats on my head. I recognized an idea for a blog post when I had one! He had awakened me yesterday with an idea, too, but I had begun my morning routine before I sat down to type. And the post had not been written. However, God is rich in grace and mercy, so . . .

Yesterday’s pondering passage had been I Corinthians 8:3: “But if one loves God truly [with affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of His blessing] he is known by God [recognized as worthy of His intimacy and love and is owned by Him.] Notice the verse says prompt obedience. . . And my Bible reading last night had included Genesis 18, where Abraham had RUN to show hospitality when the Lord appeared to him.

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            The word of God is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and it had borne fruit in my spirit. This morning, I promptly obeyed God.

            Trust . . . and God will be with you! My life verse is Proverbs 3:5-6. After 37 years of walking with my beloved Father, I am understanding, a little. The previous day at work had included many moments of struggle with insecurity, but I had consistently—by His great grace—pondered I Corinthians 8:3 and tried to do every little task for Him and in His presence. And when I came home, I had prayerfully worked a bit more on blogging tasks, all the while still not feeling so good.

            When your ways please the Lord. God is blessing as I try to write for Him and His kingdom’s sake, with: wakeup calls via blog post ideas; the renewal of my mind; and a more balanced, connected life. “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7, New American Standard Bible.)

            I am faaaar from perfect, dear  friend, but God is rewarding my baby steps to serve Him. He longs, earnestly, to do the same for you!

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