I stood beside their beds in the dark, praying for each of my 3 little ones while they slept. Every night on my way to bed, I whispered thanks to God for the gift of being their Mommy. But often tears fell, because I knew the truth of that day. And the one before.
I was discontent with that season of my life, and I had become an under-the-breath complainer.
I didn’t always like that this was what God had called me to do. Because it looked like endless wiping. Wiping counters, spills, bottoms, floors, always wiping.
With a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby, my days looked like finding messes by the handfuls, like potty training and nursing and living chronically behind in housework. It was harder than I’d expected. I loved my babies so much, and yet I wished away the hard parts of those days.
One day, after lunch, I stepped in a huge blob of strawberry jam on the kitchen floor. When I grabbed for a dishrag to wipe it up, I ran my arm through more jam on the edge of the counter. I looked up to see this little trail of jam, smudged across the kitchen cabinets, and started to cry.
I felt mad about the mess, about the way I couldn’t stay on top of 6 sticky little hands, mad at my kitchen, mad at jelly, just mad.
And then, I noticed a verse I had taped onto the fridge, written in beautiful calligraphy:
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV
The phrase, “this is God’s will for you” wouldn’t leave me alone.
His will for me then included days full of messes, all waiting for me to clean them up.
His will included a jelly-coated kitchen some days, and jelly-filled hands to clean.
His will included loving and serving three little people, much of which would be done from the ground, on bended knees.
His will for me also included giving thanks, even in never-ending, sticky-mess moments.
It’s easy to thank God when life feels good, when the house is tidy and the days go as planned. But thank God in the middle of the mess? I didn’t even know how. I hated messes.
I decided right then, to try, even though I didn’t really feel it. So I thanked God for the day He made, for the home we lived in, for three little people with small, sticky hands.
The more I thanked God, for both big and small things, the less I complained. And the more I enjoyed being a Mom.
I have to admit, I sometimes fall back into a spirit of complaint. But whenever I realize this and confess it to God, He is faithful to change my spirit, from being full of complaints to repeatedly giving thanks.
When we practice giving thanks in all kinds of circumstances, He fills our hearts with peace and makes us light with joy.
Do you need to confess a complaining spirit today? Will you begin to make a habit of thanking God in every situation?
Thank you Lord, for changes in perspective, for the ability to offer You thanks, even in jelly-smeared kitchens.
In Part 1, When Life Gets Hard, we saw the life’s wreckage from a different vantage point. But, it is one thing to see something from a different perspective and quite another to live changed. So, how do we live out the truth that we are being remade, renewed and recharged? We go to the Word of God, the Word that is sharper than a 2-edged sword. Let’s take a look at 10 bible verses for hard times to understand what the Lord wants you to believe as you are being transformed.
10 BIBLE VERSES FOR HARD TIMES:
1. We can look to the world to fill our needs – but only God completely fills. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” Phil 4:1
2. We may tend to forget things, but God never forgets anything – especially you. “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Psalm 31:8
3. Need Help? God has sent the Spirit, the ultimate Helper. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” John 14:6
4. The word “Provider” is defined in the Name of God. “They all wait for You To give them their food in due season. You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good.” Psalm 104:27-28
5. God is the ultimate Comfort in a time of need. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
6. The world can tremble, but God still remains sturdy. He is our strength. “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn…” Is. 54:17
7. God is our hope in what seems like a hopeless world. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
8. God will give you a future and an eternal home; this has already been secured. “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” Ps. 16:5
9. When you feel troubled, God will help you a time of trouble. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
10. God offers wisdom, when you have none. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)
These 10 Bible Verses for Hard Times illustrate that God stands ready to help us. Even though life may seem like it is crashing before us – God has a plan in the midst of the chaos.
When all else is stripped away – when life breaks down to it’s very core – we see the making of our vehicles. We see our maker. We see the foundation. We see God. We see what is important. We see what is valuable. We see Christ’s power on the cross.
So, fear not. Fear not! Keep your eyes on Him.
Fall into his arms. Rest in Him. Let him helicopter you out of your personal crash site so that you can view all the little pieces with fresh eyes.
What you will see is beauty. What you will see is that all the little pieces – broken pieces – are just his way of putting you back together as a new creation. A new you that is being transformed into his image (2 Cor. 3:18). A new you that lifts others to new heights in their time of need. A new you that sees your life from a new perspective.
Renewal is not always in our timing. God sanctifies us according to his timeline – his perfect timeline.
From personal experience, I can assure you – God is the master mess cleaner. He leaves us sparkling with a new spirit, a new spring in our step a new passion in life. He gives us more than we ever had. I have seen this happen and I know it to be true. God will be faithful in creating a new “you”!
Know, God will not abandon you in the midst of your collision. He will take care of you. I promise and more importantly – He promises! He not only promises, but he delivers! Cling onto these 10 Bible Verses for Hard Times.
God doesn’t answer based on what we want, he answers based on what we need.
We may think we need peace and he says no, you need trials. We may think we need joy – he says perseverance. We may think blessings – he says endurance. We may think money – he says contentment. We may think appreciation – he says love.
I was on the hunt for “encouragement”…
After my “big rejection”, an amazing friend who is wise beyond her years, strong in the Lord and faithful to his call, sent me this verse:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
I think she wanted to encourage me in my race, to help me with endurance, but what God revealed was something far deeper and even more convicting. Let me explain…
I love a good race. I love competing and I love pushing through my personal barriers physically and mentally. I get the idea of running a race for the Lord. Why?
I feel ready to give it all. I feel ready to explode off the starting line and to push no matter what my body feels. I want to arrive at the gate of heaven and fall in front of my King with a fast beating heart, with sweat on my brow. I want to fall before him out of breath, knowing I gave it all. I don’t want to have an ounce of push left.
I want this so badly. But still, I get caught looking at the sidelines. I look at the crowds of people telling me to follow them, I look at my own inadequacies and I pump my arms with pride.
God knows this. He sees this. And, as any fine coach would do – to make me the best runner for his kingdom – he trains me. He pushes me. He sends me through hard training days; days with some pain – some trials. These trials serve to mold me into a champion runner for his kingdom. They strip me of my own ways and the world’s ways – to make me more like him, the ultimate champion.
Even so, sometimes I wonder, despite all this, why I still slow down?
And, this was why Hebrews 12:1 was so powerful. It was this part…“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”
God bugged me with this verse to see that: I can’t run loaded with weight. I have a part in this race.
Sin weight slows me down. It trips me up. It keeps me from Him.
And, when sin is strapped on, its burden is heavy. It’s consuming. It stops us in our tracks. It distracts us and trips us up. We can try to pretend it is not there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t.
God is faithful to keep bugging us to address it. When we do, we grow. If we don’t, we fall.
I may have been trying to run a “victory”, but sometimes a “failure or a disappointment” ends up being the greatest “victory”. Why? Because as we fail, we can see our own faults and we hear him whispering, “Confess.”
I didn’t want trials. I didn’t want pain. I didn’t want rejection. I didn’t want humiliation.
God said, “It’s not about you. Confess.”
I confess Lord, I have sinned. I want all of you. I can’t mentally pursue the race you have set before me when my mind is weighed down by my own desires and my own sin.
It is easy to want joy, peace, contentment and blessings. It is easy to want encouragement and motivation, but God is operating from the throne of all knowledge, all power and all sovereignty. In his seat, he sees yesterday, today and tomorrow. He knows precisely what we need to finish our race. He knows precisely what will hold us back from finishing.
He wants us to be champions. He wants us to run with speed and power and strength.
He wants us to finish strong and joyful.
We are more than just conquerors in Christ Jesus.
What baggage holds you back? What do you need to confess? What trials might God be using to train you?
When we confess, God has a greater gift in store. The gift of speed and endurance that helps us run our race unencumbered.
I try to so hard to “do good”. I try so hard to keep everyone happy. I try so hard to keep things in order, to make others feel good, to do things the right way, to be all that I can be – and to be who others want to see.
I try and I try and I try. But, I fail and I fail and I fail. It can be tiring. It leaves me worn, discouraged and wishing I could be better than – me.
Even worse, I notice that in my pursuit of perfection, I tend to hurt others. I don’t want to do this. But, I do.
It is a common day, when simple words of feedback, turn into living giants of criticism. They come and tower over me with pointed fingers, telling me that I am not “good enough”, “talented enough” or “wise enough” to handle life. They push me to strive harder and reinforce the idea that I am failing.
Why do we let these giants hold so much power?
When we seek to set our own worth, we fail. Because only One defines worth.
Any worth found outside of Him is worthless.
God writes the definition of who we are – and why we are.
I may seek worth in bills paid, things in order and a happy family, but God gives us his worth. We are worthy because we are his children, loved and fully accepted.
God has a greater glory is greater than our manufactured version. His glory surpasses expectations. It exceeds our wildest dreams. It is bigger than you or me. But, we miss seeing it when our mind is focused on our perfect ways.
His glory unfolds in the midst of weakness. In the place of imperfection. In the land of mess.
God is greater than our perfect. He shows up in our faults. He is present in our weaknesses.
This is where beauty is unveiled; and I want to see it. Christ makes my imperfect – perfect. Perfect in Him, as I trust Him.
I want this better way. Let’s remind ourselves of God’s truth as we move towards him with authentic, open and receiving hearts. He will be faithful to touch us in just the right way.
Bible Verses for Perfectionists:
1. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32)
His strength is power.
2. “Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14)
We are being made holy. We are a work in process.
3. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)
He is greater than any barrier that stands in front of us.
4. Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 103:8)
His mercy does not end for us because he loves us.
5. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God… (Eph. 2:8)
Grace is always ours, even when we fail.
6. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:14)
He made us beautifully. We can believe this.
7. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
He holds us and loves us; his hand won’t let go of us – ever!
8. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
His ways are easy, when we truly are in them.
9. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
We are not perfect. He is.
10. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
Let us be weak, because we can then be strong in Him.
God doesn’t view our weaknesses as obstacles to closeness with him; he sees them as opportunities for growth as he loves us.
This random Saturday morning, I had no idea that being stuck in NYC traffic was going to teach me a life-changing lesson on how to take charge of your expectations…
When my son laid eyes on just about the biggest big rig ever seen, his eyes light up as bright as a kid on Christmas morning.
“Roll the window down!” he yelled.
With utter urgency, his little fist started pumping – up and down, up and down. This would have been really cute, except for the fact that I was contending with New York City stop-and-go traffic.
Getting directly next to this truck was going to be a feat in itself. With 2 kids sitting in the backseat on the verge of tears and on the brink of disaster, I knew what I had to do.
“Super Mommy” needed to come to the rescue – in a big way!
Nothing would stop me from making my little boy’s dreams come true.
Finally, after much breaking and accelerating, I got my son in perfect hand thrusting position! Yes!
The driver was delighted. Mikey was delighted. I was delighted. Everyone was happy. We all shared a moment of fun as the truck let out a massive “honk!”. Victory! Happiness! Joy! The truck driver and I threw out some quick pleasantries, a couple of laughs and then he kept on truckin’.
Meanwhile, on one of the busiest freeways of NYC, I was guilty of the unthinkable! I let two cars slip into line in front of me. I inadvertently left open the tiniest of gaps on a freeway where most people don’t give you an inch. And, in true New York fashion, these opportunist drivers took advantage of my gap.
Our final moments of celebration were cut short when the SUV behind us pulled his car right next to ours. With a red face and a quickly moving mouth, he signaled me to roll down my window.
Anxiety welled up in me. I knew what was coming. Afraid, I rolled down my window down.
His anger was palpable, “What is wrong with you? You let two cars get in front of you! What are you doing? Pay attention lady!”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Some way, some how, God gave me peace as I responded to this man. He needed peace. So peace I gave him, not as the world gives.
I felt for him.
In his own attempt to get ahead, to be effective and efficient, he turned into a mad man. The irony of the situation is that, after he yelled at me, he cut up the line and gained a significant head, but as traffic freed, much to my discomfort, we still ended up side by side further down the road. All his maneuvering made no difference in his ultimate progress.
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
In his quest to rush, to get ahead and to power through, he got nowhere. His impatience didn’t propel him forward; it landed him right where he would have been if he had kept his cool.
How often are we like this man? How often do we have expectations that rule us?
Expectations Can Drive Us Mad
You may be thinking, I would never be like “that”! But, I find I’m guilty of being a “mad woman” too. I often take measures into my own hands to get things “accomplished”. I rush to get to my “destination”, only to get frustrated when others hold me back. I “speed” to the least populated checkout lines at the store and become agitated when the cashier is the “slow” one. I rush through bedtime stories with my son, in order to arrive at my “chill time”.
Unsaid expectations can rule me. I think, “How dare “that person” mess up “my plans”, get in “my way” or “hold me” back?”
These expectations leave me sad, upset and irritated when things don’t go my way.
Are expectations just demands wrapped in a bow to cover their ugliness? Is God even present in these demands? Or, is he just the one we feel upset at when we don’t get our way?
How To Take Charge of your Expectations
God doesn’t give us what we want. He doesn’t answer us. He doesn’t hear us. And, others hinder our success. They block our lane. They get us “stuck”.
With all this focus on our personal progress, we miss big opportunities. The opportunity to love. The opportunity to serve. The opportunity to encourage. The opportunity to witness, to see God’s glory and to understand truth. Why? Because our one-track mind speeds to our destination of choice – and the needs of others become the red lights that stop us.
What are your destinations? Maybe it’s education, maybe it’s a ministry, maybe it’s getting your kids into the best schools, maybe its your comfort, maybe its saving money, maybe it’s climbing the professional ladder, looking great for a playgroup, decorating your house, taking care of your yard, buying that house or (fill in the blank).
Are you missing the journey, the glory, and the people who need you?
Let’s not drive in vain. Let’s slow down and see the scenery that God has set before us. Let’s take a minute to look around,
soak it in and delight in the glory the Lord is displaying.
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
The truth is God hasn’t – and won’t – forget about us. He knows our dreams, our hopes and our wishes. He knows what we hope for. He knows us. We don’t need to rev up our cars and fill up our tanks in vain – he has an unlimited supply of gas for us, when we trust him. He will get us where we want to go- in his timing. Do you trust Him?
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
When we let go of our need for speed, we will be freed- freed to love, freed to experience peace and freed to see Him work.
God has something special prepared for us in the midst of our “traffic”. If you feel like you are stuck and you don’t know how to take charge of your expectations – the answer is that you don’t take charge. Instead, you let go of your will and surrender to His.
He will take care of you. He sees you. He has big plans for you – for his glory.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
Release your expectations into His Hands. To Take Charge of Your Expectations – you let him take charge.
You will be amazed at what He does.
“Look at her. She has it all. It must have been easy for her. She doesn’t have the same barriers that I have. I could do that too if I had the financial resources that she has, the support she has, the backing, the connections. She is confident. Nothing can take her down. I want to be like her, but I will never be as good, as insightful or as knowledgeable. I can’t. I will never do “BIG” things. She’s the whole package. I may as well give up.”
Comparing is wearing. It’s tiring. It’s frustrating. It brings us down and settles us in a place of insecurity. When “comparing” is our companion, we are only as secure as the depth of another’s weakness.
How sad is that? Our strength balances on our assessment of another’s faults, lack of material items or “less than” appearance.
“COMPARING” STANDS AND TAUNTS: “I think I am prettier. I am smarter. I am happier.”
“My car is better. My house is better. My family is better”
” I am less than you. I am nothing.”
“You are better than me. I may as well give up.”
“You are respected. I feel dejected.”
“You are so put together. I am ready to fall apart.”
“You are so rich. Why can’t I have more?”
“Your clothes are perfect. Mine are outdated.”
“You have a neat house. I interact with my kids more.”
“You have kids that show you love. I have a neater house.”
“You may know so much about God. I think I love others more.”
“You love others. I know more about the Bible & God.”
“You serve. My faith is stronger.”
“You do so much. God loves me less”
“You are so “insert judgment here”, I am so “insert feel good response here”. “You are so “insert praise here”, I am so “insert a “less than” comment here”.
Aren’t we made for more than this?
Comparing takes us on the up and down roller coaster ride – called “judgment”.
And, it drops us off feeling inflated or deflated.
3 WAYS COMPARING IS BAD FOR US:
1. OTHERS BECOME THE BAROMETER OF OUR WORTH.
We feel unvaluable. So, we either look to others to confirm our worst suspicions or we look to put others down to lift ourselves up. Either way, others hold the power to sink us or to let us swim.
We win or lose. There is no middle ground. We are either better than or less than. No matter, we always stand ready to fall. Our position is constantly threatened – there is always someone who is better, who has more or who is more talented.
“In all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.” (2 Cor. 10:12 Msg)
2. WE MISS “LOVE”.
Notice the theme of comparing? It is all about “US”! What if the person we are so quick to judge, has a life that is stuck in the sludge? What if they need encouragement, love and help? What if they feel worse than you?
When we compare, we have eyes that only see our own pain. We were created to love others. We completely miss the point of this when our greatest pursuit is seeking our own worth.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16) Let’s make it about His story, not our glory.
3. WE MISS GOD’S GLORY IN OUR WEAKNESS.
You may be asking yourself, “Why is this bad? It is good to rely on yourself. At least then you are in control.”
When we rely on ourselves, we miss the chance to see God as he fills up our weak areas. We miss his glory as he works out his story. We miss the opportunity to learn about ourselves – as we trust Him. We miss the opportunity to see how he wants us to grow in love. We miss so much.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10 NIV)
We now have a great understanding of the 3 ways comparing is bad and damaging for us. Be encouraged, in Part III we will look at the 3 Ways you Can Overcome “Compare” to Find Repair.
God is a God of grace, love and forgiveness. We have all fallen into comparing at some time or another; he loves you and has a plan to help you change. Comparing is bad, but God is good. He has great plans to help you.
Wake up. Drink coffee. Spend 5 minutes with God. Rush to get ready. Handle day’s work or home activities. Drive. Pay bills. Have some difficult conversations. Think about lunch. Think about life. Think about money. Dinner. TV. Think about health. Think about the future. Brush teeth. Think about family. Think about worries. Think about fears. Sleep. Wake up. Repeat.
It is no wonder that we don’t feel “lasting peace”. Life feels like a rat race that never ends. And, our minds are like a gerbil that goes round and round and round in a wheel that is constantly spinning.
Day after day, we hurry hoping that something changes. Hoping that maybe we will get enough, buy enough or eat enough, to make ourselves feel enough. But, no matter how much we consume, life never seems to satisfy.
Isn’t there more than this frustrating cycle? Didn’t God intend for us to have lasting peace, more joy and more purpose?
The answer is yes. He has so much more for us than worried rushed peace-less living.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)
If we really want lasting peace, we are wise to think about what we are thinking about.
Our thought processes determine our feelings and our actions. If we are worrying, fearing and consumed with things of this world, we will feel fearful. We will lack lasting peace. If we are focused on God’s truth, what is noble, what is right by his eyes, things that are pure and lovely and admirable, we will embrace lasting peace. We will live lasting peace.
It is no wonder that God tells us how to think and then he follows it up with “…practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9)
God calls on us to be obedient in our thoughts. Not perfect, but obedient. When we focus on what he values, he blesses us with himself and his presence. We don’t need to reach for some new thing to fill us with peace or contentment. We need only to reach up to him. God comes as the answer in our quest for lasting peace. His requirement? That we trust him at his word. That we focus our minds. That we think and dwell on things that are uplifting and true.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
When we obey, we have a chance to witness God’s faithfulness. He will come and grant us lasting peace in our hearts. He will make himself at home within our mind because we have prepared it as holy ground for Him to reside. As a result, we will find a place of safety, a place of refuge, a place of escape – as we sit in his presence.
He will refresh us in him. This is true and lasting peace.
God is the ultimate peacemaker. This is who He is.
When the rat race has you running on empty, welcome him into your mind and let him fill you with his peace – that transcends all understanding.