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Archive | Unshakeable Faith

5 Ways God Uses Trials in a Christian’s Life

trialsDoes God care about the trials you endure in this life? Absolutely! God sees every detail of your life. He knows your every need and He cares deeply about each one.

However, as much as He cares about your physical needs and condition, He cares even more about your spiritual condition. His first desire and primary purpose is to transform His children into the image of Christ. (See Romans 8:29.) The spiritual and eternal take priority over the physical and temporary. But how does God do the work?

Let’s consider a physical analogy. If we want to strengthen our muscles we must add “stress.” When we lift a heavier load than our muscles have lifted before, a physical process begins to adapt the needed muscles to the new load. Without stress, our muscles are content with their current size and strength. Add stress, and our muscles begin to change to meet the need.

Our spiritual strength and character are similar. The difficulties of life “stress” our faith. Trials give our faith a work out like heavy loads work our muscles. As we faithfully endure, we grow spiritually stronger. Without difficulty, our faith tends to stagnate. Do you want stronger faith? You need stress.

Trials work our faith. Like using our muscles to carry heavier loads make them stronger, the trials of life give our faith a workout. God will use them to grow and develop our faith so we will be spiritually mature, not lacking anything!

Our gracious God never wastes a trial He permits to enter our lives. If we will cooperate, He will use every difficulty, heartache, and hardship for our good and His glory.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4, NIV

 5 Ways God Uses Trials in Our Lives

  1. God uses them to break our independence and foster our dependence on Him.
  2. God uses them to purify our faith and develop our moral character.
  3. God uses them to test, prove, and strengthen our faith in Him.
  4. God uses them to prepare us for His purposes.
  5. God works through them to prove Himself powerful, faithful, and reliable.

God is not finished with you yet. And He is definitely not finished with me. I know more difficulties lie ahead. Honestly, I wish God had chosen to work another way. But I will choose to trust His infinite wisdom and submit to His refining process. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste any trial or difficulty!

In what ways has God used trials and difficulties in your life to refine your faith and character? To make you more like Jesus!?

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Juggling Joy and Pain

joy and painLately, my life has been joyfully full. Full hands. Full heart.

Our oldest daughter had her second son in April. I had the blessing of staying with them almost three weeks to help with the baby and my 4-year-old grandson.

Our second daughter had her first child last week! Little Josiah is 8 days old today. In fact, I am with them now – days are filled with cooking, diapers, rocking, and loving.

Next month our family adds a daughter. Our son is getting married to a wonderful young woman we already love.

Full, happy times. Joyful times.

But life has also been hard recently. Death and grief. Struggle and sadness.

My father-in-law, who lived with us for the last five years, passed away at home on March 1st after weeks of severe health issues, hospital stays, and rehab.

My own parents currently face significant health struggles of their own. Life is changing dramatically for them. Hard, difficult decisions lie ahead.

The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster. Rejoicing one moment, grieving the next. Some days these feelings overlap. Cries of joy mingle with tears of pain.

Joy and pain. Loss and gain.

I’ve wondered what to do with this. How do I handle these contradictions? How do I move with this weird ebb and flow? I want to understand this from God’s point of view.

First, I recognize that everything precious and wonderful in my life comes from God. He is the generous Giver of all good gifts.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17, NIV

Second, I realize that pain is part of life. God does not promise us good times. He never said our lives would be pain free. In fact, His Word tells us we will have trouble in this world. On the night Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples – and us:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

We live in a world broken by sin. Until Jesus returns, illness, death, and evil still impact our lives. We also suffer the consequences of our own sin. Yet even when God does not choose to remove our trials and sufferings, He promises to walk with us through them.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2, NIV

In the joyful times I thankfully acknowledge God’s good gifts and in the painful times I am more keenly aware of God’s gracious, comforting presence. My life must be a constant mingling of gratitude and grasping. Thankful for His gifts and His presence, yet ever reaching for more of Him. Leaning into His strength and grace in the joyful times and the painful times.

Gratitude and grasping. Juggling joy and pain. Hallelujah!

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The Danger of Plenty

PlentyFew of us in America have real need. Yes, I know some do go hungry and some have no roof over their heads. But that is the exception. The vast majority of us have all that we need. In fact, many of us have far more than we need. We have plenty.

And that in itself is a problem. Plenty can bring more serious trouble than need.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses warned the children of Israel about the danger of plenty before they entered the Promised Land:

11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.  Deuteronomy 8:11-14, NLT

After 40 years wandering in the wilderness and depending on God for every bite of food and drink of water, the Israelites were about to settle into a land of abundance. Yes, the wilderness had been a physically difficult place, but this land of plenty would bring unique spiritual dangers. Moses points out four specific dangers in Deuteronomy 8:11-19.

4 Dangers of Plenty

  1. Forgetfulness – When we aren’t forced to depend on God for our daily physical sustenance, we tend to forget Him. We fail to remember that God provides everything, even our ability to work and make money to purchase all the things we have.
  2. Pride – Not only do we forget God’s provision, we begin to think we have done it all ourselves. We become puffed up and prideful in our plenty.
  3. Disobedience – When we have forgotten God and become full of ourselves we begin to do anything and everything we want. We do it our way and give no heed to God’s commands.
  4. Idolatry – Once we have forgotten God, something else will assume His rightful place in our lives. Whether money, job, recreation, another person, or ourselves, we will worship something.

How can we avoid the danger of plenty? Moses tells us that too. In one word, we must “remember.” Remember God’s past provision. Remember God’s equipping for work. Remember God’s rightful place as the one, true God who deserves our worship.

Have you ever fallen prey to plenty? What were the results?

Suggested reading:

“Forsaken God: Remembering the Goodness of God our Culture has Forgotten” by Janet Thompson

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Where is Your Faith?

Where is Your FaithHas your faith in God ever been shaken because He didn’t answer your prayers in a specific way? Have you ever doubted His love for you because you had to endure a painful trial? Many believers have.

Recently, God has been teaching me the same truth in several different ways. He must want to make sure I learn it. Here it is:

My faith must be in God and not in what I hope He will do for me.

Where is your faith?

A couple of years ago, I led a group of ladies through a study called “Live a Praying Life” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It transformed our prayer lives and our understanding of God. In Week Ten, Jennifer explains that many believers become discouraged with prayer because they have a misguided understanding of faith.

Many of us mistakenly think that faith is “believing real hard.” If we believe hard enough then God will do what we want Him to do. Heal our spouse. Save our friend. Provide a job. Then when things don’t turn out like we want our assumption is that God doesn’t care or that God doesn’t answer prayer.

The problem with this thinking is that we’ve put our “faith” in an outcome instead of in our all-knowing, all-powerful God. Jennifer clarifies the issue:

Faith is not knowing how God will bring His will into being; faith is knowing that God will bring His will into being.

Into a fiery furnace

Those three faithful friends – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – demonstrate what it looks like to have faith in God and not an outcome. When the Babylonian authorities ordered these Israelite captives to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue or be thrown in the fiery furnace, they put their faith firmly in God.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will no serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18, NIV

These words grab my heart. They are one of the boldest declarations in all of Scripture:

“Our God is able! But even if He does not…”

We place our faith in God and worship Him because He is God and He is able. Not because He will see fit to handle things the way we, in our limited understanding, think they should be handled.

Living by Faith

The “Hall of Faith” in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, further demonstrates this truth. We learn that some “escaped the edge of the sword” while others were “put to death by the sword.” The common denominator in every life described in Hebrews eleven was not the physical outcome of their situation. No, rather each life memorialized in this well-loved chapter placed unshakeable faith in God. However He chose to use their life to further His kingdom, their faith remained solid and safe in the Person of God.

What does this mean for you and me? We can stand firmly on the truth that God will carry out His purposes. They will not be thwarted. The temporary physical circumstances may not be what we would choose, but we can know that God is working. We can peacefully rest in His loving, protective arms and trust His outcome.

Have you ever found yourself putting your faith in an outcome rather than God? Share a time that you were discouraged because your prayers were not answered in the way you thought they should have been.


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Do you Trust Your Emotions or God’s Truth?

Emotions or truthGod tricked me. He made me believe He had fixed things. Then He pulled the rug out from under me. He didn’t see. He didn’t care. He couldn’t – or wouldn’t – intervene.

At least that was the way I felt. 

But, then out of the dark, He whispered. I see you. I care. I am working.

I had to make a choice. Would I trust my feelings or God’s truth? Would I believe my temporary physical circumstances or believe the One who even raises up nations to carry out His purposes?

Eventually, I chose to trust and believe God and His truth. But not before I spent some time wallowing in the lies of my emotions.

What about you? Have your emotions ever lied to you? Difficulties, trials, struggles, and grief can foster emotions that deceive us and lead us away from God’s truth. They tell us things like:

  • God can’t do anything with this.
  • God doesn’t see your struggle.
  • God doesn’t care that you’re hurting.
  • God is too busy to do anything for you.

Any of those things sound familiar? We cannot trust our emotions. Our feelings will mislead us, but God never will. I learned I can choose to stand on God’s truth even when my emotions are trying to drag me under. When the world is shaking around me, I can run to our unshakeable God and stand firm on His truth.

Is your life shaking right now? Choose to stand on God’s truth no matter what your circumstances or your emotions may say. The following truths rebut some of the major lies our feelings tell.

5 Truths to Stand on for an Unshakeable Faith

  1. God Can – Our all-powerful, sovereign God is always in control and always working in every situation. Even when we can’t see Him. (Jeremiah 32:17)
  2. God Sees – God sees and knows about every aspect of our lives and the world condition. (Psalm 139:1-4)
  3. God Cares – God doesn’t simply see your struggles, He cares about every aspect of your life. He knows your needs and He wants to meet them. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  4. God is Present – God is always with His children. He never leaves us. Even when we don’t sense His presence He is there. (Isaiah 43:2)
  5. God is Working – Even when we can’t see Him, God is constantly working out His eternal purposes through events, nations, and powers to accomplish His purposes in the world. And He is constantly working through the circumstances of our lives to bring about His perfect good. (Romans 8:28)

5 truthsLast weekend at a conference, I shared these truths with about 250 women. Even though these truths are clear and simple, they are hard to remember when life starts to shake. So, we connected these five truths to something that’s with us all the time. Then we created a visual to keep and put somewhere we will see it often.

We stood and claimed the five truths, counting them off on each finger of our right hand. Then they traced their hands on a large index card and wrote one truth on each finger. One of the young women turned hers into a work of art! So I asked if I could snap a photo.

Perhaps your life is shaking right now. The world will never provide us with firm footing, but we can stand unshakeable when we choose to stand on God and His truth.

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:4

Which of these 5 truths most speaks to your situation today? Will you choose to trust the LORD, the Rock eternal?


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5 Truths to Remember When it Feels Like God has Left You Hanging

5 truths left hangingThe day was clear and crisp, just perfect for spring skiing. When we arrived at the slope, we purchased our lift tickets, quickly donned our skis, and got in line for the lift. So excited to have a full day of skiing ahead of us.

Four of our group sat together on the quad chair – me, Wayne, our oldest daughter, Kelley, and our friend Connie. About a quarter of the way up the hill the chair lift came to an abrupt halt. That happens fairly often – usually to wait for someone who has fallen getting on or off – so we weren’t concerned. But then minutes ticked by and we remained stopped.

For the next two hours we alternated between long stretches of stillness and brief forward movement. The first time the chair began to move we cheered, but after just a few feet we stopped again. After that, each time we moved we held our collective breaths. But alas, we only moved a short distance.

It was a warm day for April in the Canadian Rockies, but when you’re hanging off the ground in the wind with the weight of your skis and boots pulling on your dangling legs, a chill can set in quickly. The four of us huddled close for warmth and told stories to pass the time.

After about two hours I started eyeing the ground. If I dropped my skis would it be close enough to jump? Then I checked to see how far it was to the closest support tower. Is it possible to shimmy across the cable?

 But just before I made a rash decision to act dangerously, someone shouted at us over a bullhorn. “We’ve been working to get the motor going, but it won’t stay running. We’ll try one more time. If that doesn’t work we will get you down another way.”

Another way? Seriously?! What does that mean? Fork lift? Helicopter? Giant eagle?

 Just as I was taking another look at the ground, we started moving. All four of us were praying. Fifty feet to the end. Forty. Thirty. Twenty. Ten. Now, stand up and put your skis on the ground!

After more than two hours, no feeling remained in our legs but we managed to get out of the chair and move away from the lift. Petite little Kelley was chilled to the bone so Wayne took her to a warming shack to thaw. Connie and I made our way gingerly down the slope to the lodge.

As it turned out, the resort paid for our lunch and refunded our lift passes. After eating and warming up in the lodge, we spent the afternoon skiing for free. (Well, I guess it wasn’t really “free.”)

For the majority of those two hours we felt like the ski resort had simply left us hanging. We didn’t see any activity on our behalf. We saw very little forward progress. But as we learned later, an entire team of mechanics was working frantically to get us down to safety.

Sometimes life feels like that. Sometimes we may feel like God has “left us hanging.” Sometimes we might think He’s not doing anything while we struggle. But Scripture teaches us the truth:

  1. God is never inactive; He is always working (John 5:17).
  2. God knows and cares about every aspect of our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).
  3. God is all-powerful and in control of every situation (Jeremiah 32:17).
  4. God is with us in our trials (Isaiah 43:2).
  5. God is good, loving, and faithful (Psalm 145:17).

When you doubt God is working, when you wonder if He cares about you and your situation, remind yourself of the truth. Even if you can’t see it, He is working. Even if you don’t feel it, He loves you.

Has there ever been a time you felt like God “left you hanging?” In retrospect, how was He working?

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6 Truths to Remember When Life is Hard

6 Things to Remember“Life is hard! Why does God allow His children to suffer?”

If this isn’t the question Christians ask the most, it’s certainly near the top of the list. It may seem that sometimes God answers our prayers for help and sometimes He doesn’t. But, while we humans are overwhelmed by our physical and temporary circumstances, God has the spiritual and eternal in mind. We often live for the short-term while God is constantly working on the long-term.

So, what can we do in the midst of pain, grief, struggles, and difficulty, when God doesn’t seem to be working on our behalf? No matter our physical circumstances, we can – and must – choose to stand firmly on God’s truth. Our emotions will betray us. The wisdom of the world will lead us astray. But the truth of God stands firm forever.

In the middle of a trial or difficulty right now? Reflect on the following six truths from Scripture:

  1. God is all-powerful and in control of every situation (Psalm 77:14; Jeremiah 32:17; Ephesians 1:18-21) – It might not look like it in the moment, but does have the power to change or work in any situation we face. Sometimes though, God chooses to work differently than we want Him to work.
  2. God knows and cares about every aspect of our lives (Matthew 6:25-34; Hebrews 4:15; Philippians 4:19) – Just because God allows something into our lives or doesn’t remove a hardship it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care about our pain. He knows every need. He sees every tear.
  3. God is good, loving, and faithful (Psalm 145:17; 1 John 4:8; Lamentations 3:22-23) – Even when our circumstances are bad, God is still good. In fact, often it’s in the middle of difficulties that we most experience the goodness, love, and faithfulness of God.
  4. We are not alone in our trials; God is always with us (Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 23:4; John 14:16; Matthew 28:20) – God may not remove our struggles, but He will not leave us to face them alone.
  5. God will strengthen and comfort us in the midst of troubles (Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 40:27-31; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 2 Corinthians 1:8-11; Philippians 4:13) – One reason God allows trials into our lives is to teach us to depend on Him. As we lean on Him, He will fill us with His comfort and strength to endure.
  6. God works through difficulties in our lives to accomplish His eternal purposes (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Romans 8:28-29) – As much as God cares about our physical condition, He cares even more about our spiritual condition. He works in and through our trials to refine us spiritually, shape our character, and prepare us for His purposes.

Even these truths don’t answer all our questions about illness, grief, and pain. But even though we can’t fully understand, we can claim these truths and trust God for the rest.

Which of these truths did you most need to hear today? Why?

Other related posts you may find helpful:



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Life Wins

LifeToday a precious friend, a sister really, nears the end of her long physical battle with cancer. She has given God the glory and praised the name of Jesus every step of the way. In small victories and massive setbacks, she has stood firm, unshakeable in her resolve to hold tight to her Savior.

This morning, I sat on the patio praying for her and her family. Asking God to ease her “momentary” groaning and thinking of her home going. The Spirit led me to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians where he shines God’s light on our physical struggles and even on death:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all… For while we are in this tent (earthly body), we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to clothed with our heavenly dwelling (body), so that what is mortal (our dying bodies) may be swallowed up by life.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-17; 5:4

Losing people we love brings us pain. But if they belong to Jesus, their physical death is a victory. God sustained them in their weakness here on earth. But when death claims their mortal bodies, the life of God surrounds them. The moment they leave their earthly body, they are at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Where, O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55

With the confidence that comes from the Word of Truth, we can declare that death has been defeated. Life has won. Hallelujah!

Update: Janet Whitloch Valentine defeated death on Friday, June 26th and is now in her heavenly home.

Related posts:

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6 Steps for Unshakeable Faith When Life is Shaky

Unshakeable FaithI’ve never felt the earth literally shaking beneath my feet, but devastating circumstances have caused my world to rock. What about you? We can build an unshakeable faith on our rock-solid God so when times of trial and difficulty come, we can stand firm.

Scripture tells us that trouble and trials will be a part of our life (John 16:33, James 1:2). But what do we do when they hit? What do we do when we can’t see God actively working in our circumstances?

In Psalm 71, the psalmist cries out to God for help. His troubles were piling up and he couldn’t see God at work. If you have time, read the entire psalm. It’s only 24 verses. Here, I’d like to share six things the psalmist did to stand firm on God’s truth when everything around him was shaking.

  1. Ask – Express your need to God and ask for Him to intervene. “Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 71:4).
  2. Remember – Reflect on the ways God has worked in your life and helped you in the past. “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you” (Psalm 71:5-6a).
  3. Praise – Glorify God for who He is! It will foster trust in your great God. “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long” (Psalm 71:8).
  4. Appeal – Base your request for help on God’s character and faithfulness. “Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness” (Psalm 71:2).
  5. Place – Put your hope and trust in God to work in your circumstances. “But as for me, I will always have hope” (Psalm 71:14a).
  6. Anticipate – Watch for God to work! Anticipate His deliverance! “You will increase my honor and comfort me once again” (Psalm 71:21).

Like the psalmist, even in the midst of his trouble we can stand firm on God and His truth. We may not see Him working, but we can take refuge in our Rock and Fortress (Psalm 71:3).

What storm rages around you today? Cry out to God for help. Praise Him and anticipate His deliverance!


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Worried or Anxious? 3 Tips for Casting Your Cares on God

1 Peter 5:7, worryI woke up this morning feeling worried and anxious, with several things heavy on my heart and mind. When I sat down with my coffee, my Bible, and my journal, I actually made a list because I intended to pray through them. Half a dozen items stared back at me from the page. And none of these things are minor. Barring a miracle, none of them will be resolved in a week, a month, or even this year. Some of them won’t be fixed this side of heaven.

As I stared at this list and began to pray, God brought a verse to my mind:

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

So I found it in my Bible and read it. Okay, sounds good, but sometimes easier said than done. Then I read the verse in it’s larger context (1 Peter 5:5-9) and a couple of the cross-references (Matthew 6:25-34 and Matthew 10:29-31). The truths God showed me this morning helped and encouraged me. Maybe they will help and encourage you too.

1. Contemplate God’s concern for you – God’s care and concern for us is deeper than we can imagine. Because He is omniscience, He knows every small detail of our lives, the tiniest bit of turmoil. In Matthew, Jesus tells us God puts the colorful blooms on the flowers of the fields and keeps track of every sparrow in every tree. If God is that attentive to the flowers and the birds, how much more does He care about you, the one He made in His own image?

2. Get and stay humble – Look at 1 Peter 5:5-6. We can’t pull verse 7 out of its greater context. Just before Peter tells us to “cast our cares on God,” he tells us to “clothe yourselves with humility… humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” So, what does this have to do with casting our cares on God? It’s hard to give God our cares and concerns when we pridefully think we can handle them; when we think we know the best way to work them out. Truly giving our worries to God requires humility so we can trust Him to do what’s best in His time frame.

3. Watch out for Satan – What?! Our enemy does not want us to trust God. He wants us to handle things our own way. He wants us to take our troubles back from God and worry them to death. Don’t do it! Be disciplined against his temptations by standing firm on God’s truth. Cling tightly to your faith in the One who cares and can do something about it!

Well, nothing on my list has been resolved since I began writing this post. But my resolve to trust God with them is stronger. My awareness of His concern and care for me is renewed. I will continue to wait on Him.

Do you believe God cares for you? What do you need to “cast” on Him today?


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