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A Prayer for the Discouraged

prayer for the discouraged

A Prayer for the Discouraged

Are you a “glass is half-empty” or a “glass is half-full” kind of person? I often tease that my glass hardly ever has ANYTHING in it. Truly I am melancholy to the core. My serious nature is so acute that recently a stranger walked over to me, thinking I was discouraged, laid hands on me, and prayed against my demeanor in a heavenly language I did not understand. I welcomed the gesture because, with my pensive disposition, downheartedness shows up regularly.

Before my feet hit the ground in the morning, my thoughts bring me all sorts of negativity. Often, my mind swings open the door and rolls out the red carpet, welcoming all my past failings, current inabilities, and possibilities that will surely never materialize so that my glass of hope is turned upside down without hardly a drop remaining.

Other times, my discouragement springs from realities, just like yours. You and I can be bombarded with problems we can’t solve and relationships that will not heal. Some disappointments throw us back sixteen steps after we have only taken two forward.

Recently we visited with a pastor and his wife who are planting a new church in an unchurched area. Starting from nothing is challenging by itself, but all progress in the last couple of years has been lost due to a host of issues they cannot control. It feels like, in many ways, they are starting over. Again.

So often, discouragement can reign in our lives. But what I have learned (and continue to experience) is how very faithful God is to bring me out of those times, teaching me what to do when discouragement seeks to prevail.

Insights from a Discouraged Follower

The Psalms are replete with help for almost every human situation or emotion. When it comes to what ails my heart and mind, Psalm 42 meets me in my need.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

11Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:6-11

The Battle Against Discouragement

The author is distressed. He may be melancholy in personality, but he offers strong reasons he is in the dumps. Something bad has happened. Maybe a series of badness has found its way into his present. He feels as if God has gone silent and nearly vanished, and people are chiding him for it.

This writer does something in his torment you and I should do. He stops listening to himself and begins talking to himself.

Things are bad. He, too, has almost lost every drop of hope he possesses. But instead of listening to his own destructive thoughts, replaying memories of failures, unsuccessful attempts, previous defeats, and a host of inabilities, he stops the noise by talking to himself in truth.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:6-11

Winning the Battle Against Discouragement

When it comes to winning the battle against discouragement, preaching Truth to ourselves is our best offensive weapon. This is exactly what we observe from the Psalmist.

Why are you in the dumps? Don’t do that. It’s not going to help. HOPE IN GOD. I know you don’t feel like praising God — but you will. God will deliver you and give you the hope you need to rejoice, again.

Martin Lloyd-Jones, a renowned preacher of the 20th century wrote an entire book on this one Psalm called Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cures, (Find it through the link provided. I highly recommend it.) He writes:

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope in God,’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man, ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.

This soul is not out of the woods, yet. But he is making a way–believing God by preaching to himself what he is not currently experiencing and is struggling to believe is true. That, my friend, is the glorious help found in the trenches of Psalm 42.

To give you support in your battle against discouragement, allow me to pray this prayer over you.

A Prayer When You are Discouraged

prayer for the discouragedLord,

Time after time, You have shown yourself faithful. You are gracious in giving your Word through the Bible and through other godly people who rely on the Bible to guide us to wholeness. I am asking that you be true to Your character, doing this great work in the life of my friend, today.

I do not know what burdens she bears, but I ask that you help her become aware of her own tendencies. Help her to stop listening to the negativity, the bad news, and the destructive thoughts that ruminate through her mind. Equip her with truth so that she can defy herself, her environment, and the devil, himself, preaching the glorious realities of Who you are to her inner being until she can yet praise You, again.

In the glorious and unmatched name of Jesus.

Amen

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How to Know When to Quit

when to quit

How to Know When to Quit

What if the answer you have long awaited is No? How do you know when to quit? This happened to a stranger I met on an airplane once. She and I had attended the same conference in which the final speaker had posed the question, “What is God saying to you in your ministry right now?” The options were “Yes, No, and Not Now.”

It’s the kind of question you ponder with prayer along with seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. I even want confirmation from the Word of God for discerning how He might be directing. For me, that season was a go, but the person in the seat next to me received a distinct No. She was flying home in that revelation, unsure what to do with it all.

I loved this woman immediately because it’s not every day you encounter someone so attuned to the voice of God over their life that they pay hundreds of dollars to run in the direction of the hope-filled “yes” only to receive a “no” and truly receive it. She knew it was a No as deeply as I knew mine to be a Yes. And she accepted it–willing and ready to move on with it as God’s will for her life.

Sometimes you know the answer to your dilemma is No. The answer lines up with everything else God is showing you and He leads you in a different direction. The door is closed.

Other times you and I can receive a Yes as strongly as my airplane buddy received her no, and experience doors slamming shut in every direction. Even the windows close off the daylight. And it feels as if you got it all wrong. All you want to do is quit.

But should you?

I have been on this particular roller coaster ride more than once. My work in ministry is often a lonely and discouraging pursuit without a paycheck. (You read that correctly. All the money received goes directly into the ministry account, from speaking events to book sales, to digital downloads. You name it. It does not belong to me.) And the last couple of years brought closed doors, boarded up windows, and arrived at the end of a lonely, desolate road. I received no’s when I hoped for yes’s. And I began to ask myself if it’s time to quit.

How do you know when to quit?

I have learned my decision about when to quit cannot be based on my feelings.

Neither can it be determined by my success thus far.

Pray

Instead, I take my rejected self to the Lord. The first thing I do is pray. I lay the whole situation out and remind Him of the instruction I believed He gave. Not in an accusatory manner, but like Jacob, who reminds God of the promise to bring him back to the promised land and be with him now that 400 men are coming against him and the situation looks dire (Genesis 32:9-12). Then I ask Him to speak–to reveal Himself and what He wants for my life because my reality is fighting to take over my faith in what I cannot see.

Did I mishear Him? Have I been mistaken this whole time — running after something that was always a No, too blind and unwilling to receive it. Did I go too slowly having missed my opportunity? Maybe I didn’t pray right or take the correct steps in the process? It’s ugly–but for the battle to be won, I lay it out bare.

Wait

Secondly, I wait. 

Seek

And in the waiting, I seek. More often than not, it is through this seeking that the answer comes. Not through a person or strikes of lightning, but the unchanging, timeless Word of God.

I was so afraid I had missed my Yes. That I blew it — that somehow I didn’t work fast enough, pray hard enough, seek out the right people–enough, have enough good ideas, or that I just waiting too long to move out so that He gave my work to someone else.

So I did what I am encouraging you to do. I waiting. I continued to seek His face to know if the no’s, the closed doors, the barred windows, and all the discouragement was the culmination of helping me see that it is time to quit — or not.

Shortly into the waiting, I read 1 Samuel 15:29. It was just where I was in my Bible. I didn’t go looking for it. But it arrived, perfectly preserved for my need when I needed it.

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.

There is was. The underlying fear God was not afraid to address. Just because it hasn’t worked out as I planned and the end results are not all gumdrops and candy canes doesn’t mean His Yes was really a No, or that my best efforts were not good enough. He’ll pass and pick another.

All of the no’s and try again’s–setbacks and derailments mean nothing as long as His Yes still stands.

Friend, if God has given you a Yes about something in your life that looks and feels as if the smartest thing to do is quit–

DON’T DO IT!

At least, not until you work through the process.

Pray

Wait

Seek

when to quit

Your God is not in the business of keeping you in confusion, doubt, and failure. If the answer is No — embrace what lies ahead like my airplane buddy who went on toward fruitful ministry in the years that followed. But if the answer is Yes — in the midst of No’s and roadblocks, let Him confirm His faithfulness to you through His Word. Ether way, Believe His Word to you today. And keep making spiritual progress.

For His Glory,

 

 

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When God Stands in the Back

When God Stands in the Back

when God stands in the back

Welcome to the blog. I’m so glad you are here. I recently released a podcast on this same topic and it really spoke to my mom. As we are nearing Mother’s Day and we are separated in all of this Sheltering in Place COVID-19 business, as a Shout-Out to her, I wanted to make it available here, for you. Sometimes we all feel like God is standing in the back.

When God Stands in the Back

Think of the type of person who sits on the back row in a lecture, a seminar, or even church. Are they your goody-two-shoes? Your question-askers? Do they try to stay hidden, hanging with their friends, or are they cutting up under the radar? If you have been in at least one class or seminar where you can select your seat, the lines are clearly drawn. That back wall is being held up by a group of comedians waiting for the right moment to unleash their sarcastic and timely gems on the ears available.

Before you become concerned I’m going to get myself into trouble, I married a guy on the back row. A natural cut-up. Oh, he’s funny. A brilliant snarky sarcastic and handsome galoot, he is. That man could read a book and ruin the curve in between distracting commentary every time. In fact, today, we have two separate offices at home or I would never get anything done.

The problem with my perception (and maybe yours) of someone sitting in the back is that I naturally feel as if they really don’t want to be present; and that they will likely not be paying attention. Whether I realize it or not, those perceptions carry over into my understanding of God and His work in my life. I’m just wondering if it is happening in your life, too.

Feelings Transferred

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place that feels very absent of the presence of God. It can feel as if He is standing at the back of the room (so to speak) or sitting on the back row,  and I transfer all of my perceptions and preconceived ideas into my theology. Before I know it, a felt absence of the presence of God —  will not help me find the courage to step out in faith or keep going. I will not receive the comfort needed to get through the next difficulty or hurdle. And I will not possess the confidence to believe what is unbelievable in regular circumstances.

There is an instance I want to bring to light today where God momentarily is not in the front leading. He is not hovering over and above heralding messages. He is not whispering direction or calling out to His own, nor is He working a miracle or showing Himself in any other way. Instead, he has removed Himself from those places and, in essence, is standing in the back ON PURPOSE.

There are times when that feeling that God is not present isn’t due to his lack of participation in your life, but a result of His positioning.

God’s Positioning

Charles Spurgeon assures us in this:

“The presence of God (in our lives) is not to be measured by the realization of it.”

Consider Moses and the Israelites as they have just escaped Egypt. As they are moving out, we are told they went the long way with the Angel of the Lord going before them.

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22

For the first time, these people experienced the presence of God in their midst. The God of the universe was leading them, going out before them. They could see the cloud and the fire. Sweet sleep.  No worries. So much so these slaves left boldly equipped for battle. Confident.

But in a fat minute –Pharaoh and his cronies had second thoughts about losing their free labor and began moving in on the fugitives. The people quickly lost confidence and begin to cry out to the LORD. Then they became a little testy with Moses out of their fear saying things like – “What?! Were there not enough graves in Egypt? Didn’t we tell you it was better for us to stay there?

Moses tells them not to be afraid but to stand still and wait for the Lord, assuring them that God will fight for them.

Response Time

In response, God says to Moses, “What are you standing around waiting on Me for, go forward” even though there is no “forward” place by which to advance. They are kind of on the edge of disaster. Moses is instructed to stretch out his staff over the water so the people will be able to walk across it and God informs Moses what He’s about to do to the bad guys. In these short verses, God has announced His plans and given the people instructions in how to move ahead.

This next part where you and I often begin to drift.

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. Exodus 14:19-20

There are 4 things you and I should remember when God stands in the back that can stir our faith.

When God Stands in the Back, Remember God Moves

This is the most disconcerting of all the realities for me. God moves. And He doesn’t need permission or understanding. He doesn’t even need to make an announcement. Not that we don’t know this reality, but we generally like Him to act like the song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”

I expect Him to be in the front, ahead, leading, lighting the way, keeping us on the path until I get to the finish line, victoriously and without sweating too much or having much difficulty.

I recently saw a meme of this same concept,“Jesus, Take the wheel” but instead of taking hold of the steering wheel, Jesus made off with the back left TIRE, making the car undrivable. The caption read, “Don’t take THAT wheel, Jesus!

That’s kind of how life can feel at times. In fact, I connected with a friend a couple of weeks ago only to find this past year had been the worst year of her life. It seemed as if Jesus had taken all of her wheels AND the spare.

This is a very sobering and Biblical principle. There are times when God moves. HE DOES NOT LEAVE, but He moves, causing us to feel a loss of His presence, a hopelessness which ushers in a struggle to believe. Unlikely as it may seem, this movement creates a perfect environment for faith to grow. Terribly uncomfortable, this movement often occurs in the midst of a dark, gloomy, space–much like a pandemic.

When God Stands in the Back, Remember, God Moves for all the Right Reasons

It can happen. God can move. And it can happen for all the right reasons. God moving to the back in this situation is not a result of your sin or my sin. It’s not because you are underperforming, Sister. Get that one straight. God Moves for all the Right Reasons. You and I need to know this.

The loss you feel,

The emptiness–like He is not there

This sense that He cares about other people MORE than you —

That if you were just different – then things would work out for you, too.

No.

Not so.

Then why in thunderation does He ask us to do difficult things and then disappear?

Why does He call us to endeavors that are flooded with impasses?

What is the point in making us jump through hoops to no avail? Or so it seems?

When is tragic loss ever a good idea?

Probably the most profound sentences I read this week reminded of the answer to these typical questions:

Solomon spake many proverbs, and wrote many songs; but none of them attained the glory of that saying, –“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.Here was a triumph of faith! Beloved, you and I lose the enjoyments of religion and the comforts of hope in order that we may walk by faith and not by sight and may the more greatly glorify God.” C. Spurgeon

In other words, we can get to a hopeless place, feeling like, “what’s the point?” “losing all enjoyments of religion” by God’s design for the purpose of strengthening our faith, NOT TO DESTROY IT. It is not His intention for us to crash, burn, blaze and turn away, but that our faith be kindled, stirred, to a red hot boil in way that it could not have glorified God before.

When God Stands in the Back, He is Not Distracted but Planted

When God does move from leading to the back, He is not distracted. He is completely 110% paying attention to you. He is not twitchy or distant but unreservedly planted. We know this from the language where the Bible shows us that when the Angel moved, he “stood.” His feet were firmly planted for your good. He’s not floating around willy-nilly half-listening, waiting for something interesting to do. He is not playing a GameBoy until the trouble passes, but securely standing in between you and whatever is coming against you out to harm, destroy, or thwart His plans for your life. When you cannot feel His presence it is so easy to reject this truth. Remember, You are a big deal to Him.

When God Stands in the Back, He is Doing Double-Duty

We find God actually busy working in this passage, doing two things at once from this position. Before, He was leading. But presently, He is both a cloud and a fire. He has become a barrier between what needs to be fought against to keep the badness away from his children that has no permission to come near –putting a hedge of protection around as well as a source of light in the darkness.

It doesn’t take much light to make a difference in a dark place. Our problem is that we get so discouraged, so tired, so buried in our pain and suffering wondering, “Why, if this is T The Way, are having to endure this yuckiness,” that we miss the light placed for us in the darkness.

Guilty as charged. That’s me.

What shall we do? Look for it, my friend. Trust it’s going to be there. It may be small, like a night light. Just remember. Your God is pulling double duty when you cannot feel His presence. He has positioned Himself in the rear, to stand in the back because:

It is for your protection-

For your strengthening –

And for your good.

He is not gone. He has just moved to cover your back.

When God Stands in the Back, Keep Moving

When God stands in the back, He means for you to keep moving out. No. There was no visible path ahead when we left Moses and the Israelites at the edge of disaster. They had been given instructions and were told to move forward.  Nothing changed just because God moved. This is where faith is strengthened.

Friend, are you staring at the edge of the water NOT doing what you thought He called you to do because I don’t know– a million different reasons for how it’s not working out? And it feels like its’ just stupid and He’s not here?

Could it be your God has been here all along?

Your God is still present. He means for you to go on with what He’s told you to do.

Oh, how I pray His Word speaks over you today. I pray the Lord moves you to a deeper faith, to believe Him more, and to go and do what He’s called you to go and do in the midst of impossibilities, pandemics, and disappointments. I pray the same for myself.

May these verses rush over us and leave us different in the coming days with a greater understanding and a stronger faith.

For His Glory,

 

 

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When God Stands in the Back

When God Stands in the Back

Podcast #802

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Hey there! You have found the Stirring Faith Podcast — When God Stands in the Back

Today’s broadcast focuses on those times when it feels like the presence of God has gone missing. It’s as if He has moved to a seat in the back of the room. He is not leading but just stands there. I pray you find some clarity and hope here.

We have recently moved over from being identified as THE SHE YEARNS PODCAST to STIRRING FAITH WITH CHERI STRANGE. But don’t worry. If you are a current subscriber, you will not need to do anything. You should automatically be updated with the changes.  We are so glad you are here to share it with us.

For your reassurance, Stirring Faith contains the same type of quality content and messaging you found in the previous seasons with the She Yearns Podcast. We simply felt we needed clearer packaging to help people locate the podcast and recognize who it was for and what it was about. Thank you for listening and being a part of the community!

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Besides Experiencing a Burning Bush— Your God is For Me is one of my favorite recent episodes. You can find it here if you are interested.

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