Encouragement from all over (Various Resources)

In the last several days I’ve encountered all sorts of encouragement on the web. I feel like I keep posting the same pastors and writers over and over, but it’s because I really respect them, and they’re biblical, and maybe a little because I live overseas and don’t have easy access to new people. But definitely more the first two.

Lately, I’ve been trying to cultivate the habit of replacing thoughts-of-the-flesh with thoughts-of-the-Spirit (ahem, I’ve also been reading Galatians, if you can’t tell). This means, as a chronic worrier, when the “what ifs” move in and the anxiety starts to mount, instead of letting it build, I try to immediately put something else in my mind (“Whatever is true … think on these things”). For years my first line of combat has been prayer (“God, please stop these thoughts/calm my heart/make me sleep”); then reading or reciting scripture (“At times I am afraid, I trust in You)”. I’ve had to build up my arsenal in these really tough times, though, and one way I’m doing that is to always be reading at least one book of encouragement (though I may be reading a book for fun on the side, because sometimes reading books about suffering, etc. can bring me down, if I’m not in the right place for them). Anyway, it’s really been working, guys. I’ll be lying in bed, starting to worry, and will just get up and read my book until I’ve replaced the thoughts with truth.

Anyway, let me share with you some places I’ve found encouragement lately, and you can take your pick.

1.) Yup, you guessed it, I’m going to say it again… Tim Keller’s Walking with God though Pain and Suffering (specifically parts 2 +3). I actually just finished it tonight, and I practically highlighted the whole book. I’m glad I did, too, because now I can go back and reread some highlights when I need encouragement again (which will probably be in the next 10 minutes… or 30 seconds).

keller

2.) Tonight I found John Piper’s small book (under 100 pages) When the Darkness will not Lift for free (pdf) on the Desiring God website. It sounds like the perfect thing for right now, and I’ll probably finish it in one sitting. It’s about how to have joy while waiting for the Lord. Perfect, right?

darkness

3.) My husband and I watched this encouraging 9-minute video the other night before bed. Sometimes a brief encouragement, as opposed to an hour-long sermon or a 300-page book, is just what you need for that moment. It’s a casual conversation between Pastors John Piper, David Platt, and Matt Chandler on trials and suffering. It made me cry, of course. I was the most touched by Matt Chandler’s words on being “perplexed, but not in despair.” And I learned that David Platt has faced infertility in the past, which led to my next encouragement…

4.) This short interview with Heather Platt was used by God to speak to one of my biggest fears right now — how to rejoice (and not wilt) when my close friend, who is pregnant, gets back to town in a couple months. Sometimes (not all the time, I know), it’s also nice to hear a good post-infertility, God-came-through story, which the Platts have.

5.) I also want to read Charles Spurgeon’s Beside Still Waters, which has great reviews. I heard CJ Mahaney read it daily to his daughter when she was in the hospital with childbirth complications. It sort of looks like you can get the pdf for free here, but so far I haven’t gotten it to work. Let me know if you do, because there isn’t a Kindle version for sale that I can find, unfortunately.

stillwaters

6.) I read that factoid about Mahaney in this little list of resources I randomly came across. It’s meant for pastors to prepare their congregations for suffering, but I breached the system and am bringing it straight to you, no middle man. It has a few more books you may want to look into.

What are some places you’ve found truth-filled encouragement (big or small) recently? Perhaps a video clip, a sermon, a book, an article, a devotional or a song? Please add to my list! 

Advertisements

Oh what peace we often forfeit!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

This is a classic hymn with a heavy message of truth. If you don’t already, would begin to cultivate the habit of coming to God before anything else? When you’re grieved, burdened, angry, not sure what to do next, feeling alone, tempted, or depressed. When you’re anxious, worried, afraid, or doubtful. Let your first response be to come to the Lord. Don’t pray a pre-written prayer, don’t try to wax poetic. Just lay your heart out, and ask Him to cover your needs with grace. He can change your mood, your feelings, your weaknesses. We have the great, unique “privilege to carry everything to the Lord in prayer” — don’t waste it!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

friend

Rejoicing in Trials (Mark Driscoll Sermon Clip)

Where your strength lies

I’ve been thinking about the idea of where we find our strength. My husband and I were discussing this the other day, when pre-briefing (is that a thing?) our imminent return to the country where we work and live. We may be there for three years or more before we leave or see family again. We actually just did this, and it was blessed, but hard sometimes. We were discussing how we feel about it all, and how we’re planning to go about doing it, and do it well. One thing we both agreed on was that our strength can’t come from anything but the Lord. We get tempted to say, “It’ll be ok, because we’ll try and save to come home next Christmas,” or, “We just have to make it a year, and maybe my mom will be able to come,” or, “We’ll plan now for a vacation next summer, so we have something to look forward to.” It seems innocent enough, but this is a dangerous temptation because it takes our hope and puts it in things other than the Lord.

augustineInfertility holds this same temptation. How easy it is for us to look to other things to give us confidence: statistics, doctors, procedures, other peoples’ experiences or opinions, palm readings, whatever. We have to keep ourselves in check. For me, I tell myself to finish this sentence: I feel strong right now because _______________. Or maybe, I’m not worried anymore because _____________. If my answer is found in anything else but Christ, I need a heart change. I need to pray and change my focus. I need to get offline. I need to talk it out with a godly friend. 

The scriptures speak of this a lot. Continue reading “Where your strength lies”

Psalm 33 – Praise befits the upright

I recently fell in love with Psalm 33. I’ve been reading it every morning in addition to my normal Bible reading, and I can’t get tired of it. I actually found it in reverse, when I was searching for another verse and found the last few verses of this one. I plan to frame them in our new house, as they are just perfect for our family.

“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

I love how this Psalm touches on so many important and special themes for us. It starts with worship (v.1-3), then praises the awesome character of God and the virtues God loves and we should as well (v.4-5). It reminds us of God as the great Creator, as well as the Sovereign One who sees all things (v. 6-11). It calls the nations to Him (v. 12-15), then reminds us that all power, provision and strength is found in Him and nothing else (v. 16-19), thus concluding with the prayer quoted above (v. 20-22). In addition to speaking of waiting on God, I love that the verses above speak of all our hope being in God alone, and the power of His holy name. I also appreciate that it mentions finding gladness in Him. It’s just so beautiful, I just can’t get over it.

I want to invite you to just listen to this Psalm. Americans, being a highly literate people, are not prone to enjoy listening to things. But this Psalm was meant to be sung and heard. We don’t have the original tune, of course, so this recording is just a reading. But press play, close your eyes and soak in the truths and assurances contained in this ancient inspired song. You may want to listen a few times in a row. Perhaps you will considering listening once a morning each day this week before you meet with God.

ps331 ps332 ps333

No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame

This song is based on Psalm 25. I personally find the melody a little dorky (to each her own though, if you love it!), but the lyrics are strong. Be blessed by it!

God genuinely cares about you (it’s not just a cliche)

This post is more personal than I usually prefer to be, but I have no better real-life way to explain what I mean. Since this past summer one of many big lessons God has been drilling into me is about how much He personally cares about me. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Cast your cares upon God, for He cares about you.” This has been a special verse to my heart during our infertility. Lately God keeps showing me over and over (without just handing me a baby) that He genuinely cares about me. He cares about what I care about. He is thoughtful and cares about my sorrow. The world doesn’t revolve around me, and I don’t deserve these affections, but He does care.

1ptrJust some background… I’ve mentioned that we’re Christian workers living abroad, which means we have a very low income. We’ve been in America for several months, and will be returning to our country soon [when I wrote this we were in the States… we’ve since moved back overseas]. So there have been a number of expenses, many of which are just wants and not needs, that have been floating around. For example, my husband’s birthday was in August. In our normal life I don’t have a lot of independence, so it’s hard for me to get him nice gifts for his birthday without him knowing about it. I really wanted to give him something special while I had the freedom of America (and access to gifts he’ll actually like). I prayed that God would make a way and room in the budget. I got him one gift, but I really wanted to get him a watch — he’d wanted one last year, but we never found one he really liked in our budget. But this year, it was still just out of the budget. The day before his birthday, we spoke to a group of senior citizens. Afterwards, as we were walking out the door, out of nowhere, an old lady walked up to me, gave me a hug, handed me some cash and said, “Use this to buy your husband something special.” Then she walked away. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately ran to the mall to get him his dream watch, which he now wears every day. I like to tell him, “Every time you look at that watch, remember that God really cares about you and even the little things you care about.” And it’s a reminder that He cares about me, too.

I have a bigger story to share, but you have to promise not to judge me. Promise? Okay. [Note: In hindsight, I removed this story. Don’t judge me for that either!]

Continue reading “God genuinely cares about you (it’s not just a cliche)”

You cannot be destroyed (Beth Moore)

A short clip with some truth from Beth Moore, on being indestructible in Christ…

Also, this little reminder from scripture about your hope in the storm…

Just a note: I know there are some Christians who are iffy about Beth Moore (mainly, that she sometimes teaches men, I think?). However, most of my readers are women, and in the past I have done some of her studies and have found them totally biblical and useful to my spiritual life. There is a major deficit of truth-filled biblical teachers for Christian women, so I’m grateful for her and am including her. 

Psalm 77 – In the day of trouble I seek the Lord

aloud to God, and he will hear me.

2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;

my soul refuses to be comforted.

3 When I remember God, I moan;

when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

4 You hold my eyelids open;

I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Continue reading “Psalm 77 – In the day of trouble I seek the Lord”

Our prayers do make a difference

I found this by accident on Pinterest today, and it really spoke to me. What strength we can find in knowing that the power in our prayers comes from the One to whom we pray, and not us.

maxl