When I was younger, I had big dreams of becoming more than I actually became. I pictured myself as a masterpiece in the hands of the Master, a beautiful sculpture intricately fashioned or a canvas painted with the natural beauty of a forest-enclosed waterfall. I certainly didn’t expect life to go the way it did.
My life has been ordinary. But God delights in transforming us—ordinary vessels—into extraordinary vessels of His glory.
God brought me to a verse that birthed in me a new perspective during one of my most bewildering and troubling trials. It’s tucked inside the Bible story of David and Absalom’s troubled father-son relationship. The story is found in 2 Samuel 14. Please take the time to read the whole story; it is quite intriguing. But for our purposes, I will just reveal a specific verse and what it means to me.
“All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”
2 Samuel 14:14 NLT
When I first came upon this verse, I was in a place where I felt my life was ruined. Waves of misfortune and loss had crushed me by blows, sweeping over me one after another, after another. I nearly drowned in the sorrow and confusion. I was surprised to wake up alive each morning. I thought grief and loss would kill me. With everything I had gone through, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to live anymore.
When I asked God to take me home, He said that only one death was necessary: His. He wanted me to live and to tell others how He had rescued me and given me new life.
But God truly does not just sweep life away. Neither does He give up on us—He never leaves us nor does He forsake us. He could have prevented some or all of the things that happened, but He didn’t. He let me go through them, and THAT was a hard truth to embrace.
You see, God does not always save us from our fears but saves us through them. In this way, we learn He is faithful in our griefs and losses.
“Instead, He devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from Him.”
I love the use of “Instead” in this verse. It’s a hope word meaning that God was active during my trials, devising a way out on my behalf and not simply an indifferent bystander. He had gone before me and was waiting for me to give Him the broken pieces of my life. So, I placed into His hands all the shards and jewels of my life. He took that precious offering and is making a beautiful mosaic instead of my idea of a masterpiece. I am a display of His grace and kindness. He can do the same for you.
Give Him all the broken pieces of your life. Yield to His love and grace. Then stand back in wonder as He makes the most beautiful mosaic out of all your shattered dreams.
About Carole L. Haines
Haines has been writing devotions, poetry, songs, etc. for the last ten years on her blog. One of her ministries is to make crosses out of broken glass, pottery, and other materials, to give to people in crises. The message behind them is that God can bring beauty out of brokenness. For more information, visit Haineshere. See her previous LPM postshereandhere.
When we have problems that overwhelm us, we often allow them to control us, too. They end up controlling our emotions and moods, our sleep, and our lives! We eat, breathe, and think about our problems all day long. We become so focused on them rather than the answers in God’s word. God cannot communicate the answer to us because we cannot quiet our minds enough to hear His voice. Ultimately, we should give all our cares to Jesus.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Giving our problems to God allows Him to move on our behalf. The key is to leave our problems with Him and to avoid taking them back. We can trust God to handle our problems and to show us the way out.
We should live each day in the joy of our salvation, knowing God is greater than any problem we have. God can take care of it. He is our Father, and He loves us more than we could ever imagine. He only wants the best for us.
Give your burdens to the Lord,
and he will take care of you.
He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.
(Psalm 55:22, NLT)
Give your burdens to the Lord. He will take care of you. He will sustain you. He will not allow you to slip and fall. These are amazing promises.
God has our backs.
I encourage you to lay your crisis at His feet. Allow Him to lead and direct you. Keep your mind on His Word rather than your problems. Soon, the answers will become clear, as will the right directions on how to move forward. You can be at peace, knowing God is working behind the scenes to turn your crisis around.
About Karin Thompson
Thompson’s passion is to author books that keep readers turning the pages while leaving them with something deep to think about after the last page has been read. Thompson desires to encourage the Body of Christ in the faith, to help believers grow closer to God, and to help them fulfil their God-given life assignments. Thompson is the author of two books,Encouragement For The Weary SoulandMy Journey To Enjoying My Life. Visit herwebsitefor more information.
We are all in a hurry to get somewhere in life. We have various goals and achievements we want to attain while we are still alive on this earth. Some of these “goals” and “dreams” get the best of us, especially when we are consumed with the desire to attain them as quickly as possible. We hardly hear or listen to the “still small voice” of direction and caution: “Where are you rushing to?” And if a friend were to ask us that question, we might find it somewhat offensive.
But, really. Where are we rushing to? Are we living this life in competition?
The next best thing to desire in life is patience. It may sound confusing or unreasonable, but it is necessary. Without a doubt, there are many beautiful things in this world: ideas, inventions, and many steps to follow. But are we patient enough to be guided to the best, safest, and worthiest choice? Acting with patience is one way of letting God guide us and manifest His glory.
A minister once said, “If God were in a hurry to end the world, how many of us would be saved?” Many of us may not want God to be in a hurry for Judgement Day when we consider how many ways we failed or sinned. And we say, “Thank God, Jesus didn’t come today or yesterday. It’s another chance for me to do better.” With all the heartbreaking things that have happened in the world, God is patiently waiting for more of His children to return to Him so they may be saved.
If God is patient with us, can we be patient with Him to do His work in us and through us and at His own time? We all must take steps in life, big or small. We all must go through doors to reach our breakthrough and our heart’s desire. May our spirit be guided to the right door into the right path of life. Hastiness may urge us to act, pressuring us with anxiety, fear, bitterness, and broken hearts. If we are not careful, we may forget our source of salvation and sink into the deep hole of impatience.
Hesitation is not the lesson here; guidance from God is. When He orders our steps and guides our paths, we should not hesitate to march to where He leads us. We will surely arrive on time.
Do you hear His voice saying, “WAIT JUST A LITTLE LONGER!”? If you do, do not harden your heart; be patient and walk with Him. That way, what you seek will land at your feet a hundred-fold. The longing and toil will have paid off because God gives His children His best.
What more can we say to this awesome God? He is mysterious in all His ways, and He never sleeps nor slumbers, especially when His children are in need. With arms lifted high, with songs of praise on our lips, we shout to Him with joy, “I will wait for You until my soul is satisfied.”
About Anne Etim
Etim is a storyteller who loves to showcase her short stories and inspirational writing on her blog. When she is not spending time with her family and friends or running her business, she is diving deep into creative writing or reading a new favourite book. Visit Etim on herwebsite,Instagram,orYouTubefor more.
For more inspirational content, please visit ourLost Pen Blogpage. To download Lost Pen Magazine, visit ourMagazine Issuespage.To view Dyane Forde’s interview with Anne Etim, click here.
Like so many things since I became a Christian four years ago, publishing a literary magazine for children was never on my radar. But in late January, I was on my laptop making updates to the literary journal I edit, called Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, when my 8-year-old daughter, Mia, asked if she could read it. Her large brown eyes were so curious and interested, but I immediately said no; Heart of Flesh deals with Christian topics, but it is definitely not kid-friendly. She proceeded to make my heart swell by asking if she could submit her poems to the journal. After I explained that Heart of Flesh is only for adult writers, Mia told me I should make a magazine that kids could read and to which they could submit their work.
I initially dismissed the idea as adorable but impossible. When submissions start rolling in, managing Heart of Flesh takes every ounce of my free time. The idea of running two journals with my two-year-old running around the house and refusing to take naps seemed crazy. Also, I had never written or published Kid Lit. I wasn’t sure if I knew anything about it. Did literary magazines for children even exist? I pushed the idea away, but it quickly came back full force. I couldn’t stop dreaming and planning for a children’s literary magazine, and I began to understand that the Lord was planting the idea firmly in my heart despite my objections. Finally, one sleepless night, I bounced out of bed, hopped on my laptop, and made a site for Pure in Heart Stories.
As I researched and continue to research Kid Lit and the Kid Lit industry, I can see the potential and need for such a literary outlet. While there are several Christian magazines devoted to children and teens, they are small fish in an ocean of secular literature inundating children with worldly ideas and morality. I’m paraphrasing Christian author Jordan Raynor when I say that the job of the creative Christian is to permeate culture with Christ. Poetry, fiction, art, cinema, music are the creators of culture, and, right now, what our culture needs is Jesus. Until now, I’ve been focusing on reaching and encouraging adults, but culture doesn’t begin with adults; it begins with children. This is something that those who write Kid Lit already understand. I’ve been so busy trying to protect my three children from secular views that clash with Christian values that I didn’t realize I don’t always have to play defence. An offensive move would be to fill a need—find the lack and remedy it. This is ultimately the goal of Pure in Heart.
Both Pure in Heart and Heart of Flesh have been open for submissions since February 1st, and I’ve never felt less stress and more peace, trust, and faith as I have since working on the two projects simultaneously. I know it’s because I’m not alone. I have the support of readers, writers, fellow editors, and my Lord Jesus, who carries burdens and worries and makes all things possible for the good of His Kingdom. To Him be the glory, always. I’m so excited to see what He has planned for this newest venture.
For those interested, both Pure in Heart and Heart of Flesh are open for submissions until March 31st. Pure in Heart accepts Christian-themed poetry, fiction, and art by adults for children ages 6-11. My daughter Mia is co-editor and has the final say on everything we publish. After our first issue, we plan on accepting work from young writers. This way, Mia and other kids will have a place to honour God and work out Christian topics creatively. I hope and pray that all who submit to Pure in Heart, Heart of Flesh, and Lost PenPub are encouraged that their work is a much-needed light in an often dark and highly secular field. May God bless you all.
About Veronica McDonald
McDonald is founder and co-editor of Pure in Heart Stories and Heart of Flesh Literary Journal. She edits and designs both Pure in Heart and Heart of Flesh, and is the primary reader in all categories. Veronica is a fiction writer, poet, artist, and mom of three, rascally kids who love books.
It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic Christmas movie loved by many for the last seven decades. I hadn’t seen it for quite some time and enjoyed watching it with my family this past holiday season. It was the first viewing for both my kids (then 11 and 8), and I was so happy they enjoyed it. For those who may not be familiar with it (or if it’s been a while), the story begins by introducing Clarence, the angel who will intervene in George Bailey’s life. Clarence, eager to earn his wings, is told by God of a man in need of help. He responds by asking God if the man is sick. God answers, “No, worse. He’s discouraged.”
That answer resonated with me. Nobody enjoys experiencing sickness of any kind, and being downtrodden in spirit is a particularly terrible woe.
Discouragement isdefined as, “A loss of confidence or enthusiasm; dispiritedness.” How does this happen? What is it that leads us into this barren state of being?
Often, the culprit comes in the form of unmet expectations or not making progress with our goals despite great effort. Discouragement can creep its way into every aspect of our lives—financial, relational, occupational, spiritual, emotional, and physical. And while people experience discouragement to varying degrees, they share one central theme: a loss of hope.
For instance, we lose hope of mending a relationship, that our bank account will be sufficient, that our ailments will be healed, or that we will find purpose and fulfillment in life. We even lose hope in the goodness and faithfulness of God. When there is no perceivable light at the end of the tunnel and all seems lost, discouragement takes root within us. Such was the case with George Bailey. He could see no hope for the future and came to believe it would have been better if he had never been born. This demonstrates the ultimate depth of discouragement.
The voice of discouragement yields destruction by breeding doubt, uncertainty, and fear. If you have experienced these effects, know you are in good company, for so did John the Baptist, Peter, and Thomas.
John the Baptist was the man who announced to the world, “Behold, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). He was the man who proclaimed he was unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandal straps. And it was he who held the Son of Man in his arms as he heard the voice of God and saw the Holy Spirit. While in prison, this same man became discouraged, and he doubted. He asked the disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3). Those words could only have been spoken out of deep uncertainty and despair.
In the wake of Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter, the disciple who had boldly declared he would always stay by Jesus’ side, denied him three times. Although Peter loved his Lord and was devoted to Him, he failed to grasp Jesus’ real reason for coming to the world. Peter hoped that Jesus would overturn the Romans’ power to gain freedom for the Jews. He did not comprehend that Jesus had come to offer something better—freedom from sin. When Jesus did not resist arrest by the Roman guards, Peter’s discouragement—triggered by unmet expectations—led him to fear for his life and to deny his Saviour.
While Jesus was dead and buried, His followers were left in the throes of discouragement and angst. Despite the prophetic words Jesus had spoken about His return, nobody expected an empty grave. Upon hearing of the resurrection, Thomas stated he would only believe if he were to touch Jesus’ hands and side. Again, bitter discouragement prevented belief.
Have you felt the same? Can you relate to George Bailey, John the Baptist, Peter, and Thomas? I think we all can. Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us:
“What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.” (NIV)
Nobody is immune to discouragement and its ugly effects. And while discouragement may be inevitable, there is a remedy: hope and grace.
Lexicodefines grace as “the free and unmerited favour of God.” In other words, it is freely given and completely unearned. Instead of a harsh, condemning lecture, Jesus responded to John the Baptist by saying to his disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me,” (Matthew 11:4-6).
Then there was Peter. I can’t imagine the anguish he felt the day Jesus was crucified. When he denied Jesus, he must have been consumed by unbearable guilt. How the tears must have fallen when he heard the rooster crow! What ran through his mind at the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection? What did he feel? Joy? Hope? Most likely. But I’m sure there was also a terrible sense of anxiety about facing the One he denied. Perhaps he expected Jesus to say, “Peter, how could you?” or “Didn’t I tell you that you would deny me?!” Or maybe worse: “Peter I want no part of you.” Instead, Jesus simply asked if he loved Him exactly three times. For each denial, Jesus gave Peter glorious and gracious redemption.
What was His response to “Doubting Thomas?” Jesus could have ignored or chided him for his lack of faith. But when He appeared to Thomas a week after his resurrection, He said to him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe,” (John 20:27). Jesus honoured Thomas’ request. We aren’t told what Thomas did next, only that he said, “My Lord and my God!” Undoubtedly, Jesus’ grace strengthened Thomas’ faith for the rest of his life.
And what about us? Amid our discouragement, Jesus invites us to lean hard into His infinite grace. When we’re swimming in the waters of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, He extends the same grace to us as He did to our brothers in Christ discussed above. His grace increases our faith and restores us from the valley of guilt and shame. His grace bids us to love Him and to trust His promises. His grace is forever sufficient.
Finally, true and lasting hope extinguishes the flames of discouragement. Far too often, we place our hope in the things of this world: money, jobs, status, relationships, and health. We are blessed to be stewards of these things, but they are not to be our greatest treasures. When we make them so, we create misplaced hope which always leads to despair. It seems David, the Old Testament poet and king, reminded himself of this when he wrote: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God,” (Psalm 42:5). Because God never fails us, our hope in Him will never be in vain.
To be sure, there will be days when all feels lost. In those times, we can rest soundly in the grace of God and the hope of our Saviour. And when needed, we can read the following words and take heart: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” These are the words written by a man who would know—a man forever changed by the grace and hope of Jesus. You can find them in 1 Peter 5:10.
About Nicole Byrum
Byrum is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 13 years of experience in community mental health. She is the author of Remade: Living Free, a book written for women in recovery from substance abuse and unhealthy relationships. Nicole also maintains a blog at nicolebyrum.com as well as a podcast, 5 Minute Word. Both focus on topics related to faith, relationships, and recovery. She lives in northwest Ohio with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, running, or cooking.