Truths that carried us through 2020

2020, a year marked by quarantines, changes, masks and unrest. Yes, my life has looked a lot different this year than I could have ever anticipated, but this one truth in particular has kept coming back to me; the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. This truth has flooded my soul with peace and brought my heart to worship over and over. With so much fear and talk of death this year, I can’t help but be reminded that we live in a fallen world. Covid-19 is just one by-product from the curse of sin. And yet, Jesus Christ came to conquer sin and death! He willingly died on the cross and rose again so that I could experience life, both now and forever.

As a follower of Jesus I do not need to fear death like I once did because “He is the way, the truth and the life” and for the believer who has trusted in Him, “to die is gain.” The Bible tells us that one day God will make all the crooked paths straight, wipe every tear away and that “in His presence” we will find “fulness of joy.” After a year filled with many sorrows, this truth is comforting to me. However, the true life He offers isn’t reserved only for eternity. As a follower of Jesus I also get to experience life from Him, every single day. Jesus Christ has given me access to the Father through His own death and resurrection so that when I am afraid, when my soul feels empty, when my heart finds it hard to love, I am able to go to my God and He calms, fills and energizes like no other.

Over the past 9 months I have listened to the following song many times and it has been just one of many reminders to not forget what Christ’s work has accomplished for me. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow and all of eternity without fear. 

Chrystal


When I think of 2020, I think of COVID: the two are pretty much synonymous. So when I think about what was one truth that carried me through 2020, I cannot help but tie that to the one truth that carried me, and continues to carry me, through COVID. 

When COVID first hit the headlines and our country went into lockdown back in March, it struck fear to the very core of my being. There were so many uncertainties and unknowns about it (and do I need to add that there still are many unknowns?) that my mind was racing with all the potential outcomes of how it could affect my family. Add into the equation that I was expecting our second child, and the question marks about bringing a new life into this world in the middle of a pandemic loomed at the forefront of my mind. 

But God in His mercy, chose to use those days to remind me of His tender care towards His children. Through trivial events like a broken-down vehicle, browned hamburger that spilled all over the floor, and an IGTV devotional clip that I happened to watch, God reminded my anxious heart that He cares about these things that weigh on our hearts because He cares about us, His children. Matthew 6:25-34 points out the futile nature of worrying. Why is worry and fear so futile? Because “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” 

Will he not much more

God cares for the most everyday and mundane things in the world–the birds and the grass–but we so quickly forget that it is us, humans, who are made in His image. We are His prize creation, not the birds and the grass. 

We are the ones for whom He sent His Son to die for on the cross, not the birds and the grass. 

We are the ones who will one day live in eternity in His presence, not the birds and the grass.

Why then, are we so foolish to think that God would care for the birds and the grass, but not us?  

Will he not much more?

God is our Father and He promises to care for us.  When we are tempted to doubt His compassion and care for us, James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” In 1 Peter 5:7 then, we find instruction on what to do when our hearts are troubled and anxious: we are told to cast “all [our] anxieties on him, because he cares for [us].” [emphasis added]

Is there any doubt that God will always take care of us? 

Grabbing hold of these truths of God’s sure and steadfast care for me, His child, during those beginning weeks of COVID was such a balm to my anxious heart. Yes, there might be still be great pain and sorrow in store for me and my family. Yes, life might become less comfortable than what I’m used to it being. But I can still rest in the truth that God is my Father and He will care for me. 

Angie


God’s got this.

I’ve said these words many times over the past year. I say it as much to myself as to my listeners. 

My heart has needed the truth of God’s sovereign control more than ever during 2020. 

I love planning, making lists and crossing things off my calendar as complete. 

It has been so good for me to take an eraser to my plans and say “if the Lord wills, I will do this or that”. 

This past year has exposed my heart’s desire to be in control. In the midst of our world feeling strange and swirling with unknowns, it has shown me that I never was in control in the first place. Rather, it was a feeling of control. Yes, 2020 has been hard but it has been good for my heart to recognize that no matter my feelings, no matter the circumstances God is, has been, and always will be in total control. His plans will always be fulfilled. God’s sovereignty is a truth I have always known but 2020 has made this truth come alive; a truth which I cling to and find rest for my soul in.

Rachel

Life on a Loop

Do you ever just feel like your life is on a continual loop? Like you are just stuck in the same pattern day after day? It is often hard to avoid that as we muddle through our adult life with routines of work, school, parenting, and so much more. Whether we like it or not, we as humans tend to establish patterns in our lives. I have found that some people thrive on patterns while others grow weary of them. I am of the nature to implement routines and patterns wherever I can. It gives me a sense of stability and sense of control. But for those like my husband, it can become laborious and downright exhausting. 

These outward patterns can be more easily identified, but recently I have been giving a lot of thought to the inward patterns of the mind. Sometimes I see these inward patterns displaying themselves as I go about my outward daily routines. When I pick up the same toys off the living room floor for the 8th time in one day, it is easy to become discouraged and frustrated. when I am putting the 3rd load of laundry into the washer, I begin to feel like no one notices all the work I do around here. When I wash yet another sink full of the never-ending pile of dishes, I begin to feel the weight of all the things I need yet to accomplish while knowing the kids tugging at my leg will never allow me to get it all done.  As I allow these routines and thoughts to weigh me down, I am setting my pattern of thinking for the day. I am becoming the “Negative Nelly” that I rather emphatically deny to my husband that I am. 

Have you ever argued with a 3-year-old? It’s a daily occurrence in our home right now. These tiny humans are the worst to argue with because they have little to no logic. It takes all the brain power you can muster to answer their question, “why can’t I have fruit snacks for breakfast?” for the biiiilllllionth time. You know they already know the answer but it is useless, and exhausting, and you just cannot understand why they keep asking… honestly! But imagine that same 3-year-old representing our negative thinking, the thoughts we have running through our minds at lightning speed with no finish line in sight. We logically know that we cannot expect our house to be immaculately clean all the time, or our children to never pick fights. Yet somehow, we cannot resist the urge to groan every time we see the toys all over the living floor, we cannot help but roll our eyes and yell “knock it off!” every time we hear the kids fighting in the other room. It becomes instinctual to react a certain way without even really knowing what we are doing. Just as our toddler is not taking the time to process the answer you give over and over, we are not taking the time to process what a messy house really means, or why our kids are frustrated. We habitually default to the same thoughts over and over because we have trained our minds to do so. 

I am certainly no expert on the brain nor its patterns, but it is becoming painfully obvious to me that this cognitive loop of negative thinking has directly impacted my daily routines and has taken over my attitudes. I was reading through an interesting book on this topic called “Switch on your Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Cognitive Neuroscientist. She says “As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.” She also says, “When you think, you build thoughts, and these become physical substances in your brain.” So this is what a leading cognitive neuroscientist has to say about the patterns of our thinking, but what does the Bible have to say, and does it fit with the science?

Here are some verses that relate to our mind:

 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he -Proverbs 23:7  So science is proving what Scripture already says.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” -Romans 12:2   God changes the way we think, and it is good and pleasing and perfect! Perspective!

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5 Take every thought captive… is it even possible? God’s Word says it is. But how?

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”. -Philippians 4:8 Replace! Replace! Replace!

These verses are great to keep at the forefront of our minds when trying to combat our negativity. However, even with Scriptures like these in our minds, it can be a struggle to actually carry out the “replace method.” One very important key, I believe, is found in implementing Psalms 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God.”  There is great power found in stillness, something most Americans, and many Christians, and especially moms, have no time for. When we have no time for prayer and meditation, our feelings, emotions, and thoughts will continue to call the shots. Take time to slow down, to be still before God, asking Him for His power to course through your mind as HE transforms your thoughts. This may not be an hour or two every morning. It could just be slowing down when we feel the negativity rising, and breathing a “Thank you God” in sincerity, knowing that God will continue to transform us from the inside out. 

There are other Scriptures that highlight the power of our thoughts, but I hope you see the truth behind God’s timeless words. What you allow into your mind often decides your reality and ultimately your legacy. I am reminded of this verse in Exodus 34:7 which says “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Sobering when we remember that not only do your thoughts shape your life but that they could also influence the lives of your children, their children, and generations after that. This is a heavy thing to consider, but isn’t it true that we often take on the energy of the other people in the room? If our children are hearing all our negative thoughts out loud, it is likely they will take on our negative attitude. I think it is safe to say we had better start working on our patterns of thinking! Our thoughts can determine our reality. So, as we continue to vacuum, dust, fold laundry, and do all those other mundane tasks, what do you choose as your reality? Are you going to let the frustrations of your day take over your thoughts and life? Or are you going to heed God’s Word and allow Him to transform your inward patterns of thinking as you take on the never-ending loop that is life.

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This post was written by Rachel Poborsky. She is the sister of Chrystal Stauffer and the author of “RaisingPobos.” You can find her over on Instagram or Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/raisingpobos/

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense — A Book Review

Note: I read this book quite some time ago and was incredibly blessed by it. With the recent events going on in our world, we at Hearts Refreshed thought it would be an appropriate book to recommend to you. – Angie


Suffering: Gospel Hope when Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp is an outstanding book that addresses many of the questions that pass through our minds as we walk through seasons of suffering: Why did God allow this to happen? How can God be good? What is the purpose for this suffering? Why me? Because Tripp himself has walked through a season of intense physical suffering, he is able to write with great empathy and compassion towards those who are suffering.

Although his personal experience with suffering does give an element of validity to the message of his book, Tripp does not allow it to be the primary focus of the book. Instead, while weaving in parts of how God has used suffering in his own life, Tripp seeks to give his ideal audience–those who have gone through or who are going through a season of suffering–what he calls a “street level” understanding of what Scripture has to say about suffering. He seeks to give his readers a practical understanding of Scriptural truths and the impact these truths have on how one deals with suffering.

In the first half of the book, Tripp uses these personal experiences to identify and discuss a number of traps that one tends to fall into, either while in the midst of suffering, or after having gone through it. As I read about the traps of awareness, fear, envy, doubt, denial, and discouragement, I repeatedly found myself thinking Yes! That is exactly how I felt as I was walking through the grief of our miscarriage! It was so comforting to know that the myriad of emotions that flooded my heart and mind were not unique to me.

However, Tripp does not leave his readers with simply a greater awareness of the various emotions they are experiencing. The second half of Suffering discusses specific aspects of the character of God and how each aspect gives unique comfort. With his down-to-earth and personal style, Tripp digs into Scripture to show how one can find comfort that is grounded in the unchanging truths of Scripture and God’s character.

Suffering seems to be specifically directed towards those whom God has called to walk through a form of suffering that just “doesn’t make sense,” as part the subtitle suggests. However, I believe anyone who reads this book will be incredibly encouraged by it, for we have all gone through one form of suffering or another.

As it acknowledges the reality of suffering and addresses many of the practical aspects of what one goes through during a period of suffering, the beauty of this book lies in how it points its readers towards finding lasting comfort through a growing understanding of the character and ways of God.

I highly recommend this book.

Oh Be Careful Little Tongue

For the past ten plus weeks, most of us have stuck pretty close to home, cooped up almost. Our intake of social media and the nightly news has been much more than normal, having a powerful impact on our hearts and minds. Our opinions about the Coronavirus situation are pretty solidified, whether it is anger, fear, sorrow, feelings of injustice or apathy. It’s hard not to let those opinions boil over into our conversations. We justify our position with those who are of the same opinion and maybe even avoid those who hold another. How easy it is to allow our conversations to overstep into gossip.

As our towns slowly open back up and we begin to interact with others on a face-to-face basis, we will need to keep ourselves in check.

An old child’s saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

How false that statement is.

Proverbs 18:21 says that words have the power of life and death.

Words are powerful.

The book of James talks about how a great ship being driven by fierce winds is turned about by a very small rudder. James contrasts how the tongue is a very small member of our body but it is full of iniquity and can set the world on fire. (See James 3:2-12)

Words hurt.

Some of the biggest scars in our lives are a result of words.

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Proverbs 18:8

Words are destructive.

Proverbs 16:28 says gossip separates close friends.

A virus is tiny, unseeable even, but can cause great sickness and spread quickly. Our little tongues can speak gossip that causes great hurt and spreads farther than ever intended.

These past months have resulted in a lot of destruction for many of us; financially, emotionally, physically. We all need encouragement and we can do so for others with our words.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

There are bound to be people in our churches, in our close circles of friends, or even in our family that have a different outlook on the past and present situation than we do.

While it is not wrong for us to have different opinions, we ought to have the attitude of Paul who said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

We have been separated physically for months and as we begin to gather together again, let’s be wise with our words and guard against creating a gulf of even greater separation.

Claim the prayer of the Psalmist who wrote, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3

As we are learning how to best love our brothers and sisters during this time, let us begin with our smallest member, the tongue.

Overwhelmed? Run to Christ!

Normal 

Something we long for these days.

Our lives have been flipped upside-down.

Emotions are in a vortex.

Frustration

Fear

Discouragement

Anger

Helplessness 

We want things to stop changing.

How do we cope? 

In Christ, our hope!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13

In the midst of the storm, let’s calm our overwhelmed hearts in the unchanging One! 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” – Hebrews 13:8

In the time of restlessness, let’s claim the rest Jesus offers!

“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” – Matthew 11:29-30

When uncertain days make us weary, let’s find our strength in God!

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

When we are lonely because we are distanced from our friends and family, let’s find comfort in our God! 

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” – John 14:16-18|KJV

When we are afraid, let us run to Christ and find peace!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

While it is natural for us to want comfort, security and normality in our circumstances, let us anchor our hearts and minds in the solid truths of Christ!

In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when striving cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ I stand

(In Christ Alone by Stuart Townsend)

*All verse taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise marked