Praying When Your Faith Feels Small

My heart felt as if it had been wrapped in a lead vest--the kind you wear when getting an X-ray on your left ankle so the radiation won't spread to your mid-section. The kind that smashes your shoulders with its heaviness and makes you feel clumsy and slow.

The kind you can't wait for the technician to lift off.

Only this was no emergency X-ray. This was just a rough week. Ugly words, disappointing circumstances, careless attitudes cascaded into my heart like heavy gray snowflakes, leaving ugly drifts of hurt.

Suddenly I realized my faith seemed miniscule.

If you've ever felt buried beneath an avalanche of painful circumstances, I understand. I know how overwhelming--even ridiculous--it can feel to pray when your faith feels entirely too small.

But the good news is God is greater than our sometimes shrinky-dink faith. And though I can't promise that tomorrow everything will be better, I can tell you that God will be through your situation, and He will hear you as you make the effort to prayer what might feel like feeble prayers.

Here are four things that have helped me make it through some dark times. My hope is they will equip you to pray, even when your faith feels small:

Ask God for His perspective. We see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12). In other words, our vantage point isn't always accurate. God not only sees the entire picture, He can enable us to perceive His viewpoint. I'm always amazed when the airplane I'm on soars above thick storm clouds into spectacularly clear, blue skies. That's sort of like what God can do. Yes, it's still raining down below, but the sun is still shining--and we can see the storm isn’t permanent.

Put on a garment of praise. In my darkest, most unlikely moments, I've experienced a breakthrough of joy because I chose to worship. If the joy of the Lord is our strength, then we need to make the decision to worship, even when it's hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Believe that when we are weak He is strong. I'm so glad God doesn't only love me or move in my life when I feel capable or think I'm doing well. Because the truth is, I often don't feel either. And He doesn't expect that from me. Or from you. In fact, He tells us, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) That means that even when our prayers feel weak and ineffective, they are still powerful!

Know that this, too, shall pass. The truth is, we all walk through seasons of difficulty. No, they're not fun. But we learn and we can grow closer to the Lord (if we choose). And eventually, the hard season ends. Remember, to everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Most importantly, remember that whatever season we're in, we never walk alone. Jesus said, "I am with you always (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion). (Matthew 28:20)

PRAYER
Lord, please send encourage my heart. Strengthen my faith. Help me to gain perspective from You, worship you in the middle of the storm, remember that when I am weak You are strong, and keep in mind that this, too shall pass. Thank you for being my Rock, my Fortress, and my Defense. Thank you for always being with me. Always. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen.




On Stillness in the Storm

When all hell breaks loose, my first thought usually has nothing to do with stillness. Instead, every fiber in my body tingles on high alert, and over and over my brain plays a recording: “What should I do?” I feel compelled to take action, to make some sort of effort. Do something.

Clearly there are circumstances that demand a response, and at those times God provides wisdom and shows us specifically what to do. But when a sudden storm unleashes, it’s easy to rush into response mode, to assume we must do something before we actually know God’s will in that particular situation.

Yet hastiness can lead to trouble.

Desire without knowledge is not good, and to be overhasty is to sin and miss the mark. (Psalm 19:2) (AMPC)

This is where being led by God’s Spirit and knowing His His voice is essential. I’m so grateful that when a hard circumstance hits and I feel compelled to do something, God’s Spirit is greater, and He is able to speak to my heart and redirect me. One of the first things He does is quiet my heart so I can actually hear Him. I mean, all hell breaking loose is loud on the inside of us. But He takes us to a far better place.

He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures (Psalm 23:2)

The truth is I tend to camp in the chaos, try to figure everything out, and basically run around in circles and panic. (Anyone else? Anyone?) But in His loving-kindness the Lord grabs hold of my hand and my heart and leads me exactly where I need to go.

He leads me beside still waters (Psalm 23:2)

Once He leads my heart away from the chaos I am actually able to hear Him. And His words are a beautiful invitation.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) (ESV)

Being still is a choice. It’s not easy, but through the power of His Spirit we can surrender—and that’s when He stills our hearts and minds (thank God!) Being still prevents us from interfering where God is already at work. When we choose to be still we place God above our situations and place ourselves in a position of humility. We declare that we trust Him.

Though being still is often the exact opposite of what it feels like we should be doing, it is a place of divine rest.  It’s a place where we don’t carry our burdens because He does. We don’t have to battle because He does. We don’t have to figure things out because He’s got it covered.

God is sovereign, He is holy, and He has good plans for us. He is faithful and utterly trustworthy and He will ultimately accomplish His will and plans and purposes in our lives. 

Whatever we face, my prayer is each one of us will accept God’s beautiful invitation to be still. Allow our hearts to rest. And trust that He is already at work, doing what only He can do. 

PRAYER FOR YOU

Lord, You see the situation I am facing. Right now I choose to be still and know You are God. I relinquish every piece of it into Your loving hands. I trust that You are faithful and You are at work doing what only You can do. Thank you for your loving-kindness. Thank you for leading me beside still waters. Thank you for calming my heart and enabling me to be still. In the strong name of Jesus, Amen. 

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5 Verses to Encourage Your Heart

Sometimes life is hard and our hearts need serious encouragement. I know mine sure does. For me, God’s Word is a source of hope and comfort like no other, and every time I breathe it in my heart feels better. Encouraged. Hopeful.

Here are 5 verses that always lift my heart. I pray they do the same for you.

(1) When I feel discouraged or afraid, this verse reminds me that I can be strong and that God is with me:

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
 (1 Chronicles 28:20) 

(2) This is my hybrid choice of verses from Psalm 139. Every single time I read this little compilation my heart is comforted. I hope you feel the same:

You chart the path ahead of me (vs 3a). You place Your hand of blessing on my head (vs 5b). Your strength will support me (vs 10b).  (Psalm 139) 

(3) This verse reminds me of my Source, and that God gives me His power when I feel too weak to carry on. Actually, Isaiah 40 from verse 28-31 is fantastic:

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. (Isaiah 40:29) 

(4) This verse reminds me to keep my hope and confidence in Christ alone…and I will be blessed:

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. (Jeremiah 17:7) 

(5) And finally, this verse helps me maintain eternal perspective. It reminds me that my trials and the difficulties I face are actually achieving something beautiful and everlasting in and for me:

For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!] (2 Corinthians 4:17) (AMPC)

Praying God uses His Word to encourage your heart this week!

Divine Opportunities

I'm so excited to share a brief teaching on divine opportunities (originally this appeared live on my Prayers for a Woman's Soul Facebook page). I also take time to pray about divine opportunities toward the end.

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4 Tips For Being Positive When Life Is Hard {Give-Away!}

I love my sweet friend Tracie’s new book! It encourages us to count the cost of negative thinking and to change the way we think—and change our lives!  Tracie is giving away a copy of her book along with a PDf study guide to one winner. Here’s Tracie:
We all know life can be hard. People hurt us, the past haunts us, coworkers mistreat us, parents don’t love us, friends don’t consider us, spouses don’t honor us, children don’t appreciate or respect us, finances don’t support us, and our health doesn’t sustain us. Sometimes having a positive outlook and an optimistic attitude can seem impossible to achieve much less maintain.  But even when life gets hard, we don’t have to let our hearts get hard with it.  
Whether or not our hearts and mind stay positive in the midst of hard times is entirely up to us – but all too often we let our negative thoughts eventually harden our hearts. Fortunately, through the strength, peace and joy found in Christ, we are all capable of shattering the hard shell on our hearts through intentionally choosing to think positive. Happiness is a choice, not a by-product of a perfect life. So regardless of what life brings, we can all choose optimism and joy if we so choose.
The first step in pursuing a changed mind and a changed life is believing it can actually happen for you. Below are a few more tips to help you get started with your mind over matter transformation.
1.    Don’t ask “why me”,  ask “why not me”
Maybe you’ve found yourself asking “why me” when life feels hard. When we feel crushed under the weight of our problems, we can’t help but think life is unfair, and maybe God is even unfair since He’s allowing such adversity in our life. But John 16:33 says, “ I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  When I read this verse recently, I was drawn back to the word “all”.  We could assume Jesus meant “all this”, to refer to “all this instruction I’ve told you”. Or we could interpret it to mean, He told us ALL that we would have troubles, which we do.
But at times we might still wonder why others aren’t taxed with the same troubles we are, or maybe it seems we have more than our fair share, leading us to entertain that life is indeed unfair. But the fact that we ALL have difficult circumstances, doesn’t that actually make life fair?  You see, God doesn’t pick favorites, and it wouldn’t be fair for some people to have trouble and others have none. So with that in mind, shouldn’t we consider “why not me?” instead of “why me”? When we are struggling, it helps to remember God is a fair and just God, and He loves us as much as anyone else. All of us get an equal share of His strength to face whatever circumstances are happening in our lives.
2.    Count your blessings. 
Sometimes the hurt or pain life inflicts seems like too much to handle and fears can threaten to paralyze us and steal our hope. Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. But during one particular season when life was more difficult than ever due to a painful situation in my marriage, I decided to start keeping up with little daily blessings God was giving me in my journal, as opposed just to pouring out my thoughts and anxieties each day. I soon realized that when I focused on my blessings, I felt more positive, even if my circumstances remained the same. As I spent time counting my blessings, I spent less time and energy counting my losses, which helped to boost my spirits throughout each day. And my faith.
3.    Don’t let your fears overtake you. 
I am a worrier. I can’t help it. It’s a problem. I try not to, but I do. I love the Lord and trust Him, but my mind still gets lost in fears from time to time. When I can’t control a situation, I tend to think of all the worst case scenarios that could happen, and then my fears start growing like a thick vine strangling the life out of a fencepost. Maybe yours done too. After all, we’re only human and life often gives us a lot of reason to worry. On days when I find myself feeling burdened with worry and letting my mind run wild with possible worst case scenarios, I recall the hope found in Psalm 23:4 says, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” It’s such a sweet verse to tuck into our hearts when we are feeling afraid of the unknown. The truth is … the “unknown” is probably not near as scary as we think it might be.
4.    Commit to being positive, even if you have every reason to be negative. 
It takes as much energy to be negative as it does to be positive, so why not put our energy into something that will bring joy into our life instead of discouragement and pessimism? This is one tip I forced myself to put into practice in my own life during the most difficult season of my life, as I was spending a lot of time being negative, obsessing over hurt and fears, and letting negative emotions and worries and fears control my life and my happiness. I finally reached the point where I was fed up with feeling negative and sad, and ready to start enjoying life and being happy again. I made the choice to be positive, even when my circumstances were so less-than-positive. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, and it changed my life. When I chose to take control of my mind and my thoughts and my own happiness, I was released from the bondage the enemy had over my thinking patterns and my joy. The same is possible for you, my friend. If you so choose it to be positive today, no matter what.
We can’t change our circumstances or have control the situations or people in our lives, and God may not change them right away either, no matter how much we pray about them. But what we can do is stop obsessing over what we can’t change, start focusing on what we can, and letting God handle the rest.
We can trust God has a plan that we can’t possibly see right now – a good plan to help us prosper, have hope and a beautiful future. We can believe He has a purpose for the things that happen in life, and that somehow He will use it for our good. We can ask for God’s peace, instead of letting negativity and pessimism and worry become a toxic illness in our hearts, minds and lives. We can ask for Him to let us feel His Presence so we know we’re not alone. We can ask for spiritual eyes to see when He is blessing us in little and big ways, and we can always ask for a thank-full heart.
There’s a lot we can’t control, but what we can control is our thoughts, which in turn controls our emotions, giving us more control over our lives. Loving God in the hard times is not always easy, but it always worth the effort.  Once you begin making these 5 tips a part of your every day life, you will be on the cusp of experiencing a true mind over matter transformation. When you change the way you think, your life will take a turn for the better.
Reading this via email? CLICK HERE to visit my blog and leave a comment for YOUR chance to WIN! 
Give-Away Instructions: Please leave a comment along with your email (so you can be notified if you win!) on why you need Tracie’s new book and study guide. WINNER will be randomly chosen and notified via email.
 Tracie Miles is a national Speaker and Author with the internationally known Proverbs 31 Ministries (www.proverbs31.org) and has spent the last eleven years inspiring women to live intentionally for Christ  In addition to Unsinkable Faith, she is also the author of two best selling books,  Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past To Create A Beautiful Future(2014) and Stressed Less Living: Finding God's Peace In Your Chaotic World (2012). She is also a contributing author to the popular Zondervan NIV Women’s Devotional Bible, and the Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today Daily Devotional Book.  Tracie is a monthly contributing writer for the Proverbs 31 Ministries Encouragement for Today daily devotions, which reach nearly one million people per day around the world with encouragement from God’s Word. Tracie has 3 children and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.