Tag Archives: Discouragement

Are You Wearing God’s Helmet?

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Are You Being Protected by God's Helmet of Salvation?

Are You Being Protected by God’s Helmet of Salvation?

We are now ready for the fifth piece of God’s armor as explained in Ephesians 6:10-17–the Helmet of Salvation. For the previous article on the Armor of God, click here.  The most obvious purpose of the Roman’s helmet was to protect the head. Most of the helmets were constructed of metal and sometimes included two additional pieces: a protective plate for the cheeks and a metal piece to cover the back of the neck.

But how is the helmet linked to salvation? First of all, we need to acknowledge that our minds are modern day battlefields. How well we perform at renewing our minds with God’s Word will determine whether we are wearing the helmet or not. First Thessalonians 5:8-9 offers insight:

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

You probably have noticed when watching biblical movies depicting brutal war scenes that the last piece of armor to put on was the helmet–only then was the soldier considered ready for battle. Not wearing the helmet would of been a fatal mistake.

Like the helmet, our salvation is supposed to be impenetrable, but only when we put it on. Think of salvation as an ongoing state of being, rather than one event in time. The connection between the helmet and salvation reveals to us that Satan’s blows are meant to destroy the Christian’s confidence and security in Christ. Like a helmet that continually protects, we must also continually protect our brains from worldly influences. Philippians 2:12 says,

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Hope. Sacrifice. Salvation

In the spiritual realm, we must be continually cultivating our faith. This ‘working out’ our salvation  shields the mind from attacks of confusion that would cause a Christian to remain in a state of doubt and deception.  When we’re working out our faith, God will reward such faith. The helmet also offers hope – hope that originates from our heavenly Father doesn’t break or decay. God’s form of hope is permanent, unlike worldly hope that is fleeting– His promise of salvation is also permanent– made possible only by the sacrifice that Jesus made. Lastly, Jesus’ sacrifice also is permanent. It will never become irrelevant or obsolete. Hope, Sacrifice and Salvation are three sure treasures that won’t disappoint. Put your faith into what is the only sure thing, because He is the way, the Truth, and the Light.

Faith Helmets

However,  we run the risk, when not wearing our faith helmets to be blindsided by discouragement and doubt. One way Satan does this is by bringing to the surface all that is wrong or negative in our lives. This has the potential to cause us to lose our confident (trust) in our heavenly Father. Wearing our spiritual helmets is vital for protecting our brains, which is the control center for our bodies. By wearing the Helmet of Salvation we are better protected to survive, and spiritually speaking, to be victorious against Satan’s attacks. God will enable us to reject doubts that arise in the circumstances of our lives and will reward our faith with more faith.

Salvation as a Treasure

An aspect of our helmet of salvation is that when we perceive our salvation as a treasure, we more often tend to live a life pleasing to the Lord. This zeal for the Lord extinguishes many of Satan’s fiery darts. But how can we keep our zeal without working out our salvation? When we’ve programed our minds to think on God’s Word and simultaneously work out our salvation on a daily basis, we deliberately choose to wear our helmets–and this honors Christ. (Philippians 4:8).

Pray this prayer for the Helmet of Salvation and as you pray, visually picture yourself putting God’s Helmet of Salvation on your head.

 Lord Jesus Christ

Protect me from those who plan evil against me.

Your Word says in Psalm 140:7: “O LORD, my Lord, my strong deliverer, you have covered my head in the day of battle. I trust that You will stand by me. Help me to take every “proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God” captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Help me to fix my thoughts on You and to the honorable task of working out my faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Debilitating Disappointment or Divine Hope?

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Illustration depicting a green roadsign with a disappointment concept. Blue sky background.

Disappointment is a sure thing in life, but God has given us a plan to help us get through it.

Disappointment is nothing new. We’ve all been hurt by some form of disappointment. Maybe it was a broken commitment; a deployment extended by another month, your desired duty station didn’t come through, an un-kept promise, circumstances that didn’t work out, financial downturn, another miscarriage, infertility, or an unmet expectation. More often than not, we become disappointed with people. It’s important to work through our disappointments or we’ll be mired in this debilitating state.

Since we’re guaranteed to be disappointed in this life, its paramount we spiritually work through what or who disappointed us. This is because unprocessed disappointment will cause us to distance ourselves from God. Additionally, if left untouched by God’s hand, it will build up and cut us off from the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. What’s worse, disappointment will quench the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts.

What’s the Take-Away

To spiritually process the feeling of being let down, start by going to the Lord. Ask Him to show you His perspective. Ask, “What is the take-away” that I can apply to this disappointing circumstance? What do I need to do or change in myself in order to move beyond daily disappointment? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you spiritually discern what He wants you to learn.. And finally ask, “How can I take my focus off the disappointment and seek His solutions?” By asking God to be a part of this process, you are allowing Him to be in the driver’s seat. He is in control and you become dependent on Him. This allows God to unearth the root cause of your disappointment that may have gone undetected. When we’re in this mindset, we position ourselves to hear from Him. We focus less on the subject of our disappointment and more on the Lord and seeking His solution. Additional things to think about when processing disappointment are

Acknowledge that Jesus cares for your disappointed soul. He experienced his own share of disappointment. For this reason, internalize the truth that Jesus will sustain you. David had many bouts of discouragement, but He also knew that God was the energy source to overcome discouragement.

Commit to daily seeking His grace to encourage your heart. I think of this as heart maintenance. The more you go before the Lord, seeking Him will become your first response. Satan would love nothing more than to get you to focus on yourself, your fear, your frustration, and your fatigue over the situation. Resist Satan by finding Scripture that encourages your heart. Some examples are: Amos 3:3, Psalm 55:22,

 Realize that the Lord may have a purpose behind the situation that has you discouraged. Immediately turn to God. Let Him know that on your own you don’t know what to do or how you’ll face it. Since you may also get respected and trusted advice from others, remember to ask God to make His will absolutely clear. God can use anything that touches us to bring us  closer to his purpose, reveal something new about His character, steer us in the right direction, or some other intended result.

 Pray for those who have disappointed you pleases the Lord. This can be hard to do. If not for the Lord’s help, it would be impossible. It may help if you view those who’ve disappointed you as human beings with their own flaws, knowing that “all fall short.” See them through eyes of grace. Praying for those who’ve disappointed us doesn’t mean they’ve gotten away with hurting us, but it does allow our hearts to be receptive to hearing from God. If our faith and devotion to Jesus is genuine, praying for those who’ve disappointed us will please God’s heart. And that is one of the purposes of the Christ-follower. If you don’t know how to do this, ask God to reveal it to you.

 Don’t shift your focus away from the Lord. Jesus came to restore our hearts from perpetual disappointment to divine hopefulness. This doesn’t mean an easy life, but it does mean a life of hopeful expectation from the Lord. But He does expect us to do our part. “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master…so our eyes look to the Lord our God…” (Psalm 123:1-2).

Additionally, by overly focusing on ourselves, we are robbed of opportunities to bless others that cross our paths are discouraged. Since God mainly speaks to us through His Word, open your Bible and read the stories of God’s faithfulness to those who experienced discouragement and despair. Ask Him to speak to your heart in such a way that you will have guidance. King Jehoshaphat, upon learning that his enemies were on their way to attack his kingdom, he got on his knees and said to God and his people, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” If you have never before read his story, it is an interesting one. See what God did on King Jehoshaphat’s behalf. It can be found in 2 Chronicles 20.

Memorize Scripture that encourages your downcast heart. Some examples are Romans 8:28

Remember to say thank you. God hears our prayers. When you speak, He’s listening and He will respond with help. We ultimately want to be able to say, “This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). Because of His lovingkindness and guidance, don’t forget to say thanks. The best way you can bless the heart of God is by using your life story of how God intervened in your discouraging situation to lift the spirits of another’s soul stricken with disappointment. By doing so, you acknowledge before God and people the Source of your help. And God gets all the glory.

Therefore, cast your disappointment upon Christ so you can be freed of what has you disheartened and claim divine hope. Allow God’s grace (undeserved favor of God) to help you triumph over disappointment. The Bible says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Blessings to you,

Lisa

To order a copy of my book, Faith Steps For Military Families, click here. Do you have a thought on this topic? Comment below. You can also follow me at http://www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and on Twitter @lisanixonphilli

 

 

Are You Trusting God for That?

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A red "TRUST" and a gray "FEAR" sit on opposite ends of a gray board which is balanced on a white question mark. Isolated on white.

Our American culture fails in the area of patience. Yesterday I was in line at a grocery store. I had a few small things so I went to the self-check-out area. Every one of the do-it-yourself scanners were busy so I waited by the one that looked like it would be free the soonest. The gentleman at this scanner was wrapping up his purchase. He pulled a few dollar bills out of his front jean pocket began to feed them into the machine. To his frustration, the machine didn’t like the bills and it quickly rejected them.  Each time one of the bills was rejected, he took the bill and smoothed it across his knee and tried again, only to have the machine spit them out again. As I watched, the look on this man’s face was not only growing more impatient with the machine, but he also began to show signs of anxiety. He didn’t look at me directly, but he knew I was there waiting. I decided I was not going to add to his angst.

 “Don’t you hate it when that happens?” I said, trying to let him know I wasn’t getting uptight with him.

“I’m sorry this is taking so long,” he said, with an apologetic tone.

“That’s ok. I’ve had that happen to me a few times, too.”

A moment later, the last bill was finally received by the machine. A small smile of relief came over his face. He grabbed his receipt and bag of groceries and turned to me.

“Again, I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

 Living in a country where everything is instantaneous, we have lost the timeless quality of patient waiting, and for believers today this includes answers to our prayers. As military wives and mothers, we have plenty to pray over: transfer orders, new duty stations, the upcoming deployment, spousal jobs, financial matters, getting out or staying in the military, children’s concerns, and other prayer needs.

 There have been times where I have been impatient with the Lord, frustrated that He’s taking too long with the important matters of my heart. And I’m guilty of influencing circumstances hoping it would hurry God along in bringing about the answer I desperately wanted. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I hoped He would welcome my efforts being the backseat driver. God’s lateness seemed like He didn’t appreciate my sense of urgency. However, it took awhile, but God eventually showed me that I was getting into my own way. I wasn’t trusting God for my prayer needs. I began to take a look at why I sometimes jumped ahead of God. It came down to one word: fear. I asked myself a series of questions regarding my prayer requests, and the resulting gut feeling was always fear. I was afraid God wouldn’t understand what I deeply needed. I feared I wouldn’t like the way He changed things, or I feared He’d never change things. But deep down, the number one fear was that I didn’t trust God in coming through for me. Not long after this realization, I read an article about what the Christian’s posture ought to be while waiting for answered prayer. While reading the article, I came upon the words something like this, “My dear child, why won’t you allow me to do my job of working it out and you do your job of trusting me?” Wow! those words stuck like Velcro on my heart. Now whenever I become impatient with God’s timing, I remind myself of who’s job it is to change things.

God created all things and that includes time. He numbered the days in a year, hours in a day, and the minutes and moments of our lives. The concept of time, when you think about it, influences every aspect of life. Because God controls time, we can’t assume He isn’t hard at work in the background. This is the nuts and bolts of what “walking by faith and not by sight” is all about. The problem with humanity is that we always want proof. We base everything on whether or not we can see it, touch it, or hear it. But when there isn’t anything evident yet, we start the doubting process. Doubt leads us to question God’s faithfulness. (See my 3-part article series: Doubt, Disillusionment, and discouragement here) To overcome this tendency, it’s imperative to keep our focus on God and His many attributes: loving, good, patient, Omni-present, omniscient, just, merciful, and faithful, among others. God’s faithfulness includes His guidance and answered prayer, but sometimes He waits for us to get out of the driver’s seat. There’s only one steering wheel for a reason.  Picture yourself sitting on the teeter-totter in the graphic above.  Which side are you leaning towards- the trust side in red, or the fear side in gray? Then ask yourself, “Am I trusting God for that?”

Blessings,

Lisa

 

Three Subtle Attacks on Military Marriages

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A sailor kissing his new wife.

Use your marital struggles to grow together not further apart.

In 1987 I was a new Navy wife–straight from the land of Oz. And I didn’t know the first thing about the Navy lifestyle; There are no warships in Kansas! So, when I moved to California and met and later married my husband, Ray, I became a member of the larger military family and Uncle Sam became my father-in-law. Thanks to my friend, Vernel, a Navy wife I met at my new job upon arriving in California, she offered a quick lesson one Saturday afternoon on Navy life 101. I learned to expect occasional squalls between my husband and I brought on by rotational deployments with following seas of emotional anxieties. I realized there would be repeated adjustments, unique challenges unlike traditional marriage, intermittent miscommunication, with large doses of trust a certain requirement. On the up side, moments of well-deserved joy at homecomings would be the pinnacle of pride and honor in our beloved military member, all to say this lifestyle is worth it. Either way, I embraced my new role as a supportive Navy wife, determined not to throw up the white surrender flag when the stormy seas crashed in.

Marriage is hard in the 21st century, but a military marriage is not for those with one-sided expectations or a casual commitment. Like a warship undergoing sea trials to test the limits of the workings and maneuverability to determine its seaworthiness, there are also difficult hardships inherent in  military marriages. These challenges will test a military marriage to see whether or not it is seaworthy. Three of the top concerns for today’s military marriages are outlined below.

Selfishness. Last year while driving to work one morning I heard that selfishness is the number one destroyer of relationships. John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” In any marriage, selfishness is a deterrent to a lasting relationship, but in a military marriage, its tolerance is short-lived, potentially sinking your military marriage soon after it departs the pier. Other than infidelity, selfishness left unaddressed, is the fastest channel to sabotaging your marriage, deeming it unworthy for a sea-faring relationship.

There is a new viewpoint out there in our marital culture. Dr. Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has written about this new perspective of marriage and its enemy, selfishness. “In the new psychological approach to marriage, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage–usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse.1

This new view, contrary to the Christian belief of marital love, which highlights Christ’s love for the church, involves freely giving of one’s self to his or her spouse, is short on roots of generosity but deep in self-serving motives and entitlement. One way to stop or prevent selfishness is to focus on spiritual readiness. Instead of asking, “what will make me happy and fulfilled in my military marriage?” ask, “what will make us blessed and fulfilled in our military marriage?”

Unwarranted Expectations. Like selfishness, having idealistic expectations will send tempests into your marriage. Young military marriages in particular will benefit from recognizing that your military spouse has a job unlike most civilian jobs. Even on shore duty, he or she can’t be expected to always be available for wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, or even funerals for in-laws. Although the military understands the importance and value of these milestones and events, they can’t appease every request, nor can they be expected to. They must continually balance the needs of the military with military morale and sensitivity to family. I recall halfway into my husband’s military career, he was underway three consecutive wedding anniversaries. I was disappointed, but when I reflect back, was there really anything he could do about it? Try the following to increase the sea-worthiness of your military marriage:

  • Focus on the purpose and value of faith and discuss together whether or not your expectations are warranted and fit the example of faith Christ modeled.
  • Resist the urge to punish your spouse for what he or she can’t change or control.
  • Refuse the impulse to blame your spouse for being in the military.
  • Comparing your military marriage and family’s rhythm and schedule to that of civilian marriages only creates discontentment and plants negative thought patterns that the military lifestyle isn’t honorable service. Even in the civilian sector, there are unattractive job requirements. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Deception and Distrust. These two undesirable traits are linked. If there’s deception, distrust soon follows. In  military marriages, getting to the first base of trust between you and your spouse is a must. Trust is a raw material that has to be cultivated. Trust is the cornerstone of marriage. It is what binds and links the other walls–unconditional love, commitment, transparency, communication, and honesty together. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. And our jobs as marriage partners is to navigate through trust issues, with sound resolutions, not around them, believing they will fade away on their own. Otherwise, the same storm returns over and over again, threatening to shipwreck your marriage. For trust issues related to infidelity, a couple can’t go wrong with biblical counseling. It may be a needed first step. Doing so will take hard work. There are no easy fixes, but if you’re committed it can lead to necessary discovery and growth. Pastor Chip Ingram, author, and radio host of Living on the Edge said about marriage, “conflict is an opportunity to grow.” Other ways to build trust are:

  •  Be transparent – While on deployment or even short underway periods, be emotionally responsible with your spouse to maintain trust. Share your day, the good and the bad. If you’re the spouse at home, tell your husband or wife what you did that day or week, where you went, people you met with, the money you spent, the bills you paid as well as those you forgot to pay. If you’re the spouse underway, do the same. If on a port call, share the places you went to, venture out in groups with the same sex, how much money you spent, and interesting events you encountered.
  •  Forget being right or wrong. We’ve all been there, but there comes a time when this mindset has to end if what is truly wanted is a healthy and working marriage. Strive for solutions that steer you in the direction of unity.
  •  Reconfirm your commitment to your spouse throughout the deployment. Think of ways that honestly convey emotional trust. Start with “I appreciate that you ________________ (fill in the blank).
  •  When failure happens, don’t give up. If trust was breached, it’s normal to feel hurt and want to shut the offending spouse out. However, if you’re willing, let your spouse know he or she can earn your trust back, but genuine changes that bear results must happen. Put accountability steps in play, but be realistic about time frames. Seek out a counselor trained in dealing with military marriages. Rebuilding trust takes time on the part of both spouses.

 Unfortunately, in a military marriage there are no sea-trials to determine if your marriage will be seaworthy. Once married, the marriage must depart from the pier and the challenges and complexities of this military lifestyle will prove its readiness. But with the support of Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches that offer a military ministry, and keeping your military marriage as a high priority will help ensure it is lasting and fulfilling.

Blessings,

Lisa

Lisa Nixon Phillips is a retired Navy wife and author of Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent. Visit Lisa at www.LisaNixonPhillips.com and check out her blog page for additional articles on the military lifestyle.

You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/faithstepsformilitaryfamilies.

 Notes:

1 Richard P. Fitzgibbons, “The Selfish Spouse/Relative, www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfishspouse.php (accessed 17 June 17, 2014).

 

Three Spiritual Battles that Undermine Spiritual Readiness (Part 3: Discouagement)

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How do you handle discouragement?

How do you handle discouragement?

 The third spiritual battle that can undermine our spiritual readiness is discouragement. Sometimes we become discouraged over a circumstance that doesn’t improve. We’ve asked God to intervene in our situation but for whatever reason His hand hasn’t moved in its midst. Our earnest prayers go unanswered. Perhaps the timing isn’t right or God is still orchestrating behind the scenes or His moving in our situation is dependent on the heart moving in another person.

 We can also become discouraged over a physical condition, too. Maybe our illness is chronic and it pulls our spirits down.

 And then there’s the all too common cause that can propel us into discouragement–when other people fail us. (see part 2 on disillusionment below). What we thought or believed about the other person turned out to be false. We were counting on this person and he or she didn’t come through. Who hasn’t had that happen?

 Pastors can become discouraged, too, when someone gives their heart to the Lord, but later turned his or her back on God. This happened to Demas, one of Paul’s co-workers. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is sitting in a prison cell and writes, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (v.10 nrsv). Demas loved what the world offered and chose to leave his faith. This deeply discouraged Paul.

 Believing God has let you down or that He broke one of His promises can also lead to discouragement. You worked hard to build a certain ministry but it wasn’t sustainable. You were convinced it had God’s blessing on it and can’t understand why it failed. And now you’re weary, discouraged, and not sure if you want to try something new for the Lord. You may even be disappointed in yourself. You were so sure that you were in the center of God’s will, but now you have doubts.

 Do any of these sound familiar? All of us have probably experienced one or two of these examples. There is even an example of discouragement in the book of Ezra.

 Ezra was a priest. In fact, his name means “help.”1 After Cyrus, king of Persia allowed groups of Israelites to return to Jerusalem, at the start of their release from captivity in Babylon. The first group was led by Zerubbabel. He encouraged the people to rebuild the temple that was previously destroyed. Unfortunately, wherever there is commitment to God and enthusiasm for a blessed project, not far behind are those opposed. Not unlike today, there are always going to be people in opposition to God’s work.2 Opposition to building the temple became so strong that a cloud of discouragement blanketed the hearts of God’s people.

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and they bribed officials to frustrate their plan throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia (Ezra 4:4-5 nrsv).

God’s people didn’t expect this kind of opposition and it totally stopped them in their tracks. They became discouraged and intimidated; rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem came to a complete halt lasting about sixteen years.  But when God has a plan nobody and no earthly king can spoil it forever. What could be done to turn this bleak situation around? God sent two people uniquely suited with a gift of encouragement.

Two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah are attributed to reviving the temple rebuilding project. They not only encouraged the people to return to rebuilding the temple, but they physically got involved by working side by side other laborers. Despite continued opposition, the temple was finished in about four years. Their focus was reverted back to God and this enabled them to push through their discouragement.

 When we feel discouraged it’s natural to turn our focus inwards. We fall into the “woe is me” mentality when we take our focus off God and turn it inward. Be careful of this–this is where Satan wants us. By focusing on ourselves, we have the propensity to become bitter, resentful, and doubtful. And our godly perception becomes skewed. Even if you initially don’t feel like turning to God, resist that urge and come before the Lord. When fighting mind and heart battles, we will fare better on our knees in prayer, acknowledging God is the source of all encouragement. Like in the story of the rebuilding the temple, God will send just the right people to encourage our hearts.

Push Through Opposition

If you noticed in the Ezra story, as soon as God’s people returned to rebuilding the temple, the opposition came out of the woodwork again. The Persia-appointed governor of Israel and his cohorts challenged them. Essentially, the Israelites were questioned by whose authority were they allowed to return to rebuilding the temple. Although this question may have been used to intimidate, God’s people continued to build while the matter was under appeal.

When faced with opposition it’s easy to allow others to discourage us from doing the Lord’s work. If we let their opposition intimidate us, our discouragement will cause us to become paralyzed with fear. If that happens we become less effective. To offset the burden of opposition, recognize we are workers for God.5 We should be faithful to God’s work first.

 God Uses Others

God brought Haggai and Zechariah, two prophets to be encouragers for God’s people. God will send just the right people into your life to be Jesus with “skin on.” You know these people. They have a word from God or Scripture on their tongue to give you just enough encouragement to take the next step forward with God. Welcome these encouragers.

 Get Back to God’s Work

A bad case of discouragement kept God’s people from working on the temple for many years. However, a few encouraging words gave them their courage and strength to begin again. It is the same with us, even if we’ve been away from doing God’s work. When God gives us a project after a long dry season He will also give us the encouragement and strength to do it, whether that encouragement comes from His Word or through people He sends into our lives. There is even encouragement inherent in the words we hope to hear someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Returning to God’s work is one of the best ways to send discouragement packing. Even simple tasks like sweeping the floors of a food bank, folding clothes at Clothes Pantry for those in need, or simply listening to a soldier telling his war story to start the healing process of a wounded soul. To overcome discouragement often means getting back into the mission field for God’s eternal kingdom.

Blessings,

Lisa

Would you like to read another article about unanswered prayer called, “Are You Trusting God With That?” If so, click