It never ceases to amaze me the difference that encouragement can make in our daily lives, as we live for God. I've learned that it can make the difference between success and failure, hope and despair. And I've gotten in the habit of praying for encouragement on a regular basis. My latest lesson in the importance of encouragement came from my oldest son's plans to move clear across the country with his wife. Just the thought of our being separated by 3,000 miles made me cringe. So weeks before the actual move took place, I began asking the Lord to do some new and wonderful things in my life that would encourage me and lift me up in a big way. Exactly one day after my son and his wife moved away, the Lord began opening doors for me that blessed me with increases in my finances, my ministry, and my relationships. I was overwhelmed, and I thanked and praised God for hearing my prayers, and for caring about my hurts and heartaches.
I've discovered that nothing encourages me in hard times as much as the Word of God. And that shouldn't surprise us, because the Bible says: "Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4 NASB) God's Word is filled with promises that we can cling to in times of trouble--promises that will build our faith, reassure us, and help us persevere. One of the promises that kept me going through this latest trial was Psalm 71:20-21: "You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." (Psalm 71:20-21 NKJV) I took this promise from God personally, and I put it in prayer form, and claimed it as my own. I said, "Lord, increase my greatness and my honor, and turn and comfort me." (AMP) I knew that I could pray and expect the Lord to comfort me when I was hurting, but this promise asked for more than that--it boldly asked the Lord for an increase in "greatness and honor," and that sounded awfully good to me in my time of distress.
The Lord doesn't let me dwell on the past for very long. Every time I suffer a loss, or experience some disappointment, He is quick to remind me of His words in Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV): "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV) I have asked the Lord for a lot in recent years, and I've expected a lot from Him, too, since I've begun studying His Word in depth, and realizing how eager He is to bless us. Because of that, He often reminds me that He can't grant me the wonderful new things He has planned for me, until I let go of the old things that would keep me from moving forward. Thankfully, He doesn't expect me to let go without His help. Whatever our God asks us to do, He empowers us to do, once we make the decision to obey Him.
Scripture says: "Be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold." (Nehemiah 8:10 AMP) As far as God is concerned, joy is not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but it's a powerful spiritual force. The Lord wants us to have an inner joy, no matter what our circumstances are like. If we will cooperate with God, He will help us to maintain a joyful attitude in the darkest of times. One thing I like to do when I feel my joy level slipping is to declare over and over, "I will not grieve or be depressed, for the joy of the Lord is my strength!" Not only does this remind me of God's will for me in times of stress, but it shows the Lord that I believe His Word, and that I want to cooperate with Him for my success.
No matter what you are going through today, I urge you to begin earnestly praying for the Lord to do new and wonderful things in your life. Ask Him to give you more and more good things to look forward to. Then expect to be bombarded with a bounty of blessings that will delight your heart and lift you up!
Prayer: Lord, teach me how to pray for encouragement when I'm going through a trial. Don't leave me alone to sulk, or to drown in self-pity when I'm hurting, but help me to reach out to You instead. Enable me to let go of the old, so that I can take hold of the new. Thank You that as I dare to ask You for major blessings in the midst of my pain, You will shower me with rich rewards that will heal and comfort me!
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