The Prison of Doubt

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

Have you ever found yourself in a season of doubt?

The kind of season where everything around you feels dark. The light you could once see so brightly, now seems to have faded.

You wonder if God is really there. Does He see you? Doesn’t He know what you’re going through?

The path you were on seemed so clear and firm. But now the path has disappeared and it feels like you’re sinking.

Sinking into disappointment.

Sinking into discouragement.

Sinking into despair.

And then your weary mind is flooded with questions…

Are you sure this is where you called me, Jesus?

Did I not hear you right?

This isn’t where I thought I’d be right now.

Have you abandoned me?

Do you even hear me?

John the Baptist was asking some similar questions when he found himself in prison.

Ummm….prison?

You mean the one who was called to prepare the way for Jesus?

In prison?

Yes. That’s where he was.

He sent two of his disciples to find Jesus and ask him point blank:

Are you the one who was to come? 

This is where he is doubting whether or not Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Should we expect someone else?

As if the first question wasn’t clear enough, this one surely grabbed his attention!

John’s entire ministry pointed others to the coming Messiah. His assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. If he got this wrong, then everything he did would be in vain. He would have been guilty of leading so many others astray.

He couldn’t live with that. He knew his days were limited. (When prophets rebuke kings, it usually didn’t go very well.)

So he had to know the answer to his final question.

Did he get it wrong? Was Jesus really who He said He was?

Dear friends, we often find ourselves in similar situations. We may not find ourselves in a physical prison awaiting execution. But we find ourselves in a different type of prison…

We might feel trapped in a marriage that  started off on the right path, but now is falling apart.

We may have taken that dream job but now it feels like an absolute nightmare.

We poured so much into our kids but now they are wandering off, making poor choices.

Or maybe someone you trusted has betrayed you and you feel stuck in a prison of bitterness.

Whatever it is you’re doubting, you are most certainly not alone. We all have seasons of doubt. We all have those moments when we are afraid to even admit we doubt God’s presence in our lives.

After reading back through the passage where John the Baptist is doubting who Jesus is, he gets his answer.

Jesus sends those disciples back to John with exactly what he needs to hear. Don’t miss what Jesus says!

“Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

John would certainly recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those powerful words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him through the painful circumstances he was experiencing.

Notice that Jesus did not speak words of condemnation towards John. He didn’t express disappointment that John was doubting him. He didn’t throw up his hands in frustration that John would dare question his authority as the Messiah!

Right after John’s disciples go on their way, here is what Jesus says about John:

“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt. 11:11)

Jesus makes this statement in the midst of John’s doubt!!  

I don’t know about you, but I find this nugget of truth fascinating. It brings me such relief and peace. It removes the heavy burden of guilt I sometimes feel when I’m in a season of doubt myself.

As the forerunner to paving the way for Jesus, John did a lot of great things. He called a nation to repentance, and prepared the world for Christ’s arrival.

But the quality I think we can all embrace is how he persevered in the face of public misunderstanding and malicious persecution.

Have you ever been misunderstood by anyone? (A family member, friend or co-worker?)

Have you ever been wrongly accused for standing up for your beliefs?

Have you ever felt like someone has bound you up in an emotional or mental prison?

I don’t know where you are today, but I want to encourage you to claim the promises of Jesus that will bring you peace.

The very words of Jesus are what ultimately comforted John. Even in prison. Awaiting a death sentence.

Wherever you feel trapped, locked up, bound up or hopeless…only His promises can bring you peace.

Don’t feel shame in your doubts, but bring them to the feet of Jesus, the only one who can unlock your prison of doubt.

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Facing the Giant of FEAR

A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel.

My husband, daughter and I stood in awe on the top of Mt. Azekah overlooking the valley of Elah. This was the place where David killed Goliath! Trying to wrap my head around what took place here, I tried to envision David coming face-to-face with the one who taunted him. Threatened him. Dared him to come one step closer.

Ted, one of our teaching pastors had just walked us through this historical event.  Pulling nuggets of truth from scripture, he took us back in time to what played out that day. He finally challenged us to identify the giants in our own lives. 

The things that taunt us. The things that ignite fear, leaving us paralyzed.

How will we respond when we come face-to-face with these giants?

Just four hours after our group hiked back down Mt. Azekah, I’d be forced to answer that question.

We’d just finished eating dinner at our hotel’s dining room. My daughter, Breanna, smiled as she began to dig into a piece of chocolate cake. The chef had just informed us the dessert was nut free.

She’s severely allergic to nuts. We have to take extreme caution with anything she eats. The slightest amount of nuts ushers in a dangerous reaction.

After three bites, Breanna’s smile turned to shock. She spit out what looked like a tiny piece of nut.

“Mom, I think this has nuts in it and I’ve already eaten some!”

In that moment, fear ignited in my heart. Grabbing the plate of cake, I gasped and held my breath as we quickly made our way to the chef on the other side of the room. Showing him what we’d discovered, the frown on his face confirmed my fear.

“I didn’t realize this cake had walnuts in it.”

This is when the spark of fear engulfed into horrendous flames in every part of my being.

It had been six years since Breanna had accidentally ingested nuts. She’d broken out in hives all over her body. I remember distinctly what the doctor had said in that moment.

With each incident, the reaction gets worse. Just because ingestion doesn’t affect one’s breathing in a given moment doesn’t mean it won’t the next time.

This was her next time. Would she experience anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock shuts down the respiratory system. In some extreme cases, people die.

My husband, Jim, and I looked at each other in total disbelief. Is this really happening?

Just minutes after Breanna ingested the nuts, her lips and left eye swelled up. Panic washed all over my daughter’s face and in that moment I came face-to-face with my giant.

The giant that all parents face…

The fear of something tragic happening to one of your kids.

When others in the dining room realized what was happening, Roy, a doctor in our group, offered his assistance. Not only was he a doctor, but he understood our fear. One of his grown daughters also had a severe nut allergy. Looking back now, I realize in that moment God began to slowly extinguish the flames of fear with His comfort.

Fear of the unknown is another giant we all face.

And in this moment, we just didn’t know what was going to happen. Breanna didn’t have trouble breathing. She hadn’t broken out in hives either. Would her lips continue to swell? Could it eventually affect her breathing? Should we wait it out and see what else happened?

Based on Dr. Roy’s experience with his own daughter, he urged us to get Breanna to the hospital.

Other giants stomped onto the scene, shaking the core of my heart.

We’re in a foreign country!

We know nothing about hospitals in Israel!

Will our insurance cover us out of the country?

How far away do we have to go?

If she goes into shock, are they equipped to treat her?

An ambulance pulled up outside the hotel. We made our way through the crowd that had gathered in the lobby. Four Israeli medics (yes, four!) greeted us and immediately got Breanna hooked up in the back of the ambulance. Jim sat up front with the driver. Was there room for me?

“You, get in here with us!”  I squeezed in next to the other three medics and hung on tightly, trying to stay strong for Breanna.

The tires of the ambulance screeched in reverse, making our way down extremely narrow streets.

This is when I began to pray like crazy!

God, please help us. We need you now. I beg you to protect Breanna. 

 

The medics continued to monitor Breanna’s vital signs. They assured me we were getting closer to the hospital. At this point she was breathing fine.

The ambulance continued speeding to our destination, at some points driving up on sidewalks to get around stopped traffic.

God, please get us there safe. 

Breanna suddenly bolted up from her reclined position, fear all over her face and yelled, “My throat feels strange, I can’t breathe!”

Just seconds later, she threw up. (Sorry to be so graphic here!)

“Please help her!” I pleaded with the medic next to me. The one in charge immediately gave her an injection of epinephrine.

Immediately she announced to us that she could breathe okay now. (It turned out that she had not experienced anaphylactic shock, but because her throat felt strange before vomiting she thought it was affecting her ability to breathe.)

Finally, we arrived at the hospital and they took her right in. No waiting.

I walked beside my courageous daughter to the room they pointed to. Jim filled out paperwork at the front desk and would join us later.

A nurse with beautiful long, black hair took Breanna’s vitals and smiled,assuring us we were in good hands.

In that moment, I felt the comforting hands of God holding us tight. Earlier I’d felt stricken with panic. But now felt saturated with peace.

I looked over at my precious daughter and a smile washed over her frail face.

“Mom, I had a six-year streak going and now I’ve gotta start all over!”

I thought back to where we’d stood earlier that day. On top of Mt. Azakeh, overlooking the valley of Elah. The place where David slayed the giant.

And here we both were–in a hospital emergency room. We’d just walked through our own valley, staring our giants face-to-face.

My daughter’s worst fear? Ingesting nuts…knowing it could be deadly. 

My worst fear? Something tragic taking the life of my child…and feeling out of control to fix it.

 I believe God sometimes allows us to experience our worst fears so we can experience the truth that He is more powerful than anything we fear.

 

We pray for the giants to stay away so we don’t have to face them.

But sometimes the giants march out right in front of us. A decision must be made.

Will we let them threaten us and leave us paralyzed? (This is what King Saul and his soldiers did when they looked at Goliath.)

Or will we look to God for strength and by faith let Him fight the giants for us?

God fought the giants for us and provided exactly what we needed that night:

*A doctor in our group who understood the urgency of the situation.

*A hospital close by, which I found out later was one of the best in Jerusalem.

*An amazing medical team who acted quickly and accordingly.

*Breanna experienced swelling and hives, but no anaphylactic shock.

*The hotel paid for our medical bill in full.

After four hours of observation,Breanna was released. We were all washed over with exhaustion. But we stepped out into the streets of Jerusalem praising God, knowing the situation could have been so much worse.

We’d come face-to-face with our giants that day. And just like David, we walked away victorious.

I don’t know what giants you are facing today, but I can promise you this:

If you look to God for strength and put your faith in Him, He will be your giant slayer. 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul!

Life is Short…Live it Well

When you find yourself suddenly entering a new decade of life, it certainly changes your perspective on time.

Hitting the big 50 milestone marker became reality for me recently. Mixed feelings? You bet!

My daughter blessed me with her encouraging words, “Gosh, Mom, you’re a half century old!”

For a few days I found myself feeling a bit on the negative side.

If the average life expectancy is 70, then I guess I’ve got at least 20 years left.

I guess it’s all downhill from here….

But then God reminded me of all the blessings He’s poured out upon me. So instead of getting depressed about my age, I rejoiced in all He’s entrusted me with. I also feel compelled to use the time I have left on this earth for His glory.

I like how James 4:14 puts this truth:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Most people don’t know how long their “mist” will last.

70 years? 80?

For some, their mist is very short. Tragedy strikes out of nowhere and their days are suddenly gone. No warning. Living life as if there were no tomorrow.

For others, they are faced with the reality that their “mist” is coming to an end. Cut short compared to most.

amzie

Sixteen-year-old Amzie Smith is dying of terminal liver cancer. She’s living each day to the fullest because she knows time is short. You can read more of her story here. In spite of what she’s faced with, her goal is to shine the light on God’s kindness and love. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she’s chosen to let God use her life to point others to Him. She’s packed more into her short “mist” than most people do in a lifetime. Her faith inspires me to live each of my days to the fullest.

What if we all lived like that? What if we embraced each and every day with everything we had?

The reality is that we just don’t know how many days we have on this earth. There are no guarantees for anyone. We are given one day at a time and we get to choose how to live that day.

Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”

Maybe this means wisdom is found in the day-to-day moments of humility instead of thinking when we get older we’ll suddenly have a huge dose of it.

Psalm 146:2 says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

While I have my “being”? How long is that?

You don’t know.

But we are urged to praise God as long as we live. It’s simply praising Him for what He’s given us. Taking our gifts and talents and using them for His glory. Loving others He puts in our path. Pointing them to the love of Jesus. It’s our purpose.

So just as sixteen-year-old Amzie is living her purpose to its fullest, I want to do the same.

Instead of putting the eternal things on the back burner with the assumption that I’ve got plenty of time later, I choose to do those things now.

Ann Voskamp puts it like this in her book The Broken Way:

“Whether we have a diagnosis or not, we all get one container of time–but no one gets to know what size that container is. Live every day like you’re terminal. Because you are. Live every day like your soul’s eternal. Because it is.”

I don’t know where you are in your journey of time, dear friend. Maybe you’ve lived many years and you have regrets. Maybe you’re approaching middle age and you think you’re halfway through your lifespan. Or perhaps you’re young, thinking you have a whole life yet to live.

Your life is short…live it well.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Weary from Pouring into Others

I’ve been running on fumes lately and the gas tank of my soul is almost on empty.

The things I’m running after are all good. 

Encouraging others in their faith.

Walking alongside friends in difficult circumstances. 

Helping to lead a group of single moms.

Showing hospitality to others in our home.

Preparing to launch and market my first book. 

But in the midst of all the kingdom work, I can feel myself wearing down a bit. In a constant flow of pouring into others, I’ve forgotten to slow down enough to be refilled. Not being intentional enough with my time to sit before the Lord and let Him refresh me.

Imagine a huge pitcher of water. It’s surrounded by multiple small glasses. At first you can freely pour the water into the other glasses.

A little bit here. A little bit there. Pour some here. Pour some there.

But what seems an endless supply will soon run out. The large pitcher will run dry at some point.

 

An empty pitcher can’t fill anything up. An empty pitcher serves no purpose. It must be refilled before it can pour back out. We can set this pitcher under the faucet and turn it on. Water from an endless supply is available at any time.

This is a picture of what I must do to stay filled up! I need to sit still under the faucet of God’s never-ending love, full of peace and strength that will never run out. An endless supply of grace–available at any time.

Maybe instead of waiting until the pitcher of my heart is empty, I should go back to the faucet every day and stay filled up. I’m so guilty of waiting until every last drop of strength and grace are squeezed out of my parched, weary soul.

You know how some servers at restaurants are great about keeping your drink refilled? Instead of waiting until your glass is empty, they keep filling it up every time they walk by. Might even seem annoying at some point! But their eye is on the glass. Their goal is to keep it filled to the brim.

Perhaps I should aim to be like that server in guarding the condition of my soul. 

Always aware. Making sure I’m filled up. Intentionally watching.

But even if I push too hard and find myself on empty, God is still ever so gracious and patient with me. He calls me to simply come with my parched soul and sit at His feet.

He beckons me to soak up His presence. Overflow me with His peace. Fills me up to the brim. And then He whispers to me and says, “You’re filled up now. Go and pour into others who are still on empty. Pour into those who need to be refreshed. Let me flow through you to show my love.”

What about you? Are you running on fumes from pouring into others? Do you feel parched because your soul needs a refill from the Living Water?

Let’s challenge one another to stay filled. Encourage each other to keep a watch on our souls.

God longs to fill the pitcher of our souls with His never-ending supply of power.

It’s a must if we’re going to keep doing the kingdom work He’s called us to.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

Hope in a Hopeless World?

Hate. Racism. Senseless deaths. Cold-blooded murder. Unthinkable tragedy.

In the midst of a nation spiraling down quickly, our hearts are certainly weighed down with grief that fills the air.

Waves of fear engulf us, leaving us drowning with no seashore in sight.

Raging with a fierce, righteous anger, we demand justice. We rally together against the evil, making our voices known. Boldly we discuss the best solutions for fixing this wicked world.

But when all is silent and nobody is around, there’s a question I believe we all are asking.

Where is my hope?

Is it in the police force?

The political candidates running for president?

The guns hidden under the bed?

The promises of the government?

Where is your hope?

Who or what are you clinging to when everything familiar and what used to be stable comes crashing down?

If it’s anything in this world, you will come up empty. Even a hefty savings account isn’t going to hold you together when evil chokes the life out of anything promising.

As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised at the spiraling down of this world.

Jesus tells us very plainly in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome this world.”

I love the way Jesus tells us like it is. He doesn’t sugar coat the situation.

Doesn’t say you might have trouble. Doesn’t say if you just read your Bible and pray enough you’ll avoid trouble.

He says we WILL have trouble.

Sometimes I get stuck on the first part of this truth and camp out there for a while. I allow my troubles to define me and dictate how my life will be lived. I turn off the news in disbelief and let myself be overcome with fear and despair.

But the next part of this truth should awaken hope in the depth of my soul! He says to take heart because HE has overcome this world. 

The apostle Paul makes it plain for us in more detail about the kind of trouble we will see play out in this world. See if any of this sounds familiar:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Yep. This passage covers just about everything we see playing out in our nation today.

So I ask you again…Where is your hope?

Even as Christians, we might say our hope is in Jesus–but we silently doubt.

Our lips may say our trust is in Him, but out of fear we attempt to control our future. We cling to our jobs, money and possessions a little too tightly.

But look at the truth of Romans 8:38 and let it sink in:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (NLT)

Death is all around us in a nation that doesn’t value life. But God’s love is stronger.

The enemy is on the prowl, deceiving many people. But God’s love is stronger. 

Fear grips us as we wonder what will happen to our children. But God’s love is stronger.

Worries of how to survive the aftermath of tragedy weigh us down. But God’s love is stronger.

On a more personal level, I’ll peel back the layers of my own heart.

Will another maniac show up in my town, randomly killing people I know? 

Will my loved ones fall prey to the enemy’s lies and turn away from God?

Will my 12-year-old daughter be safe in a world I can’t always protect her from?

How will we survive the next tragedy that strikes closer to home? 

While I might ponder these questions simply because I’m human, I choose not to linger there.

I will choose to cling to the truth of who Jesus is. I will choose to anchor my hope in the unfailing love of God. Yes, His love is stronger. He is sovereign. Even when I don’t fully understand all that will play out in this world, I will trust Him.

I live in a hopeless world. But my hope is in the unshakable love and power of my Heavenly Father.

Where is your hope?

hope

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

3 Truths for When You’re Hurting

My heart is extremely heavy this week. Dear friends all around me are hurting deeply. Their pain is deep, from heavy burdens to shattered hearts.

Disappointment in people who didn’t follow through with promises. 

Friends who just don’t seem to care.

Marriages strained with distrust and selfishness.

Sudden death of a loved one.

Physical pain so unbearable it seems hopeless.

As long as we live in these temporary bodies and navigate our way in a fallen world, there will be hurt. But we don’t have to stay stuck in our hurt. We can cling to truth in God’s word to hold us up when we just can’t take anymore.

My absolute favorite scripture is the core of my blog. It’s found in Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to Me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”

Whether you’re burned out from doing the same tasks over and over again, or burdened with something far too heavy to carry on your own, Jesus promises to give us REST. But I’ve learned the hard way that rest doesn’t just come automatically. When I’m caught up in a tangled mess of hurt and pain, I can’t find rest in my own strength. We’ve got to COME to Jesus.

That’s our part….just COME.

He promises to give us rest. Sometimes we need physical rest. Other times we need soul rest.

Another truth in God’s word that brings me comfort in the midst of my hurt is found in Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God.”

I’m often guilty of running around in my own strength trying to figure everything out on my own. I’ll keep myself busy (even with good things) to keep from having to focus on my hurt. I’ll run myself ragged, making myself too stressed out to just stop and be still. And there it is…

That’s our part…..Be still.

Cease striving. Stop what you’re doing. Stop worrying. Quit letting anxiety drive you.

And the other part in that scripture? It says KNOW.

This is not a physical action. It’s not something we DO. It happens in our mind and penetrates down to our weary soul. Here’s a definition of KNOW that is pretty powerful:

“to have developed a relationship with someone through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.”

In the worst part of our hurt and pain, we can simply know that God is who He says He is. We can trust Him.

One last scripture I’ll point you to today is found in Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Sometimes our hurt is so unbearable we feel our heart will burst with pain. I understand that kind of hurt. I’m sure every person who is reading this has been in this place.

You feel crushed by other’s choices. By your own foolish decisions. By circumstances beyond your control. By sickness or death that came on suddenly.

But God promises to be NEAR. He also promises to SAVE.

Even if we don’t feel it. Even if we don’t see it. Even if we don’t believe it.

He IS near. He DOES save.

I can’t promise how long your hurt and pain will last. It may be short-lived or it may be ongoing. But I can without a doubt promise you this:

When we surrender to Jesus in the midst of our hurt and take our heavy heart to him, He will carry us through.

COME to Him for your REST.

Be STILL and KNOW.

Trust that He is NEAR and CLOSE.

Praying for you, dear friends, that wherever you are today you’ll be encouraged by these truths.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett