“But You, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, You lift my head high.”Psalms 3:3, MSG
Each January, our church hosts a 21 Days of Prayer event. Anyone can come to the church and gather for prayer every single morning for 21 days straight. We write out our prayer requests and place them with hundreds of others we pray over. I love this special time of concentrated prayer. It seems to help kick off the new year and help everyone get focused.
One Saturday morning, I attended this event. Along with many others, I walked up to submit my requests, but also to pick up a few to pray over myself. Since we were there for an hour, I went up several times to pray for as many as I could.
After about the third trip up to the front of the church, I received a text from my daughter. She sat somewhere in the back of the room. Her message read, “Mom, someone is texting me to let you know that every time you go up to the front where the bright lights are, they can see straight through your black leggings.”
What? I read this message three times. Oh, dear God. I was MORTIFIED. Now, what was I going to do? I wanted to melt into the floor! I wanted to evaporate! Forget prayer. We have much bigger concerns right now.
I stayed in my seat. But everyone was already standing for the final prayer. I had to stand too because people would then wonder why I wasn’t standing. I was hoping to just sit there until everyone had gone. Then I would run out of the building in complete and utter shame.
But with zero dignity, I gathered my courage and slowly stood. I sensed my daughter quickly come up behind me, sheltering me from any embarrassing views. She said, “I’ve got you.”
So many spiritual lessons came to mind right in that moment. Emotions flooded my mind as I realized that’s the way God takes care of us. He covers us in our most vulnerable moments and often when we do not even know to ask. God’s got us. He’s got the whole world.
In Genesis, there is a story of Noah getting drunk and lying uncovered in his tent. The Bible says, “But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked” (Genesis 9:23, NIV). The chapter later says that when Noah woke up and saw what had happened, he prayed a blessing over both his sons who covered him.
You are Covered
I don’t have any idea what you would do in a similar situation. But I was especially grateful for my daughter that day and her quick thinking regarding my fashion faux pas. I did not know there was a problem until a trusted person pointed it out. I believe God used her to show His love and care for me. We should thank God for the covering He provides us every day, whether or not we see it with our eyes. He is always acting on our behalf to bless and protect us. God shields us on all sides.
“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”Psalms 91:4, NIV
For more from the author, purchase your copy of This Season of Freedom.
Wondering if God is going to show up and answer your prayers? Read Paula’s post, When God Doesn’t Show Up.
Psalms 5:1-5 MSG
Listen, God! Please, pay attention! Can You make sense of these ramblings, my groans and cries? King-God, I need Your help. Every morning You’ll hear me at it again. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on Your altar and watch for fire to descend.”
Have you ever ordered something online and when you received the package, the item was different from what you expected? Order errors are annoying and time consuming. It’s frustrating to get something that isn’t the correct color or size, or arrives damaged. Sometimes, the item received isn’t anything like the item ordered.
I don’t order too much online for that exact reason. I don’t want to face the hassle of returning what I ordered if something is not right. Last fall, as I was deciding what to wear to various special events, I came across this gorgeous, multi-colored, long, brocade jacket online. It caught my eye. The price was so right, and I loved the look. So, with a release of my breath, I pushed “add to cart.”
I waited to receive the “your package has shipped” notification for days. Those days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months! The holiday event to which I hoped to wear the jacket passed. Delivery took so long that the season had changed. I set my hopes to wear the jacket for Christmas, then New Year’s Eve. Still, I heard nothing. I was just sick about it.
One day I received an email telling me they delivered my package. I couldn’t wait to see the beautiful brocade material! Rushing home, I pulled it out of the mailbox and sped to the house. I ripped open the package, and there lay my jacket.
In no glory at all, it looked like a 10-year-old made it and screen-printed it with a $2 machine. Huge disappointment. Threads hung off the garment everywhere. The jacked-up jacket arrived late. It was too big with sleeves that would fit a Neanderthal and looked cheap and ridiculous. I had not gotten what they promised, and I was not happy.
Has there ever been a time when you knew God promised you something, but it seemed He did not deliver or come through for you? Perhaps you believed the situation in which you found yourself was not what you ordered or wanted. Did you wonder, “Can I get the exact thing I ordered immediately?” When we pray, we might think, “Can I get exactly what I prayed for right now?” Is God listening? Is He paying attention?
Will God Show Up?
I know so many people who are faithful, good, and loving. Yet these people wait and wait to see their biggest prayers answered. They consistently pray with high expectations for absolute miracles and nothing seems to happen. Some endure health, job, and family issues, rebellious children, or an unsaved spouse. Others have experienced deep church hurt, grieve for a lost baby, or loved one. Some people go their whole lives with no real answers.
Have you prayed but received no answers? Does it seem like God is far away? You may even imagine being cheated out of a life you could possess. Maybe you are feeling like you did all the things that a good person would do, and you just can’t seem to catch a break.
I’ve been there. I often wondered if God had left me standing alone and forgotten because the spiritual draught had gone on so long. Sometimes I chalked it up to, “This is just how it is going to be.”
God is Limitless
Looking back on some of those situations, I can see how I might have done some things differently. There were times I could have had a different attitude. I should have trusted God no matter what was happening around me. Our circumstances may cause us to believe our faith has hit a limit, but God is limitless. He is ever-present and always working on our behalf.
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”Habakkuk 3:17-19, NIV
The truth is, God is always there. He is paying attention. God carries us when we are at our lowest, when times are the hardest, and when we cannot find a way through something. He is working on our behalf even when it seems we have no answers.
You may be doing all you can do, and things just aren’t going your way right now. Trust that God is still in control, regardless of circumstances. He will not leave you. He will not give up on you. And, He has something so much better for you than a cheap jacket that you ordered on the internet.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV
Pray today that God would help you trust and believe the Word over your situation. Pray that He will help you walk in peace and freedom. Trust that God is with you even when you think He isn’t. Be strong and courageous. He will never leave you.
For more from Paula, order your copy of This Season of Freedom.
Read Paula’s previous post to learn more about dealing with relationships.
The wait is nearly over! Here’s a little sneak peak at the front cover while we wait patiently on the physical book. We should receive something very special in the mail soon! ♥️
I want to give my endorsers a big THANK YOU for their generous contribution. I’m super excited about all of them. All five are wonderful women who are believers, influencers, and firestarters for the Kingdom. It’s time for the women of God to take a stand for Jesus and have a voice in this world. We will be heard. We will not sit idly by and allow the enemy to run us over anymore. We will unite together and walk forward into freedom the way God ultimately plans. We will reach others by our example and we will not let evil distract us from our agenda.
I pray that you will find hope and freedom between the pages of this book and your soul finds comfort during your quiet time alone with God. Make it so, Jesus.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”Romans 8:28 ESV
Romans 8:28 was my Grandma Courtney’s favorite verse. She quoted it countless times in her life. That reputation might be the primary reason she was able to endure so many hardships. Grandma was a young bride at 16 years old. She had a baby at 17 years old who passed away as an infant. She had another child whose father died in a car accident. His young son was only 9 months old. She was suddenly a very young, single mother and had to go to work while still grieving. She later married again and had 5 more children. These details were just the beginning.
She has long since passed away and I’m sure has been reunited with all who have gone before her. My grandmother greatly impacted my life because of her strength and tenacity and her “I-will-beat-it-against-all-odds” attitude. She kept changing her filter – the way she viewed or thought about events and people around her – to keep herself filtering everything freshly. I can’t help but believe that her life was better because of her ever-evolving positive perspective.
Like the air filter or oil filter in our car, periodically filters must be cleaned or changed altogether to maintain a good flow of air or oil. Otherwise, our car could overheat, resulting in an unnecessary breakdown and expensive repairs. Having fresh filters keeps our vehicles running longer and more efficiently.
Relationships in life can be tough. Some of the toughest ones to navigate are family relationships – parents, spouses, siblings, and children. Our close friendships are not always easy either.
Love is not a feeling.
I have often found that the only way to get past an issue with someone is to “change my filter.” This idea simply means to change the way I think about them. For example, maybe I don’t necessarily feel the love from someone or maybe I have even been genuinely hurt. To bridge the gap between us, I will eventually give them the benefit of the doubt. This helps me move on and think of them from a place of love rather than a place of disapproval. Essentially, I am “changing my filter.” It is a decision that I must consciously make.
Love is not a feeling. Love is a decision. This thinking is a major mind shift that requires some healthy self-talk and some pushing down of pride – not an easy task. And I have yet to master it because I am human and sometimes I just want to be “right!”
1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV) begins, “Love is patient. . .” and that is where I already have a challenge. I am not a very patient person by nature, but I have learned the hard way that I need a degree of patience in order to sustain permanent relationships. God knew He would need to spell out the exact requirements for healthy relationships, otherwise people like me would look for a loop-hole!
The passage continues in verse 5, saying that love is, “not self-seeking” and “keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). These clauses mean “change your filter.” You can’t be a “history teacher” – constantly reviewing how someone wronged you over the years.
Sometimes we want to be shown love in the precise way that we ideally receive it but ignore the failed attempts of the one trying to genuinely be a friend or make amends. We need to get to a place where we can accept people where they are. I’m not saying adopt their lifestyle or agree with everything they say and do, but treat them with respect and genuinely show them love and receive the love they offer.
This idea is a tall order, I know, but it is possible. I have seen people who interact with each other over the years fall into the same old trap of resentment about something that happened a long time ago. People wait on something from the other person, like an acknowledgement or apology, to mend that relationship. The resolution they continue to wait for may never come. There must be forgiveness because life goes on.
Let’s not waste another minute trying to figure out how to change other people or how to persuade their thinking to be more like ours. Continuously choosing charity and compassion helps you to cherish priceless connections. Commit to love them right where they are and, if necessary, change your filter.
If you have a difficult person who comes to mind, stop and pray for them right now. If you are praying for someone or a situation it is much more difficult to be critical of them. Try it!
For more from the author, checkout her book This Season of Hope.
“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”Micah 6:8 NIV
My closest friends know I haven’t always been a rule follower. It’s true I guess to some degree. I often push the limits of whatever I’m confronted with. As you might imagine, this approach has not always worked out very well.
While on a weekender at the beach with some great friends, we were looking for a place to have dinner. As the driver, I was attempting to follow the GPS on my phone and when the voice on the GPS said, “you have arrived,” we saw nothing. In the location where we expected to see the restaurant, there was literally no building at all.
We all found this to be quite humorous. It was biker’s week at the beach and we were in the middle of heavy traffic. Still processing the missing restaurant and trying to figure out where to go next, I saw the traffic light turn yellow. I continued driving through the intersection as the light was also turning a beautiful hue of red. My friend in the passenger’s seat said, “those are blue lights behind you. Pull over and hand me your phone.”
Reality set in. I felt the serious responsibility of the moment and it was very sobering. Referring to the officer who was approaching the vehicle, I said, “I hope he’s in a good mood.” After the officer approached the vehicle and asked for the license and registration he said, “Well, I’m in a good mood today.” Yay! He was so nice and decided to only give me a warning!
After I had a little time to think about what had just happened, I went to the spiritual place in my mind and said, “I didn’t get what I deserved. Thank you, Lord, for mercy.” I was truly thankful. I honestly should have gotten a ticket. I clearly broke the law and I was keenly aware of the possible consequences. An expensive ticket would have just killed the good mood for the rest of the weekend.
Instead of a ticket, though, I received a lesson in justice, mercy, and grace. Justice would mean that I would have gotten a pricy ticket for the standard amount for running a red light. That would be what I deserved. Instead, I didn’t get what I deserved. I received mercy in the form of forgiveness and no ticket. Grace, getting what I don’t deserve, was what I received from my friends. Instead of being angry, they were able to get a good laugh about that experience. Actually, they will probably never let me live that down!
A short two weeks later I was at a different beach with a different group of friends. I had parked the car near the beach access. Returning to the car after an absolutely perfect day, I discovered a ticket on my windshield! In the margin, handwritten, were the words “$100 fee upon next violation.”
My first thought was, “What?!” I hadn’t even realized it, but I was in a reserved parking section. On the dashboard, I had placed the pass that allowed admittance to the condo, and I thought that it covered all the parking areas. Apparently, it did not. And while ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, mercy had been extended to me once again.
God’s Mercy and Grace
Everybody wants justice when it’s for someone else. When it comes to us, we prefer mercy and grace. I deserved justice. Fortunately for us, God is also a God of mercy and grace. That knowledge gives us hope in the most uncomfortable situations. We may warrant the cuffs of justice and long for the relief of mercy, but God generously gifts grace to the undeserving. What a compassionate God we have!
“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him”Isaiah 30:18 NASB
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved.”Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
Think about a situation where God gave you mercy or grace.
Name a situation where you can exercise grace for someone else.
For more encouragement like this, get Paula’s book This Season of Hope – 5 Minute Messages to Recapture the Life You Were Designed to Live.