Nine Scriptures for Encouragement During Hard Times

In a span of a couple of weeks, our world has completely changed. People are faced with double fears- the fear of sickness or even death, and the fear of financial hardship. There hasn’t been a time like this in living history.

As I’ve watched the news, washed my hands excessively, and tried to social distance myself from most people (doesn’t really work well with nieces and nephews), I’ve been surprised and saddened by people’s reactions. Shocked by the empty shelves. Startled by the venom of social media posts. I couldn’t believe how quickly things have disintegrated.

Yes, circumstances feel completely out of control. Yes, life is different. But, friends, we do not have to be afraid, for our health, our loved ones, or our financial situations. God is completely in control of this. I cannot say that enough. We are not walking alone through this trial.

The Bible speaks for itself. Rather than add to it, I simply wanted to share some of the scriptures I’ve been holding onto during this tough time. My deepest prayer is that they will be an encouragement for you.

Trust in God!

  • Isaiah 26:3, 4– You keep him in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because He trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock.
  • Jeremiah 17:7, 8– Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green. It is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
  • Psalm 46:1-3– God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountain is moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
  • Philippians 4: 4-7– Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 
  • I Thess. 5:16-18– Rejoice always! Prayer without ceasing. Give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • John 16:33– I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
  • James 1:2-4– Count if all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
  • Isaiah 43:1-3– But now thus says the Lord…”Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
  • Psalm 62:5-8– For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

Hang in there and keep your eyes fixed only on what is true. God is our refuge through all troubles. Lean hard into Him and hold on tight to the promises found in these verses. We will get through this.

This week, I’m thankful for the blessing of God Himself. I can’t imagine going through this without knowing Him. Together, let’s celebrate every single blessing!

Kindergarten Offerings to a Holy God

 “Here’s another one!” “This rock looks like a shark tooth!” “Miss Spence, I brought you a leaf this time. Isn’t it cool?”

I was on recess duty, steadily accumulating a pile of rocks in my coat pocket, courtesy of two giggling five-year old girls. When they tired of rocks they started bringing me interesting leaves instead. Now I was juggling rocks, leaves, a cell phone, and a whistle while wearing gloves.

This game continued for the duration of the recess.  And the next recess. And the next…

As they were lining up at the end of recess, one of those giggling little girls looked at me and declared, “We’re bringing you rocks because we love you!”

“Love” rocks

As a kindergarten teacher, I’ve had my share of unusual gifts. Once, a student brought me a piece of notebook paper with a single pencil scribble in the middle, proudly announcing that she had made it at home for me (it’s the thought that counts, right?).

Another time my students brought me the ragged tail of some poor dead animal. They had found it on the playground and decided to use it to give themselves hairy arms like Jacob and Esau. That gift did not go in my coat pocket.

Last year a little boy brought me a big river rock to put on my desk. It sat there all year because he would check for it. Every now and then this little boy would pat the rock and ask, “How’s it working for you?” Pretty good, thanks.

Other gifts have included :

Apples (of course)

Flowers made from balloons

 V8 juice (the kid said I needed extra energy, but I think he just didn’t want to drink it himself)

A variety of lotions with the words “stress relief” on the label

 One lone potato chip

Ten thousand coloring pages

All of my student gifts seem to come with one common element- the look of beaming pride and joy on the child’s face when the gift is presented to me. In each individual way, they are all expressing the same sentiment- “We’re demonstrating our love in the best way we can.”

Here’s my river rock. The boy that brought it actually just checked on it again last week, even though he’s not in my class anymore!

Offering rocks to God

As I pulled “treasures” out of my pockets and started to throw them away (shhhh- don’t tell!), a thought made me stop and hold the rocks in my hand instead.

How often do I come running proudly to God and hold out my treasures to Him, happy to have something to give? “Here God, here’s my…

musical talent

teaching ability

 Master’s degree

time spent volunteering

 free time

Aren’t You happy to receive this gift?”

No matter how hard I try, how hard I attempt to devote myself to a good cause or pour myself into being the best teacher possible, my achievements cannot please God on their own. My deepest sincerities cannot please God on their own.

The truth is I am never enough on my own.  Everything I have to offer is “rocks.”  

How can our rocks be transformed into offerings of love?

In her wonderful book, The Path of Loneliness, Elisabeth Elliot addresses this idea far better than I ever could. “The love of God in accepting such an offering is like the love of a father whose little child gives him a present bought with money the father gave him. It is a very tender, sympathetic love. It recognizes that the child’s loving gift comes out of his utter poverty. The father, who has already given everything, gives something more so that his child has something to give.” –The Path of Loneliness (1988)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” –James 1:17

Every single thing we have comes from God in the first place; it is only through His kindness that we have anything at all to offer. He is the one that takes our little “rocks” and makes them into something beautiful. Through His goodness and mercy our rocks can be transformed into offerings of love.

God gave me the gift of singleness, for instance. It isn’t a gift I ever asked for or wanted, but in His goodness He chose to give it to me. If I treat this gift with contempt or use it to focus on myself, it will always remain a “rock.” Or I can offer it back to God:

I can start by accepting singleness as God’s will for me.

I can use my extra free time to study the Bible on a deeper level.  

I can serve in unique ways.

I can invest more in others.

I can rest in the assurance that this is what He wants for me right now.

“We’re giving you rocks because we love you!”

I can hold my hands open to Him, giving Him all that I have- my kindergarten offerings to a Holy God. And He will make them beautiful. This week I’m thankful for the blessing of God’s gifts. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Sunshine and Sunflowers: Three Lessons from My First Attempt at Gardening

I got out of my car and went into the backyard to do my daily check on my new sunflowers. Even though I’d just spent six hours at day camp, I immediately dropped my things on the grass and started pulling up weeds. The stress of the day melted away as I reveled in the outdoor work.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter that our camp room had flooded that morning, forcing our entire group to carry wet belongings up four flights of stairs to the sweltering attic. It didn’t matter that it was over ninety degrees and we hadn’t had air conditioning. It didn’t matter that I was short-staffed that week. All the craziness faded into the blissful pleasure of a bright, sunny summer afternoon. ..

The tangy smell of the marigolds I’d planted around the edges of the flower bed.

The soothing warmth of the sun on my back.

The peace of my surroundings after the hyper chatter of a sold-out day camp.

Even the giant, squishy earthworm that sent me scrambling for a blanket to sit on.  Ok, maybe not that, but I wanted you to get the whole picture.

This little garden had become my new happy place.

Except for forced weeding at the behest of my mother, I’d never participated in any type of gardening. But I inadvertently ended up with three sad little sunflower plants and decided that this could be my new summer adventure. A tame adventure to be sure, but I’m always open to trying new things.

Those sad little sunflower plants didn’t last long, but I had provided them with friends in the shape of GIANT sunflower seeds (go big, right?). To everyone’s surprise, the seedlings did great! They spent the next four months grooooowing, until they towered over our heads. I loved my GIANT sunflowers.

I’ve always admired sunflowers. They’re big, bright, and unfailingly cheerful.  I also feel like we can learn a lot from them. Gardening provides you with time to think and ponder, and I spent a great deal of time dwelling on the lessons I, as a single Christian woman, could learn from sunflowers.

  1. Follow the Son

Young sunflowers trace the path of the sun with their faces. I looked it up and learned that this is called heliotropism (do you feel smarter now?). It actually has to do with how the stem develops. What a great visual for Christians!

As single women, we don’t have to look anxiously around us and play the comparison game. We don’t have to fret or worry about the unique challenges of our single lives. Instead, we can keep our eyes fixed firmly upward on Jesus Christ- the only Son truly worth looking at. God promises to meet our needs and not withhold any good thing from us. And we can confidently follow Him in our daily lives

2. Anticipate the Son

Not only should we keep our eyes on Jesus and the truth of His word, sunflowers can also teach us to anticipate Him. I read that sunflowers flip around to face east again at night. Even though it’s dark, they are anticipating the dawn. They can’t see or feel it, but they know the sun is going to come again and they stand ready for it. 

I love that.

To anticipate means to “prepare to take action because of your expectations.” It’s easy to feel discouraged about life situations we may not want, but we don’t have to get burdened down by them. Instead, we can prepare ourselves by diving into the truth of God’s Word.  We can ready ourselves to take action because we expect, we know, that God is working in our lives and we need to be ready to serve Him. Our singleness is just as great a gift as marriage is, and we can stand in expectation, knowing that He will accomplish great things through us.

3. Point others to the Son

Finally, sunflowers can teach us of the importance of pointing people to Christ. As I look at my sunflowers, stretching up toward the sky, I can’t help but think of heaven. It’s almost like the flowers are shouting and saying, “Look, look at what’s up there!”

I want my life to do the same thing. My deep wish is that my words and actions will cause others to look toward heaven and think about the wonders that wait there and the Son of God that loves them more than anything. I pray that my life would shine just as brightly, and bring others just as much joy, as the giant flowers that grew in my experimental garden last summer.

My sunflowers grew to be over nine feet tall!

This week, I thank God for the blessing of sunflowers and the lessons we can learn from them. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!