Written by Madeline Kalu
At Jacob’s Ladder, we believe that having good mental health is important for everyone, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Statistics show that more people are suffering from depression, fear, and anxiety as a result of a change in their financial situation, the risk of infection, and the drastic change to their everyday existence as a result of self-quarantine and lockdown procedures.
For that reason, we have made a list of 10 tips to help you look after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A ROUTINE
Work out a daily routine with set times for getting up, doing sport, meal times, and going to bed.
Build up your daily routine my making a routine for the entire week.
As part of your weekly routine, factor in chores like grocery shopping and even date nights and family evenings.
2. BE ACTIVE
Regular physical activity improves your mood and concentration, it reduces stress and depression, and improves the quality of your sleep.
Do some form of exercise at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes.
To hold yourself accountable, work out with a member of your family, or if lockdown procedures allow it, meet up with a friend for a walk, jog, or even a bike ride in the park.
3. HAPPY GUT, HAPPY LIFE
Your gut produces 95% of your body’s serotonin, the happy hormone.
Therefore, eat healthy foods like grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins to help keep you emotionally stable.
Replace sugary drinks with water, and reduce your alcohol consumption.
4. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS
It’s ok to feel anxious, fearful, and even angry about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects.
However, try and not let your emotions dictate your mood.
If emotional turmoil is shredding your nerves and stealing your joy, tell God about it, and ask Him to give you the strength to deal with what is bothering you.
Also, confiding in your spouse, a member of your family, or even a close friend will help release some of the emotional tension you’re feeling.
Too many times we keep our emotions bottled in,which can lead not only to mental disorders, but it can also result in physical ailments such as headaches, back pain, ulcers, and poor sleep quality.
5. LIMIT YOUR NEWS CONSUMPTION
Scouring the news for every latest update regarding the COVID-19 virus is not only going to increase your anxiety, it will also waste your time and prevent you from living your life.
It is definitely sensible to be informed, but don’t overdo it!
6. SPEND TIME WITH GOD
If worry, anxiety, and fears regarding your welfare and the future of you and your family are affecting your peace of mind, turn to God and cast your mental burdens on Him.
His promises of love, grace, protection, and provision will comfort you and give you hope.
Make it a part of your daily routine to spend time with God. Treat that time as “you” time and don’t let anyone disrupt you.
This could mean that you may need to get up slightly earlier than usual or wait until your family goes to bed in order to have your quiet time with God.
7. AVOID “WHAT IF?” IF QUESTIONS
Try to avoid postulating and procrastinating about the future: It’s only going to increase your stress levels and rob you of today’s joy.
8. DO SOMETHING KIND FOR OTHERS
Doing something kind for others will distract you from your own problems and enrich someone in need.
It will also help you to appreciate what you may take for granted e.g. mobility, family.
You can help others by offering to do grocery shopping for a neighbor, who is elderly or sick. Arrange to drop your purchases at the door to maintain social distancing.
You can also offer to donate blood, help out in a soup kitchen, a food bank, a kindergarten, an animal rescue station, or ask your local hospital if they need volunteers.
Financial donations are always welcome during this period of economic uncertainty.
Some countries also offer initiatives to train people online to become digital counselors.
The current pandemic has left many feeling cut-off from the rest of the world.
If lockdown measures prevent you from meeting up with family and friends, give them a call, or organize a Skype or Zoom meeting.
Otherwise, arrange to meet a friend in the park and go for a walk together. If restaurants are opening up again in your area, organize a coffee date or go out for a meal.
10. BE GRATEFUL
Show God gratitude by thanking Him for all the wonder things he does for you – no matter how small.
Practicing gratitude will replace negative thoughts, boost your morale, and give you revelation of how much God blesses your life.
Our family keeps a “Miracle Book”, where we write down all the miraculous and wonderful things that God does in our lives. When l find myself getting anxious, or having depressive thoughts, l read over some of our prior entries and feel comforted and reassured of God’s love, faithfulness, and provision.
Maybe you could try keeping a “Miracle Book” as well. You could also use a “Miracle Jar” and record your writings on strips of paper.
Also, try writing down three great things every day that God has done for you that day.
We hope you found our 10 tips on how you can look after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic useful, and that you enjoyed our video as well!
Happy mental health, everyone!
Written by Madeline Kalu
I first discovered vision boards through a series of YouTube videos from Terri Savelle Foy on the subject. For those of you who may not know her, Terri Savelle Foy is a Christian motivational speaker and life coach.
Listening to Terri’s testimonies on how she used vision boards to realize her goals, motivated me to find out how vision boards could help me achieve mine.
Therefore, l went up to my attic early last year and found an old corkboard that was standing forgotten in the corner. I cut out the letters “Vision” and pasted photos of the dreams and goals l wanted to achieve for that year; accompanied by each photo l wrote a declaration of achievement such as “I will have an article published by Crosswalk.com this year”.
Did it work?
Not only did Crosswalk.com publish an article l wrote, but l was also approached by Christianity.com to write an article for them. Consequently, I have been writing for both online magazines for about nine months now. Additionally, l was asked this month to become part of the writing team for YMI Magazine.
Vision boards work, and l am not the only one who thinks so: Christian Celebrities such as Steve Harvey and Adrienne Houghton claim that using vision boards helped them achieve their dreams and goals.
What is a vision board?
So, what is a vision board?
A vision board, otherwise known as a dream board, is a visualization tool that uses selected collages and verbal incentives on a board that act to clarify your dreams and goals, as well as keep you motivated and focused to achieve them.
Why do vision boards work?
Vision boards work as they:
- help you identify and specify the dreams and goals you want to achieve
- keep you motivated to make these dreams and goals a reality
- are a constant visual reminder of your intentions to improve your life
Do l need to use a board to visualize my dreams and goals?
Having a vision board hung in a prominent position in your home or your office is an effective way to self-motivate and keep your attention on your intentions.
However, a vision board doesn’t have to be made out of corkboard for it to be effective.
You can also create your own unique digital vision boards. Online tools such as PicMonkey and Canva enable you to create beautiful vision boards that you can store on your desktop or device, or download onto your phone.
You can also use Pinterest to create a board and “pin” photos, images, scriptures, and inspirational quotes on it.
The advantage of a digital vision board is that you can motivate yourself whenever and wherever you want to: at work, at the gym, or in the doctor’s waiting room. You can even re-focus on your life goals by referring to your vision board while you wait in the supermarket queue!
Whatever way you choose to design your board, the main thing to consider is that it should be kept in a place where you have constant visual access to it.
Are vision boards biblical?
It is a common assumption that vision boards work on the principle of the law of attraction, that is, that your mind works like a magnet to attract positive or negative things into your life, according to your mindset.
However, the Bible states that we attract what we think:
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”
Proverbs 23:7 (AMP)
God advocates the necessity of having a vision – a revelation over our lives. Look at Proverbs 29:18:
“Where there is no vision [no revelation of God and His word], the people are unrestrained.”
The key point to note here is that vision and revelation should come from God and His Word.
Furthermore, in Habakkuk 2:2, it states that we should write down our visions and revelations:
‘“Then the LORD answered me and said, “Write the vision and engrave it plainly on (clay) tablets so that the ones who reads it will run.”’
Though some argue that vision boards center around the self through the pursuit of one’s own interests, a vision board can actually be an effective tool to visualize the dreams and goals that God has put in your heart, if the fulfilment of His will is our incentive, and not our self-interest.
In order to achieve this, we need to seek God’s presence through supplication and prayer and keep Him as our first priority.
Is it superficial or materialistic of me, if l want to improve the quality of my life?
A desire to increase one’s personal wealth and acquire material possessions is a common association that is made when we approach the topic of making goals and achieving our dreams. And that is understandable, as we live in a broken world, whose value system is based on self-interest, materialism, and superficiality.
God is not at the center of such pursuits.
However, what if you had an ardent wish to be healed of a terminal illness? Or to heal a deep rift in your family? What if your biggest dream was to have a baby?
You may also be very unhappy with your current job situation, or you would love to start your own Christian ministry.
Would you seek God in prayer and ask Him to help make such matters of the heart a reality?
Yes, you would.
Dreams and goals do not have to be necessarily financially or materialistically orientated.
That being said, that doesn’t mean that we can’t ask God to help make our financial ambitions a reality.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Calvary was not only to pay the bond price for our sins and thereby secure us an eternal position at His side in Heaven. Jesus also came that we may have a fruitful life during our time on earth:
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
What remains important is that our dreams and goals are in keeping with God’s will for our lives. Therefore, staying in constant communication with God through seeking His presence in prayer and in our quiet time with Him should be our first priority, not only as goal makers, but as Christians too.
What is the difference between a dream and a goal?
A dream is an aspiration that has set itself in your heart. It is a vision you have of your future self – a healthier, happier, fulfilled self. You yearn for it and think about it on a regular basis; you hope and even believe it will happen, but you’re not sure when.
And that’s good, because we can turn our dreams into goals.
By attaching a deadline to them.
A goal is a dream with a projected timeline. Goals are something you act upon. It requires a plan to make them a reality.
What are the most common dreams and goals that people aspire to?
The following is a chart that depicts the most common dreams and goals that people want to achieve:
What you will need to create your own vision board for 2020
So, now that you know what a vision board is and how it can help you manifest your dreams and goals, you’ve decided that you would like to take the plunge and create your own vision board.
First of all, spend some time in prayer and ask God for revelation of the dreams and goals He has put in your heart. Have a notebook with you in order that you can write down your thoughts and dreams as God reveals them to you.
After you have determined your dreams and goals, it’s time to put them onto your board!
Here’s what you need to get started:
A board: A corkboard is ideal to use as a vision board, because you can pin your dreams and goals on them and then take them off easily and replace them with new ones. However, you can also use a whiteboard, a poster board, or a flip chart if you prefer.
Pictures: Use pictures that graphically describe the dream or goal you want to achieve. Pin or glue your pictures next to the dreams and goals you write on your board. For example, if you are believing God for a baby, find pictures of baby clothing, a nursery, and a crib and paste it next to your goal.
You can find pictures online, in magazines, or in brochures. You can even use postcards and pamphlets. Alternatively, you can create your own pictures digitally or draw them freehand.
Adhesive: Use map pins, drawing pins, sellotape, double-sided tape, or glue to adhere everything onto your vision board.
Writing implements: Write your goals on your board with permanent markers, whiteboard pens, or other pens of your choice. You can even cut out letters from magazines or use letter stencils.
What else you will need:
- paper or card to write your goals on
If you would like a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your own vision board, click here to watch Terri Savelle Foy’s YouTube video on how she sets up her own vision board.
Customize your vision board:
The beauty of a vision board is that you can customize it to suit your tastes and preferences.
The following are some ideas on how you can customize your vision board:
Additionally, you can decorate your vision board according to your tastes with the following:
- Washi tape
- Ribbons and colorful bands
I know that this feels like a kickback to your childhood, when you made your own poster presentations, but you’ll be amazed at how your visionary mindset is ignited once you get your creative juices flowing.
You can also purchase vision board kits that provide you with printables such as scriptures, quotations, and affirmations with which you can customize your vision board.
However you decide to design you board is up to you. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect; you’re creating a visualization tool, you’re not trying to be the next Picasso. Just have fun being creative!
Make the most out of your 2020 vision board
The following are some tips to help you make the most of your 2020 vision board:
Make specific goals
If you make unspecific goals, you are going to achieve unspecific results. Therefore, instead of writing on your vision board “I want to lose weight this year”, write down, “I will lose 10 pounds by July 1st”. Instead of writing, “I want to spend more time with God”, you can write, “I will get up 20 minutes earlier every morning and pray and have fellowship with God”.
Additionally, another way you can set specific goals is to do some research and find out exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.
For example, if your goal is to come of out debt in 2020, ring your bank and find out how much you actually owe. Then write that number on your vision board. If your dream is to save up for a holiday, research how much the plane fares, hire car etc. are going to cost you so that you can have that number in front of you every time you look at your vision board.
Don’t set more than 10 goals
Setting too many goals can cause us to lose focus and it can also overwhelm us. Therefore, choose 10 goals to place on your vision board and concentrate on achieving them. Every time you reach one of those ten goals, you can always replace it with a new one.
As we established earlier, the difference between a dream and turning it into a goal that you intend to achieve, is by setting a deadline.
A good tip is not to set all your deadlines for December 31st, as the time span between now and then is so long, that you won’t be motivated to start achieving your goals until the end of this year, thereby putting yourself under unnecessary pressure. Making different deadlines will help you manage your goal setting and give you a sense of accomplishment as you tick each goal off as you progress through the year.
If you don’t achieve your goal by the set deadline, don’t worry – just make a new deadline and keep striving towards making your goals a reality. The main thing is to complete the race and claim the prize; it doesn’t matter how long it takes to cross over the finish line.
Make your deadlines realistic
An acquaintance of mine has a goal to read 52 motivational books by the end of this year. That is certainly an admirable intention, but that means he has to read an average of 1 book a week, which puts a lot of pressure on him.
However, what if he was to make a goal of reading 12 books a year? It’s a lot less than 52, but it means that he can read one book a month. And to have read 12 books in one year is still an achievement, isn’t it?
Additionally, break down your goals into smaller, doable increments. Having a goal to read 12 books in one year still sounds like a lot of discipline is required. However, when you see that it means that you only need to read one book a month, then that reading goal suddenly seems more feasible to achieve.
Another good tip, if you are making a vision board for the first time, is to make goals that you can see yourself achieving within 12-18 months; that way you can achieve a sense of accomplishment within a shorter period of time that will motivate you to pin further dreams and goals onto your vision board.
Keep your vision board visible
Now that you have made your vision board, you want to keep the goals and dreams that you intend to achieve at the forefront of your mind. Looking at your vision board daily will constantly remind you of how you want to change your life for the better; if your vision board is out of your direct sight, the desire for change will lose importance for you.
Hence, hang your board in a place that you have daily access to, such as your kitchen, or next to your bathroom sink.
If you have a digital vision board, save it onto your computer desktop or use it as your phone’s screensaver.
Pray over your vision board
On a daily basis, stand in front of your board and pray for God’s will, favor, and guidance for each of your dreams and goals.
We may have great plans for our life, but God always knows what is best for us; therefore, we should lean on Him and trust Him to guide our steps for the outcomes He believes will best serve us.
“A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life],
But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.”
Speak positive declarations over your dreams and visions
In Joshua 6:20, the Israelites shouted in victory before they saw the walls of the city of Jericho fall down. In Acts 16:22-26, Paul and Silas praised God whilst fettered in prison chains before He freed them. In 2 Chronicles 20:20-24, King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites danced and praised the Lord in victory, as they saw a triune of enemy forces approach them.
There is tremendous spiritual power that is released when you declare your dreams and goals to be achieved before you have even seen them manifest. You are also showing God that you trust Him to fulfil the plans and promises He has spoken over you.
‘ Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just what you have spoken in My hearing I will most certainly do to you.”‘
Therefore, declare your dreams and visions aloud in the present tense e.g. “My dream start-up is up and running”, “I am a mother”, “I am healed of anxiety and depression”, “My ministry reaches millions and gives them hope in Christ”. By speaking in the present tense, you are declaring that you see your intentions becoming a reality now, and not sometime in the vague distance future.
To assist you in speaking positive declarations over your God-inspired dreams and goals, you can pin positive Christian affirmations on your vision board and read them aloud.
Update your vision board yearly
Even if you have not reached your goals by the year’s end, make a new vision board at the start of every year.
You can always carry over your unfinished goals onto your new board; however, add some fresh dreams and goals as well, in order to motivate and encourage you to live the best life that God wants you to live.
Spread the vision
Encourage your family and loved ones to make their own vision boards and thereby bring the dreams and goals that God has put on their hearts to fulfilment.
You and a friend could also sit down with a cup of coffee and some baked treats and make an afternoon of it creating your own vision boards.
Better still, invite your family, neighbors, and even your colleagues over for a vision board party! If you would like ideas on how to host your own vision board party, click here.
Teach your children how to set their own goals through vision boards
A vision board is also a great tool to teach kids and adolescents goal setting; additionally, reaching their goals will give kids such a sense of accomplishment and improve their self-confidence.
There are also great vision board kits for children that provide colorful and fun materials that will engage your child and motivate them to create their own vision board.
Vision boards are a great tool to help you achieve the dreams and goals that God has placed on your heart.
We hope you enjoy creating your own vision board with the information you learned from this article. Feel free to share your designs and achievements with us in the comment section below!
With many blessings,
Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.
Written by Madeline Twooney
I can’t believe that the holiday season is already upon us. It felt like just a few short months ago that l pulled down the mistletoe, swept up the last remaining pine needles, and boxed up my Christmas decorations.
And yet, overnight, the world has set its alarm clock for the holiday countdown. In response, l find myself getting caught up in the frantic pace of getting the house holiday ready, planning festive meals, and buying and wrapping presents.
Years of experience have made us adept at preparing ourselves physically for the Yuletide period, but how much attention have we paid to preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?
If you too are getting swept up in the madness of the holiday countdown, the following are 6 ways that will help you to take a step back and prepare your heart this season.
1. Remember what Christmas is really about
It’s easy to get tunnel vision from the commercial enticement and the societal expectations of the holiday season. Every wreath-festooned street and festively dressed shop window is an ongoing reminder for us to participate in a global enterprise of consumerism and culinary indulgence. It is a sharp comparison to the humble entry of Jesus, who was born in a stable and placed in a straw-filled manger.
However, as Christians, we know that greater is He who is in us than He that is in the world (1 John 4:4). So, although it’s lovely to participate in holiday traditions, we need to remember that this season is about more than a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, expensive presents, and a sumptuous Christmas Day banquet. It is a time where we can commemorate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. For without His Ministry on earth and consequent sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, we would still be held in eternal bondage by sin.
Although the build-up to Christmas may last weeks, Christmas Day is just that – a day. However, the relationship we have with God through the death and resurrection of His precious Son is eternal. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us (Matthew 1:23).
2. Focus on your Provider instead of only providing for others
At the beginning of every holiday season, l start formulating to-do lists of all the things l need to prepare for the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. It’s important to me to provide my family with a wonderful holiday experience, and l want to make sure that l haven’t forgotten anything.
However, in the process of making endless preparations, l can easily lose sight of the One, who provides me with life, peace, and all my needs – not just during the holidays, but every day.
At such times, l need to take a breath and re-set my mind to what should be my most important priority – honoring and worshipping God.
Therefore, if you also tend to get swept up in the frenzy of holiday preparations, switch your focus to God by making Him a priority. By doing that, you’ll see that He will provide you with peace, energy, and joy for the season.
3. Have an attitude of gratitude
The holiday season is a time for many of us to enjoy the fruits of what we have achieved during the year. We have our homes and our families, we have a bulging fridge full of food to eat on Christmas Day, and we have financial resources to buy presents for our loved ones.
However, there are people around the world who experience the holidays differently. Many spend Christmas alone feeling abandoned and neglected. Families who have hit hard financial times are having difficulty providing their children with a happy Christmas experience. Too many people are living on the streets without the opportunity to enjoy a hot Christmas meal and a stable roof under their heads.
Therefore, as you enter the holiday season, take a moment to thank God for all the ways He has blessed you and your family this year and say a prayer for those who are struggling during this period.
4. Spend time with God and the Word
Regular routines go out the window during the holiday season, including spending regular time with God. However, seeking God’s presence is exactly the thing that can bring us peace, charge our batteries, and keep our eyes on Him amidst the flurry of social engagements and holiday planning.
For that reason, make it a priority to allocate time every day for God. During that time, spend time in prayer, worship, and thanksgiving for the upcoming season. You can even sing some Christmas songs!
Additionally, scriptures that herald the coming of Jesus (Matthew 1:23), declare His glory (John 1:14), and speak of God’s promise of Salvation through Jesus (John 3:16) will keep you focused on what Christmas is essentially about – the birth of Jesus and His gift of eternal righteousness with God that He gave us.
5. Enjoy the whimsy of the season
The holiday period brings with it an infectious atmosphere of fun, gaiety, and anticipation. It is the home stretch to a celebratory ending of an old year and the anticipation of a promising and eventful new year.
Children can be our best teachers in embracing the frivolity of the season. When experiencing the abandoned delight with which children embrace holiday experiences, it is easy to see why Jesus says that we should become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3).
So, take a leaf out of your child’s book and wear a cheeky Christmas tie to work or don a pair of Christmas bauble earrings (mine are pink). Crank up your favorite Christmas song and prance around the house like Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly!
6. Bring the Good News to others
Our priority during the holiday season is to look after our families and provide them with the ultimate holiday experience.
In the Kingdom, we are all God’s children, yet many people are unaware of the Good News of the Bible and that Salvation through the grace of Jesus is available to them.
In Luke 17.21, it states that the Kingdom of God is within you. Therefore, reach out to someone, who needs to know about the message of hope, love, and Salvation that Jesus came to share with us.
Ask your neighbor over for a holiday cup of candy cane coffee and Christmas cookies, or ring up a friend whom you haven’t heard from in a while and ask them how they’re doing. Invite someone, who is alone, to spend Christmas Day dinner with you and your family.
Sharing the Gospel is not only done through biblical instruction, it is also conveyed when we share with others the love of Jesus that resides in us. It is the ultimate form of worship, especially during the holiday season.
The holiday period is a season to be enjoyed with all that it has to offer. It’s a time of love, laughter, and joy. All the more reason that we need to prepare our hearts by remembering the ultimate expression of love from God – His gift of Salvation through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ.
Written by Madeline Kalu
Three years ago, l entered a dry season regarding my health. Until that time, l had been a private school teacher for 14 years. I had worked 75 hours a week, including on the weekends and during school holidays, until my body and my mind gave out and l had a breakdown. Consequently, l was diagnosed with burnout and depression and had to resign.
During the first weeks of my convalescence, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest l would soon get back on my feet. However, as time has passed, it is evident that the damage to my health is greater than what l had initially realized.
Completing everyday tasks overwhelm me. I get panic attacks in open spaces and have therefore been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Severe headaches leave me bedridden, and l experience stabbing pains in my left arm. I fall into deep pits of depression that last for weeks, and l have become a social recluse.
Although l regularly seek the advice of a psychotherapist and other medical experts, l believe ultimately in the power of God to heal. Thus, through prayer and thanksgiving, l lay out my petition of a full recovery to God (Philipians 4:6) every day. However, it’s like the sky over my head is made out of bronze (Deuteronomy 28:23), because l can see only a little improvement in my health.
Jesus says in John 10:10 that He has come in order that we may enjoy life until it overflows, so l just don’t understand why God isn’t healing me. In my darkest moments, l even despair whether l will ever experience what it feels to enjoy a healthy, joy-filled life.
However, after much struggling and griping, I have come to realize that God is using this journey in the wilderness to teach me to completely trust and rely on Him, because l can’t recover unless l put my absolute faith in Him.
Here are three ways that God is using my current dry season to strengthen my faith:
Praise God before you see a breakthrough
When l feel afraid or fall into a miry pit of depression, l raise my hands and thank God for healing that l haven’t seen manifest yet. The effects are instantaneous: My spirits lift, and l feel a sense of peace wash over me. I remember that God is in control, as l keep my eyes on Him and not on my circumstances.
To emphasize the importance of praising Him before a breakthrough, I believe that God has been showing me the spiritual foundations behind the Israelite’s victory over the fortress city of Jericho in Joshua 6.
I find it amazing how the Israelites, commanded by Joshua, shouted before the walls of Jericho fell down: This took more faith than shouting in jubilation after they had seen God give them the city (Joshua 6:16). I admire how the Israelite’s believed that God had given them victory over their enemies before they actually saw it.
This season has taught me that words have power. If l voice my praise to God preceding a victorious recovery, l know that my words shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish the purpose of reviving my health (Isaiah 55:11).
Get to know God by studying the Word
During this dry season, there have been times when l have wandered around aimlessly as the Israelites did in the desert. I was confused and doubtful as to whether my circumstances would ever change. Like Job, l felt that God had left me alone to fend for myself (Job 23:8-9).
However, God has been with me the entire time in this arid wilderness: My mind and heart just weren’t attuned to hear His voice. Thus, instead of hoping for rain, l had to dig deep inside myself and ask Jesus to stir up His living waters in me (John 4:14).
Studying the Bible has been a revelation for me: It’s been like discovering a Get-to-know-God manual (2 Tim 3:16). Through His Word, God gives me courage when l am afraid (Isaiah 41:10), strength when l am weak (Isaiah 40:29), and corrects me when l mess up (Hebrews 4:12). On days when l feel disheartened, God meets me where l am (Matthew 11:28).
Knowing the Word helps me realize that l am fearfully and wonderfully made in Christ and that l shouldn’t believe the lies of the enemy that say otherwise (John 8:44).
A dry season is an opportunity to grow spiritually
Last summer, l started working out at the gym. At first, l found it strenuous, and my body felt stiff and sore after every workout. Nowadays, my body is accustomed to the physical exertion, and l can see muscle definition forming.
Similarly, l feel like God is using this dry season to grow my spiritual muscles. When l get a panic attack or become depressed, l am learning to hand the situation over to God, instead of allowing it to overwhelm me.
Though it’s hard, l appreciate that God is using affliction to purify me of emotions that aren’t serving me, such as fear (Isaiah 48:10). I believe that God wants me to start a writing ministry, and is using this time to build up my resilience to tackle future trials and teach me obedience as preparation for His promotion.
When l first became sick, l was convinced that this trial was designed to fail me. However, the further l push through this season, the more l see God cheering me on, as l learn to seek His face. Through this process, He has renewed my fallen spirit, given me a heart that is hungry for Him, and changed my mindset from that of a victim to that of a victor.
If you are experiencing a dry season right now, let me encourage you that your time in the wilderness is a temporary layover, it is not your final destination. Stay the course, keep your eyes on God and ask Him to show you what you need to learn from Him to move on through. On the other side of your trials lies the Promised Land, with all the blessings for your life that God has planned for you.
You’re going to make it!
This article was first published on YMI Magazine on the 11th February 2019.
Written by Madeline Kalu
Two months ago, l felt like l experienced a breakthrough in my 3-year convalescence from burnout and depression.
I was trying to fall asleep when l felt like my head opened up, and all the heavy, dark thoughts and anxiety came out and drifted upwards. It was like l was handing all of them over to God. I remember thinking, “Papa, l think you’ve healed me!” Shortly afterwards, l fell into a deep, restorative sleep.
Unfortunately, my recovery only lasted for about two days. The depression and anxiety returned, and God’s presence, which l had felt so intensely that night, remains but a beautiful memory for me now.
“Where is God?” l have been asking myself since my heavenly encounter. “Why does He feel so far away?”
If you’re like me, and you’re feeling like God is maintaining radio silence, l hope that these 9 tips will give you encouragement that God is very near – in fact, He’s closer to you than you think.
God is close to the broken-hearted
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit. ”
We have all encountered sorrow and loss at some point in our lives, may it be a family estrangement, receiving a negative doctor’s report, or the passing away of a loved one. It’s a heartbreaking process to go through.
God’s empathy for our heartache is demonstrated through His Son. When Jesus first began His ministry, He stated that the Lord had sent Him “to bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 61:1).
Jesus Himself experienced great sorrow on earth. His feelings upon hearing of the death of His friend Lazarus are demonstrated with two words – “Jesus wept” (John 11.35 NIV).
Furthermore, knowing that His moment of sacrifice was nigh, Jesus said to three of His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34 NIV).
In addition to His own personal experiences, Jesus showed compassion for those who suffered, through His many acts of healing.
God promises to never fail us, nor forsake us
‘ “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” ‘
It is repeated throughout the Bible that God will never leave us to fend for ourselves.
Therefore, when it feels like God is far away and we’re feeling vulnerable and alone, God is actually right there with us, protecting us and keeping us safe in the midst of what we are going through.
God will not let anyone or anything harm us, and He will not leave us to face difficult times on our own – that is His promise to us.
God’s assurances that He is with us are reflected in His names
‘ “Therefore I am surely going to teach them, this time I am going to teach them my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is the Lord.” ‘
God is known by many names in the Bible. Here are a few that apply directly to His character:
- Yahweh, meaning “The Lord” (Genesis 2:4)
- Abba, meaning “Father” (Mark 14:36)
- Jehovah Rapha, meaning “The God who heals” (Psalm 147: 3)
- Jehovah Jireh, meaning “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14)
- Jehovah Nissi, meaning “The Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15)
- Jehovah Shalom, meaning “The Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24)
If you would like to learn more about the names of God and the relevance of their meanings for us today, then click here to read our article on this topic.
God’s many names reflect an assurance that He is always with us. They bear a promise that God will always protect us and provide for us. He is not only the Lord God Almighty, He is our Father, who loves us and brings us peace.
God is working behind the scenes
‘At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.”’
Sometimes, we feel like God is far away because we don’t see a change in our situation or an answer to our prayers. In such times, God is actually behind the scenes, working in our circumstances.
This was the case for Elijah in 1 Kings 18. After three years of famine in Samaria, the prophet told King Ahab to expect an abundance of rain. However, despite Elijah sending his servant six times to check for signs of precipitation on Mount Carmel, not one drop was to be seen.
Though it looked like nothing was happening, God was sending a cloud as small as a man’s hand out of the sea towards Samaria. Only after Elisha’s servant checked a seventh time, did he see a visible manifestation of God’s promise of rain.
God wants to test your faith
“Because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The Greek transliteration of the word “test” in the scriptures is peirasmós, which means a trial or a proving. When we feel like God isn’t near, it is actually when He is closest to us; His apparent absence can be a test designed to strengthen our faith.
How can that be?
Testing is associated with purification – to cleanse out those things that aren’t serving us and produce perseverance by strengthening our belief that God is greater than any adversity we face (1 Peter 1:7).
Testing is designed to bear fruit by bringing us up to a mature level of faith. For that reason, James assures us that “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
God adheres to His own schedule, not ours
‘ “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” ‘
TV evangelist and author Joyce Meyers once quoted, “God is never late, but generally He isn’t early either.”
The omnipotent power of God transcends space and time. Whereas we have plans that we want to achieve during our short visit on this earth, God’s agenda spans all of eternity.
God’s schedule runs differently to ours, so when we wonder why He isn’t responding to our requests, prayers, and petitions, His assumed distance can only mean He is sorting things out in His own perfect timing.
God makes a clear declaration that He is with us
” Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
When thoughts and emotions start to rise to the surface that God is far away, His Word assures us with bold declarations that He is always with us and that we should not fear, neither should we be dismayed.
In Psalm 46:1, God even encourages us to seek refuge in His strength when we face troubles, for He is always with us.
What is so wonderful about God is that He not only offers us the comfort of His presence in our time of need, He always helps us over and above our expectations.
Remember all the times that God was with you in the past
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
I keep a journal which l call my “Miracle Book”. In it, l record all the times God has touched my life with His supernatural favor, mercy, and kindness.
During times when l feel that God is far away from me, l get out my “Miracle Book” and l read my previous entries. Not only do they encourage me that God is indeed working in my life, they remind me that what He has done in the past He will do again, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Feeling distant from God has helped me connect with others in my situation
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
When l first got diagnosed with burnout and depression, l was optimistic that with a bit of rest and a change of lifestyle that the Great Healer would make me whole. However, as the months went by, it became obvious that my convalescence was going to take longer than l thought.
Three years later, I sit in church and hear regular praise reports of people who have been healed from depression, and l ask God sometimes, why l can’t be one of those people whom He miraculously heals. I start to criticize and question myself if my faith is strong enough to warrant a full divine-appointed recovery.
However, God works in mysterious ways. He has been using my infirmity to reach out and be a comfort to others, who are also waiting on God for their healing – either through my writing as a blogger and writer or in my daily interactions with people. In return, these wonderful people comfort and encourage me in my faith. l feel truly blessed that they are in my life.
I’m not saying that if l had the chance at a do-over that l would choose to be sick again. Nor am l saying that l would voluntarily choose to go through those feelings of doubting God’s presence and enduring self-chastisement again. However, if l hadn’t gone through all of that, l wouldn’t have been able to connect with the people who have enriched my life and l theirs.
God does not only show us His presence during good moments, such as through a glorious sunset, the carefree chuckle of a child’s laughter or the blooming of a beautiful rose. God is always near – in the valley and on the mountain top.
However, when we start to doubt this, we need to hold onto God’s promises that He reveals to us in the Bible – that He loves us, He will never leave us, and that He will fulfil His purpose over our lives with His perfect timing for our good.
God never goes back on His Word.
This article was first published on Crosswalk.com on the 14th June 2019.
About the author:
Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She has written articles for SheLoves, Converge, and Ruminate Magazine and is a contributing writer for Crosswalk.com, Christianity.com, and YMI Magazine.
In her spare time, Madeline gets creative as a freelance SFX Makeup artist and dances to Sister Sledge whilst cooking. She is British but lives in Germany with her husband.
How God spoke to Elijah in the silence
Written by Madeline Kalu
I’m sure like me, you are no stranger to hardship. For my part, I have gone through a fair share of adversity: death, illness, financial struggle, and my own family turning their back on me.
Now, this is not a “pat on the back, admire me for what l have gone through” kind of article.
Not at all.
This is a shout-out to all of you who have gone through something or are going through something right now. In the midst of your strife, you’re seeking God, but you just can’t find Him.
Know that you are not alone.
Being in the valley is a lonely place, full of darkness and insecurity. You wonder why God allowed such things to happen to you. Moreover, when you call out to Him to help you out of your mess, your prayers and petitions are met with silence. God doesn’t seem to answer you back.
Or does He?
Being a Christian does not mean that our life turns into some kind of continuous happy-clappy revival, complete with outbursts of “Hallelujah!” and angel song in the background accompanying us all the livelong day. It certainly does not mean that as Born Again Christians we are destined to walk around with goofy smiles plastered across our faces, as we react to prejudice, injustice, and racial slurs with glorified meekness.
Being a Christian is hard. It means that life is still going to come at us with its arsenal of ill-intent; more so, because we are living ambassadors of the Most High God on earth.
Jesus confirmed this when He addressed His disciples:
‘“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution.”’
John 16:33 (NRSV)
So, if Jesus warns us that we will experience trouble on this earth, why doesn’t God seem to answer us when we ask Him for help?
Could it be that we just aren’t listening hard enough for His voice?
The Bible contains numerous accounts of biblical heroes, who doubted God’s presence in the midst of adversity: Gideon asked God three times for divine confirmation of his calling to lead the Israelites against the Midianites (Judges 6). Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, doubted that Christ had been resurrected from the grave until he saw physical proof (John 20:24-29). After extensive torture and calamity at the hands of Satan, Job doubted God’s goodness (Job 7:20).
However, in this article, l want to turn our focus onto Elijah the prophet, as his experience of Queen Jezebel of Samaria in 1 Kings 19 provides a beautiful example of how God reaches you in the (literal) silence .
In the previous chapter of 1 Kings, Elijah had proclaimed God’s glory through a series of events:
Firstly, Elijah had participated in a show-down in Samaria at Mt. Carmel against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Idol worship in Israel was rampant at that time, so Elijah was bold in his faith in making a stand against it. Through God’s miraculous intervention, Elijah was able to prepare an eye-popping sacrifice that declared God to be mightier than Baal or Asherah (1 Kings 18: 30-38) .
Secondly, with divine authority (Deuteronomy 13:5), Elijah had slain the 850 priests. These were men carefully chosen by Jezebel, the resident evil queen of Samaria, to serve her and promote her desire of idol worship in the land (1 Kings 18:40). Therefore, it took a lot of guts cutting down the Queen’s prized lackeys.
Most impressively, where a severe famine had already raged a 3-year course across the country, Elijah had prayed for rain and God had heard his petitions (1 Kings 18:44-45).
However, instead of celebrating God’s victories with a much-awaited dip in the now bursting banks of the River Jordan, Elijah freaked out after receiving an ominous message from Queen Jezebel. Apparently, she hadn’t taken too kindly to Elijah slaying her anti-God squad and she wanted Elijah dead. Full of fear, Elijah took flight.
You’d think that after all the miracles that God had bestowed upon Elijah in 1 Kings 18, that one death threat from a human would be small fries in comparison. However, this message really unhinged Elijah. Granted, Jezebel was a truly evil woman and a formidable queen, who had her husband Ahab twisted around her little finger (I Kings 21:1-16). Mind you, Ahab wasn’t exactly a saint either. Still, who was Jezebel compared to the might and power of God, the almighty Yahweh of the Israelites (Exodus 3:14-15)?
However, it is not uncommon to experience a crushing setback after a victory. It has happened to all of us, and Elijah was as human as any of us. So, Elijah hot-footed it towards Beersheba of Judah, which was over 80 miles out of Jezebel’s jurisdiction. That still wasn’t enough distance for Elijah, and he kept on moving.
It states in the Bible that Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness” (I Kings 19:4). In the Bible, the wilderness symbolizes a dry season or a time of trial and testing. A good depiction of this is the Israelites sojourn in the wilderness for 40 years, which represented not only a physical dry season but a spiritual one – a result of their continuous doubt of God (Numbers 32:13).
Elijah must have been exhausted after the previous chapter’s events and then he had the added stress of Jezebel to deal with. Hence, he took rest under a broom tree where angels ministered to him (I kings 19:5-8). Even while on the run, feeling lonely and afraid, God was with Elijah.
However, it was when Elijah was in a cave that the Bible states that “Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:9). Away from the distractions of his current situation, Elijah was able to hear God speak.
In your own experience, have you ever realized that you have more perspective over your situation, when you mentally step away from it?
God further proves that He is with us in the silence. He went past Elijah as a great, strong wind that battered the mountains, as a trembling earthquake and a raging fire; and yet the Bible states that the Lord was not in any of these things (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Where was God then? He was in the still, small voice that came afterwards:
“(A)nd after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.”
I Kings 19:12 (AMPC)
Why did God choose to speak to Elijah in a still, small voice? He could have spoken to him in conversational tones or boomed His message across the heavens, so that the mountains quaked and trembled at His very name.
But no, God chose to whisper to Elijah, because He was close to him the entire time. The devil needs to scream and shout at us to scare us into keeping our focus on our problems. But God, in His permanent proximity to us, only needs to whisper in the silence to reassure us that He is God. He is always with us and will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
At the reassurance of God’s voice, Elijah was able to receive comfort and further instructions for the next phase of his ministry, which included choosing Elisha as his disciple (1 Kings 19:19-21).
Though we may be subjected to adversity in our life, God never intends for us to fend for ourselves. He is with us when we pass through the waters, and ensures that when we walk through the fires we will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2). If we doubt God’s presence during trials, it could just be that we can’t hear Him through the confusion, pain, and tension of our current circumstances.
Before l conclude, let’s go back briefly to that statement that Jesus made to His disciples in John 16:33 – however, this time, l am going to add the second part of the Bible verse.
‘”But take courage; I have conquered the world!”’
John 16:33 (NRSV)
Did you notice how Jesus stated that He has conquered the world? No matter what measure of ill launches an attack against us, it has to get through God first. So, even if something starts out as an attack against you, God will use it and turn it into a victory for you.
So, next time you find yourself surrounded by silence, know that it is part of God’s greater plan for your life. Instead of running from Him, convinced that He has abandoned you, stand still and listen attentively for His still, small voice in the silence.
Trust me, you will hear it.
gotquestions.org, “What does it mean to have a wilderness experience?”
brockwaychurch.com, “Biblical characters who doubted God”
www.learnreligions.com, “Elijah – boldest of prophets”
YouTube video: “The power to choose” from Pastor Steven Furtick
Written by Madeline Kalu
We are all no strangers to trials and tribulations. It can be a confusing and even difficult interval in our lives that we have no choice but to endure.
Sometimes these times means that a new chapter is being opened for us, other times it heralds the end of a significant period and the need for closure.
When our circumstances change, God will always help us and provide a solution. However He is more interested in the changes He can make in you.
“Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4 (NRSV)
No matter what is going on in our lives, God encourages us to be at peace.
Where does this peace derive from?
From the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In the Book of John, Jesus states:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
Jesus gives us the free gift of His own peace. It is a present that He handed over to us, before He left to be with the Father. That’s not just any peace. This is a level of peace that has withstood open criticism from the Pharisees, trials in the desert from the devil, public prosecution, degradation, pain, suffering, and even death.
No wonder that Jesus goes on to say:
“Not as the world gives do l give to you.”
Is there any treasure on this earth, which can be comparable to the peace that Jesus gives us? With Jesus’ peace inside you, you don’t need to feel fear anymore, you can stop worrying. Nothing can intimidate you.
In fact, Jesus tells us that these negative feelings have no more place in us:
“Therefore, do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Now that is one special gift.
So, if peace is already in us then why must we pursue it?
When we experience difficult times, we often get distracted or even overwhelmed by the given situation. We start to fret and get annoyed. We become emotional. Consequently, we start making wrong decisions that can make the current situation even worse.
l used to feel miserable, scared, and defeated when I found myself in a bad situation. Only when l actively sought to be peaceful in such times, did l discover a new interpretation of how l could live my life.
I realized that living a life filled with peace begins with a choice.
The conscious choice to pursue it.
The purposeful pursuit of peace is something we as Christians need to be exercising. It is, with the other Fruits of the Spirit, a ready arsenal that can make not only our own lives, but the lives of our family, friends, and others who interact with us, all the more richer and victorious.
Ok, so let’s say you’re in the peace zone. What happens next?
Well, once you have peace, you have to maintain it.
Think about Exodus 14:14 (KJV):
“The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. “
God is telling us that not only should we aspire to acquire peace, but that we also need to stay in peace through trials and tribulations. He will deal with the issue at hand, but we need to do our part and be at peace and rest, being confident that He will provide us with the best outcome.
Holding our peace is telling God that we trust Him.
I am so grateful to the Lord for showing me the importance of pursuing peace, while He deals with my present circumstances.
Currently, l am experiencing a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and chronic depression. Panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, and extreme social anxiety are daily battles l have to face, as well as depressive episodes.
However, in the deepest depths of the darkest, miry pits, l can only stretch my hands out and rely on the grace and goodness of my Father, who promises to never fail me, nor forsake me. He walks with me in the shadow of the valley of Death. He is my light in the darkness, and His peace is a gift that l can accept and rely on, as He walks through this period of illness with me.
The intensity with which we experience pain and suffering is subjective to each individual. No one can understand what you are going through as well as God.
Put Him first, do your part and hold your peace and He will do His part and help you. He loves us all so much and He will never ask us to do anything we couldn’t do.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”
I wish you peace brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever storm you are in at this moment, it too shall pass.
Written by Madeline Twooney
I love spending time with God. My worship of Him is such an essential part of my day; l need it like the air that l breathe. In the same way, being in church is the highlight of my week, because l can refuel my spiritual tank there in praise, worship and service.
It has taken a lot of trial and error, as well as a huge amount of discipline, but over the years l have formed a routine where l set aside time every morning to worship God through prayer, music, bible study, and journaling.
In John 4:23-24 it states that we should worship God “in the Spirit and in truth”, and l try my hardest to abide by this. My time with God has become my dedication of thanks to Him, to show Him how much l love Him and to grow in my relationship with Him. His presence fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. Consequently, when l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love and that with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)!
That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him with my entire being isn’t easy. The world offers values, distractions, and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes of God. It’s like the world is calling out to me to use my time of worship to pursue endeavors it considers more “important”. Hence, l am constantly being challenged to make a decision between the selection of choices that the world is offering me and my choice to spend time with God in worship.
1 John 2:15 warns us to not love this world, not the things it offers us. But unless you’re an uncontacted community, entirely cut off from the influence of modern-day society, what the world offers to entertain us, advance us, and ease our everyday lives can be pretty enticing.
Through trial and error, l have learned to recognize in what ways l am being distracted by the world and have accordingly worked on those areas to re-focus my attention back to God, when l find myself being challenged to worship Him. I am still a work in progress, but l am getting better!
Here are 3 of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices:
1. Caught between serving two masters: Technological distractions verses God
I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late ’90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the internet. Teaching myself make-up application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as an SFX and Make-up artist.
However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and feeds. I was more intrigued by the scintillation of the internet and social media than being in God’s presence.
When it got to the point that l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew it was time to cut the digital umbilical cord.
It is almost scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve two masters. When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds or we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’re relying on technological advancement to get through life and we’re not relying on God.
These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24). During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts.
2. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God in His presence.
However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my delegated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors.
Today’s fast-paced society is derived from an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience is making us run from pillar to post – we’re suffering from FOMO.
In such times, l go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 highlights seeking God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need, including experiences. l have learned that God has to be the encounter l need to have FOMO about – not the pursuits of the world.
3. We worship the things of this world, instead of God
One of my favorite recreational pursuits is to go to the gym. Although l work out to promote a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are being portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the celebrity pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l question myself as to whether l should be striving to attain the highly sought-after peach emoji booty instead of accepting the body that God gave me.
The pursuit of a certain aesthetic, acquiring the latest version of the iPhone or constantly showing off photos of our dream partners and our exotic holidays on Facebook – these are portrayed as “goals”. However, in reality, they are societal pressures engineered by the world to woo us into worshipping them, instead of worshipping God.
Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by a renewing of our minds. When l find myself going down the rabbit hole of superficial pursuits, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence.
We are only temporary residents in this world, but God’s love for us is eternal. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise suddenly becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to quickly pale in comparison.
This article was published on YMI Magazine on May 15th 2019.
Blessed to Be a Blessing, Created to Be Creative
Written by Sarah Keith
Have you ever heard someone say, or maybe you’ve said it, “I’m not very creative; I can’t even draw a stick figure!” While it’s true that many people can’t draw, the visual arts are not the only measurement for determining creativity. In fact, I believe creativity is a hallmark trait of being made in God’s image.
When God created Adam and Eve, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” Genesis 1: 26-27 (ESV).
As Christians, we understand the term, “us” in Genesis 1 as a direct reference to the triune* nature of One God, who is manifested in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the other hand, there are those who would say the “us” is a reference to God’s heavenly court, meaning God and His angels. However, this presents a problem, because people are not created in the image of an angel.
We—human beings, male and female, and not any of the other animals—are created in God’s image (tselem in Hebrew) and in His likeness (demuth in Hebrew). This image-likeness must refer to inward qualities such as our eternal nature, our intellect, our morality, our social nature, and our ability to love and be loved, all of which has been damaged because of the Fall (Genesis 3) because sin has marred our God-like image. Yet, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, we can be restored by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed into the image of Jesus, who is the exact representation of our Father God (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:3).
The words “create”, “created”, and “made or make” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture, and are sometimes used to explain the same event, as referenced in Genesis 1, above. The Old Testament Hebrew word for “create”, bara’, means God-shaping, God-forming, or God-fashioning what was “not there before” (Latin, ex nihilo, out of nothing.) The Hebrew word for “made or make” in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man. . .” is ‘asah, which means to fashion, accomplish, make, work, produce, prepare, to make an offering, appoint.
Only God can bara’, that is create something from nothing, but both God and people can ‘asah, make things.
In Genesis 1:26-27, bara’ and ‘asah are used interchangeably and refer to God’s work in creation. In Exodus 25-28, God instructed Moses to have the children of Israel make (‘asah) Him a Sanctuary, as well as all the components within the Sanctuary: candlesticks, a wooden chest, curtains, frames, and hooks, to name a few. They were to make things (‘asah) from existing things that God had created (bara’) from nothing.
Throughout the Old Testament ‘asah may refer to making a cake, a garden, a crown, or even making an agreement. There are a lot more! In fact, there are over 2000 references of ‘asah; some pertain to God-making or doing, and others to people-making or doing.
In Psalm 51:10 David pleads, “Create (bara’) in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David knew in order to have a clean heart, it would be God’s doing. David couldn’t “make” his heart clean! But he also knew there was a purpose in having a clean heart:
“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.”
The equivalent New Testament Greek word for God’s creative work is ktizo or ktisis, meaning to create, form, or shape, making something from nothing. The Apostle Paul tells us that those who are in Christ are a God-created work:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (ktisis); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
And like David who understood that having a clean heart was not just for his benefit, God’s children are made into new creatures for a purpose.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created (ktizo) in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”
Because we are made in God’s image+, it makes sense that creativity would be part of our DNA. Of course, not all of us can sing well, write a novel, play a musical instrument, or even draw a stick figure. But these are too narrow a definition of creativity!
Consider what you can do!
- Can you make (‘asah) a cake?
- Can you make (‘asah) a garden?
- Can you make (‘asah) an agreement—can you be agreeable?
- Can you make (‘asah) a friend?
- Can you make (‘asah) a card to send to someone who is sick or suffering?
- Can you make (‘asah) a prayer?
- Can you make (‘asah) order out of chaos—by helping a friend in their time of need?
- Can you make (‘asah) your witness for Christ known?
All of us can make (‘asah) something and do it with the purpose of bringing God’s kingdom to others. And we can do it with the knowledge that we have God’s creative DNA working in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). Our good works reflect God’s image, His likeness, to the world!
My good friend and editor, Kit MacLeod, shared her experience of volunteering at an elementary school, and how God’s creative DNA was available to her.
She wrote, “I realized a lot of the things I’ve done were more spur of the minute inspired, rather than planned. That goes back to the concept of being open to God’s inspiration, praying for it, and believing it will flow according to His perfect plan. I remember reading the book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen to a group of second graders, and seeing that there were some children who were not very engaged. That particular book has the owl’s “whoo-whoo-whooo” repeated throughout.
After I read it dramatically the first time, on a whim I encouraged them to join in with me. As I continued reading, even the most reluctant students became more and more engaged. They were hanging on every word, waiting for their next chance to dramatically hoot, grinning all the time.
When we finished reading, they applauded, delighted with the story and their part in it. I believe the inspiration to engage them that way was just God’s creativity flowing through me, showing me opportunities to enjoy and share enjoyment of His creative Spirit.”
So, let us begin thinking of ways to put God’s creative intellect and power to work in our lives, so that others may believe, be encouraged, and grow in their faith! And when you tap into your creativity, I believe you will discover a deep joy and a Divine creative flow at work within you!
*Jewish scholars reject the idea of a triune being. However, they must still deal with at least the duality of God and his Spirit, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . . and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2. (See also, Genesis 6:3, Exodus 31:3, or Numbers 11:25 to name just a few.)
+ According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:
“Image,” the Hebrew term, tselem, is from an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, i.e. (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence, a representative figure, especially an idol — image, vain shew. (We are not to make “graven images,” “tselem,” “carved idols.). And “Likeness,” the Hebrew, demuth, is to “model, shape, fashion, to resemble, liken, consider.”
From the editor: Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this informative article. If you would like to read more articles from Sarah Keith, visit School Network.com.
Also, check out the website’s vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.
bibletools.org, ” Bible verses about Asah”
crosswalk.com, “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance”
answersingenesis.com, “Did God Create (Bara) or Make (Asah) in Genesis 1?”
sunnybrookpub.com, “Asah in Genesis – The Work God Did”
creation.com, “Made in the image of God”
About the author:
Sarah Keith is the founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. She has been writing Christian adult devotionals and Bible curricula for teachers of children since 1999. In 1981 she graduated with honors from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a degree in Psychology and Religion, and she holds a degree in Fine Arts from Palm Beach State College.
Sarah is passionate about the importance of teaching children about Jesus, having them memorize God’s Word early and often. She has worked in children’s ministry for over 30 years
This post is a shout out to all of you who are going through something really hard right now.
First of all, l’m sorry that you or someone close to you is in pain and my heart goes out to you.
It’s always a blow when you get confronted with a difficult situation. However, God does not expect you to bear through times of hardship alone. He wants us to turn to Him, because He is the only one who can get us out of our difficulties. Not the bank, not another human being, and certainly not a stroke of good luck.
What you are going through is important to God, and He wants you to come out of this trial stronger and trusting Him all the more.
God doesn’t do things by coincidence. He doesn’t favor some people and not others (Acts 10:34). God loves us all the same.
God loves YOU!
The following are three reasons why you need to stick close to God when life isn’t treating you right.
1. God knows you and has a great plan for your life
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Who knows you better than He who created you? Not only does God know us the best, He loves us with a perfect love, a love infused with His grace, mercy, and selflessness.
You were made unique. Know that you are precious to God and are ordained to do great things.
These pitfalls you’re experiencing will at some point be over. God knows what is going on in your life right now. He knows that you are in pain.
Nothing that happens to you comes as a surprise to Him.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Instead of focusing on your problems, remember that God has a marvelous plan for each of us. He wants you to live a bountiful and fruitful life and will help you through tough times to make that a reality for you.
2. Jesus has tremendous compassion for our suffering
Jesus knows firsthand how difficult life can be. His time on earth was punctuated with trials, disapproval, death plots, and suffering.
Jesus feels our emotions. He hurts when we are hurting.
In John Chapter 11, Jesus’ close friend Lazarus dies from sickness. Jesus shows great empathy for Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ two sisters, as they mourn their brother’s demise:
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
Though Jesus knows He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, His sorrow upon seeing the sister’s and other mourners grief is evident:
This is one of the shortest, most powerful verses in the Bible. Jesus’ tears demonstrate the extent of His compassion for our suffering.
Jesus is with us, sharing our pain. When you are at your lowest, call out to Him. Jesus is right there, always beside you.
3. Sometimes God makes you wait for your breakthrough
We’ve all been in a situation that we want to see change for the better.
You could be experiencing financial difficulty. Or you’re in a job you don’t like. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant but to no avail. You could also be sick and desire to be healed.
You may have been asking God for a while now to help you, but you still haven’t seen things turn around.
So, why isn’t God doing anything to improve your circumstances?
We may ask God for His help with a strong sense of urgency, but God’s timing is different to our own. It is not unusual for God to want us to wait for our breakthrough.
- To build our faith
- So that we learn to trust Him
- God sees the whole picture, whereas we don’t
- God is more interested in changing us than our circumstances
- God will sometimes say no today, in order to give you a better yes tomorrow.
Don’t lose hope. Your time of victory is coming!
“For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay. “
God knows the hand you’re dealt with. He also knows that you can handle it, because He has equipped you with His love and His strength to go through it.
“ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Don’t get disheartened because you don’t see any change in your life today. Trust Him and wait.
God ALWAYS comes through on His promises!
God’s love and power is indeed a great comfort and source of strength for us.
Still, you may ask yourself – Why does God let bad things happen to us?
That is admittedly a difficult topic. I am not a counsellor, nor am l a psychologist, therefore l am hesitant to venture a response that might not provide the answer you are looking for, nor give you the comfort you seek.
However, I can give you an account of a difficult situation l’ve been through.
l lost a beloved member of my family four years ago to cancer. I don’t know why it happened, but l know that God is a good God. Only He knows the whole situation and what He has truly spared us from. l still bear the scars of suffering and loss today – but God has taken me on a slow but patient journey of healing. And He can do it with you too.
God has not abandoned you to your suffering. He has not forgotten you either. He sees everything, from its origins to its solution, whereas we only see the immediate threat.
Live the miracle of seeing God work out everything for your good, to His glory; believe that He is always with you, starting from today.
My heartfelt prayers go out to you my brothers and sisters and may God’s peace and mercy be upon you.
Are you in a difficult situation and need someone to pray for you? Then write us an email with the Heading “Pray Request” or leave a comment below and we will gladly pray for you here at Jacob’s Ladder Blog!