There are some mornings…

There are some mornings while making the bed, I long for the ending of that very day when I climb back into the bed and the day is done.

Why is that?  The end of the day signals completion.  All the toils, all the works, and worries are now being laid to rest.  My evening routine tells me it’s over for now.  Settle in peace for the night as the cares of the day come to a close and the door shuts on what is behind.  Let the heart, mind, and body lay down and take its rest to prepare for the new ahead.

Facing the new sometimes comes with inspiration and energy.  But, there are times when facing the new feels like an arduous task, asking for so, much when I feel like I can give so little.

Today is the beginning of today.  Whether I’m facing it wanting to climb back into bed or if I feel I can take on the world – regardless of how this day may feel, I am grateful for it.

The psalmist declared, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it,” (Psalm 118:24).  Why?  Because no matter how the picture of today is painted for us, it is a gift.  This day is a bestowing of God’s grace into my life, and for that, I settle my heart in His peace and I can rejoice in this day.  When the ugly tries to poke its head into the newness of this day, I can reflect on the beauty of God and let all that He is wash over me, comfort me, and hold my hand through it all.

I admit every day will not seem some glorious affair, but when we have our wonderful, glorious God, we can look to Him and look for ways to inject His beauty into the ugly parts – letting His light shine in those dismal areas, and re-inspire, reinvigorate, and re-energize us for this day.  Because wherever God shines, it will be made beautiful regardless of how it appears.

While there are some mornings that may make us scratch our heads, there is always our God who is ever faithful and forever in love with His creation – with you.  Therefore, we can still find reason to rejoice!

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“Believing Beyond”

Difficult situations are something no one will escape this life without experiencing.  Even Jesus told us ahead of time, “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” (John 16:33).  So, as much as we want to avoid them or not have them there at all, what do we do with the difficulties and adverse times when they come?

I think it is not so much about what we do with them.  I believe it is more important to discuss how do we respond to them.  Our responses give us and the world a little insight into what is on the inside of us.  Our responses show what we carry in our hearts and what we genuinely believe, for it is out of the heart where the issues of life flow (Proverbs 4:23).

In prayer, I was reminded of the great truth that it is not all about how we see things.  Our perspective can often be overshadowed by the many factors of our story, our emotions, and so forth.  But, when faced with challenging times, how do we react?

Negative experiences tend to draw negative responses from us.  But what if we can turn that on its heels?  What if we could take what appears to be upside down and turn it right side up?

Mind you, when we go forward in this, it is not going to be based on what one sees because we are already coming from a perspective of not liking what we see.  Rather, what do we want to see?  What is our prayer for change in these types of situations?

Take, for instance, the very familiar story of the dry bones in the valley (Ezekiel 37).  Ezekiel knew what he saw before him.  They were literally dry bones.  No life was there.  No possibility of something better beyond what he could see.

But God encouraged Ezekiel to do something unusual.  To look beyond how his humanness wanted to respond to what was before him, and in essence, God was encouraging him to speak life over what appeared completely dismal and unrepairable (Ezekiel 37:4-10).  In that, Ezekiel got a chance to participate in experiencing something not only wonderful – but something truly altogether miraculous.

What miracles are you praying for today?  What looks like a valley of dry bones before you today, but you want to see a change in it and speak life over it?

Another thing I was reminded of in prayer was this great truth: “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)”, (2 Corinthians 5:7).  What is seen is not nearly as important as the faith one has – as what one believes.  When challenged with the question, “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3a) Ezekiel could have looked at the impossible dead things before him and not have reacted as God was prompting him to.  He could have based everything on what he currently saw.  Rather, he got into agreement with God, and declared, “O Lord GOD, thou knowest,” (Ezekiel 37:3b), and a few verses down, Ezekiel said, “So I prophesied as I was commanded…” (Ezekiel 37:7).

Both Martha and Mary were challenged in this area when Jesus came after Lazarus had died.  Both responded to what they saw, and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” (John 11:21, 32).  But Jesus encouraged them to believe beyond what they could see.

Jesus, standing at the grave of Lazarus commanded the stone to be rolled away.  Again, how they saw things were how they responded.  It was Martha who spoke up and said, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he had been dead four days,” (John 11:39).

Jesus’ response to her reaction was, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (John 11:40; see also 25-26).  Jesus’ response was for her to look beyond what she saw, and just believe for more.  Believe that He could do and speak something miraculous in what is dead.  And in Ezekiel’s case, it was believing that that which appears to be dry and beyond repair can now experience a new life.

What are these experiences speaking to you today?  Is God trying to shift our focus from always seeing the negatives?  Is He trying to encourage us to speak life into areas that need such a miracle they appear they could never be resuscitated?

Remember what the Bible says, “(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)”.  Is it time to start seeing beyond?  Is it time to start speaking beyond?  Is it time to start believing beyond?

Wherever and whatever God is calling us to today if He is calling us, it is because He believes that we can.  Even if we do not see immediate changes to our circumstances as they did, keep going in faith and believing, because God applauds and is pleased with genuine faith, for the Bible reminds us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6).

All the greatest stories in the Bible begin with faith.  And all that faith begins with believing beyond.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

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“Unchanging Joy!”

“The joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Those words penned from Nehemiah 8:10 we generally claim or hear quoted when people are experiencing adversities or may have a monumental task ahead of them.   Sometimes they are even expressed in moments of celebration.  For days of sorrow or for days of peace, any day is a good day where a child of God can declare, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

One thing I have learned in life is that we do go through many different seasons and circumstances.  Some good.  And yet, some which can make one feel a little void or empty.  Happiness and joy can’t seem to be found in any activity or normal pleasure.

During these seasons, one must remember that life will always act as a variable. It may seem a simple thing to say or write, but in the midst of the challenges and sorrows, yes, it is sometimes hard for us to see these truths, therefore, we must be gently reminded of how things really are at times.  And that is life changes.  Things get added and taken away.  Some changes affect how we feel and when we base our feelings on these variables we experience many ups and downs.

What then?  It is the unchanging, the solid, the constant that we need to build everything else upon.  As long as we live in this world things will always change.  One hundred percent of our time will not stay in a state of sameness.  We will have times of exaltation, growth, and increase.  But, we will also experience those things that grieve us, break our hearts, and spend our energies with the multitude of tears flowing from us (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-11).

Therefore, since we are susceptible to these changes we must base our life, our joy, our foundation to everything else upon Him who never changes.

God is our constant!  “For I am the Lord, I change not,” He exclaimed in Malachi 3:6.  We also have this promise written through James: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” (James 1:17; emphasis added).

Our Heavenly Father will always be the wonderful, Heavenly Father that He has always been.  No matter how your circumstances may feel to you right now, that truth will never change.

That being said, if the happiness and joy you once felt or usually feel have escaped you today, perhaps it is because we have become more dependent on too many changing factors rather than filling our heart, mind, soul, and life with the true joy of Him and from Him that never changes.

In dealing with many sorrows and afflictions himself, David penned his own beautiful words, declaring the assurance of his joy.  He stated, “And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation,” (Psalm 35:9).

When we bring our all to focus on God… When we tune our souls into the proper source, we will find that situations may still be adverse, but because I have Him, because I have a relationship with God, and because His salvation has raised me from far worse than where my soul would be without Him, I can still rejoice!

I think it’s safe to say that we all want it to feel good all the time.  But feeling good and have everything go our way or turn out just as we desire is not a prerequisite for true joy because those things and feelings will also and always change.  But my God won’t, and when it is He that I open my heart to and allow all that He is to shine on me and everything that I am feeling, then I can experience that true, unchanging joy!

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“It is wonderful to see the grace of God at work in our lives today!”

 

As I ponder this day, the new beginnings of this morning, this thought spoke deeply to my heart: It is wonderful to see the grace of God at work in our lives today!

As I muse over previous days and times, and that musing sometimes leads to disappointments, His grace speaks, “Not today.”  That was in the yesterdays gone by, but today is a time to rejuvenate what His faithfulness has always longed to fulfill in you.  Today mercy comes to the forefront and speaks on your behalf and declares what God has for you it shall come to pass as long as you believe, trust, and hold on to His unchanging hand.

His grace becomes not your crutch or something you take for granted, but your true inner support of strength.  Daily we depend on Him.  Daily we need Him to reach way down into our lives and do the impossible, work where flesh and blood can’t and revive His purpose, His goodness, His anointing, and His will in me.

Grace is more than just a word to toss about.   When the unworthiness of our being edges in, grace magnifies His love in showing what He freely gives.  Grace speaks to the crevices of the heart and fills it with something indescribable, something wonderful and beyond compare.  To bask in the newness of the grace bestowed upon me this day is to bask in the pleasure He seeks to give to a fallible creature such as I.  To lay myself out before Him and feel His rays of peace shine down on me is the best way to start this day.  Surrendering my all to Him.  My desires.  My failures.  My hurts.  And, even my expectations.

We all carry spiritual luggage from our previous days into the new day.  Carrying about the weight of it and allowing it to slow our progress for what God has in store for our new.  Lay it aside, dear Friend, and don that blessedness He so freely gives.  Put on His grace and let it cover you where you feel you need to be covered.  Let it build you where you feel the need for restoration, and let His grace carry you when it’s hard to hold yourself up and walk the days before you.

God’s grace is a beautiful thing.  We know what we deserve, but we see what He gives in spite of it.

Grace, His love for us in action.  The cross secured it for us, and daily His grace lets us know He’s in this for the long-haul.  He is still fighting for us.  He still believes in us and He is willing to pour on us abundantly what our lives can’t find anywhere else.

Father God, thank You for Your blessed grace.  Words cannot express my gratitude for this anointed gift You so freely pour out into my life, but I hold the thought and truth of it near and dear to me, allowing it to wash over me and renew my steps and my life in You daily.  It is so wonderful to see Your grace at work in my life personally today.  No words of thanks will ever be enough, but Lord, I thank You anyway.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray, AMEN!

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Devotion | “I Come Quickly!”

Once, while attending Bible study, this verse in Revelation 22:12 became a point of reference.  But, as I perused through the rest of the same chapter I noticed those words written in red, indicating Jesus speaking, were written exactly the same way three times: “I come quickly,” (see verses 7 and 20 also).  This really got my attention for any good Bible student knows that if Jesus repeats anything it means to take special heed to it.  This statement which is triple repeated is as a warning siren beckoning one to be aware of what’s about to happen.

Preoccupation with this world has so many in its clutches and has lulled multitudes into a false sense of security.  How many of our waking hours are spent on the temporary trappings of now instead of the glory that awaits our future?  Our time on this earthly sojourn is not infinite.  Time will pass.  Days will turn to night and eventually, at our proper time, we will step into eternity or as some say, when Jesus cracks the sky – then, it will all be over.

Will we be ready or caught unawares?  On more than one occurrence that coming day and the Lord Jesus Christ are described as happening by surprise as if a thief came in the middle of the night (1 The. 5:2, 4; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15).  Just as suddenly, the end will arrive.  There will be no processional heralding His coming as during the time of His triumphal entry.  Only what is heard in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, but by then, it’s already too late.  The preachers, teachers, and sharers of His Word are heralding now from the pulpits, at the street meetings, and witnessing through the many avenues available even as we speak.  Rather, without warning, He shall appear.

At that time we will all be forced to answer for the life we lived while here.  What will our story tell?

As much as mankind tries to dismiss the truth of the second coming or sweep it under a spiritual rug – it will happen.  Jesus is coming back.  Now is the time to get ready.  Tomorrow is not promised.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” (Revelation 22:20).

Blessings~

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“Regrowth!”

There are so many times the Lord could have taken away from us, but instead, He gave.  Our daily steps before the Lord probably have not been the picture of perfection.  I know I personally have had many ashes during my lifetime that needed beautifying.  And yet, every day when I wake up, every day when I open my eyes, I am blessed with the gift of new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23), as are you.

Those mercies are much needed, as anyone can easily testify to.  Because, as I am walking forward, I can easily take a look back and cringe at the litter my previous pathways left behind.  But that renewed mercy smiles at me and encourages me in the newness of this day before me.  It helps to push me to walk where my feet may have previously felt unworthy to walk.  It draws me to step out of the door into what is presently before me, bidding me try again.  Believe again.  Make the effort to do better again.  It draws me to see God is still in the business of using me for His works, for His kingdom, and for His glory.

Reading Judges 16, I see how Samson broke away from the stipulations God placed on him through the Nazarite vow of not cutting his hair and the suffering that came because of it.

But then, there is this one verse out of his whole story that jumped out at me: “Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven,” (Judges 16:22), which was the symbol of his Nazarite vow.  It was by grace that God allowed for regrowth.  He could have just washed His hands of Samson and kept away what he had lost, but God is the one that allowed for the grace and mercy of regrowth.

Every day we are given is another chance for us to experience that same kind of regrowth.  It may not be our hair, but maybe there was something we let go of, something we didn’t guard or tend to as we should have, something we may have neglected, and as a result, we didn’t end up where we were supposed to be.

But with the new mercy of today, we have a chance for regrowth.  We have been given the grace to plant again and work in the fields God has given us.  Samson used his regrowth period to go out with a bang.  What can you do with yours?  If we are here today, that means our story is not over.  The grace for God’s regrowth is real and very present for us today.

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“Overlooked? Not by God!”

 

Do you ever feel like life is a series of “Duck, Duck, Goose” games?  There you sit in your circle, surrounded by other people.  Then, the opportunity comes.  The one who can tag you as the next one that can rise from the circle begins to make their turn around the circle.  They look at each one sitting and try to take in the possibility of who gets to be the privileged one; who gets to be “goose.”

All eyes and ears are opened to that one.  They watch.  They listen.  They wait in anticipation to see if the chance and opportunity to rise and run falls on them.  As the game proceeds, the favor of that one doesn’t fall on you and you are left to sit in the circle once more.

Times of sitting and waiting is rarely fun unless you see the possible potential that can flow from that downtime.  Often, many people, in many circles, of life are overlooked and passed by without a second glance.  And, while it seems the favor of man has continually ignored and/or snubbed you, in your downtime, there is One who sees.

It’s so easy in life to get caught up and focused on the human to human point of contact and favor.  While a better use of our time, down or not, should be focused on our human to God contact, and the potential of growing more in Him.

While David was a young man in his circle, he was overlooked not only by his brothers but his father too.  When the prophet Samuel came to pay a call to anoint the next one to rise out of the circle, the next one to be king, David wasn’t even thought of when all the sons of the house lined up according to the potential that human eyes could see.

But, in his downtime, there were oodles of potential growing and producing a God-fearing, dedicated life beyond the eyes of what man can see.  In my opinion, it is possible that even David himself didn’t see everything in him like God saw it, for he didn’t force himself to be seen by others and noticed.  It was not until Samuel exhausted all possibilities before him did he bother to ask was there another option.  Was there someone else who should be considered for this great honor?

He heard the whisper of God speak, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7), and as all the possibilities passed before him, he found out the Lord didn’t choose any one of them, even when man thought and believed they were the logical choice.

No, but in his overlooked season, a heart was developing in David that caught God’s attention when others neglected to see the power of potential growing within him.  A heart that loved God from the inside out.  A heart that was sensitive to the leading and moving of God.  A heart that had faith in God that would allow him to stand before a literal giant and make him fall.  A heart in David was growing and maturing for God alone.  This is what piqued God’s interest in him.  Not the outward stuff that others could see and overlook him for.  But God was excited and drawn to those things on the inside that only He could see.

Height.  Stature.  Good looks.  Outward talent and so forth will all fade and deteriorate over time.  But a heart that is truly after God will last and endure.

What we need to remember and take away from this story is that God sees it all.  Although it is not right, many will continue to judge by only what they see on the exterior of all you have to offer.  But God sees all the possibilities within.  And, although many may overlook you, God has not.

Don’t sit in your circle idly waiting for other’s approval.  Rather, wait on God, and live for Him.  Once again, David didn’t seek their attention.  He was outside with the sheep doing the work he was assigned to do at that time (1 Samuel 16:11) when he was called to be anointed the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:12-13).

Wherever you are in life, keep your focus on God.  Live a life that is pleasing to Him from the inside out.  Worry less about what others think and rest your hope in what God alone sees and knows all about you.  This is not a game to Him, and He will never overlook you!

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“My eyes look to You, Lord!”

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:2

Father God, may our eyes focus more on You than what’s going on around us.  There are so many things pulling for attention.  There are troubles and disappointments that try to take a stand and demand to be noticed.  But Father God, may our eyes and our hearts rest on You and all the promises of heaven through every trying time.  May we see clearly, through it all, You are still for us.  You are He who is daily faithful, and daily offers grace and mercy.  You are where we find the strength to draw from when we feel weak.  When we feel like we’re at the end of our rope, it’s Your Spirit that whispers, “Hold on, for your story is not over.”

Father God, as we lift our eyes and our hearts to You, we place in Your hands our needs, our worries, our hurts, our everything.  You know it all better than we do and it’s in You we put our trust.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray, AMEN!

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“Remain Strong in God!”

One morning as I was making a cup of coffee I ran out of creamer and had to open a new container.  I unscrewed the top and picked and picked at the protective seal underneath to no avail.  I couldn’t get it to rip off for anything.  Finally, out of frustration, I reached into the dishwasher and grabbed a knife and punctured a small hole in the top of the seal.  After that, it was easy for me to put my finger in the hole and manipulate the seal for its ultimate removal.  Coffee time!

This had me thinking about how the enemy works in our lives.  As long as we stay sealed up in Christ the enemy can pick and pick but our packaging in Him remains strong.  No wonder Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1-3) felt such a compelling urge to get the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt to their full strength once again.  Wherever there is a hole or a breach in any structure it allows an opportunity for an enemy to poke his nose into and gaining access to manipulate the circumstances of life.  It makes his job easier.

Paul encourages us, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord,” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Our diligence will pay off after a while.  We must be like a wall without a breach.  We must take our cue from Nehemiah to patch up any deficiencies in our spiritual walls.  We are the ones who have to be “steadfast and unmovable” to have our work count in the end.  If we stop building and maintaining our walls then they will fall to utter ruin and we will have nothing to show for our work.

We must work at the upkeep of all that God has given us.  “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not,” (Galatians 6:9).  Our press matters.  Our work matters.  Our walls matter.  We must continue forth with the mentality of Nehemiah when he stated, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…” (Nehemiah 6:3).  The enemy wants to thwart your work so that holes and weaknesses can be left for him to poke and manipulate.  But, if we want to “reap” then we must not “faint.”  We must push forth in doing good and leave the benefits to God.

Obtaining coffee creamer that morning was a struggle until I broke the seal.  Don’t let the enemy break your seal.  Stay covered in Christ and push forth until the end for your reward is coming.  Now is not the time to give in or give up.  If necessary, ask God to help you repair what is broken that you may be whole once again.  Remain strong in God!  You can do this!

Be blessed.

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“Before there was Egypt, there was a promise!”

Many times when we discuss the land of Egypt within the confines of the Bible, our minds automatically trackback to the time when the children of Israel were in bondage there.  We see them under the weight of the taskmasters, dealing with oppressive circumstances that are beyond their control.  They stand by and watch as some are beaten, others are killed; lack and degrading situations run rampant throughout their time there.  Fear, hatred, and jealousy by others drove them to the place where they are residing; a place where tough days seem like they will never come to an end.

Often times, when people find themselves in a hard spot of life, or when they find themselves coming up short and just not happy with the way things are turning out at this particular time, they refer to that circumstance as their place of “Egypt.”  This is where heartbreak and troubling times lie.  This is the place where it seems everything is fighting against them and no matter what one does it just doesn’t appear that they will ever come out on top.  People may not have taskmaster’s whips to deal with, but other things just lash and lash out at them, making it hard to get back up again.

As hard as this may be to believe, I assure you your Egypt will not last forever.  I’m sure the children of Israel had doubts about this.  After all, their time there lasted about four hundred years.  Yet, even before this family of seventy ventured into the land and grew to the astronomical numbers we see in Exodus, God knew all about their time there before they were even there.

In Genesis 15:13 God told Abram, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”  Outside of that prophecy God also said, “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance,” (Genesis 15:14).  In this we see, there was a promise before they even set one foot in Egypt; before they even encountered a problem, God already had a blessing lined up for when they came out.

Today, we fight against so many unknowns.  We deal with all the this and that’s of life that it simply just weighs one down.  One might not find themselves in a literal state of captivity, but something just sits on them heavy, becoming an almost unbearable burden, that they just don’t know what to do.  With a feeling of exasperation, some just give up, content just to go through the motions of life, without grabbing hold of the feeling of hope because of the fear of being let down again, just to drift back into that state of uncertainty once more.

But, I am here to tell you today, continue hoping and never give up.  Your “Egypt” is not lost on God.  God knows what you are facing.  He knows every disappointment you are dealing with.  He knows every struggle you are battling.  He knows everything that you are fighting through and that’s fighting against you.

It may be hard to see the proverbial silver lining in a dark cloud at times or the light at the end of the tunnel, but we have something better.  We have a promise!  God told Abram when his people came out, they were coming out better than when they went in.  God was going to judge those who did them wrong, and God was going to bless them greatly.

Another promise Abram received was in a few verses prior to those noted above.  God told him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be,” (Genesis 15:5).  Not only were they going to be blessed, but they were going to come out increased in the people they were.  To go from one individual to the millions they would come out to be, they were going to grow not only in number but in experience through their troubling times.  They would have to learn to endure some stuff in order to be the people who would eventually be fit to take on the Promised Land.

While it may at times seem like the hard times are breaking you, they may be actually making you.  So remember, before there was Egypt, there was a promise.  And, I don’t know about you, but I will take a promise of God over a so-called silver lining any day.  The promises of God are sure.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are told, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us,” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

In other words, no matter what you are facing today, Jesus has you covered.  No matter the obstacles or hard places that make you feel like you are in Egypt and you just want to give up, God has an unfailing promise of His love, grace, mercy, peace, and deliverance through even the most difficult circumstances.

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