What do you do when you feel bombarded on every side? How do you stand when it feels as if life has kicked you in the gut and you find it hard to breathe? My guest today, a woman I adore and greatly admire who serves with me on the Faith Over Fear podcast has been there and shares some insights on how we can remain standing when hardship threatens to knock us flat.
Overcome or Overwhelmed by Ava Pennington
It had not been an easy week. An anniversary of loss I’d rather not remember, yet it’s impossible to forget. A reminder of my husband’s greatest season of victory in the face of what the world would call a season of deepest defeat.
After receiving a terminal prognosis five years ago, Russ determined to use his final months to remind Christians to look up in the midst of their difficulties. That’s easier said than done. Yet, for the final months of his life, Russ shared his testimony about a different kind of healing. He encouraged believers to look beyond their trials and suffering.
How do we do that? How do we find the strength to see beyond our circumstances? To not be defeated by a diagnosis or beaten by a broken relationship? How do we become conquerors instead of one conquered? To be an overcomer instead of overwhelmed? Victorious instead of vanquished?
The answer is found in how Russ lived out these four principles in the face of death:
Remember who we belong to:
The early church in Ephesus needed to be reminded of who they belonged to. So the apostle Paul wrote:
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14 ESV).
Living in a sin-sick world can make it easy to forget who we belong to. Our situation may cause us to think God has forgotten us or doesn’t care, leading us to lose faith. We can let our circumstances define our relationship with God or we can let our relationship with God define how we view our circumstances.
Maintain an eternal focus:
Difficult circumstances have a way of capturing our focus to the exclusion of all else. But the Bible reminds us that our circumstances are temporary:
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).
We’re often consumed with making this life easier. More comfortable. While those goals are not bad in themselves, they often become obstacles to what God is accomplishing in and through us. We become focused on making this life our best life, rather than remembering the best is yet to come.
Stop trying so hard:
The world has convinced us that with just a little more effort, we can fix anything that’s broken and bring it to a state of wholeness. But the apostle Paul reminds us the work of completion is not in our control:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).
Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Our job is to surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results.
Do the next right thing:
Ongoing crises and turmoil can wear us down. That’s when we need this reminder:
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 (ESV).
Painful circumstances often cause us to feel overwhelmed. Russ battled a sense of his own body betraying him as the cancer grew. And even as I watched helplessly, I also wondered what his prognosis meant for my own future. What would life look like without my spouse?
But the Lord promised to care for His children’s needs. Our job is not to worry about the future, but to obey, one day at a time. And when that seems too difficult, then one hour or even the next five minutes at a time. Don’t ask what will happen a year from now. Rather, ask what has the Lord placed in front of me today? Then do the next right thing.
Fast forward to today . . . the anniversary week of remembering also brought reminders that God is still providing. Within a few days, several people came into my life to bless me by meeting new needs I didn’t have a clue about how to handle.
We can allow this broken world to overwhelm us or we can be overcomers. The answer is not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re victorious when we remember our situations are temporary, but our life in Christ is eternal.
As you face your difficulties, how can you maintain an eternal focus? What is the next right thing your heavenly Father has placed in front of you to do?
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Ava Pennington is an author and speaker. She’s also a freelance editor and certified coach for writers, a Wholly Loved Ministries podcaster, and a Word Weavers Intl. mentor. She teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship class, is trained as a Precepts Ministries instructor, and received an Adult Bible Studies certificate from Moody Bible Institute.
Ava is the author of Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully (Revell Books), co-author of 2 picture books and has contributed to numerous magazines and 35 anthologies including 28 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Find her at www.AvaPennington.com.
Check out her book, Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully:
Every name God calls Himself and every name His people have called Him holds clues to who He is, how He relates to His children, and the promises He has made – and kept.
This devotional offers you a wonderful opportunity to spend time each day getting to know God more intimately by exploring His names and attributes. Perfect for both new Christians and longtime believers, these life-changing devotions will help you discover something new about who God is, who you are, and how you relate to others.
Thank you for hosting me, Jennifer!
I appreciate your transparency and know this post encouraged many!
What a beautiful and equipping reminder, encouragement. Thanks for sharing your faith journey and reminding us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and that He will not fail us.
I agree, Sandy! What a legacy Ava’s husband left! And her story is a precious reminder of our faithful, loving Savior!