Prayer: God flood our lives with light.No matter how dark things appear, light is breaking through, always. The question is, will we see it? When difficulties come, it’s so easy to focus on the challenges and disappointments, and in that, to forget the heart, power, presence, and purposes of Christ.

I’ve noticed something lately, something that happens again and Sunrise over the ocean with quote from postagain. So often, my most challenging moments, in Christ’s hands, become so life-giving. When C19 hit, my ministry lost an entire year of conferences, and therefore a year worth of funding. At the time, I felt confused and uncertain. But God used the pause and our renewed focus on Him to lead us into new, increasingly fruitful territory.

This pattern has played out in my relationships as well. When we lived in Southern California, my marriage was in a rough place. I felt so alone and ached to connect deeply with my husband, but the hours and stress of his job routinely stole him from me. For a while, the situation seemed to get worse. But even then, God was working, revealing things to both of us we too easily ignored prior. That dark period became a catalyst for change and growth.

Perhaps the most vivid light-piercing-darkness event occurred when I first became sick. Initially, fighting my illness alone, I tried various supplemental “cures.” The more out of control my body felt, the more I fought for control. By the time I sought a doctor and received a diagnosis, my latent, previously manageable and largely “ignored” OCD morphed into obvious germaphobia.

That period was so hard on all of us, but it also led to deep healing. We couldn’t justify or downplay my behavior anymore. I wasn’t simply focused or particular. When life became challenging and darkness pressed in, it squeezed out my inner gunk that we had learned to ignore.

We could’ve become suffocated by the darkness. Instead, by God’s grace, we linked arms, turned to Jesus, and steadily sought and followed His light. And His light indeed broke through in such a beautiful, life-giving way. While this didn’t eliminate our pain, that period changed us, for the better.

Speaking of Jesus, John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NIV).

Jesus didn’t come during a rosy time in history. Lives were ravished by King Herod’s infanticide, Roman oppression, poverty and hunger, leprosy and the lifelong isolation that accompanied it. But God was doing a mighty work not even the most powerful tyrannical ruler or most devastating disease could halt. He was bringing life to the dead and piercing the darkness with light.

The Pharisees couldn’t see this. They were blinded, distracted by the darkness, the darkness within themselves, yes, but also all the oppression and uncertainty in their world. All they could see was what they might lose, should this faith-movement continue: Their prestigious roles as religious leaders, their already tenuous relationship with the Roman authorities, their way of life. They couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, see the light—the gift of life and freedom Christ offered.

No matter what 2021 brings, I refuse to be like them. I refuse to become so engulfed in today’s challenges that I fail to see God’s light breaking through. Because I know it’s there. It always is, a light nothing, not the pain of today or the uncertainty of tomorrow, can extinguish.

Speaking of intentionally seeing and pursuing the light, I invite you to begin your new year determined to walk in God’s truth. Join me as I read—and write—chronologically through the New Testament. Each week, we’ll kick off with a devotional post, similar to today’s, followed by five days of suggested reading.

Bible reading plan imageWeek one:

Day one: Mark 1:1, Luke 1:1-4, John 1:1-5

Day two: John 1:6-18

Day three: Luke 1;5-17

Day four: Luke 1:18-25

Day five: Luke 1:26-38

Let’s talk about this!

How is God’s light breaking through your circumstances this month? And perhaps more importantly, how can you seek out and hold tight to that light when dark circumstances hit? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

And speaking of God’s light breaking through relational challenges …

Quote on hope with sunset background

Our world aches for a soul-reaching peace that transcends all that’s frightening and hard, for unshakable hope, and the promise that life won’t always feel so painful. That good awaits. People long for—need—everything we have in Christ, but I wonder if we convey these truths accurately, fully, and often enough. Or do our words, to ourselves and others, unknowingly, point to a hope rooted in today—the end of a virus, a better economy, or a transformed political system?

A few years ago, our daughter spent eight months in North Carolina, during which she became painfully lonely. Soon, deep depression took hold. Needing to know how best to help her, I sought guidance from a counselor. Through this, I was reminded of the power and importance of hope.

To persevere, our daughter needed to cultivate anticipation for what lay ahead. As a result, my husband and my conversations with her shifted significantly. While we talked about coping tools, we focused predominantly on counting down the days until she returned home. We also discussed, in detail, how we’d celebrate once she did—all she had to look forward to. Her hope for home increased her grit to endure.

This is true for our faith journeys as well. Our hope doesn’t lie in a better life today. Scripture tells us, numerous times, to expect the opposite. Many of us know this, but do our words reflect this truth?

Consider Paul’s letters to ancient believers living in dark and painful times, much worse than anything most of us will experience. He routinely reminded them to remain focused on heaven, where their true citizenship lay. His heart was firmly set on the joy that awaited him and all God’s children. And his anticipation became contagious.Hebrews 10:23 with a sunset background

This is clear from his praise of the Thessalonian believers: “We give thanks to God always for all of you … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 1:2-3, ESV, emphasis mine).

Here’s what I find significant regarding this passage. These believers came to faith amidst great persecution. After preaching in their city for a mere three weeks, Paul was driven out by a riotous mob. I imagine he felt as if he’d abandoned the new believers in their fledgling faith. Considering all they could, and likely would, suffer, they probably dominated his thoughts. His greatest fear? That the gospel message hadn’t truly stuck. But then he received news, these baby believers were thriving! “The word of the Lord sounded forth” (1 Thes. 1:8, ESV) from them, like a glorious, life-giving trumpet.

Why? What enabled these persecuted new Christians to flourish during such a dark and horrific time?

Their knowledge that their pain wouldn’t last forever. They maintained an undeniable, unshakable, and indistinguishable hope in heaven.

We have the hope our world needs. May we proclaim it clearly, loudly, and often, because “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, ESV).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask God to intervene, that we shouldn’t long for reprieve, today. But may our proclamations regarding all we know, with certainty, is yet to come, ring louder, because that’s where our true hope lies, and that hope will always preach.

Let’s talk about this. How easy is it for you to anchor your heart in the hope of heaven?

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

Join Wholly Loved‘s private online Facebook community, a safe and encouraging place to share your struggles, fears, celebrations, and prayer requests. Find us HERE.

Listen to Jennifer’s latest Thriving With Chronic Illness Podcast titled Irrevocably Called HERE.

Read Jennifer’s article on how the craziness in our world can actually be good for the church HERE.

Image of woman on bench with quote pulled from post

When our daughter was young and I spent hours each week in school pickup lines, I often felt I had plenty of time to rest. To pray and seek Jesus. But then she grew older, I grew busier, and year by year, it felt increasingly harder to slow down and prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

I’ve since discovered, however, when my schedule overwhelms me and I don’t have a moment to spare, that’s when I most need to hit pause.

That’s when I most need to regularly connect with Jesus. In the midst of a particularly busy period, my guest’s post today really resonated.

For When We Think We’re Too Busy to Rest

By Dr. Michelle Bengston

Life was getting busy—too busy. Maybe you’ve been there: when you were always looking forward to the next event, no longer content in the moment.

No sooner had I sent my next book manuscript to the publisher, when I began to ponder my next project. Everyone else seemed to ask me that as well, “What will you work on next?”

I habitually pushed forward, without taking enough time to relish and celebrate the victories along the way.

During a women’s retreat the following weekend, no less than a dozen women confirmed the direction I sensed God was leading me: into a season of rest.

REST? Why would I want to do that ? I had things to write and talks to give. God knows my personality: I’d rather have three urgent projects going with barn-burning deadlines than be told to rest.

But God always knows best.

In the month after that retreat when I felt like He was leading me into a season of rest, I fulfilled my speaking commitments and visited my college son. Upon returning home, my doctor called to tell me what no one likes nor wants to hear: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.”

Surgery was scheduled and treatment began. The physical toll was great, but God had prepared me for this time by clearing my calendar.

We become so consumed with accomplishing tasks, that we forget God can do more during times of rest than in our most “productive times.”

I used to think rest was a luxury. Now I realize it is crucial for warfare.

Rest has its benefits:

1. In rest, God provides safety.

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster” (1 Kings 5:4 ESV).

2. Rest allows our bodies to heal. God desires healing for us.

3. Rest allows God the opportunity to teach us His ways, and as He teaches us, we learn to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

4. We were created in God’s image, and when we rest, we align ourselves with the very nature of God.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV).

5. Rest is a gift from God. We can rest in His presence.

“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV).

Taking time to rest requires trust in the One who commanded us to do so.

Jesus never hurried, and he modeled for us a lifestyle that included rest. If it was good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be so for us also?

Let’s talk about this!

What makes rest a challenge for you? What benefits have you seen from following God’s command to rest? Share your thoughts, insights, and stories with us in the questions below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Michelle!

Author headshot: Michelle BengtsonDr. Michelle Bengtson (Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.

Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her  site: DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with her at:

Website, her Blog, and on Facebook

Hope Prevails:

Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson believed she was prescribing the most effective treatments for her clients who struggled with depression. But when she experienced debilitating depression herself, she found that the treatments she had recommended weren’t helping her the way she expected. She was determined to find out what was missing.

With the deep compassion of someone who has been there, Dr. Bengtson blends her training and that vital missing piece she discovered to offer you a hope grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps you understand what depression is, how it affects you spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, depression cannot do. The result is an approach that offers not just the management of symptoms but the hope of true release.

Order Hope Prevails HERE.

Before you go, I have more fun news! For those of you working through the Becoming His Princess study, you can now watch the video segment for week one HERE. We should have week two’s video segment available by the 23rd.

If you didn’t grab your free copy yet, you can do so HERE or purchase a print copy for $5 HERE.