Welcome to another episode of the Heart of the Matter Radio/ Podcast. In today’s episode, we have the pleasure of hosting Grace Fox, author of the devotional book “Fresh Hope for Today.” With everything happening in the world today, it’s easy to lose hope and feel overwhelmed. That’s why we’re diving into the topic of mental health and the importance of finding hope and joy during challenging times. Grace’s book, filled with beautiful and touching reflections, reminds us that our hope lies in Christ. Join us as we discuss the power of prayer, finding hope in little moments, and how God’s love can bring us great joy and encouragement. Stay tuned for an uplifting conversation that will remind you of the hope that is available to you even in the midst of life’s challenges.

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Cynthia:

This is a time that we really need hope. Every day that I listen to the news or read something on the Internet, I am utterly amazed at the world I live in. How in the world could it get any crazier?

The next few weeks we’re going to be talking about mental health issues. We need hope and we need joy right now. I’m holding in my hand a devotional written by Grace Fox. I love purple and it’s purple and blue.

I’ve been flipping through it and really enjoying some of the things that I see in here because our hope is in Christ. Grace is with me today. Welcome, Grace.

Grace:

Hey, thank you so much for having me, Cynthia. I’m glad to be with you.

Cynthia:

As I’m flipping through here, you have one devotional that says, ‘Because You Prayed.’ It’s got the verse James 5:16 about confessing your sins to each other and praying for each other. Can you tell me a story about that? How does that help in finding hope and joy?

Grace:

There is such power in prayer. We can’t see into the heavenlies.  And so we pray. And I think sometimes God honors our prayers, even though they’re uttered with a little bit of knocking knees sometimes. But in this particular devotional, I talked about King Sennacherib of Assyria. He sent a letter to King Hezekiah warning of an impending attack. Hezekiah took that letter and he prayed about it, and God reassured him that Sennacherib was wrong.

And God actually told him, victory will come because you have prayed. And sometimes I wonder if God waits until we pray. I don’t understand all the theology behind that, but he invites our participation in what he’s doing.  Our first inclination might be to run to a friend and talk about it or to stew about it. But if we can understand the power of prayer, we might see God do amazing things because we prayed.

Cynthia:

Yes. I love that story because it talks about the King taking the letter and going into the presence of God. “Here it is. Lord, look what it says, I’m scared to death.”

And I just can so relate to that situation. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to Lord and said, “Okay, Lord, do you know what’s happening now?”

Grace:

I love Cynthia, too. He could have gathered all of his advisors around him. He could have called a board meeting. He could have done any of those things and laid the letter out before them and said, “Okay, what are we going to do? Let’s make a plan here. What’s our strategy going to be?”

But he didn’t do that. He went to the Lord and laid the letter out. He prayed first.

Cynthia:

You’re right. He was a king, after all. And he could have said, well, we’re going to get rough. But instead he went to the Lord.

I’m on page 80. ‘A little bit of hope.’ The verse is Psalm 62, five through six. “My soul finds rest in the Lord. My hope comes from Him truly. He is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress. I will not be shaken.”

Grace:

A little bit of hope sometimes is all we need in order to carry on. And I just love how God is so personal with us as his kids. He knows the situations we’re in that are hard. He knows the heartaches that we feel.  And sometimes he will send us that little bit of hope. That’s enough to remind us that we’re not completely in the dark.

There is that light ahead. There is the ending to this thing that we’re in. It will not last forever. And he might send that little bit of hope. Maybe an email from a friend that just says, “Thinking about you today,” Maybe something that’s beautiful in nature outside. And sometimes that is the kind of little bit of hope he sends because he wants to cheer our hearts and remind us that he’s there with us.

Cynthia:

Yeah, this happened to me one time. I had a daughter who was away from God. I went to a wedding and just came home very discouraged.

I wanted my husband to be able to walk a daughter down the aisle. But he wasn’t going to be able to do that. But someone sent me a message that day on Facebook.

“I’m thinking about you today and I’m praying for you.” And it’s like the light was turned on because God knew how I was feeling that day. He knew I was feeling blah, and he wanted to let me know he was there.

That made all the difference in the world.

Grace:

That’s beautiful. I got an email like that this morning from a woman who I met at a women’s conference probably five years ago. And when we met, she became interested in the mission organization that my husband and I direct. So she’s been going on short term teams and partnering with our national staff in the Middle East ever since and supporting their work. This morning I opened my emails and here’s a message from her.

She want to let me know she was praying for me right now.

 

Cynthia:

Yeah, God has a way of doing that. She had no idea what you were facing, but God did, and he got the words out of her.

Okay, here’s another one. This is “Ripples of Joy.” This is on page 60, and it says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” Philemon 1:7.

Grace:

Our joy cannot be contained. I mean, when we feel joy inside, it’s going to come out. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. And so when the Spirit is in us, that joy is going to come out. This particular devotional was written about a friend of mine named Jane. She was a lady my age who volunteered at our church. The women loved her. She had such a sweet spirit. She would ask questions about how they were doing, and then she would listen as they responded.

She didn’t just ask, how are you? And then leave after a short fine. She would stick around and listen to what they had to say, because she genuinely cared. And there was a sense of calm, a sense of peace about her, and this joy just emanated from her, and it was contagious, it rippled. And so she was diagnosed with a neurological rare disease that claimed her life about six or seven weeks after she was diagnosed. People grieved the loss. I grieved the loss. She was a good friend of mine, too. I was at her service.

 

And we could say that even in the midst of the grief, after she passed away, there was joy because of the joy she left behind. We had joy in knowing that she loved Jesus and she was with him at that point. And there would be that wonderful reuniting know? Her joy, resembled a ripple that began with her faith in Jesus and reached more people than she realized. She left a legacy of joy.

Cynthia:

What a legacy.

Here’s another one on page 100. It’s about suffering.

“In this, you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, you may have to suffer grief of all kinds and trials. These have come on so that the power of the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth and gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Grace:

Our human bent wants to escape suffering. Nobody likes pain. Nobody asks for pain. But when we experience it, we want to get out of it as fast as we can because it’s unpleasant. Who likes to sit in the middle of pain and suffering? No one. But we really need to do is to align our theology with what the Bible says. One, it will happen. It happens to all of us.

And two, it is something to rejoice in Like James, the Book of James talks about counting it all joy.

Here in this first Peter verse, it talks about greatly rejoicing. Pain is temporary. It says now for a little while, just a little while. We have to keep in mind that this is not our home. Our permanent residency is coming. And this suffering prepares us.

Cynthia:

I’m thinking right now of a friend of mine that was my roommate in nursing school. She got brain cancer. She happened to be in the bathroom with one of the ladies at the church she went to. I heard about this after her death.

The lady said Mary came up and said, “I’ve been praying for you. I’m concerned about you.”

And the lady said, “I had back pain. I had nothing in comparison to a brain tumor.”

But Mary was praying for me, and I was so touched. Now, shortly after, Mary did pass away. but That love that she had was so precious. That’s the Holy Spirit.

Grace:

Yeah, it is. And we can find encouragement even when we’re in the midst of suffering. Our human mind always goes towards the negative. Our human bent will tend to question God’s purposes, may question his presence in our lives,  Remember that he knows what suffering is all about because he suffered too. And Jesus suffered on the cross and God the Father suffered as he watched that happen. And so we can be encouraged in knowing that we can cry out to Him in our pain and know that he gets it. He totally understands how we’re feeling when we are in that place of suffering.

Cynthia:

It’s for a little while because it can seem like a long time when you’re in the middle of it. I’m on page 116. It says, “Give thanks to the lord, for he is good, and his love endures forever.”

Grace:

Yeah, I love that, too. His love endures forever. There’s a little saying that I hear people repeat when something good happens. “God is good.”

And I just want to say, “Even in the bad times, he is good. His nature never changes, and his love for us never wavers either.” So whether we’re feeling blessed because everything’s going our way, we can be assured of his love in those places. But even in the hard times, we can be assured that his love is still there, and he’s still got us in his arms because his love endures forever.

I think one of the things that helps us to remember that and walk through those hard times with that attitude is to give thanks. In the middle of this, I will give thanks to you, because your love is still there. Your love endures forever.

Cynthia:

Thankfulness can change so many things in your heart when your heart is really heavy. I’m curious. I started off talking about the craziness of the world that we live in, and I’d like to know how you handle that when you keep hearing stuff on the news that’s absolutely bizarre. What kind of thoughts do you have?

Grace:

Going back to gratitude? I think gratitude is huge. And there’s that passage in Philippians, chapter four, that talks about, “Don’t be anxious for anything, but in everything with prayer and thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God.”

So pray with thanksgiving. And it’s almost like a mathematical equation. I can pray, but I’m not going to have the peace that verse promises. If all I do is pray about those things, I have to engage in gratitude because that’s a part of that command. And so it’s like prayer plus thanksgiving equals peace. If either prayer or thanksgiving is missing, I’m not going to end up with peace on the other side of the equal sign. And so it’s gratitude and Thanksgiving. God, I thank you that in the middle of this mess. You are still in control.

God, I thank you that your love endures forever. God, I thank you that you are sovereign. It looks like things are out of control, but they are not. You still sit on the throne, and for that I am thankful. And God, in the middle of this mess, in the middle of this chaos, you are promising to do something that is good. You are still able to bring good out of something that looks so bad because you are God.

Cynthia:

That’s beautiful. And I love that passage prayer with Thanksgiving because if you look in Romans One, people start going on that bad downhill slope in Romans one, but the first step is that they’re not giving thanks.

Grace:

And Cynthia. It’s like when we start giving thanks, our focus shifts and we begin to reframe our circumstances and what we see happening around us. It shifts to the God of Hope. He remains on the throne. He says, “You’re going to go through suffering, but it’s just for a little while. And in the end, I’m going to wipe every tear from your eyes.”

There will be only joy and praise and worship. So that’s how our focus shifts. But it happens when we begin to give thanks to the one who is still in control.

Cynthia:

Thanksgiving helps you to let go of it.

Grace:

It does. And we need to do that. Who wants to hang on to those things that are so hard? We have enough stuff to think about in life. We just need to let it go. And seriously, sometimes I visualize my hands like fists. I’ll close my fist and then I will take and turn them over and open them so I can release the burdens. Then I can turn my hands over with my palms facing up and my hands are now open and in a position or a posture to receive those good things that God wants to give me. And those good things might not be material things, whatever, but I don’t even think like that. But those good things, I believe, would be peace and hope and joy.

So so long as I’m hanging on to those hard things, I’m not in that place to receive that hope that he wants to share with me.

Cynthia:

Yes. I think about that verse in Isaiah 96. It said, the government will be on his shoulders because his shoulders are broad enough to carry it and ours aren’t.

Grace:

That’s right. We’re not meant to carry the weight of the world. But he says, Any of you who are weary, come to me, and I will carry your burden.

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