Tag Archives: Prayer

Coping Better with Unwanted Change: Four Steps to Greater Peace and Joy (Step 3)

By now, if you’ve been working through Steps 1 and 2, you know how hard it can be sometimes to face the truth about something you don’t want to be true. Even when you think you’ve accepted whatever you’ve lost or the burden you must carry, sometimes the old feelings of resentment, anger, or sadness can come surging back without notice. At such times, you may wonder if you’re ever going to heal or be able to let it go. This kind of regression is fairly common in my experience, but over time, the pain will diminish, and new life will begin to bud and then blossom once again.

Taking Step 3 can help.

Swiss Alps

Step 3: “Appreciate”

Then Jesus said to [Bartimaeus], “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again. Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:51-52, NRSV

The story of Bartimaeus is about seeing one’s need, reaching out to Jesus for help, experiencing healing and transformation, and setting out on a new path. It’s not a formula for how to experience a miracle, but a testimony about someone who lived in blindness and despair whose faith led to regaining his sight and infusing his life with new meaning and purpose. “Immediately he regained his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.”

As I struggled with accepting that the doors had slammed shut for me to return to Myanmar, I didn’t want to get over it, at first. I felt sorry for myself, and I didn’t want to imagine a new life or start a new ministry. I wanted the old one back. Yet, over time, as I began to accept reality more and more, I became less willing to stay stuck in my misery and more ready to notice and appreciate what I had gained in place of what I had lost.

For example, I began to see that not being able to travel abroad due to safety concerns was giving me more time with my family, and I loved it. Since I was now stationed in Minneapolis, I was now free to regularly conduct webinars on multiple continents, in Asia, Africa, and North America, sometimes all in the same week. Meanwhile, the crises brought a demand for me to write articles and a book, which were eventually translated into several languages for distribution in several countries. My point is, none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been forced to stop traveling abroad, and if I hadn’t been willing to look for, notice, and appreciate the silver linings, blessings, and new opportunities that were coming my way.

I am not suggesting that acceptance implies being thankful for every loss or unwanted change. Some things in life are so painful or downright evil that you can only grieve them. What I’m saying is that the restorative process requires not only opening your eyes to see the truth about your situation (Step 1). It also entails accepting what you can’t change (Step 2) while simultaneously opening your eyes to see beyond what you’ve lost to appreciate how God is still at work in your life for good (Step 3).

In Practice

According to the dictionary, the word “appreciate” means “recognizing the full worth of” something or someone. When you allow yourself to stay consumed with your negative emotional reactions to your circumstances or to annoying or burdensome people, there won’t be much room for peace and joy in your life. If instead, you open your eyes to appreciate (“recognize the full worth of) all the love, resources, opportunities, and gifts that are also part of your life, then you will experience a positive shift in your attitude and feelings.

However, to move from acceptance to appreciation, sometimes we need help. Bartimaeus asked Jesus to open his eyes, because he knew he was blind and that he couldn’t restore his sight on his own. Likewise, you may have reached the point where you want to believe there is hope for your future, but you just can’t see any. Here’s where good friends, pastors, counselors, and prayer can be immensely helpful. You don’t have to heal yourself on your own. You need to want to move forward and to be willing to get the help you need. You need to keep believing that God has not abandoned you and keep asking the Holy Spirit to help you to see what you cannot see (or appreciate) on your own.

Since experiencing your loss or unwanted change…

  • Who has come into your life or is contributing to your life in a new way?
  • How have you changed (in your heart, attitude, values, or priorities), for the better, because of how you have suffered?
  • What new clarity has emerged or is emerging?
  • What doors have opened to you (new opportunities)?
  • How do you sense God leading or calling you to something you highly value?

Bottom line: Self-pity or endless grief will only increase your sense of isolation, loss, or burden, while simultaneously blinding you to the very people and resources that you most need and value. Focus, instead, on what God is doing in your life for good and see where that takes you.

Suggested prayer: “Loving God, open my eyes that I may see all the good that you’re doing in me, and want to do through me.”

“Open My Eyes that I May See”

(Hymn by Clara Scott)

Open my eyes that I may see

Glimpses of truth thou hast for me.

Place in my hands the wonderful key

That shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for thee,

Ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my eyes, illumine me,

Spirit divine!

Next week, Step 4: “Delight.” Peace and joy are real possibilities for those who learn to delight in God’s blessings once again.

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Look Up for Hope

I lift up my eyes to the hills—

from where will my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

The LORD will not let your foot be moved…

The LORD will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time on and forevermore.

From Psalm 121

These are amazing words of inspiration and hope, but are they true? What does such faith mean for those who are traumatized and brutalized by others, such as the people of Myanmar, where thousands of people have had to flee for their lives into the jungle since the political upheaval began in 2021? How does the psalmist’s confidence apply to those whose homes have been burned to the ground? What sense do these assurances make to the families of those who have been beaten, tortured, or killed?

For years I struggled with such broad promises of the LORD’s protection and help in the face of so much exploitation and abuse of the vulnerable around the world. To trust in God’s deliverance sometimes seems ridiculous when so many suffer and die at the hands of evil doers. I’ve heard many testimonies of people who have experienced God’s miraculous help, yet other people of faith are never rescued by God.

At the same time, in spite of gut-wrenching experiences and unanswered questions, my faith in God has been indispensable and life-giving to me. God’s unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness have provided a powerful source of self-acceptance and daily hope. Jesus Christ’s resurrection gives me hope that someday there will be justice, if not in this life then in the next. God’s presence in my life motivates me to become the kind of man God wants me to be for my family and for my community. My experience of God’s love and grace fills me with more compassion and mercy for those who are weak and vulnerable, people who need to experience the light of Jesus Christ and the love of God through a fellow human being. Even though I can’t fully understand why God allows so many to suffer so horribly, I am deeply grateful for all that God has done in my life and in the lives of so many other people who have similarly reached out to God and put their faith In Jesus.

So how should we interpret assurances of God’s help and deliverance like we find in Psalm 121? Was every Israelite saved from evil, as the Psalmist declared? Certainly not. But the Hebrew writer was not a fool. He knew that even those with great faith in the LORD sometimes fall victim to evil and injustice. Everyone suffers in some way, and some day, each of us will die, no matter how many times we might be saved from a premature demise.

Yet, the psalmist is not offering words that are out of touch with reality, but ones that offer hope in the midst of our suffering. He provides guidance not so that we can live in denial or flee into fantasy, but so that we might find spiritual resources to face and cope with whatever is overwhelming us. He speaks in hyperbole and metaphor to inspire the people to lift their eyes from focusing on their troubles so that they might see what God sees and reach out for what only God can provide.

I cannot prove to you that God cares, and I cannot make sense of the gross disparities in the world and all the senseless violence and heart-breaking tragedies. Yet, I do know that hope and strength do not come from denial, fear or faithlessness. We will not be stronger or better by allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by cynicism, hatred, or vengefulness. If we focus on evil, we will be consumed by it.

If, instead, we focus on God, we will find the perspective and strength we need to face and overcome it. If you let go of questions about the prevalence of evil that no one can answer, and if you drop your resistance to that inner voice that is calling you to put your faith in your Creator and in Jesus Christ, you will find relief, acceptance, forgiveness, inner peace, and hope as never before. This kind of hope cannot be extinguished even in death. And the love that comes from God is more valuable, enduring, and powerful than anything else in all creation, for it is not based on your own accomplishment or worthiness, but on the character and power of God.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, lift your eyes to gaze on the beauty and majesty of creation and of your Creator. “The LORD who made heaven and earth” has done amazing things in nature and for people of faith from the beginning of time. Lift your eyes to Jesus Christ to contemplate God’s character and intention to save you from yourself and from all those forces within you and in the world that you cannot overcome in your own strength, including death itself. Choose to trust that your Creator loves you and is active in your life for good. Lift your eyes up to your Redeemer–not necessarily to rescue you from all your troubles, but to provide strength to keep your head high, to follow Jesus Christ confidently, to serve God’s purposes faithfully, and to continue to reflect God’s light and love in the midst of so much darkness, hatred, and evil.

He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:32-39, NRSV

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What Can We Expect from God Now? (Essay 6 of 7)

Truth 6: Expect more peace, as you put your anxieties in God’s capable hands.

On some days, the stress seems to be getting worse, not better. I’m continuing to have trouble sleeping well at night. This past Thursday, as I was tossing and turning in bed, I suddenly imagined a huge, translucent, 50-foot wall to my left. On the other side of it, I could see a mountain of water, which looked as if could burst through at any moment. I don’t know what I thought would happen next—wash me away? drown me? hurt me in some other way? I don’t know if I was awake or asleep, but it was frightening. The dam was about to break, and I didn’t know what I could do to protect myself.

When I feel anxious like this, my peace and joy disappear. I used to bite my fingernails when I was younger. Now, I mostly get tense or freeze up. I have trouble concentrating or connecting with others emotionally. If it gets bad enough (like the other day), I can hardly hold a conversation or look the other person in the eye. We’ve been staying-at-home for nearly eight weeks. While I’m getting used to living this way, and even enjoy the extra time at home and with family, the stress is always there. And, it’s building.

What can we expect from God when so much is frightening or unknown about the future? What can God do for us when our anxiety becomes so great that we cannot function normally and we cannot be the kind of person we would like to be?    

Spiritual Truth 6: Expect more peace, as you put your anxieties in God’s capable hands. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Apostle Paul knew very well that many Christians, in spite of their strong faith, still struggle with anxiety. It’s human. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be prisoners to our worries. So, he offers this fairly simple formula, with the promise that if we follow it, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. What is his formula?

Do not be anxious about anything,

but in every situation, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving,

present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,

will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7, NIV

If we break down Paul’s guidance into a step by step process, we can easily see what we need to do, whenever we are feeling anxious.

  1. Recognize that you may be more anxious than you realize. Typically, symptoms include feeling nervous or tense, fixating on something you’re worried about, becoming irrationally fearful, feeling tired or weak, having trouble sleeping, and so forth. If you’re feeling anxious, don’t deny it or try to pretend to be something you’re not. Recognizing your anxiety is the first step toward becoming free from it.
  2. Reach out to God. When you are in distress, your loving Creator and Savior is there for you. The primary goal of prayer at these times is to get out of yourself and make a connection with God, so that he may lift you out of the black hole of your anxiety. Pour out your heart to him. Seek the comfort that comes from drawing closer to him and resting in his presence, as I discussed in my previous essay.
  3. Ask God for everything that you want and need. Make a list and tell God what you are worried about and everything you would like him to do. This is not like clutching a rabbit’s foot or rubbing some religious statue or carving, hoping to unleash magic powers or to compel God to do your will. It’s true, Paul assures the Philippians that “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19), but he does not promise that just by praying you will get everything you ask for. No, what he promises to those who makes their requests known to God is peace.
  4. Be thankful while you are asking for help. Don’t give all your attention to your worries and wishes in your prayers. Choose to focus on what you’re grateful for as well as on what it is lacking in your life. “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” At our family mealtimes, before we pray, everyone shares one thing they’re grateful for from the day, one way they’ve seen God at work in their lives, or one experience that has drawn them closer to God. It’s a great “upper” to the mood around the table. There always many reasons why we might feel anxious, angry, or sad, so sharing words of thanksgiving breathes some fresh life into everyone’s mind and heart. A good friend told me recently that she is trying to consciously “choose joy” every day, no matter what else may be weighing her down. The attitude we choose makes a difference.

Paul knew very well that if we allow ourselves to dwell on our fears and problems, we will become more anxious, not less. If, instead, we consciously and systematically replace our anxiety with prayer and thanksgiving, the result will be greater peace. As I’ve already said, in praying this way, we should not deny our anxiety. On the contrary, we need to fully recognize the power it is wielding over us and talk to God directly about our all our fears and worries. Likewise, praying with thanksgiving is not just positive thinking or minimizing our concerns (as important as it is to think positively). Rather, this kind of prayer links our spirits with the Holy Spirit, so that we can receive the kind of spiritual help God wants to give us in our distress. What brings us peace is God’s Spirit, who ministers to us through prayer and sets us free from the burden we’ve been trying to carry alone or in our own power.

Praying with Burmese family (Yangon, Myanmar)

An apt analogy

One time, when my elder son was only about six years old, he got very sick. Every time we tried to give him some water to drink, he would vomit it up. We watched him get weaker and weaker as the day went on. The doctor advised me to bring him in to the hospital, but I thought I could nurture him back to health. As it grew dark, I made my bed on the floor next to his. I kept thinking that if he could only fall asleep, he would recover. But it wasn’t to be. I would doze off, only to be awakened by his coughing and restlessness, over and over again.

As it became clear that he would not be able to sleep or keep any liquids down, I became more and more worried. Finally, in desperation, I called his doctor one more time, who again implored me to bring him into the emergency room. This time I listened. When we arrived, at 2 or 3 a.m., I put the nearly lifeless body of my son into the doctor’s arms. The doctor took one look at him and then quickly admonished me, saying, “You should have brought him sooner.”

How foolish I had been! I risked the life of my son. Instead of getting him the help he needed, I chose to simultaneously fill my mind with false hope and stew in my anxiety. I was stuck in my way of thinking and behaving. He and I were both paying the price.

I have thought of that night many times over the past 28 years. It was a real lesson to me about how to handle serious medical problems. More important, it’s been a continual reminder to not try to carry all my burdens and anxieties on my own shoulders. When I finally put my son in the doctor’s care, I felt great relief. I didn’t know for sure if my son could be saved, but I knew that I had gone to the best possible place for help. (Thankfully, he did recover and is now a very healthy 33 year old man.)

Spiritually, my experience became an apt analogy for how to handle all my worries and serious concerns. Today, whenever I notice that my anxiety level rising, it’s a call to prayer. Just as I gathered my son in my arms that one frightening night, when he was so very sick, and took him to the doctor, I now routinely scoop up all the things I’m worried about and put them into my Father’s hands. And time and time again, I soon feel relief and freedom from my distress. The peace I have known is just as Paul described. It “transcends all understanding” and guards my heart and mind from the crippling power of overwhelming, all-consuming anxiety.

Spiritual Application

How are you handling your anxiety these days?

The Apostle Paul’s instruction to the Philippians are words for you, too.

  1. Acknowledge your anxiety.
  2. Reach out to connect with God, even if you can only say something simple like, “Father, help me,” “Jesus, take my burden,” or “Holy Spirit, set me free.”
  3. If you can pray more specifically, share all of your worries and concerns with God. Ask him for everything you want and need. Give him all of your burdens…and leave them in his hands.
  4. Consciously replace your anxiety with thanksgiving as you pray. Count your blessings. Let yourself feel grateful for what is good in your life. Choose joy.
View of the Grand Tetons from the Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming, USA

As we have said repeatedly in this series, you cannot know what God will or will not do with your requests. But that’s not the point here. When you are weighed down by anxiety, Paul says, gather all of your worries and put them into the loving hands of your heavenly Father. Draw near to God, count your blessings, and lean on him to support you in ways that only he can do. This is the pathway to true, abiding, inner peace.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,

because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever,

for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26:3-4

Next week: How your anxiety can teach you what you most need to know


Help us spread the good word! To reach more people who need biblical and practical words of encouragement in the midst of the COVID-19, global crisis, we are translating these essays into 10 different languages spoken in various parts of Myanmar, India, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If you have been touched or encouraged by one or more of these essays, please help spread the word by sharing it with others, and by supporting our efforts to reach more people by making a donation to Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries, today.


To read previous essays in Burmese, certain Chin dialects, or Hindi, visit our “Resources Library” on fhlglobal.org.


CONTEXT: I CREATED THIS ESSAY SERIES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 GLOBAL CRISIS. EACH ESSAY EXPANDS ON THE PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS OFFERED IN THE SPIRIT-LED LEADER: NINE LEADERSHIP PRACTICES AND SOUL PRINCIPLES (HERNDON, VA: ALBAN INSTITUTE, 2005), PAGES 184-90.


Photo Credits:

Copyright © 2020 Timothy C. Geoffrion, Wayzata, Minnesota. All rights reserved to the author, but readers may freely download, print, forward, or distribute to others, providing that this copyright notice is included.

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