Thursday, December 9, 2021

Holidays with Family: A Beautiful Mess

“Love…does not take into account a wrong suffered” -1 Cor. 13:5

What an interesting time of year! Thanksgiving is a blessing, and they say that Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year.”  Christmas is a “jolly” four weeks between the two holidays, yet, stats expose this month as the most depressive and difficult time of the year for many people. But that is certainly not what God desires. His plan is toward peace, contentment, and completeness.  

Yes, a myriad of ingredients produce this difficult season: the weather can be cold, the pressure to buy gifts is high, the stress of party after party can bog us down, and we’re reminded of the loved ones we miss. 

But Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays for family. And most families, if not all families, have a grocery list of issues that have not been resolved. One important trend I have discovered in my years of working with families: most families have some form of dysfunction. They have always been like that. Why? Because families are made up of people and all people are wounded, to some degree. Yep. We’re a mess!

Wounds are medicated and healed when they are brought to the light. Family works when family members submit themselves to love one another. Family works when anger accounts are kept empty by reconciliation and forgiveness. But, unfortunately, most family accounts are pretty full.

I love well-written stories about healing in families. “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean is one of my favorites. This quote from the book describes this family dynamic:

“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them -we can love completely without complete understanding.”

The key is “loving without understanding.” We can all do that one. During these holidays, as we’re around family, may we all reach out to love, give and bless. May we do the hard work of reconciliation and forgiveness to keep our accounts empty and our love flourishing. After all, the more our accounts are emptied, the more capacity we have to love. And we must remember that forgiveness has nothing to do with whether THEY make a change or not.

So, have a holly-jolly Christmas season this year and enjoy your family. Love those who are sometimes unlovable. That’s what God did for us when He sent His Son to be born and die for our sin. If we have maintenance work of forgiveness to do, then clean the slates during the holidays. 

Family is difficult and messy. But it’s a beautiful mess. So this holiday season, dive in! Get wet! Love, forgive, touch, interact, and love again. I love our family SO much and cherish the time we get to be together.

Entertain your beautiful mess and enjoy the season. Realize we can love only because God loved us first…

…as a beautiful mess.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©



Monday, November 8, 2021

Falling But Rising

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” -Luke 9:24

As one grandkid said, “Look Grandpa, all the trees are dying- their leaves are falling off.” Grandpa replied, “You’re right, all the leaves are falling off. That’s what they do in the fall. But the tree isn’t dead. It’s doing just fine. It’ll be back, alive and well, in the spring.”

I love the fall season. Jeanie and I never really experienced the beauty of autumn growing up. The trees of Texas and Louisiana don’t show their color as well. But the Ozarks are beautiful and amazing in the fall. And even though I’m partially color blind and can’t experience the total brilliance of fall, I do see the beauty in the Ozarks.

How ironic: trees and foliage going dormant can be such a beautiful thing. But it truly is the irony of life in this beautiful illustration called Autumn. Really, all the seasons are a God-given illustration of God at work. The message of the fall is “a season of falling but rising.” Scientists remind us that winter is a certainty that all vegetation in the temperate zones must face each year. Perennial plants, including trees, must have some sort of protection to survive freezing temperatures and other harsh wintertime influences. Stems, twigs, and buds are equipped to survive extreme cold so that they can reawaken when spring heralds the start of another growing season. Tender leaf tissues, however, would freeze in winter, so plants must either toughen up and protect their leaves or dispose of them.

The main characteristic of fall is a loss of foliage. Put simply: leaves are falling off. Trees are not dying (though trees do die) but are going, as the horticulturists tell us, dormant. Dormant does not equal dead. It might look and feel like death, but there is still life. 


Winter is a certainty and so are trials and difficulties in our lives. In us, fall shows up when our lives go through the seasons of loss or trial or difficulty. Sometimes we do lose most of our leaves and color. We wonder “What is the purpose of it all?” We question the future, and we grieve over the loss. Joy and hope tend to disappear during these particular seasons. It’s so easy to lose the joy of the Lord when our circumstances are cold, windy and dormant. 


But God is alive and well! He uses every season for His purposes. Yes, spring and summer are so nice! Warmth and growth and sunshine are so attractive. But every season serves a purpose. 


Someone said, “Fall is truly a celebration of death.” Nothing is dying but it can appear so. May we let this agricultural “timeout” have its way in the quiet and rest and peace. 


Yes, celebrate the beauty of spring but embrace the beauty of fall as well. Let God have His way in the humility and brokenness. James 1:9, “Let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position.” “High position”? What? What is high about feeling low? Humility is when I realize my place with God. When He is at the source, all is well. As a matter of fact, it can’t get any better!


May we rejoice as we rise above our circumstances and rest in His peace and strength. 


Enjoy the beauty of the fall…


As we rise in the beauty of Christ! 


By Eric Joseph Staples ©


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

God's Silence- Then What?

“When He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was” -
John 11:6


Oswald Chambers nails it! He captures the truths of the Lord SO well. I’ve been learning from him for many years.  I’ve heard so many people express their frustration with God because He is seemingly choosing to “sit this one out” and “even now, is leaving the world to wallow in its struggles”. Nope. God is as involved as He can be in our world today. Please read Oswald’s words below and I’ll comment afterwards: 


“Has God trusted you with His silence— a silence that has great meaning? God’s silences are actually His answers. Just think of those days of absolute silence in the home at Bethany! Is there anything comparable to those days in your life? Can God trust you like that, or are you still asking Him for a visible answer? God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into an even more wonderful understanding of Himself. Are you mourning before God because you have not had an audible response? When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation. If God has given you a silence, then praise Him— He is bringing you into the mainstream of His purposes. The actual evidence of the answer in time is simply a matter of God’s sovereignty. Time is nothing to God. For a while you may have said, “I asked God to give me bread, but He gave me a stone instead” (see Matthew 7:9). He did not give you a stone, and today you find that He gave you the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

A wonderful thing about God’s silence is that His stillness is contagious— it gets into you, causing you to become perfectly confident so that you can honestly say, “I know that God has heard me.” His silence is the very proof that He has. As long as you have the idea that God will always bless you in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give you the grace of His silence. If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, then He will give you the first sign of His intimacy— silence.”

Wow. Such truth. No doubt, the electronic world we live in skews our perception of silence. If we have any question about anything, Siri is a question away from answering us. We expect immediate understanding and immediate answers which all feed our insatiable “need” for control and the fueling of our pride. 

Silence and pride do not mix well. Sure, we could tape our mouths shut but even then our soul would spew out comments and distractions away from the peace of Christ. “I have to share my opinions and perspectives on just about everything- I have the right!” Yes, it’s our right and it’s also our downfall. Silence means I’m willing to trust and confide in the One who knows all. It doesn’t have to make sense to my heart to be true. And it doesn’t mean I live in a cave somewhere by myself. We all need community. It’s how we’re built. But I do want to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19).

Listening quickly means I’m quiet quickly. I have so much to learn and so much to hear. There will always be a lot to say, but a lot more to hear. No where does that show up more than our prayer life. Am I always asking for stuff, treating God like Santa Clause? Or am I listening as well to His instruction and comfort for me?

May we all be worthy of God’s trust to keep us in silence. May we trust His timing and sovereignty to be able to wait. It means we must give it over again and again and again. Let Him be the faithful God He is in your circumstance. He’s got this even when it appears out of control. 

Rest in His peace…

…and His silence.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©



Sunday, August 22, 2021

Moses in the Desert

“And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” -Matt. 19:26

Sometimes things are just too big for our puny little brains to comprehend. And when we can’t wrap our minds around a situation, we look elsewhere for things to make sense. Hopefully the All-Knowing God of the Universe is at the top, the very top, of our list. 


We all know the story of Moses. He was faced with an insurmountable situation. Moses and the people were in the desert, but what was he going to do with them?


They had to be fed and feeding two or three million people requires a lot of food.


According to the Quartermaster General in the Army, it is reported that Moses would have to have had 1500 tons of food each day. Do you know that to bring that much food each day, two freight trains, each at least a mile long, would be required!


You also must remember they were out in the desert, so they would have to have firewood to use in cooking the food. This would take 4000 tons of wood and a few more freight trains, each a mile long, just for one day.


And just think, they were forty years in transit!


And they would have to have water. If they only had enough to drink and wash a few dishes, it would take 11,000,000 gallons each day and a freight train with tank cars, 1800 miles long, just to bring water!


And then another thing!


They had to get across the Red Sea at night. Now, if they went on a narrow path, double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require 35 days and nights to get through. So there had to be a space in the Red Sea, 3 miles wide so that they could walk 5000 abreast to get over in one night.


But then, there is another problem...............each time they camped at the end of the day, a campground two-thirds the size of the state of Rhode Island was required, or a total of 750 square miles long........ think of it! This much space for camping. (By the way, all these facts are taken from a fun website called



Do you think Moses figured all this out before he left Egypt? I don’t think so! You see, Moses believed God. Not the “Oh, I believe in God like I believe in Santa Clause” kind of belief but a belief in his heart that God had it all under control. Period. God took care of these things for him. Now do you think God has any problem taking care of all our needs?


Now, there is nothing wrong with planning. Those of you who know me know I can be a bit O.C.D. The problem comes when we put our planning and control above the will and providence of the Lord. Sometimes (most of the time) His plans differ from our plans. Peace comes with our willingness to “let go and let Him.” 


May our needs become a prayer. We ask for the Lord’s blessings and care. We ask for the Lord to guide and protect us as we go along our way.


His love is always with us and His promises are true, and when we give Him all our cares, we know He will see us through.


May we all rest in HIS provision and plans…


…as we journey through the desert.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©




Thursday, July 22, 2021

Making Sense of It All

“Who has
 measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?”- Isaiah 40:12


If you are a human being reading this, then you are a part of the “I like things to make sense” Club. We ALL are that way. Our hearts rest easy when something is explained to us and we can nod our heads and say “Oh, I understand now!” But the truth is, sometimes things just don’t make sense. That’s when fear and anxiety can rule the day.


In a world that doesn’t make sense, it’s imperative for us to cling to the One who does make sense- to let our loving God be our peace. Yes, in a way, one may think God doesn’t make sense either. But God, being well aware of the gap between Himself and His finest creation- mankind, sent His Son Jesus as a mediator to bridge the gap. Amazing.


There is so much “talk” these days. People trying to make sense of it all. That’s what fear does. It provokes us to try and figure things out- to take control. The truth is, God’s ways are “inscrutable.” If you know what that word means, you read way too much! It means “doesn’t make sense.” Put a different way, God’s ways don’t fit into our logical, objective mind. 


Example: the COVID virus. There are so many different opinions about it all. “The virus is a hoax! Everyone is dying! 95% of people who get the virus have already been vaccinated.”  It’s hard to know what to believe.


When I played football and soccer and the coach saw us struggling on the field, he used a marvelous tool called a “time out.” The coach would motion to the referee, and he would stop play. We would all come over to the coach and he would refocus us back to the game plan. And guess what? We played better after the time out (usually). 


We need to remember the importance of “time outs” in life. We need time to refocus back on God. We need time to remember just how big He really is. That’s one of the purposes of the Bible- God’s Word. It’s a beautiful narrative to remind us of just how big He really is. 


It’s the story of His creation. 

Job 38


It’s the story of the size of Heaven

Isaiah 40:12


Scientists say it would take eighty thousand years to get from one end of the Universe to the other.


Scientists say it would take ten million years to get to the farthest we can see.


Astronomers say the average galaxy has one hundred stars and that there are one hundred billion galaxies


Oceanographers say our oceans contain three hundred and forty quintillion gallons of water, yet God holds them in the hollow of His hands (Isaiah 40:12)


Geologists say the Earth weighs six sextillion metric tons, yet to God it is dust on a scale (Isaiah 40:12,15)


Scientists tell us the known universe stretches more than thirty billion light years (two hundred sextillion miles) yet, to God, the great expanse represents but the breadth of His hand (Isaiah 40:12)


Oceanographers say if we drop an anchor in the Pacific Ocean’s Marianna trench, an hour later it will hit the bottom- seven miles down.


It goes on and on! God is SO BIG and we are not.


When things don’t make sense, realize that God does make sense. His ways are amazing, and we can trust His providence and care. So much of life’s seasons maintain their purpose in the mind of God alone. That precious commodity called trust allows us to rest in the care of our mighty God.


Call time out and be reminded that God really is big enough for us.


He is truly worthy of our trust…


…even when we can’t make sense of it all.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©





Thursday, June 17, 2021

Praise or Prayer? Yes

Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” -Matt. 6:9


Praise to our awesome God is better “caught than taught.” When we live in praise, we live in the presence of God. And of course, when we live in praise, we live in prayer. Or is it the other way around? Truth is, it’s not either-or. Both beautifully go together when we’re focusing on God.


When we praise God without an attitude of prayer, it’s a pretty insulated form of praise. It’s like saying good morning to someone you’re angry with about something. You’re getting the good morning out of the way by saying it from your head, not your heart. It feels logical and sterile. 


When we pray to God without a spirit of praise, it’s selfish and caustic. It’s like asking Santa Claus for things. It is usually us coming to God with a grocery list of things we want. We’re not so much asking Him from a spirit of submission, we are telling Him what we want and oh, by the way, we want it now.


Being a parent or grandparent trumps any book on parenting. Someone said, “Experience plants deeper and surer than words.”


Many times we take our kids or grandkids to an event only to have to deal with their reluctance. “I don’t want to go,” they might say. “Muppet Babies comes on at 3:00 and I’ll miss it if we go out.” We went out anyway, the kids got into it and Muppet Babies was forgotten.


Praising God works out the same way. When we get engulfed in worshipping God, our circumstances don’t rule the moment. Our circumstances, SO important at the time, becomes a faint memory. When the majesty and glory of God become the centerpiece of our lives, the other “important” things fall into their lower place. 


Like someone said, “We all have ‘re-sources’ and ‘the-sources’.” Prayer and praise are the way we keep our awesome God in His worthy place in our hearts as THE source of contentment and peace in our lives. Then, we’re able to give healthy time to the other important resources in our lives: family, friends, finances, future, etc..


When what should be “re-sources” become “the-sources”, we create a problem. If I leave out everyday praise to God and rarely pray to Him, then these other things can become THE priority.  Suddenly, (though the process is typically gradual) finances, for instance,  can become the center of me, my marriage and my life. THE source of purpose and significance for me is based upon how much money I have. There is certainly nothing wrong with money. But when it becomes my source of peace and contentment, I’m pretty much sunk. Like someone said, “How much money is enough? A little bit more.”  Money is never a fair source of peace. Neither is anything other than God.


But God is and always will be The True Source.  And prayer and praise are the main “tools” that our loving Father has given to us to keep the connection pure and true. Like the loving mom and dad who gave their college bound seventeen-year-old her cell phone so she will “stay in touch,” our loving God gives us prayer and praise to keep the link fresh and strong between Him and His beloved children. 


May we all keep that “cell phone” charged and available in our walk with God. May we stay established in the intimacy of our relationship with our loving Lord as we praise His name and remain in prayer. 


It’s all provided by Him for one reason: He loves us. May we walk in His love every minute of every hour of every day, Muppet Babies or not!


By Eric Joseph Staples


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Uncertain Times

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So, we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” -Psalm 46:1

I heard someone comment on TV the other day that we are “certainly living in uncertain times.” I thought to myself, “When were times certain?” The truth is that times have always been uncertain. And, another truth is, God has always been absolutely certain. 


Uncertainty and difficulty have always been a part of the world we live in: World Wars (a couple of them), countless Civil Wars across the world, economic difficulties, natural disasters, unnatural disasters (Chernobyl, etc.). An article I read listed almost 200 pandemics and epidemics that have hit mankind over the past thousand years. 


Franklin P. Adams said, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.” We tend to remember the good and forget the bad (and sometimes we do the opposite: we remember the bad and forget the good). My dear dad, born in 1919, used to always say, “When anyone starts to tell you about how great the ‘good ole days’ were, don’t you believe them. Those days were hard and difficult, but the days were good.” As he used to share, those times were good, not because of the lack of difficulty, but because of abundance of faith and family. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” One thing is for sure, if we’re looking to “uncertain times” to be our bedrock, then the shifting sand will be our downfall.


Trust is a huge concept. When nothing makes sense, our trust is in the awesome God of the Universe. Sure, when we win the lottery, we’re quick to give God the credit as we cash in our winnings. But when things just don’t make sense, it’s much harder to believe and trust. The famous French priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, said, “Give our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”


Trusting God doesn’t mean we don’t have anxiety, suspense, and confusion. Too often we beat ourselves up for being human. Be honest with yourself and God. Jesus Himself was “distressed to the point of death” in the Garden, but he never lost trust in the Father. And as He went to His Father, God assured Him that all was well and His peace followed.


If you’ve already been having a lack of faith in God, know that you can change your course anytime. Heed C.S. Lewis’s advice, “You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”  True faith is believing even when things don’t make sense. Sure, the Coronavirus is slowly fading away, but rest assured, something else will take its place. It always has and always will.  


May the “uncertain times” always drive us toward the only certainty that exists: the presence of the Almighty God of the Universe. Even for Jesus, the difficulty of his “cup” took Him to the garden. Of course, it wasn’t the garden that helped Him, it was the presence of the Father in the garden that brought Him assurance and strength. Louisa May Alcott said, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” We’re sailing well when we run to the garden as uncertainty moves in. 


The times will always be uncertain, and God will always be certain. 


May we always run to Him.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Are You Exhausted Spiritually?

“The everlasting God…neither faints nor is weary” -Isa. 40:28

 What a challenging year of ups and downs, like many of us haven’t seen in years (or a lifetime). The Coronavirus, record setting winter weather, upheaval in Washington- the list goes on and on. Someone once said, “The greatest evidence of the good ole days is a bad memory”. Times have always been hard (and in a way, always easy). Regardless, many of us are just plain “pooped” from the load of this past year. But there are healthy directions for us to go and there are words of hope!


Like I do occasionally, I’m going to let one of my heroes, Oswald Chambers, say it much better than I ever could. May the Lord bless his words to you.


From “My Utmost for His Highest,” Feb. 9th:


“Exhaustion means that our vital energies are completely worn out and spent. Spiritual exhaustion is never the result of sin, but of service. Whether or not you experience exhaustion will depend on where you get your supplies. Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep,” but He gave him nothing with which to feed them (John 21:17). The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other people’s souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you completely- to the very last drop. But be careful to replenish your supply, or you will quickly be utterly exhausted. Until others learn to draw on the life of the Lord directly, they will have to draw on His life through you. You must literally be their source of supply, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. We owe it to God to be our best for His lambs and sheep, as well as for Him. 


Have you delivered yourself over to exhaustion because of the way you have been serving God? If so, then renew and rekindle your desires and affections. Examine your reasons for service. Is your source based on your own understanding or is it grounded on the redemption of Jesus Christ? Continually look back to the foundation of your love and affection and remember where your Source of power lies. You have no right to complain, “O Lord, I am so exhausted.” He saved and sanctified you to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that He is your supply. “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7)


Jesus Christ reveals, not an embarrassed God, not a confused God, not a God who stands apart from the problems, but One who stands in the thick of this whole thing with man.”


Wow. Great words from Oswald. The better focus from us all is purifying our “source of supply”. The options are to depend on me and my own “devices” or to stay linked and dependent on my Lord Jesus Christ.


It’s amazing the “devices” that we have come up with to cope and numb the difficulty around us. There four versions of devices are most paramount: protection, dissociation, self-medication, and denial. 


1. Projection. Projection is a defensive behavior that protects us by attaching unacceptable feelings, or motives, to someone else (e.g., “You are the selfish one, not me.”)


2. Dissociation. Dissociation is the inability to articulate certain aspects of one’s own experience in verbal language. We keep unacceptable feelings out of awareness. One might say, “this is not happening to me.” The unconscious motive for dissociation is to escape from the overwhelming emotions associated with the traumatic memory. Healing requires one to come into contact with the previously inaccessible aspects of these inner feelings. The way out of trauma is by going through it (Epstein, 1994).


3. Self-medication. Addiction may be described as a defensive strategy to avoid feelings of helplessness to powerlessness (Ulman and Paul, 2006). The person tries to compensate with addictive behavior for painful subjective states of low self-esteem, doubts, and anxiety. The use of drugs provides a feeling of acceptance and a feeling of temporary self-confidence. However, addiction also prevents the user from understanding his distress and developing the emotional capacity to self-care. 


4. Denial. The term denial (or repression) can be defined as the selective ignoring of information. Denial can be a protective defense in the face of unbearable news, such as a cancer diagnosis, to create a false sense of security. Denial is a form of self-deception that detaches an individual from reality. To maintain a positive view of themselves, people revise their beliefs in the face of new evidence of good news but ignore bad news. For instance, alcoholics insist they have no drinking problem. Addiction can be a source of terrible shame, self-hatred, and low self-worth. Indeed, the first step of A.A. is to admit that you have a problem and begin to seek help. 


Staying linked and dependent on our Lord Jesus Christ means we are guarding and cultivating our relationship with Him. It means we are keeping Jesus “literally our source of supply, taking our nourishment from God.”


When the snow was blowing and the temperature plummeted, as the Virus was spreading and Washington reeled in disharmony, we were weary (no denial here!). But our source remained the same- our Lord Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus was “distressed to the point of death” in the garden (Mark 14:34) but He never lost His focus on the Father. He understands where we are.


NOW, as the snow is changing to Spring showers, temperatures are warming up, virus cases are dropping and Washington is settling down, we actually face our biggest challenge! Sometimes better circumstances can disconnect us from our Godly “source of supply” even more. It’s subtle but can be equally as damaging to our soul. 


Paul challenged us in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means, but I also know how to live in prosperity. I’ve learned the secret of being filled and going hungry- both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.


May we be content and at peace in Him no matter the circumstances- up or down. May we stay tapped into our Lord Jesus Christ as our Source always.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©


Friday, January 22, 2021

To the Father or Fear

“Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” -Phil. 4:7 (The Message)

Fear is…weird. There is no sin in the fear, but what we do after it hits us makes all the difference. We all have emotional “buttons” in our soul that get pressed by a variety of circumstances. And the circumstances over the past eleven months have pressed away! What we do after the “pressing” makes all the difference.

First off, it’s not wrong to have buttons that get pressed. As long as we have a pulse, we’re going to have particular triggers in our psyche that get triggered. Yes, in the absence of fear there is faith. But faith is found in the process. The Gospels remind us that “Jesus began to be greatly distressed and troubled” in the garden before His crucifixion. He even said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:33-34).

Jesus experienced stress and anxiety? Yes, but they were but a springboard to take Him to His Father. His journey to the cross was so difficult but freedom came when He surrendered Himself to His awesome Father-God.

That’s where we get tripped up. Often, we don’t run to the Father first. Perhaps that’s part of God’s providential purpose in difficulty and trial. As Oswald Chambers wrote, “God engineer’s circumstances to bring us closer to Him.”

The truth is, difficulty, trial and fear either bring us closer to God or drive us away from God. We fear what we don’t understand; we fear what we can’t control; we fear unplanned surprises.

It comes down to this question: When (not if) I experience fear, where do I run? Where do I go? “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline.” This verse means we have to discipline ourselves not to meditate on thoughts that increase fear. It means we meditate on the Word of God.

That’s why Jesus never sinned even though He experienced anxiety and stress. He went straight to His Father with it. Even in His humanity He cried out to the Father. After all, there was nowhere else to go.

Unfortunately, sin crept into the fabric of mankind and has provided all kinds of places for us to go. They are tidy, logical places to run to, but none fill the void of purpose and safety.

We run to:

Information: watch the news! No surprises if I’m up to date
Money: the crisis may hit, but the more cash I have, the more secure I feel
Seclusion: if I get away from people and their opinions, I’ll feel better
Exercise: if I’m in perfect shape, then I’ll never get sick

There are many other places we run to, but all are empty, because none are truly secure.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being in shape and watching the news, but when those things become “THE source” instead of a “RE source”, then we’re in trouble. None of those resources ultimately fill the gap.

That’s why David reminds us that our loving God is the only truly helpful place to run and seek peace. “For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent” (Psalm 27:5).

There are no guarantees that God will deliver us out of the difficulty, but He does promise He’ll grant us peace in the midst of the difficulty.

So, buckle your seatbelt and be aware when your triggers get pushed. When they do (and they will), call time-out. Re-create the “Jesus in the garden” experience in your soul and take it to the Father. (Mark 14:32-42). As happened to Jesus, the Father met Him there and Jesus intimately connected with Him. He took some of the disciples with Him and they fell asleep (bless their hearts). It’s a subtle reminder that as important as people are to us, they are never the ultimate answer.

As difficulty and fear fill the air, run, not walk, to our awesome God. Like Jesus, the gift of prayer is our connection to Him.

May we be driven closer to Him…

…as we rest in His care.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, January 1, 2021

Hindsight is 2020

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” -Phil. 3:13-14


Wow! Here we are: New Year’s 2021 and most of us aren’t even sure what day it is! 

This past year has been interesting, to say the least, but the truth is, every year is “interesting.” Someone said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” Life has always and will always have difficulties and trials, but how we let go and move forward through them makes all the difference. 


The church in Paul’s time was much like the church today: a crazy mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds, races, creeds and nationalities. God delights in the unity of varieties of people who surrender their lives and confess their loyalty to Him.


The church at Philippi was the first Christian church in Europe, planted by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey around AD 50 or 51. The initial converts of the church at Philippi were Gentiles, and the congregation developed into a predominately Gentile fellowship. Women also played an essential role in the life of the church at Philippi. 


Like every church, the Philippian church consisted of Jews and Gentiles, men and moment, people trying to move on and live in the freedom of Christ. Times were hard in the New Testament world. Multiple empires claimed control, wars ravaged the land and epidemics took many lives. 


Paul knew that for these young churches to survive difficult times, they would have to embrace the moment, cling to Christ and stay focused on the call of God.


“…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…”. It would appear that Paul wasn’t good at math, as he said he did “one thing” but then listed two things. But he actually wrote it correctly. His point was that “forgetting” and “reaching” are meant to be “one thing.”


If we focus too much on “forgetting” without “reaching,” we can actually get sucked into focusing too much on the past. Like someone said, “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.” Healthy “forgetting” isn’t stuffing or repressing past events and choices but processing through past issues and in a healthy way, filing them away and letting go. Not literally forgetting, but “putting them away” by giving them over, in trust, to a loving God.


If we focus too much on “reaching” without “forgetting” we drag our past into the future, and it can cloud up our new plans. “Reaching forward” is the act of replacing “what was” with “what will be.” It means we’re taking steps forward to let go of the past, forgive ourselves and others, and move in a positive direction. 


The “goal for the prize” is for us to “let go and let God.” True, now that we’re in 2021, hindsight IS literally 2020. But our goal is to avoid living life in the rear-view mirror. The “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is being “present” with God today. It is being with God NOW. 


And being in that presence with God always produces peace and contentment and purpose. God is the Rock that we can lean on. He becomes the strong tower that we can run to and be safe. 


Of course, we need to “pray without ceasing” to stay present with God. Even as the current Pandemic fades into the past, there will always be other “challenges” on this side of heaven. May we all avoid living in hindsight…


…but live in foresight, in the presence of our loving, wonderful and strong God.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©