A few years ago my life was a hot mess. After a long-term marriage spanning more than two decades, I discovered my spouse had only given me a few months of faithfulness. And just to make the hot mess even hotter, the infidelity happened right in the middle of losing both my parents. So basically my mother died, then my marriage ended, then my father passed away… all within an 18 month stretch.
But wait… it gets better! That 18 month stretch occurred on the back side of 2 bankruptcies and the loss of all my assets, including my home! I’m sure to the casual observer the “F-Word” probably seemed the most appropriate word to describe my circumstance. In fact, there were a few times I was tempted to do the same. Most of the time, I’m a very positive person.
During that difficult season, however, there were days when I wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits! Yet in my heart of hearts I just could not see myself as a quitter… caving to the disappointment… acquiescing to the set-back.
Thankfully, while in the middle of that “freaked up” mess I discovered three powerful words that helped me overcome the hardship and move towards the bright future God still had in store for me. Once I began to speak what I call the Three Powerful F-Words, rapid positive changes started taking place. The despair began to dissipate. The anxiety subsided. My mind became more relaxed and I regained a sense of hope and future.
It didn’t happen overnight, but as I consistently spoke the three powerful F-Words throughout the day I began to enjoy a new enthusiasm for life. Creativity was rekindled. Productivity returned and new doors of opportunity emerged. Here’s the deal… at some point we all have “those seasons” when life is mind-bending, when reverse looks like the new normal, when our hopes and dreams seem vaporized in the aftermath of the unexpected… when the conventional F-word seems like the only word to describe our past, present and future!
The challenge is NOT to stay there. The goal is to put the wrong F-Word behind you and something more powerful in front of you! That’s why I want to share the Three Powerful F-Words that helped me get out of the funk and get back in the game.
The first is FAVOR The last thing most of us consider when faced with a freaked-up situation is that we are actually favored in the midst of it… that we are favored while we are hurting… favored when we don’t see a future… favored when we feel tossed aside and forgotten,.. favored when our intellect is exhausted from an overload of problem solving. A few days after discovering my husband’s deceitful behavior, I was reading my Bible as I had done all the other days before.
However, my spiritual posture that day was not much different from my emotional posture. Subconsciously I think I was expecting God to join me in the pity party. In other words I wanted him to sit with me in the ash heap, put his arms around me and validate my “woe is me” attitude. Thankfully, that is not what happened.
Rather the Lord sent me to a passage of scripture that was the complete opposite of what I was hoping for. In fact it stunned me! It challenged my suppositions and arrested my limited linear view concerning my situation. He basically slapped me in the face, so to speak, with Isaiah 60:1 that reads, “Arise, shine. For your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!” In the original Hebrew “Glory” as used in this text actually means heavy with honor, abundance, richness and nobility. Interestingly enough one of the definitions of “Favor” is to be honored.
Right in the middle of one of my darkest hours, God was telling me to get up from the ash heap and get a new perspective because… in spite of what my red swollen eyes could see, I was in fact heavy with FAVOR! At that moment I had to make an important decision. Was I going to agree with what the Scriptures said about me OR what my circumstances said?
I chose to line up my thinking with the truth of God’s Word. I chose to believe I was FAVORED! Each day I made a conscious decision to thank God for his Favor on my life. I pronounced that I was crowned with Favor, that I was surrounded by Favor, that I was heavy with Favor. Pretty soon I started acting like I was Favored… thinking like I was Favored… anticipating Favor. As a result, I started experiencing Favor.
Sometimes the biggest challenge we face when faced with difficult challenges is to purpose in our hearts to see the situation from Heaven’s vantage point. It takes very little effort to agree with what our eyes can see. Those who succeed are diligent to make declarations over their life that impact how they think about their life.
The same is true for us. We MUST say what God says. That means speaking the powerful F-Word of FAVOR over our life each and every day! God says you are Favored. In order to receive it you have to believe it.
The second is FAITH That passage from Isaiah 60 not only transformed my perspective, it planted a seed of hope in my heart. Several times each day I declared God’s Favor over my life. And each time I did, I was sowing another seed of hope. In Hebrews 11:1 Saint Paul instructs that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.”
Basically he is saying that hope is the ingredient needed to produce faith, because you can’t have faith until you first have hope. In other words, hope is the seed and faith is the harvest. So if hope produces faith, what does faith produce? In my situation, the harvest of faith produced from the seeds of hope allowed me to dream again. It gave me the ability to laugh and plan and love again. Faith also provided the courage to forgive, to let go of what didn’t work out so I could receive the new and better things God had in store.
There’s a reason Hebrews 11 is called the “Hall of Faith. The predominate theme of the passage concerns what the believers were able to achieve because of their faith. Not because of their network or their net-worth. Not because of their academic degree or their pedigree. It was solely because of their faith in God.
And the same is true for us. Before we can achieve any measure of success, before we can become those treasured “trophies of Grace” we must first take hold of a measure of faith. That’s what happened for me. Had I not taken hold of faith, I would have never let go of the ashes. I would have never taken hold of the new levels and incredible opportunity God had already stored up for me. Yes God promises to give us “Beauty for ashes.”
But the promise is contingent on letting go of the ashes in order to receive or take hold of the beauty. Again, it begins by stepping into the walk of faith, even if (or especially if) we are unsure how it’s going to turn out. Whether starting a business, going back to school, forgiving someone who hurt you or making plans for a future you cannot see… all of it requires faith. In his book Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer puts it this way, “Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith.”
That means we chose to believe God has something better even when we don’t see it. We chose to see a bright future even when we’re walking through the darkness. We confidently address each day with the conviction that our best days are still ahead even when we don’t know how it’s going to come together. We walk out the F-Word of Faith, in spite of the natural world around us.
The third is FORWARD One of my favorite scripture passages is Psalm 37:23 that reads, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” The King James Version says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. The Amplified Version states, “The steps of a good and righteous man are directed and established by the Lord, and He delights in his way [and blesses his path].”
Often times, readers focus on the promise of God to direct our steps. And that is a powerful and comforting truth. However, it is the forward momentum that God is directing and blessing. Steps and path are not words used to describe someone comfortable with inertia. It may sound elementary, but in order for our steps to be ordered and blessed, we have to actually take steps. In other words… we have to put feet to our faith!
God cannot guide those who pitch their tent in the land of neutral. He cannot direct a person parked on the avenue of ambivalence. Every single hero and heroine of the Bible moved forward… in spite of their fear, in spite of the difficulty, in spite of conventional wisdom, and in spite of the unknown. Consider Gideon and Noah, Abraham and Moses.
Think about Caleb and Joshua. Or Rahab, the Virgin Mary and all of the Disciples! Why not add your name to the list? If they did it, so can you! Think of it like this. If hope is the seed of faith, then faith is the fuel that moves us forward. You could say faith provides the confidence to move past dead center. Maybe that is what Paul was trying to say in Hebrews 12.
After listing all the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, he charges the reader in Hebrews 12 to “run with perseverance the race marked out before us.” With the battle cry of a seasoned military commander, Paul was imploring the believers to keep moving forward in faith! Just like them, we have no guarantee the circumstances will pan out as we hope.
One thing is for certain… if we don’t move forward we will never ever know! I’m not suggesting that it’s easy. Nor am I saying it won’t be a little scary. Sometimes we just have to do it afraid. Although sitting still might be comfortable, it is NOT a strategy for success.
Bottom line… if we don’t speak the F-Word of Forward over our fears we risk forfeiting the privilege of watching God “work all things together for our good.” Proverbs 4:18 promises, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that grows brighter until the full light of day.