Strengthening Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Sometimes in life, you’ll find certain themes popping up again and again. Maybe you’ll keep getting opportunities to speak in front of people, something that terrifies you or used to cause you anxiety. Perhaps you’re good at managing finances, so your boss keeps giving you extra assignments to utilize your skills in that area. It could be that everywhere you go, people seem to be conveying the same message.

These are seasons where God wants to strengthen you in a particular area. Like an athlete training for the Olympics or a warrior training for battle, you are being built up into a greater capacity of your skills. God wants to make a stronger version of you.

If you find yourself in a place where you see recurring themes and messages, don’t brush them off or get frustrated. It can be easy to feel as if you’re being boxed in. Instead, recognize these times as a honing of your abilities, a workout for you in a specific area. Jesus is building up more strength in you so that you can run farther and longer in your race. As Paul said, “run with purpose in every step.” Let Jesus train you to enter into greater and deeper levels of strength.

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Stretching Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

I do not say that I have already won the race or have already reached perfection. But I am pressing on, striving to lay hold of the prize for which also Christ has laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not imagine that I have yet laid hold of it. But this one thing I do—forgetting everything which is past and stretching forward to what lies in front of me, with my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God’s heavenward call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

When you’re in a stretching season, God is doing just that: stretching you. He’s pushing and pulling you into more than you thought you could be. This will often be shown by getting an unexpected promotion, or taking on more ministry and/or work than before. You’ll suddenly find yourself in a position you don’t feel qualified for, or a role you’ve never had experience playing. These seasons often feel somewhat chaotic and stressful as you struggle to balance everything and still find time to be refreshed.

Stretching seasons will remind you that you’re not perfect, and you have in no way “arrived” at full maturity in Christ. You’ll be forced to choose if you will depend solely on yourself (and most likely fail in the process of doing so), or if you will rely on Jesus to sustain you in the areas you don’t have a full handle on. Times of stretching are uncomfortable and even painful, but they teach you to trust the Lord and let Him guide you.

I want to remind you today that stretching seasons are for a purpose. That purpose is not to break you. Think about a rubber band; before it has been stretched out, it can hold some things, but after it’s been stretched again and again, it is able to hold far more. When God stretches you, it is because He wants to give you more to carry. He has something greater for you to do, and in order to accomplish that vision, He will stretch you in different ways to prepare you for what’s coming.

Don’t be discouraged if you feel stretched beyond your limits. Holy Spirit is with you, and He will cover you and supply you with all you need. Hold onto hope. There’s more waiting for you.

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Silent Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18)

A silent season is when you’re working, and growing, and doing what God calls you to do, but you aren’t recognized. You don’t receive praise for your work. Those around you either don’t see what you do, or they don’t acknowledge it. Sometimes, in these seasons, God becomes quieter as well. You wonder, “Does anyone see me? Does anyone know I’m here? Am I really making a difference?”

The season of silence is one of the hardest. It forces you to decide if you will work without recognition and still be content. It teaches you humility, which is often a painful lesson to learn. Silent seasons, though distressing, bring some of the deepest fruit.

Be assured that God always sees you, even when it doesn’t seem like it. He sees what others don’t. He knows all the heart and effort you put into your work. God is faithful, and He will be no man’s debtor; if you give of yourself to Him, He will give back to you. Don’t stop serving because you feel unappreciated or underestimated. You may be hidden from people right now, but you’re never hidden from God. He will reward you for your sacrifice.

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Stormy Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me … I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power. (Psalm 69:1-3, 29)

Stormy seasons are some of the most tiring times of life. It’s here that everything seems to be against you, and you can’t see a way out. As David expressed in Psalm 69, you may feel like you’re sinking more and more to the point of drowning.

The challenge that comes from a storm is that it’s never one issue that arises. It’s always several. Your mom gets sick and has to go to the hospital; your boss quits his job, and you have to take on more work until a replacement is found; your car breaks down. The list goes on. Every time you feel like you have the situation somewhat handled, something else gets added, and you eventually get to a point where you don’t know if you can take any more.

In these seasons, there’s often a lot of stress and much pain. If you find yourself in this place, turn to Jesus and let Him bring peace to your chaos. Give Him your pain, and let Him heal you. He is enough for you, even now. You will make it through this time, because He who is in you is greater than all you’re facing (see 1 John 4:4). He sees you. He hears you, and He’s with you in the pit. You won’t drown. You will be victorious. Keep pressing forward. The peace will come.

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Still Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

There are seasons in life where everything seems to be still. It feels like you’re not moving forward or going anywhere. From all appearances, nothing is happening. You may even feel stuck.

These times can be very frustrating, especially when you want to use your gifts and talents where you are. Often times in still seasons, however, your days will seem mundane and perhaps even meaningless.

If you’re in a season of stillness, hang in there. Don’t give up. Be patient. Whether or not you can see it, God is moving in your life. He hasn’t forgotten about you. Let Him develop you in character during this time. Let Him move deeply in your heart. This season will not be wasted.

Sometimes, the most beautiful revelations and the most intimate works are produced by still seasons. Don’t underestimate this time. God has a purpose for it, a purpose that is good and hopeful.

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Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

Every person experiences different seasons in life. Some are long, while some are short. Some are pleasant; others are not. Each season is unique.

There are many different types of seasons, and I’d like to bring some of those to you this week. These include seasons of stillness, of storms, and of strengthening. My hope is that through these brief overviews, you’ll be able to identify such seasons when they come into your life, and you’ll know how to aptly respond to them.

Even if none of these seasons currently apply to you, I want you to know that whatever season you are in is not an accident, nor is it without purpose. God will use even the darkest times to bring about good. He will not send evil into your life; however, He is a God of redemption, and He will turn everything for your good and for His glory. You may have no idea what’s going on, but He has a plan, and His plan is for you to prosper and have a hopeful future.

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