Posted in Faith, Life

Even If

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

– Habakkuk 3:17-18 –

Have you ever been discouraged by the lack of something in your life? I have. There have been several areas of my life in which I have gotten discouraged from. These areas of my life are areas of your life too.

And I’m sure you too can relate to the discouragement that can come when we don’t see any change in these areas. I’m referring to the financial, relational, and societal status of our lives.

We may lack everything this world offers as “good” such as fame and riches. Or we may lack basic essential needs like food, water, and shelter. But the one thing we can be sure of never lacking is the love of God and His salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 reminds us that even if we don’t see any change happening in our finances, relationships, or our life, God is still good. Even if we don’t get what we’re hoping for, God is still the giver of joy.

No matter what our finances look like, whether we have less than or more than enough. God’s love is always enough to carry us through.

Where does your joy come from? Does it come from the things you possess or the status you hold? Or does your joy come from knowing God? I’ll be honest with you. I used to rely on my accomplishments and achievements for my joy.

If I didn’t have something to brag about to others, I wasn’t joyful. My joy depended on my own doing.I had to hit rock bottom to learn joy is not dependent on my possessions, finances, or relationships.

Joy comes from knowing God and His faithfulness. He is our Savior. Even if we don’t have the job or things we wish we did, God is still good, and His joy is still available to us even if.

 

Dear Lord, thank you for your never-changing love and joy for me. My circumstances may never change, but you God, still remain faithful in giving me your love, peace, and joy. Help me to know you more intimately to fully receive the joy you give. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Encouraging you always,

Crystal Castillo

Posted in Faith, Life

Not Today Satan. Not Ever

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

– Matthew 4:1-3 –

Jesus was the Son of God. He was perfect and blameless. Yet he was still tempted. He was still attacked and disturbed by the tempter and accuser. Otherwise known as Satan the devil. Although Jesus was God himself in human form, he was not excused from living like a human. And that includes feeling every emotion we as humans feel.

As I meditated on these verses, I asked myself, why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness? The wilderness sounds bad. I think about isolation and loneliness. Why would God lead Jesus to such a place? As I continued to read along, my question was answered. Jesus was led to the wilderness not only to be left alone. He was led there for the purpose of being tempted by the devil! Seriously?

I mean being led to the wilderness was already scary. But being tormented by the devil while being there is just too much to bear. Don’t you think? To top it all off, Jesus was in a very vulnerable state. After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. It was in that moment of weakness and vulnerability when the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness.

Why? Why not lead him when he was strong enough to resist the devil? Perhaps after he had eaten. I’m sure you too have asked questions similar to these pertaining your life or someone else’s life. Why would God allow me to go through this? Why now when I’m not feeling my best? What did I do to deserve this?

Friend, you are not the problem and never have been. We have a real enemy who is out to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10). This is Satan’s purpose and desire. He strategically plans to target and aim at our weak and vulnerable places of our lives. He did this with Jesus. He used Jesus’ vulnerability as an opportunity to steal His identity by persuading him to do something that was against God’s will for him.

Jesus could have turned the stones to bread because he was God himself in human form. However, Jesus’ purpose was not to obey the devil or do as he willed. Jesus’ purpose in the wilderness was to do the will of the Father. And in that moment the will of God was for Jesus to stand strong and firm against the lies and schemes of Satan.

Satan has not changed his strategy of deception. He still manipulates the situation to make us give into temptation and fall into sin. I have personally experienced temptation from Satan. Not once, or twice, but multiple times. He tempted me by asking, “If you are the daughter of God, why hasn’t He come through for you?”

The devil was trying to destroy everything I had believed about God since I was a little girl. I had a choice to make in that wilderness of mine. Choose to listen and give in ultimately giving up on God and His promises. Or choose to rebuke and declare God’s goodness and faithfulness despite my wilderness.

Like Jesus, we are sons and daughters of God! The reality is, we will never be exempt from temptation. Don’t believe the lie that once you turn to Christ life will be easy. The difference between knowing and not knowing Christ is that we as His followers are given the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is our advocate (John 14:16). He is our comforter and encourager. The Holy Spirit is a powerful person on our side, working for and with us.

Don’t be surprised next time you find yourself in a dark and scary place. Be prepared and ready to rebuke the lies of Satan. Often times the Spirit of God will lead us into wildernesses to reassure us of our purpose. To let us know that although we are weak, He is strong and stronger than anything around us.

Lord, I desire to know you more intimately. Help me draw close to you so I can be filled with your truth and be ready to rebuke any lie the enemy has formed against me. No matter my circumstances, I will choose to believe your promises over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Embrace Your Journey,

Crystal

 

Posted in Faith, Life

Am I Following God’s Commands For My Life?

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.

– Deuteronomy 8:1 –

As Christians, God commands us to do several things such as love one another, serve one another, pray for one another, and bear one another’s burdens. Yes, it is true. God wants us to obey every single one of His commands every single day.

However, I believe there are specific commands He wants us to focus on today. Not tomorrow. Today!

As I read and meditated on this verse, Deuteronomy 8:1. I was reminded to be mindful. To be aware of the promptings and convictions God is giving me today. Likewise, I believe God wants you to obey every one of those promptings and convictions, those commands He has given YOU specifically.

Today.

I had to pause for a moment and ask God,

Lord, what commands have you given me for today?

As I sat there in my room in front of my desk, God gently responded,

“Crystal, my beautiful and want to know-it-all daughter, I want you to trust me with all your heart and not to lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, in everything you do, I want you to submit it all to me. Let go of what you cannot control. Allow Me to make your paths straight.”

God literally answered my question with His Word! He quoted Proverbs 3:5-6 to me. The tears began to slowly make their way down my cheeks as I heard His voice whisper this truth to me.

God knows me perfectly. He knows you perfectly too! He knows us far to well because He created us. With every day that passes by and every experience I encounter, God is growing my faith.

What is God commanding you to do today?

Pause for a while before reading along. Ask God what He wants you to do today.

What are some things He wants you to surrender?

What person(s) does He want you to forgive today?

Search your heart. Allow Him to respond to your question.

He wants to.

He will.

God desires for us to obey His commands because He wants to bless us. Deuteronomy 8:1 confirms that, “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.”

Without our obedience to His commands, to His convictions, His promptings, we cannot receive His blessings. And we will not be in position to enter and seize the promises of God for our life.

I want to live life to the fullest the way God designed it (John 10:10). I want every area of my life to increase and prosper.

I’m sure you too want to witness God’s blessings over your life. In your finances, relationships, and health. If we want to experience this increase in our lives, we must follow and obey every command God gives us daily.

Dear Lord, I want to enter and possess every promise you have predestined for me. Please help me and strengthen me to follow every command you give me every single day for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Encouraging you always,

Crystal

Posted in Depression, Faith, Life

5 Practical Ways to Endure Your Anguish

As humans we have all experienced some sort of hurt, pain, grief, suffering, and distress. Otherwise known as anguish. Anguish comes and goes. For some of us, anguish lasts longer than what we anticipated. But what do you do when anguish does not leave you as quickly as you hoped?

There are two ways in which we can deal with the anguish in our lives. We can either choose to dwell in the negativity of it. Or we can choose to endure it.

To dwell means to live in a given condition or to continue in a given state.

To endure means to hold out against, to sustain without impairment or yielding; to undergo.

There is a woman in the Bible who experienced anguish herself. She teaches us how to endure it in five practical ways. Her name is Hannah. I highly encourage you to read her story in 1 Samuel 1.

  1. Pray

Hannah could not have children. She was infertile. Due to her circumstance, there was a woman by the name of Peninnah who is described as Hannah’s rival. Peninnah intentionally and constantly would provoke Hannah for the sole purpose of irritating her.

For years, Peninnah was mean to Hannah and teased her about her infertility. As a result, Hannah would not eat and would oftentimes cry. In other words, Hannah was depressed. However, Hannah’s depression and situation did not stop her from praying. In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly (1 Samuel 1:10).

There are going to be times in which you will not be well. Maybe you’re not doing well now. Whatever your circumstance is, it’s not bad enough, crazy enough, or impossible for God. Rather than waiting around listening to the lies of the devil, rise up and fight through prayer!

Hannah did not allow Peninnah’s words to define her. Instead, Hannah prayed despite how she was feeling. Friend, don’t allow the lies, negativity of others, and your current circumstance to define you.

  1. Pour Your Heart Out To God

Hannah was not ashamed of her depression. She openly prayed before others about her bitterness and most importantly entrusted God with it. People won’t always understand your anguish. But God does. Hannah understood this, which is why she poured her heart out to God (1 Samuel 1:15).

Have you felt ashamed for feeling a certain way?

Unfortunately, a lot of us feel ashamed about feeling depressed. A lot of it has to do with the negative stigma that comes with it and how others view it. However, depression is simply a natural feeling and at times a severe medical condition that people experience as a result of their circumstances.

Feeling depressed is not a bad thing. It’s not a sin either. Depression is part of being human. However, God desires for us to endure our depression and not dwell in it. Pouring our heart out to Him about what we’re going through is considered enduring depression.

Friend, feeling shame about your depression is not God’s desire for you. The devil will want you to feel ashamed so you don’t go to God and pray about it. The devil knows that when you do, God can and will give you a grace and strength to get through it.

  1. Express How You Are Feeling To Trustworthy Friends

Hannah did not only express how she felt to God. She also expressed how she felt to Eli the priest (1 Samuel 1:15-16). In doing so, Hannah was allowing peace and comfort to come into her life. After Hannah had poured out her heart to God and expressed her sorrow to Eli, she started to eat again and was no longer sad (1 Samuel 1:18).

There is power in our willingness to open up with God and with each other! Last week I wrote a blog titled, Do You Have Friends In Your Life? In this blog, I write about the importance of having friends. This is exactly why. Because having trustworthy friends to share our deepest sorrows with help alleviate the stress and anguish from our lives.

Do you honestly express yourself to others when you’re going through a bad season? Or are you ashamed to do so?

The Bible tells us in James 5:16 to confess our sins to each other and to pray for one another so we can be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful! Similarly, in Galatians 6:2, we are told to carry each other’s burdens.

Friend, you were created for companionship, first with God then with each other. Isolation is not the solution as we’ve already read in James 5:16 and Galatians 6:2.

  1. Choose To Worship No Matter What

While Hannah continued to pray and wait on God for her miracle, she worshiped before the Lord. After she had made a promise to God, and time passed, Hannah did not become impatient. She continued to pray and worship God through her anguish. Not knowing whether God would answer her prayer or not. Eventually, God did answer Hannah’s prayer of wanting a son (1 Samuel 1:20).

Like Hannah, we too should worship God no matter the outcome. God is worthy of our worship no matter our circumstances.

  1. Keep The Faith In God’s Promises

Hannah’s faith kept her steady. She endured her anguish mostly through prayer. She placed her faith above her condition of infertility. What about you? Do you still have faith when you’re in a season of suffering? Or do you allow your circumstances to affect your faith in God?

If you find yourself in a season of anguish, what are you doing to endure it?

The devil’s plan is for you to dwell in your depression rather than endure it. God’s plan is for you to endure it just like Hannah did. If she got through it by applying these 5 practical ways, you can too!

Friend, you are not alone in your anguish. God is there and He is more than willing to help you endure it if you simply allow Him in.

Let’s chat:

Which of the 5 practical ways mentioned above do you need to implement more in your life? How can you start implementing them?

Posted in Life, Relationships

Do You Have Friends In Your Life?

What would life be without friends?

BORING! That’s for sure. And probably very, very sad.

According to dictionary.com, the word friend is defined as: “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; who gives assistance and support; who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile.

In simpler terms, a friend is someone who cares, encourages, and provides hospitality.

So in reality, there’s no such thing as a bad friend. We either have friends or we don’t. If you consider people in your life “bad friends,” they’re simply not your friends at all. Because a friend as defined above, is not a “bad friend.”

How can a friend by definition be a friend and bad at the same time? It just doesn’t make sense.

It is of the utmost importance for us to have friends. Here’s why:

“There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless – a miserable business!”

– Ecclesiastes 4:8 –

It is meaningless to be alone and have no friends.

Friendships minimize our brokenness and depression. They also minimize our exhaustion and heaviness from our jobs, relationships, and circumstances. The reality is, we will all go through hard seasons of exhaustion, depression, loneliness and much more. But whom will we have next to us when we go through it?

The scripture above tells us that no matter how much wealth we have, it does not compare to having friends in our lives. This man was alone and had wealth. Yet, he was very unsatisfied. He basically asked himself, “what’s the point of having wealth when I have no one to share it with?” This man was miserable! Life without friends is miserable.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 –

Together is always better!

Togetherness makes room for encouragement, support, and refinement. We can’t encourage, support, and refine someone if there is no on in our life to do that with. The verse mentioned above talks about having each other’s back. When one of us is not having a good day or is going through a hard time, a friend steps in to help pick that friend up. When we need guidance figuring things out or making decisions, a friend is there to help with that.

We ought to feel sorry for those who have no one to help them up when they go through hard times in their life. It’s not good for us to be alone! God himself said it in Genesis 2:18. God created us for companionship, first with Him, then with each other.

“Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

– Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 –

Hanging out brings comfort.

We cannot comfort ourselves fully. We need the presence of God and each other to bring comfort into our lives. Each other’s presence brings confidence and assurance that we can and will overcome anything that tries to put us down. The verse mentioned above tells us that a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. In other words, two is better than one, but three is even better!

The more friends we have, the better! Each friend is different; therefore each friend will encourage us differently. Sometimes we will need to reach out to a certain friend for a specific situation we’re going through, while at other times, we’ll need the encouragement of a different friend. This doesn’t mean one friend is better than the other. It simply means we are each unique individuals with different personalities and experiences. What one friend can help with the other cannot and vise versa. More is better!

So, do you have friends in your life?

Friends, who care about you, encourage you, and love on you despite your circumstances?

I highly encourage you to carefully evaluate your friendships based on the truth shared with you on this blog. Remember, “bad friends” are not your friends at all.

 

Let’s chat: How have your friends helped you become a better version of yourself?