Is There Hope for Me?

It was near the end of my counselling session, by now I knew the routine. The counsellor looked up and asked me one final question:

“Is there anything else that you wanted me to address or talk to you about?”

In other words…was I hoping for more? Most of the time I shrug, not really knowing how to voice all the strong feelings inside. But this time I knew what to ask. I knew because I had been thinking about the question for a whole month, ever since the last time we had talked.

“Is there hope for me?”

He looks at me and sort of chuckles…”Hope?”

“No, I mean it. Is there hope that I’ll ever be the same again? Will I ever feel joy like I once did? Will I ever view the world with optimism instead of dreading the worst?? Is there hope?”

His face turns serious.

“Heather, I have seen hundreds of people. Many, many people, from all kinds of backgrounds and situations. Some haven’t had a shower in months by the time they come to me, and in some situations it is very, very hard for me to have hope. But you, Heather, have a firm foundation. That means even if the whole house has been burnt down, you have something to start on. Many people have nothing, their foundation is cracked and broken. What I’m saying is, YOU have tremendous hope. You will get through this. You will make it. I am confident of that.”

Hope.

Without it, there’s not much to live for. Hope keeps us going.

I left that day with a much lighter heart. I had a firm foundation.

Now my heart is burdened for those who don’t. Would you pray with me today for the hopeless? For those without a firm foundation? For those considering suicide because they honestly believe it will never get better?

Pray for those who have firm foundations to reach out in compassion, in honesty. Not pretending to have it all together (because no one actually does) but being REAL with each other.

– There is ALWAYS hope, pray that we would ALWAYS have our speech seasoned with the message of HOPE. This is NOT saying to give simple answers to complicated situations or to act annoyingly positive when someone is sharing their burdens. This means that even in our understanding and relating to others, that we ALWAYS offer an olive branch.

– PRAY for those with suicidal thoughts to find a reason to keep going, a reason to hold on to HOPE.

-For us to recognize the signs of loved ones that are struggling with suicidal thoughts and offer assistance, get them help. Often those struggling the deepest CANNOT do this for themselves!

– For us to realize the great importance of providing our families with a firm foundation to stand on.

-For those without a firm foundation to find HimOn Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.

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Struck Down, Not Destroyed

Today we are praying for a largely forgotten group of people who are suffering tremendously under their leaders and governments: The persecuted church. We may forget them, but I assure you that the Lord does NOT. They are very dear to his heart.

About 215 million Christians are being persecuted due to their faith, according to a report released by the Open Doors organization. In other words, that means 1 in every 12 Christians live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished.” The most dangerous place to be a practicing Christian is in North Korea. There is also a high level of persecution against Christians in the Palestinian Territories, the World Watch List report showed. The majority of the countries on the list saw an overall increase in persecution from 2016 to 2017.

It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.

It’s hard to believe living in North American that this is still an issue in 2018 right?

“Every day six women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith,” Open Doors reported. This number is likely low, since it includes only reported incidents. In North Korea alone there are more than 50,000 Christians in prison or labor camps.

And yet life in North America seems to go on as normal. Christians are (relatively) left alone, free to worship and live in peace. Some would argue that our rights are slowly being taken away, many fear for the future.

But we are not called to fear these things, we are called to PRAY!

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 4:8-18

 

As you turn your thoughts to Jesus, think about his sacrifice and all he went through for us. He was tortured, beaten, mocked, spat upon, and finally, killed in the most gruesome way possible. And yet, he loved those who crucified him. I am in awe of this man. He said: “Father, forgive them!” He went through it all to pay for your sin. For mine.

Thank you Jesus! We can never thank you enough. You paid it all. You took my punishment, my place on that cross.

Pray for your family. Are they saved? Are they struggling? Oh, that they would know this love, that was willing to die. Oh that they would encounter the one who millions of people around the world are willing to die for!

-Pray for protection for the churches across the globe, for laws to be made to protect religious rights and freedoms.

-Pray for those who have lost homes, jobs, loved ones for the sake of Christ. Pray that God would fill the deep void with his love joy and peace. May they truly experience God’s supernatural peace in a deeper way than ever before.

-Pray for their basic needs to be met daily.

-Pray for those locked up in prisons cells to feel God’s nearness. May they not feel alone, but strengthened in the knowledge that God has promised to NEVER leave them nor forsake them.

-Pray for those who have been rejected or abandoned by family members to be surrounded with a new family, the family of God. Pray for healing from the deep pain of rejection.

-Pray for a specific countries on the persecution list as God lays them on your heart.

-Pray for those being tortured day after day to have miraculous protection and strength from God. For the gates of prisons to be opened supernaturally. For healing to their bodies. For restoration of muscles and bones.

-Pray for the word of God to spread quickly in these countries. For people to come to God in large numbers.

-For for Bibles to become available to those who yearn to read God’s word. May their hunger be filled.

-Pray for believers who have been mistreated, imprisoned, struck down, persecuted, that they would find the grace to forgive and even love their enemies. May soldiers and officers become so amazed at the difference in their lives that they too turn to Christ.

Remember these brothers and sisters in their suffering. May I never forget them in my prayers! One day, it could be my country, it could be my family, it could be me.

Summer Prayer Challenge: Week 2

Well it’s week 2 of the Summer Prayer Challenge. One thought that keeps reoccurring to me is that it’s one thing to say, “I’m gonna do this!” It’s completely another to follow through.

I’ve had a lot of hard moments and also some really good moments with God this past week. One such experience was when I was praying on my deck. I was really discouraged that day and I asked God if I was just trying to do something that he really didn’t want me to do. I asked him if there was any point in continuing this challenge. If people were annoyed of me. If friends and family were secretly rolling their eyes at my posts.

You know what he answered? Satan sure hates it when people begin to pray.

My eyes filled with tears, because I knew he was right! Often in life, the right path is filled with the darkest battles. God knew that I needed to start praying again, he also knows that I often feel self-conscious or judged by others. This challenge was his way of getting me to keep my eyes off of the likes on my blog, and on to him.

Getting “likes” doesn’t mean anything. I mean, I could post a before and after shot of myself from a few months ago and rave about how eating healthier and walking/jogging has helped my depression, about how much weight I’ve lost and you know what? I’d get tons of likes!

This challenge isn’t about popularity or gaining followers. It’s not about entertaining the masses with cleverly worded anecdotes. It’s about prayer, and God’s call right now on my life: It’s time to wake up and pray.

Beginning my prayer time with thanksgiving is key. Psalm 100:4 says: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.”

I don’t want to pray off a list. I want to enter His gates. That’s what captured my heart so deeply in David Wilkerson’s biography. My goal is to meet with Jesus instead of just rushing into a one-sided dialogue. A sure way to dry up your prayer time is to never actually enter into relationship with him. This is why I continue to encourage whoever is following the challenge to first set your eyes on Jesus before jumping into your prayer list.

Today ask yourself what Jesus means to you. Where would you be without his word, without his hand of provision, without the people he has put in your life? Spend time praising him for these things.

Do you sometimes doubt that there is a God? Ask yourself what causes your doubts. Then admire the complexity of the simplest things in the world around you:

A flower. When I study a simple flower, I am completely in awe of how much time and thought would be put into just one kind. And there are hundreds of thousands of them!! Our best art is all just a copy of His!

A bird soaring in the skies above.

The wind. It can be gentle enough to rustle the leaves in a tree or powerful enough to uproot it! Incredible!

Food! How we can eat it and TASTE it. How it brings satisfaction and energy to our bodies. How our digestive systems work to remove what we don’t need, and keep the vitamins and minerals we do need. AMAZING!

Think about how wonderfully he has made YOU.

How could these things happen by accident? Would it not take intelligence far above any human being to design such remarkable works?

Pray for experiences with God that will bring certainty in moments of doubt. Pray that God will bring to mind the miracles and experiences you’ve already seen from him. Thank him for these God-given moments which we can hold onto in our darkest times of trial.

Next pray for your family. This is something I’ve neglected in my life for WAY too long. If you, who love them more than anything, won’t pray for them, WHO WILL? Pray blessings over them, for help in specific problems, for breakthrough in area of struggle. Pray for them to have meaningful friendships, to grow in a desire for God, etc.

Lastly pray for all the summer bible camps taking place this summer: This month many children head off to a week or a couple weeks of bible camp. It is here that many testify to significant growth or even the beginning of their walk with God. However hard we try to set up a fun/meaningful week of camp, ultimately, we need God to move in the hearts of the campers!

-Pray for safety for the campers and staff.

-Pray for a strong sense of love/belonging for the children.

– Pray for God to soften hearts that are hard, to heal wounds that are deep. Some children come from such HARD places! It’s difficult to imagine that one week will make any difference in their lives. Pray that their experience with God and God’s people will become a firm foundation in their lives.

– For lasting experiences with the living God, powerful encounters that change the path of lives.

-For JOY to be found from within and not outward circumstances.

-For unity and character growth among the staff.

-Pray for lasting fruit!

Thanks again for praying with me! If you missed the initial challenge, visit my blog post: Summer Prayer Challenge .

Summer Prayer Challenge: Week One

Ok time to be honest about this ten week Summer Prayer Challenge: I couldn’t be more unsure of what I’m doing.

I’m actually terrified of what I got myself into.

I don’t mean prayer. I absolutely am 100% sure that I want to grow in my prayer life. I want to know God like a close friend. That is my deepest desire right now. I am desperate to see God work in my life. I hunger to know God in a way I’ve never known him before, to see things and people through HIS eyes and not my own. I’ve quite honestly realized that I’m a very average person, and not even a very good one. If I don’t have the power and love of God behind my words and my actions then they will amount to very little. I’m desperate to wake up and actually make a difference in the world. Prayer is my ONLY hope to make any positive change – of this I have become convinced.

But this social media challenge…it’s not me.

I don’t want to come across as some spiritual superstar, or as if I’m flaunting my prayer life online. That’s literally the furthest thought from my mind.

I’m simply beginning. Which means I’m decades behind many of you.

I’m also flaky on social media at best. I like to be on it for a while and then I turn it off completely and love being away from it. So I honestly don’t know if I can do this…if I can post regularly, if I’ll have the zeal, charisma and passion to keep going…I mean, I’m struggling with depression for crying out loud! How can I encourage others to pray?

Also, being open and honest about my prayer life online, in front of dozens if not hundreds of people whom I may or may not know, some who are probably far more experienced in prayer than I am, it scares me.

And yet, it’s not about me.

It literally comes down to a stirring I had in my heart last week when I decided to pray all summer like I never had before. Something moved my heart to invite others along on this journey. Anyone who has this same desire, really. Because it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, whether you’ve been praying for hours a day or if you’re also just beginning: It is time for the church to seek God like never before.

And if this encourages even ONE person to pray, then it’s worth the time spent. 

Today’s prayer items are firstly: THANKSGIVING. Turn your focus off of your list and onto Jesus. Spend a couple minutes thanking Jesus for his provision, his goodness, his forgiveness, his blessings in your life. Don’t just say the words. FEEL them. Where would you be without these things? What would become of you if it hadn’t been for the Cross? Spend time in worship.

Secondly, pray for individual family members…each individual by name, starting with your spouse (if you have one). Thank God for them. Pray about your deepest concerns for them. For example, one of my children is struggling with angry outbursts and I’m seeking God for heavenly wisdom and eyes to see the root of what is going on in his heart. I’m begging for wisdom. Ask God if you are holding any offences against them. Don’t rush this. Spend time listening attentively and write down any thoughts, verses or pictures which come to your mind.

These two things will become your daily prayers before we unite in the third “weekly items.”

Today, as it’s Monday, let’s focus on praying for our home church pastors. Pastors in a way have a never ending job. There is tremendous pressure on them and their families to “have it all together” as they quite literally are like a showcase for the church they lead. This burden, is FAR too heavy a weight for a person to bear. Many leaders feel incredibly lonely because of this, yet at the same time they also feel overwhelmed with the needs of their congregation. I realize some of us have leaders that we look up to, others have leaders that we struggle to respect. But here’s the thing:

We are all human. We ALL mess up. We ALL say stupid things we regret.

Today let’s decide in our hearts to be very gracious towards our pastors. Decide to protect their reputation by refusing to gossip. If you are harbouring any hurt feelings or anger towards your leaders, now is the time to forgive them. Ask God to show you HIS heart towards them. And now pray. Pray for purity in their lives, for hunger for them. For him/her to have a close spiritual walk with God, to spend time with God daily. Pray for protection over your pastor and their family, as the devil would like nothing more than to see your leader fall. Pray for his/her health. Pray for them to speak the truth of God boldly, and to not water the message of the gospel down to gain popularity. Pray for their marriage, for their family time, for their children. Pray for them to have wisdom in each situation, and to keep a heart that is tender/merciful towards their flock.

If you want you can also ask God to show you something you can do this week to bless them. These are just ideas to get you going…keep praying until you feel your heart overflow with love and compassion for your leader. Bless them!

This will most likely be my only prayer blog post for the week. If you want to see the list for the whole week, check out my previous post: Summer Prayer Challenge or get daily updates by following me on Instagram as everysmallvoice or Facebook as Heather Bergen.

Thanks for joining me in this journey! And please! If you see any encouraging changes as a result of these prayers, or have an amazing/uplifting story to share, or even if you are just deciding pray for the first time, let me know in the comments or email me! I’d love to hear from you!

Love always, Heather

Summer Prayer Challenge

Today, here in Manitoba, Canada, is the first day of summer!!! Finally!!

And I didn’t even realize it until 2 minutes ago.

But either way, in my devos this morning I felt a stirring in my heart to start a Summer Challenge. It came on the heels of reading a bio on David Wilkerson’s life, a book I’d definitely recommend to anyone. The message I got was different than any other biography I’ve read.

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Let me explain: In the past, I have read countless bios, all incredibly inspiring and all uplifting. They strengthened my faith in God, the workings of the Holy Spirit and in the church. However, I always felt kind of inferior…as if I would LOVE to do big things for God…”but God, I’m kinda ‘stuck’ in the throws of family life over here!” And eventually I tamed down my desire for “great things” because I sincerely felt the “great things” had to look the same as the people’s lives I was reading about.

And then suddenly, while reading about David Wilkerson’s life, an “aha” moment hit me.

David Wilkerson was an average, skinny, not very spectacular human being. But he knew God and submitted to him above all else. And GREAT things happened.

Something finally “clicked” and the thought came to me: What if I began to pray? Like REALLY pray. If my prayer list wasn’t just a rushed through checklist, but the desire of my heart. What if I had the hunger and desperation to actually persist in these prayers until I saw the fruit of them? What could God all do in my life, and through my life?

I mean… I do pray. I thank Jesus for his blessings every morning. I weekly go through my prayer lists. I pray when I’m in anguish. I pray before meals and before I sleep. I pray over my children most mornings before they go to school. And I’m not minimizing the importance of those prayers AT ALL.

But David Wilkerson’s prayers, they BIRTHED something! Hardened gang members were changed by his prayers. His preaching was literally read off a page, but it changed peoples hearts because the Holy Spirit was present when he spoke. He spoke with conviction, he saw people with the eyes of Jesus.

All because he PRAYED.

Now it will look different in my life. I will never start a Teen Challenge ministry, or pastor a large church in Times Square. But just think, God created each of us different, with unique influence and abilities. What can he do with MY life, if it is utterly surrendered to him?

I realize this post and the rest of my posts this summer will probably not get me more “likes” or followers. Most likely, I will lose a lot of followers, but there is a burning desire within me to begin a life of prayer and to invite as many with me to join as possible!

If you have no interest in joining with me you’re very welcome to unfollow me, I won’t be hurt…OR EVEN better, push past those feelings, keep following me and PRAY! We’ll learn how to do this together!

So here’s my Summer Challenge:

-Starting on Monday, I will post weekly prayer lists/other encouragements on my blog to pray through together daily. We’ll pray for our families, our churches, our communities and our nations TOGETHER. I know personally that during summer getting out of routine messes up my devotional times. But truly, what is a Christian life if it’s not built upon spending time with God?

-I’m back on Instagram and Facebook for the time being and welcome any of you to follow me as I will try to post daily prayer points/verses/motivation to seek God together in prayer. Follow me as everysmallvoice on IG and as Heather Bergen on Facebook and you’ll get new topics and thoughts that we can pray through together! Let’s pray together DAILY and see God work in our own hearts, families and communities.

-The outline will be as follows: EVERYDAY we will pray for our immediate families…specific requests for each individual.

-Each seperate day of the week we’ll pray for different things, which we’ll repeat throughout the summer but from slightly different aspects each time.

On Mondays we’ll pray for our own churches and leaders. Our leaders NEED our prayers. Their families need our prayers! Being in leadership is HARD and our pastors need renewal. They need to also know that we will not turn against them if they make mistakes. We’ll pray for the summer camps going on. We want to see people having REAL ENCOUNTERS with the living God!

Tuesdays we’ll pray for other churches in our communities and around the world. This could include prayers for unity, those being persecuted, holiness, etc…

Wednesdays we’ll pray for those suffering with Mental Health. According to the CMHA, 1 in 5 people live with depression or mental health issues in Canada at any given time! This number rapidly continues to grow. This issue is huge and it affects us greatly! Think of the hopelessness, the pain, the suicides that result from this! Mental Health has largely been ignored by the church but if we’ve ever needed God to come in and help us, it is now!

Thursdays is my favourite so far: We’ll pray for a renewed hunger and desperation for ONLY God. It is so easy to settle into “life as usual” and routine, but that is the very heart of a sleeping church. Our many idols get in the way of us truly desiring God’s will. What idols you say? Idols of money, fitness, appearances, wealth, sports, social media and smart phones. Basically anything that takes the majority of our focus. Remember our first love: Jesus Christ.

Friday we will pray for our countries. For me that is Canada. We LOVE our countries, but they are FAR from perfect. We will pray for our governments and leaders and the laws that are made which affect us and generations to come. This is SO important!

Saturdays we’ll pray for outreach ministry. We DESPERATELY need the church to move outside it’s four brick walls and become the church God meant it to be. A busy church is often a church who forgets the call of Christ: To reach out to the poor, the outcasts, the needy, the socially awkward, the elderly, the sick, hurting and lonely. This one will come with an action challenge so stay tuned 🙂

Sundays we’ll simply pray for the meeting and gatherings of other believers: For the truth of the gospel to be preached in its entirety and not be watered down. For gossip, bitterness and walls to come down. For authenticity and healing in our meeting places.

THANK YOU for joining with me in prayer. I’m excited to see God work!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

 

Speak Out…or Pray?

It’s no secret – a huge struggle within the church is gossip and slander. And those who don’t gossip or slander, I find, are many times no better. Likely, they instead try to confront and fix the person, which causes hurt, broken trust, and disunity as well.

So often I want to give voice to the problems I see in others, either by gossiping about them or by confronting the issue. And I’m not taking about having a humble, caring conversation…rather a confrontation which sends the message: “I am right and you are wrong. You need to change or apologize.”

The reason for this is not because of courage or boldness, nor zeal for truth, nor love of the person.

 It is simply unbelief in prayer.

For if I truly believed in prayer I would only need speak up when God told me to speak, because God knows that most of the time OUR words can’t change people. More often, they hurt people. And even more often – we’re wrong.

God alone sees the human heart, and likewise, it is Him alone who holds the power to change it.

 

When, Lord?

This post is for all of you who have been crying out to God for something, maybe even for years, and all seems silent.

This post is for you who are ready to give up.

This post is for the prayer warriors, who are growing weary, yet day by day keep praying.

This is for you who wonder if God is even listening.

These are not my thoughts, I can’t take credit for them. I only share them because today they impacted me deeply.

This morning my pastor was sharing on the topic of prayer, and how we need to ask if we want to receive answers.

And in my head I know this, I really do.

But in my heart of hearts, if I were to be really honest, often I don’t believe it. There are things I have been praying for, for YEARS. Literally years. And Nothing. Seems. To. Happen.

Ever.

In fact, often everything just seems to get even worse.

And I cry out, “When God? When will you hear my prayers? When will my dear loved one give her life to you? When will I be reconciled with those whom I love?  I long for our friendship to be restored!! When will my friend’s broken marriage be healed? When God? Are you even listening anymore?!?”

And sometimes I’m filled with despair, because it seems hopeless. It seems as if all my prayers have been in vain.

My heart is filled with pain.

Because I am tired. I’m so tired of hoping when all seems hopeless.  I’m so tired of pressing in for people who just seem to grow harder and harder against me and against God.

However, today, once again I was filled with hope.

Today I was reminded of a passage I had long forgotten. It’s found in Daniel 10.

Daniel goes on a 21 day fast. He is crying out for answers. This fast is so intense, he is most likely not even bathing – I mean, Daniel is SERIOUSLY seeking God…but for 21 days he hears nothing. At the end of the 21 days, he is visited by an angel whom God sent in answer to Daniel’s prayers.

We hear this story, and we nod, because of course it seems perfectly natural for this to happen…in the bible.  And we think, after 21 days, I mean that’s persistent prayer and fasting… so we reason, ok, God was just sitting there, waiting, and after enough prayer, Daniel finally got his answer!

This was not the case. Read the story, and read it carefully. Daniel 10:12 says:

“Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before God, your words were heard and I have come in response to them.”

The first day.

God heard him the first day.

I don’t know about you, but these words cause my eyes to fill with tears even now.

Because they fill me with hope. Hope that was almost gone.

God heard me the first time I prayed.

Whether I started praying for it today, or 2 years ago, or 10 years ago, he heard me the first time.

This means the first prayer I prayed for these things mattered, and my prayers still matter. The moment I began to call on God, God began to answer.  However, if you read on in the book of Daniel, you will see that there was much happening behind the scenes before an answer could be given. There was a battle to be fought, and won. There were spiritual forces needing to be struck down. The timing had to be right.

Dear friend, the moment you call on God, he begins to answer.

He heard you the very first time.

Don’t give up, don’t lose hope – for God is a good father and he WILL give justice to his elect, who cry out to him day and night. (Luke 18:7)

May this message bring you as much encouragement today as it did me.