Reader’s Question: Overcoming Difficulty

Here is a question I get from young and old alike: how can we overcome difficulty? Failed marriages and broken relationships. Financial strain and poor health. Disappointment and shame. We will never rub shoulders with someone who hasn’t experienced some kind of pain or struggle in life. Knowing that we each carry burdens and sorrows, the question deserves careful thought.

How can we overcome difficulty? I think of a time in David’s life that roiled in pain and trouble: returning home after several days away, he discovered his city burned and all the women and children carried away. (See 1 Samuel 30:4) “Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.” Have we ever cried until we couldn’t cry anymore? If this wasn’t bad enough, the people then talked of stoning David because of the tragic loss of their homes and families. Everything David knew and cared about was gone-his house burned down and his wives and children kidnapped and then his own people wanted to kill him! How did David overcome this tragedy? “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (v.6)

He strengthened himself in the Lord. David got with God. In the middle of confusion, weeping, and pain, David turned his broken heart toward God. He reminded himself of the goodness of God. He remembered all the times that God provided for him and protected him. He fed his heart with hope in God. David then asked God a very direct question: should I pursue this troop? God answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.” (v.8) David trusted that he heard God right and he went after his enemies and recovered all that had been stolen.

Do we have difficulty in our life? Are there broken relationships and discarded dreams? Are the struggles of daily life sometimes too much to bear? We must strengthen ourselves in the Lord, dear friend! How do we do that? Just like David, we remember the testimony. “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” (Psalm 119:2,24) Do we see it? Blessing rests in keeping His testimonies. The testimonies of God are a delight and our counselor. Remembering all the good things God has said and done throughout our lifetime as well as throughout history will strengthen our heart in the day of trouble.  Our hopefulness anchors in the God stories we share and remember. They will be our delight and they will give us strength to follow what God says.

Do we have a testimony of God’s goodness in our lives? If not, take someone else’s! That’s right, take someone else’s God-story as our own, because if He did it for them, He will do it for us. Let the testimonies in scripture become delightful counselors. Relive those God encounters—remembering who God has been and what He has spoken —and we will be strengthened in the Lord. God alone has the encouragement, strength, and direction we need to overcome our difficulty.

*A personal side note to this: Psalm 119 WRECKED me this week. I cried my way through this psalm as God opened my eyes to His wonderful truths hidden in these verses. This psalm is an alphabetic acrostic divided into 22 stanzas with eight couplets in each stanza. All the couplets in the first stanza begin with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph; the couplets in the second begin with the second letter, beth; and so on to the end of the poem. This appears to be an expansion of David’s Psalm 19:7-11. Wow, God’s Word never gets old. I hope you get wrecked by His love this week!

For more good stuff, check out my book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassionanywhere books are sold. Keep those questions coming and feel free to share my blog with anyone who might need an encouraging word!


A Strategy for the New Year

My friend, it is a new year and a new day. I am eager to bring fresh thoughts, insights, and strategies to this year. We may all be weary of the conflict and uncertainty in our world, but there is a strategy for success that I see ahead.

Maybe you are like me and you lean toward auto pilot. We all value some kind of routine and we try to streamline our decisions. We often want to use last year’s strategies to solve this year’s problems. But check this out: “And David inquired of God, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” The Lord said to him, “Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand.” (1 Chronicles 14:10) Time and time again, David inquired of God what he should do in new situations. In this story, the Philistine army had gathered to fight David as the new king over all of Israel. David followed what God said to him and defeated the Philistine army, saying “God has broken through my enemies by my hand like a breakthrough of water.” (v 11) 

Was it one and done? Nope, because the Philistines attacked again. “Therefore, David inquired again of God, and God said to him, “You shall not go up after them; circle around them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees.” (I Chron 14:14) The first attack by the Philistines David asked God if he should go up against them and God said yes. It happened again and David asked God again but this time God said no, don’t go up but go around. David obeyed what God showed him and he won.  The chapter ends with this statement: “Then the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations.” (1 Chron 14:17)

Does it matter what God said yesterday? Yes, and what is He saying TODAY? We can’t make God fit a formula or a system. Each new day brings new challenges and new opportunities. We must inquire of Him every day, Lord should I go up against this enemy? Lord should I spend time and energy in this direction or should I invest somewhere else? I’ve inquired of God when I faced challenges in parenting or in my marriage and I’ve gotten different marching orders. Sometimes He will reveal that I need to take a more gracious approach; other times He has whispered this isn’t even the real problem. Walking with God is not a formula! We enjoy a relationship with Him where we hear His voice and we follow His lead. God alone knows the best strategy for our business, our marriage, our health, and even our nation.

In the coming months I will be adding some structure to my blog so that you as a reader know what’s ahead and so that I am sure to cover what’s important. Each month I’ll answer questions that I’ve gotten from you, my readers as well as focusing specifically on how to hear from God. I’ll continue to share what has encouraged, inspired, or challenged me recently. I’ll end each month with an interview of someone God has used in my life.  I’m hoping to post the interviews in video format– I’m telling you now so that I have accountability to make it happen!  I’ll also be sharing what music, books, or podcasts have been rocking my world. Please go to http://www.MargaretAllen.org and scroll to the bottom of Mondays with Margaret to sign up for the blog as an email every Monday morning rather than catching it on social media.

It’s a new year to discover new strategies! Get my book Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion on my website or anywhere books are sold. Take the time to invest in your spiritual journey this year.


What is Faith?

I caught myself several times this week praying almost absentmindedly, O Lord, what is Your way in all of this? I want the eyes of my heart to be fixed on Jesus, which means I frequently have to turn my gaze from media and the ways of man. Years ago, I met a lovely woman from Ukraine at a party. I asked her what differences she saw between the U.S. and Russia. She said, “In Russia we all knew that the news was full of propaganda. But in the U.S. people don’t seem to understand that–they think their news is true!”

Curiosity is a core value in my life. I try to walk in a peaceful, loving posture. But I need faith to live this life, don’t you? We all want to live our lives from a position of peace, love, and godly wisdom. We don’t want to just swallow what we are told so we use critical thinking. But there are spiritual dimensions to this life that worldly wisdom cannot fathom.

So, when my prayer returns over and over to Lord strengthen my faith, I think of Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 and 12. These are wonderful chapters to study this week. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6.

Faith looks like reward. When we diligently seek the face of the Lord, we are rewarded. We win His presence and peace, His instruction and revelation. Come on, it’s not even fair the inner reservoir we live from, because of Christ. All else pales in comparison to this.

Faith looks like rest. Faith trusts that even though we have no idea how it’s all gonna work out (fill in the blank here—pay our rent, fix our marriage, get healthy, heal our nation, and so on) we know that God sees and rewards with His goodness, favor, and most importantly His presence.

Faith looks like power. Hebrews describes the impact of faith in God’s people as,”…they through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of invaders.” Hebrews 11:33-34

Do we believe the goodness of God in our life? That is faith. We are exhorted to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2   If we can fix our eyes on Jesus and run with endurance no matter what is set before us, then we can experience the reward, the rest, and the power of life lived in Christ.

Be sure to check out www.MargaretAllen.org if you want to sign up to receive this blog each week in your email.  My book Gracious Living is available anywhere books are sold.



Today is a big day for me. Maybe it’s a big day for you as well. June 1 is my day of beginnings. I became a Christ-follower on June 1, 1978. Huge deal. I married Andy Allen on June 1, 1991. Beautiful deal! And I chose that special date because my parent’s wedding anniversary is also June 1. Now, my book Gracious Living, serendipitously launches on June 1. I didn’t plan this availability date but I take it as a wink from God. He who knows the end from the beginning, who sat with me and encouraged me through many hours seated at a computer (not my favorite place), just wanted me to know that He is with me, ahead of me, for me.

God placed a cool story in front of my face this week. It comes from the biblical book of Joshua in chapter 3. God informs Joshua that he is to lead the people across the Jordan river into the promised land. “And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” (Joshua 3:13) And sure enough, a few verses later it says, “and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap…” (v. 15-16) The priests, carrying the precious Ark of the Covenant, end up standing on dry ground smack in the middle of the Jordan riverbed until the entire nation could cross over on dry ground.

Come on! Can you imagine what those priests were thinking as they walked up to a rushing river with their precious cargo? The miracle didn’t occur until their feet were in the water. And that’s where God got my attention: the miracle didn’t occur until their feet were in the water!

Is there a rushing river you need to cross today? A dream, a promise, a change to make? We all cling to safety, to guarantees, to smooth sailing. My friend, it takes faith to step into the water. It takes a bold faith in God’s goodness to move toward that dream or promise. I don’t know about you, but I’m facing a rushing river. I just wrote a book and now it’s out there! Am I afraid, vulnerable, uncertain? Yes, I am! I don’t know what is going to happen next or how I am to cross this rushing river in front of me, but I’m steppin’ in!

God will not put a dream in your heart without also empowering you to fulfill it. What obstacles are you facing today? I encourage you to lock eyes with God, get His vision for your life, and step in! Will you be frightened and vulnerable? Probably yes, but there’s a promised land waiting for you on the other side.