Life’s Challenges Just Seem Too Hard

Q. Could you please share some encouragement? Life is so hard . . . .

A. Let’s Talk! In my last post I talked about the grid system when things get overwhelming. Staying in His Presence is the spiritual help we’ll talk about today. Ask for Him, His grace, His strength. Remember too that the furnace for gold is hotter than a refining pot for silver, and that He is in the furnace with us.

I never dreamed life would be this difficult for my children and grandchildren. Just years ago life didn’t seem this challenging. Our world is certainly spinning at high speed, for starters. Our electronic devices keep this pace going, plus distract us from our help coming from above. I am sure I ask Google for help in times when I should look up instead!

The serious and sobering times we are in implore us to ask for His Presence. The Lord never meant for us to walk through these fiery battles alone, without His Presence. He delights in our pursuing Him just as He delights in pursuing our hearts. Would you ask Him to bring His Presence into your space and steps today? With His Presence, the fire has no power and we don’t smell of smoke.

For Deeper Reflection
Psalm 121: 2
“My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

Proverbs 17:3 “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold …”

Daniel 3:24-28 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”  “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace…. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!”

Song: “Shoulders” by For KING & COUNTRY

Enjoy the encouragement of this song by For KING & COUNTRY, whose chorus reminds us:

My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at

Smoothing Your Path

You’ve probably watched your share of Western movies or TV shows. You know, the ones with the rickety wagons that ka-bang and kerplunk over those trail ruts. It never ceases to amaze me how the on-screen women folk always stay so prim and calm with everything in place as the horses bolt, dust billows, bullets whiz, and the wagons jolt apart. “I do declare, why are we going so fast? What outlaws are chasing us? What stampeding buffalo? Mercy, my bonnet is about to slide!”

IMG_6110If only these celluloid catastrophes matched our real-life ones. I think many of us would exchange a bumpy wagon ride for the tilt-a-whirl traumas we experience in our culture and world today. I recently ran across one of my favorite quotes about God’s care for us on our sometimes jarring journeys.

“God doesn’t always smooth the path, but sometimes he puts springs in the wagon.” —Marshall Lucas

I think you’re like me at times—in need of some extra wagon springs. But what do these springs look like for those of us who drive vehicles with shock absorbers and CV boots? (When I first heard of CV boots in my 20s, I thought they were new shoes at the mall!)

Heaven-sent springs include: Timely words. Encouragement. Prayers. Extra finances. Helping hands. Gifts. Hugs. Laughter. Rest. Fun. Fresh perspective.

Those bonnet-smooth ladies of yesteryear have nothing on us! We have baseball caps, makeup bags, and hairspray to keep us tidy and together when our life gets ruggedly uneven.

So how does God soften our bouncy ways? What springs would you add to the list?

Brave and Resilient Tip #73: God softens our journeys, in ways we sometimes don’t expect.

Let’s Talk

No Sticky-Note Words

Q. Some words people say to encourage just seem empty – almost fake. Could you talk about that?

A. Let’s Talk! Yes. You are so discerning! Words are meant to carry meaningful messages. We hope we are giving reflective and non-hurtful messages, but in that effort we can also be guilty of giving seemingly positive but empty messages. Our messages must be tethered to substance and truth, or they are in the category of a sticky note or temporary patch. These messages can be hurtful too if they are artificial, give unasked-for advice, or wound.

I have seen this occur most often when someone is in a difficulty, and friends don’t want them to hurt, so the friends offer common positive phrases that actually wound. Examples are: “I know just how you feel and things will get better.” Or, “Time will take care of this.” Or, “Just think about this (or memorize this).” Slam dunk, hit and run. Hurting people need empathy, not a “get it together” message—no matter how positive it may sound. Positive is not always helpful! In fact, sometimes it feels like the one with the “positive” words is actually talking down to the one who is hurting. The subliminal message is, “I know what to do next and you don’t!” Think about it! Words sure matter…

I hope that you have been chewing on or thinking about your words this week! Thanks to several of you who sent in some Rs to add to my list last week. I have listed them below:

From Martha : Refire. Remain (until you are endued with power from on high.). Relate. Redirect. Refurbish. Reevaluate.

From Jesse: Respect Yourself. Self-Realization. God-Realization. Personal Responsibility. Retreat when in Reaction. Renaissance. Revitalize. Hit the Refresh button often. Return Home (Heart). Respond. Rejuvenation. Relax. Relaxation. Reorganize.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 12: 18 “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15: 2 “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.”

Proverbs 18:13 “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”

Proverbs 25: 11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.”

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

James 3:5 “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at


Hope Has Wings

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops — at all

—Emily Dickinson 

Hope has wings when the doctor says we can “manage this” instead of we “have a cure.” When the promised job doesn’t come through. When your checking account is running on fumes. When the relationship fractures and you go your separate ways.

Hope has wings when the little ones are pitching a fit — all at once. When your teen snaps back in defiance. When you feel like a failure as a friend  . . . a spouse . . . a parent . . . an employee. When the uniformed officers show up at your door and you collapse in disbelief.

white doveLife has a way of splattering your days with mud and sloshing you with distractions and discouragements sometimes so intense you can’t fathom a way through. Where is hope when you need it most? Where is hope when you feel like you’re hanging on to the last thin thread of survival? When entrepreneur Job lost all of his children and 11,000 livestock animals all in one day — and then even his own health — Job agonized with similar questions, “Where then is my hope? Can anyone find it?” (Job 17:15, NLT).

Finding hope is not like finding a new restaurant or a new pair of shoes. I think hope finds us. Hope has wings that flutter into our circumstances and refuse to fly away.

I love the Sara Groves song, It Might Be Hope and her lyrics, “But hope has a way of turning its face to you, just when you least expect it. You walk in a room, you look out a window and something there leaves you breathless. You say to yourself, ‘It’s been a while since I felt this, but it feels like it might be hope.’”

But more than encouraging song lyrics, I hold on to words of Life that withstand anything that tries to drain hope from my life. World leader King David did too. From the ragged depths of his own hope-less situations, he reminds us, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

Has it been awhile since you’ve felt hope? Or the Hope that endures? Wait quietly. He will come with wings and perch in your soul. And sing. And never stop at all.

Brave and Resilient Tip #49: Hope flutters into your circumstances and refuses to fly away.