Counting Your Blessings in the Midst of Sorrow

by Christy Hoagland

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Really, Lord? Is this possible? To give thanks in all circumstances?

My family has been going through some trials, great sorrow, sadness…

It is during these times of grief that we often try to gain answers to so many questions…let’s look to scripture for hope, for peace, for joy and perhaps get a glimpse of the whys. What does God’s Word say to give us comfort, what does He tells us to do during these times of great struggle, and how can this be used in my life for good? There are three things the Lord has brought to my heart during this current hardship.

Affliction and Suffering Strengthens Our Faith

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 This scripture tells us that these trials will show how genuine our faith is and that there is wonderful joy ahead and that our fire-tested faith is more precious than gold. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3 It seems rather ludicrous to count suffering as joy but if these trials produce strength, steadfastness, and a closer relationship with Jesus because we have to rely on Him to help us through it then it is worth it. This strengthened faith and trust in the Lord will give us peace. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 I have this on a post-it note on my computer monitor as a reminder to keep my mind on Jesus. It is easy to dwell on the difficult things in life rather than trusting in the One who is completely in control. Although it is hard to see God’s plan in the midst of suffering we can trust Him and His Word. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 God has a purpose even in the hardest things in life. It may take time before we see or know what that purpose is but we can trust the only One who is trustworthy and faithful. ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 And just maybe the trial you are in is preparing you to help someone else. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Focus on Eternal Things

This world is temporary, this life is so so short compared with eternity. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 What a time to look forward to! Let’s keep our eyes on eternity and in the meantime carry out what we are called to do, to redeem this short time. Ephesians 5:16 tells us to make the best use of time while we are here. We must share the precious Gospel of Jesus with those around us. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 So many people walk by us everyday who have no hope, no peace. We are called to love the lost and share our hope with them. We are called to proclaim who He is. “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4 “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15–16

Cherish What You Have, Count Your Blessings

Trials make me thankful for what God has given me. I have a beautiful family, a sweet and amazing ministry, the gift of music and so much more. But most importantly I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus Christ. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32 He is on our side, He gives us good gifts, He loves us so much more than we can imagine, He gave His Son for us! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Let us shift our focus, our hearts and our minds to Jesus when we are hurting. He is the only comfort, only peace, only joy when we are suffering. He is good, He is faithful.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22


*image – YouVersion

Just Say Yes

by Christy Hoagland

I was standing in a prison gymnasium last Saturday quietly playing while man after man left their seats to repent, believe, and profess faith in Jesus at the back of the room and as they were gathering around to pray I was overcome with the faithfulness and goodness of God. And I said to myself “Christy, you could’ve missed this.”

I could’ve been content just singing on the worship team at my church, leading a song here and there and doing Bible studies and many other “good” things but… still missed out on the best things God has for me to see and to witness and to experience. Don’t get me wrong, going to church, preaching, leading worship, serving, it is all part of what God calls us to but that is only the beginning and if that is all we do then we stay stuck, we stay in our places and don’t venture out to share our faith, love the unlovable, and go to where God has called us and do what God has called us.

For me it has been a process in my Christian walk, obedience to say yes when prompted and no to other things. And I have done both; the “nos” to obedience to God keep us stuck and the “yeses” set us free and help us focus on what really matters. Obedience to Jesus keeps us from settling, as Jennie Allen would say “I almost settled for a wasted life” (Johnny quotes that all the time now); if we are honest we have all been in seasons where we look back and wonder where the last month, year or years went and if there was any meaning or significance in it. This is what I fear most, living a life of insignificance as a follower of Jesus. As myself, I am insignificant but in Christ – so much more. Thankfully I serve a pursuing God that has given me His Spirit to prod my heart to a better way to live.

I’d like to share just a few of the promptings God put in my heart that has led me to today – to this precious ministry of worshiping with and leading the incarcerated in music, the Word, and so much more.

2013 – My “anything prayer” *(Anything You want me to do, Lord, I’ll do it for You) and the challenge to risk… honestly, the details don’t really matter but I took a risk and said yes to something and God started growing me into a worship leader.

2013 – A simple meeting in a church hallway with an ex-offender. From this point on God would use this ex-offender to become my encourager, my friend, my ministry partner and more

2013 (December) – First prison concert at Algoa Correctional Center

2014 – Ladies Jail Ministry at Pettis County Jail

2015 – Began courses at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for a certificate in Worship Ministry.

2015 (November) – First service at Algoa Correctional Center with my husband (we then started the Volunteer process)

2016 (March/April) – First songs written (Be Still, Sing for the King, Great is Your Faithfulness)

2016 (May) – Sing for the King Ministries was born

2016 (July) – Quit my full time job to do ministry full time. This was a big yes, a difficult thing to lay down because it required faith for God to provide for us.

2016 – Present – God has taken the yes of serving the incarcerated from a once a week and a handful of services here and there to close to 200 services inside prisons and other services outside prison walls.

If you are tired and weary and wondering if there’s more to life than what you’ve been living, let me tell you that there is and so much more than you could possibly imagine. Just say yes to Jesus and He will show you great and marvelous things, He will give your life meaning and purpose and you will never be the same. Surrendered and sold out is the best way to live life. All it really takes is one yes after another, the first being surrendering your life to Jesus and then trusting Him to lead the way. Then the next yes and the next and sometimes a no along the way to keep you on your “yes path” of obedience.

Serving my Creator, life-sustainer, Savior and King is my greatest joy and sometimes I get overwhelmed that He would call me and use me like He is. Can’t wait to see what’s next…

In the meantime, I’ll just say yes.

(I hadn’t intended to use this song but as I was writing this post this song popped in my head so I have to share. It brings tears almost every time I hear it.)

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8


Photo at top – Photo Credit: Taylor Hoos

*Anything by Jennie Allen