Let's take a moment together to talk about holding onto our faith in times of pressure. Join us as Odalis Turincio shares her thoughts on living out her faith and how we can grow closer to God.
Well, good morning. Welcome to Faith Moments. My name is Odalis. I’m part of the pastoral staff at Cornerstone SF. I’m so grateful that we have this time. Whether you’re here live as this is premiering, or you catch it later, it matters that you’re here, and taking these few minutes that we have together to pursue the Lord is something of meaning. It’s something of worth. My prayer is for Him to meet you exactly where you are.
Today, as we’re together, I want to talk about finding our hope and strength in times of pressure. Really use the past as a source of that hope and strength for our present and future. These are reminders of who God is, which He sometimes gives us through our lives, but sometimes through the lives of others, and certainly in the scriptures. As we spend time together, we’ll be in Psalm 23. So if you have a Bible or a Bible app, you’ll want to use it to refer to. Get that set-up. Before we do anything else, I would love to pray and welcome the Lord into our time.
Father, we thank you for this time that we have together to listen for your voice. Holy Spirit, we just ask for your presence, for you to fill us and give us ears to hear the father. Lord, you are good in all seasons, whether we feel you and whether we remember you or not. We ask that in this moment and in the moments to come, we would have our attention fixed on you. Jesus, we love you. We pray for these things in your name. Amen.
I’m in graduate school right now. I’m in seminary and working at a slow pace, but that’s not really the point. I started in 2018 and was really nervous about the whole thing. I had felt the Lord inviting me into it. I didn’t think I would go back to school after getting my bachelor’s. There is a whole thing to that, and there’s one person who gives me a fat, “I told you so,” every time it comes up. But as I had applied, I was accepted. I was getting ready to start in the fall of 2018. I felt such nervousness about it. I felt anxious. I sort of struggled with some of the implications for the future. I felt a desire and a pressure to do well. There were really good and exciting things around me at the time. I was planning my wedding and had a couple of trips planned. I had work responsibilities, family, and friends, all the things we used to do that would keep us busy before we spent so much time at home.
All good things, but the combination of everything just left me feeling this tightness in my chest and anxiousness in my heart. No amount, for some reason of reminding myself of God’s goodness, of strengthening myself on His invitation to me into my desire to do it. No one was making me, I wanted to start. I was in the scriptures. I was getting counseling. I was doing all of these good things that are things you do when you embark on a new season and you want the Lord to be in the center of it. For some reason, I just couldn’t shake that tightness, that anxiousness that I felt. Leading up to the start of the semester it was with me. I was going to just move forward, do my best, and we’ll see what happens, kind of an approach, at that point.
Somewhere along the way, I don’t remember how it happened, but Psalm 23 came to mind. We’ll read it. Why don’t we read it together here now? Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul, He leads me in paths of righteousness for His namesake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I’m not joking with you. When this came to mind, especially that first verse, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, the knot in my chest eased up. I felt like I could breathe deep again. The weight of what was ahead didn’t change. The pressure of wanting and hoping to do well didn’t change. How I was in the midst of it changed. Where my hope and strength came from changed when I remembered what that means to me. In times past, where this verse has given me hope through the future was when I had a vocal problem at one point. The week I found out a song written precisely out of this Psalm was with me that whole week, and it was a strength to me through that season. I could remember how God had strengthened me in the past. I could feel there was something just unique about this that stirred my heart back toward remembering who He is and His strength through me in the midst of whatever was going to be ahead.
My eyes essentially got off of myself. They got off of my feelings and back onto the Lord, back onto His strength, His firm foundation, no matter what. His goodness, not just in theory, but in practice. To top it off, that’s not the whole story, because that got me through a week or two leading up to the first day of the semester. I was still nervous. It’s not like the feelings disappeared. It’s just how I was in the midst of them that changed. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” I said this over and over whenever I felt that tightness, to ease it and just keep taking one step forward at a time.
I’m not joking. I’m not making this up. On the first day of the semester, I opened my Bible app to do my morning devotions, and guess what the verse of the day was? Just guess. You’re not going to guess. Okay. It was Psalm 23, verse 1. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I’m not creative enough to make this kind of stuff up. I’m really not. I remember at that moment, I was in awe. It had been with me, and it was that first day of school. I was so tense. I opened the app. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. I just was in awe at God meeting me at that moment. I even texted my friend in all caps, “You will never guess what just happened,” and she rejoiced with me there at that moment. I even took a screenshot and I was looking back on it this week.
I don’t want to over-spiritualize. That’s not what I’m trying to do. Over spiritualizing a moment that may seem coincidental. I genuinely believe that God can and will use things like these when we’re paying attention to Him. When we’re pursuing Him. When we’re in these seasons of needing strength, hope, and peace. When we don’t know what the present or the future is going to look like, we can look back on the past, our own lives, and look to the scriptures to find what we’re looking for. We can remind ourselves of who He is in the midst of our seasons. He has used little things like these to speak to me in the past. Things that I wouldn’t recognize if I wasn’t intentionally open to Him. If I wasn’t being attentive to Him as much as I can be in my day-to-day life.
I’m not saying that we count on or assume little moments like these are going to happen. We’re not trying to be too mystical about it or anything like that. There is something of meaning and worth when the Lord speaks to us through His scriptures. When He speaks to us through the stories of our lives that He’s already writing. When we or those around us walk through trials, experience great pressure, or just go through a lot as a part of life, remembering things like these, the ways He’s showed up, recalling ways that we’ve grown and healed in the past, or healed by His grace, then these remembrances are a source of hope and strength for our present. The future can be hazy or unknown. It can be clouded with confusion and pain, or potential for just who knows what. When we look ahead, we’re not sure where it’s going to go. Remembering the past, whether it’s our lived experiences of those around us, or just the scriptures and the truth of the story that they tell, they can redirect our attention back onto God to look for Him more clearly.
Easter in and of itself is a season of remembering how God so loved the world that He sent His only son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, would not be lost, would not be hopeless, would not be stuck in the unknown or in pain. That we would have life. He came to give us life abundantly here and in the future. Jesus came to bridge a gap between us, our pain, our sin, our brokenness, and the wholeness of God. That’s what we celebrate at Easter in the cross and the empty tomb. It’s what we remember when we receive communion, His body broken for us so that we would have wholeness. It’s a lived reality, and our day-to-day life can draw us away from it. Our hearts can so often wander. Our pains are so real. They are so real, the things that we walk through and experience. The reality of the hope, strength, and the future we have in God is all the more real and true. Remembering these things changes how we walk through. It doesn’t reduce the pain, It doesn’t prevent us from experiencing it, but it changes how we walk through.
As we step into these last couple of weeks leading up to Easter, let’s take advantage of this time, this season, and walk through it with intention. It’s what I’ve been encouraging us these last couple of weeks. Let’s remind ourselves of His goodness in the past. Take some time to sit and think back. Even just five moments of silent thinking, or journaling if you’re a journaler, to remember how we’ve seen Him in the past. Remind yourself of ways He has met us in the past, strengthening ourselves, and finding hope for the future. Stick a post-it of a story, of a moment where He showed up, anywhere. Look back on it to help you to give you strength.
If you haven’t experienced an aspect of His power, or you’re just having a hard time remembering it, I especially want to encourage you. It’s a bold step, but take a step toward Him. Pray a simple prayer. Lord, show me who you are. Lord, show me your strength. Lord, give me something to remember you by in the future. Read His story, the truth. His history is one of the gospels, or reach out to someone who you know is following Him and ask them to share a story with you. One of the most beautiful things we can do is to share His story of grace that He’s writing in our lives with others. He’s alive. He is present. He is our good shepherd in whose care we will find everything we need. I would love to pray for you to find exactly what you need at this moment.
Lord God, our good shepherd, in you we shall not want. Lord, you provide for us, you protect us, you lead us, you guide us. For those of us who need to know that for the first time, Lord, we ask for you to show yourself. For you to lead us through green pastures and by still clear waters. You prepare a place for us Lord, and I ask for you to meet those who feel like we haven’t found that place, who feel like we haven’t sat at your table. God, would you welcome us in and reveal your heart of love, healing, hope, and victory to our lives? Jesus, we turn to you in hope and we know that our hope is secure. We love you, and we pray for these things in your beautiful name. Amen.
God bless you. Let’s pursue Him. Let’s stay close to Him. Let’s remember Him. He’s good. We’ll see you next time.