Tag Archives: hard times

When Bad Things Happen (Jonah)

Most of us have had bad news told us, or have gone through really hard times and have asked, “Why me?” If you’ve been with me very long you know I believe the correct question to ask is, “Why NOT me?”

But here we have  a boatload of men facing death at sea for no real fault of their own. Jonah was disobeying God. Jonah was receiving God’s hand of punishment. The sailors were merely caught in the middle. They were caught in the same storm Jonah was facing as a direct result of his sin.

So let me ask you: Are there people caught in the crosshairs of God’s judgment on you because there is sin you haven’t dealt with in your own life? Is your family facing difficulty because you are running from God?

When Jonah’s sin was dealt with, God calmed the sea. The sailors were saved, both physically and spiritually. Read the book of Jonah today. It is an amazing account of God’s grace.

I wonder, on a larger scale, if our nation is facing God’s punishment on Christians who are not dealing with sin in our own lives. Is the USA going through this awful unrest because the Church is trying to exist with Satan instead of fighting him?

I think the book of Jonah tells us when bad things happen, we need to first look at whether they are God’s punishment on us for tolerating sin in our lives. Then if God points out the sin we need to confess it, repent of it, ask God to wash it away and then live in obedience. If we don’t, that stormy sea will not calm. And we just might go down with the ship.

I’m Not Feeling It (Psalm 88)

I was bothered by this psalm this morning. Heman the Ezrathite was in a bad way. I understand some scholars believe he was foretelling what Jesus experienced in the events surrounding the cross, and I can see some similarities for sure. But I read this psalm as from a man who was in despair himself at that moment. He is at the lowest point in his life, drowning, suffering, overwhelmed, and friendless. In fact, the psalm ends with him saying that darkness is his closest friend.

Then to top it off, he feels abandoned by God. The psalm left me feeling uneasy. But I continued with my reading plan, reading other psalms that were uplifting and hopeful. I just could’t shake the feeling I’d gotten from Psalm 88.

So I went back to look at it again. “What is it You want me to see, Lord?” I prayed. I didn’t have to look very hard.

O, Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. (verses 1-2)

Heman didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy toward God. It wasn’t one of those times when the Presence of the Lord made him joyful, calm, and confident. It was one of those times when he couldn’t even feel the Presence of God at all.

But Heman KNEW God was his Savior. He KNEW God was present, even if it didn’t feel like it. And Heman was determined to continue to pray to the God he trusted.

God is asking me if I only want a relationship with Him when the circumstances of life are going in my favor, or do I trust Him in those times when I feel like I’m drowning, suffering, overwhelmed, and alone? Do I pray expecting God to snap to it like a bellboy at a five star hotel, and grant me my wish as demanded? Do I give Him the silent treatment when I don’t think He’s paying attention?

Heman prayed to “the God who saves me.” Not to the God who makes me feel good. Not even to the God who loves me. And Heman didn’t pray to the God who CAN save me. I love Heman’s confidence in God in the midst of his trouble. The God who saves me! Period.

So when my life seems out of control, I like Heman, can know that as His child, God is the God who saves ME. He doesn’t depend on my feelings. But I can depend on His faithfulness. Even when things are hard. Even when I’m lost and alone.

Even when I’m not feeling it. God is the God who saves me!

What Do You Do When You Lose? (Judges 19-21)

There is so much in these three chapters, some of which can get my blood boiling. I have to keep reminding myself that this was a time when Israel had no king, and everyone did as they wished.

But today I was encouraged as I read. Israel was going to war in order to purge the evil from among them. Yes, they were going to destroy their brothers the Benjamites because that tribe was evil.

Israel went to the Lord, and God told them to go to war against the tribe of Benjamin. Israel acted in obedience to the Lord. But the first battle saw 22,000 Israeli soldiers cut down. Did you notice 20:22? I love it!  After this devastating loss, the men of Israel encouraged each other!

They went to the Lord and wept, and asked Him what they should do. Again, God said, “Go to battle.” The next day Israel attacked Benjamin and this time 18,000 Israelites died. After this second defeat the Israelites did something that speaks to me.

They went back to the Lord. They wept, fasted and prayed. They offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. A third time God told them to go into battle, but this time He added:

tomorrow I will give them into your hands.

Sometimes we might think that if we are obeying God, if He is in our situation, that ought to guarantee a victory. And often it does. But what happens if we don’t get the results we are looking for? What if we fail miserably?

Do we quit? Do we wash our hands of God? Do we grumble and complain? I think we can learn something important from the example of the Jewish army here in Judges.

The Israelites encouraged each other after their defeat. Sometimes we need our brothers and sisters to be that encouragement for us. Sometimes we need to hear someone tell us to hang in there, to keep going, to not give up. Sometimes we get our strength when God uses the voices of His children on our behalf. And, friend, each of us can be that to a brother or sister who is experiencing defeat. Let’s not be quick to condemn. Let’s be quick to encourage that struggling saint to do what Israel did next:

The Israelites when to God. Not just once. Not twice. Three times. They went to God and kept going to God. They weren’t one and done. And God rewarded their faithfulness by giving them the final victory.

Dear ones, let me encourage you today. You may be fighting what seems to be a losing battle right now. We are all in a weird situation because of this virus, and some of you have lost your income, maybe your health, and maybe you have lost loved ones because of this disease. Others of you may be fighting a spiritual battle with sin. I don’t know.

But hear me say, hang in there. Go to God and keep going to Him. Storm the doors of heaven, barge into the throne room. Ask God to reveal sin in your life, and be quick to repent of it. Ask God for direction, then obey Him. Trust Him. Yield to Him. Don’t tell Him what you want done, be sensitive to what HE wants done. Then do it.

You might not get a victory after the first battle. Let each failure draw you closer to Him. Let each defeat cause you to trust Him more.

I know God will bless you as you obey Him. And, folks, the victory is the Lords! Don’t forget whose side we’re on. The truth is…

WE WIN!

Funeral Arrangements (Job 1-5)

I’ve never known anyone who suffered the same devastating losses Job did in one day. I certainly haven’t come close to that magnitude of loss. But I have experienced loss. And so have you. And there is something we can learn from Job’s example.

After hearing that his crops, livestock, and children were all suddenly gone, Job affirmed his trust in God. Most of us are familiar with Job’s response to this great loss. He said, “I came into this world with nothing, and I’ll leave here with nothing. Everything I’ve ever had was given to me by God, and it’s up to Him whether I keep them or not. May the name of the Lord be…

praised!”

Really? Not questioned? Not accused or discarded? Not shaken a fist at or maligned?

The Bible tells us that in all his losses, Job didn’t sin by charging God with doing anything wrong. Later, in 2:10, Job even says: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job didn’t sin by anything he said, even when most of us would say we’d understand if he had.

Are you experiencing loss? Maybe not even a recent loss, but a loss from your past that has kept you at arms length from God? I pray you will read what God would say to you today through these chapters in His Word.

I think Job’s example tells us to go ahead and mourn. Tear your clothes, shave your head, or scrape your skin with broken pottery (figuratively, of course). But in that period of mourning don’t sin, don’t make matters worse by cursing God when all He wants is to be your comfort and strength. Job praised God in the depths of deep pain and suffering. We can praise God in the depths of ours.

I want to share something I heard yesterday at the funeral of a young woman whose life was cut short as suddenly as Job’s children’s lives were cut short that awful day. One of the pastors, this woman’s cousin, reminded us that her death came at no surprise to God. And he assured us that God welcomed that precious woman home the moment her spirit left her physical body. We can trust God even in our mourning and through the “what ifs.”

We mourn. She rejoices. We weep. She sings. We are paralyzed with grief. She is dancing before the Lord. And she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

One day, because this girl at the age of six made her funeral arrangements by accepting Jesus as her Savior, we will see her again if we have made the same confession, accepted the same forgiveness for our sin, and placed our funeral arrangements in the hands of God. Death has no power over those of us who know the Savior.

That’s not wishful thinking. That’s not some fairytale made up by weak people to get us through hard times. It’s a fact. You and I will both die one day. We came into this world with nothing, and we’ll leave here the same way.

Except for one thing. I’m leaving here with a robe of righteousness placed on me by Jesus. I’m leaving here with confidence that my sins are forgiven by the precious blood of my Savior. My funeral arrangements are made. And when I leave this life, I’m going to go live with Jesus. Forever.

I’d like you to come with me.

November 30; Rock Bottom

I Corinthians 15:35-16:24; Acts 20:1-6; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4

Can you recall a time in your life when you would say you were at your lowest point? The pressures of life were such you felt there was no hope; you tried to do the right thing but even that blew up in your face. Why is it when we’ve hit rock bottom we can feel totally alone, like no one understands or even cares to understand what we are going through?

Paul gives us a hint at his lowest low. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he said at some point he had wished he were dead. He was that discouraged. Then he shares with us what he’d learned from that awful time:

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Paul, arguably the most prolific missionary/evangelist in the history of the Church, the apostle whose words still instruct and encourage people two thousand years later, needed to be reminded he needed God.

God delivered Paul from that dark place, and continued to deliver him. The apostle tells us it was through the prayers of the Corinthian believers that God did that:

Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (verse 11)

Paul said Jesus’ suffering overflowed onto them, but so did Jesus’ comfort. As a result that comfort overflowed onto the Corinthians. It overflows yet today!

So here are a few things I take away from this passage today:

  1. We all go through hard times. All of us get discouraged and need to be reminded we need God. Sometimes those hard times even sweeten our relationship with Jesus as we learn to depend on Him.
  2. We need to pray – really pray – for our hurting brothers and sisters even if we don’t know the details of their trouble. God answers prayer. But He can’t answer a prayer not prayed.
  3. When we come out on the other side – and we always do – we need to use our experience to encourage others, to assure them they are not alone, and to help them recognize the power of God in their lives.

I asked if you remembered a time in your life when you were at rock bottom. I hope that’s not where you are today. But if you are, or if you are headed there, let me encourage you from Paul’s example. You are not alone. And I am praying for you.

 

 

September 15; Ups and Downs

Esther 9:18-10:3; Ezra 4:6-23; Psalm 105

The history of the Jews is a picture of life, isn’t it? In the book of Esther we see a great celebration lasting days. They had enjoyed a great victory over evil, and they were on top of the world.

But when they got busy rebuilding Jerusalem, they were stopped in their tracks. Scripture tells us the Persians “compelled them by force to stop.” (Ezra 4:23)

I find it the same in my life. I may have victory over a sin, or am able to successfully navigate a difficult situation. I may get a raise at work, or get a “thumbs up” medical report. Things in my life may be working out. I feel blessed!

Then I run into a roadblock, a temptation, a hardship, and I don’t feel blessed at all.

It’s interesting that the organizer of the chronological Bible I am using places Psalm 105 after Ezra’s account of the work-stoppage.

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him… (vs 4)

It just reminds me that life has its ups and downs. Good times and bad. Successes and failures. There is only one constant.

God.

And I am reminded God is good all the time. God deserves praise all the time. And I can rest assured that He does all things well, all the time. May I, may we, sing His praises from hearts that are overwhelmed with WHO He is, circumstances aside. Because life will be hard some time. Life will be great sometimes, too. We will have victories, and we will blow it.

But God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Praise Him.

September 7; Changing Anxiety Into Joy

Daniel 11b3 6-12:13; Psalms 93-96

Often when I read the psalms God will hit me right where I live. I’ll hear something on the news, or someone close to me will share something that has me concerned, or I will have something happen that shakes me. Then, when I read God’s Word, it’s like God is addressing that very thing that is on my heart. He is amazing!

I’m not going into detail today about what is specifically heavy on my heart because that which is on your heart is very likely something quite different. But I want to share with you what God has said to me through His Word about handling our concerns and battles. I think it applies to us all.

In Psalm 94 the writer begins by pointing out the things that are wrong in the world, that wickedness is seemingly going unchecked. But then we are reminded that God created us with ears, do we think He can’t hear? He created us with eyes, do we think He can’t see? The psalmist calls us foolish for thinking God can ever be caught off-guard. He knows every thought we have. We can rest assured that the things on our hearts are on His heart, too.

The psalmist points us to Scripture, the place where God teaches us, where we find relief from our trouble, where we are assured that as God’s inheritance we are not forsaken. It’s the place where I love to go to hear God’s heart-beat.

Then lastly, the psalmist tells us if we are fighting a battle, God fights with us. When we fall, He catches us. When we are weak, He is our fortress and refuge.  Then in verse 19, listen to this:

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

You remember Philippians 4:6-7, don’t you?

Be anxious for nothing but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I Peter 5:7 says,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

So I guess today, as my heart is heavy, as I find myself worrying about people I love, I am reminded that God wants to be in this with me. He wants to be my rock and my refuge. He wants to teach me, assure me, love me through it.

He wants to change my anxiety to joy. And I am going to let Him!

June 23; As Surely As I Live

2 Chronicles 24:17-25a, 25:1-40; 2 Kings 12:17-21, 4:1-44, 13:4-11, 8:1-2

It spoke to me this morning when I read about the Shunamite woman. She had treated Elisha with kindness, and as a result, God blessed her with a son. But years later, the boy died suddenly. The Shunamite woman, without hesitation, went straight to Elisha.

When Elisha heard her story, that her son had died, he immediately sent a servant with specific instructions. Then the woman said this to the man of God:

As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.

So often we hear of people facing hardship and loss and their response is to get angry with God, and walk away from Him. The woman had the opposite response.

And that’s the response I want to have myself. Whether good times or bad, I never want to leave God. I’ve lived long enough to have gone through some hard times. I’ve had loss, and faced giants. I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to walk away from my Lord. In fact, I will say I was probably the closest to Him during those hard times.

As surely as You live, I will not leave You, Lord.

June 15; It Keeps Coming

I King’s 17-19

The more I read the Bible the more I realize people haven’t changed all that much since the beginning. Take the widow woman, for example. During the famine God miraculously provided her with flour and oil so she and her son, and the prophet Elijah, could eat. She didn’t do anything to earn God’s provision – except obey. She obeyed, and God kept it coming.

But then her son got sick. What did she do? She blamed Elijah and, in turn, God. “Is that why you’re here?” she asked. “Did you just come so you could kill my son?”

Elijah’s not any different than the widow, really. He asked the same of God (who had just spared his life, too, with the never-ending flour and oil). The son did not die. And the miracle came through Elijah.

Later Elijah, who had demonstrated great faith in God, who watched God do amazing things, unexplainable things, who was protected by God, fed by ravens and angels, had doubts. King Ahab was out to get him, and Elijah felt all alone. It was too much. He wanted to die.

Can you relate? We are so blessed by God. We see evidence of that every day. Some of us have witnessed extraordinary ways God moves. But when tragedy, or hardship comes, the first response of many of us is to blame God. Or question Him. Or at least give Him the cold shoulder for a time. It’s so much easier to recognize God’s blessings in the good times. It’s a bit of a challenge to see those same blessings when we are hurting

But I am reminded today about God’s great love for His children. The flour and oil kept coming for the widow and her son until the famine was over. God encouraged Elijah by assuring him he wasn’t at all alone. In the midst of trouble, God was still keeping His blessings coming.

And that’s His MO still today. I don’t know what life is like for you right now. You may be going through a really hard time. Maybe you, like the widow find yourself striking out at God. Or like Elijah, you might be feeling abandoned by everyone including God. But hear God whisper in your ear, “I’m right here.” Open your eyes to the ways He demonstrates His love for you right now while you are struggling.

Because I know, as evidenced in Scripture and in my own life, even in the darkest nights, God keeps His blessings coming.

 

 

 

 

May 4; Momentary, Light Affliction

Psalm 44, 60, 108, 124; 2 Samuel 8:9-14, 23:18-19; I Chronicles 11:20-21, 18:9-13

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why aren’t all Christians living long and healthy lives in the lap of luxury? Does God abandon His people, even those who love and obey Him? Are there times God goes on vacation, or sleeps, and isn’t aware of what His children are going through? It may seem that way to some.

It seemed that way to David. But we are wrong to judge God according to how we feel. We are to trust Him for who HE IS.

If Jesus had gone to the cross in order to make our lives comfortable, bad things would never happen to Christians. Do you think that was Jesus’ motivating factor for enduring the awful beatings and painful death? When He was hanging there, do you think He thought, “Well, at least Suzie will get that job promotion in 2019, and Johnny will get that house on the ocean, and Ellen won’t get cancer?” Was His goal to make His children healthy, wealthy, successful, and happy?

Of course not!

Then why do we get upset with God when we go through hard times? He never said we wouldn’t. Why do we blame God for a cancer diagnosis, or the loss of a job? If anything, Jesus promised life would be hard for us. Do we think He was talking about everyone BUT us?

David gives us a bit of insight as to why God allows those hard times, unfair treatment, suffering. “Yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22)

Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. And His power can be seen in the lives of His children, even when those children struggle. Maybe especially when His children struggle.

Consider what Paul had to say on the subject. Take a minute and read 2 Corinthians 4. Paul, who suffered more than most of us, considered the beatings, imprisonment, exhaustion, and persecution, “momentary, light affliction…” for the privilege of knowing Christ. Wow.

God doesn’t want us to love Him because He can make us comfortable. God wants us to love Him because HE IS. And God wants to reveal Himself through each of us in a way that will draw people to Him. Is how you are going through those devastating circumstances making people want God in their lives, too?

I’m sure we all know people who are living this truth. I have a friend whose husband was paralyzed years ago in a motorcycle accident. The faith and love of God in this couple is powerful. I have another friend whose husband had a debilitating stroke a year ago. She shines Jesus every day. There is a blogger friend of mine who has lived with ALS for 20 years. He continues to minister to people all over the world in Jesus’ name. Real life people, struggling in this lifetime, and still allowing God to use them for His glory.

Are you struggling? I pray you can embrace the struggle. James tells us to consider it joy when we face trials. Can you do that? Understand that God wants to show off in our circumstances. He wants everyone around you to see His strength and power and love through you. What we are facing is momentary and light if we know Jesus as our Savior. Because we have an eternity with God to look forward to.

And we have the privilege of being His light to a very dark world. Even in our struggles. What are you willing to endure for His sake? What was Jesus willing to endure for yours?