Tag Archives: hard times

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 care 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?

 

March 23; Make It Count

Psalm 90; Deuteronomy 32

What are you doing today? Myself, I am cleaning my house. My nephew and his sweet family are coming for a visit next week. So today I’ll be scrubbing floors, cleaning bathrooms, changing sheets, and dusting about an inch of dust from my shelves. If my back makes it through today, I’m gonna sleep pretty good tonight!

So, what are your plans? What did you do yesterday? I trust you plan to go to church tomorrow. What about tomorrow afternoon? How are you going to fill your day?

Reading Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90 and his song in Deuteronomy 32, I am challenged to make today count. Moses doesn’t sugar-coat it. Life is not easy. Death is inevitable.

The length of your days is seventy years – eighty if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. (Psalm 90:10)

I’m closer to that “span” than I care to admit. Oh, I’m reminded every day I’ve put a lot of miles on this body the past six decades. But my mind is a bit slower to accept the fact I am no longer young. Years have gone by without me even realizing it. Then I read what Moses says in verse 12:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

He didn’t say number our years. Number our days. Every day. I’ve heard it said we should learn to live in the moment. I kind of think that’s what Moses is talking about here. Every day counts for something. God is working in our lives every day. Why would we want to miss seeing that? There must be wisdom in recognizing the importance of each and every day.

Moses tells us life is full of trouble and sorrow. But he also says:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (verse 14)

ALL our days. Not just the days of our youth. Not just the good days. All of them.

Listen to the next verse:

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.

Doesn’t that seem like an odd request? Make us glad for the bad times? Does Moses suggest we be glad when we struggle, when we hurt, when we are beat up and exhausted? Why would he say that?

May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. (verse 16)

I bet you know what he’s talking about. Those times when you were hurting, and at the end of your ropes, feeling hopeless and lost. Then God shows Himself in that amazingly personal way of His. Or when you were going through that difficult situation, but continued to be filled with the joy of the Lord. What did your experience say to your children about God?

Moses reminds us to be thankful for the opportunity to let God show off through our circumstances. When we are weak, He is strong. The battle is the Lord’s. He promises to never leave or forsake us. And we can know that He does all things well.

God has given us this day, March 23, 2019. We are not promised tomorrow. Let’s determine to make today count for eternity.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands. (verse 17)

 

 

January 21; Something Amazing

Genesis 22-24

I’m going out on a limb here. Scripture doesn’t tell us what Abraham was thinking as he and Isaac made their way up the mountain where God had ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son. Was Abraham sad, resentful, confused, panicked? We don’t know for sure.

Except there is a bit of a hint into Abraham’s heart. At some point, Abraham told his servants to stay put, that he and Isaac were going ahead to make the sacrifice, then “we will come back to you.” (21:5) It sounds like Abraham fully intended to sacrifice his son, then return with his son.

So here’s the limb I’m speaking from today. I wonder, as Abraham and Isaac were heading for the mountain, with all the emotions flooding Abraham’s soul, was there a bit of excitement and anticipation?

Here’s what we know: 1) God promised Isaac would be the father of a great many people, 2) At this point Isaac had zero children, 3) Abraham believed God.

I’m sure Abraham had no idea how God was going to accomplish this. But I think Abraham might have been excited to see God do His thing. Would God raise a dead Isaac to life right in front of his eyes? Would Isaac be sacrificed and somehow not die? Abraham couldn’t be sure about the details. But Abraham was sure he’d be taking a living Isaac home with him when all was said and done. (my thoughts only. Scripture does not say)

Sometimes God asks us to do the impossible. Some of you are going through very tough, impossible circumstances, and God is asking you to trust Him. God might be nudging some of you to change careers, teach a Sunday School class, report a crime, take a stand, and you think it’s too much. He might as well be asking you to sacrifice your only son.

Here’s what I think God would have us consider today: be excited, knowing you are about to see God do something amazing. You can’t see how. But, doesn’t Scripture tell us ALL things work together for the good of those who love God? (Romans 8:28)

ALL things?

What about the debilitating stroke the husband of my friend had last summer? What about the cancer diagnosis another friend has received the second year in a row? What about an unfaithful spouse, or a wayward child, or the loss of income, or the death of a loved one? How can any of that come out for the good?

I don’t know.

But God said it, and if you are His child you can trust it. ALL things.

If you are going through a difficult situation, I’m not going to tell you how to feel. Well, maybe I am. Go ahead and feel afraid, or angry, or hurt, or whatever you have to feel. That’s between you and God.

But here’s my challenge: in the midst of it all, allow yourself to be excited, too. Because you are in a position to see God do something truly amazing.

Heavenly Father, I want to pray for any who are reading this today who are facing those tough situations. I pray for hurting people, people who are mourning the loss of a loved one, people who are sick, weary, alone, afraid. I pray that they will look to You, look forward to whatever it is You are going to do in their trial, because Your Word tells us You work out everything for the good of those who love You. I pray that, even while carrying their burden, they will look forward with excitement, knowing You are going to do something amazing in their lives.