Tag Archives: hardship

August 14; What’s Fair?

Ezekiel 17:1-19:14, 20:1-29

When bad things happen, the temptation is there to think, “That’s not fair,” “Why that person?” “Why me?” People have been known to shake their fists at God when they think they don’t deserve whatever hardship has come their way, when they think He’s not being fair.

Ezekiel will tell us things in this life aren’t fair – because WE are not fair. In reality, God is the only fair one around.

Let me ask you this: What would your requirements be for someone to be able to live a trouble-free life? Think about it. Maybe jot down the things a person would have to believe or do in order to get a free pass on problems.

Ask a friend or your spouse to make their own list. Put that challenge out to your co-workers, your Sunday School class, your HOA:

“Everybody, write down what you believe should be required for a person to be able to avoid disease, heartache, and tragedy. What are the things that ought to result in happiness?”

I would venture to say the odds of getting the exact same list from the majority are pretty slim. I’d be surprised if two people had the exact same requirements listed. How fair would it be for any one of you to determine how a person should live in order to escape hardship? We all have different ideas of what is fair.

Now, let’s ask people in a remote African village what they think about your list. Would it be fair to expect them, or a homeless person, or a Guatemalan refugee to follow your rules? How likely are they to go to church regularly, or give generously to charities, or volunteer at soup kitchens? You would be unfair to expect them to adopt a rescue puppy, or to coach their kid’s soccer team in order to escape hardship.

Here are God’s requirements for living a trouble-free life: THERE ARE NONE. He makes it clear that as long as there is sin in the world, bad things happen. So God defined sin for us so that we would know that all of us have sinned.  He set forth a plan that is the same for you as it is for me or the people in that African tribe.  He provided one way of cleansing sin, through the blood of the Savior Jesus Christ. And He promises to be with His children and help us navigate through this life until we get home. Where, by the way, we will live that trouble-free life we’re looking for.

God’s plan is fair because it has nothing to do with our middle class American values, or a world-view of tolerance and acceptance. It has nothing to do with church attendance, or cash flow. God’s plan is fair because it has everything to do with HIM.

I don’t think it’s a sin necessarily to ask God, “Why?” when bad things happen. I just think it’s a waste of time. The answer is pretty clear. If we think God owes us a good life just because we are good people, we are in for a world of hurt. Because none of us are all that good.

So, what’s fair? There is only one answer to that question. God is fair. Period.

January 6; If It Were Me…

Job 4-7

Eliphaz meant well. He’d traveled some distance to be with his hurting friend. He sat with Job in silence for a whole week. To me, that is a sign of real friendship.

But, like most of us, Eliphaz got to the point where he wanted to fix things. Maybe he was uncomfortable himself in the presence of such intense grief. Maybe he just wanted to make Job feel better. “Ok, Job. You’ve cried about this long enough. Let’s figure this thing out and do something.”

Whatever his motive, once Eliphaz started talking, he was little comfort to his friend. Maybe there is something we can learn from his example.

Like rethinking the blame game. Eliphaz, in effect, says, “Face it, Job, you deserve this.” Then if that isn’t bad enough, he follows that with the ever popular: “If I were you…

Actually, he said, “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.” (5:8 emphasis mine)

Here’s the thing: when we know of people going through hard situations, examining ourselves is not a bad thing to do. Asking myself what I might do in a similar circumstance reveals some important things about me.

BUT YOU DON’T SHARE YOUR FINDING WITH YOUR HURTING FRIEND.

Because you are you. Your friend is your friend. Your circumstances are yours. Their circumstances are theirs. Besides, you DON’T know what you would do. Not really. Not even if you’ve experienced something similar. You are not them. What worked for you might not work for them.

You telling them what you would do elevates you, and further pushes them into their already hopeless estate. I can’t believe any of us would want to do that to someone who is already in that much pain. Even if they ask you what you would do, or ask what you think they should do, resist the temptation to tell them.

I find that saying something like, “I don’t know,” is sometimes the only truthful answer. “What do you think you should do?” is a much better response. Or, even better: “Let’s pray and ask God to show you what you should do.”

Eliphaz and his friends are going to have a bucket full of advice for Job. And really, none of it is all that good. But let’s read their words and learn to be better comforters, better counselors, better friends to people who are hurting.

If it were me, I’d learn from their mistakes. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

 

 

September 14 – It’s Kinda Hot In Here

Daniel 1-3

I have a friend from High School who had her second surgery yesterday to remove a tumor wrapped around her spine. Another friend was born with malformed blood vessels in her jaw, resulting in a deformed face and constant ringing in her ears. Yet another friend has a husband fighting for his life, one friend battling an eating disorder, still another recovering from a brutal beating outside his place of business. I know of someone who is belittled and challenged every day by a boss who hates Christianity and Christians.

Health, finances, relationships, prejudice, can make us feel as though we are walking through fire. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It hurts. And sometimes it feels as if there is no way out.

God could have blown out that fire before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into it. But He didn’t. Instead, He got right in that fire with them, protected them, until they came out whole.

The fires in our lives might not magically disappear. We might actually have to walk through them until Christ is revealed, and He brings us out on the other side.

Everyone walks through a fire or two in a lifetime. What a comfort it is to know we don’t have to walk alone. Jesus is right there by our side in the heat of it all. I pray that at those times, you will recognize His Presence, lean on His strength, and trust Him to get you through it as only He can.

I’m praying for you who are living in a fiery furnace today.

Peace!

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. (John16:33)

I am a child of the 60’s, a Baby Boomer, raised in the era of hippies, the Beatles, and ‘All We Need Is Love’. A common greeting back in the day was, “Peace”. Our country was at war, and it wasn’t a popular war for many. You saw the word ‘peace’ or its symbol on the sides of buildings, on book bags and necklaces, and on t-shirts. It was everywhere.

People longed for peace and looked for it in drugs, in sex, in throwing out the rules, in themselves, and in Eastern religions. But the 60’s were far less than peaceful.

Jesus said his words were spoken so that in him we could know what real peace is all about. A person might calm themselves, find their ‘center’, repeat a mantra to experience a form of peace. But the source of true peace can only be found in knowing Jesus.

Life is hard. Things aren’t always fair. Bad things happen. And Satan is attacking. But Jesus tells us to cheer up. You see, he has overcome the world! And those of us who stand with him stand on the winning side.

Peace in the midst of a storm. Peace when the doctor’s report is devastating. Peace when the career hits the skids. Peace when a relationship crumbles. Peace that has nothing to do with circumstances, and everything to do with Jesus.

A peace beyond the world’s understanding.

Peace.

December 6

Romans 8:18-11:10

My nephew, Geoff, would have been 24 today had he not lost control of his truck that June Sunday and lost his life. Our family would have gathered at his mom’s house, had cake and sung Happy Birthday. Instead we will gather at his grave and remember.

When I read Paul’s words, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”, and “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”, I believe it. But believing it doesn’t mean I don’t hurt.

I hold on to Romans 8:26&27. The Spirit has helped me in my weakness. There are days when I don’t know how to pray. But the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with groans words cannot express. I love him for that. Talk about someone who has my back.

If God is for me, who can be against me?

In him we are more than conquerors.

These aren’t just words. They are truth and I am living proof. What good can come out of Geoff’s death? Were people drawn to the Savior by watching his family? Are there those whose lives have been changed as they see his grieving mom live out her faith? Did Geoff’s sweet spirit, quick laugh, champion of the underdog, reveal his Savior to everyone who knew him?

I’m not sure. But because I believe God’s Word is true, I believe good has and will continue to come out of even this. My prayer its that you will have the same confidence in every circumstance of your own life.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Geoff’s life. I thank you for that quick smile, that hearty laugh, the kindness, compassion, the loyalty that was my nephew. I am so blessed to have been his aunt for those 22 precious years. God, I pray for his mom and dad, his dear sister as they feel his loss most deeply. I pray for cousins, aunts and uncles, his friends, we who are learning to live with broken hearts. I pray that your Holy Spirit will minister to each of us at the point of our need. And may hearts be drawn to you. Thank you for the assurance that Geoff, who knew Jesus as his Savior, is with you today and one day we will see that ornery smile again. May we who know you point others to the Savior as we continue to miss our boy.