Tag Archives: struggles

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.

January 25; Broken and Healed

Genesis 31-32

Jacob reminds me of a new Christian. He wanted to obey God and did on occasion. But there was enough of the old Jacob still in him that sometimes he made rash decisions, and really bad choices.

Like running away from Laban. Hadn’t God told him to go, that He would be with him? Yet Jacob packed up and snuck out like a thief in the night.

God told Jacob He would be with him, yet without consulting God Jacob sent one peace offering to Esau, then another, and another. He divided his entourage and figured Esau would only be able to destroy half of them that way.

Did you forget, Jacob? God said He’d be with you. Esau has no power over God. Dividing your stuff might make you feel in control, or self-sufficient, or that somehow you are giving God a hand. But you are wasting your time.

So here is Jacob, torn between trusting and obeying God, and the need to do things his own way (like he’d always done). It’s hard for most of us to let go of the wheel.

Jacob laid down to get some sleep, but ended up wrestling all night. A man – was it an incarnation of Jesus or an angel? – attacked Jacob and physically wrestled with him for hours. Tossing, lunging, pinning, grasping, knocking each other down, and rolling around in the dirt all night!

The result? Jacob got a name change. He had seen God and didn’t die. Warren Wiersbe says, “Jacob was broken to be healed, and weakened to be strengthened.” (With The Word, p. 38; Oliver-Nelson Books, Nashville, TN, 1991) Jacob got up from that wrestling match bruised, limping, and strengthened to meet his brother.

I said Jacob reminds me of a new Christian. But he reminds me of me sometimes, too, and I’ve been following Jesus for decades. Sometimes I have my own wrestling matches with God late at night, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling when I should be sleeping, thoughts and doubts and struggles lunging at me, pinning me down, grasping at my heart. I feel like I’ve been rolling around in the dirt trying to get the best of my struggle.

And I am reminded it’s at those times God is breaking me in order to heal me. He is revealing my weakness so He can be my strength.

Oh that I would learn to throw in the towel, to quit fighting a losing battle, and let God have His way in every detail of my life. I wouldn’t feel so beaten up in the morning. I might actually get some peaceful sleep.

And I would be ready to face the challenges of the day, knowing God’s a lot stronger than me or my problems.

January 5; What Is Your Answer?

Job 1-3

Job was the George Bailey of the ancient world. He was “the richest man in town.” Sure, he had wealth. But he was also rich in family, friends, prestige, reputation. He had it all.

And he lost it all.

The book of Job has many lessons for us concerning suffering. Who hasn’t wished at some time or another, that they’d never been born? Life is hard. Loss is painful. And sometimes things happen that we’re convinced we just don’t deserve. Job will have a lot to say about that in the next few days.

But I don’t think suffering is the main theme in this book. If you look at chapter 1, Satan is suggesting that people only worship God when they are blessed by Him; only when the bills are paid, and they get a good report from the doctor. Satan is still suggesting that.

And sadly, we often equate health and wealth with God’s blessings yet today.

Not that God doesn’t sometimes bless us with those things, but I think the main theme in the book of Job is worship. The issue at hand is, “Is God worthy of worshiping even when times are hard and we feel abandoned by Him? Or, is God only worth worshiping on good days?”

You probably know Job’s reaction to the news that his livestock and slaves were gone, and all his children were dead. He heard of one disaster after another, then another, and another. It was too much. He fell to the ground and said these words:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (1:21, emphasis mine)

In the first throws of unimaginable grief, Job praised the Lord. And we will find that…

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (1:22)

I think the main theme of Job is the question, “Is God worth it?” And that’s the question I’d encourage you to answer for yourself today. Does God deserve your worship regardless of your situation or your feelings? Does He deserve your worship when you aren’t getting the answers you think you need? Do you use worship as a bargaining tool to get what you want?

Friend, the truth of the matter is, God deserves our worship for the simple fact that HE IS.

Job won’t be happy about his situation. Job will ask some hard question of God. Job probably didn’t “feel” like worshiping God in the midst of his pain. But in all this Job will not sin, he will not turn His back on God or deny God. Job will worship God despite his circumstances.

And so should we. Because God is worth it. Do you believe that?

What is your answer?

Job 20-21; Zophar, Part 2

Let’s get one thing straight. People die. Godly people die. Ungodly people die. There are godly people who live to a ripe old age, and there are godly people who die young. The same can be said for ungodly people.

Furthermore, no matter what Zophar would have you believe, there are wicked, evil people who are living long lives of luxurious, seemingly carefree lives, while there are godly people without homes or food. The opposite is true as well.

It’s tempting to equate God’s blessings with the things we can see. I will say God blessed me with a career for 37 years which has allowed me to live comfortably in my aging years. God has blessed me with good health, a loving family, a precious church fellowship. The sun is shining today. The sky is blue. And I have eyes that can see it all.

I could go on. But you get the picture. Some of the blessings I enjoy today come as a result of choices I made along the way. I don’t apologize for that or feel guilty because someone else made different choices. But I clearly know nothing I have, no blessing that I’ve been given is deserved. God doesn’t owe me a good life.

In fact, if I did get what I deserve, I would be one miserable lady.

I guess as I read the conversations between Job and his friends, I am reminded that it is useless to try to explain why things happen in this life. I mean, I can say the reason someone gets lung cancer is because he smoked for forty years. But then how do I explain the one who gets lung cancer and never smoked?

Here’s what struck me as I read Zophar’s second speech and Job’s reply: If I really thought only ungodly people receive devastating doctor’s reports, why am I not stopping everyone from undergoing chemo, and instead get them to accept Jesus? Why don’t I pray with all the homeless people I see so God will give them houses?

I should be talking to cancer patients and homeless people (and neighbors, co-workers, family members) about Jesus. Not for anything they can see. But because their eternity depends on it.

Zohar was right about one thing. “the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts for a moment.” In light of eternity, the “blessings” people enjoy on this earth are merely a blink of an eye.

Do you believe that? Regardless of bank accounts, health reports, popularity, or influence, we all will stand before a Holy God one day and give an account for the choices we made while we were enjoying, or struggling with, life on planet Earth. If you know Jesus as your Savior, that’s all God will need to know. Account paid. Good job, dear one. Let the party begin.

But if your choices haven’t included asking God to forgive you, and accepting what Jesus did for you when He died on the cross, you’re on your own. Good luck trying to defend yourself before a Holy God. Do you honestly think you’ll match up? Really?

Let’s not get bogged down by things we can see. Let’s not waste time trying to understand God’s ways. His ways are not like ours. But let’s look at the true, and eternal blessing that comes from knowing Him personally. And let’s makes sure others know how they can be blessed in the same way.

 

Jan 8 – A Statement Of Faith

Job 17-20

Job is feeling insignificant, like what he is saying and experiencing isn’t important. His hopes and dreams are lost, and his friends seem to only want to explain it away. Job tells them there isn’t a wise man among them. (I smile)

In chapter 19 Job says even if he is suffering consequences for doing something wrong, like his friends suggest, “my error lodges with me.” Then he continues to try to explain to his friends what he is experiencing and feeling in the moment. I can almost hear him plead, “Just hear me.”

But then Job gives a powerful statement of faith, beginning in 19:25:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!

Once again this man of God acknowledges that God is alive and well, and one day Job assures his friends he will see God. Job is absolutely sure that this life is just the opening act, that the heart of the matter lies beyond the grave.

And Job trusts God even during this difficult and confusing time of life. My prayer is that you, too, have the same resolve. Even if you never get the answers you think you deserve during this lifetime, I pray the thought of seeing your Redeemer face to face causes your heart to faint within you, too. I know for myself, just thinking about looking into Jesus’ eyes brings joy and anticipation.

And in a very real way, the promise of being in the presence of the One who loved me and gave Himself for me, makes the cares of this life a bit more bearable, a bit less consuming.

I know that my Redeemer lives!

 

Can You Hear Me? Can You Hear Me Now?

I thought that ad for a cellular company several years ago was a clever one. That phrase was everywhere for a while.

Who of us has never picked up a microphone and said, “Testing. Testing”?

The Bible speaks a lot about testing. Joseph tested his brothers before revealing himself to them in Egypt. (Gen 43-45) Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and walk to him, testing Peter’s faith. (Matt 14) Psalm 11 tells us God’s “eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous…”

Why so much testing? (I sound like an Ohio public school teacher… and I was) Does God depend on the results of his tests to know where we stand with him?

That’s ridiculous. God already knows our hearts.

Testing, for us, has become about the test-giver. Results tell the DMV who is ready to drive a car. A math test is given so the teacher can assign a grade. But more than that, testing reveals to the test-taker what they know and how much more they can learn.

When God tests the righteous, it’s so we can know where we stand, we can identify our weaknesses, go to him and confess sin.

Do you feel you are undergoing a test from God himself? Maybe God is showing you a strength you didn’t know you had, or a weakness he’s able to strengthen, or a sin you need to confess. Maybe he wants you to know that you really do have faith in him, that you can do all things through Jesus, that you are more than a conqueror, that his promises are true.

No testing is pleasant. But the results can be life changing. Joseph discovered his brothers had truly changed in the years since they sold him into slavery. His brothers learned that they really could be faithful to their father. All of Jacob’s family learned that God can bring about good from anything Satan tries to use for evil. Peter learned he did have faith in Jesus and could walk on water in a storm. He also learned his faith wasn’t perfect.

So, what have you learned through your own times of testing?

Father, I hate tests. I hated taking tests and, as the person in charge of state testing in the middle school where I worked, I hated giving tests. So it feels kind of weird to thank you for the tests you throw my way. May I accept each test as a gift from you to encourage me, to prompt me to action, to learn more about you and walk closer to you. And, yes, may I thank you for testing me so I can know where I stand. May I use the results of those test to allow you to mold me into the woman you would have me be.

Stormy Seas

I’ve never been in a storm at sea. I don’t even want to imagine the fear of being that exposed to danger out there surrounded by water miles deep. I’ve never been in a tropical storm or lived through a tornado. In fact, there have been only a few times I’ve even come close.

But as I read about the terror the passengers and crew experienced in the ship carrying Paul to Rome, I can relate. (Acts 27) Not because I’ve been there, but because I know to an extent, what it’s like to face storms of life.

Getting laid off from my job, Mom’s cancer, financial struggles, my sister’s cancer, my nephew Geoff’s death, Dad’s death. I can’t hold my storms up next to anyone else’s and say mine were harder or that mine were less significant. I only know there have been times that I felt hopeless and lost, when I found it hard to breathe, when fear of the future (or present) caused me sleepless nights.

The account of Paul’s storm at sea reminds me that, no matter how bad the circumstances, no matter how hopeless the future appears, when I am tossed about and can’t find the sun, God is standing next to me.

My only hope is to stay in the boat, holding on to my Savior, riding out the storm together. In this account in the book of Acts, God didn’t calm the storm. But the people on board made it safely to shore. This tells me that my circumstances might not change. The cancer diagnosis might not be a mistake. A broken relationship might not heal. Whatever the cause of my anxiety, depression, fear, might not magically disappear.

But God can see me safely to the other side. I can trust him. And I will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Presence. You are stronger than any storm I have to face. And I find comfort in knowing that… knowing You. I pray for those reading this today who are being bounced around in a frightening storm. I pray your strength, your comfort, your direction will be evident in the midst. I pray they will hold on, that they will trust you to see them through. Thank you in advance for what you are going to do in the lives of those of us who are facing stormy seas.