Every moment of every day contains both positives and negatives. That’s true of all of us. When you take stock of your life, as a believer, you can rejoice in the many blessings God has provided; salvation, His word, family, shelter, finances, laughter, music, church, safety, spiritual gifts. It’s a long list.
Simultaneously, we all have certain struggles, be they large or small. Perhaps today you are facing family members living through a hurricane; divorce; illness; joblessness; bad decisions, uncertainty. People we care about sometimes blow up their lives. Sometimes we blow up our own lives. Relationships we value go off the rails, and we don’t really know why.
We live in an egocentric universe where, where all too often, we make things all about us. We judge the quality of our life based on our bank account, our possessions, our physical body, and if we are in healthy and meaningful relationships. When we look at the truth of God’s word, though, we see that MANY of the players in the bible – I’d go so far as to say most – went through times of profound struggle and emerged on the other side stronger. They were able to take their struggles and allow God to emerge victorious in those situations.
I’ve had my fair share of struggles in my life. Mine are not worse than yours, just different. It’s taken me a long time to get to the place where I have realized God is ever present in my life – even when I’ve made bad (even horrible!) decisions, been in less than desireable circumstances not of my choosing, or felt far away from God.
Here are some things that are helpful to me.
Putting Things in Perspective
I love the way Pastor Rick Warren says this: we live in a broken world. The weather is broken, the political system is broken, relationships are broken, and WE are BROKEN! This earth, and us, were never made to be perfect and we never will be. But, through Christ, we can still be reconciled to God and, one day, participate in His perfect eternal world if we so desire. No matter what we face here on earth, we are co-heirs with Christ for all eternity.
So what to do? Start praying that God will be glorified through every challenge you face. My next blog will provide an interesting definition of TRUST, and I think it will be helpful in guiding you to a more comprehensive and active definition of trust.
I was reminded last night in small group of the famous business author, Stephen Covey, and his proclamation of “begin with the end in mind.” What is the end? Co-reigning alongside Christ, being reconciled to God for eternity, allowing Him to shine through us here on earth. We get so focused on the struggle of today, that we forget the promise of tomorrow.
Here are some realizations I made in my life over the years that could be helpful:
- Jesus – Begin and end, always, by saying the name of Jesus out loud. There is so much power in His almighty name, because of what He did for us, that the bible tell us “the enemy will flee at the sound of His name!” When I don’t know what else to say, I will cry out using His name and asking for help. I will shout gratitude to Him by proclaiming His Lordship over all. Then, I begin to feel Him taking over my situation – whatever it may be – and working it for good!
- Avoid Comparisons – Do you realize that comparing one situation to another is a form of judgment? We are clearly told not to judge, yet all too often we do just that. We compare illnesses, relationships, struggles, even sin! Even the closely aligned situations will involve different people and circumstances, and we are all unique in how we approach things. Respect what another person is going through, because it’s a big deal to them.
- Pray Scripture – I have some go-to scriptures that really help me in times of trouble. I memorized them so they are at my beck and call in every situations. You probably have some too. I’ll share mine here, but this is not an exhaustive list, it’s just something I find helpful. If you’re not a memorizer, write them out on 3×5 index cards and keep them with you – this is something I still do when I want a particular scripture at my fingertips.
1 Peter 1: 6-7, also 3: 13-14, and 5:12-15 – Trials come so that our faith may be perfected! There is actually a reason we face struggles in our life. Peter compares suffering to purifying gold, where it is exposed to high heat to burn off impurities! What’s left is so much better after the impurities are removed, and so it is with us.
Matthew 8: 26 – Jesus tells us that when we walk in fear, we are not exhibiting strong faith!
Psalm 119 – Stay true to God and his Word no matter how difficult the world becomes. Abiding in God’s word is the way to true happiness. (Sometimes this might cost us.)
Isaiah 43: 1-8, and 54: 1-10 – I find Isaiah to be one of the most powerful books in the bible, I think of it a little like an Old Testament book of Acts. It is so incredibly powerful to see the active involvment of God in our life (as He also made manifest in the early church as portrayed in Acts!), and orchestrating things together for our good. I love these two passages in particular because they were spoken over me prophetically early in this year, so they have deep personal meaning for me. (This is the one about the rising waters will not overtake you, you will walk through the fire and not be burned!)
Jeremiah 29: 11 – You know the one, God is telling Isreal (and us!) of his plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future. God tells us he wants us to seek Him, and He will no hide himself from us. I cannot count the number of times I’ve prayed this out loud and claimed it in my life!
God is with us in everything we go through, even when He may feel far away. I like to remind myself, if I based my faith on my own human emotions, I’d be in trouble! I MUST base my faith on God’s truths, which are plentiful, evident, and easy to grasp.
Enjoy your seasons of growth, even if they might involve suffering. Oh, and don’t forget to Praise Crazy!