The Silver Lining of Suffering

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thes. 5:18, NIV)

It is easy to fixate on difficulties and disappointments in life. In fact, anyone can point out problems and things that are far from perfect. It takes a unique person to stare heartache in the face and not be overcome with negativity. But those who choose to find the silver lining of suffering will be far more content than those who see only the storm.

In arduous seasons, don’t squander your time focusing on the negative. Instead, embrace each moment, especially the difficult ones, as gifts from above. Tribulation can bring unique opportunities to grow, learn and mature. It is when we face affliction that we have incentive to draw closer to Christ.

I am convinced that God allows suffering in our lives because he is more interested in our character than our comfort. While God does not want us to hurt, he knows that adversity can produce in us an end result much greater than where we began. His word says that, “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

When used correctly, trials can purge us of ungodly attitudes and make us more holy. In these times, our relationship with God can be strengthened. Instead of bemoaning your difficult circumstance, ask Christ to help you make the most of this unique opportunity.

Are you facing difficulties today? It could be just what you need to draw you closer to Christ. Remember, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8, ESV)

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Panic

Even with those hooks aptly placed by the front door, I tend to misplace my keys on a regular basis. Although, now with four drivers in the house, even if the keys make it to the hooks, there is no guarantee that they will be there when I am ready to walk out the door. It is always when I am already running late that those pesky keys aren’t where they should be. I check my purse, my tote, my desk, my coat without finding them. Then I frantically ask the girls to check their bags, jackets, and rooms. In that moment when my keys are nowhere to be found, I panic! Have you ever experienced this, or is it just me running around like a chicken without a head?

“God is never in a panic, nothing can be done that he is not absolute master of, and no one on earth or heaven can shut a door he has opened, nor open a door he has shut. God alters the inevitable when we get in touch with him. (Oswald Chambers 1874-1917)

God is never in a panic! What a comforting thought. Unfortunately, I am no stranger to panic! So often, when my circumstances aren’t what I would like for them to be or if there are just too many “what if’s”, panic sneaks up on me and enters my heart and mind. Before I know it, panic has unpacked its bags, as if it’s planning to stay for a while. In those times, I begin to ask questions: “What will I do?, How will I work that out? How can I possible solve that problem or fix that situation?” When there is not enough money, I panic. When my kids are making bad decisions, I panic. When things just don’t go my way, I panic. Yet God does not panic and neither should we. If we put our trust in The Lord, panic should be a stranger to us.

God’s word is full of promises of comfort. The psalmist tells us to, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22, NLT) God says through the prophet Isaiah, “‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10, NASB) In Romans, Paul encourages us with these words, “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.” (Romans 8:28, NIV) As we seek God and nourish our hearts and minds by reading His Word we discover that there is no need to panic. God is in control and He is taking care of the details. All we have to do is trust Him.

What situation are you facing today that ushers panic into your heart and mind? Instead of welcoming panic, shut the door on it by choosing to believe God’s many promises in His Word.

The Path to Peace

God’s word promises us perfect peace. What a wonderful promise! I’m sure we would all enjoy a little peace! But his promise comes with some small print. God’s Peace is contingent on our focus. We must remain focused on God in order to enjoy peace. When we begin to focus on our circumstances, peace is likely to fade. In order to enjoy God’s peace, we must make a conscious decision to choose to focus on Him rather than on the chaos that surrounds us. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Just this week I have had a number of experiences that via for my attention and emotions. Each one, a problem or situation that needs immediate attention. It is so easy to become fixated on these issues and allow them to captivate my mind. When I choose to focus on them, my breathing constricts and I can feel my blood pressure rise, I become tense and unsettled. As I live in turmoil, God patiently stands beside me offering me the gift of his peace. When I focus on God, knowing he is all powerful and that he loves me, I can rest assured that he is working for my good in all circumstances. It seems silly that I would rather worry than actually discipline myself to take my thoughts captive and focus on the Lord, yet that is how many of us choose to live.

Isaiah says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. ” (Isaiah 26:3, NASB) In Proverbs we are reminded, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, )

The walk of faith tells us that God is on our side. He will bring good out of all circumstances that happen in the lives of those who love him. Coupled with logic that tells us it is better to peacefully trust God rather than live in anguish, it is surprising that we don’t all choose to focus on God and enjoy his gift of peace.

What anxiety do you have today that could be resolved by simply shifting your focus? Why not choose to focus on God and enjoy his peace?

Peace in Difficult Circumstances

I write a lot about having peace in the midst of life’s storms and the value of suffering. From time to time, so that my words are not hollow, God gives me the opportunity to practice what I preach. Just so you know, I don’t enjoy the school of trials and suffering anymore than you do. I am convinced however, that through difficult circumstances we have the opportunity to draw near to God, to learn from him and to invite him to be our solution in our distress.

The reality that I am powerless to control the world around me is strikingly evident today. As circumstances around me are not what I would like them to be and no matter how much I desire to change them, that change is not dependent on me, but on others. The only power that I have to make effective change in my circumstances is through prayer. Prayer brings my petition to the ear of my father God and prayer changes attitudes and circumstances in a way that I, personally, could never do.

I was reminded of a powerful prayer as I read from 1 Kings. Solomon had built the temple and as he dedicated it to God, he prayed, “The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers.

Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, – 1 Kings 8:57-59

King Solomon knew that prayer was the key element in sustaining God’s people. His words, spoken thousands of years ago are powerful and as pertinent today as they were at the temple dedication. As I face the trials that life brings my way, I glean from Solomon’s Prayer and paraphras, “Lord be with me and my family, do not leave us nor forget about us. Turn our hearts to you and give us the desire to live according to your guidelines for life. Help us to keep your commandments, laws and rules which you established. Hear my prayer, may you hear it over and over even when I am no longer praying, may you remember my plea and sustain me and my family each day. Amen!”

I don’t know what difficulties you face today, but I do know that God has the answer and wants to help you. Will you invite him to help you today by reach out to him in prayer?

Learning to Walk

I should have known from an early age that our daughter was extremely creative. As a baby she would barrel roll across the floor to get from one side of the room to the other. As she started to crawl, she used one knee and one foot. She always had to be different. By the time our second daughter came along we lived in Mexico and frequently had scorpions in the house. We bought her a walker to keep her off of the floor. She raced full speed backwards chasing her sister through our apartment. Number three, had a play disk. She was so strong that she would pull the toys out of the tray and wave them around. Our youngest girl took her first step and first walk simultaneously. We were sitting in the living room floor and she stood up. The next thing I knew she walked across the room to me. It was such a surprise!

I was reminded of this today when I read the following quote from a devotional entitled: 30 Days to Authentic Christian Leadership.

“…the only way to achieve excellence is through repeated failures.” Bill Perkins

Learning to walk is no easy task and yet, it is something that all of us have mastered.

When a baby learns to walk they do it in their own style. Some get their balance quite easily, others take a little longer. But along the way they all fall several times before mastering the skill.

Learning to walk is symbolic of life. Over the years we will no doubt have a few bumped heads and skinned knees, but these little failures are part of the journey to success.

In the Bible, there are several examples of people who at first glance failed but eventually, with the help of God redeemed themselves. Remember Peter, Sampson, Thomas, and King David.

If you are discouraged by the bumps in the road and you are uncertain if you will ever successfully walk you life’s path, just remember Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJV) And take a lesson from all of God’s people. Learning to walk is always accompanied by a number of falls. So dust yourself off, ask for the Lord’s help and then try again.

How do you invest your time?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Is life dishing out more than you can handle? Are your days full or do you never seem to get everything on your todo list accomplished? Is today’s list longer than yesterday’s and yesterday’s list longer than the list the day before?

It may seem counter productive to stop what you are doing and spend time alone with God. But time in God’s presence is the exactly remedy for your situation.

Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NLT)

When we stop, and spend time with God, He takes the weight of our circumstances and transfers it to his arms, leaving us to feel lighter and able. When we choose to spend time with Jesus, we actually have more time and energy to accomplish other things.

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? Why not spend a few minutes in prayer, reading your bible or quietly alone with God. I think you will find it a worthwhile investment.

Where is God in the Storm?

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.

And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. – Matthew 8:23-26

Does God lead us into the storm? According to scripture, he does!

When life dishes out more than we bargained for and difficulties come crashing upon us like the waves of the sea. It is easy to believe that God has forgotten us. When our world is in turmoil and we don’t know what to do. It is easy to believe that Jesus doesn’t care.

Just like the disciples, who after following God onto the boat, experienced a life threatening storm, sometimes we experience circumstances that make us doubt our survival. When we focus on the waves of circumstance we become fearful. When we look to God, he is neither shocked, nor upset. In fact, he is often peacefully resting as we run frantically back and fourth trying to keep our heads above water.

There are two lessons to learn from the above passage. The first is from the disciples; In times of difficulty we must learn from the disciples example and run to Jesus for help. We too must cry, “Save us Lord, we are perishing.” Beyond this we must learn to rest in our sovereign Lord’s control of the situation. Jesus was not scared nor worried when the waves were crashing around the boat. Instead he was peacefully sleeping, being rocked back and fourth by the waves. Jesus’s peace did not demonstrate a lack of concern for the well being of the disciples. On the contrary, it peacefully demonstrated his complete control of the situation. As soon as the disciples came to Jesus, he stood and rebuked the storm and immediately there was peace!

Often times we seek refuge from our storms in a number of places before coming to Jesus, but if we will simply come to Him, we will find that he is more than capable of calming our circumstances and our fears.