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trials-900x420Sometimes, life gets tough. Maybe you can relate.

The hard stuff life throws at us can be confusing, blinding, and disabling. Physical, financial, emotional, relational, or any number of issues can wear on our faith and leave us feeling raw. During times of suffering it’s easy to believe lies about God, so it’s helpful to be reminded of what is true.

Below are 5 lies you might be tempted to believe when experiencing trials:

Lie #1: God is mad at me.

After an extended period of hardship, you might think God is angry with you. You might even believe He’d rather not have anything to do with you. This isn’t true. God always desires a relationship with you.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”  ~ Psalm 103:8

We all make mistakes. More than any other person, God understands your weaknesses. He knows the mountains you’re scaling. Even more than you do, He knows how difficult these obstacles are for you and precisely the reasons why. He is a compassionate, faithful Father whose love is unconditionalwhich means He loves you all the time no matter what. He doesn’t turn His back on you and leave you to deal with these hardships alone – even the ones you bring on yourself.

 

Lie #2: I’ve done something to deserve this.

Similar to #1, this lie stems from the belief that you are being punished. There are times when the suffering we experience is a result of cause and effect as we are faced with the result of our own actions. Other times, bad stuff simply happens. God is not capable of evil, so whatever it is, God will use it for goodeven if it doesn’t feel good right now. Be encouraged! Pain always has a purpose. If you allow it, God will use the trial to grow you in Christ-likeness, will use it for His glory, and even the benefit of others.

If you’ve sinned, be assured that even then, God always forgives. You only need ask. Once you do, know that it’s over and forgotten. He’s not going to hang your sin over your head and remind you of it. Here’s what he does instead:

“Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!”  ~ Micah 7:19

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”  ~ Psalm 103:12

 

Lie#3: God is tired of me asking.

When we have askedeven pleadedfor something and He hasn’t given it to us, it’s helpful to remember that God is all-powerful and has unlimited resources. He could give us everything we ask for, but he doesn’t. Being a good Father, He knows what to give us and when. He knows whether it’s better to delay or not to give it at all. He is for you and only after your good. He knows better than you do what you need. God’s delay is often because He knows whatever you’re asking for isn’t good for you, or He wishes to give you something better, or He is growing a kind of beauty in you that wouldn’t otherwise flourish. Delays also make room for miraculous spectacles of God’s power. Your prayers are always heard. And they are always answered, but not always in the way you anticipate.

I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain.  ~ Charles Spurgeon

4. God has forgotten about me.

When your prayers go unanswered, you might think God has given up on you, He won’t help you, or that He just doesn’t care. In such times, it’s easy to lose heart. But God has said, 

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  ~ Hebrews 13:5

Don’t sell God short. His love is limitless and unfailing. He isn’t like some earthly fathers who leave or lose touch with their kids. Jesus said,

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:18

So if your prayers have yet to be answered, trust that God is doing something else. He sees the big picture; you only see a fragment. You may not understandand may never know why it happenedbut that’s where your faith is refined; when you can continue to walk with God without knowing where you’re going or why. Just trust and be lead.

 

#5 I’m not worth it.

Oh, but you are! Jesus died for you. That says it all. He was thinking of you as He suffered to save you. He not only wanted to give you life in eternity with Him, He wanted to offer you a relationship with His Father in the here and now. In understanding this, and declaring Him as your Saviour, you are His and He is yoursforever. Nothing can take His love from you.

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  ~ Romans 8:39

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”  ~ Ephesians 1:13-14

You are loved by the God of all creation. You matter! Be assured, He is with you and will never leave you!

Here are some parting verses of encouragement:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

~ 1 Peter 5:6-10

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  1. The enemy specializes at sneaking in during times of trauma and offering lies to undermine God, our thought life, and, ultimately, our faith. Can you think of a time of suffering when you may have agreed with a lie about God’s faithfulness?
  2. Ask God to show you any other lies you may believe about Him.
  3. Look to scripture for verses that give the truth to oppose the lies. Pray to ask forgiveness for believing them, and ask for God’s help to remain free from them in your thought life.
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My mom always taught us that if we were visiting somewhere, it was polite to leave the place better than we found it. That meant pretty much spotless. It’s a decent principle to live by, and, surprisingly enough, it transfers to many areas in life.

I’ve even thought about it this way: we’re visitors to this world that God has entrusted to us. He’s given us family, friends, co-workers – a whole circle of influence – whom we impact (whether we realize it or not) on a daily basis. We have free time to expend on whatever we choose from hobbies to holidays. And though there are many activities we can spend our time and resources on, when our life comes to a close, what will really matter?

It’s easy to get it wrong and think what can I get out of life, or, how can I show others how accomplished I am? But, in the end, it isn’t what you get out of life, or what you take from it, but what you deposit.

We have a choice to leave here better than we found it.

While we can easily leave a place better than we found it, we can also leave a person better than we found them by treating them with love and respect, offering help, or giving a simple compliment. We can contribute to our workplace or colleagues by doing our best work with a positive attitude. We can put aside what we’re doing to play with a child, listen to a teen, or sit with the elderly. We can expend time to help build a better future for a underpriviledged community or a better day for one single human being. We can speak kindnesses instead of insults or criticism.

There are countless ways we can improve the lives of others through selfless acts of kindness. You can probably think of many I haven’t listed. These are things of great beauty and be assured, they matter in eternity. Don’t be fooled; not one of these actions is wasted. And if no one ever notices – if you gather no accolades or awards for doing them – consider yourself blessed. God sees and is pleased.

When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.

Matthew 6:2-4 (Message)

In these ways our actions not only leave this place better than we found it, but we please our Father in heaven while growing in Christ-likeness.

At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler takes inventory of his actions. Take a moment to watch the clip below. What deposits will you leave impressed on the lives of others? In what ways could you make a difference?

Watch the ending of Schindler’s List

With God’s help and wisdom, we can wisely choose how we will spend our time and resources so we can leave deposits of beauty that may touch a life, a generation to come, or eternity.

May you leave this place, even this very day, better than you found it. 

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  1. Choose one activity today and use it to make a difference. It can be as simple as a smile to a stranger, buying a coffee for the next person in line, or providing a listening ear. Pick some way to begin to make a difference to someone and leave this place better than you found it.

This past June, my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. To be honest, it feels like we packed everything that is supposed to occur in a lifetime of marriage into these first 25 years! Even my husband said the next twenty-five could stand to be a bit less exciting.

For this post, I decided to share a few things I have learned so far. Maybe you can relate to a few of them…

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  1. The little things matter. Ralph makes me coffee every morning. First thing each day, we sit together in our sun room for an hour and chat, mugs in hand. The occasional day he may leave early, I wake to the aroma of coffee in place of him. When he is away, I miss those morning coffees and joke that it’s a rough day because I had to make my own. Little things strung together make big things. Little things show love and create closer bonds and shared memories. Look for little ways to serve and love your spouse.
  2. The little things don’t matter. Sometimes he leaves the toilet seat up, sometimes I don’t screw the toothpaste cap back on, most times he doesn’t wipe the counter, often I leave clothes on the floor. But these don’t really matter. Instead of nit-picking, most of the time, we choose to bear with one another. It’s easy to get too caught up with insignificant things. Instead, try to focus on the positive aspects of your partner and marriage, choosing to celebrate those instead.
  3. Celebrate each other. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Encourage them and support them as they stretch for their dreams. Appreciate your differences and realize that they make you a stronger, more well-rounded couple.
  4.  This too shall pass. Whatever you two are facing right now isn’t permanent. The situation, the problem, whatever the challenge is, won’t look the same in a few weeks, months, or years to come. Be patient. There is no quick fix. If you’re both committed to listening, learning, repenting, forgiving, and growing, there’s a greater chance you’ll be okay. It will get better if you both work at it. Which brings me to my next point…
  5. Nothing stays the same. The years march on…quickly. The kids grow up, we grow older. Appreciate each other now. Put each other first – even before your kids and especially before your parents, friends, hobbies, and work. You’re in it for a lifetime, so take time for each other. Laugh together. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll grow old together.
  6. You aren’t perfect. So why expect your partner to be? Sometimes our expectations are too high. We look at their weaknesses and completely overlook our own. We’re impatient and expect that they should be further along by now. Often, our grace barometer needs adjusting, and so does our attitude. You’re their partner for a reason. Together you take steps toward Christ-likeness and encourage each other along your shared journey.
  7. They aren’t God. Obviously. So don’t put your partner in this place in your life. When Ralph and I were newlyweds I recall being frustrated and disappointed that he wasn’t meeting my every need. I soon realized that I’d made the mistake of expecting Ralph to fill God’s shoes. Of course, the shoes were much too big! Don’t expect your partner to meet all your needs. They won’t and they can’t. It’s an unfair position to be in, and you’ll end up sorely disappointed. They can never be your all. They will never complete you. Only God can meet all your needs and provide all your joy and peace. You’ve been gifted with this person to share your life with, but keep God in top priority, not your spouse.
  8. Fight for each other, not with each other. You each came into this marriage with baggage. Help each other carry it and by and by, it will get lighter. You don’t fix each other – that’s God’s job – but you persevere. You courageously face the struggles head-on, dealing with them until they lose and your marriage wins.
  9. Pray with each other. Try to find a time each day to pray together. It keeps you humble and connected. Plus, together you are a powerhouse against the enemy – a formidable force to be reckoned with!
  10. Love. I mean, really love. There is nothing like marriage to make you learn to truly love. It’s hard work. It takes a disciplined effort. Sometimes we prefer not to try. For the most part, we aren’t good at it. Sometimes we want to give up. The popular culture has distorted love. This is what it should look like:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

1 Corinthians 13

Try putting your name in place of love in the above verse. How did you do?

I’d love to hear some things you’ve learned during your years of marriage so far!

May you love deeply and grow even stronger in your marriage! 

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  1. When you looked at the “love list” above, which ones did you feel needed improvement on your end?
  2. Write them on a piece of paper and purposely choose to work on one area each week.
  3. Ask God to help you on a daily basis. He’s the only One who can give you a generous supply of love.

And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. ~ Isaiah 62:5

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It’s been twenty-five years, and I still remember.

I met you at the rehearsal the day before the wedding. You were the caretaker at the old church downtown. It was a suitable title for you, since even in this you noticed something that needed care.

I was about to walk down the aisle to meet my bridegroom. You were already an elderly gentleman at the time, but you bent to straighten a lengthy mass of fabric and tulle so I would walk down the aisle with a smooth, untwisted train and veil.

I haven’t seen you since. You may have left this world by now, but your thoughtful act remains. Sometimes when I drive by the church I wonder about you and remember your kindness. You, in the background, making sure it all went off just so.

And it strikes me that this small act is a beautiful picture of Christ…the One who bent to straighten the wrinkles in our lives.

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Ephesians 5:25-27

He came to live with us. He helped, healed and showed us what it is to humbly serve. Then He died for us so we could be beautiful on the day we meet Him again. He withstood the cross so we could stand flawless on the day our lives end here.

I’m not sure of all you did on my special day. You may have cleaned and vacuumed the church, straightened a lopsided pew bow, and lit the candles in preparation for the guests. I wouldn’t have noticed whether my train was wrinkled – my groom was waiting at the altar – but I do know that I wouldn’t have managed to straighten it myself.

In the same way, Christ knew we could never manage to smooth out our lives’ wrinkles to be perfect enough to appear before the Lord, so He made a way. His sacrifice set us free and made us holy so we can personally commune with God. He reached out and lovingly, tenderly straightened our veils so we would be perfect.

As I walked down the aisle, I noticed my groom’s face. It was a mixture of pride and happiness. There were tears of joy in his eyes. This too is a picture of how much we are loved by God. He tells us:

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” 

Isaiah 62:5

I’m not sure how many brides’ trains you straightened over the years, but know your kind gesture made a difference.

May you know the love of Christ and be reminded how How rejoices over you!

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