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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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The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ~ Deuteronomy 33:27

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A friend of ours has his own carpet cleaning business. Sometimes he posts pictures or videos of the disasters he has to clean up (think flooding from a burst sewage pipe). It helps that he has a sense of humour – wading through fecal matter requires that kind of character and internal fortitude!

How do we respond in the midst of life’s messes? How do we react when the floods come and the water grows murky? It’s easy to buy into the lie that if you are a good Christian, you’ll simply pull on your rubber boots and dance through the dung. Or you may believe the opposite – that it will never get cleaned up. But don’t.

It’s true that swimming in rising water is exhausting, and sometimes circumstances threaten to overwhelm us. People sinning really does hurt. Sickness is daunting. Loosing a loved one can bring us to our knees.

But during, or even after a crisis, take comfort in these:

1. God never leaves you or turns away from you. 

Be strong and courageous, Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you. ~ Deut 31:6

God is not mad at you. He has not turned his back on you. Nothing you can do, or fail to do, will make Him love you any more or less. He is there for you with open arms. You are accepted.

2. No matter where you are or what is happening, God loves you and desires an intimate relationship with you. 

Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear. ~ Isa 65:24

Just knowing God longs to be with us gives us hope and courage. Being with Him reminds you of who you are. And you are loved by Him! Sit with Him and your soul and spirit will be revived and renewed.

3. You can tell God all about it. Your disappointments, your feelings of betrayal, your deep wounds, your broken heart. He knows anyway. He won’t judge; He’ll heal you.

Cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall. ~ Psalm 55:22

God wants to carry your burdens for you. It is not His desire that you struggle alone. So go ahead and pour out your heart to Him. Hand over your heavy weights and grow lighter and more free.

4. He can give you the strength to forgive. 

Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~ Eph 4:32

Forgiveness is tough. It’s a journey. It takes diligent effort. It can’t be done on our own strength without God’s help. When we understand how much we have been forgiven, when we agree with God’s plan for forgiveness, we can accept His help to forgive.

5. It’s never too late. When you turn to God, He will restore and redeem all that you thought was lost.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, our God, will get you out of there…He will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. And you will make a new start, listening obediently to God… ~ Deut 30:3-6

Sometimes we think a circumstance, a situation, a relationship, or our life is beyond broken. Don’t believe it. God can do anything! It may not look the same, may never be the same, but God has a way of restoring lives beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.

6. You can exchange anxiousness for thankfulness.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. ~ Phil 4:6

Try giving thanks in the midst of crisis. Thankfulness doesn’t mean denying that what you are going through doesn’t exist, but rather the proclamation that God is good and there is always something to be grateful for.

7. You will come to deeply understand the goodness of God.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ Psalm 106:1

Those who have walked through crisis, and hung on to their mustard seed faith with whitened knuckles, know beyond a doubt that their God saw them through it and never ceased to help and love them.

8. You will come to live in His abundance. 

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

It’s true, after the crisis, nothing will look the same. The past is gone, but God miraculously makes things new. He heals and helps your heart align with His. Your desires begin to line up with His and you begin to recognize His overflowing goodness and love, even in the midst of the circumstances, but especially when you look back on them.

Don’t give up or give in! These present trials will not remain forever, but you can be sure God’s love for you always will!

I bless you that you will know that God is with you no matter what!

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  1. Which of the above truths resonate most fully with you? Which one the least?
  2. Ask God to help you grow toward greater freedom and understanding in your areas of doubt or struggle.

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.  ~Hebrews 10:10

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When my eldest daughter was eleven, she decided to keep chickens. We took her to our friend’s house in the country to handpick three hens. Along with two healthy-looking ones, she chose a third that had no tail feathers. I asked if she was certain she wanted to buy that one. She assured me she was. Later, when I asked her why she chose that particular hen, she told me she felt sorry for it because it was getting pecked by the others, and she wanted to rescue it.

For a long time, it appeared as if nothing would ever again grow on that chicken’s unsightly, raw back end, but a little over a year later, that hen grew beautiful, full feathers on her formerly exposed derrière. The previous lack of plumage made its unexpected appearance even more beautiful.

There are times when (excuse the upcoming word picture) our lives might look a little like that chicken’s bottom: barren, raw, ugly and seemingly ruined for good. Even though our lives may appear permanently damaged and show no signs of improvement, just like those missing feathers, it too can be made whole and beautiful again. And when it happens you appreciate it even more.

We may look and see barren ruin; God looks and sees room for growth. We may see ugliness; God sees the makings of beauty.

It’s a bit like my daughter peering in the chicken run and intentionally selecting a damaged chicken out of the flock. God looks at the wreckage of our lives and thinks we are worth saving, worth being set apart, and worth nurturing.

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

It’s because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we get a second chance at life – both here and now and in the life to come in heaven.

Even so, as we walk with Him day-to-day, there may be times when we feel barren or come up against a situation that rips out a few “feathers” until we question whether our life will ever bear the resemblance of beauty again. It can be unnerving – even disheartening – to see bald patches, but somehow, despite that we never thought it possible, God takes the ruin and makes beauty once again blossom.

Don’t despair if you life is looking a bit barren. It just might be the fertile ground needed for new growth!

And remember this:

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

May the barren places in your life once again blossom and flourish!

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  1. What is your barren place right now?
  2. Pray with thanksgiving that despite how it appears, God is making beauty even though you cannot see it yet.

 

 

 

Angry at God?

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? …But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6)

Thinking things over

It may have started as an unanswered prayer, a person who hurt you, a baby unborn, or a sickness unhealed. Disillusionment, disappointment and distrust settled in. You might have even turned your back on God, or believed the lie that He had turned His back on you.

Maybe you felt as though God had forgotten you, that your prayers weren’t important enough, or thought, how could a loving God let that happen? 

It may have been only a few days, perhaps a few months, or you may be going on several long years since you started questioning God, but no matter the amount of time, the feeling that God abandoned you in your need can be difficult to shake.

Living life can hurt from time to time. The hurts come in many forms, but whatever form they take, they may cause us to hold a grudge against God – sometimes even to the point that we stop talking to Him.

I once witnessed a woman struggling to forgive a deep wound inflicted by her father in her childhood. When asked if she could forgive him, she shook her head. Then, she was asked if she could forgive God for allowing it to happen. She was able to do so. Only after that could she go on to forgive her father and move toward deeper layers of healing.

Strangely…sometimes we need to forgive God.

I’ve seen people come to a place where they are not only able to accept a past hurt as a part of their unique story, but are able to thank God for what they formerly believed was for their ruin. Then, because of the authority they have gained from their experience, they not only heal, they move on to minister to others, helping them in their struggle. It aids in the fullness of their own healing, and they are thankful when they realize how far they’ve come.

You may never fully understand why the circumstance was allowed in your life, but know that God doesn’t waste a thing.

If you and God haven’t been on speaking terms for a while, could you trust Him enough to take the ashes of your situation and form them into beauty? the tears you have shed into fountains of blessing? the despair you’ve felt into praise? and the heartache and hurt into healing? God says you will be firmly planted and will bring Him glory.  (see Isa 61:3)

No matter how long it’s been, He is still open for conversation, in fact, He’s missed hearing from you. He’s never stopped loving you and cheering for you, longing for the time the two of you would speak again. Trust in His unfailing love for you, rejoice that He has saved you, and know that He has been good to you.

I bless you with the courage to begin the conversation.

 

When you wonder if God is listening…

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” ~ John 11:32

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I’m probably not the only one who has experienced asking God to step in and provide wisdom or rescue from a situation only to have it, not only worsen, but fall apart completely. We wonder why was God silent, why didn’t He offer insight or direction, or why He delayed and let it completely crumble when He was perfectly capable of saving it.

But what if God’s apparent no in that moment was because of a future yes? What if God is sometimes intentionally silent – such as His deliberate delay in saving Lazarus – so He can let whatever it is “die” in order to beautifully resurrect it? What if what we deem most important, what we are desperately trying to resuscitate, is far removed from God’s best, so He allows it to pass away?

In the waiting, we may grow disillusioned and confuse His silence with disinterest. After the loss, we might sulk rather like spoiled children who didn’t get their own way, or even blame God for the calamity. But God is a God of love, and He can’t act against His nature. He is quite content to hold back the good from us in order to proffer His best. He’s got the big picture, we only see a pixel. In the meantime, though it grieves Him (see John 11:35), he can handle our disappointment, our tears of loss and frustration, while He works the miraculous.

What appears indifference is actually an incredibly loving act.

What appears distant unconcern is actually the tip of a blessing for His greater purposes.

You see, it’s in the waiting where the miraculous work of God occurs – both within and without. During the delay, we wrestle, we persevere through the trial, we grow in faith and Christ-like character. Bystanders are witness to His work – and resulting recipients of it – as we share our story and offer comfort to fellow sojourners. All the while, God forms the wreckage into a spectacle of His love and greatness.

He offers this exchange:

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” 

~Isaiah 61:3

The next time you find yourself in the middle of an unanswered prayer, or facing a loss, trust that God is working it for good and His glory. It didn’t slip past His peripheral  view, nor became lost in processing. Trust that though it may not appear it, though it may not unfold the way you asked, His delay always means greater good; He loves you too much to give you everything you ask for, because not everything you think you want is His best for you. In the end, He hears it all. And though perhaps not how you expected, they’re really all answered prayers.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
   As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

~ Isaiah 55:8-9

I bless you with increased trust that God has your life in His care and is intricately involved in every aspect.

He does great things past finding out. ~ Job 9:10

This past weekend, a home school group I work with put on a production of Robin Hood. Like all plays, there are people who work tirelessly in the background to make the magic of theatre happen. I think especially of the stagehands dressed in black, who move silently between the stage and backstage to make sure everything makes it to where it needs to be. If they are good at what they do, no one ever sees them, they merely see the results of what they’ve done: a chair moved onstage here, a tree shifted there.

 

The above verse reminds me that God is always working behind-the-scenes in our lives, whether we notice it or not. It is amazing to think that God is doing “great things” beyond our wisdom and understanding, and sometimes even beyond our ever knowing. Incredibly, He doesn’t do this because of anything we’ve done, He does it because He loves us – a dear Father ensuring all the pieces of our lives are moved appropriately in and out at just the right moment; a loving Dad performing innumerable kindnesses for us, many of which we will never be aware of this side of heaven.

 

If we do happen to recognize His grace, this verse notes we may not be privy to just how He accomplished it. We may never see how He stirred a heart, calmed a storm, thwarted a calamity, or allowed so many other seemingly coincidental events. But, if we do, we are ever grateful.

 

Yet there are times the “great things” He does don’t appear all that great, and it’s challenging to be thankful for what He allowed. But with a smidgen of faith and a mite of courage, we can believe for what we cannot see and know that God is good, even when the shifting and shuffling around of things in our lives may not feel good.

 

Be encouraged. You are intimately loved and cared for by the God of the universe. He doesn’t miss the smallest detail, He is never surprised, never forgets, and there is nothing beyond His understanding and wisdom. Look for the “great things”, the “grace things” He has positioned in your life – even the challenges are disguised blessings – and thank Him for all He has done.

 

Be blessed to see the great things God has done, and is doing, in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:13

You’ve seen it before. The meal placed before the child whose nose wrinkles in disgust. “I don’t like that!” he says, pushing away the plate. He crosses his arms and stubbornly refuses to eat. After a while, he asks his parents for something he prefers.

What is our reaction when we are given something less than appetizing in life? Do we get angry, play the victim, feel rejected, blame others, and allow our joy to be extinguished? When difficulties darken our door, what is our posture toward God? Do we, like the willful child, reject what we have been given and shout, “I don’t like this”? Maybe we compare our portion with another’s and declare, “It’s not fair!” or wish – even pray – for another serving of a different variety? Perhaps we get stuck asking “why?” Maybe we grow weary or become disillusioned with God because He didn’t meet our expectations or demands.

Maybe we have demonstrated some, if not all of these reactions, but there is another posture we can assume. We can choose to thank God for the trial that He has allowed. He may intend it to sharpen our character and nourish our soul, if only we would ingest it. We can choose to agree that our Father’s ways are higher than ours, and that He knows the very circumstances which produce the greatest beauty in our lives. It may be difficult and painful, but if we accept what are actually the choicest morsels – the handpicked cuts – we will ultimately grow in strength, beauty and grace, and indeed prosper with this heavenly nourishment.

It is easy to thank God for the “good” gifts – the nice things we consider blessings. But today’s verse says that it is God’s will that you be thankful in all circumstances. Maybe God knows something we don’t about the shift that happens in our mind, heart, and body when we are thankful for the tough stuff. Could it be that we have been looking at hardships all wrong, and that they are some of God’s greatest blessings?

The next time you are faced with a situation that is difficult to swallow, or if you are facing one right now, thank your heavenly Father that He has entrusted you with it. He loves you enough to use this challenge to alter your taste buds so your desires line up more fully with His. He is more interested in your character than your comfort. In fact, comfort often befriends complacency, and He loves you too much to let that happen. These less than palatable circumstances shift us out of our comfortable places and have the potential to create a change that may not have otherwise occurred. Although not what you asked for, it just might be what you needed, and the insight you gain just might be what someone else needs to hear in their struggle.

We may not have the faith or insight at this moment to believe our circumstances will change, but we have enough to take just one step. And one step – one mouthful at a time – is likely all that is required. Maybe that first mouthful needs to be words of thanks. Bon appetite!

May you see ways to thank God for the trial He has given you, and be open to where He is leading.

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