Tag Archive | troubles

An Easter Reflection

© Depositphotos/ kevron2002

“It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.” Luke 23:54

Isn’t it interesting that the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is the Sabbath?

It’s Saturday, a holy day. For the Jewish people, Saturday is the Sabbath. People go to the temple and there is no work done.

Jesus is dead. He’s been crucified. Just a few short days before, people were shouting His praise on Palm Sunday. He was their King come to save them. And over the course of the week, everything changed.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday everyone is going about their business. The Passover is coming and there are preparations to be made. Jesus is still teaching and His messages are bold and convicting. He appears steadfast and confident, unwavering in His purpose. Of course He’ll succeed. The Jewish people will soon be freed from their oppression.

Thursday comes and Jesus is betrayed and arrested.

“Wait. What’s going on? Who’s been arrested? How can that be? I thought…”

By Friday, Jesus has been convicted. He’s nailed to a cross to die a criminals death.

“NO! This can’t be happening! He was supposed to become King. He was supposed to save us. How do we move forward? How can we move forward? Everything we had hoped for is gone. Is there even any hope left?”

Saturday comes and so does the Sabbath. Nothing can be done. And even if something could be done, they can’t do it. The law doesn’t allow it. All they could do was seek God, go to the temple and wait.

Did the disciples of Jesus go to the temple? Or did they remain in the upper room, quiet and afraid, uncertain of their fate should they show their faces?

Regardless of where we are or where we go, one of the most holy things we can do is seek God and wait on Him. When everything is falling apart around us, or seems to be, we seek and wait. We pray and trust.

On Friday, Jesus said, “It is finished.” And He’s right. There’s nothing left for us to do, but rest.

And then Sunday comes. Answered prayer. Truth revealed. A miracle. Hope is restored in a way even better than we could have imagined!

Too often though, we want to skip from Friday to Sunday. We want instant answers and results. And while the truth of what God does on Sunday solidifies the foundation of our faith, our faith is grown on Saturday. And sometimes, Saturday lasts a long time, much longer than we like.

This is a constant pattern in our life. Everything is great. We see a bright future ahead so we go about our business assuming we know how it will all work out. Then, out of no where, we are blindsided. We don’t know what’s going on, how it happened, or what to do next. Time passes. We do what we can feeling like it’s not enough, feeling like there’s no end in sight. And then, God breaks in. Something changes and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is renewed.

As Christians, this week, Holy week, is our state of living all wrapped up in each day. We know Jesus is King and has come to save us. We go about our business in this world steadfast and confident, unwavering in our faith, boldly teaching and preaching through the power of Christ in us. We prepare because the hope on which we wait could come at any time. And when times get tough, almost unbearable and there’s nothing else we can do, we seek God. We rest in Him. We pray, trust and wait.

Sometimes the weight of God’s word, His glory revealed through His word is heavy. I can’t speak. I can’t think. I can’t process. In the presence of the Lord, Isaiah recognized His sinfulness. He thought for sure He was done for. Daniel lost all strength and felt completely helpless. He trembled in the presence of God’s messenger. Saul, on the road to Damascus, fell to the ground at the flash of light and the voice of Jesus. Even the Apostle John, who had walked with Jesus on earth, fell as though dead in the presence of the transfigured Christ.

This is my struggle: to get the words out when the weight of God’s word overwhelms me. It is so good, and it is so, so important. I had meant to post this going into Good Friday. Maybe it’s good that I didn’t. Maybe it’s good that we don’t just get on with our day once Easter is over, the dishes are done and the crowds have gone home. Every day is Holy. Every day is an opportunity to consider and reflect on what “Sunday” will bring.

Something to Consider…

As you think about the different days of Holy week, where do you find you spend the most time?

  • Are you looking to the leaders of the world to solve your problems?
  • Are you going about your business assuming you know how things will turn out?
  • Are you feeling like your unsure of what’s happening in your life, like you’re trying to hold on, but are losing control?
  • Maybe you’ve lost hope and feel defeated. You don’t see a way out.
  • Maybe you’re unsure of what to do next, where to go or what to do.

Jesus is returning. A new Sunday is coming. How does this truth affect how you spend your time? How does this truth change the day in which you live?

May you know and believe, seek and trust, while finding your rest in Jesus. We can live every day in the reality and truth of Easter.

 

No Comparison

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

© DepositPhotos/pitrs10

There are several situations in my life that, while going through them, I wondered how I’d make it to the other side. Would I? Now, I look back and they don’t seem as bad simply because I know the outcome.

In Christ, we know the outcome.

In Christ, Paul says everything we go through is momentary. He even calls them “light”.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

He also points out that everything being achieved through these “light and momentary troubles” are bringing about for us an eternal glory. This glory, which we will experience in the presence of our God will far outweigh them all. And it’s all the sweeter when we know and trust God in the middle of our troubles, not just once He’s seen us through them.

He is growing deep roots. Every trouble is an opportunity to trust in, rely on, and lean into Him more. They are opportunities to show people how good our God is. He is bigger, stronger and better than this problem. He is worthy of our hope and trust no matter how bad things get. His peace guards our hearts. Even though they may ache in the moment, they don’t have to break.

He is bringing about something new, something better.

Romans 8:19-25 speak to the fact that all of God’s creation, the entire world feels the frustration of sin: bondage, brokenness and decay. Our hurt is not surprising. Our frustration in our problems is to be expected. We were not meant to live in sin and our souls long to be released from its effects.

God has put it in our hearts to want more than what we have. And the choice we must make is, where will go to find the “more”? Because we will go somewhere, to someone or something. We will try to fill the empty and hurting space.

Christ is the only one who can satisfy our desire fully. There is no comparison between Him and this world.

Creation waits for its time of frustration to end. It moans and groans and gives way as if in the pains of child birth. Do we trust the new life that is birthed in Christ? Do we really believe, completely and without a doubt that God is birthing something new and we will be part of that salvation plan?

The hope we have speaks the truth of our faith. We don’t wait anxiously and troubled. No, as we wait, we wait eagerly and patiently. Expectantly.

Our expectation and hope doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the reality of what we are going through. It simply means that we know and trust the ultimate outcome. And in our waiting, His glory is revealed in us now. There is no comparison between our present sufferings and eternity with our God.

Something to Consider…

Our attitude and focus can be affected by everything from simple daily irritations to full-blown, life and death realities.

How do you respond to different situations within this spectrum?

What kind of impact can your reaction to life’s troubles have on those around you?

How is God working in your current situations to grow your roots deep and draw you closer to Him?

Where Wisdom Comes From

“Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.” Job 28:20, 23-34

© DepositPhotos/nature78

© DepositPhotos/nature78

I received a phone call from my daughter not long after she left the house this morning. Since few people actually pick up a phone to talk anymore, my radar went up and I was instantly concerned. Yes, it turned out that she may be having car problems.

Ugh.

She has places to be and she’s not close to home. Our coming days are full so we need to deal with this now. Of course, my concern for her safety is always high on my list of priorities.

I’m not a mechanic and my answer to any car issue is to bring it in. I don’t know what the problem is and I don’t really want to know too much. I just want it fixed. I just want her safe. It’s so good that others know so much more than me!

Since she was almost to her destination, I told her to go. I called the repair shop, made an appointment and then started processing how we would work out all the details. In the middle of everything I continued to feel a bit wound up and stressed. I can have a tendency to panic and I want that to be different in my life.

So I talked with a friend. Not just any friend, mind you. A friend I not only trusted, but one who I knew didn’t panic. One who I knew had dealt with car issues. One who I knew would give me some straight answers with common sense.

And she did.

Sometimes there are practical issues and situations in our lives where we need concrete answers and decisions in the moment. And then there are times when we need an overall shift in our thinking, our emotions and our way of understanding our situation.

This is what Jesus does.

Did His car break down? No, because He didn’t have a car. He didn’t have a donkey either. And when He needed one, He asked to borrow someone else’s. He reached out and asked for help. God had already ordained the response.

There really isn’t a situation in my life that Jesus hasn’t experienced in His own way. He understands completely and if I’m willing to ask for help, He will comfort and encourage me. He will guide me to the people who can help. He will help me shift my understanding and perception of a situation not because it’s changed, but because He’s already brought about a resolution.

He is the resolution and the response to every situation.

Something to Consider…

Does this situation seem petty? In the middle of all the hardship, troubles, and chaos in our world right now, does this seem so very insignificant? In comparison to other issues, I’m sure it is. But how great is it that we have a God who is truly just as concerned with our small and petty issues as He is with our big and overwhelming concerns.

What small issues in your life do you try to handle on your own? How can trusting God in the small and petty help you learn how to and be able to trust Him in the big and overwhelming worries of your heart?

Difficult working conditions, strained family relationships, oppressive governments, unfair opportunities and general day-to-day problems…Jesus has seen it all. He has overcome it all. Will you seek His wisdom and His way today?

Three Nails

Three Nails“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’” Luke 23:32-35 (NLT)

My oldest daughter lives a few hours away so whenever she comes home, we pray for her safe travels. Her car had been parked at a gas station when, as she was getting ready to come home, she realized she had a flat tire. With her fiancé’s help, they were able to remove the tire, put on the spare and drive to the repair shop. After waiting a few hours, they were told the nail was too close to the edge and thus the tire was unable to be repaired. She was going to have to buy a new tire. Not the news a college student wants to hear. She purchased the tire and they were soon on their way.

The next day we were able to meet up with family members for lunch. We had a wonderful time only to come home to another flat tire. Her car had been parked in our driveway all day and yet, there it was, a different tire flat as a pancake. Her dad was able to help her get the tire off, put on the spare, and bring the tire to the repair shop. This time it was able to be repaired. Knowing her financial situation, we willingly paid for the repair. Her dad was able to replace the tire and she was on her way once again, this time to see friends.

A few days later, we were out shopping and running errands. When we returned home, guess what we found. Unbelievably, another flat tire. A third nail in a third tire. Her car had been parked in the street in front of our house. Since it was not completely flat, we tried filling it only to notice the pressure dropped as soon as we turned off the pump. Again, her dad was able to help get the tire off and the spare on, but because of the time, we couldn’t take it to the repair shop until the next day. We worked out how she would get around in the meantime. Again, the tire couldn’t be repaired. A little more money, a little more time, a little more frustration.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

When we found the third flat, she said she felt like she was being punished. Did she do something to bring about this fate?

I admit, it seems like more than a coincidence that she would have three nails in three different tires in five days. What are the odds? And if she’s not being punished, what would be the point of this situation?

Maybe a better question is, what did God want her to know about Him through this situation?

As we talked, she admitted she felt like she had no control, was helpless, angry, and frustrated. We then talked about how God is always in control, is our help and is never frustrated by our circumstances. So why did this happen? How would this help her trust Him more and draw her closer to Him, rather than push her away?

She realized that she had always been parked, never on the road and she always had help. She was also always able to keep moving. These hindrances didn’t stop her from what she needed to do.

The next day, as we were driving home, I asked her another question. “What did these three nails cost you?”

She said money and time and peace. It was inconvenient and stressful.

Then I asked her, “What did three nails cost Jesus?”

Her answer: His life.

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30 (NIV)

Jesus Christ took the three nails so we could how much God loves us. Jesus Christ took three nails because only He could accomplish this purpose. He took the three nails so we could be completely reconciled to God and live with Him in peace forever. These three nails were not a hindrance to God’s plan; they were the plan.

How might God want to use the difficulties and hindrances in your life to draw you closer to Him so you could know His love more deeply?

What difficulties are you willing to endure so the love of God can be made known to others?

Lord God, as I see the troubles of this world, experience the difficulties of life and struggle through my own frustrations and desires. Help me remember that it’s nothing compared to what you endured for me. The problems we face are real, they are hard and painful. They wear on us and try us in ways we didn’t expect or ask for. But in You we have hope. In you, we know there is more. You are our ever-present help in trouble. You are our refuge and strength, our shield and strong tower, our joy and salvation. Thank you for your protection, your help and your strength to keep moving. In Your precious and most holy name, Jesus. Amen.

Anxiety, Depression…Anger

DSC06926“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Anxiety was my response to the reality of having no control over or in certain situations. Depression was my response to the reality that I wasn’t taking control of what I could.

Anger is my response to the reality that I want control and don’t have it, can’t have it or, actually, don’t want it.

God has been doing an amazing work in me. The past 12-18 months have been some of the toughest in my life and yet I rejoice because I know God is at work in me, transforming me into the person He created me to be. It’s painful, but most good things are at some point.

It takes determination, perseverance, pain, struggle, and failure, along with focus and commitment to do anything that really matters. You will succeed only if you truly believe in what you are doing. Why suffer so much if it doesn’t really matter? (This is a post for another day…)

Because it does matter.

Last summer I posted about the process God had been moving me through, working out in me, to help rid me of anxiety and depression. My fight or flight response to problems was wreaking havoc in my life and the lives of others. In the first post, I stated:

Most attacks at the time began with anger. And not just a little anger. I would get really angry. At times, I felt uncontrollable rage in the situation. I told my husband once that it felt like it wasn’t really me.

So here I am, angry…again. Why?

I thought my anger would subside when my anxiety and depression were gone. I’d just be a happy, go-lucky person. But each layer God removes reveals more. It reveals something deeper, darker, more difficult to deal with.

Anxiety and depression are acceptable issues in society. It’s true. There are commercials touting the positive effects of medication to control anxiety and depression. There is a commercial that encourages people to ask about a person’s depression, ask them if they want to talk about it. They make it commonplace, acceptable and manageable.

But it’s not. Yes, it happens. Yes, we need to be able to be real about it. But God doesn’t want us living in anxiety and depression. I don’t think He really wants us expecting it to just be this way. He wants so much more for us. As I’ve said before, I do believe medication is necessary and helpful in some situations, but I also believe that if you are willing to let medication be your savior in this situation, you will miss the work of the true Savior in your life.

So I choose to let God do the painful work of exposing the deepest, darkest, most painful areas of my life and conditions of my heart so that I can be free of what the world says is acceptable and truly be free in the love of God.

Anger, on the other hand, is not acceptable. It shows no compassion, tolerance or acceptance. But, anger does have a place. Its purpose is to move us toward good, toward making things right, toward ridding ourselves of those things that hurt us and each other.

But anger can be misused. It has been my new form of protection. God is going deeper and showing me that I want control. I do, I want it…BAD! I want it so bad I’m angry about it. I get rude and ugly. It’s truly horrible. I hate it, while at the same time feel completely justified in it.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (The Message)

My true colors show that I’m not so sure how much I trust that God is really in control. I want God to move faster, if He’s even moving at all. My anger and desire to control shows that I think I can do it better, understand it better and want better than what God can do, knows and wants.

But I know that’s not true. God can do whatever He wants. He wants what is good, what is best. And He also knows exactly what it’s going to take to get to that outcome and He is always on the move. He not only wants this for those people and situations in my life, He wants it for me personally.

The NIV version puts James 1:4 this way: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

To be or become mature and complete, not lacking anything, not only means I seek to gain wisdom, new thinking, and new attitudes, but that I give up the old foolishness and behaviors. This anger needs to go.

Lord, as I fix my eyes on You and Your goodness, I am thankful for your loving working my life. As You peel back each layer and fresh wounds are exposed, You are my Healer. As You reveal to me those things that keep me from loving You and loving others, You are my Wonderful Counselor. As you ask me to walk into difficult situations and conversations, You are my Strength and Refuge. You have never given up on me and it is my deepest desire that I not give up on You. I trust you with the people I love and the situations I don’t like or understand. Your love is pure and right. It is the best of all things. Help me recognize quickly when I am trying to take control; calm my heart, reassure me of your love, protection and provision and let me rest in You. Give me Your heart for others and peace in Your ways. Thank you, Jesus. In Your name, Amen.

 

 

It’s Saturday. Now what?

SCAN0104“It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb. Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial. But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands. Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices that they had prepared. When they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, they went in. But they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, and they did not know what to think. Suddenly two men in shining white clothes stood beside them. The women were afraid and bowed to the ground. But the men said, ‘Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn’t here! He has been raised from death.'” Luke 23:54-24:6a (CEV)

What happened on Saturday?

None of the Gospels address the activities of the disciples on Saturday except to say it was the Sabbath and they rested. Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Messiah, the Christ, Son of God is dead. And we have no idea what they did except that they rested.

How? Why? Because God commanded it? Really?

He was supposed to redeem His people, conquer the enemy and set up a new kingdom. Peace is supposed to reign and justice prevail. Everything they had put their hope in was gone. And not just gone, but dead and gone. In the ground … dead, buried and gone. Behind a rock and sealed gone. What happened?

The unexpected happened.

We’ve all been there at some point at some time. Everything is moving forward, life is good, and your best laid plans are coming to fruition.

And then?

The unexpected.

Everything just … stops.

We do get a glimpse of what those who didn’t follow Jesus were doing.

“The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, ‘Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.’ Pilate replied, ‘Take guards and secure it the best you can.’ So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.”  Matthew 27:62-66 (NLT)

Those who wanted Jesus dead also wanted to make sure He stayed dead. The disciples rested and the religious leaders continued to plot.

We must each decide what to do when Saturday comes because you can’t get to Sunday without Saturday. You can’t have victory without a battle. You can’t overcome without being under; without being down-and-out. Your response on Saturday will depend on what you believe, who you follow and in what or who you put your hope.

Something to Consider…

It’s Friday: This is the day of preparation. Everything had been going well up to this point. How could things go so wrong? Are you doing what you need to today so you  can be ready for tomorrow? Are you prepared for the One who was, is and is to come? Friday’s happen. Turning points come. And as hard as it is to believe, Friday’s end and it may not be how you expect. Will you be ready? Jesus is available now to help you prepare for tomorrow.

It’s Saturday: The unexpected has come. You wake up and it’s still true. You can’t believe it. What now? What’s next? In this time of uncertainty, confusion, and pain – rest. Worship and praise your Father in heaven. He knows what has been and what will be. Trust Him now.

It’s Sunday: The sun has risen and so has our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A new day has come and Jesus has redeemed. He makes all things new bringing life and hope to our seemingly dead dreams. His light makes a shadow out of all that was before. Expect Sunday to come! Jesus is risen!

Joy and Suffering

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)

My daughter came home from her evening activities one night the other week. She stopped and turned, looked at me and I could tell she was looking for the right words. She is careful with her words and she doesn’t like to complain, but there was something on her mind and I don’t think she meant to complain as much as she was looking for someone to validate how she was feeling.

She started explaining her day; how everything had gone well for the most part: she had a good day at school, did well on a test, enjoyed her time with friends, had a good evening at her job…and then she got an email that something wasn’t quite how it should be. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible thing but it was something she would need to address and it was weighing on her mind a bit as to just how she would handle it.

Her overall question was basically, “Why does it always seem like when things are going well, something has to happen to mess it up?”

Welcome to adulthood and responsibility, my child. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

In a nutshell, this was my response. Just when I think everything is going well, something happens. And just when I think it won’t get any worse, it does. There will always be something that causes us to stop, turn and think about the change that just happened in our day, our situation, or maybe our life.

The truth is we all suffer at some level; some more often than others, but we all do suffer just the same. We all suffer in different ways and as we get older, we have more responsibility and become more practiced at suffering, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

In this world there is pain and suffering all around us. Each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to add to or increase the level of pain, discomfort, or struggle in our lives.  Everyone’s pain is just as important from the perspective of God and He has compassion and mercy for each of us in our own personal condition. This trouble we face has the ability to stop us in our tracks and keep us from an abundant life in Christ. The question is, at what point do we acknowledge our difficulties and turn to God and other brothers and sisters for help?

 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed (because God brings hope and healing); perplexed, but not driven to despair (because God gives knowledge and clarity); persecuted, but not forsaken (because God is always with us); struck down, but not destroyed (because God delivers us to life through Christ); always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (We live in victory, not defeat!) 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (Notes and emphasis added.)

Contrary to this world, in Christ, each situation we find ourselves in has the ability to increase our joy and happiness because we know He is with us and it will end. We already have victory! Regardless of how any current situation plays out in this world, one day it will be over and we will be without tears, without pain, and without sorrow. (Revelation 21:4) It is coming, do not give up!

The beauty of our victory is that we can experience and share it with people now. Do you believe in the victory enough to live it out? Do you share with others the reason for your joy in the midst of what others would consider unbearable? Are you willing to allow others to witness your hope even if they think you are crazy for really believing in that hope? The truth is that the idea of Jesus is crazy! It turns this world upside down and shakes it loose of all its preconceived notions and ideas of what it means to suffer and how to find true happiness and joy in spite of suffering.

Something to Consider…

As you consider 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, is there a situation that you feel afflicted or in pain; perplexed or uncertain; persecuted or abandoned; struck down or hopeless? Call on God with your whole heart, seek Him and His truth. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you how God brings healing, hope, clarity, knowledge, life and victory! God is faithful and trustworthy in all that He does.

It’s important to keep a good perspective regarding the significance of your pain and suffering. It’s easy to make something out of almost nothing and we can often try to downplay our problems not wanting to draw attention to ourselves. Don’t be afraid of letting Jesus and other brothers and sisters in Christ come along side of you so you can remember His perspective and be encouraged.