Archive for the ‘Trials’ Category

God’s Backseat Driver

Teen Driver

Trusting God is sometimes like teaching a teenager to drive. Someone else has the wheel, and you have no real control. Moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat as your teen learns to drive can cause a lot of uneasy feelings. You have just lost complete control of the vehicle to someone who thinks they know everything! Once that car goes into gear, you are at their mercy. You may offer strong suggestions such as, “Stop! Slow down! Change lanes! Watch out!” In reality, you are just along for the ride. Lack of control can leave you feeling uncomfortable, but eventually you learn to sit back and enjoy the ride with only an occasional outburst the backseat.

Events in our lives sometimes leave us with that same uneasy feeling. We may find ourselves questioning how God could allow things to happen the way they do. We try to keep a positive attitude and trust Him, but we tend to rely on our own ability to improve the situation. We find ourselves offering those same strong suggestions to God from the passenger seat of life. “God, I think this would be best for me right now!” Or “God, this is what I need!” Or “God, I really can’t do this!” At times, we want to just grab the steering wheel and take back control of our lives. Then we find our lives crashing into chaos because we have acted outside of God’s will for us.

We naturally want to have control, but our own abilities won’t be enough if we aren’t trusting God. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” When we are feeling anxious about allowing God to be at the wheel of our life, maybe it’s because our trust level is not where it should be. It is easy to forget that God isn’t a “God in Training”. He is in control, and He has a plan.

Positive thinking and taking control do not show trust. Trusting God can be as difficult as trusting your teen behind the wheel. It doesn’t usually happen overnight. It is something that we must learn. Over time, we learn that God is trustworthy, and we can still trust Him even when life gives us that uneasy feeling because things aren’t going how we planned. To “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” means that we let go of our own abilities and surrender everything to Him. When we learn to trust and give full control to Him we are able to rest and feel peace that only comes from God. The ride may be bumpy at times, but we can trust God and relax in the backseat.

As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit. – Emmanuel Teney

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The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. Judges 6:12

Battles are raging all around. I see many friends struggling with the distress of situations that seem too much to bear.  These disheartening battles include cancer, heart disease, mental illness, financial difficulties, addictions, lawsuits, false accusations, broken families, and fighting an actual war. Our children aren’t even immune. Their struggles include peer pressure, eating disorders, bullies, anxiety, and even terminal illness. The list goes on and on.

The Israelites experienced many difficulties. In Judges chapter six, they faced oppression from the Midianites who, during a seven year period, often destroyed the crops, livestock, and homes of the Israelites. God appointed Gideon to deliver Israel from the hand of Midian, but Gideon was afraid and confused about how that was possible when his people were the weakest in the land. God assured him in verse 16: “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

We all have battles which God has called us to fight, but like Gideon, we can be certain that God is with us. Often we feel weak and think our struggles are more than we can bear. Realistically, without the strength that can only be given by God, we probably couldn’t handle such situations on our own. What a blessing to know that he will be with us through the battles of life.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.”

It doesn’t matter what we are going through, God will give us the power to overcome it through His strength! Find courage today in knowing that God will be with you through the battles of life. You are a mighty warrior through Him!

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Faith in the Dark

Light in the night (Castelldefels)

As I sat reading, the lights flickered a time or two then went out completely.  The skies were clear that night. There wasn’t a storm or strong wind, yet for some strange reason I was suddenly sitting in complete darkness.  As I was feeling around for my cell phone, I heard a car door.  I quickly jumped from my chair and dashed for the window as images of movies flashed through my head.  The lights always go out on clear nights because someone has cut the line before intruding on the home!

I reach the window in time to see the interior light still shining inside the car which sat in the driveway.  There was just enough light in that short moment for me to recognize the car.  As the door knob was turning, I breathed a sigh of relief at the realization that my husband was home early from work.  Although he had formed a plan to surprise me, he had no intention of scaring me.  Yet my own fear of the dark caused my imagination to run wild.

Yes, I admit it.  I’m afraid of the dark.  I don’t like to drive at night because I can’t see what lies ahead.  I am only able to see that which is allowed by the glow of my headlights.  I want to see more.  Although it’s not how I prefer to drive, I have learned to trust that my headlights will provide just the amount of light that I need.

Unexpected events in our lives often leave us fumbling in the dark trying to find our way.  Fear causes our imaginations to run wild as we are unsure of what lies ahead.  We thought we knew the direction our life was going, but suddenly everything has changed.  We may not understand it, but God has a plan.  The path may not be lit brightly, but we can trust that He will provide just the amount of light that we need.  Just as I’ve learned to trust the headlights on my car, I’ve learned to trust God during the dark times of life.

Hebrews 11 provides many examples of people who have trusted God in the dark times of their lives.  Noah knew nothing of floods when God warned him that a flood would cover the earth, but  he built the ark as instructed and had faith that God would protect his family even though he had never seen rain (v.7).   The Israelites were running for their lives from the Egyptians when they reached the Red Sea, and there appeared to be no escape.  When God opened a passage of escape, they stepped out in faith onto dry land with walls of water on either side, and those trying to capture them drowned (v.29).

Hebrews goes on to tell of the faith of many others including Abraham who led the people to the promised land(v.8), Enoch who was taken straight to glory without experiencing death (v.5),  Sarah who conceived a child in old age (v.11),  and Moses parents who hid their baby  to avoid the king’s decree that
required baby Moses’ death (v.23).  The Book of Hebrews goes on and on with other stories of faith in dark times, times that surely caused great fear, times that triggered many questions and uncertainties.  Yet each of those listed, trusted that in those dark times, God had a plan and would provide just what they needed.

For faith to be present, action is required.  Each person listed in Hebrews stepped out in faith and obeyed God’s instruction.  We abandon all trust in what we can accomplish on our own and follow His lead instead.  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Darkness unexpectedly arises in our lives and we can’t see what lies ahead.  Faith means that we can trust that God is in control even in the darkness. He is the light in our darkness. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  Faith is focusing on an eternal God rather than the temporary darkness.  In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  We can trust that He will provide just the amount of light that we need, but without faith we can only see the darkness.

Whatever darkness is challenging your faith today, step out in faith, and He will guide you through the dark.

 

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English: Ramsey Island: rough water near Trwyn...

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  Isaiah 43:2

I can remember taking swimming lessons as a child.  In order to pass, we were required to jump off the diving board.  This terrified me, but it was the final step in proving we could swim.  I did not have a lot of confidence in my ability to accomplish this task.  Finally, the instructor swam out near where I would resurface after jumping and assured me that he would be there if I needed assistance.  The deep water terrified me, but knowing someone was there to save me if I could not make it on my own gave me the courage to complete the task.

Sometimes in life, things get so difficult you literally feel like you are drowning.  The more you struggle the deeper you seem to go.  Maybe things seem totally hopeless.  You try your best, but the situation just continues to get worse.  Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that no matter the battle, God is with us.  He will not let us drown in the raging river or be burned up by the fire.

Exodus 14:13 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still”.  In deep water sometimes you cannot tell which way it is to the surface.  It is a natural instinct to fight for your next breath, but if you will be still your body will typically begin to surface.  Our lives are the same way.  Sometimes, we just need to be still and let God fight for us.  Soon we will see the light begin to emerge at the surface of our problem as God fights for us.

What is the deep water in your life today?  Maybe it’s a relationship that seems to be crumbling at your feet, an addiction that controls your every thought, or financial difficulties that consume all your energy.  Whatever the struggle, God will be with you.  He will not let you drown!

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Yesterday I hesitantly went with my daughter for her first visit to the chiropractor due to back pain.  I sat in the corner of the room preferring to be in the waiting room or shopping, but because she wanted me there, I went.  I recoiled as I watched him apply pressure, twist, and jerk her body.  Joints popped and her body twisted abnormally as the chiropractor made adjustments.  He assured me it looked much worse than it felt, but I don’t think he will ever be seeing me again!  My daughter however was astonished at the difference it made in the way she felt.  The adjustment appeared to be uncomfortable to say the least, but the results were worth it to her.

Often we must go through uncomfortable adjustments in life to get everything lined up just as God desires it to be. Those adjustments often come in the form of change.    I don’t like change, so when it is forced upon me, my life feels twisted and uncomfortable.  Changes in job duties, expectations, schedules, health issues, finances, leadership, and on and on but there is one thing we can count on that never changes.  In Malachi 3:6 God says, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” (KJV)  Regardless of the changes making our lives uncomfortable, we can be comforted in know that God is the one thing that will never change.

Change is inevitable, so it is beneficial for us to have a godly approach.  Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)   When change is causing knots of frustration, we may need a spiritual adjustment.  We must simply go to him and receive the rest that only He can provide.

When life adjustments happen we can trust that God is the same today as He was yesterday, and He will remain the same tomorrow and forever.  Pressures of life may cause us to recoil and wonder how we will survive. It may be tempting to run away from the change, but doing so does not allow God to get things in proper alignment.  Instead we should go to Him for rest and trust Him as he gives us a spiritual adjustment.  The blessings will be worth it all!

Inspirational Bible Verses

Inspirational Bible Verses (Photo credit: Isolino)

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The Lord goes before youThe journey of life is often long and difficult.  There are many obstacles in our way that cause discouragement, grumbling, and questions. Our circumstances may leave us feeling like the Israelites as God led them to the promised land.  God had promised something better than the life they were leaving, but they faced many struggles along the way.

Exodus 13:17 says, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” Why not? The Israelites were finally free from slavery, and God was leading them to the Promised Land.  Why would He make them go the long way?  As we read on we see that travelling the  shortest route would result in being attacked by the Philistine army.  God knew if they faced a battle, they might turn and head back to Egypt. They simply were not ready. So He protected them from an immediate battle to prevent the Israelites from becoming discouraged and giving up. Ultimately, He knew what was best for them.

Eventually Pharaoh decided he had made a mistake and gathered his army to capture and bring home the Israelites. As they approached the Israelite camp to force them all to go back to Egypt, the people began to panic and cried out to God for help.  When trouble appears in our life, we often respond in the same way.  We panic and cry out to God to help us get through it.  Then they turned on Moses, complaining about his leadership, and wishing they had never left Egypt.  They feared the worst thinking they would surely die there in the desert.  They didn’t even wait for God to answer their cries for help before they began to fear the worst.  Satan uses fear to distract us from trusting God, and we begin to question why He is taking us down this path in life. In Exodus 14:13, Moses says, “Don’t be afraid be brave and you will see the Lord today.”  Moses had faith that God would be with them.

Then in Exodus 14:14, Moses says, “The Lord himself will fight for you.  You won’t have to lift a finger in your defense.”  Hmm…so if we encounter difficulty while travelling the path God planned, He will fight the battles for us!  He doesn’t even need our assistance or advice.  As long as it’s His plan for our lives, He will ensure that things don’t go awry.  There may be difficulties along the way, but ultimately God will protect us every step and nothing will happen that is out of His control.  What a comfort to know that whatever battles come our way, God has it under control!  All we need to do is be still and allow him to work.

At this point the Israelites appeared to be trapped between the wilderness and the sea as the Egyptians approached.  Then as God instructed, Moses held his staff over the water, and a pathway opened across the sea.  The Israelites walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground as water stood like a giant wall on both sides.  The waters closed up behind them and the Egyptians, their chariots, and horsemen were all swept into the sea. God had rescued them from what appeared to be an impossible situation.  There seemed to be no way to survive, but God not only protected them but also removed the threat completely!

Exodus 14:31 says, “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”  They saw the lengths that God would go through on their behalf to achieve His will in their lives. They began to sing the following praises:  “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.”  (Exodus 15:2-3)

Our lives are like the Israelites journey to the promised land.  God has promised something better (heaven), but it’s often a long journey, and there are many difficulties along the way.  Difficult times help us to learn to trust Him, and our faith and relationship with Him will grow stronger.  Although we may grumble and get discouraged going through it, we can trust that He is with us, He has a plan, He will fight for us, and in the end we will see His power.

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God’s Unfailing Love

Psalms 13:1-6

1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?

2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.

4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

6 I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

Do you ever feel as though God has forgotten you?  Does it seem that He looks the other way as your life crumbles around you?  You’ve tried so hard to do the right things, yet your life is full of anguish. David was struggling with feeling deserted by God, sadness in his heart, and attacks of enemies. Yet he ends this Psalm with praise and thanksgiving for God’s goodness.  From the desperation in verses 1-4 to the shift of attitude in verse six, David’s situation did not change, but his perspective did.  Instead of focusing on the problem, he has turned his attention to God’s love and other times God rescued him.  His honesty displays a truth that sometimes we feel defeated even to the point of depression.

Faith comes easy when things are going well, but the true test of our faith is determined by the trials that seem to tear us limb from limb. In those moments, when it seems there is no hope, remember these tips:

1.  God loves you and His compassion never fails. Remind yourself of this truth daily, or hourly if needed.

2. Reflect on God’s deliverance in the past.  From what situations has he delivered you previously?

3.  Talk to God.  Pray often and be honest about your feelings and questions.

4.  Talk to a trusted, christian friend or pastor. You don’t have to suffer alone.

David reminds us in this Psalm that even when we struggle through the sorrows that come in life there is one thing of which we can be sure.  God’s love! It never fails.  He has rescued you in the past and will rescue you again.  Keep singing and praising His name in the midst of your trouble.

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

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HEAT OF THE MOMENT

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

When I was young, my mom’s hobby was ceramics.  She did everything from pouring her own molds to painting.  Part of the process involved firing the pieces in a kiln, which was like an oven.  When she placed a piece of greenware into the kiln, it was very fragile.  I would sometimes help and knew that I had to be very careful with each piece.  Too much pressure and the whole piece could crumble in my hands.  Once everything was loaded into the kiln, the firing process began.  The heat inside the kiln was so intense that often the pieces seem to glow with the heat they had absorbed.  I was always amazed that instead of being destroyed, each piece came out much stronger than before.

How often do you feel as if your life has been placed in a kiln?  Maybe the heat is so intense that you feel as though you will be destroyed before God finally lifts you out.  We all get discouraged at times by the events of our lives.  It’s hard to understand why loved ones must suffer physical ailments or spouses, children, or parents die; what to do when finances falter or jobs are terminated; or where to turn when relationships fail or children make poor choices.  The list goes on and on.

Often the “heat” of one life changing event seems more than we can bear, but unfortunately sometimes we find ourselves facing more than one obstacle at a time.  It’s natural to wonder how we can possibly survive another day.  2 Corinthians 4:8-9 reminds us that we may feel pressure from every direction, but we will not be crushed.  We may get knocked down periodically, but we will not be destroyed.  God has carefully placed us in the kiln of life.  He knows exactly how much heat we can stand.

We must remember the “heat” is only temporary, and just as the ceramics come out of the kiln stronger than before, we too will emerge from those “hot” times of our lives stronger than before.  “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”  (2 Corinthians 4:18).  We must remember in our pain that these moments are temporary, and we will not be abandoned.

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DEEP WATER

English: Ramsey Island: rough water near Trwyn...

When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  Isaiah 43:2

I can remember taking swimming lessons as a child.  In order to pass, we were required to jump off the diving board.  This terrified me, but it was the final step in proving we could swim.  I did not have a lot of confidence in my ability to accomplish this task.  Finally, the instructor swam out near where I would resurface after jumping and assured me that he would be there if I needed assistance.  The deep water terrified me, but knowing someone was there to save me if I could not make it on my own gave me the courage to complete the task.

Sometimes in life, things get so difficult you literally feel like you are drowning.  The more you struggle the deeper you seem to go.  Maybe things seem totally hopeless.  You try your best, but the situation just continues to get worse.  Isaiah 43:2 reminds us that no matter the battle, God is with us.  He will not let us drown in the raging river or be burned up by the fire.

Exodus 14:13 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still”.  In deep water sometimes you cannot tell which way it is to the surface.  It is a natural instinct to fight for your next breath, but if you will be still your body will typically begin to surface.  Our lives are the same way.  Sometimes, we just need to be still and let God fight for us.  Soon we will see the light begin to emerge at the surface of our problem as God fights for us.

What is the deep water in your life today?  Maybe it’s a relationship that seems to be crumbling at your feet, an addiction that controls your every thought, or financial difficulties that consume all your energy.  Whatever the struggle, God will be with you.  He will not let you drown!

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REJOICE IN TRIALS

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  2 Corinthians 4:16

Several years ago, my children and I ran into an old high school classmate of mine.  We visited for a few moments and went on our way.  As was customary when my kids didn’t recognize someone, they immediately asked about her once we were in the car.  They just could not believe that we were the same age.  Her life had included many bad choices, which were reflected in the deep wrinkles in her complexion and the gray in her hair.

Wrinkles, gray hair, aches, and pains are all evidence that our bodies are deteriorating.  Sometimes it can be quite depressing to think about all the changes that take place over time.  Disease and age may cause our bodies to literally waste away with each day bringing more pain and less energy, but each struggle can renew our faith and cause us to draw strength from God.

Our bodies are temporary dwellings, which suffer damage from our choices and often from circumstances completely out of our control, such as illness or tragedy.  Outwardly, these bodies reflect our time on earth as well as the physical and emotional struggles we have endured over the years, but our hearts and souls reflect the faith, wisdom, and strength gained from the trials of our life.  This inward renewal allows us to “greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6).

If you suffer with the pain of emotional trials or a body that seems to be wasting away with age or illness, seek comfort in the hope of one day receiving a renewed body that will no longer experience the emotional or physical pain of this temporary body.  If we know Jesus as Savior, we will one day have perfect bodies.  No longer will we have to suffer with the aches and pains of everyday life.  These old, tired bodies will be renewed through Christ.  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalms 73:26).

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