God Meets Real Life: Light in the Midst of Darkness

Two verses to set up this blog post.

First, Joseph’s words from Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (ESV)

And then Paul’s words found in Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

The first statement came out of the mouth of a man whose life was turned upside down after his brothers sold him into slavery. The second statement came from the pen of a man who endured severe persecution for trying to share the Gospel.

It makes us wonder…can anything good come out of painful situations?

In some ways, bringing beauty out of ashes is God’s specialty. When everything seems hopeless, God figures out how to make light pierce through the darkness.

Isn’t that the mind-blowing thing about the Gospel? Jesus certainly is the greatest light to ever shine out of darkness!

It’s not always easy. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, we see as through a cloudy glass…yet one day we will see things clearly.

But even with our hampered vision, I believe we can see some of the ways God draws good from the bad. We can try to find the points of light within the darkness.

Here are a few thoughts to consider:

The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.

The story isn’t over.

Revelation tells us that God will make crooked thing straight and dry the tears from every eye.

We may wonder, “Why does God wait?” Perhaps the best answer is found in 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (ESV)

The bottom line is that God is intent on pulling more people out of the darkness

Our suffering can be used as part of our witness.

Sometimes the best part of our story is how God came in at our lowest point.

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul made a point that God uses the weak things of the world…and suffering certainly has a way of making us feel weak.

Others can be encouraged and motivated by how we handle our struggle

Everyone loves stories about how someone who was down and out broke through with a second chance. Such stories give us courage and hope. We need more people who have suffered to tell us their stories so we might learn how to handle our own struggles better.

God is preparing us for deeper ministry

Suffering has a way of developing sensitivity.

We become more humble and empathetic.

Paul wrote the following in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (ESV)

Suffering provides a warning for others

Once again writing to the Corinthians, Paul offered this bit of advice:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. (1 Corinthians 1:1-6 ESV)

  1. Suffering tests and strengthens our faith

Here’s how the apostle Peter put it:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

When we suffer, we have a choice: we decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage

Lee Strobel wrote: “I believe all suffering is at least potential good, an opportunity for good. It’s up to our free choice to actualize the potential. Not all of us benefit from suffering and learn from it, because it is up to us. It’s our free will.”

Jesus is quoted in John 16:33 as saying the following:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (ESV)

What do we need when we are suffering? Peace and courage! Exactly what Jesus offers.

“God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation; it’s the incarnation. Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity; He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote these words: “No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.” Every tear we shed becomes his tear.”

 

 

God Meets Real Life: The Huge Question of Why God Allows Suffering and Evil

Theologians call it theodicy. As defined by Alvin Plantinga, theodicy is the “answer to the question of why God permits evil”.

Adding to this definition would be this question: How can a good God allow evil and permit suffering among the innocent?

This question may be one of the most confounding things that takes place in our universe.

It takes on both our attitudes regarding justice as well as attitudes regarding compassion.

We see such suffering as unfair and uncaring.

As a result, when we see such suffering, our brains simply can’t compute it all. We wonder things like:

  • Who’s at fault?
  • Why doesn’t God stop it?

I think that we might say that if we were in charge of the universe, there would be no pain!

Thomas Jefferson said: “Most people appear to believe the art of life is the art of avoiding pain.”

But, is avoiding pain the highest goal for life? Is that really the life lived well?

I think it’s good to remember that before man sinned, “evil-free” was the status of the universe.

But then came the fall.

RC Sproul writes: “Suffering is intrinsically related to the falleness of the world.”

Now, when it comes to struggle and suffering and pain, there are times that these things are really good for us!

For example, a butterfly needs to struggle as it escapes a cocoon. If we help (wouldn’t that be merciful?) we actually hinder the rest of the butterflies existence.

So, with apologies to Thomas Jefferson having an overall strategy of avoiding pain seems off base.

Pain is part of life, and we will either accept that or keep fighting it. Think about it: which choice will produce the most fruit and maturity?

James affirmed the reality that pain, suffering and struggle can have a purpose in our life.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

But of course, there is the question of the person who innocently suffers.

Remember our sense of justice and compassion cries out UNFAIR!

And we often wonder, why doesn’t God intervene? These after all were good people!

I find that such situation place us at a crossroads with how we engage God.

And we usually choose one of three courses:

  • We let go of God because we view him as weak, unjust or mean
  • We try to reshape God to fit into someone we find palatable
  • We admit that we don’t understand all the mysteries of life and the universe, and lead harder into God knowing He is the one who does understand all things.

So what help does the Bible offer?

For me, I look at the examples of three individuals who encountered suffering, processed their suffering, and ended up worshiping God.

Case #1: Job

Job was the man who God allowed Satan to test through suffering. The book of Job is perhaps one of the best places to go when trying to put together a theology of suffering. e Although it was quite a journey, with Job running the gamut of emotions and perspectives, after hearing God ask Job a series of questions to remind Job that God was God and he was not, Job finally exhaled these words:

Job 42:1-6 (ESV)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Case # 2 Habbakuk

Habbakuk questioned God about why He was letting the people of Israel get away with so much sin. So God answered Habakkuk by telling him that He was planning to judge the evil Israelites by using the Assyrians to bring the Israelites into captivity.

But Habakkuk had a problem with this “solution.” He saw the Assyrians as even more sinful than the Israelites! Habakkuk questioned God, essentially asking God if He knew what He was doing!

And like in the case of Job, God responded to say that He knew exactly what He was doing. The Assyrians would certainly not get a pass for their sinfulness.

Finally, in chapter 3 of Habakkuk’s book, Habakkuk releases his anxiety to God. He writes out a beautiful prayer of worship, concluding with these words of trust, even in the midst of difficult days:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:17-19) 

Case #3: Asaph

Asaph’s situation is described in Psalm 73. In it he describes how he almost gave up on God. Why? Because everywhere he looked he saw injustice. He say evil people getting away with evil, and he saw innocent people suffering at their hands.

Asaph wondered how God would let such activity take place. In fact, Asaph admits that he was one step away from cursing God.

And then Asaph has an “aha” moment. He realizes that evil doers won’t get away with their evil deeds forever. Here’s how he describes it:

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God;I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:16-28)

Here’s my question for you: what is it that we might learn from looking at the example of these three?

One thing I notice is that they didn’t let go of God. They didn’t try to reshape God. They all came to the place of worshiping God.

God Meets Real Life: Suffering from God’s Hand

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll work through the topic of suffering from a few different angles.

So here’s one to think about: sometimes we suffer because God brings about the suffering.

God, our loving, heavenly Father will sometimes take action in order to deter us from furthering any harm to ourselves or others.

It’s called discipline.

As far as I know, now child like discipline because it brings forth a level of pain.

Hebrews 12:7-11 says:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (ESV)

Now, not everything that goes sideways in our life is an act of God’s discipline.

But we would be wise to consider if God is taking action to get us back on course.

Some of the areas where God may discipline us

  1. Financial problems

Haggai 1:5-6,9 –

After Israel’s return from captivity, they first put there attention on fixing up their own houses, leaving the house of God left in rubble and ruin. Check out how God, speaking through the prophet Haggai planned on getting their attention back on restoring the temple:

Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes… you looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. (Haggai 1:5-6, 9 ESV)

Bottom line, hey couldn’t get financially ahead because money seemed to slip away as if they had holes in their pockets.

The prophet Joel talked about how God disciplined Israel by having locusts come and devour all their crops.

Both Haggai and Joel reveals that God, in an attempt to turn us back to Him, will sometimes bring pain to our pocket book.

  1. Health Problems

The Corinthian church was disobedient on several fronts. One area of blatant sin happened when they would gather for the Lord’s Supper. Early arrivers would eat all the food. leaving latecomers hungry.

Smack dab in the middle of Paul’s teaching on this problem we find this eye opening statement:

For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Corinthians 11:29-30 ESV)

God used physical ailments…even death…to move His people back into right relationship with Him.

  1. The weight of God’s hand

I would describe this as the presence of emotional agitation and physical weariness. We feel unsettled or burdened. Why? Because God is trying to get our attention.

It is the fusion of Spirit pressing in upon our conscience.

David wrote about this type of suffering occurring when he tried to hold on to his sin rather than confessing:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

So, scripture reveals that sometimes, when we need God’s discipline, we may experience suffering.

If that’s the case, what do we do? David, gives us a solid answer:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV

Search us, God! Reveal any sins that may be tripping us up or knocking us down. Work on us in order to not take sin lightly. May we endure when we feel like quitting. Do what you must, God, that we might become closer to you.

 

 

God Meets Real Life: Thinking about Suffering

Of all the topics I will cover in the GOD MEETS REAL LIFE series, the issue of suffering is probably the most vexing.

Who hasn’t thought things like:

  • Where is God when I’m suffering?
  • Why doesn’t God just stop human pain?

For many these are the places where faith can shipwreck…or keep someone from embracing faith at all.

Laura Bush drove through a stop sign at age 17, striking another car driven by a classmate named Mike Douglas.

She prayed and prayed for Mike to live, but he lost his battle for life.

In her biography, Laura Bush wrote:

“I lost my faith that November, lost if for many, many years. It was the first time I prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. AND IT WAS AS IF NO ONE HEARD. My begging, to my 17 year old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mike’s mother crying on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain.”

That’s real life. And such challenges can really put a strain on our faith.

That’s because he issue of pain and suffering is like being confronted with the most challenging of mathematical problems. We agonize over it. It confounds us. We grow weary and disillusioned.

The overriding expectation is that its God’s job is to protect us from any harm or calamity.

But we know from both God’s Word and personal experience that those things aren’t true. We know that in this world things can…and do…go wrong.

I believe one of the most important things a Christian must do is develop a theology of suffering. Because without one, we are prone to be tossed around and spun out.

So, here’s a point to start with: no one is immune to suffering.

The Bible is full of “heroes” who went through hard times: Three names that jump out at me: Joseph, Job and Paul. And of course there’s Jesus. It’s good for me to remember that even the “big shots” of the endured trials and calamity.

Often times the first words out of our mouth when suffering comes our way are: “Why is this happening to me?” But suffering seems to no boundaries, whether it be age, gender, social status, accomplishments and so on.

Ray Ortlund recently wrote a blog post that identified three categories of suffering.

  1. Deserved suffering because of sin

Sin promises life, but really only delivers misery. It may be enjoyable for a season, but in time it catches up with us and delivers the opposite of what we were pursuing.

Numbers 32:23 says:

But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. (ESV)

When our sins catch up with us, ouch! It hurts!

It’s sadly Interesting to think that, as much as we hate suffering, we are sometimes the actual purveyors of suffering!

  1. Innocent suffering

This is the type of suffering that really gets our mind spinning; the idea that even though we have not sinned or done anything wrong, we still suffer.

Things like natural disasters or being in the wrong place at the wrong time

  1. Righteous suffering

This type of suffering happens when people stand up for God.

It’s called persecution.

The first case of this happened when Cain murder of Abel. Of this event, John wrote in 1 John 3:12:

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. (ESV)

If we are a Christian, than we can expect to suffer for our faith. Paul said as much to his young apprentice Timothy:

Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV)

Have you ever thought about this? Adding Christ to your life increases the probability of suffering! (I don’t see that on too many evangelistic tracts)

Add in the fact that by becoming Christians we place ourselves in the midst of a cosmic battle between God and Satan.

Ephesians 6:12-13

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Simply put, suffering happens. In life, things will go wrong. We shouldn’t expect a pain free, problem free Christian life.

It may show up in a medical trial.

Or a financial trial.

Or a relational trial.

Or it may be a huge loss.

And often times these moments in our life wondering, where is God in all this?

Here’s what the Bible tells us in Psalm 34:

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (15-18 ESV)

So, let’s begin processing a bit and see how our theology of suffering develops:

First off, why is there suffering? Because we live in a sinful, fallen, broken world.

Genesis 3 provides an intro to suffering, pain, disease and death. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and set in motion that impacted every aspect of our world

These painful and distasteful experiences are simply a result of God keeping His promise to Adam and Eve. (Check out Genesis 2:17)

Because sin became part of the human equation, suffering is part of the human experience.

Suffering and death are not signs that God is out of control! The reality is in control and working toward accomplishing other promises He has made.

There is a day where God promises to make every crooked thing straight and wipe away every tear (Revelation 11:5)

The root of our sin problem was dealt with at Calvary at Jesus’ first coming.

And the eradication of our sin problem will be dealt with at his second coming.

 

 

 

 

God Meets Real Life: Calming an Anxious Heart

My last post talked about the challenge of waiting. Most people don’t like to wait, and yet Scripture talks a lot about patience and perseverance.

As parents, it’s not uncommon for us to see our kids dealing with impatience. In those moments when our kids are struggling with waiting, one of the best things we can do is bend down and try to explain why a wait is in order.

With that image in mind, I wonder what God would want us to know? Here are a couple stabs:

WE MAY NOT BE READY FOR WHAT GOD HAS FOR US

One of the continual stories of my educational life: thinking I was ready for an exam…when I wasn’t!

Sometimes God is waiting for us to develop and mature before putting something in our hands that we can’t handle.

It’s hard for us to hear these words, “You’re not ready,” but often times we simply aren’t.

WHAT GOD HAS PLANNED FOR US MAY NOT BE READY

When a person buys a house, much of the work that needs to be done goes through the escrow office. Until every document is in place, the house can’t be officially bought or sold.

Sometimes the escrow process is similar to what God is doing in our lives. He’s putting all the pieces together. Some of those pieces are about us. Some of those pieces are about others. God has a perfect timing when everything gels. But we often seem unaware of this reality.

A passage from Ecclesiastes 3 is a good reminder that God’s timing is perfect, and therefore we ought not mess with it:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace…

…He has made everything beautiful in its time.

GOD IS USING THE WAITING PERIOD TO TEACH US ABOUT PATIENCE

Here’s the truth: the older we get, the more patient we should become. Why? Because we’ve had more time on this earth to develop it!

But we often don’t learn the lessons God has for us. So, He gives us opportunity after opportunity to grow.

To be honest, I wonder if, due to our vast resources, creativity, ingenuity if we as Americans ever spend much time waiting on the Lord.

We often just go forth and then ask God to bless our efforts.

Things get done, but it doesn’t foster much intimacy or the building of faith in our lives.

GOD HAS ANOTHER PLAN WE AREN’T AWARE OF

Think about the situation with Lazarus found in John 11. Word got to Jesus that his friend Lazarus was deathly ill. The expectation was Jesus rush to Lazarus’ side and heal Him.

But Jesus delayed.

People thought Jesus was a bit slack.

But that’s because the only thing they thought Jesus could do was heal Lazarus.

But which event brought God more glory…a healing or a resurrection?

Bottom line, God planned a huge miracle that hadn’t crossed anyone’s mind.

Sometimes God makes us wait because He has something different in mind.

I’ll close this blog post with a Psalm, one that I call “a Psalm for the Impatient.”

Psalm 37:1-11

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!

For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.[b]

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

God Meets Real Life: The Challenge of Waiting

Tom Petty got right to the point when he wrote this lyric: “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Can anyone relate to that sentiment?

It’s bad enough to make a phone call and get put on hold. But what’s really bad is to be put on hold…and then be forgotten!

How many of us have a hard time waiting for paint to dry or a pie to bake? What do we do? We put our finger on the project and end up with a fingerprint for all to see.

The fact that we live in an instant gratification culture doesn’t help.

But here’s the reality: sometimes God puts us in the position to wait.

Is He trying to torture us? I don’t think so.

The ability to wait on God is so important that patience is one of the spiritual fruits described in Galatians 5. God knows we need to become more patient; so much so that He provides for us spiritual assistance.

If there is a Bible story that describes the great difficulty of waiting, it is the account of Abraham, Sarah and the promise of a baby to come.

Abraham was no spring chicken and he wasn’t getting any younger. So Sarah decided to help God out. She brought Abraham her handmaiden Hagar to provide a child.

So Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. A cute baby, but his impact would press in against the Jewish people to this day!

When we go ahead of God, we set ourselves up to produce our own “Ishmaels.”

Our motivation might be noble, but nothing usually comes up with us trying to hurry God.

The Bible is full of verse encouraging and exhorting us to pursue patience. Consider these for example (all are ESV):

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

Isaiah 40:31 –  But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.            

Ecclesiastes 7:8 – Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

James 5:7 – Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

For some of us, these verses are like stinging goads because we know patience isn’t our forte!

So, why is it that patience tends to be such a challenge for us? A few thoughts:

  • We are naturally anxious
  • We struggle with trust
  • We live in a culture that doesn’t like to wait
  • We’re in a hurry
  • We think we know how things should go

Finally, here are a few symptoms that we are struggling in the area of patience.

TRYING TO HELP GOD OUT

That was Sarah, wasn’t it? She didn’t trust God’s timeline, so she created her own by sharing Hagar with Abraham. Time would prove that God didn’t need any help.

OVERSTEPPING BOUNDARIES

1 Samuel 10:8  and 13:8-12 serve as reminders of this malady of the impatient.

Perhaps you remember the story. Samuel the priest told Saul the king to go to Gilgal and wait.

Samuel would arrive in seven days, and in his role as priest, give an offering for God’s blessing

But Israel was battling the Philistines, and Saul watched the enemy getting ready to attack, causing the the Israelites to scatter.

So Saul made a decision: he would no longer wait but present the burnt offering himself!

1 Samuel 13:13-14 records Samuel’s response to Saul trying to act as a fill-in priest:

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (ESV)

How many decisions are made in haste because we thought the Lord was late?

RESTLESSNESS/IRRITABILITY

The opposite of resting in the Lord is restlessness toward the Lord. And others.

Health problems are a common by-product of an impatient person.

We may not be pacing on the outside, but we are certainly pacing on the inside!

As a parent, I remember my kids, because of their age, often being incredibly impatient.

“Are we there yet?” “When is this over?” “Can I get it now?”

As they got older, more and more I would have to talk with them, trying to explain why some things take time.

Hard work, isn’t it?!

I think God wants to do the same with us. He’d love us to gain more understanding so we might practice more patience in our lives.

“Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait  is often harder than to work.” ~ Peter Marshall

 

God Meets Real Life: Fighting Back Against Burnout

In the last post I shared a bit about the temptation to quit. This post is focused on a few strategies to help re-energize our flagging spirits.

WE MUST WORK REST INTO OUR LIFE

This point reminds us of the importance of Sabbath. God has worked it into His creation that there are times to push forward, and other times to pull back and recover.

We aren’t wired to power through without any respite. Whether it be our minds or our muscles, we must give time to regain energy and vitality.

IF OUR PLATE IS CONSTANTLY OVERLOADED, YOU MUST FIGURE OUT HOW TO TAKE SOME THINGS OFF

Most everyone has heard the expression about having too many irons in the fire. For the blacksmith, if he put too many iron pieces in the fire, the fire would be in danger of going out.

Hebrews 12:1 offers this exhortation:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… (ESV)

Too run well we must offload the things that slow us down or keep us from being effective. dra

Huge ocean liners must scrape off barnacles from their hull because, even though individually small, a whole host of barnacles can create tremendous drag.

WE MUST BE CAREFUL TO LIVE IN TODAY, NOT WASTING ENERGY ON TOMORROW

Here’s what Jesus said Matthew 6:34:

 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (ESV)

How many sports teams lost a game because they were thinking about their next opponent, instead of focusing on the one before them.

Sometimes we are tempted to quit because we are thinking too far down the road to concerns that are far off.

We must live in the present, because we aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow.

DISCOVER WHAT RECHARGES YOUR SOUL

I find that people are recharged in a variety of ways

For some it’s being with other people. For others its all about stillness and solitude.

Maybe for you its spending time in the outdoors. It could be that your recharge comes from serving others.

Perhaps you are revitalized by reading a book, going to a conference or watching an old movie.

The key is to know what types of things bring you back to life what it feels like life is seeping out of your soul.

STAY CONNECTED TO OTHERS WHO LOVE YOU, WILL PRAY FOR YOU, AND WILL CHEER YOU ON

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

One of the most treacherous things we do when tempted to quit is disconnect ourselves from others. Figure out who’s on your team and stay engaged. Be honest when you are struggling with the urge to bail.

This is especially important when we find ourselves becoming members of what I call “groups that no one ever thought they would join.” Sometimes life’s circumstances force us to join others in a status we never wanted. Maybe it’s a divorce. Maybe a loved one committed suicide. In times like these, we need humanity, not to hide away.

CHECK YOUR IDEALISM QUOTIENT

Sometimes the reason we get so spun out is because we don’t have a realistic view of life.

Modern advertising doesn’t help! We are sold a bill of goods that says that every moment of life is meant to be perfect.

But that simply doesn’t jibe with what Jesus said according to John 16:33 – “In this life you will have trouble!”

We love normalcy.

But life doesn’t always serve up normalcy.

Some parents come home with completely healthy babies. Some don’t

Some people go into marriage dreaming of Disney-like bliss. Most find out soon enough such Hollywood ideals don’t exist.

Lastly:

ROOT YOUR LIFE IN CHRIST AND THE GOSPEL, AND YOU WILL FIND YOUR STAYING POWER WILL INCREASE

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul uses an expression two times: “We do not lose heart.”

Why did he say this?

Because Paul was enraptured by the Gospel and the God who offers it.

Because God was real in Paul’s life, he found that he could face life’s challenges with more endurance and perseverance.

Which is amazing to think about, because Paul faced some really harsh persecution for sharing Jesus.

Yet check out what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

My prayer for you if you find yourself on the precipice of bailing out: may God fill you, restore you and recharge you. And, if there is anything you can think to do to re-calibrate your life to avoid burning out and giving up, do it!

 

God Meets Real Life: The Temptation to Quit

“Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Don’t. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.” ~ John Piper

One of the most common reactions to failure is the desire to quit. To check out. Give up. Call it a day…or a month…or a year.

In the worst of cases, a person feels the need to exit this world entirely.

If I could describe such a condition with a short phrase, I would call it the “malady of losing heart.”

At this point the glass is no longer half empty…it feels like it dried up a long time ago

Most of us will at certain times and in certain areas of life feeling like pulling over and letting the rest of life drive right past us.

For some reason, we haven’t been able to get our batteries recharged for another go-around with whatever challenge that seems intent on wearing us down.

How many have ever uttered these words: “It’s no use!”

I think God knows that this is a very real possibility for us. And I think He would love to be involved in restoring our vigor for life.

Although we make think we go from motivated to unmotivated in a flash, the reality is this: the pathway to burnout is usually marked by certain warning signs.

And, If we don’t take these signs seriously, and keep trying to trudge ahead onto the next warning sign, we will likely come to the place of ultimate burnout.

Here are three warning signs we ought to consider:

Warning sign #1: disillusionment

Disillusionment happens when things aren’t working out the way we think they should.

Our ideal is shattered by reality.

At that moment, the dream dies and the vision vanishes.

At this warning sign we have a challenge. We can either readjust ourselves to reality, or we will go forward with a fresh load of angst, exhaustion and dread for what lies ahead!

Someone once said, “When reality crashes with fantasy, something must give.”

Warning sign #2: discouragement

Disillusionment happens in the mind.

Discouragement happens in the heart.

When we lose heart, two things go flying out the window: motivation and courage.

But, let’s say that the first two warning signs aren’t enough for us. So we power ahead. Not long after we will bump into a third warning sign!

Warning sign #3: discontentment

Where discontentment dwells, there is no room for joy.

At this point, the idea of quitting become more and more attractive.

Why? Because discontentment contaminates our vision.

More and more of our life is viewed from a negative perspective.

At this point, if we do not stop we will likely throw in the proverbial towel.

Result? We become disassociated.

We choose to disengage and decide to head to the sidelines.

History tells us about certain people who quit just shy of succeeding.

Like the long distance swimmer who gave up just yards from the beach because the fog kept her from seeing the shore

Or the Gold mine that was discovered just six inches from where the last crew quit digging.

Let me just say when we come to this point on our pathway, NOT quitting is really, really hard.

But, I believe that with God’s help, we CAN get recharged no matter where we are on our journey.

So, in the next post, I’ll list some ideas to help us avoid the urge to quit.