Complaining To God

I was recently at our men’s group breakfast. We had some discussion questions to spark conversation at the table. The last question on there had a verse in Exodus where Moses was complaining to God and letting Him have it for doing what He told him and how everything was still going wrong. It then asked, “Do you feel comfortable expressing your feelings to God?” I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t get frustrated at God. The problem comes from our unmet expectation of Him when we do what we’re asked. Our expectation is that if we’re in His will doing what He asks of us that all will go perfectly smooth. He never promised that though. He simply tells us to obey Him no matter how bad things get.

Jeremiah was a prophet who had to tell the nation of Israel that God was going to scatter them and force them out of their land. All the other “prophets” were prophesying the opposite. No one listened to him as he did and said what God told him to. In fact, when they were besieged, instead of listening to him then, they put him in prison and then down a well. Can you imagine? God chose him, gave him the words to say and things didn’t go smoothly. In Jeremiah 15:18, he complained to God, “Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you indeed be to me like a deceptive brook with water that is unreliable?” AMP) I’ve learned that God is not afraid of our complaints, nor is He afraid to answer us when we complain.

The next verse in Jeremiah, God responds, “If you repent [and give up this mistaken attitude of despair and self-pity], then I will restore you [to a state of inner peace] So that you may stand before Me [as My obedient representative]; And if you separate the precious from the worthless [examining yourself and cleansing your heart from unwarranted doubt concerning My faithfulness], You will become My spokesman.” How many times do we have a mistaken attitude when we complain to God? Is it usually birthed out of doubt about who He is and what He’s called you to? If it is, it’s time to repent. God is worthy of your trust and obedience no matter what your circumstances look like. He’s looking at your life from a big picture perspective. Don’t look at Him through a circumstantial perspective. Trust in His plan and keep obeying what He told you to do no matter what.

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The Fiery Furnace

One of the first stories in the Bible that you’re taught as a kid is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego In the fiery furnace. The king had built a statue that was 90 feet tall and expected everyone to bow to it on command. These three men were in high government positions because their friend, and fellow captive, Daniel had been able to tell the king what his dream was and meant. When they didn’t bow, it was obvious because they were in the public eye. The king demanded they bow, but they refused to his face. They would rather honor God and suffer the consequences of death than to dishonor God and live. The king heated the furnace even hotter than normal and had them thrown into it. That’s when he noticed there were four men walking around in it. In Daniel 3:25, the king said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” (NLT)

One the first things they noticed was that the three were unbound. I think that’s important because they would have tied them up with something that wasn’t combustible. There are times in life that we go through things that we feel like we’re bound by. It feels like we will never get free and the chains hinder our progress. Even when nothing else seems to be able to set you free, God can. These gentlemen could not set themselves free by their own power, and neither can we. It takes trusting in God and putting ourselves in His hands to find freedom from the things that bind us. One word from Him and the things that have bound you for years will fall. Your freedom is in Him.

The next thing they noticed is that there was a fourth guy in the fire. I’ve noticed that when we walk through the fiery trials of life, they reveal Jesus. You are not walking through your difficult times alone. He’s always with you, but we see Him more clearly in those moments. He shows up and walks through those times with you. No matter how bad things seem, keep moving and praying. The three Hebrew men didn’t sit down in the fire and wait to be called out. They were actively moving and it caught the attention of others. You’re ability to not quit during the most fiery trial will inspire others who will go through those times in the future. Your most difficult times become your greatest testimony. Don’t quit. God is up to something and is right there with you in those moments.

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Tests Are Good

Think back to when you were in school. How often did you ask the teacher to give you a test? If you were like most kids, that would be never. Kids hate tests. You never knew if you were studying the right thing. You didn’t know how hard the test would be either. The question was always, “What is the minimum effort I need to exert on studying in order to pass this test?” When you didn’t study or prepare for the test, your grade reflected it too. Why? Because tests are designed to challenge you and to cement knowledge in your brain. They tell your brain, this is important. Put it in long term memory versus short term.

Tests are actually a good thing. If you have studied and are prepared, then they’re not going to stress you out. There are several verses in the Bible where people asked God to test them. Their lives were constantly ready for any test God might give them in order to cement their faith. Those tests proved what they knew, but they also exposed blind spots and weaknesses. You might not think so, but that’s a good thing. If we know where and what those are, we can guard them or seek the Holy Spirit’s help in those areas. If we’re going to keep drawing closer to God, we need to be asking for tests.

Here are some Bible verses on asking for tests.

1. Lord, you can scrutinize me. Refine my heart and probe my every thought. Put me to the test and you’ll find it’s true.

Psalms 26:2 TPT

2. O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, you test those who are righteous, and you examine the deepest thoughts and secrets.

Jeremiah 20:12 NLT

3. Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

PSALMS 139:23-24 AMP

4. Then I said, “GOD -of-the-Angel-Armies, you’re a fair judge. You examine and cross-examine human actions and motives. I want to see these people shown up and put down! I’m an open book before you. Clear my name.”

Jeremiah 11:20 MSG

5. You have put us to the test, God; as silver is purified by fire, so you have tested us.

Psalm 66:10 GNT

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Unfazed And Unafraid

This year, I’ve had both a family member and a coworker get diagnosed with breast cancer. Their stories of sitting in the doctor’s office and hearing the news were very similar. They described getting tunnel vision. Sound seemed to go away. Fear immediately brought tears as it showed them a world where their child would grow up motherless. Then both immediately asked for prayer from those who know God.

One shared with me how after prayer they had clarity of how to fight, and they were no longer reeling from the news. The other shared with me about the peace that came over her. She said, “After people started praying, I haven’t been able to shed a tear. This peace won’t let me.” Both received news that no one ever wants to get, but both knew where to turn when they got it. While they still have treatments to go through, knowing God is in control has made the difference.

In Psalm 112, the writer discusses the blessings of the man (or woman) who fears the Lord with reverence and worships Him with obedience. Each verse pronounces blessings or discusses the outcome for such people. In verses 7-8, it says, “They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly” (NLT). This verse perfectly describes what both of these women shared with me.

This verse doesn’t just apply to cancer though. It applies to any bad news that may come your way. You don’t have to fear the outcome when you get it. Just like these ladies, you can give the news to God through prayer, and His peace, which passes all understanding, will guard your thoughts. Fear does not come from God, but peace does. Whatever you’re facing today, you can face it with confidence because you are a child of the King of Kings. He is in control, and will work out His plan for you.

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Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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God Likes You

Some verses in the Bible have so much packed into them that you just have to stop and chew on them for a while. Zephaniah 3:17 is one of those verses. It says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT). Think about that verse for a minute. Some versions say, “God is present with you” (MSG) or “God is with you” (GNT). No matter what version, it’s important to know that wherever you go, whatever you do, God is there, present with you in each situation. We just need to learn to be more aware of His presence in our day.

From John 3:16, we know that God loves us. We’re taught that as a kid, but do you ever stop to think that more than that, God likes you too? He really does. He takes delight in us with gladness it says. He sees the deep, dark places of our heart that we keep hidden, and He still likes us and wants to be around us. So many of us keep those parts hidden from others because we think, “If they knew this about me, they wouldn’t like me.” God knows you and I are broken and have sin nature lurking inside. He wants to bring healing to those places, and calm our fears about them. Fear does not come from Him. It comes from not understanding who we are in Him and who He wants to be in our lives.

This verse then ends with a bang! God rejoices over you and sings joyful songs over you. Psalm 32:7 says that the songs God sings are to deliver us and to bring us victory. Just like a parent sings songs to their kids, God sings to us. He knows that wherever we go or whatever we do, we need His comfort, His protection and His victory. Today, God is present with you, He is might enough to save you from whatever you’re facing, He wants to be around you, He will calm your fears and be singing over you. To me, that means today, and every day has the potential to be a great day. We just need to keep this verse in mind so we can understand how God sees us and know who we are to Him.

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Barren Seasons

Have you been through a barren season? It’s those seasons where you have planted seeds and watered them, but nothing is growing or producing. It’s a little frustrating and a lot scary. To have followed God’s principles in the Bible and to not see Him move on your behalf can be worrisome. In those times, I’ve prayed, “God, where are you? Why haven’t you responded yet? I thought by now you would have shown up,” only to be answered by silence. Barren seasons show up out of no where and can last a while. They put your faith to the test, but what you can’t see, and what you have to remind yourself, is what God is doing with those planted seeds underground.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 gives us the prescription for these times. It says, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (NLT) We must continue to praise God anyway and choose to honor Him. Our hope is not in the fruits of our labor, but in the Lord. We cannot allow what we see in our circumstances to dictate our relationship with God. Circumstances are fickle, but God remains the same yesterday, today and forever.

In those barren seasons, I recount the character of God. I look back on who He has always been, not on how I perceive Him in my current situation. Relationships dictated by emotions fail because emotions can be manipulated. They must be built on something deeper. You must choose to love, to rejoice in the Lord and to be joyful even in the dry seasons. God has not changed who He is, nor has He stopped working on your behalf. Choose to rejoice no matter what the fields of your life look like right now. Trust in Him to be who He always has been. He is Jehovah Jireh, your provider and source even in the barren seasons. Your trust needs to be in Him rather than in the fruit of your labor.

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Crossroads

How many times do we come to crossroads in our lives? When they come up, I imagine the ending scene of “Castaway” where Tom Hanks character is sitting at one. He gets out of the car with his map and looks at all directions in front of him when a lady pulls up and says, “You look lost. Where are you headed?” He replies, “I do? I was just about to figure that out.” She then tells him where each road heads, gets back in her truck and drives off. We can get advice on which path to take at the crossroads, but ultimately, it’s our decision to make, so we must choose wisely. It’s not wise to stay there long, but it is good to seek God for the right decision before you choose.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (NLT) Being at a crossroads is an unsettling and stressful place. It has the potential to be a moment of great change in your life and you want to make the right decision. That’s why the Lord says in this verse that we are to ask others for godly advice. Which is the old, godly way? Which way does God want me to take? When I ask and can’t find an answer to those questions, it’s good to fast and to seek God for peace in the path He wants you to take. Peace doesn’t mean there won’t be a difficult road ahead. It means that you will have the assurance that no matter what happens, you’re on the road God told you to take.

It would be nice if the roads were marked and the choice were easy, but that’s rarely the case. If you happen to make the wrong choice, and you don’t have peace, fail fast. Don’t let pride keep you on the wrong road. Turn around and go down the one that gives rest to your soul and peace in your heart. God has a plan for your life, and Psalm 37:23 says that the Lord orders our steps and He delights in the details of our life. Don’t be afraid to seek His will asking Him to show you or to seek godly counsel from others who have been there or who can pray with you. God has a peace that passes understanding in these times and will use it to lead you down the right road.

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