Have you ever been sure you were right until you found out you were missing information? I’ve had that happen on more than one occasion. Some told me an injustice that happened to them, so I stood up for them and argued their case. The other person, whom I was going after, said, “Did you know this?” I didn’t. It was a handy piece of information to have. Had I known that, I would have kept my mouth shut. Now I’m standing there with my foot in my mouth feeling kind of small. I had to apologize because I acted on the information I had rather than making sure I had all the information.
Almost all of the book of Job is about him pleading his case with his friends. They’re convinced he’s sinned and God is punishing him. He defends himself, and round and round they go for over 30 chapters. Then he switches his attention to God. He demands God show up so He can be confronted about his injustice. Well, God shows up and asks Job a bunch of questions he doesn’t have the answer to. God’s questions reveal to Job that he doesn’t have all the information. In Job 40:4-5 he answers God, “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (NLT). In that moment Job realized God sees the bigger picture and He was wise enough to be quiet and trust Him.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” I don’t know what you’re going through today. Maybe you feel like Job where everything is being taken away from you unjustly. Maybe you’re blaming God or pleading your case to Him about how you’re being targeted. I want to remind you that in Job 1, it was the devil who requested permission to attack Job. God trusted Job to stay faithful no matter how bad things got. Because he did stay true, God rewarded him. We don’t know why things happen, but we do know God is in control and He has a plan. He sees the whole picture of your life and is working everything out for your good, even when it doesn’t seem good or feel good. Trust His long term plan rather than your current situation. He’s not missing information. We are.
In the darkest time of my life, I was so upset and angry I couldn’t eat or sleep for days. In the night, I would lay down, but I couldn’t sleep. As tears rolled down my face, I began to sing a couple of songs I learned as a kid. The first one was “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength,” and the other one was “Rejoice in the Lord Always”. As depression and bitterness we’re trying to make theirselves at home in my mind, I could only combat them with these songs. I knew that I was in a bad situation and that adding in those two things would make things worse. I tried to remember that God knew what I was going through, even if He wasn’t stopping it, and that joy would give me strength to endure anything.
When I was younger, someone once told me that there’s a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on circumstances so it comes and goes based on my condition. Joy is internal and not based on any external situation. It comes from understanding that no matter what my condition is, I’m still loved by Jesus and there is nothing that can separate me from it. When you learn to look at your life through the lens of Jesus’ love rather than your current circumstances, you learn to have a joy that gives you strength no matter what you’re going through.
Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice because of your constant love. You see my suffering; you know my trouble” (GNT). God is very much aware of your pain, your suffering, your stressful situation or whatever you’re facing, and He knows how to work it our for your good. Even though you can’t see how anything good can come from it right now, keep trusting in His plan and resting in His love. Let joy spring up from within you and turn the ashes of what used to be, or what could have been, into fertile soil for God to do something new and unexpected. His joy will strengthen you and His love will sustain you through whatever comes your way. Keep trusting in His plan.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
When you’re going through a difficult season or through a hard time, you start seeking out sympathy. One of the things you’re going to hear in your mind is, “You don’t deserve this. Why is God mad at you?” Another thing you will hear is, “No one has it as badly as you do. No one will understand what you’re going through.” I know because I’ve heard them. These are lies to get you to be upset at God, to get mad at others and to isolate you. If you’re mad at God, you won’t pray and a root of bitterness can spring up. If you’re mad at others, you won’t accept help from them. If you’re isolated, you’re easy prey for your enemy who roams like a lion seeking to devour you.
To combat the first lie, I use Romans 8:28 as a promise to hold onto. I believe that no matter how bad things get, God can always work it out for my good. To combat the second lie, I look for people who have it worse than I do. There is always someone else who is having a more difficult time than you. I’ve also come to realize that while my circumstance are unique, it doesn’t disqualify anyone from understanding and offering empathy. The pain and stages of grief are where others can connect to help me from getting isolated. I also keep at least one friend nearby who knows that during difficult seasons I may push people away, but really I want and need them close by. They know I need encouragement and to be refocused during those times.
Hebrews 12:3 is a great Scripture to help refocus in difficult times. It says, “So consider carefully how Jesus faced such intense opposition from sinners who opposed their own souls, so that you won’t become worn down and cave in under life’s pressures” (TPT). Jesus, who is our intercessor, has been through worse things and attacks than anyone. The verse before this one reminds us that He endured all that for the joy set before Him knowing what good was going to come from it. Now He is able to be empathetic and to pray specifically for you to the Father. You are never alone in your struggles. You are never left without an intercessor who is praying for you. Don’t believe the lies you hear in your mind. Read the Word of God and stand on His promises. It may not feel like it, and you may not be able to see it, but He is working things out for your good.
In the summer between my Fifth and Sixth grade years of school, my parents informed me that they were taking me out of the school system I had attended all my life and we’re putting me into a Christian school. I was devastated. All I could think of were the things I was going to lose and miss out on. There was no social media so I was going to lose all the friends I had been making since kindergarten. The Christian school was small and didn’t have much of a sports program. I went from a class of 20 something students to an entire grade that had only six students.
All I could focus on we’re the things I was losing. I pled with my parents about their choice. I wasn’t happy about it and let them know it! They were focused on my bigger picture. They knew that there was a higher percent of Christians in the Christian school than where I was meaning I would more than likely make friends with good influences. They knew that a grade that had six students would mean I would get a more individualized learning situation. They knew that even though sports were a big deal to me, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete so they focused on things that benefited my future.
Thirty years later, I can see now what I couldn’t see then. I appreciate the choices they made even though I disagreed with them. As an adult in life, I forget that ultimately I’m a child of God. Even though I call Him “Father” in my prayers, I don’t often think of us being in a father / son relationship. I think of myself as an adult and He is more like my guide. I don’t think that’s how He wants it though. The truth is, I don’t know anything about what’s best for me long term just like I didn’t as a Fifth grader.
When God makes choices to take things out of my life, I still stomp and tell Him it’s not fair. All I can see are the things I’m losing. I’m too focused on the short term comforts rather than His long term goals for my life. I feel like God speaks to me sometimes in the way he did in Job 38 to get my attention during my tantrums. In verses four and five, He asked Job, “Where were you when I made the world? If you know so much, tell me about it. Who decided how large it would be? Who stretched the measuring line over it? Do you know all the answers?”
I don’t always agree with the decisions God makes in my life, but I’m learning that He knows what’s best long term for me. He may take away people or things from my life so that He can put prepare me for what’s ahead. He may do things that look like sacrifices now only to reveal years later that it was for my good. I wasn’t there when He laid the foundations of the earth. I don’t have the answers, but I do know the One who does. In times when I feel like I’m losing important parts of my life, I’m learning to trust His overall plan because He will do what is best for me long term.