Tag Archives: all things work together

Comforting The Hurting

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet who lived in the 1800’s. He was no stranger to pain. His first wife died during a miscarriage. He married again almost ten years later. He had six children with her. Not long after the Civil War began, his wife was cutting their seven year old’s hair and decided to preserve some curls in wax. The wax drilled onto her dress and she caught fire. He tried to help put it out, but sustained severe burns himself. She passed away the next day. Not long after, their son joined the army to fight in the war. Henry was devastated by it all and quit writing poetry.

That first Christmas afterwards, he wrote in his journal how sad all holidays were. The next year he wrote,, “I can leave no record of these days. Better to leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps God can give me peace.” The following year he didn’t write anything. The next November he found out his son had been shot and was severely wounded, possibly mortally. When his son arrived home, it wasn’t as bad as he feared. That Christmas he penned a poem which became the carol, “I heard The Bells of Christmas”. God was able to bring him through such tragedy and increase his effectiveness as a poet and writer.

2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (NLT). The holidays are not happy for everyone. Many have endured loss and suffering and are in need of God’s peace and comfort. You and I have that ability to be agents of comfort, healing and peace during this season. If you’re struggling this season, I want to leave you with my favorite lines from his poem. It says, “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, goodwill to men.” He can make all things work together for good.

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If you’d like to listen to my favorite version of this carol, click here.

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Divine Disruptions

How do you respond when your plans get disrupted? How do you feel when things don’t go according to the way you thought they were? At times, we follow God’s leading in our life, thinking it’s going to go one way, when things happen and they go another. It drives me nuts when that happens. I’ve already played everything out based on the information I have from the Holy Spirit, but then I find out that I don’t have all the information. He often has a different plan than the one I have. He has other motives that I don’t know about. So when He disrupts what I think is the plan, I often don’t recognize that it’s Him. Instead of rolling with the changes, I often push back.

In Acts 8, the Early Church was growing rapidly until Saul came on the scene and started persecuting Christians. People had to move away from their homes to escape. One person that did that was Philip. He went to Samaria where Jews were hated. He preached the Gospel and revival broke out. So many people were getting saved and healed that Peter and John went there and took over Philip’s ministry. An angel then told him to go down the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. There he encountered an Ethiopian reading Scripture. He explained it to him and he got saved. After baptizing him, the Spirit caught Philip away and transported him to Ashdod instead of Gaza where he thought he was supposed to go. That was a seven hour walk away.

In each of these cases, the plans Philip had were disrupted or changed. Because of the persecution, the Gospel spread around the world. Because he followed God’s leading after his ministry was taken from him, aN Ethiopian took the Gospel to Africa and established the Church there. Romans 8:28 says, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (TPT). Whatever disruption you’re facing right now could be from God. Even if it’s not, God can work it out for good and for His purposes. Instead of throwing a pity party, ask God what He needs from you in this time. Who knows the ripple effect of what God can do through you when you submit to His will instead of your plans.

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Worship In The Valley

Two of the biggest lies we hear when we’re going through a difficult time is that no one else understands and that God doesn’t care. I remember hearing both and believing them. The first one tries to get you on a technicality because there is no one else with your exact situation. I’ve found that while our situations may be unique, the pain and the process we go through is very similar. While someone may not be able to fully understand my exact situation, they can identify with the pain. That leads us to the second lie that God doesn’t care. The lie wants you to think that if God cared, you wouldn’t be going through so much. The truth is that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He’s there with you to guide you and comfort you. He makes all things work together for our good.

I don’t know anyone who went through as much as Paul or Job. Job lost everything including his wealth, his kids and property. He still was able to worship God in that moment. In Job 2:9, when his wife told him to curse God and die, he responded, “Shall we accept good from God and not the trouble?” (NIV) When Paul was thrown in prison with Silas after having been beat, he invited God’s presence into the deepest, darkest part of that prison in the middle of the night by singing praises. When both of these men felt abandoned by people and God, they worshipped knowing that God dwells in the praises of His people. They held to the truth that God cares for us no matter how bad things may seem.

Psalm 31:7 says, “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul” (NLT). In the darkest nights of my life, the most painful times, I turned on praise and worship music to help me worship when I didn’t feel it. God is worthy of our praise no matter what it is we’re going through. He sees the anguish in our soul and He cares deeply for us. He knows that the pain, the hurt, the sadness and the darkness will only last for a little while. He never leaves us in those times though He may feel far away. He’s there leading us into a greater joy and life that often goes through the darkest valley. Don’t listen to the lies and despair. Listen to the truth and worship.

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Reshaped Into His Image

A friend of mine has a ministry called Know The Fight. He understands that people feel misunderstood, unwanted and unloved, so he began helping them to tell their stories. What he found was that as he helped them tell their stories, he helped them bridge the gap between them and others. The more people revealed about their hidden wars, the more that others realized they weren’t fighting alone. He creates and shares some amazing videos. On his personal social media, he posts things from hilariously absurd memes to quotes and reminders that will sometimes hit you between the eyes. He posted one of these recently and I wanted to share it here. He wrote, “My anxiety drops when I realize that everything that’s happening to me is to make me more like Christ.”

The more I thought about that, the more I realized how true it’s been in my life. God used some dark days in my life to purge me and to make me more like Christ. When things happen that I don’t understand, I remind myself that He is the potter and I am the clay. I’m sure that the clay doesn’t understand when chunks are taken out of it, when it gets crushed and out back in the middle of the wheel or when it gets hollowed out. I know that I don’t, but looking back on those times in my life, I can see that God was making me more like Himself, removing parts of my life that were holding me back and rebuilding my life to make me more Christ-like. Did those times hurt? More than you may know. When I look back from where God has led me, I’m thankful that He took the time to do those things, painful as they were, so that He could bring me here.

In the Early Church, they faced mass persecution and Paul addresses it a lot reminding people that God was using it to grow them and the Church. In one such exhortation in 2 Thessalonians 1:5, he wrote, “All this trouble is a clear sign that God has decided to make you fit for the Kingdom “ (MSG). I don’t know the hidden war going on within you today, but God does. He gave us the promise in Romans 8:28 that He works all things out for your good. No matter what it is that you’re facing, know that God can use it to make you more Christ-like. You may feel like you’re the only one going through it and no one can relate. While your circumstances may be unique, the pain, the battle and the loneliness are shared by others. God sees you and He is using this time to reshape you more into His image.

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Incomplete Masterpieces

Impatient. That’s a word that can often be used to describe me. Even though I know that something like an oil painting requires a lengthy process, I want it done quickly. But you can’t do that with oils. You paint a color at a time in an area and let it dry for a few days. You then add some more. Oil paintings require time and patience if you want an excellent piece. I always want it to look like a Rembrandt, but I’m not willing to go through the process. As I look at his work, I imagine the time it took him to create those masterpieces and am in awe of the finished product.

Our lives are not much different than his masterpieces. To become the complex work of art that God has planned for each of us, we must go through a lengthy process. We can easily get impatient wondering if God will ever finish what He started. Sometimes He adds color to our life, then puts the paintbrush down while it cures. We want the whole picture quickly, but masterpieces aren’t created in a day. They must submit to the process.

David could have easily been as impatient as I am. Imagine this: he had been anointed king, yet he had to go back to tending sheep. He had slayed a giant, but he still had to do his chores at home. Even though God had called and anointed him as king, he still had to submit to the process to become the masterpiece that God wanted him to become. He could have killed Saul several times, but he understood that would have interfered with the process, so he trusted God.

In Psalm 138:8 he wrote, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life” (NLT). He understood what we need to understand. God is the one working things out in our lives, not us. When we get impatient and interfere, we mess with the masterpiece He’s creating. He is the artist and we are the canvas. If you’re in the process of waiting right now, don’t become impatient. God is still working out His plan. The brush may be set down right now, but He’s not finished with you. He will be faithful to complete it.

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.

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Trusting The Master Artisan

In the mid 1990’s, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. One of the things I did pretty often was to visit the Lillian Trasher Orphanage in the middle of the country. One of the trade skills they taught kids was using a loom to create rugs. I remember seeing the loom for the first time. I was amazed at how these kids were able to use the shuttle to weave threads in and out of the warp (vertical, tight threads). More than that, they were able to see what i couldn’t – the overall design and plan for the rug. They created these perfectly symmetrical designs by weaving the different colors in and out of the warp. It was incredible to watch the artisans at work.

Our lives are not much different than that loom. God is at work in our lives creating something beautiful, but too often we can’t or don’t see what He’s doing. Many times we question the threads He uses or placement of them. We don’t know the design He’s creating so we feel incomplete or unfinished while He is weaving people, circumstances and situations in and out of our lives. It’s easy to question what you don’t see or don’t understand, but God is the greatest artisan of all. He knew you before you were born (Jeremiah 1:5), and had created His master design for your life.

Romans 8:28 says, “So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose” (TPT). Your life may seem random at times, even chaotic, but God is at work in every detail. You may not understand why he wove a certain thread in until He has completed His work, but don’t let that stop you from trusting Him. He works everything out for our good according to His plan for each of us. Remember that we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art] (Ephesians 2:10 AMP) that He will continue to work on until His plan is complete in our lives. We must learn to trust the artisan of our lives completely.

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Trusting God’s Character

Psalm 10:1 says, “Lord, you seem so far away when evil is near! Why do you stand so far off as though you don’t care? Why have you hidden yourself when I need you the most?” (TPT) I love how honest David is with God. He says things and asks questions like this that are how we feel at times, but seem too irreverent to think or say. Every one of us have felt the same way this psalm starts off. We’ve wondered where God is and why He isn’t there to rescue us in our time of need. We’ve wondered why we feel alone when our world comes crashing down. It seems sometimes as if God doesn’t care what’s going on. That’s normal to feel that way and God is big enough to handle these tough questions.

In my life, I’ve learned to trust the character of God more than my present circumstances. Yes, they are real and they put serious pressure on me where there seems to be no way out. It’s a lot of sleepless nights and stressful days when I can’t move the mountain bearing down on me. I’ve learned though that God uses those time to produce in me things that can’t be produced any other way. One of my nephews likes to say, “No pressure, no diamond.” It’s not that God doesn’t care or that He has abandoned you. He is producing something valuable in your life in those times that He can use over and over again for the rest of your life.

My pastor recently said, “Put your trust in who God is, not in your plan for God.” You and I get disappointed when God doesn’t do what we think He should do, but if we focus on who He has always been, we’ll trust Him in hard times. That’s what David reminded himself later in Psalm 10. Verse 17 says, “Lord, you know and understand all the hopes of the humble and will hear their cries and comfort their hearts, helping them all!” God hears your silent prayers and sees your hidden tears during these times. He hasn’t abandoned you. In fact, even though you can’t see it, He’s working everything out for your good.

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Be Encouraged

As I was reading about Moses delivering God’s message of freedom and deliverance to the Israelites, I came across a verse I didn’t remember. In Exodus 6:9 it says, “So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery” (NLT). That last sentence struck a chord with me. How many of us are so discouraged with how life is going right now that we can’t hear what God is trying to tell us? How many of us are so distracted by everything that’s going wrong that we can’t see what God is trying to do?

I’ve been there. It’s a tough place to be. When you’re where you thought God told you to go and nothing is going right. In fact, things only seem to be getting worse. I understand that place because I’ve been there. Today, I want to bring you some of God’s promises that you need to hear and hold onto. Don’t be so discouraged and distracted today on the things that you miss what God is saying to you. Read these verse. Repeat them out loud if you have to. Then stand on them and believe that God is going to make all these things you’re going through work together for your good.

Here are some promises of God in the Bible to encourage you.

1. Praise the Lord, my soul! All my being, praise his holy name! Praise the Lord, my soul, and do not forget how kind he is. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He keeps me from the grave and blesses me with love and mercy. He fills my life with good things, so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.

Psalm 103:1-5 GNT

2. So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:31-34 NLT

3. The Lord who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you.”

Isaiah 43:1-2 GNT

4. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who has no might He increases power. Even youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.

ISAIAH 40:29-31 AMP

5. Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart! GOD is here, right here, on his way to put things right And redress all wrongs. He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

Isaiah 35:3-4 MSG

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Standing In The Struggle

On a trip to California, I went to Napa Valley because I had been told that it was beautiful. As I drove through it, I was mesmerized by the straight rows of vines going for miles. I decided to pull into a winery and take a tour to learn of their process. One of the things they shared was how good seasons don’t produce good wine. The good wine comes from the years when the vines struggle. There’s something about the fight for water, the digging into the soil and the struggle to stay alive that produces a complex flavor in the grapes, which in turn, makes for a “good year”.

As they spoke, I couldn’t help but correlate that to life. There are good seasons we go through and there are bad seasons. When we look back on our life, it’s the “bad seasons” that produce the most growth in us. That’s when we learn what we’re made of and how strong our faith is. It reminds me of Romans 8:28 that says how God works together all things for our good. The good that He works is often in our life for the long term even though that season is very painful.

In Genesis 37- 41, we read of a 17 year stretch where Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, thrown into prison and was forgotten. After he was restored, he married and had kids. Genesis 42:52 says, “Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief’”. God is able to make you fruitful in the most painful times and places of your life. You must hold onto to His promises, stand strong in your faith and keep believing that He’s working things out for your good.

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Mental Choices

If you ever get a personal email from me, my usual signature is, “Choose to make it a great day!” I’ve learned that if you don’t choose your attitude, either your day or someone else will. I know what it’s like to live under Murphy’s Law where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I had a day once where I was driving about 600 miles. On the way, my car spun out during a snow storm. I ended up 50 feet from the road sunk in mud that was up to my knees. After getting wrenched out, my heater quit working. I got a drive through coffee, but it spilled in my lap looking like I wet my pants. Then both headlights went out at the same time. The store only had one, so I replaced just one. I then got pulled over by the police for having only one headlight. That was a bad day.

I can tell you that it’s hard to have a good attitude on a day like that, but I’ve learned that if I don’t, I can get on a streak of bad days. We tend to bring things into our lives that are most in line with our thoughts and attitude. How we choose to see the world determines what we focus on. If we’ve got a bad attitude, we’ll see all the negative things happening to us. If we choose a good attitude, we’ll see the good around us. As Christians, we need to remember that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when bad things come into our life, knowing that God can work it out for our good can change our attitude.

Proverbs 15:15 says, “Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness” (TPT). I like to start each day quoting David, “This IS the day that the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!” When things go wrong, I repeat it. When multiple things go wrong, I stop and pray for God to open my eyes to see what He wants me to find in it, and to give me the strength to endure. We can have joy on the worst of our days by the mental choices we make, praying for God’s help and meditating on His Word.

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