Throwback Thursday is a new 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.
Rain is something we need, but don’t really want. We’ve given it a negative connotation too. It started when we were children singing the song, “Rain, Rain, go away. Come again another day.” Rain disrupts the times of sunshine and happiness that we feel. When it’s rainy outside, we say it’s gloomy. We think of the gray clouds and associate them with depression. Rain changes our path, our timing and our plans. It messes things up for us so we resist it. We forget that rain is a necessary part of life. We forget all the good that it does.
I’ve got several friends right now who are experiencing rain in their lives. Several friends have had loved ones pass away unexpectedly. I’ve got a couple of friends who can’t seem to find a job. I’ve got a few friends whose lives have been turned upside down because of choices their spouse made. For them, it seems like the rain just keeps coming. It feels like their lives are being flooded with only negative things. As I’ve thought about all their situations, Matthew 5:45 came to mind. It says, “It rains on the just and the unjust.”
I’ve read or heard that scripture my whole life. I was always under the impression that it meant that bad things happen to Christians and non Christians alike because I associated rain with bad times. When I read it in context and then in several versions and interpretations of the original Greek, the Message Bible stood out. It said, “This is what God does. He gives His best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone regardless.” The times of rain in our lives are meant to nourish us. Just like our yards, lakes and crops need rain for nourishment, so do our lives.
When bad things happen, it usually pushes us closer go God. We spend more time in prayer. We take the time to talk to God and to read His Word to try to find answers. Days of sunshine rarely push us to spend time with God, but rain does. When we go a long time without rain or without spending time with a God, we go through a drought and that isn’t healthy. If you’re going through times of rain in your life right now, don’t pray for it to go away. Instead thank God for the nourishment and for the shelter He provides
In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.
No matter who you are, you’ll need help at some point in your life. You will face things that you can’t do on your own. If you’re like me, you try to do it alone anyway. My pride says, “You don’t need anyone’s help. You got into this by yourself, you can get out of it by yourself.” I try to project strength instead of admitting my weakness. What inevitability happens is that I end up wearing myself out in the process. One time, I collapsed on the floor and cried out to God, “I can’t do this anymore! Help me.” He replied, “Finally.”
God was waiting on me to look to Him for help, but my pride kept me from it. I had to endure a lot more pain than necessary because I wasn’t willing to admit I needed help. Since that time, I’ve learned to look to Him first when I need help. It doesn’t take long to pray, “God, I can’t do this on my own. I need your help.” It does take humility though, but God honors that. He wants to help us with our daily issues.
David learned this lesson as well. After being anointed king, he was constantly in danger and was running for his life. He learned to quit trying to go at it alone, and to go to God. In Psalm 25:15, he wrote, “I look to the Lord for help at all times” (GNT). He didn’t just go to God with some things. He went to Him with all his issues, and God came to His rescue. It wasn’t because David was any different that us. It was because David was humble enough to recognize he needed help from God daily.
Whatever you’re facing today, God stands ready to help. He’s waiting for us to trust His all sufficient grace to help us get through life. Don’t wait until you’re mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted before you cry out for help. Let go of your pride, and look to God for help at all times. It’s not a weakness to admit you need help. It takes strength to overcome your pride and admit it. Once you do, you’ll find that God is willing and able to step in and do what needs to be done.
We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving. After enduring such hardships, hunger, and death, the Pilgrims had an abundant harvest and stopped to thank God for His provision. Not taking anything away from that incredible day, but I’ve found it’s easy to praise God during the harvest. It’s easy to celebrate His goodness in times of plenty, but what about in times of hardship? How thankful were they when they were rationed a couple of kernels a day to survive on? How thankful are we in our hardships?
I’ve found that thankfulness and joy come from the heart and not from my circumstances. No matter how hard life gets, how dark our days are, how desolate we feel, we can still find a reason to have joy. It’s so important that we find that reason too. Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength in times when we don’t have the strength to face the day. Joy gives hope and reminds us that God is still on His throne no matter what comes against us.
Habakkuk painted a picture of dark times in chapter 3:17-18. He wrote, “Even though the fig trees have no fruit and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no grain, even though the sheep all die and the cattle stalls are empty, I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my savior” (GNT). He was saying even though the seeds planted didn’t yield a harvest, he’d still be joyful. Even through failure, there is a reason to be glad. Even if your savings are wiped out and there’s no food on your table, you can give thanks.
Don’t let the enemy use circumstances to steal your joy. Don’t let the thief come in and take your focus off of your provider. No matter how bad life gets, we must purpose in our hearts to find joy so we keep our perspective right. We can say, “Even so, it is well with my soul.” We can say, “I will still be joyful and glad,” because God is still on His throne and our circumstances will never change that. We can find joy in the pain. We can find hope in desperation because the Lord God is our savior. It won’t change our circumstances, but it will change our perspective. It will give us strength to endure anything. Find your joy in the Lord, not in your circumstances.
When I was in high school, one of my teachers was trying to help us understand the difference in the speed of light versus the speed of sound. He used a storm as an example. We see lightening flash and then a few seconds later, we hear the thunder. By our calculations, if there were 5 seconds between the lightening and the thunder, the lightening was a mile away. The closer the sound was to the lightening the closer it was.I still find myself counting the seconds between them during a storm.
Storms can be scary. The flashing lightening, the thunder, the wind, the rain, and possible floods. The storms of life can be scary too. They can knock us off our path, disorient us, confuse us, challenge our faith, and be relentless. For most of us, that’s when we seek God the most. Our prayers are quick like lightening, but God’s answers seem slow like thunder. It seems the farther we are away from Him, the longer it takes to hear His answer.
While we are waiting for an answer from God, we begin to think we are in the storm alone. The longer it takes, the more our faith takes a hit. It can be terrifying to be in a storm that doesn’t seem to end. As we watch everything we’ve worked for get swept away by rising waters, we wonder where God is. We wonder why has He abandoned us or forgotten us. The truth is that He hasn’t abandoned you. He hasn’t turned away from you.
Psalm 81:7 says, “When you were in trouble, you called to me, and I saved you. From my hiding place in the storm, I answered you” (GNT). This verse reminds me that God is in the storm with me. I may not be able to see Him. I may not be able to feel Him. His answers may seem slow, but He is there with me and He will save me. This verse helps me to get my thoughts off of my abandonment issues and onto the truth that God is there with me.
It’s important to win the battle of the mind in a storm. We must remember Philippians 4:8 that tells us to think on things that are true. What’s true is God has not abandoned you. God did not bring you into this place to let you drown. God is working things out for your good even when it doesn’t look like it. Storms always end at some point. You are more than a conqueror through Him. So don’t get discouraged. Get your mind right, call out to God in the storm, and He will answer you from within it.
Recently I was working on our dishwasher. At one point, I got on my knees and looked up. As I looked around the kitchen, I thought, “This is the way my four year old looks at the kitchen.” My mind went back to when I worked at a childcare center. The owner used to make us crawl around on our hands and knees so we could see what the kids saw. We could then move things into their view and know their perspective.
I think that’s what Jesus did when He came in the flesh. He only had one view of earth and that was from the top down, just like I had in the childcare center. Until He walked this land, He had never imagined where Heaven was. He had never looked up and experienced man’s view of the heavens and understood how powerless we feel to reach them. He truly felt our limitations and feelings of insignificance in this universe.
Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God” (NLT). Now that He has our perspective, He can be our greatest intercessor. Since He came from Heaven, walked the earth, and returned to Heaven, He can empathize with our prayers and speak to God the Father on our behalf.
The next verse says, “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” He became like us to help us. He humbled Himself, got on His hands and knees so to speak, to become frail like us so He could fully understand us. We can’t pray and tell God He doesn’t understand because He does. We can’t hide our emotions because He’s experienced them. So whatever you’re going through, be open and honest in your prayers, and let Jesus help you through it. He’s been in your shoes.
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
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