Tag Archives: difficult times

Hard Knocks University

When people ask where I went to school, I often say, “Hard Knocks University.” For the longest time, it seemed that life kept knocking me down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t gain ground. In fact, it felt like the bottom kept falling out from underneath me. I learned that the only way to fail Hard Knocks University is to quit. I also learned that the only way to graduate was to get closer to God. The troubles we face in life can either make us bitter or better. We get to choose by how we respond when we keep getting knocked down.

For me, I let it push me closer to God. I found myself praying more asking God for the wisdom to make better decisions. I also started reading the Bible more. I knew there were principles in it that could help with the things I was facing, so I began to consume the Bible looking for answers. What I got was a deeper relationship with God and the promise that He wouldn’t abandon me in my troubles. I began to put my focus on Him instead of my problems, and then I began telling my problems about Him instead of the other way around.

The Psalmist must have graduated Hard Knocks University too. Psalm 119:71 says, “My troubles turned out for the best – they forced me to learn your textbook” (MSG). If you’re in the toughest school around, let it draw you closer to God and His textbook. He probably won’t take the troubles away as quick as you like, but you are guaranteed that He will walk through them with you. Failure can’t be an option, and you don’t want to keep taking the same course. If you want to graduate, you’re going to have to read the textbook. I recommend you start with a chapter in Proverbs each day to get the wisdom you need.

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Tested Faith

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.

I don’t know if there’s a Christian alive who hasn’t gone through a difficult time and wondered why people who are outright evil don’t appear to be suffering. You try to do everything God asks and follow all the rules, yet there is someone in your life living in outright rebellion to God and nothing ever happens to them. It’s unfair. It’s unjust. Why should the godly suffer when we are the ones who try to do right? Shouldn’t God bless us because we are his followers and curse them?

I’ve been caught in that trap before. I’ve questioned God’s decision to allow me to suffer while others enjoy life’s greatest blessings. At times, I’ve felt like my life was worse than Job’s. In the midst of my suffering, I’ve wondered if anyone ever had it as bad as me. I allowed myself to wallow in self pity. It didn’t get Job anywhere, and it certainly didn’t get me anywhere. God didn’t even seem to notice my pity party. I thought, “Maybe I should just live how I want since living right hasn’t gotten me anything except this pain.”

When we act on those thoughts, we fail the test God has given us. I’ve found that God only tests those worthy of taking it. Everything Job went through was a test to prove that he wasn’t righteous only because of his blessings. God was showing that his faith didn’t rely on his health or possessions. It relied on his trust in God even when God was silent during the test. It relied on who He had found God to be in the good times. It didn’t get distracted in the storm.

True faith gets tested. True faith trusts God even when we can’t see Him or feel Him. It’s understandable that we want to compare ourselves to others who aren’t living right, but we are to trust in God no matter what. Psalm 40:4 says, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods” (NIV). We are blessed when we can keep our eyes on God in the midst of chaos. We pass the test when our trust in God outweighs our circumstances. We need to realize God is testing us because we are worthy of being tested.

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Periods Of Pressing

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several phone calls, texts, messages and conversations with people who are going through some seriously dark moments in life. Their situations are causing stress, sadness, worry, anxiety, depression, confusion and lack of direction. More than that, it’s causing them to seek out God more than they were. We often can’t see it ourselves when we are walking through a difficult period in our life, but those times draw us closer to God. When we draw closer to God, He draws closer to us.

In these times where we are pressed, God brings out of us things that can’t come out any other way. He uses them to grow us and go help us reach the potential He sees in us. He doesn’t allow us to go through these periods without a purpose. The struggle may seem more than you can bear in the moment, but the reward of what God is doing in us when we endure it is immeasurable. If you’re walking through one of these times, it means God still sees more potential in you and is pushing you into a new season.

When I’m walking through a time like that, i hold onto what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. It says, “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed” (GNT). These times feel like we are going to be crushed and destroyed, but God inside of you is stronger than any force outside of you trying to crush you. Keep your focus on Him and not on the thing trying to crush you. Great is God’s faithfulness in these times. You may not always get the outcome you desire, but you will not be abandoned by God in these periods of pressing.

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Praise Break

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.

I don’t know about you, but there are times I just want to spend hours praising God while listening to praise and worship music. I set my Pandora to Jesus Culture, and then let it play. I love how so many songs put words to how I feel and what I want to say to God. Right now, one of my favorites is “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. The part that resonates with me says, “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.” I find myself repeating just that phrase over and over.

I learned a long time ago how important it is to be in God’s presence, especially when I’m under attack. I can find peace and clarity in times of chaos by praising God. Psalm 22 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. I’ve found that God shows up when I praise Him. I find that if I sing to Him, He gives me strength when I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I know i don’t sing in tune, but thankfully, He hears my heart over my pitch. He just enjoys it when we take the time to invite Him into our busy day and to praise Him.

Sometimes I feel like the psalmist in Psalm 106:2. He wrote, “Who can tell all the great things he has done? Who can praise him enough?” (GNT) Several years ago, Sonicflood sang a song called, “I Could Sing of your Love Forever”. I believe we could do that and still not be able to praise Him for all He’s done. I don’t know that we can praise Him enough. I do know that He is worthy of whatever praise we give Him because if He never did another thing for any one of us, He’s already done more for us than we deserve.

Today, I challenge you to think of things God has done for you and to praise Him for them. Make a list and watch it grow. We get so good at asking Him for things, but we rarely stop to thank Him when He does. Take time to praise God from your heart. If you don’t know what to say, search for your favorite worship song, play it, and sing along. Don’t worry if you don’t sound good to human ears. You aren’t signing for their approval. You are worshiping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When you do this, watch how your day changes. It’s amazing how praising God shifts our perspective and how His presence gives us peace.

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Endure The Test

I saw a sign the other day that said, “If you hadn’t gone through that test, you wouldn’t be as strong right now.” It was a great reminder that the tests we go through produce strength in us that we wouldn’t get any other way. God has a purpose in them. He wants to grow something in us, and often difficult times are the only way to produce it. The problem is that when they come, we usually pray fervently for God to end the test and get us out of it. The truth is that God needs us to endure it if He’s going to be able to finish what He’s trying to do.

A body builder only gets muscles through lifting more than is comfortable. A marathon runner doesn’t build endurance through sprints. You and I don’t become who we are supposed to become without going through difficult times. Your ability to endure will inspire others who will go through it later. Don’t spend your prayer time asking God to get rid of your test. Ask Him to give you the endurance to get through it so He can produce in you what He needs to. Don’t quit. You can do this.

Here are some verses on tests and endurance.

1. Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.

1 Corinthians 10:13 GNT

2. Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

James 1:2-4 MSG

3. But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.

Job 23:10 NLT

4. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you.

1 PETER 4:12 AMP

5. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:7 GNT

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God’s Timing

Earlier this year, my son got a 3-D puzzle of Big Ben, the famous clock at Westminster Palace. This particular puzzle has a working clock on one side. After we built the clock, he asked if we could set the clock to London time. I then moved the hour hand six hours ahead. He said, “Wow! London is six hours faster than us?” Now, whenever he goes by the clock, he announces what time it is in London so we’ll know the difference in their time and ours.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that God has a different time than I do. It’s not as simple as a six hour difference though. He doesn’t look at time by the hour like we do. He looks at circumstances and how they line up to tell time. Whenever I pray for something, I’m typically looking at my circumstances and ask God to intervene in that moment. God’s timing doesn’t just look at what I want in that moment, he looks at the ripple effect and how that affects other moments.

Like a child wanting something at the store, I often demand that God answer right now! To me, what I’m asking for is urgent, but I’m learning that God has a plan and will answer in His time and in His way. In Psalm 69, David is praying desperately for God to answer him. He felt like he was drowning in his circumstances and he cried out to God to save him. Then in verse 13, he changed his tone. He prayed, “Answer me, God, at a time you choose” (GNT). He understood that God’s time was different than His and He trusted God’s wisdom over His desires.

I’ve been learning a lot about prayer this year so I can better communicate with God. When I read this verse, it changed how I pray. I’ve got to learn to trust His timing and His answer. I can’t just look at my life through and circumstances through my lenses. I need to learn to see things the way God does so that I can better trust what He’s doing and when He’s doing it. If I trust Him for my salvation and as my provider, then I need to learn to trust His timing too.

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Victory In The Valley

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.

When reading the story of David and Goliath recently, I noticed something I had read over. I Samuel 17:3 says, “So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them” (NLT). I had never picked up that there was a valley between the two sides. Then verse 40 says, “He (David) picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine.” David had to go into the valley to win the victory.

You won’t win victory standing where you are. You are going to have to make the first move. For 40 days, the Israelites were paralyzed by fear. Each day Goliath invited them to fight him, but they stayed put. When David heard Goliath’s taunts, he didn’t get fearful, he got a righteous anger. He knew that this was a spiritual battle that had to be handled in the physical as well. To win the spiritual battle, he’d have to enter the valley and trust God.

Fast forward 14 generations, Jesus was fighting a spiritual battle that required Him to enter a valley as well. John 18:1 says, “After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.” The battle He was fighting was to have the courage to do what God wanted while facing the fear of dying a torturous death on a cross. He could have stayed where He was, but He entered the valley to pray that God’s will be done.

Both David and Jesus recognized that the battle was the Lord’s. They both knew who was fighting on their behalf. That gave them the courage to walk into what seemed like certain death in order to obtain the victory. You and I have to have the same tenacity in prayer and desire to go into the valley if we are going to win our spiritual battles. We are going to have to let go of fear and embrace what God wants to do, enter the valley in front of us, and fight on our knees for victory.

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