When we go through hard times, we all want to know why. What did we do to deserve it? Why does it have to last so long? Did God abandon us? Has He forgotten us? How much more can we endure before we break? These are all questions we think about when we go through the fire of trials. It’s been my experience that it’s not until well after that I begin to get any insight into it, if at all. So why does God allow us to face unbearable conditions?
In a word, it’s transformational. There can be no transformation in our lives without hard times. They mold us, purify us and move us from one place to another. As my nephew says, “No pressure, no diamond.” The problem is, we want the diamond without the pressure. We want the transformation without the trial. We want strength without having to endure heavy lifting. We want things now instead of later, but that’s not how God works, nor is it how we were designed.
In Psalm 66:10-12 it says, “You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance” (NLT). It was God who tested them, put a heavy burden on them and sent them through the fire and flood. He does the same to us today. It’s not fun, it hurts and it’s hard to get through at times, but God has a plan.
As the psalmist wrote, He’s purifying us in order to bring us to a place of abundance. You can’t get to the abundance without going through the purification of fire. When those times come remember that if you will endure it, God is working it out for your good. He’s bringing you to a place that you could never get to without having gone through it. Also remember his promise in Isaiah 42:3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” He’s there with you in these times and won’t let them crush you. Hang in there, abundance is coming.
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.
God has placed in each one of us a feeling that lets us know we were meant for more. It’s a holy calling that reminds us to keep moving forward and that the place where we are now is only temporary. He uses places in our lives to prepare us for positions He wants to give us. However, when we become discontent in the place we’re in, the enemy plays to our sympathies telling us we deserve a higher position. His plan is two fold. First, he wants to get you out of the place you’re in prematurely before God has finished His work. Secondly, he wants to make you desire a position that is different than the one God has for you in order to slow you down in your progress towards God’s plan.
David’s place was a pasture. The position he was preparing for was king. He had to remain in the pasture watching sheep facing lions and bears in preparation for being king. He had to go into a valley to face a giant, and he lived in caves running from King Saul. I’m sure his mind was telling him he deserved his position in the palace while he lived in those caves, but he didn’t give into the voice. He trusted God’s plan and timing for him to receive the position. Each time the position presented itself to him to take, he stayed in his place waiting for God to open the door. Because of that, God honored him in the position of king more than any other king.
In Mark 10, James and John wanted the position of Jesus’ right and left in the new kingdom. Jesus asked if they were able to endure the suffering that comes with those positions. Ignorantly they said yes. In verses 39-40 Jesus said, “You will certainly drink from the cup of my sufferings and be immersed into my death, but to have you sit in the position of highest honor is not mine to decide. It is reserved for those whom grace has prepared them to have it” (TPT). They wanted a position before they were prepared in their place. The beautiful thing Jesus illustrated here is that grace prepares us in the place we are in now for the position He has for us. His grace is sufficient to guide you and strengthen you in the place you’re in right now so He can give you the positions He’s planned for you. Be patient and trust His plan and ignore the sympathetic lies of the enemy.
You and I are constantly living between the tension of our well known past and our unknown future. When we look at our past, we often see the things that can discredit us and prevent us from having a promising future. When we look to the future, it can be overwhelming. There are so many possibilities that many times we experience paralysis through analysis. We don’t always know where that next step is or how to take it. We often get stuck here worried that our past will weigh us down, and fearing that we’re not prepared for the future. It’s a constant struggle that so many of us live with.
The good news is that your past doesn’t change God’s future for you. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. The tension you feel is designed to draw you closer to Him. No matter how close you get to God, that tension will always be there because there’s always another level of faith you can grow into. The deeper your faith and trust in God gets, the more He trusts you with. Jesus Himself told us that when we learn to be faithful in the little things, He will trust us with the bigger things.
Psalm 139:5 says, “You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way, and in kindness you follow behind me to spare me from the harm of my past. With your hand of love upon my life, you impart a blessing to me” (TPT). God has His hand on your life. He has already prepared the path for you to walk down. It’s up to you to step out in faith and trust Him. I love that this verse shows He’s also going behind you to make sure your past decisions that weren’t so great won’t harm you. You can keep moving forward knowing He has your future in His hands. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Corrie Ten Boom reminds us to never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
One of the things I’ve learned is that destruction is part of creation. A volcano is a very destructive force. We’ve all seen videos of molten, hot lava being spewed out of a volcano. Then we see a river of lava flowing down the side burning everything in its path. Eventually that lava dries and then breaks down creating some of the richest soil on earth. When you think of places that have volcanoes, have you ever noticed how green they are? Hawaii and Fiji come to mind. Without their volcanoes, they wouldn’t be as lush as they are. The very things that appear to destroy everything are what really brings life.
In our own lives, the same principle holds true. There are things in our lives that God destroys so that He can bring new life to us. It hurts us when the lava is flowing and taking away everything that seems to matter to us, but God has a plan and a purpose. What looks like total devastation is truly a remarkable new beginning that will create a more fertile life for you. It’s painful going through the times of destruction, and many times we don’t understand why. A friend told me recently that sometimes God does the Omega in our lives before He is the Alpha. He ends things so that He can begin something new.
Proverbs 16:4 says, “The Lord works everything together to accomplish his purpose” (TPT). There is purpose in everything that happens in our lives. God has a plan to redeem, restore and to recreate. He is a gardener who loves to grow things in our lives. The best things in our lives are produced from the richest soil. The richest soil is produced through destructive forces. If you’re going through a period of destruction, hold on to your faith and trust God’s plan. Greater things are coming that will be beautiful in time. God will accomplish His plan for your life. It’s a good plan that is full of life and fertile soil.
Several years ago I lost just about everything in my life that mattered to me. I went through a six month stretch where I would think I hit rock bottom, but then the bottom would fall out again. No matter what I tried, no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop the free fall. When there was nothing left, I cried out to God one night and said, “Lord, I give up! I can’t do this anymore.” Laying there on that floor, i heard God’s still, small voice whisper back, “Finally.” For Years I had been fighting what God wanted to do in my life and had been living life for myself instead of for Him. I had built the life I wanted on top of the foundation He had laid.
That night, in my mind, i saw a picture of myself curled up in the fetal position on a foundation. There was debris all around me and it was pouring down rain. I didn’t have the strength or the will to get up. I believe God was showing me my life at that moment. Everything I had built had been stripped away. When I said, “God, I’ve been left with nothing,” He relied, “You still have your foundation. If you’ll let me, I’ll build on it the life I want you to have.” I prayed, “Lord, do with my life what you want. I don’t ever want to go through that again.”
In Psalm 16:5, David prayed a similar prayer that resonates with me. He said, “You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands” (GNT). You and I can spend a lifetime trying to plan our future and build the life we want, but we will never be satisfied until we give our future to God. He has a master plan for each of our lives and desires that we give Him the reigns of our future. It’s up to us to surrender our will to His. I can tell you from personal experience that the life He wants for you is far greater than anything you can imagine or build yourself.
When I was younger and I wanted to take a trip, I would break out my Rand McNally map and plot a course. I would take the map with me so I could follow along or use it if I got lost. Today, most of us use an app with GPS to get us where we’re going. We plug in an address and off we go blindly following wherever it leads. There have been times when I questioned where it was taking me and I thought I knew better. I was wrong. Even now, I question it, but I’ve learned to give it the benefit of the doubt because it sees what’s coming ahead and knows what path to take.
After David was anointed king, I’m sure he thought he knew the path God was going to take to get him to the palace. It wasn’t that long until the king called and invited him to the palace without knowing David would be the next king. Then the path took an unexpected turn. David was on the run and had to leave the country God said he would rule over. He found himself living in caves instead of in the luxury of palaces. He didn’t question God’s path to get him there even though it was a different path than he would have chosen.
From the cave, he penned this in Psalms 142:3, “When my spirit was overwhelmed and weak within me [wrapped in darkness], You knew my path” (AMP). No matter how dark that cave was, he trusted that God knew his path. That’s something we can all learn from. Sometimes God’s path will lead you through some dark time, but even though you walk through the valley of the shadow, God will be with you. He uses those times to develop us, to prove His faithfulness and to have us bring light into the darkness. Don’t turn from the path God is leading you down. He knows what’s ahead and is taking you on the best path for your future.
One of the things my family loves to do is puzzles. The more pieces and more difficult, the better. We can sit at the table each evening and pick away at a puzzle for weeks. Our favorite brand is Ravensberger because of the uniqueness of the pieces, the quality of the puzzle and the stunning pictures. It’s an honor to be able to be the one who puts in the last piece. Sometimes, as we start getting close to completing one, I like to hide a piece so that I get to be that person. There’s nothing more frustrating though than to get to the end, and a piece nor two is missing. An incomplete puzzle is no fun at all.
I believe God has a plan for each of our lives. It’s often like a puzzle that we piece together. Many times we’re digging and sorting through unrelated pieces trying to find two parts that fit together. As time goes by, we start to see the bigger picture of what God would like to do with our life. To be honest, once we get a glimpse of the picture on the box, it can be scary to us. We wonder how we can accomplish that or how could a God make something so amazing out of our life. Our natural inclination is to hide some of the pieces, especially the ones that aren’t as beautiful as the others. It’s for God to complete His plan when we keep some of the pieces of our lives from Him.
Psalm 18:20 says, “God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before Him” (MSG). You see, the pieces we’re ashamed of or think are imperfect and ugly are the very ones that give the picture of our life depth. They’re the ones that show our scars and the struggles we’ve been through. It’s been my experience that those are the ones that God uses the most in completing His plan for our life because those are the ones people relate to. God allows us to go through struggle because it builds our faith and provides edges where our puzzle can connect with others to make their life complete. That only happens when we let a God use all the pieces of our lives.
We all know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I’m a fan of the shortest distance when it comes to getting somewhere. I can be seen walking across the grass instead of using the sidewalks. I don’t like it when the sidewalks go way out of the way to get me where I’m going. The fact is, I wasn’t there when they were deciding on where they were going to be put, so I don’t know the reason behind why they were laid out that way. Usually an architect or an engineer has a purpose behind why they do things and we should trust their judgment.
I like to think of God as the architect of my life. Psalms 37:23 tells us that our steps are ordered by the Lord. To me, that means that God has laid out the sidewalk in my life of where He wants me to go. Just like in life, I sometimes look at the path He’s laid out and wonder, “Why am I going all the way over here when my destination is over there?” I’m tempted to get off the path and to cut through the grass. I’ve learned that God, the architect of our lives, has a purpose behind everything He does. We are to trust Him, and the path He lays out, even when it doesn’t make sense.
When the Israelites left Egypt, Exodus 13:17-18 says, “God did not take them by the road that goes up the coast to Philistia, although it was the shortest way… Instead, he led them in a roundabout way through the desert toward the Red Sea” (GNT). God knew they weren’t ready to fight the Philistines so He took them the long way. God know what you’re ready for and what you’re not ready for. The path He’s taking you on may be the long way around, but trust where He’s leading you, even if you don’t understand why. God has a plan for you and your life. Trust in His plan and follow the steps He orders for you no matter what.
A few years ago, a video went viral of a man who was terrified to touch a teddy bear. They had blindfolded him and made him think he was on a show like Fear Factor. When he got the courage to put his hand in the plexiglass box, his fingers brushed up against the teddy bear. He squealed and yanked his hand out. For about two minutes he kept trying to reach in, but his fear was overwhelming. When he finally takes the blindfold off, he realizes it’s just a teddy bear, laughed, then grabbed it and spiked it on the ground. Everyone around him was laughing because he was too afraid to pick up a teddy bear.
It was easy for us to laugh at that because we weren’t the one blindfolded. Everyone else could see and knew he wasn’t in any danger. That’s kind of how Faith works. We’re blindfolded and can’t see. God is asking us to trust Him, but too often we are terrified. Our minds psych us out and we start freaking out. When we take a tiny step of faith and we experience something we aren’t anticipating, we squeal and pull back. All the while, God is saying, “Would you just trust me?”
In Matthew 9, two blind men were following Jesus calling out to Him for healing. Jesus asked if they believed He could heal blind eyes, and they said yes. Verse 29 says, “Then Jesus put His hands over their eyes and said, ‘You will have what your faith expects!’” (TPT) I believe He is still saying that to us today. Don’t let your mind expect the worse and create fear of what God is going to do. Expect God, who is good, to give you what you need. You don’t have to be terrified of what He has for you. Expect great things from Him because He gives good gifts.
Whenever I’m on the road and need directions, I usually use Waze to help me get there. It finds the quickest route and gets me there at the promised time. To do that, it often takes detours through neighborhoods or back streets I’ve never been on. I’m at the mercy of this app, and have to trust that it knows what it’s doing. Sometimes it takes me through places where I wonder if I’m safe.
There are times when it tells me to exit or turn, and I think, “That’s odd. My exit is just ahead.” Early on, I just thought it was a glitch and kept driving. After trying to correct me a few times, it finally gave up and added a lot of time to my arrival time. It saw what I couldn’t up ahead and tried to help me avoid it. When I didn’t listen, I got stuck in the traffic it was trying to help me avoid. I’ve learned to trust that it knows best and can see what I can’t.
God is a lot like Waze in our lives. He knows our destination and the route He wants us to take. He plans out each detour to help us avoid hurts or pains, but often we think we know best and drive right past what He’s telling us to do. We can’t see what He sees up ahead in our lives. It takes trust to follow His instructions when we don’t understand. He even takes us on detours through places we didn’t know existed, but it’s all for our benefit.
Psalm 1 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It gives great promises to those who listen to God’s instructions rather than man’s. One of those promises says that God charts the road you take (verse 6 MSG). God has charted out a road for each of us. It’s up to us to listen to His Word, meditate on it and follow it. He knows best how to get us where He wants us. It’s up to us to follow the path He’s charted out.