Tag Archives: hard times

The Way Of Suffering

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the room where the Last Supper took place, walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, visit Caiaphas’ house and then walk down the Via Dolorosa. To walk in the final footsteps of Jesus before His crucifixion can be a moving experience if you can block out all the chaos around you. As I went to each place, I tried to imagine the emotions of Jesus in each place and to feel the tension He must have felt knowing He was leaving the Passover meal a free man to cross the Kidron Valley, but would return a prisoner. It’s a very sobering journey.

As I entered the Church of All Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives where the Garden of Gethsemane is, I walked around the outskirts of the sanctuary instead of down the middle. The purple glass in the shape of a cross makes sure that the room is lit, but remains dim. I went to the front where there is a rock protruding out of the foundation of the church. I stood outside the barrier as I watched people lay on it and weep. On the barrier were pieces of paper in different languages. I walked around until i found one in English. It had a portion of the Gospel of Luke that ended in Luke 22:46. It said, “Jesus went to the disciples who were sleeping and said, ‘Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.’”

Are you and I like the disciples? Are we awakened to the things God is asking us to do or are we asleep? Do we realize that the moment God has us in right now is in preparation for greater things? God’s plan for you is always good. It may involve some suffering and times of emotional stress. There are times we will walk in darkness so we can share God’s light. The only way to achieve God’s desired outcome in our lives is to pray like Jesus prayed in the darkest time of His life. Luke 22:44 says, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done” (AMP). Submitting to God’s will, even in suffering and pain always yields the greatest outcome.

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Destructive Forces

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.

Photo by Julien Millet on Unsplash

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Remembering God’s Character

If you have lived very long, you’ve been through some diffuse times. Maybe you’ve cried out, “God where are you in all this? Why don’t you show up and intervene? Have you forgotten me? Why can’t you hear me? I need your help desperately and you’re not answering!” I know I’ve used those words in my prayers before. It seems sometimes that when we need God the most, He is quiet. When we pray those desperate prayers and it appears to fall on deaf ears, it hurts worse. Your mind may even start to wonder what you’ve done wrong because it feels like God has left you when you’ve needed Him most.

I don’t know why we go through these times, but I do know that you’re not the only one who has gone through them or felt that way. In Psalm 77, Asaph, who was King David’s chief musician, went through times like that and recorded his prayers. Can you hear the desperation in verses 7-9? “Would you really walk off and leave me forever, my Lord God? Won’t you show me your kind favor, delighting in me again? Has your well of sweet mercy dried up? Will your promises never come true? Have you somehow forgotten to show me love? Are you so angry that you’ve closed your heart of compassion toward me?” (TPT)

First of all, it’s normal to feel those feelings and to ask those questions, but don’t stay in that place. If you do, those feelings can allow bitterness in and it can drive you away from God. Instead, do what Asaph did and remember the character of who God is. Verses 11-12 say, “Once again I’ll go over what GOD has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts” (MSG). When you quit focusing on why God isn’t intervening and remember His character, you flip the table and your faith grows. You get the strength to begin doing what you need to be doing in your situation while you wait for God to show up and do His part.

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Greater Things Ahead

Have you ever looked at someone and thought, “Man, they have it all. I wish I had their…”? So many times we look at what people have and identify with the end result without stopping to think about what they went through to get there. We want the reward without the work or the struggle. There’s a saying, “The greatest overnight successes were twenty years in the making.” Most of us face our battles and struggles in obscurity. Others don’t see that part of our story. They see us years later after we’ve endured and are enjoying the fruits of our labor. What we forget is that without the struggle, there is no success.

God wanted to promote David from shepherd boy to king, but he wasn’t ready. David faced years of struggles between being anointed king and taking the throne. He was chased by the current king. There were people he knew that betrayed him. He lived in a cave in an inhospitable desert. He fought several battles with very little rest. He had a lot of struggles because God uses them to prepare us for our future. We can choose to complain about the things we face or we can lay them at the feet of Jesus and push through them knowing there is something more ahead.

In Psalm 55:22 David wrote, “So here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you” (TPT). Our struggles are meant to strengthen our faith in God so we are prepared for what’s next. We can either get lost in the pain, bitter in the disappointment or we can find strength to keep going by giving it to God knowing He’s with us through each battle. The greater things God has for you, the greater the struggle you will go through, The great news is you’re not alone and you don’t have to do it in your strength. Lay down your worries and trust that God is at work and in control.

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Enduring The Storm

Ever so years ago I lived in Cairo, Egypt. At certain times I would be about my business when I would notice people begin to scurry and panic a bit. I would then turn around to look at the dessert to see a dust storm coming. It would look like a huge brown wall from ground to sky getting bigger as it approached. I was given a warning when I first moved there. I was told that if I ever saw that, take cover and wait it out in a building. If I got caught in it, I wouldn’t be able to see and could get lost or possibly die.

Some storms that come into our lives are like that. They come when we least expect them and they’re blinding. If we don’t act quickly, we can lose sight of where we are going, lose our way, or feel like we’d rather die. These storms that pop up out of nowhere can be very dangerous if we don’t take shelter from them. You never know how long they’ll last, but if you’ve taken shelter in God, you can weather any storm.

Most of the early chapters of Isaiah are about the Lord’s wrath against cities and countries. It’s about destruction that God is going to bring on the ungodly. But in chapter 25, Isaiah begins to praise the Lord for His awesome power and ability to destroy. In verse 4, he reminds us who God is in the storm. He wrote, “But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat” (NLT).

Just like I was able to run into a building when a dust storm was coming, we can find our reprieve in Him. Too many times though, we try to fight the storm in our own strength. We try to weather it on our own. I can tell you that’s very tiring and will wear you out. I’ve tried that strategy. I ended up laid out on my living room floor exhausted from the battle before I cried out to the Lord for shelter. In our own strength we can’t endure very long, but we are stubborn and try it anyway.

It takes humility to admit you can’t do it on your own. You can choose to humble yourself and seek God for shelter or the storm can humble you. God would rather we admit up front that there’s nothing we can do on our own to fight the storm. He would rather we admit we can’t do it in our own strength, and that we go to Him for His. Don’t let pride stand in your way and keep you from praying, “Lord, I need you to shelter me from this storm. I can’t endure it on my own. I need your help.” When we humble ourselves, He is faithful and His grace is sufficient to cover you and to help you endure.

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Throwback Thursday is a 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.

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Joy In Pain

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 cure 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, keep trusting in His plan and resting in His love. Let joy spring up from within you and turn the ashes of what was your life and 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.

Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

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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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