Tag Archives: hard times

Bitter To Blessed

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.

Each of us have things go wrong in life. Each of us have those periods where it seems nothing can go right. It can get to the point of ridiculousness that all you can do is laugh at how bad things have gotten. There’s also that temptation to just give up because no matter what you do, you fail. In those periods of life our response matters. They can create good things in you like perseverance, patience, endurance, strength or they can bring out the worst like selfishness, resentfulness, anger or bitterness. Our reaction is our choice.

In the book of Ruth, we see the story of Naomi who was Ruth’s mother in law. She had been going through a rough time. Due to circumstances, she had to move her family away from their home. Some time after they arrived in their new country, her husband died and left her to raise two boys.They grew up and married. After ten years of marriage, neither of her sons were able to produce an heir and both of them died. She was left with two daughters in law to care for and no means to do it. She decided to return to her homeland, but knew there wasn’t enough to sustain all of them. She encouraged her daughters in law to stay behind in their land and to remarry. One stayed and one clung to her side and wouldn’t leave.

When they arrived back in her hometown, the people were excited to see her. They asked, “Is that really you, Naomi?” Her response was, “Don’t call me Naomi; call me Bitter… I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back. Why would you call me Naomi? God certainly doesn’t.” She allowed her circumstances to make her bitter. She was so bitter that she asked them to call her “Bitter” as her name. She felt like God had abandoned her and that He didn’t even know her name. She felt alone and hurt. I wonder what would have happened to her if Ruth hadn’t made the trip back with her.

The good news is that Ruth saw the bitterness and struggles in her mother in law and refused to leave her. She became a support person for her. It wasn’t long after they arrived back in Naomi’s hometown that Ruth met Boaz. After they were married, God gave them a son. Chapter 4:14 of Ruth says, “The town women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be God! He didn’t leave you without family to carry on your life.” Naomi loved that baby so much that the neighborhood women started calling him “Naomi’s boy”. His real name was Obed. He would become the grandfather of King David and also part of the lineage of Jesus.

Whatever your circumstances are today, you have a choice to make. Will people call you “Bitter” or will they call you “Blessed”? While Naomi went through a time of bitterness, ultimately everything had to happen that way so that a line of future kings could be born and ultimately our savior. I don’t know what difficulties you’re facing in the present, but I know that God can use them to create an amazing future. Difficult times and periods of life are not without purpose. God has a plan for you and the future of your family. This rough patch is simply getting you into position to change you from bitter to blessed.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

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Developing Life Flavors

One of the things I enjoy doing is cooking. One of the things I’ve learned is that foods taste better if you take the time to develop the flavors. That means that instead of adding onion and garlic later, I may start with them and let them sauté a bit in order to bring out more flavor. When I create a sauce to cook in, I may let it simmer a little longer so that it reduces. Doing that will intensify the flavor. To turn a recipe into a beloved dish, you have to take the time to develop and bring out the hidden flavors with heat and time. It’s more than simply adding ingredients.

I believe our lives are the same way. God wants to create amazing flavors in our lives that point others to Him. To do that, it requires Him to do things differently than our recipe. It also requires us to be put in the fire, sometimes longer than we care to be there. It’s really our choice how we respond. Do we give Him the freedom to bring out the flavors that are locked inside of us? Or do we allow those times to produce a bitter flavor that turns people away from us and Him? God’s desire is that each one of us would have complex, well developed flavors so that we’re not just another Christian.

James 1 tells us to consider it joy, even a gift, when trials and challenges come at us from all sides. In that pressure cooker, it releases hidden flavors into the world. In verse 4 he writes, “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” (MSG). When things aren’t going right and life is coming at you hard, don’t run away. God is at work in you and pulling out flavors that were locked away and hidden before. He’s not going to allow these problems to overwhelm you. He knows what you can take and how long you can stay there. Trust His judgement and let Him do His Work in your life.

Photo by Daniel Norris on Unsplash

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Praise In The Valley

In 2 Chronicles 20, several armies joined together to attack Judah (lower Israel in the divided kingdom). King Jehoshaphat was terrified and not sure what to do when he heard the news. He immediately sent out word to all the towns to send people to Jerusalem to fast and pray. While they were assembled, he prayed aloud for everyone to hear. In verse 12, he prayed something that is key for all of us to pray in such situations. He said, “We do not know what to do, but we look to you for help” (GNT).

Then, the Spirit of the Lord came on a Levite named Jahaziel. He spoke several things to them, but the part I want to focus on comes from verse 15. He said, “The Lord says you must not be discouraged or be afraid… The battle depends on God, not on you.” That should offer relief to you and I. The battles we are facing don’t depend on our ability, but God’s. We don’t have to be afraid of what we are facing because our God is bigger and more powerful.

The Israelites had to show up to the battle in order to win it according to the prophesy. The same is true for us. To calm his men down, King Jehoshaphat told them, “Put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will stand your ground. Believe what His prophets tell you, and you will succeed.” Faith is more than just showing up for the battle. It’s trusting what God says despite what you see. If we want success, we have to trust His report more than what our eyes and others tell us.

What happened next is incredible and also a great lesson for us. The king ordered that they praise the Lord for the victory before the battle! When they began to praise, it threw the enemy into a panic and they defeated themselves. They renamed the valley “Baracah” which means the valley of praise. Praise is one of our most powerful weapons. We need to use it before our battles because God dwells in the praises of His people. God can turn your valley of fear and desperation to a valley of praise if you will look to Him, depend on His ability, show up for the battle, and praise Him.

Photo by Lukas Bornhauser on Unsplash

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Reopen The Wells

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.

How do you respond to road blocks and set backs? Do you believe the non-scriptural platitudes that say, “God doesn’t close a door without opening a window”? Do you give up and just sit there? Maybe you look for another route and roll with the punches. Each of us respond in different ways when we’ve done the ground work for things in our lives only to have it stopped suddenly. I believe how we respond matters.

In Genesis 26, Abraham had already died and his son Isaac was a full grown man. Isaac planted crops and God blessed them. Whatever he did, God put His hand on it and made him successful. With that success came jealousy from others who were not as blessed. The Philistines went around and filled his wells with dirt, and their king made him uproot his family and move because of their jealousy.

When Isaac moved away to other places he had taken his flocks before, he realized what they had done. Isaac and his father had dug many wells throughout the land to give water to their family and flocks. Now, all those years of work had been undone. He could have looked for other wells that didn’t belong to him, but that wasn’t right. Genesis 26:18 says, “He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them” (NLT).

When what you’ve worked for gets destroyed by someone else, don’t just walk away or give up. Put the work back into it and re-dig your wells. It’s going to take work. It’s going to take determination. Your desire to be successful and blessed has to be stronger than your desire to give up. Isaac didn’t quit or look for God to open a new well. He grabbed a shovel, started digging, and restored what the enemy had closed. That’s the response we should give to set backs and roadblocks in our lives.

Photo by Vladimir Kramer on Unsplash

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When Not If

When I was younger, we sang a song at church from Isaiah 43:1-2. In it, the Lord 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” (GNT). Most of our songs were verses in the Bible back then. This one always made a string impression on me though.

One of the things I picked up on this verse was that it says, “When you go through,” not, “If you go through.” Every one of us will have times in our lives when we will go through waters so deep that we can’t touch the bottom anymore. We are all going to face difficulties that sweep us away like a rushing river. There are times when we will have hard times where things will get heated. But the promise of God first to us in this verse is that God will save us because He knows us by name.

Saving us doesn’t mean we won’t suffer loss, go through hardship or face difficulties. As I mentioned, this verse guarantees we will will. The difference is that you and I will not be overcome by the things that life brings against us. These things that happen should build our trust and faith in God because it’s in those times that our faith is proven and strengthened. In those times we find out what our faith is made of and how strong God truly is because we rely on Him so much. Don’t be afraid of these times. You belong to Him, and He knows you by name.

Photo by Kazden Cattapan on Unsplash

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God’s Consistency

I’ve been through times and situations where I’ve wondered where God was. When I’m neck deep in problems and my prayers don’t seem to be reaching Heaven, I start to think God doesn’t hear me, or worse, that He doesn’t care. Have you been there? It’s a rough place to be. There have been moments where I’ve been desperate that if God didn’t show up, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to go on. When I look back, I can see God’s hand and how He was growing my faith, but in those moments, I felt alone and that God had forgotten me. That’s a tough place to be emotionally and spiritually.

I have a friend who says, “God is the God of the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute.” It’s not that He doesn’t hear us, see us or know where we are. It’s that He has His own time table. I also believe that many times He uses people to answer our needs, but we aren’t always very responsive to His promptings. We usually wait to do what He asks us to do because we’re unsure we’re hearing Him correctly. If you can’t see Him moving, it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care or that He’s sitting back doing nothing while you’re going down.

I love Isaiah 40 because it reminds us of the greatness of God, especially when we’re doubting Him. Toward the end, He speaks to Israel, but the message is to us as well. Verses 27-28 say, “Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “ GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts” (MSG). If you’re in one of those moments, take your eyes off your problems and look at the consistency of who God is. Remember that He’s there, He Sees you and He’s growing your faith.

Photo courtesy of Images by Chauvin on Instagram.

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Taking Ownership

Have you ever made a dumb decision in life? If you’re human, you have. The next question is, did you take ownership of it or did you blame someone else? Be honest. A lot of the time, we blame others for our own mistakes. I think that’s part of our human nature. When you think of the Garden of Eden, God asked Adam if he ate the fruit. His reply was, “The woman you gave me made me do it.” He shifted the blame back onto God and onto Eve. He refused to own up to his mistake and they were kicked out of the garden.

It’s one thing to blame some else, but many times we blame God for our mistakes. When we excuse our mistakes by saying, “That’s just the way I am,” what we are saying is, “I only did it because God made me this way.” Proverbs 19:3 says, “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord” (NLT). We can’t be angry at God for our own decisions. As long as we shift the blame and our anger, we will continue to live lives that are short of successful.

A true sign of spiritual maturity is being able to admit that we are where we are in life as a result of the decisions we have made ourselves. It’s about taking ownership of our mistakes. When we shift the blame, we aren’t truly repentant for our wrongs. If you find yourself angry at God or others because of things that are going on in your life, trace your situation back. You’ll find that it’s a result of your past decisions. Take ownership, ask God for wisdom in your future decisions and start moving forward. You’ll find that you’ll be happier in life and you’ll have better relationships with God and others.

Photo by @imagesbychauvin on Instagram

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