Tag Archives: hard times

Troubles, Pressure And Pottery

Have you ever watched a potter with their wheel? It’s truly magnificent. They take a lump of clay, and with wet hands they begin to shape it into whatever they’re making. Then, they stick their scalpel in the middle that begins to follow it out. After that, they begin shaping the outside by removing more clay with the scalpel. If they want to, they add lines and other designs the same way. Once it is what they are looking for, they place it in the fire so it can be usable. After it cooks, they paint it and glaze it to continue the process of bring beauty out of what was once a lump of clay. Every part of that process must seem to the clay that the potter doesn’t love it, or is even against it, but the potter knows what the clay needs to go through to bring out its full potential.

I’ve never met anyone who loves going through tough times. We all enjoy good times and pray our lives are filled with those. However, God allows us to go through troubles and extended periods of pressure to produce in us things that can’t be produced any other way. He is constantly looking out for our good and will use whatever means necessary to form and shape us into the people He created us to be. Like the potter, He’s not afraid to use His scalpel or to put us in the fire for extended periods of time. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, God is working in our lives to create something beautiful. Most of the time He’s doing that though, it can feel painful and like He’s picking on us. Hang in there. He’s working things out for your good and turning your life into a thing of beauty.

Here are some Bible verses on how trouble can be good.

1. When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 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. Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4 AMP

4. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 NLT

5. Yet, as God’s servants, we prove ourselves authentic in every way. For example: We have great endurance in hardships and in persecutions. We don’t lose courage in a time of stress and calamity.

2 Corinthians 6:4 TPT

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Losing Sight Of Jesus

On any trip to Israel, visiting Galilee is a must. One of the places I enjoy most is the Mount of Beatitudes. As I was sitting up there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I watched boats crossing back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of when Jesus sent the disciples to the other side while he went up the mountain to pray. While they were making their way across, a fierce storm overwhelmed them. Their focus was on surviving the storm, and not on Jesus who sent them across the sea by themselves. From where Jesus was sitting, He never lost sight of them. So when He walked on water, He knew right where to go.

It’s not hard to lose sight of Jesus in our lives. Life gets hard and rarely goes as planned. We can get rocked by a diagnosis, our spouse walking out or something happening to one of our kids. In those moments, life often becomes a battle for survival. We can lose sight of Jesus and wonder where He is in the middle of our chaos. I can tell you that He’s never taken His eye off of you. If He doesn’t come walking on water to save you, keep rowing, but also make sure you take the time to find Him. We know that if you seek Him, you will find Him. I’ve found that the times I’m most overwhelmed by the things happening in my life are the times my relationship with Him is strengthened because I realize I can’t do it without Him.

Song of Songs is an allegory of Jesus and us. In Song of Songs 1:8, Jesus calls out to us, “Listen, my radiant one— if you ever lose sight of me, just follow in my footsteps where I lead my lovers. Come with your burdens and cares. Come to the place near the sanctuary of my shepherds” (TPT). The beautiful thing about Him is that He’s waiting for us, chaos and all, to find Him. He loves us no matter how crazy our life is or how far away from Him we’ve gone. It’s always a shorter journey back to Him than it was leaving Him, and He’s never taken His eye off of you. If you’re burdened down today, or blinded by your worries, take them to Him and rest in the fact that you are loved and His strength is made perfect in your weakness.

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1 VS. 100

Do you ever get to the point where your problems become overwhelming? There are times and periods in life when I just can’t seem to shake free of a cycle of problems. It depletes my energy and saps my spirit. To stop and look at everything in front of me and see a never ending line of things coming at me can easily leave me feeling depleted. It feels like I’m on that show “1 vs. 100” sometimes, except there’s no cash prize at the end of the line of things I’m facing. What I usually forget during those times is that I’m not facing it alone.

In II Kings 6, the king of Aram was trying to attack Israel, but God kept showing Elisha their plans and Israel averted them. The king was angry and wanted who in his army was the traitor. When someone told him that it was Elisha who was giving away their position and plan, he mobilized his entire army and went to attack Elisha. That next morning, Elisha’s servant woke up and went outside. When he saw an entire army camped against them, he panicked. He was overwhelmed and didn’t know what they would do.

I love Elisha’s response to him in verse 16 when he comes outside and sees the army. He said, “Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!” (NLT). Then Elisha asked God to open his servant’s eyes, and he saw an army of horses and chariots of fire. The army didn’t defeat Elisha that day because God was on his side. Elisha remained calm under the pressure of being in a 1 vs.100 type situation because he knew that God was with him. He didn’t panic, but instead trusted.

When facing those insurmountable odds, instead of panicking, we need to remember that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (I John 4:4). In those moments when I feel overwhelmed and outnumbered by my problems, my prayer is that God would open my eyes to see He’s on my side. I need to know that I’m not going to be defeated and that God has everything under control. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 vs 100 or 1 vs 1,000,000, when God is on our side, there are more on our side than on theirs!

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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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Sudden Storms

I love the story of Jesus in Mark 4. He had been teaching all day sharing spiritual insights through parables with crowds of people. When He was finished, He told the disciples to get in a boat and head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After they had been going a ways, a sudden storm blew in and threatened to sink the boat. In the midst of the chaos and fear, someone realized they needed Jesus and He wasn’t on deck. Verse 38 says, “But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion” (TPT). In the middle of the storm, Jesus was able to rest because He trusted God.

Most of us aren’t that way. When things are going downhill quickly and everything we hold dear is being threatened to sink, we struggle to rest. Sleep eludes us as our minds think of everything bad that can happen and what we will do if everything heads south. Yet, in this story, we find that Jesus is able to rest. I believe that the rest He was given is a rest that belongs to us. We have to learn that our perception of things is not His reality. Where we look up at the storm in fear, He speaks to it in faith. When we let fear dictate our emotions and steal our rest, we lack the faith to trust His providence for our lives.

Psalm 116:7 says, “Now I can say to myself and to all, ‘Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.’” If you’re uncomfortable speaking to your storms, then speak to yourself. Worry robs us of the strength and rest that God wants us to have. Just because you’re surrounded by turmoil, it doesn’t mean you have to live in it. God gives His children rest and peace, but many times, we have to take hold of it and tell ourselves to take it. Sudden storms that pop up are not a surprise to God. If you will simply trust in Him, He will guide you safely to shore.

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Distressed

I can’t think of a single person in the Bible who didn’t go through distressful times. Adam and Eve went through the distress of sinning and hid from God. Moses went through it as he led the children of Israel through the desert. David spent years on the run. All the prophets I can think of had problems. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. On and on it goes. If you’re feeling distressed today, it’s ok. You’re not alone even though it feels like it when we’re going through those times. While your circumstances may be unique, the feelings you’re having have been felt by every person who has lived.

I’ve found that times of distress drive me to my knees. They cause me to cry out to God more than ever. In turn, they push me into a closer relationship with Him. I find that when we blame God for our problems, it has the opposite effect. I like to think of being distressed as having sandpaper smoothing out my rough edges. Yes it hurts while I’m going through it, but i know that in the end I’m going to be changed for the better through the process. God’s desire is to make you more and more into His image, but in order to do that, you must be shaped. Sometimes He uses distress to do that. If you’re distressed now, hold on. Things will get better and you will be better for it.

Here are some Bible verses about distress.

1. When the righteous cry [for help], the LORD hears And rescues them from all their distress and troubles.

PSALMS 34:17 AMP

2. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

2 Corinthians 7:10 MSG

3. Are there any believers in your fellowship suffering great hardship and distress? Encourage them to pray! Are there happy, cheerful ones among you? Encourage them to sing out their praises!

James (Jacob) 5:13 TPT

4. Set me free from my distress; then in the assembly of your people I will praise you because of your goodness to me.

Psalm 142:7 GNT

5. But God teaches people through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes.

Job 36:15 GNT

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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.

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