Tag Archives: Tragedy

A Work In Progress

Several years ago, the housing market tanked. Before it did, new neighborhoods were going up everywhere. Commercial real estate was also doing well. Then, suddenly it seemed to stop. There’s evidence of this all over. When you drive through some neighborhoods, you can see just the frame of a house. It had been started, but not finished. There are also slabs of concrete around where buildings were going to be built. Now, they’re just reminders of a poor economy that once was booming.

As I drive through neighborhoods seeing half finished houses, it always makes me sad. I think of the family who had plans to live there. I think of the current residents whose property value is hurt by those ghost houses just sitting there decaying with the weather. It also makes me think of people whose lives are a lot like those houses. They started off strong, but somewhere down the path of life, tragedy hit, and their growth just stopped.

As believers, we aren’t exempt from those tragedies that aim to prevent our growth and completion. There are many Christians who have been hit with something out of the blue, and it simply paralyzed their future plans. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to think, “There’s no future for me so what’s the use in trying.” But those were my words, not God’s. His plan is to complete the work on your life despite what you’ve faced. He still has the blueprints and wants to complete you.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished” (NLT). God completes what He started. He will continue to make beauty from ashes. He can take our broken, unfinished lives, and create beautiful masterpieces. There is hope for you. God is not finished working on you. He will be faithful to resume the work and complete what He started in you. Don’t give up yet. You are a work in progress. 

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Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord

After Job suffered great loss in his life, his response was, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I’m reminded of his response after having suffered the loss of two people whom I held dear this week. It’s been a lot to process and to handle. It’s easy to accept things that God gives, but a lot more difficult when He takes them away. I don’t understand how Job had the ability to bless God as his first response.

I see now why God said this about him, “He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless – a man of complete integrity.” It’s no wonder God trusted him so much. I often wonder why God trusts us with so much. With the good things He gives, comes responsibility. It’s often more than I think I’m worthy of or capable of handling. Jesus said in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” He sees how we respond to what He gives us to see if He can give us more.

When he takes away or gives us more than we feel we can handle, our response should be like Job’s. We should bless God anyway. Ultimately, when He takes something or someone out of our life, it’s part of His plan for us. I can’t always see how things are working out for my good, but He can. I don’t always understand why tragedy hits, but He does. That has to be enough if we are to make any sense of the loss we experience.

In the end, God gave Job more than he ever had. No, he didn’t get the family he lost back, but God gave him new family. He multiplied more than was subtracted from him. God can do the same for me and you. We just have to learn to trust His plan and praise Him no matter what. Job was able to do it. That gives me hope that I am capable too. He was just as human as I am and he blessed God in good times and bad. So today, I purposefully say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”


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Beauty for Ashes

This is a repost of one of my most popular devotionals last year.

We traveled recently to northeast Texas to property that my sister in law’s family owns. As we drove near the property and even onto the property, we noticed the devastation that the wildfires of 2011 left behind. At first we were saddened as we tried to imagine what it had looked like before. What we saw now were blackened trees standing naked in acres of fields with a grey sky as a backdrop.

As we stood outside and stared at what was compared with our imaginations of what had been, I began to notice all of the green bushes that were growing at the base of the trees. My wife mentioned that in a strange way, it was kind of beautiful. My brother said that periodically, fire is actually good for the forest. It’s just hard when the period you own it coincides with the period of fires.

As I looked at, with my wife’s words echoing in my mind, I remembered the scripture in Isaiah 61:3 that said God will give beauty for ashes. I then thought of my life and others I know whose lives had been burned. I remember standing there in shock after my life burned to the ground. I spent a lot of time remembering the way life was before and often wishing I could go back. I spent almost a year in a daily rut of trying to remember the good old days and trying to forget the pain.

My brother was right. Fire can be a good thing. I remembered seeing a billboard with the web address of goodfires.org once. I looked it up to see how a fire can be good. It said that through controlled burning they can increase healthy habitats in the forest, they can promote a varied population and it provides nutrients to the soil that creates quality increases in plant life. The devastation that fire brings increases life.

I think the same holds true in our lives. You may be where I once was. You may be looking at the charred remains of what was your life wondering why God allowed this to happen. I know the feeling. What I’ve learned is that God will replace those ashes with beauty. He can use the fire that burned you to create new life in you. You can’t see it right away and certainly not while you are looking at the remains of the past. You have to search for it. Find that new life. It’s there. It may be just budding, but it’s there.

I remember someone speaking to me a word that they felt God had given them for me after everything I had was burned. They said, “What seems like an end is only a beginning. I have not left you, nor have I forsaken you. I am here by your side. I’m not in front of you or behind you, but here by your side. Where I am taking you, you will experience joy like you’ve never known. Trust in me.” I believe that holds true today.

You may be looking at what seems to be an end. All might seem lost, but it’s not. The fires burned away what was temporary in your life. God wants to create a new beginning in you. He wants to bring you life. He holds to His promise that He will never leave you or forsake you. He knows and sees the pain you have for now. Hang in there, He will create beauty from the ashes of your life.

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God is working for your good

When you are going through a difficult time in your life, it’s easy to wonder where God is. It’s hard to see Him when you are in the middle of your pain and suffering. Grief and depression have a way of blinding us to the help that is around us. When you can’t see God in your storm, you feel isolated and alone.

Each of us go through difficult times in our lives. It’s in those times when we forget that others have walked down that same road. We tell ourselves that no one else knows the pain we feel. We separate ourselves from others and begin to think that no one cares. Just because you feel alone, it doesn’t mean you are. In Luke 11:11-17, a widow lost her only son and was grief stricken. She felt the same way.

Here are three things Jesus does for us in difficult times.

1. Jesus sees our affliction

In the time of her son’s death, she could not see Jesus. He knew that her son had died and purposefully arrived at her town as the funeral procession was headed out of the town. Verse 13 says that when He saw her, His heart over flowed with compassion for her. It was clear that He was struck by her grief.

In the midst of our struggles and pain, Jesus sees us whether we see Him or not. His heart is broken for you and will come to show Himself to you at just the right time. You are not alone. He is there with you in the middle of your pain. I know personally that it is hard to see Him in that place. Reach out to Him. You will find He is right there.

2. Jesus comforts us

After meeting her in her despair, Jesus tried to comfort and console her. It broke his heart to see her crying. He reached out to her in his compassion and told her not to cry. We do not serve a God who is not empathetic to our needs. He understands loss, friends turning on you, being betrayed and so much more that we go through.

You may think that God doesn’t care about you, but He really does. His heart breaks when ours does. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter. He knew that we would need comfort in our times of distress here in this world. He never promised that we wouldn’t go through difficult times. He promised us a comforter for difficult times.

3. Jesus works for us

For this widow, Jesus raised her son back to life. I’m not sure why some people are healed or raised from the dead and others aren’t. I believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He did back then, He will still do today. We often don’t see Him move that way because we treat Him like a convenience instead of a necessity.

Even if you don’t receive the miracle you were praying for, it doesn’t mean that He was not working for you. There are things beyond what we can physically see or comprehend. God works on our behalf. He knows our future and may have us go through something now to prepare us for something later. We often ask God to remove trials or problems, but He may be working for you to prepare you for your future.

When times are tough and you can’t see God, it doesn’t mean He can’t see you. Hold on to your faith in the storm. He sees your affliction and has sent the Holy Spirit to comfort you in your time of need. God is always working on your behalf. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for YOUR good. Hang in there.

Here is a prayer by my friend Michael Moak for you.

Dear Lord,
Today I proclaim your promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of Fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
For the reader of this blog, Lord, that is dealing with the fear of the unknown future in their life, I come to You on their behalf today. I ask that You would surround them with your gentle peace and fill their heart with your strength while they wade through the waters of uncharted territory. Give them the ability to see Your hope at the end of this long journey and increase Your blessing upon their family during this pivotal time of transition. I know that You do not place fear or uncertainty upon our hearts; however, as humans we find ourselves defaulting to those emotions and get our eyes off of the one true place where fear can not dwell… in YOU! So, today, Lord Jesus, remind my friend of the promises of Your word and inject them with the spiritual medicine to heal their broken and searching heart! I ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.

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