Several years ago, my father in law was about to undergo surgery. To make sure he could handle it, the doctors gave him a stress test for his heart. He failed. They immediately called for an ambulance and sent him to the hospital. When they took a look at his heart, they found several blocked arteries and performed a bypass surgery. The doctor informed us of how serious it was, but assured us that he was better now.
Over and over I’m asked why we as Christians are allowed to endure hardships. I believe that part of it is that we are still under the consequences of Adam’s sin. If only sinners went through hard times, got sick, or died young then people would not choose God based on love. They would follow Him out of fear, and that’s not what God desires. So it rains on the just and the unjust alike.
Another part of the answer is so we can see what’s inside of us. God already knows, but just like that stress test revealed my father in law’s heart condition, difficult times often reveal what’s inside of us. It proves what we really believe, and also shows any weaknesses we need to correct. Going through difficult times gives us a chance to truly walk out our faith so we can know how much we really trust God.
The great news is that we aren’t left in the stressful situation. Psalm 71:20 says, “You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth” (NLT). Like my father in law’s surgeon, God is in the restoration business. He corrects and removes the things that hold us back so we can serve Him better. He brings us back up, out of the depths, so we can share with others the faith we discovered in the hardship.
Because I said so. I have never liked that phrase. Has anyone ever given that to you as an answer when you wanted to know why? I got it all the time as a kid, and it drive me nuts. I’m a person who needs to know why, and that doesn’t give me sufficient information. I probably got a lot of spankings over it too. Eventually I learned to obey my parents without understand why, even if I didn’t like it.
As an adult, not much has changed I still like to know why. When God asks me to do something I don’t understand or if something happens that I don’t like, I still want to know why. I don’t always get an answer though. I guess that’s better than, “Because I said so,” but at least I don’t get whipped for asking. God is big enough to handle my questions, my frustrations over not understanding and my emotional outbursts.
Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 says, “Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked? Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life” (NLT). It’s taken me a while to learn to accept not always knowing why. On those times where I don’t understand, I let my trust lie in the fact that God is good and sees a bigger picture than I ever could.
We may not always get the answers we seek from God. When He’s silent, I try to recall all the times in my life when I didn’t understand His plan. When I look back, I can see that He’s always had a plan, and that what He does in my life is bigger than me. If I’ve surrendered my life to Him, then I’ve given Him permission to use it in any way that He sees fit. That includes good things and bad things that I don’t understand. I’m still learning to accept the way He does things, even if He says, “Because I said so.”
There’s an exercise I do with people to show how our minds jump to conclusions and we assume. We observe a conversation where a lot of things are left open, and then I ask them questions about it. The group doesn’t know that I’m exposing how their brain works. As I ask the questions, they typically make assumptions. I keep asking questions to get as much detail from them as I can to see how much they’ve made up.
I keep asking questions until someone inevitably says, “I don’t know.” I then go back to what was said and ask, “So what do we really know?” I sometimes have to go through it several times before they get it. Most of the answers they give are based on their assumptions and not on what they know. I then like to ask, “How much of your life is based on what you’re assuming versus what you know?” It’s a heavy question that I usually leave several seconds of silence after while they think.
Job was a righteous man in the Bible. He honored God in all he did and even fell down to worship God when he lost his kids and his wealth. As time went on and he was struck with boils, his friends began to question his integrity. In their conversations back and forth, it’s clear that they make many assumptions about his predicament and how God is doing it to Him. They don’t know that Satan is behind the whole thing and is the one tormenting Job.
In Job 19:25, Job makes a great statement. He says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives” (NLT). We may not know why we go through certain things or why things happen, but we can know that our redeemer lives. We can live with assurance that He is in control and our lives are in His hands. We need to stop our assumptions that God is behind everything bad that happens in our lives. We know that it’s the enemy who steals, kills and destroys. It’s God who brings life. So they next time things happen, don’t make decisions based on assumptions. Go with what you know.
There was a period in my life where I fell like I had it worse than Job. I was losing everything in my life, and I was helpless to stop it. I felt like a knife had been put in my chest, pulled down to my waist and all my guts had fallen out. I was knocked down and didn’t want to get back up. I couldn’t see the future or any path forward. It was easier to just stay there and deal with the pain than it was to get back up and to keep moving.
As Christians, quitting shouldn’t be in our vocabulary. Giving up shouldn’t be considered. If we get knocked down six times, we get up seven. I had to remind myself of these things in those dark moments. I had to tell myself that others had it worse than I did and that I needed to start moving forward even if it wasn’t much. Between putting God’s Word in my mind and spending time in prayer, I was able to get back up and move forward. Doing the same, I believe you can find the strength you need to move forward as well.
Here are some Bible verses about not giving up.
1. The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.
Job 17:9 NLT
2. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7 NIV
3. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Galatians 6:9 NLT
4. No matter how many times you trip them up, God-loyal people don’t stay down long; Soon they’re up on their feet, while the wicked end up flat on their faces.
Proverbs 24:16 MSG
5. The Lord guides us in the way we should go and protects those who please him. If they fall, they will not stay down, because the Lord will help them up.
Psalm 37:23-24 GNT
If you were on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, and you were down to the final question with the Phone a Friend Lifeline left, who would you call? Is there anyone in your life you trust that much when that much pressure is on and so much is at stake? Believe it or not, I imagined that scenario over and over again when the show was popular. Only a couple of people came to mind who had the knowledge and poise to deliver in that moment.
When you think about it, that’s a lot of trust you’re putting in that individual. When everything is on the line, you’re saying, “I trust this person with my future.” You may or may not be able to think of someone off the top of your head. When Satan appeared in Heaven one day, God asked him what he had been doing. He replied, “I have been walking here and there, roaming around the earth” (NLT). Then in Job 1:8. God said, “Did you notice my servant Job?”
Satan then accused Job of only trusting God because he had been blessed and was protected by God. He asked, “Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?” God then allowed Satan to take away everything Job had. God trusted Job in that million dollar moment. When so much was at stake, God looked at him and said, “That’s my guy. I trust him.” And if you’ve read the book of Job, you know that when Satan took everything from him, he fell down and blessed God.
I wonder if God would trust me in that moment. Would He trust you? Is our faith based on who God is or is it based on the blessings in our lives? It’s easy to serve God when the blessings are flowing and things are easy. Would we have the same response as Job if we lost everything? Would we be able to drop to our knees and praise Him no matter what? It’s a tough question, but one that must be asked. What would be your response in that million dollar moment?
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.
Rain is something we need, but don’t really want. We’ve given it a negative connotation too. It started when we were children singing the song, “Rain, Rain, go away. Come again another day.” Rain disrupts the times of sunshine and happiness that we feel. When it’s rainy outside, we say it’s gloomy. We think of the gray clouds and associate them with depression. Rain changes our path, our timing and our plans. It messes things up for us so we resist it. We forget that rain is a necessary part of life. We forget all the good that it does.
I’ve got several friends right now who are experiencing rain in their lives. Several friends have had loved ones pass away unexpectedly. I’ve got a couple of friends who can’t seem to find a job. I’ve got a few friends whose lives have been turned upside down because of choices their spouse made. For them, it seems like the rain just keeps coming. It feels like their lives are being flooded with only negative things. As I’ve thought about all their situations, Matthew 5:45 came to mind. It says, “It rains on the just and the unjust.”
I’ve read or heard that scripture my whole life. I was always under the impression that it meant that bad things happen to Christians and non Christians alike because I associated rain with bad times. When I read it in context and then in several versions and interpretations of the original Greek, the Message Bible stood out. It said, “This is what God does. He gives His best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone regardless.” The times of rain in our lives are meant to nourish us. Just like our yards, lakes and crops need rain for nourishment, so do our lives.
When bad things happen, it usually pushes us closer go God. We spend more time in prayer. We take the time to talk to God and to read His Word to try to find answers. Days of sunshine rarely push us to spend time with God, but rain does. When we go a long time without rain or without spending time with a God, we go through a drought and that isn’t healthy. If you’re going through times of rain in your life right now, don’t pray for it to go away. Instead thank God for the nourishment and for the shelter He provides
In II Chronicles 20, a huge army invaded southern Israel. The king and all the people were terrified because they defeated several strongholds easily. He begged God for help and asked others to pray with him. It sounds a lot like any one of us when we are facing something that seems impossible to beat. Fear is our first response, then we beg God for help. I believe what follows in this story is something we can all learn from in these moments in life.
The first thing that happened was King Jehoshaphat got like minded people together, fasted and prayed. We are not to fight these battles alone. Fear’s goal is to intimidate you and to push you into seclusion. Don’t let it! There is strength in numbers and in fasting. Get a group of people around you who can fight on their knees and touch God for you. This first step is critical if you’re going to win an impossible battle.
In verses 15-17, God answered those praying. The Word of the Lord came back saying, “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (NLT). Things only seem impossible when God is not in the equation. The battles we face are not our own, but they are God’s. We don’t have to be afraid or discouraged at the sheer impossibility of anything that comes our way because God goes before us.
As the army of Israel approached the battlefield, Jehoshaphat spoke in verse 20 and reminded them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets and you will succeed.” Faith will help us to stand firm when standing is all we can do. We can trust in God, and in His Word, to get the courage to keep standing in the face of impossibilities. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to continue to trust God and His Word so we can see the victory.
Finally, the king appointed singers to praise God and he sent them out in front. At the very moment they began to sing, the Lord gave victory. We need to be able to praise God in advance of victory. We need to honor Him when all else seems to be going wrong. Praise is powerful. It activates our faith and moves our God. If you can’t find it in you to praise, play praise music until you do. Victory is dependent on God, not us. We can praise Him for that. Our impossible battles are no match for a God who says all things are possible.