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
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!
My high school English teacher used to try to drill home with us the difference between eager and anxious. Being eager was to be excited about an opportunity or an upcoming event. Being anxious was to be nervous or worried about the upcoming event. “If you’re excited about what’s coming,” she would say, “don’t say you’re anxious to go.” She wanted to make sure we knew the difference because they have two very different meanings and we often interchange them incorrectly.
I want us to understand their differences as well as we read Scripture. Psalm 94:19 says, “Whenever I am anxious and worried, you comfort me and make me glad” (GNT). God can take something that we are anxious about and make us eager about it, but we have to let Him. The problem is many of us get addicted to being anxious and we live in the land of worry instead of expectation. God’s desire is that we be eager instead of anxious.
Philippians 4:6 says, “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.” The version I learned this verse in used the words “be anxious” instead of “worry”. Either way, God’s message to us is the same. Don’t be anxious about anything, but if you are, let those feelings drive you to prayer where you can eagerly expect what God will do for you instead of anxiously awaiting the outcome of the situation.
Worry robs you of energy, sleep, and life, but eagerness gives you energy. Being anxious won’t change the outcome, but prayer will. God can comfort our anxious spirit, give us an eagerness to see what He will do, and make us glad. We need to quit trusting in what we believe will happen, and let our faith dictate prayers that will change the future to one we can be eager to receive. Even if the worst happens, God can use it for our good. That’s something to be eager about.
Worry. It’s something that everyone deals with. Whether it’s about paying the bills this month, will we find true love, the end result of an illness, or any number of things, we all worry. I love that dictionary.com defines worry as, “To torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.” Worry is nothing more than self-torture. It’s allowing our mind to put us into a debilitating prison where our mind thinks of every negative thing that may happen in a situation. Worry only looks at the negative outcomes.
If you’re a worrier, take heart. God wants to free you from that torment. I John 3:20 says, “God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves” (MSG). Not only does He know you better than you know yourself, He knows your future. There is nothing that is going to happen to you that He doesn’t already know about. I learned several years ago to trust that worrying didn’t solve the problem or change the future, so I began to hand my worry to Him.
I Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (NLT). I admit it was difficult to learn to hand them off to Him because I didn’t know what to think about or do since all I knew was worry. But that’s where Philippians 4:6 came into play. It says, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” (MSG).
Worry never changed the outcome of anything, but prayer has! Quit tormenting yourself and start praying to God about it. Release it to Him because He is greater than your worry and your problems. He wants to trade peace for your suffering. He wants to give you a lighter burden, but you have to be willing to exchange worry for it and leave it with Him. God cares deeply about you and the things you’re going through. Trust Him to do what’s best and give Him your worry. Give no place in your mind to anxiety and debilitating worry. Be free.
Do you ever find yourself letting your mind wander through all the possible outcomes of a situation? Before you know it, you can lose a couple of hours or even a day. I’ve been known to lose sleep just thinking about all the “what if’s”. When I was at a dead end in life and was forced to file bankruptcy, I couldn’t find an outcome that were positive. I was worried sick over how hard the next seven years were going to be. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the implications of it, not to mention the embarrassment. I got caught up in an endless cycle of thoughts that were detrimental to my well being.
God knows all too well how our minds work. I think that’s why Jesus dealt with those of us who are constantly living in the future of “what if’s” instead of in the present what is. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (MSG)” He was very plain in that verse and His words hit home with someone like me.
When I give my attention to the “what if’s”, I take away from what God is doing in this very moment. I lose sight of the reality that He is creating in my life today. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I have no clue how my current situation will end, but God does. He knows all too well what tomorrow will bring and what I need to do today in order to prepare for it. When I worry about the possibilities, I miss out on what He’s showing me today in order to help me tomorrow. That’s why He wants me to give my entire attention to what He’s doing right now, not what He’s going to do.
In the second part of that verse, Jesus assures us that God will help us with what comes next. He’s not going to let you walk into a trap and then abandon you. He’s not going to hang you out to dry when times get tough. People may do that, but God never will. Jesus said that He will help you with whatever hard things come up and will be there for you when you need him. Deuteronomy 3:18 says, “The Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.” I can testify that He is true to His word. He did not abandon me when I needed Him most and He won’t abandon you when you need Him most.
He is merely a prayer away. When the hard times come, simply say, “God, I can’t do this without you. In my own strength, this is impossible, but with you, all things are possible.” Don’t worry about all the worst possible outcomes of what could happen. Find God in the middle of today’s mess instead. Look for Him in the midst of what you’re walking through today. He will be your fortress of refuge, your rock and your shield. Give your mind a rest from the worry. God knows the outcome and whatever it is, He will give you the grace and strength you need to make it through.