As I drove to work last week, some cars in front of me moved suddenly, almost causing a catastrophe. Although nothing happened, I was a bit frustrated by their carelessness. Before I plunged too deep into road rage, I thought about what could have happened. Instantly, I started thanking God. Rather than waste energy being mad, I decided to thank the God of road mercy!
Sometimes, God blesses us and we forget to thank Him. We get so consumed by being out of trouble that we forget to thank the trouble-stopper. We’re kind of like the nine of the ten lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17. They were so excited to be healed that they forgot to thank the Healer. And, even when one returned to praise Jesus, Jesus’ major concern was the absence of the nine.
As we approach Thanksgiving, remember to thank God for what He’s done for you. He’s brought you through difficult times this year. He deserves your praise!
Earlier this week, one of my employees stopped by my office to talk. The interaction had all the signs of an emotional, lengthy conversation: tears were welling up in her eyes, she thought she had failed a test, and everything was “wrong” in her life. Shortly after she began talking, however, the tears dried up and she started smiling. I didn’t do anything special. She really needed someone to talk to, and I just listened.
Tough experiences can be stressful. Sometimes, you want to jump off the deep end. Thankfully, we have someone we can talk to when life seems unbearable. In Philippians 4:6, Paul literally says, “Instead of worrying, talk to Jesus.” When we share how we’re feeling with Jesus, Paul also notes that He’ll give us peace that doesn’t make natural sense (see Philippians 4:7).
Now, back to my employee. Later that day, she received good news – she didn’t fail her test! Everything worked out, though she initially thought otherwise. You can expect the same results with Jesus. When you talk to Him, everything will work out for your good!
My fiance, her mom, a family friend, and I rode a ski lift to the top of the mountains we visited in Virginia. On our way back down, another group of vacationers asked us, “Was it worth it?” In unison, we replied, “Yes!” Although the journey to the top of the mountain was cold and blustery, the view from the peak made it all worthwhile.
In the midst of our struggles and tough experiences, the journey seldom seems worthwhile. Arduous or stressful are more appropriate adjectives to describe how we often feel. This is because it’s hard to tell who we’re becoming in the “fire” (process). When the smoke clears, however, we think otherwise. Like the psalmist, we can announce: “It was good for me …”
Maybe you’re still in a process; God hasn’t finished with you just yet. Hang in there. The “cocoon” you’re experiencing will be worth it when you become a butterfly.
I had an interesting trip back from the mountains in Virginia. The first few miles were smooth sailing. Later, however, my GPS led me down a different road. The farther I traveled, the more unfamiliar the roads looked. Since the roads were so unfamiliar, I started to ask some questions:
“Should I turn around?”
“Does this GPS know where it’s taking me?”
“Did I just lose my signal?”
Oftentimes, God is like my GPS. His path to our destiny is a lot different than we anticipate. Consider Joseph. His destiny was the palace, yet the first street on his journey was a cistern (pit). I can think of several paths to the palace, and none of them include a pit. Yet God, in infinite wisdom, took Joseph that way. Even though the start didn’t seem right, God knew it would end at the right destination.
Now, back to my story. What did I do? I trusted the GPS and returned from Virginia faster than I had arrived. The same is true when we trust God. We’ll end up where we’re supposed to faster than if we tried to get there alone. If He’s leading your journey, trust Him. You will get to your destiny safely.
Last week, I spent time in the mountains in Virginia. While there, I observed the changing of the leaves, and needless to say, it was breathtaking. Even better than the visual beauty of the leaves was the insight God shared with me. The vivid colors I observed were part of the leaves’ dying process. None of the leaves fought to remain green; rather, they yielded to God’s plan. Nature teaches us that when we yield to His will, God will make us beautiful.
Jesus is the greatest example of how God can make us beautiful when we yield to His will. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ tough place, He said, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39, NLT). Though He had reason to contend with God, for He had not sinned, He didn’t. He resigned to God’s plan, and chose the cross. Because He yielded to God’s will, God exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name (see Philippians 2:9-10).
If you’re caught in a rip current, experts encourage you not to swim against the current. Likewise, when you’re in a tough place, don’t fight against God’s plan. Yield to His will, just like the leaves and Jesus. When you yield to God’s plan, He’ll make you into the person He wants you to be!
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever – 2 Corinthians 4:17, NLT
In Genesis 1:26, God declared, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” In other words, God designed us with some of His attributes, namely the word of power. When God speaks, something happens. We have the same ability. For example, when Adam spoke, the animals received their names (see Genesis 2:19).
The beauty of this characteristic is that it’s not limited by our circumstances. Wherever you are in life, your words can form a bridge to your destiny. That’s why I love Joseph, for he announced his future before he saw it. As a young shepherd, Joseph confidently let his family know, “I’m on my way to greatness!”
When you’re in a tough place, you can start the journey toward a brighter day through your words. Never let your circumstances determine your words; rather, let your words determine your circumstances. Remember, “the tongue can bring death or life …” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT). You’re more than a conqueror. Speak life!
Last week, I wrote about perspective. This was the main point: people with a God-centered perspective (outlook) can make the best of difficult situations. So, what happens if you lose your perspective? What happens when your tough spot lasts beyond your prayer for relief, and it’s hard to trust God for deliverance? Is there any hope when you lose perspective? Absolutely, and the man, with whom Jesus converses in the verses above, proves it!
This man lost his perspective. His perspective was so off that He asked Jesus, the all-powerful Savior, if He could heal his son. Jesus replied, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23, NLT). At this point, the man realized he had lost his perspective. Thankfully, however, his response shows us how to get it back, “… help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24, NLT). He asked Jesus for help and later put the problem (his son) in His hands.
When you lose your perspective, admit it. Then, like the man, ask God for help. Jesus is ready, willing, and certainly able to help restore your faith. Just put your problem in His hands, for He “is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NLT).
How can two people look at the same situation and see totally different things? The answer is simple: perspective, or your outlook on a situation. People with healthy, God-centered perspectives make the best out of the worst situations. People with an unhealthy perspective make triumphant experiences tragic.
In the verse included with the email, Peter lost his perspective. At first, the storm did not hinder his progress. He actually walked right through it. But, when he started focusing more on the storm than Jesus, he started sinking. Long story short, Peter’s perspective determined his altitude. As long as he kept his focus on Jesus, he stayed afloat.
When you’re in those tough places in life, keep your perspective centered on Jesus! Every storm is an opportunity to get closer to Jesus, if you see it that way. Don’t let your trials dictate your perspective; rather, let your perspective dictate your trials.
Have you ever been desperate for words of encouragement? Maybe you’ve been through a tough situation and feigned for someone to say, “Everything will be OK.” Have you ever desired assuring words, only to discover that others had received what you so desperately desired? While others are celebrating the victory, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place wondering if God really cares about you.
If you’ve experienced these emotions, then Lazarus can relate. He reached a place (death) so rough that only Jesus (the Word) could rescue him. Yet, Jesus was helping people in a location nearby. It seemed like the Word was helping everyone but Lazarus, but, as always, Jesus came right on time. He called Lazarus out of that tough situation and commanded everything that had bound him to release him.
Just like Lazarus, there is a word for you. God’s Word will deliver you from the tough places you’ve encountered. Just keep the faith, knowing that He’s on His way to rescue you!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)
Have you ever prayed and felt like God didn’t hear you? I understand. It’s times like these that make us feel like Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34, NLT). We often feel like this when our circumstances don’t change immediately after we conclude our prayers. The truth is, most of us want God to answer our prayers not now, but right now. And if He doesn’t, especially during life’s tough experiences, we start feeling anxious, fearful, irritable, or even doubtful.
Just because our circumstances haven’t changed doesn’t mean God didn’t hear us. Lazarus illustrates this beautifully. If you read this story, one thing is clear: Jesus heard Mary and Martha’s request. As a matter of fact, He answered it immediately, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death” (John 11:4, NLT, emphasis added). Because He responded verbally, He had to fulfill what He said. Jeremiah 1:12 notes, “For I will hasten my word to perform it” (KJV). Sure enough, Lazarus’ sickness didn’t end in death.
If you feel like God didn’t hear you, find consolation in this: delay is not denial. Trust that He heard you. It’s just a matter of time before His answer catches up with your circumstance.