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Posts Tagged ‘Handling Difficulty’

 

Expect to find trouble in this day.

At the same time, trust that [God’s] way is perfect,

even in the midst of such messy imperfection.

—Sarah Young (1)

 

Wait a minute. Trouble and perfection sound like opposites to me. Trouble is pain; perfection is bliss. How can those two concepts possibly coexist in our experience?

Sarah didn’t answer my question, so I headed to scripture to find out how God’s way could possibly be perfect for us in the midst of trouble.

My first stop occurred in Deuteronomy 32:4. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”

 

 

And if I virtually click on a few words of that verse, the following truths reveal themselves:

  • God my Rock is utterly reliable and unshakably trustworthy
  • All of his works perfectly execute all of his plans
  • His ways reflect right judgments and highest wisdom
  • God is devoted to his children and faithful to his Word
  • All his actions are founded on absolute justice and supreme equity

But when trouble enters our lives, our Rock foundation can feel unreliable and untrustworthy. We might question the perfection of his plans, the wisdom of his ways, and the trustworthiness of his promises.

 

 

Then more than ever we must affirm: “Our inability to discern why bad things sometimes happen to us does not disprove God’s benevolence, it merely exposes our ignorance” (2).

Our finite minds cannot understand the all-wise, far-reaching, untraceable workings of a perfectly blameless and righteous God (3).

 

 

So the choice becomes ours. Will we: A) give in to worry, defeatism, and frustration, or B) seek to displace those emotions with scriptural truth and perhaps discover a better way to live?

I prefer Plan B!  I’m guessing you do too.  And a profitable place to begin is in the book of Psalms. We can collect numerous statements of God’s perfections at work on our behalf, even as we navigate through trouble.

For example, our Heavenly Father:

 

 

  • Watches over us (1:6). He knows what’s happening.
  • Gives us refuge (2:12)—not from trouble, but in the trouble.
  • Sustains us (3:5) with hope.
  • Hears us when we call to him (4:3), and is already working to bring beauty out of the ashes of adversity.

 

 

  • Fills our hearts with great joy (4:7)—despite the circumstances.
  • Encourages us (10:17) with his Word.
  • Turns our darkness into light (18:28), as he brings bright blessings out of dismal situations.
  • Arms us with strength (18:32) to endure.

 

 

  • Makes our ways perfect (18:32) as he gives us everything we need.
  • Guides us along right paths (23:3) toward maturity, serenity, and fulfillment.
  • Infuses us with peace (29:11) as we remember all things are possible with God.
  • Shows his wonderful love to us (31:21). And as we celebrate each day the manifestations of that love, our trust and contentment grow (4).

 

 

There you have it—a perfect dozen promises for troublesome times, gleaned from the first thirty-one chapters of just one biblical book. Many more are tucked within the pages of our Bibles, waiting to be discovered and embraced.

But worry, confusion, and discouragement don’t easily give up front-and-center attention in our minds. We must continually replace such thoughts with statements of faith, reminding ourselves: “The God who made us can equip us for the road ahead, even if it is an unpleasant road” (5).

 

 

After all, he’s in the driver’s seat, he has an impeccable driving record, and he deeply desires to accompany us toward our destination in heaven—to perfectly protect us, counsel us, and guide us safely all the way home–even through trouble.

 

P.S.  An update on my husband, Steve:  Many of you know he is fighting liver cancer right now.  Next week he will undergo another chemo treatment and radiation.  Our prayer is these procedures will eradicate the last tumor and no more will develop before he receives a transplant, perhaps early winter.  Thank you again for your love, support, encouragement, and prayer.  We are cocooned in God’s peace!

 

Notes:

(1) Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, 2004 p. 160.

(2) Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? and Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith, Zondervan, 2003, p. 46.

(3) Romans 11:33-36.

(4) The following twelve scriptures provide further support: Psalm 139:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Romans 15:13; Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 94:19; Psalm 119:50; Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:13; 2 Peter 1:3-4; James 1:2-4; Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:4, 12.

(5) Karol Ladd, Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive, Howard Books, 2009, p. 47.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.ymi.today; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net’ http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr (Chris Bartnik); http://www.geograph.org.uk.

 

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My knowledge of boat parts is limited, but this much I know: throw an outboard motor in the water; it will sink. Throw a propeller in the water; it, too, will plunge to the bottom. So will seats, cleats, and other parts. But when they are assembled together on a strong hull, the boat floats.

Similarly, our lives are comprised of a variety of experiences: some heavy and hurtful, others light and joyful. When properly assembled as a whole, they create a life that floats, and one that’s headed on a course toward worthwhile purpose.

Proper assembly of negative as well as positive events requires the trait of resiliency—the ability to press on through setbacks again and again.

Do those words, press on, sound familiar? The great missionary-adventurer, Paul, said he pressed on toward the goal of becoming what God intended for him (Philippians 4:12-14).  Paul is a worthy case-study for resiliency.

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(The apostle Paul by Rembrandt)

 

He suffered plenty of hurt, disappointment, and failure. For example, Paul was:

  • stoned (Acts 14:19),
  • flogged and imprisoned (Acts 16:23),
  • unjustly charged with treason (Acts 18:13),
  • nearly killed on at least several occasions (Acts 21:30-31), and
  • rejected by many, even after brilliantly preaching about God and his Son, Jesus (Acts 17:16-34).

 

How do you bounce back from such defeats? Researchers have identified the following ways to cultivate resiliency:

 

  1. Get real.

No one sails through life problem-free. Accept the reality that troubles will come, then apply those strategies that provide relief, strategies such as: exercise and proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, laughter, and meaningful activity, including acts of kindness each day.

 

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  1. Get hope.

Be watchful for God’s blessings in spite of the circumstances, and thank him for his loving attention. Gratitude does indeed transform attitudes.

Find fresh strength in God’s Word, especially in his promises and assurance of his faithfulness to keep those promises (Romans 15:4; Psalm 145:13; 1 Corinthians 1:9).

We can ask God to help us set new, worthwhile goals, then look forward to the day when those goals will be met.

Researchers have noted that resilient people do not strive for riches, fame, power, or recognition. Instead they are focused on their legacies—what contributions their lives will make to those around them.  Hope in God—in all circumstances—is in itself an invaluable legacy.

 

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  1. Get in community with other Christians—not just by being present, but by actively participating.

Years ago while I was dealing with an ongoing disappointment, Sunday morning worship on the praise team and mid-week rehearsals did much to recharge my spirit. (Not that all was smooth sailing in between! I still struggled to stay on an even keel; but with God’s help I didn’t stop trying.)

In addition, when we contribute hope to others through listening and encouragement, we find our own outlook much improved.

 

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A boat that floats is not built by just lining up the various parts in the boatyard. It requires the hands and expertise of a master boat builder, to craft a skiff of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

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A satisfying, meaningful life cannot be achieved by mere acceptance of the various events in our lives. It requires the hands and expertise of the Master. He takes all of it—the delightful and the demoralizing—to craft a life of beauty, function, and purpose.

 

(The boat metaphor idea came from Ralph W. Sockman, author of The Higher Happiness (1950).

 

Art & photo credits:  www.inland-boats.com; http://www.slideplayer.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

What-Seems-To-Us-As-Bitter-Trials-Are-Often-Blessings-In-Disguise

 

Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

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  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

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(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

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Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

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Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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(“On the day I called, you answered me;

my strength of soul you increased.”

Psalm 138:3, ESV)

For long stretches of time, life can roll along quite satisfactorily. The kids are healthy and doing well in school. Bills are paid on time. The house and cars are holding together with no major repairs required.

Stone_mold

And then suddenly, we hit a stone wall. The promotion goes to someone else.   The company requires a move across the country. An addiction is disclosed. A life-threatening prognosis is delivered.

Pow.   We’re broadsided by disappointment, fear, and pain.

For a few moments we’re frozen in disbelief.

We grieve.

And that’s to be expected.   These are normal reactions.

What we want to avoid is parking at the stone wall, allowing it to consume our thoughts and prohibit forward movement.

That’s much easier said than done, right? That wall of trouble looms over us–thick, tall, and menacing. It’s not like we want to meditate on it; the ugly thing demands attention.

But, oh, praise God, he can tear down walls! (Remember Jericho?)

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(“Your ways, O God, are holy.

What god is so great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;

You display your power among the peoples.”

–Psalm 77:13-14)

We can also defy the enemy who built the wall. Satan, the father of all strife (1 John 5:19), is the one with whom we must battle.

How? There are a number of worthy tactics, but let’s focus on three:

  1. Put on Christ and be strengthened (Romans 13:14). He is our:

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  1. Sing or recite scripture and be revived (Psalm 119:25b).

Start writing down every verse that applies to your situation, and read through them frequently.  Fellow blogger, Bev Rihtarchik (over at Walking Well with God) chooses one meaningful verse, and copies it on a slip of paper to carry in her pocket. When worry comes to call, out comes the verse—truth, in black and white.  Now there’s a surefire way to boost our faith!

  1. Count your blessings and be encouraged.

Yes, it’s an old cliché, but naming God’s benefits is soothing balm to the soul.

Several years ago, I struggled through a particularly challenging year, giving me the opportunity to practice the disciplines of forgiveness, perseverance, renewing the mind, and more.

I continued to keep my blessings journal, more eager than ever to notice the evidence of God at work around me.

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On December 31, I tallied the entries. Imagine my astonishment to count twenty more than any other year to that point, and I’d been keeping that journal over twenty-five years.

God had indeed been at work.  but if I not been recording the evidence, I surely would have missed the generous extent of his blessing.

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Oh, how I praise you, Heavenly Father, that you are in control. I can move on from that stone wall–strengthened by you, led by you, and encouraged by you. Help me to see the unseen steps ahead as an adventure with you, and fill my heart with your hope. You are my Rock whose works are perfect; all your ways are just. You are a faithful God who does no wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4). I cannot praise you enough!

(Photo credits:  www.vesselforchrist.tumblr.com; http://www.survivingtoxicmold.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2), http://www.web.md.com.)

How do you fight the battle against discouragement, fear, and hurt?  Please share with us in the comment section below!

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Woman with piggy bank at rainy window

 

“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…
  • …The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

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Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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