Thursday, January 29, 2015

Positive thinking does not remove the sting of hard times. What does?

A popular approach to dealing with suffering and hard times by the proponents of self-help techniques is the power of positive thinking. Anything can be overcome if we just exert enough will power and think positively. Personal empowerment is ours for the taking if we only follow the right technique, meditate in the proper position or simply imagine the impossible. We are told to look for the silver lining in a very dark cloud. But the fallacy of these approaches is quickly revealed when confronted with such tragedies as 9/11 or the Newtown shootings in 2012. No amount of positive thinking will remove the horror and the sting from the hearts of those involved or those indirectly affected. What positive thinking actually does is force us into some serious rationalizing, those “rational lies” we tell ourselves in the hopes of convincing ourselves that all will be OK.  But in our hearts we grieve, we question, we die a slow emotional and spiritual death.

No, the response to hard times needs to be one based on the truth declared by Job: “though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). In the midst of the anguish of heart, the tears that stream from our eyes, the raw emotions that strip us of feeling, what are we to do?  Trust in the God who knows the full depth of suffering because He experienced it firsthand on the cross. Trust in the One who for the joy set before Him endured suffering we can’t even imagine! Trust in the One who has declared that He will make all things new.  That and that alone will remove the sting of a hard time in the crucible.

It is not thinking positive that makes the real difference in your life—it is thinking positively about God, that is, thinking rightly about God will lead you to live rightly!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thanking God when in a hard time? Really?

It’s easy to thank God when things are going great in our lives, but thanking Him when in a hard time, in a crucible experience—really? The psalmist declares that we should:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Two reason are given that should cause us to give thanks to the LORD.

First, God is good. God’s goodness is not based on our experiences—if the “good” outweigh the “bad” then God is good. God’s goodness is not based on the results of a poll taken asking whether God is good or not—of course the poll results will be based on other people’s experiences. No, God’s goodness is based on the simple declaration: He is good! Do you believe this no matter what?

Second, His steadfast love for us endures forever. The Hebrew word for “steadfast love” is hesed and the various translations reveal the breadth of the word:

hesed: steadfast love (ESV), love (NIV), lovingkindness (NASB), mercy (KJV)

Hesed is a Hebrew word that is rich in meaning. It is:
  • an interaction between strength, steadfastness, mercy, and love.
  • implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship
  • a love that is based on a prior relationship—it is an intimate love.
What a love–it is not a love that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is a steadfast, strong, personal, intimate, everlasting love! Do you believe this no matter what?

Therefore we can give thanks because the LORD has this kind of love toward us and because He is good. Although our hard times might cause us to question these truths, they DO NOT change these truths. As we embrace these incredible truths, even when in a crucible experience, we too can proclaim: “O give thanks to the Lord!”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Does God seem hidden in hard times? You’re not alone!

If we think that God is hidden when we are in a time of trouble, in a hard time, in the crucible, we are not alone. Over and over again we read in the Scriptures that God seems distant, far away and even hidden.
Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?  Psalm 10:1
Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? Psalm 44:24
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Psalm 102:2
Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.  Psalm 143:7
Isaiah declares what we all experience at times:
Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. Isaiah 45:15
BUT just a few verses later, Isaiah declares the truth we need to rest on:
But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. (vs 17)
We might indeed “feel” that God is hidden or that He is absent—He is not!
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17–18
What promises! He is not only present, He will ultimately bring salvation and we will NOT be put to shame or confounded for all eternity. May the Lord give us steadfast hearts (Psalm 57:7) to endure until then!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Guarding our hearts in hard times is wisdom’s call to all

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Prov 4:23 (NIV)

Can you hear Jesus speaking to your heart? Listen…

My child, I love you so much, please treasure my word in your heart, hide it there so that you do not sin against me. Ps 119:11 Write my words on the tablets of your hearts. Prov 7:3 Love my wisdom and she will keep you and guard you. Prov 4:6 My word makes you wise for salvation. 2 Tim 3:15-17 Because life is fleeting Ps 39:4, number your days and you will get a heart of wisdom. Ps 90:12 Guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith in Me. 1 Tim 6:20–21. I know that you believe in Me—be convinced that I am able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to you. By the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Tim 1:12–14.It is by my power that you are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5. I am faithful. I will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 2 Thess 3:3.

Are you anxious or fearful? Come to me, talk to me, present your petitions, your supplication to me with thanksgiving and my peace which is beyond human understanding will guard your heart and mind in Me. Phil 4:6-7
 And finally, maybe you’re thinking that you’ve not guarded your heart very well and that you’ve allowed a lot of stuff in. I will give you the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge of Me, and when that happens the eyes of your heart will be enlightened and you will realize that the same power that raised Me from the dead is the same immeasurable power available to you and that guarantees victory over every spiritual attack. Eph 1:15-23 If you always stand firm over your heart, then your heart will stand firm in all ways.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Waiting strengthens us when in the crucible! Really?

When we are going through a hard time, when we are in a crucible experience, a wonderful passage in the bible for encouragement is Isaiah 40:31 (ESV): ‘those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength.’ The NIV translates the word ‘wait’ as ‘hope.’ As I was going through my crucible experience, I decided to study the passage a bit more and discovered that the root meaning behind the word ‘wait’ is not about waiting for time to pass until something happens or even hoping for something. No, the root meaning is ‘twisting,’ a twisting that produces tension which then makes something stronger.

Engineers at Brown University, in partnership with universities in China, say they’ve developed a simple procedure that strengthens steel without losing any of the material’s plasticity. So simple in fact, that it’s just a matter of twisting it. So as we go through our crucible experiences, remember that the hard time twisting is making us stronger so much so that we shall mount up with wings like eagles; we shall run and not be weary; we shall walk and not faint.

Here is a wonderful object lesson for kids—and adults too! Take a sheet of a paper towel. Grab the opposite corners and twist it until it can’t be twisted any more. It will form something looking like a rope. Now try to tear the paper towel by pulling hard on the ends. The simple twisting has made it very strong!

The book, In the Crucible: How God Sustains and Transforms in Hard Times, has more reflections on God’s work in our lives in hard times.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When in the crucible--in a storm--what is our ballast?

When we are in a crucible experience--one of those storms in our lives--what is our ballast? James wrote (James 1:2-8) that we should count it all joy when we find ourselves in the crucible. Why? Because our faith is being tested and when our faith is tested it produces steadfastness. When steadfastness has its full effect, we become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. So what is the ballast? James continues: do we lack wisdom? Ask, but ask in faith, without doubting “for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Our faith, that is being tested, as it goes through the pounding of the sea, is the ballast! Without it we will be double-minded, unstable, like a ship without ballast, driven and tossed by the wind.
Abba, Father, I thank you that my trust in You becomes the ballast in the storms in my life! Amen!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If we live for happiness, hard times will cause us to question God!

We live in country that celebrates our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We as a country struggle at times with how to best make sure these rights are available to everyone. Even Christians disagree as to the best policies, laws and approaches we need to insure these rights are not infringed upon in any way. But in our zeal to defend these—especially the pursuit of happiness—I wonder, have we come to think that everything that was created was created for our well-being, so that we might be happy? If anything interferes with that right, like going through hard times, we fight back and wonder what God is doing. Have we, as those who follow Christ, been duped into thinking that our main purpose in life is happiness? No wonder living out Luke 9:23 is so hard: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”