Each Day Is More Impossible – Hope on the Long Road of Suffering

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Each Day Is More Impossible-Hope on the Long Road of Suffering

By

It’s been eight weeks since I went in for my fifth ankle surgery, uncertain of whether it would restore my ability to walk. As I remain couchbound, waiting to see what walking ability I will be left with, I’ve been wrestling with doubts and fears over all the seemingly impossible circumstances that God continues to allow in my life.

I’m a mom to four young children and currently unable to walk; we’re a family suffering with Lyme Disease in a medical world that denies its existence; we’re parents navigating a type of special needs that doctors seem to have no answers for; and the only possible relief in sight seems to lie in treatments that we cannot afford. After eleven years of praying, seeking, and sacrificing for answers and healing — or anything that might bring relief — our earthly hope has dwindled. The longer we wait, the more impossible our circumstances become.

He Believed Against Hope

This week, as I’ve felt nearly paralyzed by the complex and layered trials in our life, I’ve found encouragement in a fellow believer who faced his own impossible circumstances with unwavering faith in the Lord.

After being promised he’d become a father of many nations, the child of promise had not come. Both he and Sarah were far beyond the age to bear children. It appeared hopeless to conceive, even as the Lord told him they would, but while he and his wife initially laughed, Abraham came to believe.

In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18–21)

Abraham didn’t weaken in faith when he considered the reality of what seemed impossible. He believed in the hope that God was fully able to do what he had promised. And he did.

Abraham’s experience reminded me that it’s not unlike God to allow his children to face situations that are hopeless from our perspective. It’s precisely through these impossible situations that God expands our view of him, exercises our trust in him, and most powerfully displays his glory. So, what can we learn from these verses about Abraham when we face our own impossible circumstances?

1. Know what God has (and hasn’t) promised.

Abraham’s faith was based on what God had promised, not what seemed possible. “In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told” (Romans 8:18). Though he didn’t see any way for that promise to come to pass in their old age, he believed that God would somehow be faithful.

We can’t base our hope on what we want God to do or what we think he will do, but what he has promised us in his word. If we don’t know what those promises are, however, we will be devastated if our hope of healing falls through, when the trials worsen after praying for relief, or when all earthly options seem to run out.

In order to know God’s promises, we have to be in his word. We need to be students of the Bible — praying, reading, meditating, and memorizing. We must be careful to read in context to make sure we don’t misunderstand God’s will and promises and feel bitterly disappointed when we don’t receive what he never promised.

As you read through the word, record all that God offers us in Christ. As you do, remember that his promises are given in light of eternity, not our own short-term understanding (2 Corinthians 4:16–18). And by faith, trust that God knows the best way and time for his promises to come to pass.

Read the rest here.

When It Feels Like God’s Not Doing Anything

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

When It Feels Like God’s
Not Doing Anything

One of my favorite ways to study Scripture is to consider the mindset of those in each Bible story. (Perhaps this is why I love the Old Testament so much.) What was Noah’s wife thinking when they were seventy-five years in to building the ark and there was still no water? What was going through Sarah’s mind when not just once, but twice, Abraham made her join a king’s harem? 

What doubts about God did Joseph struggle with after the cupbearer forgot about him in prison? Did Moses feel rejected by God as he fled into the wilderness after killing the Egyptian? What was Daniel thinking as he and his friends were being marched as prisoners to Babylon? What about his mother? Was she killed? 

It puts a different spin on things to think of these Bible characters as real people we’d probably have over for dinner, had they been born in our era. Because that’s what they were—real people, with real struggles, real doubts, real fears and issues and hopes and dreams and thoughts. 

And just like we struggle to believe God is working in our lives, I have no doubt they did too. We can simply turn the page to see the outcome of their story, but some of our favorite Bible heroes waited years to see God’s active hand in their lives. 

Yet God Was Still Working

Actually, Hebrews 11:39 says all of them are still waiting, seeing only glimpses of God’s promise in their day. Yet many (especially those listed in Hebrews 11) are commended for their faith. They didn’t lose heart; they believed God. But the question is, can we say the same for ourselves?

When circumstances turn sour or take too long, it’s easy to think God’s forgotten us or would rather not deal with our issues. But to think He isn’t doing anything—to think God doesn’t care—is simply not true. He is still just as much in the details and the outcome of our lives as He was in Bible times. 

The stories we read in Scripture aren’t just there for our entertainment, but to remind us that He is still working. God is still active and powerful and sovereign and providentially aligning all the details, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

Consider David:

It’s no secret that David struggled with doubts of God’s care and concern. In Psalm 13:1 we see David crying out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He was anointed as the next king of Israel, yet was chased in the wilderness for years on end by Saul who longed to see him dead. Yeah, if I were David, I would have wondered too.

Yet God was working in David’s life, solidifying his faith and preparing him to be king. And what’s more, God was indeed doing something! Just look at the Psalms we have because of David’s time in the wilderness. While David hid in caves, seeking for encouragement through song, God was writing His Word! 

Read the rest here.

Anyway

The poem below was reportedly written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta. 

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;

forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, some could destroy overnight;

build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

it was never between you and them anyway.

—Mother Teresa

Through All The Seasons. . . God Is Loving and Powerful

Today I’m sharing an article by Dr. David Jeremiah that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Through All the Seasons…
God is Loving and Powerful

By Dr. David Jeremiah

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — Why has this passage endured the ages as one of the oldest philosophical poems in our literary canon? It’s certainly among the most pensive passages of God’s Word, a beautiful meditation that casts a near-hypnotic spell over readers of any generation.

The author was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived, and this book is a chronicle of his lifelong quest for true happiness and joy. Solomon tried wealth, wisdom, work, and wild living. At the end of his wide-ranging experiments, he concluded that everything was an empty exercise in vanity. It was like trying to capture the wind in his hands.

As we come to the third chapter, we find Solomon facing an even bigger challenge, a “problem with God.”

I know all about the “problem with God.”

I would not have chosen cancer as a path to spiritual growth, nor would I wish such fear and pain on anyone. On the other hand, I do not see my illness as a random event, some miscellaneous accident of health. And I do not believe there was a moment when God was absent from the physical, emotional, and spiritual crisis I endured.

In fact, I found Him everywhere during that time. I found Him as never before. I glimpsed His face among the doctors and nurses who cared for me so skillfully. I saw Him there in shining power among the family of my church, and intimately among the family circle of my wife and children. He met me in the private chapel of my soul, where with each passing day I felt deeper in His grace and comfort. I found my Lord more present and more powerful.

Knowing there must be pain and suffering for us all, I dearly wish everyone could travel the road I did. I wish every human soul could see the face of God in the fear and turmoil. 

So many walk a very different path; they experience only His absence.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, when his own three-year-old son contracted a rare disease that took his life at a young age, penned his conclusions about God and suffering in order to provide answers to others in similar circumstances.

Kushner’s conclusion was a popularization of an ancient theological conundrum:

How can God be both perfectly good and perfectly powerful? The suffering in the world suggests that if He is God, He is not good; or that if He is good, He is not God. In other words, there must be something lacking in either His love or His strength, or He would cure every little pain.

Rabbi Kushner worked through the old enigma. He concluded that God is all-loving but not all-powerful. He cares deeply about the people He created, but after creating the world He backed away and allowed it to run without His interference.

Solomon had a different view entirely. He concludes that God is sovereign and in control, regardless of the imponderables that remain. Solomon sees God as being present with us but not helpful enough. The king wants to know why God does not improve the standard of life, do something about the aging process, show more favoritism to His children, and perhaps discontinue the program of human pain.

In his poem, there are fourteen negative statements and fourteen positive ones, and they fall into three separate categories. The first describes the influence of time on our bodies, the second focuses on our souls, and the last deals with our spirits.

And Solomon’s main thought? Well, it doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to notice that the word time occurs twenty-nine times in these verses.

Time and Your Physical Life

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up.

Solomon begins his contemplation with a sobering observation: birth and death both have their appointed times.

When my grandson, Ryland, was born, I flew to Baltimore for the event. As I peered through the nursery window at this beautiful new citizen of the world, it struck me that only a corridor away, some other citizen was being dispatched. Some family had gathered for the agony of farewell. It is not a lengthy walk between the nursery and the intensive care unit. We spend our own time making that trek between entrance and exit, womb and tomb.

Meanwhile, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. Solomon refers to the food supply because he knows that God sets the boundaries of the seasons. God has built certain rhythms into His world. The steady repetition of the seasons provides comfort and a workable cadence to life.

We are a bit discomforted to read that there is a time to kill as well as a time to heal. Yet our bodies are in the process of dying every moment. Scientists tell us that every seven years we replenish all the cells within our bodies. There is an ongoing maintenance department in the human machine that is constantly changing out the old for the new. And it is governed by time.

Cancer cells, infection cells, or simply worn-out cells must be killed — so even killing has its time, and we are grateful. There must be a time to kill so we might also have a time to heal.

And what of “a time to break down, and a time to build up”? We build up in our early years, and we start breaking down as we get older — painful but true. How old is old? I was enjoying a birthday when David Todd, my six-year-old grandson, crunched the numbers on my age. He said, “If Poppy was a dog’s age, he’d be dead!” He was right.

There is a time for breaking down, but God is there. He is as powerful as He is loving, and you have the opportunity to experience His power all the more effectively and vividly when you turn to Him in the breakdowns of life.

Read the rest here.

As it Begins 2019

As it Begins

By Pat Knight

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace
at all times and in every way”

(2 Thessalonians 3:16).

As I sit at my desk, I stare with anticipation at the vast amount of accessible space in the new year’s calendar. With red pen in hand, I am poised to add distinguishing color to the otherwise bland pages making important days easily recognizable during the ensuing year.

In retrospect, I realize that a great deal can happen in a year, not just the daily routines, but the earth-shattering life experiences of birth, death, job promotions, health challenges, and various adventures that inevitably lead to immeasurable personal growth.  I ponder the possibility of exciting encounters during the next 365 days.

In our area of the world, January and February are positioned for a sluggish start to the New Year. Often marooned by snowstorms, our daily activities consist of snow removal, stoking auxiliary wood stoves, and observing the world from under a cloak of darkness by late afternoon each day. And yet, as mundane as those first two months of the year usually are, occasionally some exciting and energizing events have occurred. In January, we celebrate our grandson’s birthday with a party. Former college friends whom we had not seen in twenty years spent some quality time visiting with us in February one year. So now, I must adjust my thinking; anything is possible at any time of year!

When facing an unwritten twelve months, some people are fascinated by the possibilities while others experience apprehension. Enthusiasm and excitement permeate the thoughts of those who believe in God. He promises to care for them and to supply their needs. For unbelievers, there must be real fear associated with unrevealed days ahead. When a physical or an emotional crisis occurs, on whom do they depend for resolution to problems and security against the storms of life? What a risky way to live, without God as their Source of strength and power!

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I would prefer to hang on tight to the promises of God’s Word. “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11). I know that I can trust God to watch over me and design my life perfectly, revealing His plans to me in His precise timing.

What then, distinguishes between the person who relies on his own resources and the Christian who depends upon God for his daily provisions? Peace is not only relegated to world events dealing with international political stability, but peace has the capacity to reside within each heart, enabling relaxation and fulfillment when our external circumstances defy all definitions of harmony.

God is the author of peace. God’s Word reinforces the truth that God and peace are related. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever” (Isaiah 26:3-4a).

Peace and turmoil are contrasting emotions. No one chooses to live in a state of chaos and confusion. As much as possible, we seek peace of mind, of heart, and in our surroundings. Tranquil and serene scenes often evoke thoughts of peace. What happens to one’s vision of peace when the very site producing it has been bulldozed for construction or has been claimed a disaster by a tornado?  Efforts at finding peace are easily frustrated if peace is not sought in the right place.

The truth is, peace is not a place but a person. God is peace. He offers harmony and a sense of well-being, in which there are no conflicts. There is no disorder; quietness prevails; tranquility reigns. In the hush of the early morning hour, when the mist rises above the calm waters, all of nature is harmonious, God speaks to me, “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Peace is an attribute of God and a gift of the Holy Spirit to us.

I have no fear of the unknown, for my future is anchored in Jesus Christ. In Him there is an abundance of victory confidently secured in His never-changing character. Bring on the New Year with all of its uncharted waters carrying unidentified perils. I am not afraid. During the unfamiliar days ahead I am promised Jesus’ constant companionship. He already has knowledge of the purpose and outcome of each day.

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Depressed and Thankful: 6 Ways to Find Joy

How can we possibly be thankful when we are depressed? And how can we be joyful when there is so much in our world to be depressed about these days? This kind of depression is different from clinical depression, which is a constant sense of hopelessness and despair, and it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. I don’t think it matters what type of depression we have, it still makes life difficult. Today’s post about how to hold on to our joy during times of depression is from Revive Our Hearts. I pray it blesses all of us.

Depressed and Thankful:
6 Ways to Find Joy

By Stacy Reaoch

It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.

The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months—college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job—and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.

Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals, medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.

Worship Grows in Gratitude

In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.

Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and “did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?”

Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We live in a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.

Read the rest here.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants

This is an excellent article from Desiring God by John Piper.

God Wants to Shape Your Wants 

An Invitation to the Psalms

Article by John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Try to imagine the Bible without the Psalms. What a different book it would be! What a different place the church would be. And what a different person I would be.

It’s not as though the rest of the Bible does not teach truth and awaken emotions. I learn things and feel things everywhere I read in the Bible. But it’s not the same. The Psalms do not just awaken the affections of the heart; they put the expression of those affections in the foreground. They feature the emotional experience of the psalmist intentionally against the backdrop of divine truth.

Emotion on Display 

They do not just invite the emotion of the heart in response to revealed truth. They put the emotion on display. They are not just commanding; they are contagious. We are not just listening to profound ideas and expressed affections. We are living among them in their overflow. We are walking in the counsel of God-besotted wisdom, and standing in the way of amazed holiness, and sitting in the seat of jubilant admiration.

We touch pillows wet with tears. We hear and feel the unabashed cries of affliction and shame and regret and grief and anger and discouragement and turmoil. But what makes all this stunningly different from the sorrows of the world is that all of it — absolutely all of it — is experienced in relation to the totally sovereign God.

God at the Bottom of It All 

None of these emotions rises from a heart that has rejected the all-governing God.

  • Your waves have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7).
  • You have made my days a few handbreadths” (Psalm 39:5).
  • You have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies”(Psalm 44:9).
  • You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations” (Psalm 44:11).
  • You have made your people see hard things” (Psalm 60:3).
  • And in it all, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1).

God is behind everything. This is the great difference between the Psalms of Scripture and the laments, complaints, and sorrows of the world. For the psalmists, God is a rock-solid, unshakeable, undeniable, omnipotent Reality. 

Read the rest here.