How to Find Joy in Our Circumstances

Sometimes God needs to teach us certain things several times. I wrote something very similar to this in 2011, but the message still holds true for me today. I know Whose I am and the value He sees in me, but apparently, I need to keep relearning this. Every time I try to do more than I know I can handle, I’ve compromised my health—again. Praise God that He doesn’t give up on me! I decided to share this today in hopes that God will use it in your lives too.

Genuine, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being, goodness, and power of God, but a faith which believes that the things which “he saith, shall come to pass.” 
—E. M. Bounds¹

Job2-10-DarkPurple-Blue-Green-PaintedBackground-30--AMP

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
—Job 2:10

Don’t you wonder how Job could say this after everything he went through? Does it make you shake your head and think, “yeah, right”? How could Job even think to say this after everything—and I do mean everything—was taken away from him?

Job had it all: a loving family, great wealth, a thriving business and good health. He was loved and respected by his family and the community because he was a very gentle and loving man. He indeed had it all … until suddenly it is all taken away and he is left helpless and hopeless.

Oh, did I say hopeless? Hardly.

Like many of you, I live with daily chronic pain. Among the several illnesses I endure, my most persistent “thorn in the flesh” was daily migraines. I say was because I do not get them every day because they are finally under better control from some special treatments I have been having. Although I can still tell I’m having a migraine because of blurry vision and sometimes nausea, I do not have the head pain most of the time.

Over the last 19 years I have tried many migraine medications and treatments, as well as for Fibromyalgia (FMS) and Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Either they did not work at all for me, or the side effects were horrendous.

So many times over the years I have felt as if I was sliding through what I called wasted days—when all I was capable of doing was sleeping, resting, eating and some light household chores. I have spent lots of time praying and asking God why these things were happening to me and if they would ever end. I thought my days were wasted because I wasn’t doing anything that I deemed valuable, but in reality, God was doing a work in me that I finally understand… and hopefully will remember.

Before this time of pain and frustration, I understood how to be joyful in spite of my circumstances. However, I finally understand that God has shown me how to be joyful and thankful because of those same circumstances. In effect, God increased my faith by allowing me to travel through those tough times in order to bring me to the realization that not all bad things are bad!

God allows circumstances and situations in our lives that are sometimes very difficult to navigate, and all He wants us to do is trust that He knows what is best for us. It is all about having faith in spite of not seeing or knowing the why of it. When we cannot understand the meaning behind our suffering, we immediately want to tell God how angry and frustrated we are. I know, because I’ve been there.

Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for,
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Faith essentially does not make sense to our human way of thinking. I guess that’s why it’s called faith— “a belief that is not based on proof,” according to the dictionary definition.

When we pray in faith, we are saying in effect that we believe God knows what is best for us—in spite of what our circumstances appear to be and that we ultimately acknowledge what we know to be true: God knows all and we do not!

In spite of that, we want to breeze through life without experiencing any kind of pain or disappointment. We think that “if only” this or that wasn’t happening in our lives, everything would be so much easier or better. If only we had more money or more time or better health or a larger home or a different job… and the list goes on. What if the circumstances in our lives—good or bad—are there to make us stronger? What if—bear with me here—we try to change our outlook so that the “bad stuff” doesn’t seem so bad after all?

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. —George Seaton

Beloved, if life on earth was one big picnic would we ever yearn for heaven? Would we truly be able to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross?

Oh, and our friend Job? In spite of all the horrible things that happened to him, “Job did not sin with his lips.” Obviously, Job was not happy that he had lost so much and did not like what God was allowing in his life, but he trusted God even as he was going through that terrible time. Oh, that we could all be as Job and exhibit such trust in our Creator!

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life here on earth is meant to grow our faith, to show us how to live joyfully and victoriously because of our circumstances, not merely in spite of them. How about if we try to keep foremost in our minds that what we are going through is for our good and God’s glory? That kind of attitude will cause us to remember that we are not alone in our misery and enable us to praise Him for always being with us.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
—Psalm 104:33


¹ The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds

My Lord is the Lifter of My Head 

My Lord is the Lifter
of My Head 

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the one who lifts my head.

─Psalm 3:3

For many years summer monsoon season has been a struggle for me. The combination of living at high altitude, plus the constantly fluctuating barometric pressure, used to keep me homebound and in bed. The way my body used to react to my migraines was to shut down, meaning that I slept most of the time. That was my before. As I write this, I still have migraines but the accompanying head pain is gone. Now I only know I have a migraine when my vision gets blurry and/or I have lots of nausea. This is my after.

The difference between before and after is that I have been undergoing special therapeutic treatments since January of this year. I am calling 2019 my year of healing because I truly believe that the Lord led me to this treatment because many people had been praying for me for many years.

While I was burdened with these daily migraines, I found it amazing that every time I went to sleep with a migraine I awoke feeling very hopeful that my migraine would be gone. And I did this over and over again, only to be surprised when I woke up to the same migraine I went to sleep with.

Why do I think this is amazing? Because instead of being disappointed when I awoke to the same pain time after time, I felt hopeful. I admit to a bit of discouragement, but I believe that God knows what I feel deep in my heart and soul, and since He is the “lifter of my head,” I believe He granted me the ability to praise Him with a joyful heart no matter how I was feeling.

I used to struggle with the why of my situation, wondering if it would ever end and why it had gone on for so long. Now there is a huge sense of peace within me because I know without a doubt that my Lord ─ my “shield” ─ was and is always with me to soothe and comfort me when I cry out to Him in pain. Even before I started the treatments that have eliminated my migraine pain, the frustration that at times consumed me is gone and has been replaced with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Beloved, have you ever been in a situation when you have questioned why God has allowed it in your life? Do you wonder if it will ever end? Are you so mired in despair that you find you can’t even talk to God about it? 

In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we should, 

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us 

with groanings too deep for words. 

─Romans 8:26

Now what does the Spirit ask for when he intercedes for us? There are three ways the text points to an answer for this question: 1) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know we should ask for. Verse 26: “We do not know how to pray for what we ought.” 2) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know to ask for because of our weakness. Verse 26: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 3) It says the Spirit asks for things that are in accord with the will of God. Verse 27b: “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”¹

Although my migraine head pain is gone, I am still living with the chronic pain and other symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The treatments are also relieving most of that pain, and now my overwhelming symptom is unrelenting fatigue that nothing helps, but I am anticipating a release from that too as I continue these treatments.

God knows everything about us, even our doubts, frustrations and anxieties. He is our ultimate Healer ─ physically, emotionally and mentally. He longs to hold us close to His heart and soothe our tears of frustration, disappointment and grief. Allow Him to do so! Let Him into your heart and share your deepest feelings with Him, because He is always available to listen to you and comfort you.

I continually hold on to this hope: that one day all of my pain and exhaustion will be gone and I will no longer have any tears because of the incredible joy and happiness of being in heaven with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Only by abiding in Him can any kind of true joy and contentment be found.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit

to fill our hearts with his love. 

─Romans 5:4-5

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,

the Creator of the ends of the earth,

neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might

He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

and the young men shall utterly fall,

but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
─Isaiah 40:28-31


¹John Piper, Desiring God

The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

Read the rest here.

Faithful is He who calls you

During my recent blog break, I spent a lot of time in the Word and in prayer. I started this blog in 2011 and the Lord has enabled me to continue, with similar breaks along the way. I have tried and discarded different blogging schedules, finally settling on my current twice-weekly one because it works best for me.

I’ve written before about the various health issues I live with, which often take over my life. 2019 started with 24/7 migraines which were amazingly worse than I could remember. A friend told us about a chiropractic method we had never heard of before, a more holistic approach to treating pain through specific spinal adjustments which are more gentle than the traditional adjustments I have tried in the past.

I’ve been into this now for almost three months and am extremely happy with the results. I still have migraines with fluctuating barometric pressure, but these migraines are ocular in nature rather than extremely painful. Now the only way I can tell I’m having a migraine is that my vision gets a little blurry and I have some nausea. I am also experiencing benefits in how my body processes/perceives daily pain by learning new breathing techniques and other gentle exercises to keep my body in better alignment.

So that’s my current health state, which I am constantly praising our Lord for as a huge answer to prayer! I am still going to keep my twice-weekly blogging schedule though because I am sure that the more my health issues get resolved, the more I will be able to do here at home. I am also looking forward to being able to do some traveling again, including going riding more often with Rick just for the sheer joy of it.

While thinking about my most recent blog break, it reminded me of a year-long hiatus from writing that I took about 15 years ago. I had no idea how that year would involve a huge amount of trust in Jesus, and in the process, He taught me much about how faithful and trustworthy He is. Here’s my story about that time.

Faithful is He who calls you
and He also will bring it to pass.
—1 Thessalonians 5:24

I’ve written many times about leaning on the Lord with faith and trust. Today I’d like to focus on how faith plays such a huge part in trusting and believing in the Lord’s timing.

By the way, “faith” (a noun) and “believe” (a verb) are both translated from the same Greek word. If you claim to have faith in God, then believing in Him is to put that faith into action. In other words, our faith leads to believing that what God says is true and more important than what we see or feel with our frail and easily persuaded human minds. God worked in my heart in a mighty way to show me how a believing faith can help me through everything in my life.

I don’t know about you but just when I feel comfortable with the way my life is going, that’s when I know God will start to shake things up a bit. I like to say He is moving me from one comfort zone to the next.

One of the examples of this in my life happened about 15 years ago. After several years of writing, my well of imagination seemed to have run dry. I had unexpectedly lost my desire to write.

Those who know me best suggested that I was probably experiencing writer’s block, but I learned that God simply had other plans for me. In the midst of my quiet times with Him, I felt Him telling me to stop everything writing-related for a time and focus on Him as I rested my exhausted body and mind.

As difficult as it was to understand this, I knew God was asking me to put into action what I believe to be true:

God is more than worthy of my faith and trust.

My writing hiatus came to an abrupt end about a year later when a writing assignment dropped into my inbox that I knew had to be from the Lord. I had sent my resume to a publisher the previous year and then forgotten about it. Now, this same publisher offered me an assignment that was tailor-made for my style of writing.

But there was a problem: not only was the deadline a mere three weeks away, but I needed to research and write while battling severe daily migraines.

The migraine issue was not a new thing, but I just cannot think clearly when in the midst of one of these nausea-creating, light- and sound-bothering, hair-hurting migraines hits me. And it was happening on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, I struggled through this assignment day after day, sometimes praying through my tears. And—day after day—God provided me with the ideas I needed plus the necessary strength to get this enormous amount of writing done in such a short period of time.

The finished book was a compilation of prayers written by several authors, including me. By the grace of God and by believing that He would faithfully help me complete this assignment on time, I met my deadline of composing 31 prayer devotionals.

You read that right: 31 devotionals in 3 weeks!

In great pain, I toiled through the writing of every single one of those devotionals but God was faithful in giving me the sufficient amount of strength I needed exactly when I needed it most. From time to time I’ve shared some of the devotionals here that I contributed to that book titled, Anytime Prayers for Everyday People, and I’ll continue that every so often.

Beloved, are you facing something in your life that seems too much for you to handle? Maybe—like I did—you think there is nothing you can contribute because of your circumstances or illness or limited energy.

If you take away anything from what I went through, it should be this:

When God wants us to do something for Him, He does not expect us to do it on our own. He just wants us to have faith and believe that He will walk with us through it.

Remember, He is the Great Enabler and will always grant us exactly the amount of strength and stamina we need to finish whatever He calls us to do!

Taking a Break

My life these days has been very hectic and busy from too many medical appointments and other commitments. This all adds up to a lot of stress, which affects my health badly and fuels the need for me to take a short break. I hope and pray that I feel refreshed enough so I can get back to my usual Tuesday and Thursday blogging schedule in a couple of weeks. I am and will be praying  my favorite Bible verse for all of you and for me too:

You will keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
—Isaiah 26:3

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.