Nothing seems to repel us like suffering. Indeed, if we had our way, we’d entirely skip the whole crucifixion thing & leap straight to resurrection.
Maybe that’s why Peter, James & John slept in Gethsemane when Jesus told them to watch & pray, while He travailed in prayer with sweat like drops of blood. I would likely chose to sleep as well rather than watch my Invincible Hero suffer & appear frail & unraveled.
But here’s the best kept secret: there’s tremendous intimacy potential in sharing with suffering. While we follow & admire strength, nothing connects us with someone more than seeing & even sharing in weakness & pain. Some of my best friends have been through the most abysmal experiences with me – we’ve shared in suffering & the bond between us from those experiences has been immensely strengthened.
In Holy Week, today is Maunday Thursday. This is the day when Jesus shared the last supper with His disciples, washed their feet & travailed in Gethsemane. Jesus understands suffering & wants to connect deeply with us, not only in resurrection life, but also in struggles & suffering – the fellowship of suffering: Philippians 3:10-11
Nobody likes bad news, including me. I don’t want to hear things that disrupt my bliss & when I’m super honest, I don’t want to face stuff that’s uncomfortable or disturbing. It’s ok to watch an occasional YouTube video that’s not good or to see a FB post that’s distressing, but I get to choose when, how & in what quantities I see / hear stuff that I don’t like. Just because I choose to ignore something bad doesn’t mean it’s not there – indeed I think bad stuff gets all the worse when we pretend it’s not there.
Sometimes, however, we need a wake up call – the proverbial 2X4 to the head. Yesterday I had one of these experiences here in Cambodia w Saving Moses. I saw something that wasn’t merely deflating but it was borderline demoralizing. As I woke up this morning, I still had a pit in my stomach from what I experienced yesterday & maybe that’s good. I think it’s good, from time to time, to have a wake up call about our lives. Otherwise, it can be too easy to live in distractions or denials about what’s happening not only around us but also what’s happening inside us. Sometimes it takes some bad news to shake us up, stir us to action & compel us to compassion. Let bad news be a catalyst!
Middle: Jacob, Isaac’s son, was in quite a difficult situation for 20years. In these years, he worked for a deceptive employer who also became his father inlaw when Jacob married Leah & then Rachel. The remaining 6years that Jacob stayed w Laban, he took care of Laban’s flocks & over the course of the 20year employment relation, Laban changed his wages 20times.
Beginning: These 20 years were on the heels of a family conflict about Jacob running away from home, having stolen his brother’s blessing & birthright.
Ending: Once Jacob left Laban, he had to confront his brother who was threatening to kill him 20years earlier when Jacob ran away from home.
I totally understand that Jacob had made poor decisions & lived with the consequences. Nevertheless, there were 20years when Jacob lived in a messy & likely stressful situation.
So what should we do in murky, messy & stressful situations? Here are some helpful ideas (feel free to share this with some friends that could find it helpful):
Keep your integrity no matter what happens around you – Jacob certainly had more than his share of shifty, but with Laban, he kept things pretty truthful to the best we know
The middle is exactly that: not the beginning & it will end – seasons can be constructive even though challenging
Keep you eyes on Jesus – Jacob acknowledged that if God hadn’t been with him during his Laban years, things could’ve been much worse!
Work hard – sometimes it tempting to get complacent or discouraged in difficult times, which can be draining & tiresome. Keep working & trust God to being something magnificent out of the murky 🙂
Don’t forget to order Heavenly Help – super great resource to help us in the middle ,)
I recently had a birthday & it was AWESOME!! I loved all the kind thoughts, quality time & fun gifts – all very wonderful!
But today is a different day & could have some interesting challenges. You & I have days of joy, stressful days & days with surprises, good & bad.
Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen on any given day, let’s keep the mindset that today is the day that the Lord has made, a divine gift with abundant opportunities to see / experience God’s presence in a myriad of ways. May your day be overflowing with awareness that God deeply loves & cares for you 24/7 🙂
Today is the day that God has made so let’s decide to rejoice & be grateful!
This morning, I read the story of Doubting Thomas & how he didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had physical proof for himself. Despite what Thomas’ friends told him, he made the adamant position that unless he saw the nail prints in Jesus’ hands, put his finger into the nail prints & touched Jesus’ side where He was pierced, he wouldn’t believe. Thomas’ belief had 3 pre-qualifiers, all based on physical evidence.
It’s interesting to me that we don’t read about any of Thomas’ friends getting cranky with Thomas for his unbelief – despite all of them following Jesus for 2+ years and seeing all kinds of crazy miracles. But no one criticized nor chastized Thomas for doubting – maybe they accepted the truth that Thomas was on a journey of faith, not much different from their own journey.
Just because someone is at a different place in their journey of faith doesn’t give us the right to be critical of their lack of faith, anymore than we would want someone to criticize us for some faith deficiencies & shortcomings. Let’s decide to encourage each other in our journey of faith & not throw rocks when someone is struggling with unbelief – indeed, faith works by love ,)
We all deal with disappointment, feeling let down & even betrayed. It’s not an issue of “if” you’ll experience these things, but moreso “when” and most importantly what we do with this stuff. While this week for me has had some awesome high points and causes to celebrate, it’s also had a fair share of disappointments. So what do we do with this stuff? The Bible is replete with examples of people dealing with disappointment, feeling let down & betrayed – Judas, Joseph, Leah & Moses are a few names that immediately come to mind.
A few helpful points:
remember the lesson of the pearl: it’s beauty started with an irritant
sometimes disappointment can show us that maybe we’ve had the wrong focus – looking at people, situations or events more than keeping our eyes on God; this reminds me of when the angel spoke with the women at Jesus’ tomb in Luke 24:5, “Why do you search for the living among the dead?”
redemption is the outcome when we put discouragement & let down in God’s hands
let’s encourage each other to remain faithful to God, knowing that God is doing divine things of which we are unaware (Rom 8:28-29 – all things work together for good to those who love God, . . . . )
In the Bible, I always enjoy reading about Peter, Jesus’ disciple, because he always seems to have an answer for everything. Some of his answers are good but some of them are beyond stupid. Nevertheless, he seems to always have some kind of answer, reply or solution, except when Jesus looked at him after he had denied Jesus three times. At that point, he was speechless & left the situation weeping bitterly.
While I’m a firm believer in helping each other, giving each other wise counsel, improving ourselves, growing, getting better, etc there are definitely situations, challenges, struggles & hardships that are far beyond the human abilities.
*some needs are only met with divine provision
*some questions only have divine answers
*some problems only have divine solutions
Lately, it seems like I’ve had a lot of opposition & resistance. To be clear, some of this is self inflicted but it seems to me that many of the difficulties in which I find myself are kind of random & just the nature of remaining faithful to God. It’s easy to stay faithful when things are smoothy, groovy. But it can get tricky when we seem to be continually bombarded with opposition & resistance.
Here are some things that are helping me now:
*”now” is a key word – rehearsing the past & worrying about the future can deflate & contaminate the present
*keep going & trust that God will give you wisdom, rest & strength for each moment
*learn – take full advantage of this season to increase your wisdom & trust in God
*get strong – opposition can build strength if we don’t quit
* smile & be confident that God working out everything way beyond well as we stay in love with God & aligned with God’s purpose 🙂
As a mom with 3 wonderful kids, I’m super high on my kids. I think they’re amazing, funny, intelligent, kind, wonderful and they can almost walk on water, almost ,) With that being said, I’ve noticed that my gentle efforts to wake them up every morning are sometimes not as effective as something less gentle – we call this the defcon 5-1 approach 🙂
While it’s unfortunate, it is also true that we sometimes learn the best and grow the most through hardship and struggle. Even though I want to insulate my kids & protect them from every single hardship & struggle, this isn’t always what is in their longterm best interests. Perhaps God sees us with the same perspective, knowing that we often grow and mature the most when we wrestle with hardships and struggle. Perhaps this is why James says that we’re to be grateful for adversities – ouch!
If you’re like me, we tend to enjoy swimming in our strengths, but try to abandon our weakspots on a desolate island, hoping to avoid any long interactions with those weaknesses. I prefer to arrange my life around my strengths & avoid those troublesome weaknesses. Even with my best efforts, I still have to deal with my weaknesses. So here are some things that are helping me:
*acknowledge rather than deny – denial isn’t truly helpful
*be humble – everyone has weakspots, even if they don’t admit them
*get help – my best source for help is God
*forgive yourself when you fail – perfection is permitted for only one Being, God
*celebrate progress – I may not be where I want to be, but at least I’m not where I was 🙂
We all have problems of different sizes, challenges, seasons & shapes. It seems to me that sometimes problems come in herds – either they’re few & far between or they seem to spill out from every corner & area of life.
Some problems we can solve on our own & some problems require help because they’re beyond our ability & resources. It seems to me that when I get in these problem intense seasons that I can get myopic & only see 1 solution or answer. The problem with myopia is that there’s limited focus & for me it’s usually on the wrong thing (the problem & not God).
So here’s the short answer: God has solutions, ideas, resources & methods for resolution of which we’ve never dreamed. I’m reminded that God has more answers than I had questions & God has more solutions than I have problems 🙂
A few years ago, I started to lift weights w a friend & began to really enjoy this form of exercise. I like all of the benefits that go with lifting weights – clothes are more lose, better muscle tone, bone strengthening, etc. But today, I’m reminded that Jesus tells us to cast our burdens onto Him because He cares for us.
So please let me encourage you to give your burdens to Jesus, the burdens of family concerns, financial uncertainty, job / school challenges, health issues, etc. There are so many things that can become heavy burdens in our lives, but Jesus is standing close to you waiting for you to lean into Him and hand over these burdens, challenges, weights, struggles and difficulties.
We all have things & times that are discouraging – a job that falls through, a relationship that goes sour, a poor grade at school, etc. I don’t think that anyone is immune from having some discouraging moments in life. But the key is what we do with those times & situations. Here are some things that have been helpful to me with the discouragement topic:
just because I failed at something, that doesn’t make me a failure
keeping my eyes on God & His promises are more helpful than fixating on the discouragement (we can’t ignore problems, but we can’t let them own us either)
keep going – if I’m not careful, discouragement can get pretty heavy & bog me down, so I tell myself to take one step at a time, even if they’re baby steps
working out – physical exercise is a great way to burn off some discouragement
laugh – sometimes it helps me to be goofy, it lightens me up which is helpful because I tend to be pretty serious in my normal living
listen deeply – I find that God’s voice can really help speak light & truth to the discouragement that can try to reside in my thoughts
May you be strongly encouraged today that you are deeply loved & highly treasured!
Ever struggled with God? What are some things that you’ve struggled w God about? I’m asking because tomorrow night i’m speaking about wrestling w God from Jacob’s experience in Gen 32. Truthfully, I LOVE this story of the interchange between God & Jacob. Its very gripping to me.
Personally, I’ve wrestled w God about a few things that include: uncertainty in my future, frustrations w various situations, relationships, not trusting God because things didn’t always turn out like i wanted, . . . . These are just a few things & I’m inviting you to share some of the things you’ve wrestled w God about – this would help me w my message & others to see that they’re not alone with this kind of experience. 🙂