When We Experience Hardships…

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Isaiah 45:5-10 (KJV)

5 I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
8 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it.
9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?

When we experience hardships, we usually wonder why God allows these painful situations to come our way.

It just doesn’t seem to fit with His role as our loving heavenly Father.

We struggle to reconcile our suffering with His love for us and His power to prevent or stop it.

In order to understand what’s going on, we need to consider the possible sources of adversity.

A Fallen World: 

When sin entered the world, suffering came with it. God could have protected us from these harmful effects by making us like puppets who could not choose sin, but that would mean we’d also be unable to choose to love Him, because love must be voluntary.

Our Own Doing: 

Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble with our foolish or sinful choices. If the Lord stepped in and rescued us from every negative consequence, we’d never grow into mature believers.

Satanic Attack: 

The Devil is our enemy. To hinder anything the Lord wants to do in and through believers, Satan will never cease to harass us. His goal is to destroy our lives and our testimonies, thereby making us weak and useless for God’s purposes.

God’s Sovereignty: 

Ultimately, the Lord is in charge of all adversity that comes our way. To deny His involvement contradicts His power and sovereignty over creation.

For us to accept that God allows–or even sends–afflictions, we must see adversity from His perspective.

Is your focus on the pain of your experience or on the Lord and His faithfulness?

As believers, we’re assured that no adversity comes our way unless He can use it to achieve His good purposes.

For His Good Purpose… 

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Deuteronomy 29:29 (KJV)

29 The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Almighty God reserves the right to reveal some things and conceal others.

Although we may not know why natural disasters occur, the biblical truths we do know with absolute certainty allow us to trust the Lord even in times of great suffering.

Because of the Bible, we can be certain:

God is in control (Psalm 103:19).

Nothing in heaven or on earth is outside of His rule and authority. He does not react to events but sovereignly ordains or permits them to run their course. Although we cannot know for certain if He has sent a catastrophe or allowed it, we can trust in His goodness and wisdom.

The Lord loves people and wants them to be saved

(John 3:16-17). Giving His Son for the salvation of the world proves without a doubt that He loves each person. This truth stands firm despite the fact that many reject the Savior. He cares for us, even when we can’t feel it or won’t accept it.

God works circumstances for His good purpose 

(Isa. 46:10). Though we can’t fully comprehend what He’s doing in each incident, every disaster is a wake-up call for humanity. God is alerting us to the need for repentance—so the lost can be saved and the saved can be revived to live totally for Him. The Lord wants to get our attention, and catastrophes open our ears to hear from Him.

The One who loves us perfectly is in full control, working everything out according to His plan. Knowing this should fill us with hope, even in the midst of crisis situations.

The Lord promises to turn disaster to good for those who “are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Transformed by The Renewing of Your Mind…

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Romans 8:28-29 (KJV)

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

God predestined us to grow into His likeness, but this doesn’t happen at the moment we are saved.

While we are redeemed by the Savior’s precious blood and immediately have a new heart, our transformation is a lifelong process.

The Holy Spirit enables this journey.

Growth is impossible without Him, regardless of our efforts. Yet we can welcome or hinder His transforming hand.

One way we give God willing access to our lives is by obeying this mandate in Romans 12:2:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Everyone chooses either a biblical or worldly philosophy as his or her source of truth–and that choice shapes the mind and spirit.

Therefore, the Lord tells us to immerse our mind in Scripture, allowing Him to mold us into His beautiful image.

The Bible story about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness illustrates this principle. After saving them from Pharaoh’s abuse, God did not bring them immediately to the Promised Land.

The Lord knew doing so would bring sinful ways with them. Instead, He led them to the wilderness and gave the Ten Commandments.

Only after they learned to obey and turn to almighty God were they ready for the next step.

The process of sanctification isn’t always pleasant.

In fact, it’s often painful for us, just as it was for the Israelites.

In God’s amazing wisdom and love, however, He knows what we need to leave our old ways that lead to death.

And He builds new character in us–full of life and joy.

Overcoming All of Our Inadequacies…

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Exodus 4:1-13 (KJV)

1   And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.
2   And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3   And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4   And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5   That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6   And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7   And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8   And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9   And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.shall become: Heb. shall be and shall be
10 And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.eloquent: Heb. a man of words here to fore: Heb. since yesterday, nor since the third day
11 And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

A faith barrier is made up of attitudes that short-circuit our trust and prevent us from obeying the Lord’s will.

A negative self-image can hinder us in this way, as can ignorance of God’s character and promises.

Three other attitudes can also trip us up: doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and fear of failure.

Moses doubted that the Israelites would believe he had been chosen by the Lord to lead them. But God graciously provided reassurance–in the form of evidence that He could accomplish everything He’d promised (Ex. 4:1-5).

When doubt invades our minds, it can be overcome with diligent study of Scripture and persistent prayer, which will dislodge uncertainty and replace it with biblical truth.

Moses wasn’t eloquent, and a perceived lack of skill left him feeling inadequate for the job–he was afraid trying to speak would make him stumble.

God patiently reassured him of divine help in that task.

The Lord often chooses unlikely people to carry out His plan because He looks at the heart, not human qualifications (1 Sam. 16:7).

He can overcome all our inadequacies.

Sadly, Moses did not embrace what God promised but instead asked to be relieved of the assignment.

A fear of failure can prevent us from saying yes to the Lord.

Carrying out God’s will requires a heart that trusts Him, a soul that steps out in obedience, and a mind that leaves success or failure to Him.

As we break down the faith barrier, we will be able to see the evidence of God’s presence and power–and experience the joy of obedience.

The Parameters We Set for Him…

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Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV)

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Whenever a great disaster strikes, legitimate questions spring to mind.

Why does the Lord let such things happen?

Couldn’t He have stopped this? Doesn’t He care?

The magnitude of death and destruction caused by earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods disrupts our everyday thoughts and causes us to seek explanations for suffering.

Often the answers people come up with are based on their relationship with God.

Those who know nothing of Him have no frame of reference for understanding how He works.

Believers, on the other hand, have the Bible to guide them as they wrestle through these issues.

But even then, the accuracy of one’s perspective is determined by his or her knowledge of God’s Word.

Those with limited understanding may very well reach inaccurate conclusions.

We must guard against attempts at forcing the Lord to act the way we think He should. If He does something that won’t fit into the “box” we’ve devised for Him, we easily become upset, angry, or confused.

God will never stay within the parameters we set for Him.

Since we are mortal and sinful, we have a very narrow perspective and understanding of life. But our eternal, sinless, sovereign, and omniscient Creator sees and knows what we cannot perceive.

We want to be sure that our viewpoint of God’s role in natural disasters comes from the Bible, not from our own limited perspective.

Scripture tells us of the Lord’s love, faithfulness, and wisdom. Whenever we cannot understand His ways, faith in His goodness must be our foundation.

When Anger Becomes Habitual…

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Habakkuk 1:2 (KJV)

2O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!.

Do you feel stuck in discouragement?

If so, you are not alone.

At some point everyone experiences dashed hopes.

Disappointment–an emotional response to a failed expectation–is the normal initial reaction.

But allowed to linger, it can turn into discouragement, which hovers like a dense cloud.

When that’s the case, there is no sense of joy or contentment, no matter what you do.

The circumstances that trigger these emotions may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice.

We can either let sadness overwhelm our souls or face the situation with courage and bring it before the One who can help us.

Living in discouragement will divide the mind, making it hard to focus on anything besides our pain.

Then as anger becomes habitual, we’ll look for someone to blame–whether God, people around us, or yourself.

Frustration that isn’t handled well may develop into depression, which in turn can estrange us from others–people do not enjoy the company of someone who’s bitter and defeated.

This isolation leads to a low self-esteem.

Finally, in a fog of discouragement, we can make poor decisions based on crushed emotions instead of truth.

Obviously, choosing this self-destructive path is not God’s best for our lives.

Though we’ll all face disappointment from time to time, believers are not to wallow in it. Instead, God wants us to trust Him with everything–even our unmet expectations and deepest sadnesses.

Remember, there is divine purpose for everything He allows to touch His children’s lives (Rom. 8:28).

Am I Willing to Learn…

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Psalm 32:1-7 (KJV)

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.A Psalm…: or, A Psalm of David giving instruction
2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.when…: Heb. of finding
7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Some of the most precious verses in the Bible were penned when the writer was experiencing strife, grief, turmoil, or heartache.

From an earthly perspective, we can’t always distinguish between what’s trouble and what’s a blessing—at times trouble results in some of God’s most wonderful blessings in our life.

And yet there’s a tendency to think that if we live just right in this ungodly world, we won’t have to face any struggles.

David was able to write Psalm 32, not because he’d calmly sat on a hilltop somewhere, watching sheep and playing his harp. Rather, he could express those profound truths after undergoing great difficulty and heartache as well as God’s forgiveness and deliverance.

The joy David found in the Lord was sweeter because he had tasted bitterness.

The heavenly Father will not always rescue you swiftly from trouble.

He may watch you float downstream, right toward the waterfall, while you call out, “Lord, don’t You see where I am headed?” He does see you.

He knows when you’re at your wits’ end, when you’re hurt and broken, when you feel resentful and bitter.

So why does He sometimes seem so far away in those situations?

The Lord doesn’t necessarily intervene as we would like Him to, but He’s always present in our times of trouble (Psalm 46:1-3, Psalm 46:7).

What’s more, He meets our needs in a way that benefits us in the long term instead of merely providing a quick fix.

The question we should ask ourselves is, Am I willing to learn what God wants to teach me through this situation?

Fulfillment is Sometimes Slow In Coming…

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Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

God has promised to supply all our needs, yet fulfillment is sometimes slow in coming.

What could be the problem?

Perhaps we are.

When our Father fails to meet our expectations, we generally look outside ourselves for the reason.

But while God’s love is unconditional, many of His promises are not.

For example, Philippians 4:19 is a “family promise”—it can be claimed only by those who rightly call the Sovereign of the universe “Father.”

His unlimited resources are not available to men and women who reject salvation through Jesus Christ.

Moreover, when we look at the whole framework of Scripture, we see that the Lord makes obedience a condition for fulfilling our needs. (See Psalm 81:10-12.) ‘

He will not condone sin by blessing us while we rebel against Him.

Think of yourself as part of an army at war—which is what you are, in a spiritual sense.

A top military priority is to keep the supply line open, as victory is impossible if the soldiers are weaponless, cold, and starving.

Our willful disobedience allows Satan to cut our supply line from the Lord. Restoring that connection is a matter of repentance.

Those who walk in God’s way are protected, provided for, and satisfied (Psalm 81:13-16).

Taking a promise out of its biblical context is very dangerous. ‘

And expecting God to keep a conditional pledge when we aren’t meeting its requirements is even more unwise.

The heavenly Father keeps His word but rightfully expects us to do our part.

Thankfully, His expectations of us are not burdensome but reasonable:

What He requires is that we simply love, honor, and obey Him.

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