Tag Archives: circumstances

Beyond “Why?”

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
John 9:3, NLT*

Jesus and his disciples encountered a man who’d been born blind, and the disciples asked about the cause. Apparently in the culture of the time, anything like this was considered a direct result of someone’s sin.

When we encounter difficult situations, how often do we ask if it’s because of something that person, or another, did? Or if we’re the ones with the trouble, how often do we ask “What have I done?” or “Why me?” Or we sulk at God and say it’s not fair?

We’re still focusing on the individual with the need. Still looking for a cause.

Jesus doesn’t say trouble is never self-inflicted, never reaping what we’ve sown. But He clearly says those aren’t the only reasons.

“This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

Instead of asking why, let’s ask the bigger question: God, what do You want to do in this situation? [Click to tweet this.]

He’s not saying God caused the initial problem so the people would see how good He is when He solved it. But there are plenty of things He chooses to allow, things we don’t like but that He wants to use for greater good.

What difference would it make in our outlook if we asked about God’s solution instead of about the problem?

Our God, Your thoughts and ways are beyond our comprehension, but we know You are good. You proved Your love for us through the Cross, and Your power through the Resurrection. Forgive us for looking too long at our problems. Teach us to bring them to You in trust, looking for Your help.

A good song to help our focus is Brian Doerksen‘s “Your Faithfulness.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Our Point of View and God’s

“You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.
John 7:4-5, NLT*

Jesus’ brothers were urging Him to go to Jerusalem, where more people could see His miracles. They clearly believed in His power, but didn’t “believe” in the sense of recognizing Him as the promised Messiah.

Without that crucial piece of understanding, the future they saw for Jesus wasn’t in line with the Father’s actual plan. Jesus, who always listened to the Father and did what He said, knew the path ahead of Him and chose His actions accordingly.

Jesus’ brothers’ advice was aimed at reaching a different goal. So was Peter’s, when he rebuked Jesus for saying He had to die. Jesus’ strongly-worded response included this assessment: “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23b, NLT. In context: Matthew 16:21-23.)

Today, Christians know Jesus is our Saviour, who gave His life and rose again to restore us to relationship with Him. But don’t we still ask or expect things that aren’t in His plan?

In our limited perspective, we ask for what we see as right, not knowing we don’t have the full picture. We ask for what we want, what we think is best. Sometimes that’s selfish and near-sighted, but sometimes it’s clearly the best – at least from our limited, human perspective.

Those are the hard times, when God doesn’t answer as we expect because He sees and knows more. He sees the future, and the ripple effects from the need we’ve been praying about. He sees how to better use this time of struggle.

When we don’t understand, it has to come back to trusting the God who does understand. The better we know His character, the easier it is to trust Him and to surrender to His will and His way.

God our Creator, Saviour and Sustainer, help us to surrender every aspect of our lives into Your capable hands. Give us open eyes and hearts to see more of what You see, and give us the faith to trust You even when we can’t see.

A song I come back to when I’m troubled or confused about the future is the Newsboys‘ “Lord (I Don’t Know).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Enough Time

My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15, NIV*

This is one of my comfort verses. The NLT translates “times” as “future,” and that seems to be the major meaning of the text in context of the danger from David’s enemies.

My “times,” then, are all the minutes of my life. God holds my future and no enemy can shorten it. He also holds my present.

Sometimes all that’s pursuing me are to-do lists and deadlines. I’m in the middle of a very busy patch right now, and what a treat to wake yesterday with this verse in my mind.

One of the to-do items was this post, and I knew God would provide one after doing so for six years, but I didn’t yet have it and I knew there wasn’t a lot of free time to find and write it before Wednesday morning.

Writing time is scarce for now, with some temporary employment, a kitchen renovation and being away last weekend. God knows all that. My times are in His hands.

To the best of my understanding, I’m only taking on what He has for me. As I take time each morning to commit the day to Him and pray to know and heed His presence in it, I can be sure He will help me best use the minutes and the hours. This is one of those stretches where there won’t be much left over for relaxation, but He even provides some of that. I had the most delightful stroll with a cone of gelato on Saturday.

God who made the universe, thank You for giving each of us a part to play in it. Thank You for opportunities to serve You and to show Your love to those around us. Today and each day, help us resist anxiety and choose to trust in Your sufficiency. Open our eyes to see how to use the time You give us. Give us self-discipline to turn away from those things we’d like to do that aren’t on Your agenda for the moment. Help us find soul-rest in You

Casting Crowns shares the secret of how to live fully no matter our circumstances: “I Know You’re There.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God at Work

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28, NIV*

Many of us know and rely on verses like this in times of trouble. I hadn’t paid attention to the NIV footnotes before hearing Rob Whittaker (Principal of Capernwray Bible School) speak recently at the Halifax Keswick Convention.

Look at one of the alternate wordings mentioned in the footnote:

…that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who… (Romans 8:28, NIV*)

In all things, God works with us to bring about what is good.

Clearly there’s more evidence to support the traditional interpretation, or it wouldn’t be the one in the main Bible text. But this other option opens a whole new vista for me.

It changes my focus from how God will look after me to how He will care for others through me.

Yes, we have personal stresses and difficulties, and yes, God is our Hope and our Helper. We can trust that He will work to make all things good in His way and His time. But it’s easy to become selfishly absorbed in our own circumstances and overlook the needs around us. Or to see those needs and be too overwhelmed to know how to start making a difference.

The idea of God working together with us is biblically sound – as long as we remember that He’s in charge. We’re to act as His hands and feet and to represent Him. Christ in us empowers us and uses our small actions to achieve His larger goals.

I’ve been asking God to help me see and hear from His perspective instead of my own. This verse turns my eyes to others, and takes away my fear of not being able to make a difference. Of course I’m not enough on my own. God never intended me to act on my own.

God our Saviour and Redeemer, You created everything in the beginning and You’re still at work creating beauty from our broken pieces and our messes. Thank You for the opportunity to join You in Your work, and thank You that it’s not our responsibility to fix anything. Our responsibility is only to show up with willing and obedient hearts, and to share what You give us with those we meet. Help us to do this, so that others will experience Your great love.

Casting Crowns‘ song, “Love Them Like Jesus,” reminds us of our calling.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Obstacles or Stepping Stones?

For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed.
Joshua 2:10, NLT*

En route to the Promised Land, Israel encountered two kings who refused to allow them to pass. Each king attacked, and was killed along with all his people. You can read the story in Numbers 21:21-35.

I can imagine the Israelites, thinking they were on the road to their blessing, confronted by an army. Twice. The way was blocked. Soldiers pointed weapons at them.

Do you think they were discouraged? Frustrated?

Being human, they likely weren’t as confident in God as He wanted them to be, despite His past care. Every time God intervened for Israel was a chance for them to develop confidence in His power. He was proving Himself to them. He gave them victory, and brought them to the Jordan’s banks with the river in full flood.

Today’s verse was spoken by a citizen of Jericho (Rahab) when the Israelite spies went to scout the city. Word of God’s mighty power had spread. The obstacles, like the Red Sea and the two kings (and the Jordan River), weren’t random challenges to make Israel’s life harder. They were stepping-stones to not only build up God’s people’s faith but to show others His power.

Can we look at the issues and setbacks in our lives this way? Learn to trust God to meet them, and recognize that however impossible they seem now, God can use them if we’ll only trust Him? Can we press on in the strength He gives, without grumbling or despair? Even with hope?

God our Provider and our King, forgive us when we look at the obstacles and forget about Your unseen power and Your love for us. Where You lead, You will make a way. Increase our faith and help us to choose to rely on you. Strengthen us to take captive our fears, doubts and complaints, and open our eyes to see what You will do.

I spent last weekend at a concert and conference led by Robin Mark and band. His song, “I Will Walk,” reminds us to walk with God: for His glory and for our sakes.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Who Does it Look Like We’re Living For?

 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
2 Corinthians 5:20, NLT*

An ambassador’s words and behaviour should reveal the character of whoever the ambassador represents.

What does that mean for Christians? If we’re living for “One Name Alone,” we can choose His will and His way (including His “house rules”) over our own, and do it cheerfully, not grudgingly, because we love Him and it’s a joy to do whatever we can to stay close to Him.

When we cultivate an attitude of trust in God, of gratitude and peace, it’s not simply for our own spiritual wellbeing. We can let others see that in the good and in the bad, we choose to rely on God, and that He is enough.

Jesus is our model, as well as the One we’re to represent. His countenance, conduct and demeanor all reflected Whose He was. He didn’t go around with a moping, frowning face. He didn’t deny His pain, either – just took it to the Father.

He spoke truth gently to the hurting, and He listened first to discern their true needs. He reserved His blunt talk for leaders He needed to call out. He didn’t complain about people behind their backs. He didn’t gossip, stew in resentment, or indulge in any of the attitudes that so often beset us.

He didn’t condemn sinners, but invited them into new life. And He showed them the new life was good.

We’re not perfect, but the more we rely on the Holy Spirit within us, the more effective ambassadors we’ll be.

Father, sometimes I get tired, or frustrated, or fearful. You understand those feelings, but You have better things for me. Help me to remember that if I indulge in cranky or moody behaviour, it reflects poorly on You. Help me press into You, my Rock and my Redeemer, and live authentically so that others will see how trusting You makes a difference.

Let Matt Redman‘s song, “One Name Alone,” settle into our hearts and remind us of our true focus.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: The Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi Junior

The Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi JuniorThe Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi Junior (Word Alive Press, 2014)

I knew this was a book I’d value, from the dedication:

Dedicated to my brother, husband and children, who never said “You should…”

And to Jesus, who said, “Let me.”

On one level, this is a memoir of one woman’s struggle to demonstrate the love of Christ to her mother, Nancy, who has dementia. Without a power of attorney in place, Bobbi Junior and her brother, Lawrence, can’t take the conventional advice to “put her in a home.” As a Christian, Bobbi feels called to treat her mother with love and dignity, even though they had a difficult relationship since Bobbi’s childhood.

On another level, it’s a story for every Christian walking in a hard place.

The Reluctant Caregiver is transparent about Bobbi’s ongoing battles with her attitudes, fears, and the desire to take charge. Most of the time, she rises to the challenge in a way that will have many readers shaking their heads in admiration (and a few readers putting the book down, angry that she doesn’t retaliate or walk away).

When she fails, or when she’s floundering, her journal entries give us clues to how we might handle similar experiences. (What? You haven’t failed or floundered lately?)

The book reads like a journal-style novel, and I found myself reading every chance I could. It offers insight not only into the difficult role of a caregiver but also into the pain of an intelligent woman who knows she can’t think straight anymore – and who now berates herself as “stupid.”

The chief take-away is that we can’t manage life’s challenges in our own strength, but that Jesus is ready to take the lead if we’ll only let Him. Because we’re human, this is a day-to-day or minute-by-minute process. We get better at it, but only in the sense that practice helps us learn to turn to Him more readily.

The Reluctant Caregiver is a valuable resource for Christians who are or who will become caregivers, and for those who find it easier to take control than to surrender it to God. I’m in a wide-open space in my life right now, but even in my small stresses I found Bobbi’s prayers and journal entries showed me a better way. I’m challenged to walk closer with Jesus and to ask Him to show me His way instead of insisting my own. Even in the little things, it’s hard to do.

Bobbi Junior is a Canadian author and speaker who shares what she’s learning about life and caregiving at her website: bobbijunior.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

A Teaching Moment

The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm.
Luke 8:24, NLT*

We know from the Gospels that Jesus rose early to pray and sometimes stayed up late praying. We can assume preaching, teaching and healing was exhausting. Yet this is His only recorded nap. I think He did it intentionally during this storm, as part of the day’s lesson for His disciples.

Not that they recognize it as a teaching moment—they’re panicking, shouting. Expecting to die.

After He calms the storm, Jesus asks, “Where is your faith?” And Luke says the disciples are “terrified and amazed” at what He has done. (Luke 8:25, NLT*)

I catch an undertone of, “Why were you freaking out? All you had to do was ask.” His question isn’t about blame, or about their lack of faith. It’s to show them faith applies even here.

By this point in their relationship, the disciples have heard Jesus’ authority when He taught. They’ve seen miracles: healings, demons cast out, a supernatural catch of fish. Even a raising from the dead.

But this new crisis seems so immediate—so personal—and they don’t think to ask Jesus for help.

Were they angry when they woke Him? I can imagine their mutterings: “How could He sleep at a time like this? How could He put us into this situation—didn’t He know it would happen?”

I’ve read this account many times, but today it speaks again: In new situations I need to not only remember what Jesus has done in the past, but remember His power. His presence. And ask for His help.

Also, if I’m dealing with something that’s in my area of expertise, I shouldn’t assume I need to handle it in my own strength and understanding. Remember when Jesus sent the fishermen out after a night of catching nothing—and nearly broke the nets with the haul of fish. (Luke 5:1-11)

God, You are a patient teacher, yet so many times we don’t learn. Open our hearts, minds and spirits to receive what You want us to know. Help us to remember what You’ve shown us in the past, and to be confident in Your presence and Your power, whatever new things come our way.

Jeremy Camp‘s song, “Walk By Faith,” is a good reminder for us all.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Long View

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.
Philippians 1:9, NLT*

This prayer is Paul’s deepest longing for these people he loves. They’re enduring hard times, but he asks for this—not for relief from suffering, for health, protection or happiness. In verse 6, he expresses confidence that God will use even these hard times to complete what He has started in them.

He’s praying they’ll hold firm for their lifetimes, or until Christ’s return. Whichever comes first. (Phil.1:10) Either way, Paul is taking the long view. And the highest thing he can ask for these believers whom he loves is that they’ll bring much glory and praise to God. (Phil.1:11)

For ourselves, and for our loved ones, it’s so easy to be distracted by the circumstances. To beg for relief. Rescue.

I’m not suggesting those desires are wrong, but I’m challenged to look at both the immediate need and the bigger picture. To pour out my heart while remembering Jesus’ prayer, “Nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.” To pray, “Use this.” And in praying for help, to include the emotional and spiritual with the physical. To pray for love, encouragement. Hope. Endurance. Remembering that the ultimate goal is growth for us and glory for Him.

Mighty and loving God, we know that when Your glory is revealed it means people will see Your character and will be drawn to You. Help us be willing to endure hard times if that’s what’s needed for others to see Your goodness in how You sustain us. Help us not to be too quick to rescue others, if You might have a lesson for them in their struggles. Show us how to be Your hands and feet, Your voice of encouragement. Grow us in faith and trust, for the long view.

MercyMe‘s song, “Bring the Rain,” sounds like something Paul would have sung. May the Lord grow this surrendered attitude in our spirits. For His glory, and for our peace.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Remembering God’s Promises. Again.

The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Psalm 138:8, NLT*

Don’t we forget this, sometimes?

Bad news piles up. Globally. Locally. Personally. Even if we’re physically untouched, the sheer weight of what goes on around us can be soul-crushing.

And let’s face it, even when life is really good, there are elements that we don’t like. That could be better.

If we’re not careful, fear, discouragement, discontent and others can pull our focus away from our Lord’s sufficiency. We know the truth of God’s promises, but we forget. (Click to tweet this.)

I find that embarrassing. Every time.

These days, we have “stuff” going on at church. I don’t understand it, I don’t like it, and I do not want to go around this tree again. Been there, done that a long time ago.

Yet where is God speaking to me? In church. First, He told me to be quiet. Hmm. Then He challenged me to accept His timing when I think it’s too slow.

He reminded me that adversity is part of life. It’s often the part that makes for the best growth. And it’ll happen whether I want it to or not.

My attitude needs to reflect hope and trust. Not an unrealistic hope that He will make everything pretty, but assurance that God is good, He is in control, and He will work all things out for good for those who trust Him.

For me, it’s meant repenting of an attitude of discontent. Reminding myself that it’s not about what I want. Recommitting myself to live in a way that honours and trusts in God.

God our Maker and Sustainer, somehow You will work all the messes of life into something beautiful. Forgive our grumbling and our discontent—and our fear—when we don’t like what we see. You don’t like it either, but You can work with it. Help us trust You. Help us work with You to be part of Your solution instead of being part of the negativity.

I love this song from Robin Mark: “All is Well.” Take a few minutes to let it bless you.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.