Responding to trials · trials

Keep Looking Up!

spring tree 1

Last week I was doing my weekly errands of grocery shopping  and Target run with the typical flurry of moving quickly from one place to the next.  While walking up the parking lot towards Target, I had my head down, towards the pavement, while also reaching for my shopping list.  Then in my peripheral I caught a glimpse of

PINK 

lots of pink! 

I turned my gaze away from my frenzied walk to look up towards the sky.  There in my view was this lovely sight –

spring tree

Of course I had to snap a picture!  I didn’t want to waste the gorgeous view of these pink blooms against the crystal blue sky.  It literally took my breath away.

After I finished my shopping and walked again under its beauty, I heard the Lord whisper in my heart ~

You need to keep your eyes upward.  That’s where the joy is!

Oh, that is so true!  Hebrews 12:2,3 tells us:

 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

It’s really difficult to stop and consider Jesus when I have my head down, dwelling on my concreted  problems.  It’s hard to see the beauty of His presence and remember His promises if I focus on my list of troubles.

I must lift my gaze into His lovely face.  It doesn’t take the problems away, but it reminds me of the truth that He endured mistreatment from sinners, but He is now in heaven, victorious!  Because of that, I don’t have to be weary and faint! I can have victory, too!

That’s a beauty even spring blooms can’t come close to! One day all those that know Christ as their Savior will be gathered with Him where troubles and trials will be over forever.  Until then, friend, let’s

Keep Looking Up!!

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Encouragement · Responding to trials

Read This Only If You’re Discouraged

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If there has been one request that has been repeated in my prayers it has been, “God use my life!”  I truly desire that my days and years count for Christ.  I want treasures to lay at His feet. I want to make a difference in others’ lives for the sake of eternity. But the means in which God will accomplish that request has not been part of my request.  You see, God’s school is often through hardship, trials and difficulties.  Who wants that?

Did Jonah enjoy the fish’s belly?

Was the widow woman excited about having only one more portion of food left for her and her son?

Did Moses relish being berated by his own people?

Did Elijah’s bucket list include being chased by a wicked queen?

Was Paul looking for people to persecute him?

The answer to all of these situations is, “Of course not!” But the result of every one of those trials was that God used them in mighty ways!  It came after.  After what?

After a mess.

After being frighteningly low on daily provision.

After ugly threats.

After pain.

Then blessing came.  Then provision.  Then nearness to God.  Then usefulness.  Then their stories were written in Scripture for our encouragement. Then they became our examples, our heroes!

If you’re in a difficult time right now, let me share a truth with you that I heard Sunday night from one of our dear missionaries –

 

The most important thing that God wants to accomplish
through you might still be in your future!

What if our Bible heroes had quit during their hardship?  We wouldn’t have their example, and God couldn’t have used them to encourage us and bring glory to Himself.  What if you and I quit in the midst of our trial?  We, too, could miss out on the most important thing God wants to do in our lives.

So…

DON’T QUIT!

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God's character · Responding to trials

How We Turn Our Treasures Into Curses

Treasures and Curses

When I was a 7 year-old girl, I really, really wanted a bike.  The children in our neighborhood rode their bikes on the sidewalks, and had such fun.  I knew I was missing out not being able to do the same!  So, for Christmas I asked, begged and prayed for a bike.  What a special surprise to find my longing fulfilled on Christmas Eve!  It was a purple/pink Schwinn with a bell and streamers.  I could hardly wait to join my friends, once the Michigan snow cleared.

Finally spring came, but there was just one problem – I hadn’t learned to ride a two-wheel bike yet!  My dad came to the rescue, doing what dad’s do best – holding onto my wobbly bike’s seat and running along side, yelling out instructions –

Keep your eyes in front – not on me.

Keep pedaling.

Keep your body in the center of the bike.

It was much harder than I imagined it would be! The afternoon when my bike met the tree trunk, and my lip the met the dirt, I was sure this bike wasn’t such a great idea!  Who thought of trying to stay upright on two wheels, anyway?! From that day on, when my dad would try to get me out to try to learn to ride, I’d run!  That bike wasn’t a special gift; it was a curse!

Yesterday’s post  showed us how Joseph’s brother’s assumed God was cursing them when they found the money for the food they’d gotten in Egypt was still in their sacks.  They assumed they would be severely punished for this.  When they told Joseph’s servant, he answered that God had given them treasure in their sacks. It was a gift of kindness, put into Joseph’s heart by their God! If only they could have seen the gift for what it was they wouldn’t have had to take that Pepto Bismol for their upset stomachs (okay, the Scripture doesn’t say that, but you know their stomach’s were churning in fear!).

What a difference a biblical perspective gives us!  Joseph’s brothers jumped to the same conclusions we do!  Consider how we respond in these kind of situations:

  • Those children for whom we prayed, begin a pattern of poor behavior and defiance, and suddenly the gift of motherhood has become a curse!
  • We moved into the house of our dreams.  It was roomy and big enough for our family AND for guests.  But we look at all the that hardwood and see so many floors to mop, and suddenly that gift of a house is a curse!
  • We prayed to be married, and he was the man of our dreams at the altar.  But over time we see his sinfulness and are disappointed.  He’s no longer a treasure; now he’s a curse!
  • We watched God give the perfect job and we were grateful.  But when we meet up with a difficult fellow-employee or two, that job becomes a curse!
  • To have a computer at home to work with eases so much – we can pay bills, shop or connect with friends, but on the day there is no Internet service that thing turns into a curse!
  • When we found our church we were thankful for its teaching, it’s congregation and it ministries, but when we see that not everything is done the way we think it should be done, those blessings are now a curse!
  • …You add whatever difficulty has touched your life recently.

All along, those things were all “treasures in our sacks,” only we didn’t have eyes to see it!  Instead we’re staring down in the deep well of the bag  and we become consumed with our own self-focused thoughts instead of what God could do in that darkness. 

If something seems to be a drudgery, a source of sighing and heaviness, or not what you wanted, take that need to the Giver of that blessing.  Ask Him to allow you to see with new eyes the joy of this gift, and what He can do in the midst of this time. A right perspective on the “hard things” in life can help us see that God is not against us, as a matter of fact, He just might be up to something really, really good!

When you have eyes of faith to look for the treasure, you’ll have peace while you wait.  You’ll have hope in your heart.  You’ll realize that that “thing,” whatever it is, truly is a TREASURE in your sack!

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God's character · Responding to trials

Treasure In Your Sacks

Treasures.jpg

Imagine that you have just gone to the grocery cart and filled your buggy with all the things you’ll need for the next month.  The cart is overflowing, and now your pocket book is empty!

After getting home, you begin the process of putting away all your groceries. In the bottom of the last bag you unload, you gasp because of what you see in the bottom of the bag.  There in the dark corner of the sack is the exact amount of money you thought you had paid for all this food!

How would you respond?  Would you:

  • Rejoice, skip and leap for joy?
  • Moan and wail, being sure you were headed to jail?

This scenario is pretty much what happened to Joseph’s brothers after they came to Egypt to get food during the famine.  Joseph recognized them, but they didn’t recognize Joseph.  He sent them back home to get their younger brother, Benjamin, but before they left for their journey, Joseph loaded them down with food, and then had their money put back into their sacks.

When they got home and “unloaded the groceries,” they found their money and feared for their lives!  They were sure Joseph would punish them severely, thinking they hadn’t paid for this load of food. They cried out, ”

What is this that God hath done unto us?

It was a curse to them.  It felt like God’s hand was against them, when all along, it was the Lord’s kindness, revealed through their brother, Joseph.

Have you ever felt that way when something difficult happened?  Our first response is to point a finger at heaven and say, “God!  Why did you do this to me?!”  We don’t recognize that this might be God doing something for us, rather than against us.

When the food was gone and the brothers returned back to Egypt, with their little brother in tow, one of the first things they told Joseph’s servants upon their arrival was about the “cursed money.”  But listen to the servant’s response:

Peace be to you, fear not: your God, and the God of your father, hath given you treasure in your sacks:

The very thing that was supposed to be a BLESSING to them, they looked at as a curse.  But all along, the Lord was going before them to provide for their needs.

 

Friends, let’s lift our heads out of the darkness and up towards God to see the plan for the “treasure that He has tucked into our sacks.”  See it with eyes of faith.  He has gifted you and me in ways we could never have planned.

Instead of fretting and fuming over what seems like a difficulty, rejoice!  There’s a treasure in our sack! If you don’t see the treasure today, keep looking; God will reveal it in time.

What treasure have you turned into a curse?  I pray this helps you get a biblical perspective!

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P.S. Tomorrow we’re going to take this principle and apply it in a very practical way to our everyday lives.  Hope you’ll come back and read!

Responding to trials

Fruitful in Affliction

Sunrise aa

Many years ago a group of people brought false charges against my husband.  It was shockingly unthinkable to me.  I couldn’t believe people would deliberately do things to harm another’s reputation.  I was (obviously) very young to be so naive.  All I needed to do was look in the book of Genesis to see what man will do to promote themselves and destroy another.

In Genesis 37 we begin to read about the seeming decline of Joseph, a son of Jacob, who was favored by his father and therefore hated by his brothers.  After telling them of a dream he had whereby the brothers were bowing to him, the brothers couldn’t wait to help Joseph’s dream and his life get snuffed out.

They sold him to a group of men who would sell Joseph as a slave.  Things continued to go downward as he was thrown into prison after being lied about by a woman whose motives were evil.  He was also forgotten by friends who could have helped his prison time to have been shortened.

When you get to chapter 41, we read how Joseph summarized these hard years of his life:

And the name of the second called he (Joseph) Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

FRUITFUL in his affliction!!  When I remember the time of our affliction, I don’t know I can actually say I was fruitful.  Maybe I’d call it, In survival mode. I remember how often my thoughts stayed on those hurting us and their evil deeds. Their words and actions  replayed in my mind like an LP with a scratch. Over and over, I’d rehearse the same lie, the same ugly dispositions before me.  How I wish I could have had Joseph’s response instead so that I might have bore fruit instead of fatigue, spirituality instead of sighing, growth instead of grumbling!

How did he do it and how can you be fruitful in the time of your affliction?  I found the answers recently as I was rereading Joseph’s story.

  1. Stay near to God.  Genesis 38:3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. Joseph was keenly aware that the only way he could survive any/all of this was to draw strength and wisdom from the Lord.  That’s the only way we can, too.
  2. Obey immediately anything God says to do.  He submitted to any that were over him in an attitude of obedience and humility.  He came when he was to come.  He stayed when he was to stay.  Obedience is key.
  3. Don’t focus on self.  It amazes me that while Joseph is in prison, he sees two faces before him – the butler and baker who had gotten on the wrong side of Pharaoh and were now sharing Joseph’s prison cell.
    When Joseph woke up one morning, he noticed they both looked sad and he inquired as to why their countenances were downcast.  Instead of pitying his own situation, he took pity on these two who had had a fitful sleep, due to their odd dreams.  Wow.  That is  a slap in the face to me.  It’s so easy to zero in on my problem and never realize that someone right in front of me is dealing with something hard.
  4. Give the glory to God. Joseph said to Pharaoh, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. He was quick to remind himself and others that he could do nothing without the Lord’s help.  This one is key as to how you and I can handle our trials in a wise way and end up like Joseph did.  Always point others to God – that’s our responsibility and privilege.

I’m not looking for another conflict, but I’m old and wise enough to know injustices and trials will continue to come my way.  This will now be a prayer request for myself when it happens –

Oh, Lord, help me, like Joseph, to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

Are you in a difficulty right now?  I’d urge you to ask God to help you to respond like Joseph so this time will be a fertile, fruit-bearing time in your life.

Which of these four principles is hardest for you when you’re in a time of trial?

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