Even if life turns upside-down

Ever been in one of those seasons in life where nothing feels stable? It’s like you’re trying to walk along the beach as the tide is rolling out, taking all the sand with it from under your feet. You aren’t sure where to stand because no ground is solid enough to support your weight. It’s an awkward dance, roaming the beach while the sand slides out from under you.

Welcome to my life

That’s sort of where life is for me right now. And it’s not just me. I know several people who are in similar predicaments. Life has thrown a curve ball they never expected. The job didn’t end up being a good fit. The job opportunity fell flat. People have passed away. New children have been born. New friendships are beginning, and some friendships are falling apart. New stories are starting, and others are ending.

Just about everyone I know is facing major transitions in their lives, and as I sit here this morning trying to knock out several thousand words on a novel, I’m tempted to despair. So much hurt and pain is happening right now. So many people are struggling with friendships and relationships and jobs and finances. People are scared and uncertain and feeling scattered. And I want to fix it. But I can’t. I can’t even fix my own problems. And some days it’s enough to make me want to give up.

I’m doing it wrong

That’s when I remember I’m doing this all wrong. In those moments I have to step back and remind myself who exactly is in charge here. It’s not me. And it’s not you either. None of us have the power to change much of anything in our lives, not without help. When we get to these points in life (and all of us do), we have to hold on to something. And the only anchor worth holding onto is God.

God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). He’s the same today as He was 10,000 years ago. He’ll be the same 10,000 years from now. Not like us. We change all the time, finding new and improved ways to identify ourselves or uncover value in ourselves. And because God doesn’t change, we can trust that He’ll always keep His promises (Numbers 23:19).

It’s okay to feel hurt

instagram upside-downSo life hasn’t turned out the way you thought it would. Join the club. Peoples’ lives rarely work out the way we expect them to. That’s not a reason to give up or stop believing that God can do something miraculous. That’s when God does His best work.

Maybe something you thought was certain fell apart, and you’re hurting. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to not be okay. Nobody is okay, not really. As long as the world is broken and people are broken, “okay” is just a word we say to cover up what we’re actually feeling inside. But just because we’re not okay doesn’t mean God isn’t able. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

It doesn’t always help to remember that God’s got everything under control. Sometimes you’re just so hurt and so frightened and so unsure that you just need to feel sad, and I get that. And that’s okay too. But don’t make the mistake of thinking God doesn’t hear you, because He does. And don’t confuse His patience or His perfect timing for tardiness (2 Peter 3:9).

Nothing in life stays the same. Everything changes. Our dreams, our preferences, our stories, our families, our friendships. God is the only stable ground. He’s the only rock we can stand on that we can trust will stay put. (Psalm 18:2)

Our only hope

Life may be upside down for you right now. Or maybe you can see the chaos coming toward you like a tidal wave that threatens to sweep away the life you’ve built for yourself. Don’t assume God doesn’t know. He does, and He cares. And He’s your only hope.

Hebrews 6:18Knowing that God doesn’t change, that He always keeps His promises, that He offers hope to the hopeless, and that He is always good—maybe it won’t fix your troubles today. But maybe it’ll give you a different perspective on them. (Hebrews 6:13-19) Because it’s possible for life to be hard and good at the same time, just like you can be hurting and full of joy at the same time.

It all comes down to how you choose to see the trouble in your life. Yes, it can feel overwhelming, unfair, undeserved, and even malicious at times, but if that’s how you choose to see it, you’re missing the point. And you’re choosing to see God as an enemy who wants to hurt you, and nothing is further from the truth. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Breathe. Step back. Shut your eyes and listen to what God is telling you.

He’s got this. He’s got you, and all the little things (or big things) that you’re worrying about, He’s already figured out. And maybe He won’t give you a magic lamp and grant you three wishes. He won’t snap His fingers or wiggle His nose and solve all your problems. But you can be sure that however He chooses to act, it’ll be good, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.

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Sometimes the best lessons are the hidden ones

Picture this. You’re working away in your office, cranking out pages as quickly as you can, getting loads done. And just when you finish the last sentence of the article you’re writing, the power goes off. Not all the way. Just enough to send your computer restarting.

No biggie. You’ve got auto-save. Ah, auto-save. Without you, writers would lose page after page after page of hard work.

So you get your computer restarted. You re-initiate all your programs. You find the last version of your article, and all you have to do is tack on that last sentence. Great! You get it down, and the power goes out again. But this time it doesn’t come back on. It stays off. For three hours.

So you do what you can in the mean time. And then when it comes back on, you jump back into working, finish that darned article and get it shipped off before the power cuts out again.

Nope. Not making it up. That’s been my day since Thanksgiving evening. Never knowing when the power is going to cut off, never knowing how much work gets saved from outage to outage. I’ve been a nervous wreck, let me tell you. But it’s funny how facing the irritation of power outages is good proving ground for real life, because if you can bounce back and smile after you’ve lost an entire article, you can bounce back when something worse happens.

renewable-energy-wind-generator-wind-turbine-environment-8546Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Perspective. It’s vital if you want to make it through life with all your marbles. Bad stuff happens all the time. Irritating stuff. Annoying stuff. Heartbreaking stuff. Stuff that knocks us back on our heels or slows us down or tosses our mood in the dumper, but ultimately the person who can change all of that is our own selves. It’s how we look at our life and our situation and our circumstances that determines how we’ll handle it.

We’ll either give up because it in’t worth it. Or we’ll keep on keeping on because we believe there’s something better coming.

Like this passage says, we don’t give up because even though our bodies are dying (everyone is dying), our spirits are being renewed through Christ every day. Every day we learn something new. Every day we get to know Jesus better. And even though we face impossible odds, we can push forward knowing that we’ve already won the war. God says we have.

So who cares if you lose what you wrote in an article? It’s a pain in the butt to rewrite it, but maybe your second draft will be better than the first. And that goes the same with other life lessons too. Just because it didn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean it won’t work out the next time or the next time or the next time. Just keep trying. Don’t give up.

Just because you can’t see the results right now doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Sometimes the best lessons we learn are the invisible ones.

The size of your trouble doesn’t matter

A few days ago, the lightning woke me up. It was a storm of epic proportions bearing down on my house, driving rain, ferocious wind, and the storm system on the map was all sorts of red and yellow. But because of the crazy winds, the storm was moving fast. No warnings had been issued. No alarms were going off. As near as anyone could tell, it was just a thunderstorm. And moving as quickly as it was, it would blow itself out soon enough. So what did I do? I went back upstairs and went back to sleep.

You learn to read a weather map at a young age in Kansas. You figure out really quickly where your city is on the map too, so when you watch the riotous march of primary colors that represent a storm system on the television screen, you know just where your house is in relation to the storm. You know how bad it’s going to be. And you know if you have time to run out and take photos before the hail tries to give you a concussion (then you decide whether or not the concussion is worth it).

I’ve ridden out crazy storms in this old house of mine, alone and with family. I’ve experienced the scary storms, and I knew just by looking that the most recent storm wouldn’t be much trouble. And it’s that kind of perspective that we need arm ourselves with as we face the trouble in our lives every morning.

DC6TBI9X7JToday’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Life is full of trouble, but if you can keep it in perspective, it won’t feel so overwhelming. The thing about trouble, though, is that is tends to gang up on you. It’s not just one problem. It’s usually three or four or maybe more, all at once in varying levels of trauma or frustration. But when you run into trouble (or when it finds you), give yourself permission to stop for a moment and think.

I guarantee this isn’t the first trouble you’ve experienced in your life, and it won’t be the last either. But it may not be the worst.

Either way, the size of your trouble doesn’t really matter. If you get right down to it, your trouble is too much for you anyway. Like the storm, it’s not how big it is. It’s how fast it’s moving.

Time is a tough concept to understand sometimes, especially as a Christ-follower. We’re going to live forever. Forever. That’s longer than a long time. That’s forever! Do we get that? I don’t think I do. My soul may be wired for eternity, but my brain isn’t. My brain is still in the here and now, but who I am as a person will live long past the expiration date on this old asthmatic tent I’m living in right now.

So what’s a day or two of trouble? Heck, what’s a year or two? Maybe you’re not comfortable right now. Maybe you’re going through a storm. And believe me, I know that’s not fun. Storms are wet and windy. Sometimes you get hailed on. There are scary moments. And there are moments when you think it’s going to get better and then all of a sudden it just gets worse. But that’s the nature of a storm, and storms don’t last very long.

Life’s no different. And neither is following Jesus.

So what trouble are you facing today that’s got you down? What difficulty is in your path that you’re afraid you can’t overcome? Don’t you know who’s on your side? The God of the Universe. The Creator of All Things. Better known as Abba Father, who is reaching out to offer you His personal help.

Storms get worse often before they get better, but that just means they’re moving. So just be still and let them blow around you. God will give you the strength to stand your ground until it’s over, and then He’ll give you the wisdom you need to move forward.

Dead sunflower in the pasture

When you don’t want to wake up in the morning, check your perspective.

Do you ever get tired of life, of following the same routine morning after morning? I do the same things every day, I accomplish everything that’s on my plan, but I hardly ever accomplish anything I really want. Just getting through the day takes so much energy that I rarely have the strength to get to the things I really want to do.

Some days it can be hard to just keep going, to persist in doing what you know is right when you can’t see a purpose in it.

Dead sunflower in the pasture

Dead sunflower in the pasture - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

So much of life is perspective. So much of surviving and thriving on earth is perspective. If you can maintain the right perspective, you can get through any challenge. If you can remember that going to the dentist is good for you even though it’s uncomfortable, you can prevent painful and dangerous oral surgeries. If you can remember that going the speed limit is right even though it’s inconvenient, you can prevent getting a ticket or causing an accident.

Perspective is everything.

Spring is going to get here eventually. Some folks say it’s here already, but I think it’s just Kansas screwing with us. But at some point, the tilt of the earth is going to spin us into warmer temperatures and longer days. But until then, it’s dark and cold(ish). And we have a choice. We can view the winter as the season where we hunker down and try to stay warm until spring begins and doing the right thing becomes comfortable and convenient again, or we can keep doing the things we know are right even if it means we might be cold.

When you’re tired, it’s easy to be tempted to give up. When you’ve been pulled in so many directions at once and had so much demanded from you, it’s easy to blame other people for your inability to complete the tasks you’ve been assigned. But is it right?

Giving up is the easy way out. And easy rarely is the same as right.

According to this passage, the difficulties that we’re experiencing in this life are small and temporary. I know some days they don’t feel small and temporary; they feel huge and permanent. But check your perspective. In comparison to eternity, they’re nothing. In comparison to what we will gain in eternity by persevering, they’re just a little bump in the road.

And we can choose to focus on the problems and insurmountable odds that we encounter on a daily basis. Or we can choose to focus on what God has said about the problems and insurmountable odds that we encounter on a daily basis. They’re small and they don’t last very long and by enduring them, we will receive glory that outweighs and outlasts them.

We can choose to see only the troubles that we see every day. Or we can choose to look beyond them and focus on what good they might do in our lives to come. Because according to this verse, the things we see are going to end, and the things we can’t see yet will last forever.

Perspective. It’s all about perspective. It changes everything.