Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God is bigger than your storm

Storms are a part of life in the Midwest. It’s not that we get used to them; it’s just that they don’t really surprise us. That’s good to a certain extent because few people panic when bad weather approaches, but it can be bad too because sometimes I think we take the weather for granted and forget how dangerous it can be.

We’re entering into storm season, and the country has already experienced quite a bit of tragedy associated with our normal spring storms. Death and destruction always follow big storms, and it’s easy to get to the point where you think it’s too difficult to keep on. I mean, what’s the point of rebuilding when another storm is probably just around the corner?

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The world is full of storms, both literal and figurative, but the difference between an actual storm and a stormy season in your life is that usually you can take shelter from real wind and rain and hail. And a stormy season of life is something you really can’t escape. It follows you everywhere. Almost like you have your own black cloud hanging over your head, and there’s nothing you can do to get away from it. It just follows you around, dumping rain on you constantly.

Believe it or not, you aren’t alone. You may feel like it some days, but you aren’t the only person to ever have to weather a storm. And there have been many others who’ve gone through the same storm you are. And many of them are just waiting for the opportunity to encourage and help someone else get through it, but they can’t help if they don’t know about it.

Today’s verse comes after Jesus sat His disciples down and pretty much told them that He was going to die and go away for a while. He wanted them to know that even though He was leaving, they would be okay and they wouldn’t be alone.

When we encounter storms in our lives, it’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy to give up. It’s much harder to hold on to faith, believing that there’s a purpose and that God can bring beauty out of the destruction. He can. He’s done it countless times throughout the history of the world, and our lives are no different. But when you’re in the middle of a storm, it doesn’t feel like anything can be beautiful ever again, and it doesn’t feel like anything has a purpose at all.

The disciples were going to feel that too. Jesus knew. And that’s why He told them this. No, I don’t think they got it right away, but we shouldn’t be too hard on the disciples. Many times we miss the point of what Jesus says too.

Everyone faces storms, figurative and literal. It’s part of being human. It’s part of living in this broken world. But what we should never forget is that God is bigger than our storms. Yes, a storm can cause immense damage and can take precious lives, but God is strong enough to help us through it. If He allows us to go through a storm, there’s a reason. There’s nothing random about God’s choices.

God is able to overcome any trouble we face, and for those who belong to Him, we don’t need to fear the world or anything in it. God is bigger than the world’s problems, and He’s strong enough to take disaster and make it beautiful.

It’s our job to remember that. It’s up to us to never give up. Hanging on to faith and hope is difficult, especially when you watch the storm tearing down pieces of your life, but we have to remember that God is in control and He never lets us go through anything without a reason. And no matter how impossible the obstacles in your life may seem, God is still bigger.

Distant, lonely tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Enduring when God is silent

I like instructions. I don’t always read them, but it’s comforting to know they’re there in case I need them. So what happens when the instructions don’t make sense? A friend was telling me over the weekend that her husband bought her a desk and assembled it for her, but the instructions were missing pages. So putting the desk together was a nightmare. What happens when you’re missing the instructions and the things you thought would be easy turn into something difficult?

That’s a silly example, but many of us run into that question a larger scale when we’re trying to live. We lose our instructions or we encounter a situation where the instructions no longer seem relevant, and we ask God for guidance. And He doesn’t answer. We ask Him to tell us what do to, and He doesn’t respond. What do you do then? How do you endure when God stops speaking to you?

Distant, lonely tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Distant, lonely tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Job 13:15.

God might kill me, but I have no other hope.
    I am going to argue my case with him.

Job is one of those people I can’t wait to meet when we get to heaven. He’s one of my heroes. The story basically goes that Job was one of the wealthiest men at the time, but he was also one of the most righteous. He was a God follower, and he wasn’t afraid if everyone knew it. And God pointed him out to Satan one day, telling him about how no one could match Job. So Satan made a deal with God that he could convince Job to turn against God, and God allowed him to attack Job. Overnight, Job lost everything. His wealth. His family. His status. Everything that mattered to him was taken, and he was left with a bitter wife and friends who turned against him.

Job is a big book. It’s 42 chapters, probably the oldest book in the Bible, and the majority of it is Job questioning, until God starts answering. But God doesn’t answer right away, and Job is left to puzzle through all the horrible things that have happened to him without God explaining it.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever had to suffer through circumstances that you didn’t deserve? Okay, let’s be honest. Most of the time the really bad stuff we encounter usually has some root cause in our lifestyle or our choices or our past, and it’s our own actions bringing the trouble to our doorstep. But have you ever really run into situations where you have to suffer through difficult things and you didn’t do anything to deserve them? I have. I know others who have too. And it’s in those moments where I have been really tempted to get upset at God.

I mean, why would He let this stuff happen to me? I didn’t do anything to deserve it. Why is He punishing me for things I don’t deserve to be punished for? That’s not fair.

If you’re there, read Job. Because he was there for 41 chapters. We are all in a very different place than Job was. He didn’t have the Book of Job or any of the Bible. None of it had been written down yet. So he had nothing except his experience and his relationship with God to go on. But we have Scripture. We have the Holy Spirit.

And what Scripture will tell you about God’s silence is that it’s never actually there. God is never silent. We just stop listening.

Are you facing troubles today? Are you facing situations that you don’t deserve? Have you asked God to take them away and He isn’t answering? Do this. Go outside and sit down and close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? Do you hear the wind? Do you hear birds singing? Do you hear leaves rustling on trees? Do you hear other people and life in the city?

God doesn’t have to speak in an audible voice for us to know that He’s talking. He speaks through the Bible. He speaks through Creation. He speaks through provision. He speaks through other people in our lives. He’s never silent, but we often let our troubles distract us.

Job was fortunate enough that God responded to him. God spoke to him. And when God was done speaking to him, this is how Job responded in Job 42:1-6:

Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

We don’t know why God chooses to do the things He does many times, but we know that He is fair and just and good and sovereign, which means He has the right do what He wants with what He made–and that’s everything. We know how the story of Job turned out. God blessed him with twice what he had before, and while Job had endured tremendous suffering, the second half of his life was more blessed than the first ever was.

So if you’re going through difficulty right now, think about Job. It’s okay to question God. It’s okay to wonder. It’s okay to talk to Him, to be honest with Him, to tell Him how you’re feeling, but remember who you’re talking to.

Everyone struggles through dark times. Everyone faces situations that seem unfair. And, yes, it’s frustrating and upsetting. But the more you focus on how God isn’t speaking to you, the quieter He’ll get. But it’s not that He’s speaking softer; you’re turning His volume down.

Penguin at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Choosing to rejoice

Christians are called to rejoice. Did you know that? We’re supposed to rejoice. It’s all over Scripture. Over and over again. Rejoice in good times. Rejoice in bad times. Rejoice when we get what we want and when we don’t. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice … and again I say, rejoice!

It’s even in today’s verse!

Penguin at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Penguin at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:12.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

But what is rejoicing? It’s not exactly one of those words we use a lot in our culture. For me, it usually only comes up when somebody is making fun of old-fashioned ways of speaking.

So, grammar and language nerd that I am, I decided to look it up on Dictionary.com. And this is what it had to say: 

Rejoice (verb used without object): 1. to be glad; take delight (often followed by in ): to rejoice in another’s happiness. (verb used with object) 2. to make joyful; gladden: a song to rejoice the heart.
 
Again, I love words. So this caught my eye. That rejoice can be both a transitive verb and an intransitive verb, meaning that it can be used with or without an object. Not all verbs are like that. Let me rephrase for the non-grammarians who I know are rolling my eyes at me right now:  
 
It means you rejoice because of something or it means that something makes you rejoice.
 
Maybe that sounds the same, but if you think about it, the context is completely different.
 
If something makes you rejoice, you don’t really choose it. It’s something so wonderful you just can’t help but be glad. But if you rejoice because of something, that doesn’t generally mean it’s something wonderful. That just means you choose to rejoice, and it can mean you choose to rejoice in spite of what has happened.
 
The verse says rejoice in our confident hope. I’ve blogged on this verse before and on the phrase confident hope, especially because there are other instances throughout Scripture where confident hope plays a big role in our walk. But at this point in my week of Mondays, I think I need to focus on rejoicing.
 
When I hear the phrase, “Rejoice in our confident hope,” my first reaction isn’t to think about hope. My first thought is an exclamation of how am I going to rejoice at all? In anything?
 
I’m exhausted. I’m stressed out. I’m worn down with waiting, and even though I’ve gotten some answers, they weren’t the answers I wanted. So how can I rejoice about all of that? Any rejoicing I do for any of that is likely to come off as half-hearted or sarcastic, and I don’t think God would appreciate that.
 
Remember the confusing discussion of transitive and intransitive verbs above? This use of rejoice is intransitive, meaning it doesn’t need an object. In my meager definition, it means you rejoice because of something. You choose it.
 
We can choose to rejoice in our confident hope, no matter what our circumstances are. Why? Because it’s confident hope.
 
So if you’ve had a great week and everything is going right in your life, that’s something that will make you rejoice.
 
But if you’re like me and have had a frustrating string of days where nothing goes as planned and you don’t get what you want and all you really want to do is stay in bed, choose to rejoice anyway.
 
If your hope is in Christ, it’s confident. Even if you don’t feel like it’s confident, it is. Because Christ is trustworthy. And He knows what you need. And He’s working everything out. And He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises. Your hope is confident, even if you don’t feel like it is. And that means, you can choose to rejoice.
 
Try it. It makes all the difference in the world. And after a few days of choosing to rejoice, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to rejoice without thinking about it.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Looks like the world is falling apart, doesn’t it? If it isn’t the unemployment here at home, it’s the rioting in the Middle East. It’s the danger on the Mexican border. It’s the threat of North Korea. Or it’s the earthquakes that kill so many people. Or the storms that leave people homeless. There is so much going on around us that it’s easy to focus only on the disaster quotiont of this broken world we live in.

War. Poverty. Bad things happening to good people. Somedays it’s enough to really depress me.

I know it definitely makes me wonder what God is up to. I don’t doubt that He’s doing something. He’s always doing something. But whatever this is that’s sweeping the world right now, whether it’s chaos or anarchy or liberty or apathy some weird combination of all of them, it’s unsettling. I believe we’re in the End Times, but we’ve been in the End Times for a long time, and I still feel like it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.

There are so many what if questions. What if the stock market crashes? What if the money system fails? What if there is another terrorist attack and we don’t retaliate and they just keep coming until there’s nothing left of this country? What if we all lose our jobs? What if the harvest goes south again and there’s not enough food for people to live on? What if, what if, what if, what if.

What if questions will be the death of me. So I’m trying not to ask them anymore. The only real answer to a What If question is that God knows what He’s doing and that He will never forsake His children.

The verse this morning truly encouraged me, and I hope it encourages everyone else too:

Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

 Isn’t God’s love amazing? You know He’s got to have other things that should rank higher than reassuring us that He’s got our backs, but He does it anyway.

I love the context of this verse too, because it was given to the nation of Israel when they were captives in Babylon. They were in captivity. Their homes had been destroyed. Their families were separated. It looked like the very end of everything they had ever dreamed of. But God told them that it wasn’t. He told them that He already had everything worked out and that even though they weren’t living the life they’d always dreamed of, He was still with them and He was still making plans for their future. And they weren’t just any plans — they were good plans.

It’s the same for us.

Things are pretty rough now for a lot of people. And even those of us who are still employed aren’t really safe. Anything could happen. But nothing surprises God. He’s got plans for us, and they’re good plans. And the fact that He promises to hear when we call out to Him shocks me. I mean, come on! This is God. He made everything from Jupiter to leptons and He’s even willing to entertain an audience with a goofy, screwed up wordsmith like me? How is that even possible? I know it’s not logical or rational, but it’s true. If I call to Him, He’ll listen; if I look for Him, I’ll find Him.

It’s the same for everyone else. Even if life is rough and you aren’t where you think you should be right now, just hang on because God’s got good plans for everyone.

Forgive me another crude pop culture analogy, but I adored the new remake of the A-Team. It had been a long time since I laughed that hard at the same time I was on the edge of my seat. The leader of the A-Team is Hannibal Smith, and this guy is pretty incredible (the character is amazing . . . . and Liam Neeson played him so that made him flippin’ awesome). But this character is known for his planning skills and strategies. He can make a plan so far in advance that he’s basically directing the actions of their enemies.

Now, I’m not saying that Hannibal Smith is like God or vice versa. But if you watch that movie (and probably the TV show), you’ll see that some of Hannibal’s plans have some pretty rough spots. Or they require the rest of the team to go through some pretty scary stuff before it all ends well. But those rough spots have to be there. They’re unavoidable. They’re uncomfortable but they’re necessary, and in the end it all works out.

In some ways, that’s how God’s plans work. He knows what’s happening. He’s got it all worked out. He knows our thoughts and our actions before we think or make them. But because the world is broken, there are some points in our lives that are going to be rough. They’ll be scary. We’ll be uncomfortable. But, it’s all part of the plan, and God knows what He’s doing. And in the end, when everything is over, it will all turn out all right because God is God, He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises.

And I’m sure He loves it when a plan comes together too. =)