WuShock playing drums with the band

Disappointment can make you stronger

I don’t do sports. I’ve never been into them. But then, I’d never had a team I cared about make it to a place where I could cheer them on until this year. I’m a proud alum of Wichita State University, so even though I don’t really care about sports, I still pay attention when our sports teams accomplish great things. And when our basketball team started their crazy undefeated rush to the NCAA tournament, I started getting excited.

I remember last year. For the first time in a long time, Wichita was getting noticed–and in a good way. Most people don’t even know where we are, let alone who we are. Last year, everyone made fun of our mascot–our beloved WuShock (he’s a shock of wheat, folks; not a stalk of celery or a pencil). This year, people were taking us seriously, and it was nice. Really nice. And this year I thought we could do it. I really thought we could go all the way. Especially when we won our 35th game in a row on Friday. No team ever made it to the tournament with a 35-0 record.

And then–last night happened. The Shockers faced off with Kentucky, and both sides played their hearts out. And the Shockers lost by 2. Just like that, we were done. Along with the other two Kansas teams. The tournament will go on without us.

Sports has disappointments like that all the time, and while it can be difficult to deal with, in the end, it’s still just a game. Life has bigger disappointments than sports ever does. So how do you deal with the disappointments that life hands you?

WuShock playing drums with the band

WuShock playing drums with the band

Today’s verses are Psalm 73:1-5.

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives;
their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don’t have troubles like other people;
they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.

I love the honesty of the Psalms. That’s one of the reasons I think reading them on bad days helps me get my focus back. No matter who writes them, the Psalms generally start off with a genuine summary of how life just sucks, and then they end up with the writer coming back to his senses and realizing that God is good.

That’s how Psalm 73 works. If you have a chance, pop over and read the whole thing. It’s not long, and it’s totally worth it. But the basic idea is that the writer is getting frustrated with God because he’s living the way he’s supposed to, and all the people around him (the ones who don’t follow God) are better off.

At one point in the Psalm, the writer even asks God what the point of keeping his heart clean was? What’s the point of following God if all you’re going to get is trouble in return? But instead of giving up on God, the writer went to a quiet place and God revealed the truth to him.

You’re going to face disappointments in life. Just expect it. The world is broken, and nobody is perfect. People hurt people. Things you think will happen don’t. Dreams don’t always come true, and even though you work your butt off to accomplish something, you may not receive the reward for it right away.

Decide now how you’re going to deal with it. Make up your mind now about how you’re going to face disappointment, so when the time comes you aren’t swept away by the emotional letdown.

Am I disappointed that the Shockers lost? Absolutely. But I can tell you what they’re not going to do. They aren’t going to go home and give up playing basketball. They’re going to work twice as hard next year and try again.

I’ve got a couple of major projects in the works right now, projects that I’m counting on to be successful. Am I hoping that they’re going to work? That they’re going to be successful? You’d better believe it. But will I give up if they aren’t? Am I going to stop believing that God is good if my life doesn’t turn out the way I think it should?

No.

Seriously, go read Psalm 73. Life is all about perspective. You really do win some and lose some, and on the days that you lose, you have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Don’t give up. Don’t look back. And keep trying until you make it.

And whatever else you do, don’t blame God. He’s got a plan, and He’s working things out. The only thing blaming God does is turn you into someone you don’t want to be.

Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

Disappointment isn’t wrong. It isn’t even bad, if you can face it in a way that makes you better in the end. Disappointment makes us stronger if you look at it as a chance to improve yourself. Disappointment can increase our faith if we remember that God has a  better plan than what we concocted.

So when disappointment comes, grieve. Sure, it’s difficult to see a dream die. But dreams never stay dead. Don’t give up. Try again. Keep believing. If God isn’t going to give up, you shouldn’t either.

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Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

It’s not about the carrot

When I was very young, I started playing a computer game with my dad and my brother called King’s Quest. Amazing game. It required thinking skills and reasoning skills and the ability to type fairly fast. You moved your character with the arrow keys and typed instructions. Anything you wanted your character to do, you had to type it. Move rock. Pick up dagger. Swim. Jump. Play fiddle.

And there was one part in the first King’s Quest where you had to convince a goat to butt a troll off a bridge so you could answer Rumpelstiltskin’s riddle and get the beans to grow a beanstalk. (Nope. Not making it up.) The thing about the goat was that it wouldn’t follow you just because. You had to give it a reason to leave its pen, and that reason was a carrot you pluck out of the king’s garden.

So what on earth does that have to do with anything?

Well, if your Christian experience is anything like mine, then you’ve probably encountered some disappointments along the way. Am I wrong? You’ve chosen a path and walked down it faithfully, fully expecting God to turn up and work miracles as you go, and He doesn’t. Or you sacrifice and give up your dreams to pursue a course you think God has laid out for you, and you encounter nothing but difficulty every day until you finally have to turn around and go back to where you started.

What is that? Why is that? Does that mean God is unreliable? Does that mean God just lures us along and is waiting for the opportunity to pounce on us or use us? Are we just the goats and God’s promises are the carrots?

Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Screenshot from King’s Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

It’s not wrong to ask questions. Let’s get that straight before we go any farther. God wants us to ask questions. He wants us to be wise about our choices, and you can’t really be wise until you are brave enough to question what everyone tells you is true. Wisdom begins by understanding who God is and learning that it’s His opinion and His Word that matters. No one else’s.

But my goodness, it gets frustrating sometimes. I’m just being honest here. Sometimes I wish God would just tell me what He wants me to do. Or if He won’t do that, I want some kind of confirmation that I’m doing the right thing–a confirmation that sticks around instead of popping up momentarily and then vanishing without a trace.

But that’s what happens when you rely on signs and symbols. That’s what happens when you go looking for carrots.

Now it’s not wrong to look for signs. It’s not wrong to look for incentives. There are many times throughout Scripture where God says that He’ll bless us if we do something. But there seems to be an idea among Christians that faith is generally incentivized. We’re supposed to take great leaps of faith because God will reward us financially or in some other quantifiable, measurable return. And I’m not saying that’s not true. But should we be doing God’s work for the sole purpose of a return on our investment? Should we obey God merely because we want to get something out of the deal? Or should we do what God tells us to do because He told us to do it?

Hey, Christian, did you know that if you give to God, He’ll give back to you? Hey, Christian, did you know that if you live by what the Bible says, God will bless you? Maybe it starts with incentive, but it doesn’t end there. Maybe God does offer us incentives, but following Christ isn’t about what we can get out of it. It’s not about the incentives. Just like the game. It’s not about the carrot; it’s about who’s offering the carrot. It’s about getting the goat to fulfill a greater purpose than just hanging around in a pen for the rest of its life.

The irony of the game is that after the goat beats the troll, it wanders off on its own. The goat gets to go roam free and find new adventures of its own. It doesn’t care about the carrot anymore. The carrot doesn’t matter anymore because it was never about the carrot anyway. The carrot was just an opportunity.

The incentives God offers us aren’t the point. God is the point, and God can be trusted. His promises aren’t flights of fancy or caprice that He forgets whenever it suits Him. No, when He makes a promise, we can trust that He will keep it.

So what incentive are you grasping at today? Are you sure you’re focusing on the right thing? Are you obeying God just so you can get something out of it? Not saying that’s bad or even wrong, but have you considered maybe forgetting the incentive and just doing it because God asked you to do it? Stop worrying about what you’re going to get out of it and just walk with God.

Get out of the pen, whether there’s a carrot involved or not. You won’t regret it.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

How much do you trust God?

I’m ready to go home. Anybody else ever feel that way? When it just seems that the whole world is falling apart? No matter who won last night, I’m positive the lack of civility would have continued either way.

I have to say, I was shocked by a lot of the despair I read, and while I will admit that I’m rather disappointed at the choice the country has made, I’m not too worried. In fact, I’m a bit excited. Because the closer our country moves toward socialism, the more our country embraces their selfishness and indolence, the closer we get to the end. And when the end finally gets here, all of this grief will be over.

It won’t be easy to live through. And the very patriotic part of my spirit is grieved for what America has become, but God doesn’t make mistakes. Do you think last night’s outcome surprised God? No. And that encourages me. And it helps me face today with positivity and excitement. And you should too, no matter if you’re disappointed or not.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KSToday’s verse is 1 Peter 4:19.

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

The problems facing America right now are about to get a lot more complicated. And the obstacles in the path of true believers are going to become more difficult to overcome. The further away our society moves from the ideals it was founded on, the more difficult it’s going to become to be a Christian.

Let me rephrase that: It will become very difficult to be a Christian who believes the Bible.

You think it’s hard now? Wait.

But in waiting, remember that this is supposed to happen.

I believe the Bible. So when the Bible says in Romans 13, that all authority is ordained by God, that includes President Obama. I don’t agree with any of his politics or his programs or his approach to just about anything, but he is the President of the United States, and I will respect him. If you say you follow Christ, now’s the time to prove it. If you say you follow Christ and you didn’t vote for Mr. Obama, respect him anyway because he is the one God wants directing America right now.

I don’t have the time to go into it in depth, but Daniel 4 recounts a time in Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which was to serve as a warning. Basically, the king had been doing some things he shouldn’t have been doing, and God was going to strike him mad until he understood a very simple fact: “The Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” (Daniel 4:25)

We’re in a tenuous position in our world. This blog isn’t intended to be political, and I apologize for three straight blog posts with political undertones. But this was important. And today, I think it’s more important than ever to focus on the real question: How much do you trust God?

Do you trust Him enough to keep following even when He makes no sense? Do you trust Him enough to believe that He knows what He’s doing when we can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel? Do you trust Him enough to jump when He says jump or to wait when He says wait?

How much do you trust God?

If you need some encouragement along those lines, maybe you’ll find it where I did this morning in 1 Peter 4. What’s beautiful about Scripture is it rarely requires commentary. Commentary can help, but honestly the Bible can speak for itself.

1 Peter 4 (The Message)

 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.

Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!

It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message!

If good people barely make it,
What’s in store for the bad?

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.