Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Looking for the light when all you see is clouds

Have you ever experienced a season of life where nothing seemes to go right? Where every step you take is just another opportunity for something to go wrong? To blow up in your face? Just being honest, I’ve been there for most of this year.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now. If you are, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced the exhaustion, the fatigue, the worry, and the stress. You’ve struggled through the things you can’t control and the things you can. And you’ve worn yourself out trying to plan for every eventuality, only to discover that it’s worse than you imagined when it happens.

In seasons like that, you have a choice. You can either choose to focus on everything that’s going wrong, or you can look for the tiny ray of light that’s shining through the clouds. Because it’s there. It may be small, but it exists. And it’s there to remind you that all things happen for a reason, especially the things that seem bad.

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence. 
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

2013 has been a difficult year in so many ways. Name it and it’s probably gone wrong. But at the same time, it’s been an awesome year. God has given me opportunities to do things I never would have dreamed, and He’s opened doors in ways I never expected. So it’s up to me whether I choose to focus on everything that’s gone wrong this year, or choose to focus on everything that’s gone right because of what’s gone wrong. That’s the key. Nothing really “goes wrong” when you’re following God; it just means you (through God’s strength) have an opportunity to turn something our enemy intends for evil into something that can bless other people.

That can be difficult to remember. But God doesn’t let anything touch us without permission. God doesn’t allow anything into our lives with no purpose. He absolutely doesn’t leave us to face it alone. And when you least expect it, He makes Himself known in a way you won’t see coming. It’s happened so many times in the past year. When I’m down and discouraged and feeling alone, God sends someone into my path who reminds me exactly who He is. Whether that’s what they intend to do or not (sometimes they aren’t even believers), God uses them to help me see that I’m not alone and that none of this is futile. (You may notice this blog now has no ads on it, thanks to one of these reminders I’m talking about.)

So keep your eyes open. Choose to see the opportunities God is giving you rather than the ones you think He’s taking away. Wait patiently and attentively, and you’ll see Him. And remember you’re not on your own.

God never abandons us; we just stop listening to Him.

It’s good to remember that God is faithful to us. I really just don’t know why He loves us the way He does. It’s beyond me. Because He is so great, and we are so much trouble. And way past being trouble, we only care about ourselevs. And even after He gives us everything we need and most everything we want, we still aren’t happy and we still don’t thank Him the way we should. We’re just selfish.

But He is faithful. He’s faithful to us, especially when we aren’t faithful to Him.

It’s a kind of love that I don’t understand. He never gives up on us.

Today’s verse is 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

One thing is certain and that is God is faithful. He says it over and over and over again, and in other verses He promises to lead us and protect us and never leave us. So what does that mean when you feel lost and vulnerable and alone? Does that mean that He’s left you?

No. Because God is faithful. But just becuase He’s faithful doesn’t mean that He always has to talk to us. Sometime we need to learn to be content with the silence. And sometimes silence is an indication that something is wrong.

God remains faithful to us no matter what, but we are cold-hearted, selfish people. And we rarely remain faithful to anyone but ourselves. I think so much of “being faithful” as far as God goes depends on our perspective. I think that’s why people believe that He leaves us or that He abandons us. I think sometimes people get to the point where they only want what they want and  if God tells them that what they want will hurt them, they don’t listen. And they do it any way. And so when they are dealing with the ramifications of their actions, they feel like God has abandoned them. And that’s not true. God never abandons us. We just don’t want to follow Him or do what He tells us to do, so we stop looking for Him.

And that’s the idiocy of humanity: We whine about God forsaking us when we aren’t really looking for Him in the first place.

If we are in that place in our lives — that blind place where we only see the things we want and only do the things we want — even if God materialized right in front of us and ask that we follow Him, I don’t think we would do it. People are just like that. Given a choice, they will usually do the things that are bad for them.

 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

How many of you read that and wondered why it wasn’t true in your life? Obviously, I don’t know your circumstances. I just know my own. And I know that I have struggled with this so many times that it can’t just be me who feels this way.

How many of you feel like God isn’t faithful? How many of you feel like God hasn’t strengthened you or guarded you from evil?

The first thing you need to find out is if you want God to be faithful to you. Because part of God being faithful is protecting you and keeping you from doing things that you shouldn’t be doing, things that will hurt you, things that will destroy your testimony, things that will destroy your life and the lives of the people around you. So how can God strengthen you if you don’t want to be strong? How can God guard you from evil if you keep looking for it?

Granted, God will be faithful to you no matter whether you want it or not, but if you aren’t listening He won’t change you and you’ll keep living your life as you always have.

I want God to be faithful to me. I want Him by my side every day. I want Him to keep me strong and keep me on the right track. I want to listen to Him and learn what He has to tell me about life and about myself and about the future. It’s a desire that I struggle with on a daily basis because the dark part of me doesn’t want it. That dark, evil part of my nature is suffocating sometimes and overpowering at other times, but God has given us all the strength to overcome our old natures. We just have to do it.

What’s amazing to me about God’s faithfulness is that it truly is eternal and uncompromising. He loves us. He always has. He always will. And He is always waiting for us to get our heads on straight and come to Him. And when the day finally comes that we get it through our thick skulls that we can’t live without Him, He rejoices and runs to meet us, like we were the only ones He was looking for. And no matter what we have done or where we have been, He welcomes us with open arms because He loves us. And because He is always faithful, most especially when we aren’t faithful to Him.