Sometimes we need the storms

Sometimes it feels like we’re living under a cloud, doesn’t it? Life just isn’t working out the way you want it to. Sure, there are days when the sun shines and life is bright. There are days when you feel invincible. But what about the days when it feels like the rain won’t stop falling?

It’s on those days when the bad news keeps coming. Minute after minute, hour after hour, the bad news doesn’t let up. You owe more on your taxes than you thought. Your car is broken. Your child is sick. The storm damage is extensive. Whatever situation you’re in, doesn’t it seem that bad news never shows up on the happy days? No, it all has to unload on us at once, on the days when we’re already feeling like we’ve fallen in the mud.

But one thing I’ve learned about God is that He never allows anything to happen in our lives that He won’t turn into something beautiful.

stormclouds_treeToday’s verse is Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

There are days when life feels random, like all the little bits and pieces of life are scattered around without meaning or purpose. And I’m not sure if that will ever change for us because we’re so limited in what we can see. But if you’ve lived long enough to look back over your life, you can start to see the picture forming from the fragments you thought were unrelated.

And then, sometimes, God gives you a glimpse of just how much He cares. I mean, we all know He cares. He’s God. That’s kind of what He does. But there’ s a difference between caring and being intimately involved in the intricate workings of your personal life. It’s one thing to call you a son or daughter, but God goes beyond that and treats us like His children too.

It’s one thing to recognize that God made the sunrise. It’s something else to understand that He arranged events in your life today to help you accomplish something. That’s two different levels of caring.

People know they’re meant for more than this life. That’s what the verse means. We all have this inborn understanding that there’s more to life than just what we can see. As we get older and let the darkness of our world cloud our perspective, we lose sight of it. Or we give into the lies of our culture that say God doesn’t care. But deep, deep down inside, we all know that we’re meant for something more. That’s what it means to have eternity in your heart.

It’s difficult to remember sometimes, especially in the dark moments of life, that God cares so much about us. Because if He cared, He wouldn’t let us go through dark times, right? But sometimes we need the storms.

We need to remember that we aren’t in control. We need to remember who sustains us. We need to remember who protects us. And we need to let go of our delusions that success comes from our own performance.

Maybe you’re in an ugly situation right now, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope. But you know what? God will make everything beautiful in His time. Not in our time, because we don’t understand time. Not like God does.

God is the only One in existence with the power to take the ugly and make it beautiful. He can transform anyone and anything, but we’ve got to get out of the way.

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The hourglass from NewSpring Church's 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

What you learn when you wait for God’s answer

I finished my first “for real” novel before I hit high school. What do I call a “for real” novel? I mean one that has more than 50,000 words. I never thought I was a great writer, but I did think I was good enough to get published. So I started trying very early on, preparing myself for rejection after rejection because every author out there says that’s what you should do.

I don’t know how many rejections I finally had to get before I started thinking that maybe I needed to try something different. I just know that in 2001, my freshman year of college, I felt the need to try to write something different.

So I did. And that began a journey that lasted from 2001 to this year. December 1, 2014, my first novel hits the shelves. And I guarantee you that it looks nothing like it did when I finished the first draft in 2003 or so. This wasn’t an easy journey. If it were thirteen years of hard work, that’d be one thing. But this was thirteen years of hard work, full of dashed dreams, harsh criticisms, and one major philosophy change that turned my perspective on its head.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I remember the first time it was properly rejected. The manuscript request. The elevated hopes. The rejection letter itself. And the disappointment that followed. I thought I had prepared myself, and I really hadn’t.

It’s not wrong to get your hopes up, as long as you recognize that fact that what you hope for won’t always happen. But how do you live like that? How can you hope for anything with the knowledge that it may not happen? And how does that fit into a Christian lifestyle?

Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:16.

The hourglass from NewSpring Church's 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

The hourglass from NewSpring Church’s 2011 Judgement House, Wichita, KS

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Why is it that when we don’t get our way, we instantly jump to the conclusion that someone is trying to prevent us from happiness? Does that happen to anyone else, or is it just me? That’s my default.

When someone tells me No, my first reaction is that they don’t like me or they’re trying to deny me something. And that’s rarely the case. Admitting it makes me sound childish, so I’m hoping others out there struggle with the same problem.

The plain truth is that our authorities sometimes have to tell us no for our own good.

If you’re a parent, do you let your child do whatever he or she wants? If you’re a manager, do you let your subordinates do whatever they want? No! That’s a horrible idea. Because most of the time people don’t know what they want. And as the appointed authority you are the one who has to make the decision as to what’s good for them and what isn’t, whether they like it or not.

This is true with my novel. More than anything, I wanted it to be published. More than anything, I wanted it to be in print. And I had my heart set on accomplishing that. But it wasn’t to be—at least not at that moment. And now I know why.

Because the manuscript as it was 10 years ago wasn’t ready. It wasn’t what God wanted it to be. And I didn’t know enough about writing, the industry, my book, or myself to be published.

I’ve learned so much in 10 years, I don’t think I could fit it in a book if I tried. And if I had run ahead of God and done things my way 13 years ago, I wouldn’t have learned any of it. Granted, I might have learned some of it in the school of hard knocks, but this way, I got to learn what God had for me and still get my book in print without having to overcome the consequences of bad decisions.

That’s what He does for everybody. Just because He says no now doesn’t mean the answer will always be no. It may just mean that you’re not ready. It may just mean the time isn’t right.

So before you give up on God, take a step back and try to see it from His perspective. How do you handle disappointment when you don’t get what your heart is set on? I’ve learned how to hope in God’s plan, knowing that if He doesn’t give me what I want, I still have a lot to learn. And if He does give me what I’ve asked for, it’s up to me to make the most of it right now.