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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The moments that tell you who you trust

still-calm-patient-waiting-trust_1170x350

Throughout my childhood, many of my heroes always talked about how God had directed their lives, and that sounded so fantastical to me. So as I grew, part of me expected God to show up in my life with a big flashing arrow to point me down the right roads. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed when He didn’t.

I’ve been a grownup person for a while now. It’s hard to remember when I still don’t like wearing shoes and would gladly eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not sure when I made the transition from child to grownup, but there were no trumpets sounding, no confetti falling, no awards handed out. Suddenly I had responsibilities and budgets to manage and meals to prepare and deadlines to meet.

Fast forward ten years or so, and I’m still waiting for the heavens to open up and point me in the right direction. God has never popped up in front of me and thundered directions or commands audibly. He has never appeared to me on a grilled cheese sandwich or a ceiling tile.

When the time came for me to make a choice about my life, I tried to make the best choice I could. I used Bible verses. I used what I knew about God. I listened to counsel from godly people. And I moved forward trusting that God would hold me up, regardless of how I felt about the entire situation.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.Trust Him, and He will help you.Sometimes that led me into uncomfortable situations. Sometimes that led me into a lot of stress and responsibility. And every time my life would hit a new, frustrating low, I’d feel peace because I trusted Him to work things out. And every time, He did. I didn’t get to hear angels sing when I made a decision. Actually, most of the time, I felt worse after I made a decision, but I’d cling to the hope that I’d made my choice because I did it for God’s glory. And every time, life would just work out. Not the same day. Not the same week. Sometimes not even the same month. But always eventually.

[su_pullquote]That’s not an accident. That’s a miracle.[/su_pullquote]

From my first job out of college to my last “real” job to where I am now working for myself, His fingerprints are everywhere. I can trace the path of my life back from childhood to where I am now. I can map every bump, every pit, every road block, and I can tell you how what I learned as a result got me where I am today. That’s not an accident. That’s a miracle.

No, God didn’t show up in flashy display of power and majesty, but He did show up. God has always been with me, every moment of every day, but He hasn’t always been obvious because I haven’t always been looking for Him. And that’s the key I think we forget sometimes.

We expect God to bend over backward to get our attention. We look for signs and wonders in the sky to prove to us that He exists, when the very fact that we do exist should be wonder enough.

The Bible says over and over again that we’re supposed to trust God, but how many of us really do it? How many of us even try? Psalm 37:3-7 tells us, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” It’s not easy to live this way. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But God wouldn’t have told us to do it if it weren’t important.

Trusting yourself has limits, because you are limited. Trusting God is terrifying because He is limitless in every sense of the word. But when you put your whole trust in Him, He can take you where He wants you to go. He can do impossible things through you, but you have to trust Him. You have to turn your will over to Him. You have to turn your plans over to Him.

Sometimes you’ll feel stuck. Sometimes you’ll despair. Sometimes it will feel like nothing in your life is going right. Those are the moments that tell you who you trust.

Deep Thought, Douglas Adams's super computer from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I don’t know the right question to ask

I’m a geek. Fair warning. Just in case you didn’t know that already. But I’m geekier than most because I can make references to a lesser known science fiction British satire novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. You can learn a lot by reading this cornucopia of sarcasm and hilarious Britishness, including how bowls of petunias think, what dolphins are really saying, and the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

No, really. The answer to life, the universe, and everything.

See, in this story, an ancient race brought on the two most brilliant people of their age and had them design and build the greatest super computer ever constructed, for the sole purpose of having it tell them the answer to life, the universe, and everything. And after around 7 million years, the computer was ready to tell them the answer.

Ready for this?

42.

Yes, that’s the answer to life, the universe, and everything. And if that answer confuses you, the computer simply explains that it would make sense if you know the right question to ask.

Today’s verses are Job 36:22-26 and Job 37:23-24.

Deep Thought, Douglas Adams's super computer from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Deep Thought, Douglas Adams’s super computer from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

“Look, God is all-powerful.
Who is a teacher like him?
 No one can tell him what to do,
or say to him, ‘You have done wrong.’
 Instead, glorify his mighty works,
singing songs of praise.
Everyone has seen these things,
though only from a distance.
Look, God is greater than we can understand.
His years cannot be counted….

We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty;
but even though he is just and righteous,
he does not destroy us.
No wonder people everywhere fear him.
All who are wise show him reverence.”

These are the words of Elihu, one of the not-so-friendly friends who were “helping” Job into a nervous breakdown on the worst day of his life. And maybe Elihu had misinterpreted Job’s situation (no maybe about it), but what he has to say to Job isn’t necessarily wrong.

If you had the opportunity to ask God any question, what would it be? What would you ask Him? Would you want to know why you lost your job or why someone you love passed away? Would you ask why a child is diagnosed with an incurable illness or why sick people have to suffer so much? Would you ask Him why He didn’t just start over after humanity screwed His perfect plan up? Would you ask Him why He allowed Satan to live, knowing the damage he would cause?

So many unanswered questions. And we all like to have our questions answered. We don’t like not knowing.

But have you ever asked yourself what you would do with the answer if you got it?

If you asked your impossible question and God gave you your answer, what would you do? How would you react? What would change?

I’m just like everyone else probably is. Unanswered questions leave me unsatisfied, discontent, unsettled. But something I’ve learned over the years is that I’m never going to know all the answers. And even if I did, I don’t think I would understand them. Because, honestly, I don’t even know the right questions to ask.

You can ask any question. God doesn’t sit up in heaven rolling His eyes at our dumb questions. Well, maybe He does, but that doesn’t mean He loses patience with us. But what hit me yesterday as I sat thinking about questions we would ask God is that even if God answered our questions, I’m not sure we would understand the answer.

Why?

Well, God is so much bigger than we are. God’s thoughts are so much greater. Can we even comprehend how massive He is? How huge? How mighty?

Maybe Elihu, Job’s friend, had misinterpreted Job’s situation, but he wasn’t wrong about God. We can’t understand God. We can’t wrap our heads around Him because He is infinite, and we are finite. Granted, we have the Holy Spirit living in us, if we’ve chosen to follow Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we get to grasp God. That just means we have a way to talk to Him and that we have some insight into why.

It’s like an adult trying to explain something to a child. An adult has to dumb down the answer so the child can understand, but in dumbing down the answer, an adult can’t explain what’s really going on. Because the child won’t understand. And I really think it’s the same way between us and God.

It’s not that He’s holding back. It’s not that He’s keeping information from us. It’s not that He wants to frustrate us. It’s just that if He tried to explain, if He tried to answer our questions the way we wanted, we wouldn’t understand.

That’s not to say we should stop asking questions. No! God wants us to ask questions. God wants us to dive deeper into a relationship with Him, and that means asking as many questions as you can think of. But sometimes you aren’t going to understand the answer you get. And that doesn’t mean the answer is wrong. It probably just means you aren’t asking the right question.

So think about it. Pray about it. And move on. If you don’t understand it yet, maybe you’re not supposed to. But that doesn’t mean you never will.