Nothing that happens to you is wasted

Jury duty is something I’d always wanted to do, but I didn’t want to do it this month. I just had too much to juggle. Between leaving my old job and starting my own business, plus now having two novels I need to promote and more novels to start working on, February wasn’t a good time.

So when I got the jury summons, I was tempted to come up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t do it. I had legitimate reasons why it would be problematic for me, but I decided that if I were supposed to be on a jury, it would happen.

After all, most people who are called to jury duty never get picked to actually sit on the panel, right?

Right. So, I reported for the selection process on Tuesday morning, and I came back on Tuesday afternoon as one of twelve jurors in a criminal case of theft and falsifying identity. The case finished on Wednesday, and, frankly, I didn’t expect to learn so much. I learned a lot and not just about the legal process.

I do believe that God allows everything in our lives for a purpose, and even though jury duty certainly wasn’t what I had planned for two days out of my week, I had decided to make the best of it. And I came away learning valuable lessons about business practices–lessons I’m not sure I would have learned for myself unless I’d see the consequences played out in court.

jury-box-doneToday’s verse is Proverbs 18:15.

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
    Their ears are open for knowledge.

Everyday, we face situations and circumstances that aren’t ideal. I don’t enjoy everything I have to do on a daily basis. In fact (as my parents can tell you) there are some things I will do almost anything to avoid doing–like the dishes. 😉

But if we can get our attitudes in the right place, if we can keep our perspective right, we can face those less-than-ideal circumstances with confidence and courage knowing that God is allowing them for a reason. And if God intends for us to experience something, there must be a lesson we need to learn.

The Bible tells us that a mark of wisdom is being willing to learn–not automatically assuming you know everything already. People who live that way usually make really terrible mistakes in their lives.

Maybe there’s something you have to do today or this week that you don’t want to do. Maybe it will make you uncomfortable. I hear you. It’s never fun to be pushed outside your comfort zone, but I can tell you every time I’ve been pushed outside the realm of my experience, I’ve learned something.

So just because you may have to do something you won’t enjoy, don’t automatically discount it as a wasted day. Nothing that happens to you is wasted if you are always willing to learn something.

We make our choices, but God determines our steps. He knows where we’re going and what we need to go through before we get there so that we’ll be ready. So pay attention and don’t let opportunities to learn pass you by. You might regret it down the road.

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.