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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Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It’s all part of the plan

Isn’t it strange how plans can change? At the drop of a hat, in the blink of an eye, your plans can turn on their head. And suddenly everything you thought was certain isn’t so certain anymore.

I planned to go to work this week, but most of this week I’ve spent at home. Working from home, yes, but it wasn’t what I had planned. I planned to have a meeting with a friend about drama on Wednesday, and that didn’t happen. And I have plans to eat dinner with friends tonight, but if I still can’t get out of my driveway by the end of the afternoon, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Plans change because we have very little control over the big moments of our lives. The only control we have is how we react when inevitable change smacks us upside the head.

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Our lives change all the time, mainly because we don’t understand our lives. If we could see our lives like God sees them, I think we’d get a different perspective on who we are and what our purpose is here.

God doesn’t change, so His plans don’t change either. His plans for us are the same today as they were when He build the foundations of the universe.

What we have to wrap our heads around practically speaking is the fact that even though our plans have changed, we don’t have to freak out about it. Because God’s plan is the same. Everything that happens to us is all part of the plan. There’s nothing that happens to us in our everyday lives–or even on extraordinary days–that God can’t fit in to the masterpiece that is the story of our universe.

Look back over Scripture. Can you find a time where God let someone down? Now, I’m not talking about a time when someone was disappointed. Or a time when someone thought God had abandoned them. Those times are all over the place, but those times are none of God’s doing. Those times are people giving up on God and choosing to strike out on their own.

Throughout the length and breadth of human history, God has never once let anyone down. He hasn’t once turned His back on us. He hasn’t once given up on us, although we give up on Him all the time. Every promise He’s made, He will keep. There are some outstanding, yes, but the fulfillment of those will change everything and the longer He waits, the longer the people of our world have to get their heads on straight. So I don’t mind waiting a bit longer.

Don’t give up on God. When your plans don’t work out the way you think they will, don’t throw your hands in the air and decide that God has abandoned you. When you don’t get to do what you wanted to do, don’t decide that God is determined to squash you or that He’s up in heaven looking for a way to make your life more difficult. That’s not the case at all.

God has a plan. It’s a good plan, and He will keep His promises. So when change happens (and it always always does), don’t freak out about it. When you find yourself face to face with events and circumstances that you can’t control (like a driveway full of snow and subzero temps that make shoveling practically impossible), don’t decide that God has left you to figure everything out on your own. That’s not the way He works.

God has a plan, and it’s big enough to include the unexpected changes you’re going to encounter. So keep holding on to God. It won’t be easy. And understand that change isn’t something that bothers Him because He knew it was coming, and that has to make it easier for us to deal with. If He knew it was coming, He knows what we need to make it through.

Wind in the ripening wheat heads at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

When everything changes, God is constant

Kansas is a windy state. Many folks don’t realize that, mostly because many folks don’t think about Kansas. We’re kind of low on the totem pole as far as noteworthiness goes here in the U.S. We’re ranked 50th on the tourist ratings. Most travelers just drive through Kansas without stopping. And, yes, there are areas of the state that are immensely, ridiculously flat, but the whole state isn’t like that.

I love it here. I love traveling to other states, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But I tell you what: The wind in this state is nuts. The wind never stops blowing here. If we ever have a completely calm day, usually it just means that a huge storm is about to come crashing down on you (we have huge storms too).

Around here, especially in Western Kansas, the high, constant winds provide another outlet for generating energy. If you haven’t seen the wind farms in Western Kansas, let me tell you they’re amazing. It’s like you’re watching acres and acres of giant ballerinas spinning in the sky. I don’t know why they make me think of dancers because those giant wind turbines are standing still, but something about the turning of the blades makes me think of ballerinas. I don’t have a photo of them because the stretch of I-70 where you can see them the best prohibits stopping, but I’ve been tempted to risk it just to snap a picture.

Not just any place can host a wind farm cost-effectively. There has to be enough wind to make it viable. The point I’m getting at is that the wind is constant here, constant enough that putting a wind farm in the middle of nowhere is a good idea. If the wind only blew half the time, it wouldn’t be worth it; but you can always trust the wind to blow in Kansas. Wind in Kansas is constant.

Wind in the ripening wheat heads at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wind in the ripening wheat heads at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

All throughout January I’ve been posting about change and how life changes and how we can deal with it. Facing change with boldness, facing uncertainty with confidence, is not an easy thing to do, but what I’ve learned is that if you can find something constant in any situation, standing your ground gets a lot easier.

I hate talking to people I don’t know. I’m know good at talking anyway, but holding a conversation with someone I’ve never met is very difficult for me. But if I can find common ground, it’s easier. If I can find some constant between us, we have something to talk about.

I love visiting other countries. I love studying other cultures and other languages. But I’m not a linguist, and sometimes communication is hard because I don’t speak the language and I don’t understand all the cultural nuances. But I’ve met family, brothers and sisters in Christ, from countries all over the place, and even if we don’t speak the same language or come from the same culture, we have something in common. We all follow Christ. And that constant gives us something we can both relate to.

We don’t say a desert is constant because the sand is always shifting. It’s different from one moment to the next. The shorelines aren’t constant because the ocean reshapes them. But rocks? Rocks are eventually weathered away by erosion from wind and rain, but it takes a long time. When we see a rock, we think about it being solid and unchanging. That’s the difference.

And that’s the difference between people and God.

People aren’t constant. We aren’t steady. We may try to be, but it’s our nature to be blown on a different course every day by the winds of popular opinion or anxieties or circumstances. And while some have grown enough in their walk with Christ to understand the importance of being constant and steady, we’re still human; we’re still vulnerable to the lure of inconsistency, no matter how damaging it is.

I’m not saying you can’t trust people. We have to trust each other. But that trust always needs to be supported by a level of understanding that human beings are still made of dust.

But God is different. God is constant. Like the wind in Kansas, He’s always there. Like the giant rocks on the faces of great mountains, He doesn’t change. Like an anchor at the bottom of the ocean keeping the huge ships from drifting away on the tides and unyielding undercurrents of the sea, He can’t be bullied and He can’t be intimidated.

God is constant. Completely constant.

He’s always been there. He’ll always be there.

Coping with change in life is just like any other struggle we face, like talking to people we don’t know or venturing into cultures we don’t understand. If we can find something constant to hold onto, everything else will fall into place. And God is the constant we need in our crazy, out-of-control lives. When you reach out to Him, He’ll be there. He’s waiting for you right now, arms open, hands extended.

Will reaching out to Him make your life less nuts? Probably not. But when everything around you is spinning, it’s nice to know that you have someone to hold onto who isn’t.

Stop sign at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Do you really want God in a box?

I want God to tell me what He’s up to. Is that too much to ask? I say that with a bit of humor because as much as I want to know what He’s up to, at the same time I know that if He tells me, my brain will probably explode. Either that or I’ll be so scared I won’t be able to take another step. There’s a reason He doesn’t tell us all His plans.

But it’s been one of those weeks where so much has happened, so much has gone wrong, so many emotions have spilled over, and I know without a doubt that God is doing something. He’s getting me ready for something that’s coming, and I’m trying to keep my eyes on that. But in some ways I feel like I’m tripping around in the dark, and it’s all I can do to just hold on and wait until God switches the lights on so I can see which bumps and bruises need bandages.

Stop sign at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Stop sign at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Numbers isn’t usually a book in Scripture I turn to for comfort. But there’s a little story nestled toward the back of it about a man named Balaam. You might recognize his name. He’s the one with the donkey who decided to start speaking? It’s a cool story, found in Numbers 22:21-41. But Numbers 23 contains the message that Balaam brought to Balak, King of Moab. And this is part of that message that Balaam brought from God.

How many times do we think we understand what God is up to only to grow frustrated and discouraged when life doesn’t work out the way we planned? I do it a lot. I look at a situation and am pretty sure I can see how God is working, and then the floor falls out from under me. And at that point I have two choices: I can either get upset that God didn’t work the plan out the way I thought He would … or I can realize that my understanding of God’s plans is imperfect.

We try to understand God on human terms. Why? Because we’re human. How else are we capable of understanding anything? We think we understand nature and the universe and all of that, but all we’ve done is plucked it out of the sky and shoved it into a box big enough for us to wrap our head around. That doesn’t mean we understand it. That just means we’ve simplified it to the point where we can grasp it. And then everyone freaks out when nature or the universe ends up being more complicated than we thought.

Of course, it’s more complicated than we thought. It’s bigger than we can imagine. It’s more intricate than we can comprehend. What makes us think we’re capable of grasping it?

It’s the same way with God.

Like when people try to explain the Trinity using an egg or a glass of water. Those are human items that a human can wrap his head around, representing a relationship that a human can explain. But nothing on a scale that a human can understand will ever be able to explain the Trinity. Nothing on a human level will ever be able to understand God.

God is not human.

Now, Jesus was. So He understands us. But He was also God and Man at the same time. How’s that for blowing your puny little mind?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to understand God. Part of getting to know someone is learning how they think, and God wants us to get to know Him. But I really believe there needs to be an understanding on our part that God isn’t limited by the bounds of our imaginations. He isn’t limited by our grasp of the universe or by our level of understanding. If He chooses to act in a way that we don’t understand, He can. Because He’s God.

But looking back over the events of my life, I can tell you for certain that God has never done anything in my life that He hasn’t prepared me for in some way. Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back I can see how He prepared me beforehand to deal with the troubles and trials He knew were coming ahead of me. God has never made a promise He hasn’t kept to me, even though He didn’t exactly fulfill those promises in the way I expected Him to.

So the next time you catch yourself trying to put God in a box so you can understand how He works? Stop. Stop and really think about it. Because you don’t really want God in a box. Because if He’s small enough to fit in a box you can understand, He’s too small to handle the problems you’re facing.