Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Praising God because of trouble

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with all the amazing things God has done in your life? I was thinking about that the other day. God has done so much for me and brought me so far. He’s helped me grow and become the person I am today, and He’s answered prayers I didn’t even know enough to pray. Even on the bad days, even when I get news I don’t want to hear, He isn’t far away, poking and prodding at me and reminding me just how good He is.

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Storms north of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 52:9.

I will praise you forever, O God,
    for what you have done.
I will trust in your good name
    in the presence of your faithful people.

I don’t praise Him enough. I don’t tell Him how awesome He is often enough. I get wrapped up in my own issues, my own problems, my own shortcomings. I get focused on everything that’s going wrong or everything that’s going right. And telling Him how amazing He is falls by the wayside.

The thing about praising God is that it changes your attitude. It gets our attitudes back where they ought to be. Let’s face it: we get down in the mouth and depressed when we stop seeing God for who He is. Praising God in spite of the difficulties in our lives gets us back on track. And if you believe that, praising God because of the difficulties in our lives makes even more difference.

It’s so easy to just see the difficulties. It’s so easy to just see the struggles. We don’t get the big picture. We aren’t privy to how our lives are going to play out. We know what Scripture tells us: God will be glorified and He’ll make everything right. But let’s be honest. Is that enough? Is knowing that God will eventually make everything right enough to get us through a terrible day that we’re facing right now? Sometimes it is for me. But most times it’s not.

When I’m in the middle of a terrible day right now, I want reassurance that everything I’m struggling through isn’t in vain. Sure, I can cling to knowing He’ll eventually sort things out, but how much better would it be if He’d step in right now and fix my problems today?

Do you ever feel like that?

The funny thing about trouble is that you learn to appreciate it the further away from it you get. Trouble doesn’t last forever. At least, the same kind of trouble doesn’t last forever. That’s not to say you won’t be bombarded with lots of different kinds of trouble, but none of them will stick around forever. And when you get on the other side of it, most of the time you’ll be able to look back on it fondly.

Well, maybe fondly is too strong a word. But I know, in my life, looking back on the difficulties I’ve faced, I wouldn’t trade them for anything now. When I was going through them, I didn’t want them. When I was at the center of all the conflict around me, I would have chopped off a limb to make it all go away. But now, looking back, those struggles were in my life for a reason. God let me experience all those hard things to help me become the person I am today.

So I’m trying to remember that when tough times hit me I need to be thankful for them. Because some day in the future, I’ll look back on this time in my life, and I’ll be able to see how valuable these difficulties are.

That’s not a coincidence. It’s God working. It’s God taking the terrible things in our lives and using them for good. It’s God making something beautiful out of something our enemy intended for evil, and that’s something only God can do. And I don’t thank Him enough for that.

That’s what God does, you see. He restores. He redeems. And that’s the God the world doesn’t know because we don’t talk about Him that way. We get focused on Him as the Rock who supports us in trouble. We focus on Him as the judge who will bring order to the world. And that’s true. Both of those are true, and I’m so thankful they’re true. But the world doesn’t understand that. They don’t see a Rock; they see a crutch. They don’t see a judge; they see a sledgehammer.

What would happen if we praised God more often? What would happen if we thanked Him because of the troubles we face rather than just in spite of them? It’s a challenge we need to accept. It’s a challenge I’m going to try to do better at achieving, for my own sake as well as for the people around me.

Random marching band coming down the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

Private parties are pretty selfish

I think people forget that the Bible is full of feasts and celebrations. God wants people to celebrate and rejoice and spend time together remembering all that He has done for them, and I’m not exactly sure when that became uncool. I mean, does anybody really do that in the States? We have parties, yes. We have “fellowship time” I guess, but do we ever just have a party with the sole purpose of celebrating what God has done for us? Kind of sounds like fun, actually.

I don’t take enough time to celebrate like I should. I thank Him for what He’s done, yes. I do that frequently, but to actually stop and mark the day and slow down long enough to focus on being thankful is difficult for me. I’m not a scholar about this sort of thing, but if I remember correctly the Jewish calendar is packed full of feast days and celebrations. And not just one-day celebrations. Week-long celebrations. Sometimes longer, if memory serves. Now that’s a party.

Random marching band coming down the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

Random marching band coming down the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verses are Psalm 63:3-8.

Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.
I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

When my brother and I were in Edinburgh at the beginning of our UK trip, we were walking down the Royal Mile looking for a place to eat. We had stopped to listen to a bagpiper play in the doorway of a government building, and then we heard the unmistakable sound of a marching band. I still don’t know what this marching band was doing, coming up the Royal Mile with their drums and instruments and banners. There were five or six groups of them, all in different uniforms, all different ages.

I didn’t think much of it until now, honestly, but I’m sure they were commemorating something. Maybe it was a holiday. Maybe it was an anniversary. Who knows? What matters is that when they appeared, people stopped to watch them, to listen. If you look closely at this photo, there’s even a guy videoing them. Shoot, I even took pictures. I have no idea what they were celebrating, but it was enough for me to want to remember it.

Here’s the point, Christians. Our God is awesome. He’s everything, or at least He should be. He loves us especially when we don’t deserve His love, He never gives up on us, and He never leaves us. He’s working everything in our lives out for good, and we can trust Him. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our relationship with Him. I love what David said in the Psalm today because it really just expresses so many of the things I want to tell God. But I can tell Him those things in private. That’s perfectly fine. I can celebrate in private. That’s fine too. But private parties are pretty selfish, don’t you think?

I don’t know what these marching band folks were celebrating, but it was a big enough deal for them to get dressed up and march for ages in funny outfits. It was a big enough deal that it made me stop in my tracks and pay attention.

Celebrating what God has done in our lives is something that should be public, and it’s worth slowing down for. I’m working on learning how to do that because it’ll be good for me and because I’m convinced it’s the best way to introduce others to Christ. If the only Christ others know is the one we ram down their throats, why would they have any interest in getting to know Him? My Jesus is my best friend. I talk to Him all the time. I tell Him everything, and I know He hears me. And I love telling people what He’s done for me because I absolutely don’t deserve any of it but for some reason He decided to trust me.

So slow down. Look at your life. What has God for you today? Maybe it’s small. Maybe it’s not. In any case, He still did it, and that’s worth celebrating. So party it up. Rejoice. Celebrate! And let others see you do it. Be ready to tell them why you’re celebrating so maybe they can begin to wrap their heads around the fact that following Christ isn’t about rules or stuffy old church buildings–that it’s about living life with Jesus and the joy is so great it’s difficult to comprehend. Who knows? Maybe someone who doesn’t believe will stop and listen.

Mulberries - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Remember what God has done

We are forgetful people, and we live in a forgetful culture. I don’t think we forget on purpose. There are many times I truly believe we just get so busy and our brains get so full that forgetfulness just comes naturally. But it sure isn’t purposeful. I forget things all the time, but mainly that’s because I’m running around like a crazy person.

Example: I forgot to post yesterday. Did I do it on purpose? Not at all. My flight got into Wichita about 12:30 in the morning Wednesday, I slept for a few hours, and I work up and went to work. Posting a devo completely slipped my mind until later in the afternoon.

Mulberries - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Mulberries – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 12:24.

But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you.

God has provided so many things for me. Sometimes it’s tempting to believe that we have gotten all that we have through our own intellect or our own skills, but that’s just pride talking. Any good thing in my life has come from God, and I have a lot of good things.

But I take everything for granted, I think. My friends. My family. My job. My house. Because on the bad days, I feel like I have nothing, and I feel like God isn’t working at all, and I start to wonder if He really keeps His promises.

I don’t know why He puts up with me.

He’s so much more patient than I am. If I had been half as good to someone else as He has been to me and they treated me like I treat Him, I would have given up years ago. But not God. His love baffles me.

Today’s verse actually comes out of a similar situation. The people of Israel, who God had chosen and blessed and taken care of and rescued and all that jazz over and over and over again for generations, had decided that they wanted a king other nations could see instead of an All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Always-There God they couldn’t. Samuel, their High Priest who served as God’s mouthpiece, told them they were making a mistake, but they were insistent.

So God gave them what they wanted. A king who looked good but didn’t have much going on inside, but that’s a different story. What is interesting to me is how God reacted in the first place.

If you have a chance, read 1 Samuel 12. Samuel stands up in front of the people of Israel and reminds them of everything God has done for them. And he warns them that if they forget God and how He cared for them that they would have to endure some suffering until they remember who God is.

Throughout Scripture, God has always demonstrated His love and faithfulness for the people of Israel. The Old Testament is brimming with stories of how God rescued them from danger and how they turned around and forgot him a short time later. And as a child, I used to think that they were the stupidest people on the planet. But am I much different?

God has opened doors for me that I could never have opened on my own. He has provided a comfortable place for me to live that I could never have provided for myself. He has given me a wonderful family, incredible friends, etc. etc. etc. So many good things. And after He has saved me and rescued me and given me more blessings than I can handle, I turn around and forget and start worrying about tomorrow. 

I’m just as bad as the children of Israel. And God is just as faithful to me as He was to them.

Forgetting is dangerous. Because if we forget where our blessings come from, we’ll start thinking we did it ourselves. And then when trouble comes again, we’ll rely on ourselves. And there’s no power there.

Samuel warned the people of Israel not to forget God. And maybe that generation listened, but the generation afterward didn’t get the memo. And even the king himself wasn’t paying much attention. And God was forced to remind them.

It works the same way in our lives. So don’t forget. Or God will have to remind us who He is.