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.

Advertisements

Don’t be afraid, even if you can’t see what’s coming

We’ve got a new batch of kittens at Safe Haven Farm–seven of them! And other than several of them having some issues with runny eyes, they’re all healthy and hilarious. Yesterday I went out to play with them, and I had to laugh. It was a particularly windy day, and every time a gust of wind would come along, all seven would scurry into the shadows of the garage again. When the wind would stop blowing, they’d creep out to play some more, until the wind gusted again. Then they’d scatter.

Being afraid of the wind in Kansas is going to limit their experiences, because it’s always windy here. Eventually they’ll learn not to run in fear when the wind blows, but I couldn’t help but think about how strange it must be. If you’d never felt wind before, it would be pretty scary. You can’t see it, but it can knock you clean over if you aren’t paying attention.

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 3:22.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

When the children of Israel were preparing to go into the land God had promised them, after they’d been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God turned command of the army over to Joshua. Moses had done his job. And this was one of the messages God left with him: that the people shouldn’t be afraid of what they would encounter on the other side of the Jordan River because God would be there fighting for them.

And that’s a promise God kept over and over again.

We all face moments in our lives when we’re uncertain about what’s coming. In those moments, I always feel like I have some invisible enemy that’s going to sneak up on me when I least expect it. None of us knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s difficult to face a day sometimes when you don’t know where you’ll be at the end of it. Some people don’t know if they’ll still have a bed to sleep in. Some people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.

None of us know what’s coming. Like the Children of Israel who’d never seen the land they were going into, we face troubles and frustrations on a daily basis that go above our heads. There are circumstances and situations that we’re not prepared for. There are confrontations and accusations we have to face that we don’t know how to respond to.

It’s all unknown and uncertain, and there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. But what God told the Children of Israel back then is the same thing He’s saying to us know. You may not know what’s coming, but He does. And He isn’t passively sitting on the sidelines judging our performance. God is actively involved in our lives and in our world, and He will fight for us.

Granted, if you want God to fight for you, you need to be on His side, which means you need to be doing what He says is right. If you’re there, then you have nothing to fear. If you’re not there? You might want to think about getting there.

Just because I can’t see what’s coming doesn’t mean I should fear it. Most of my future is completely uncertain, but I will choose not to be afraid for one reason and one reason alone–my God is certain. I belong to Him, and He will fight my battles for me.

Beyond your roughest road is great joy

I can’t remember the name of the highway (it might have been I-10), but it was a road leading to Pensacola, Florida, where I went to college my freshmen year. My parents and I were going for a visit while I was still in high school, and we hit this particularly bumpy stretch of pavement. It went on for a long time, and it was really uncomfortable in the back seat. The car bumped and bounced all over the place. I had a notebook, of course, and was trying to write something, but I couldn’t because the ride was so rough.

Life is like that highway. You’ve got to get from Point A to Point B, and even though there’s a direct route, it’s not an easy road. There are potholes and obstacles. Sometimes you have to swerve. Sometimes you even may have to stop to fix a flat. But it’s the only way to get there.

What do you do in those situations? Do you turn around and go back? You can, but what’s the point of that? No, if it’s the only road you can take, it’s better to press on and just deal with the discomfort, because you know the road will smooth out on the other side. It’s just hard to remember that sometimes.

wood-road-dirty-forest_1532x1021Today’s verses are 1 Peter 1:6-9.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

God has a plan for everyone. It’s up to us to go along with it, but the plan is there. What Christians forget sometimes is that the road isn’t easy, and God never promised it would be. He actually promised the opposite. But He does say that on the other side of the rough rode of following Christ is great joy.

That’s what we need to hold on to in the tough times. When the road gets difficult and the potholes keep coming and the rain won’t stop falling, just remember that God is with you, and He’s also on the other side of your struggle. He’ll help you get through it. He’ll send help when you need it. He’ll provide strength when yours runs out. Just keep believing that He’s right and that His promises are real.

The road might be a muddy mess, and you’ll be muddy by the time you cross it. But once you’re past it, you’ll look back on it with fondness. You will, believe it or not. Because in retrospect, even though it was a hard and challenging and difficult time in your life, you’ll see it as the moment when you knew God was with you.

God’s plan disguised by inconvenience

Do you have struggles in your life? If you think you don’t, you’re lying to yourself. Everyone has struggles and difficulties. Granted, some people have bigger struggles than others. But no one can escape them. And depending on your perspective, you can easily let them control your life.

I know, personally, the struggles I have aren’t huge. There aren’t any major illnesses in my life. No major medical issues. No major financial issues. No major lifestyle issues. The struggles I face more than anything else are more like matters of inconvenience.

Good example? My basement flooded last night. And it wasn’t even a major flood. It was just enough water to make a mess, which I promptly cleaned up. And then I went and took a shower. And then it promptly flooded again. Again, not enough to do any major damage. Just enough to be inconvenient . . . . and to cause me to call my dad and plead for help.

I think oftentimes God will put obstacles (read that opportunities) in our path that have to be dealt with as we walk toward His goal for our lives. Some opportunities are more fun than others. But I guarantee we learn more from those than we do from the fun ones.

And even though these opportunities may feel like obstacles when we run into them, if we can keep our perspective straight, we can look at them like God sees them — stepping stones to better things.

Today’s passage comes out of the Christmas story, Luke 2:1, 4-5.

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Talk about inconvenience.

It would have been difficult enough to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot but Mary was pregnant . . . and not just pregnant, obviously pregnant. And maybe they had a donkey. Maybe not. People always portray them with a donkey, but Mary and Joseph weren’t rich people. So I wouldn’t be too surprised if they had to walk the whole way. And I’ve never been pregnant, but I know a lot of people who have been. And walking isn’t their favorite thing to do during that period in their life.

And why did they have to do this? Because the Roman emperor said so. It was a stinkin’ census. A governmental thing. Like taxes. It interfered with everyone’s daily lives and upset the whole order of normalcy.

I can only imagine the grumbling this census caused in people. Maybe even in Mary and Joseph. I don’t know. I know I wouldn’t blame Mary for grumbling about something like this.

But what would have happened if Christ hadn’t been born in Bethlehem?

He still would have been virgin born. He still would have been the Son of God. He still would have fulfilled many of the prophecies in the Old Testament. . . . just not all of them.

The Old Testament is very specific saying which Bethlehem Jesus would be born in (there are two). Prophets had been very specific for hundreds of years as to the location where Christ would be born. What would have happened if Joseph had decided it was too much trouble to obey the law? What would have happened if Mary had decided to stay home?

Granted, traveling to Bethlehem had to be a terrible inconvenience, but it was necessary to fulfill prophecy.

So what does this mean for all of us?

Well, many times, God is going to ask us to do things that inconvenience us and we’re not going to understand why. I mean, maybe Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus was going to be born in Bethlehem because of all the prophecies and that’s why they didn’t have a problem going. But I guarantee, they didn’t know the far-reaching effects of having a child born there. Just like we don’t truly grasp the implications of our reactions to what God brings into our lives.

Being inconvenienced usually means that it’s something God wants you to do. Being inconveniences usually means that you’ve gotten too comfortable or too confident or too focused on something that doesn’t matter. Being inconvenienced usually means you’re only thinking about how your plans will be upset.

I can tell you the main reason I was so upset last night about my flooded basement wasn’t because of the mess, although that was troublesome. What upset me more than anything was that I had other plans for last night. And I couldn’t get them done because I had to clean up my basement. That inconvenienced me because I had wanted to do my own thing last night instead of having to take care of a wet, cold, dripping mass of towels. And I had to do it twice!

But I can also tell you that my basement floor is super clean now. So maybe it was God’s way of telling me that I needed to mop? =)

I don’t know. But what I do know is that many times God will ask things of us that seem like huge inconveniences. Things that will cause more struggles in our lives than they solve. But every time there’s a reason for it. And every time there’s something for us to learn. And every time, there’s something God is going to do with it.

So the best thing to do when inconveniences come from God is to just remember that He knows what He’s doing and try to enjoy the struggle, as strange as that sounds. Because you can look forward to the other side when it’s finished and you have gained something for your trouble. And you never know how God might use it. But you can be confident that He will.