St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you trust God when life isn’t fair?

Life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We can make as many plans as we want, but we can’t know the future. We can’t control our lives, as much as we try to. And when those moments come that blow all our carefully laid plans apart, we have a choice. We can either give up or manage the broken pieces as best we can, trusting that God will put them back together again better than they were before.

But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Because we get our selfish little hearts set on things that we want, and we are totally capable of convincing ourselves that God has told us we can have something. And maybe He has. But it has to be on His terms. And the plain truth is that when God says yes to our wants or our desires, we’re rarely in the place in our lives when it’s time for us to have them.

We have to live some more. We have to learn what the desire of our heart really is. Many times it changes and grows as we get older, and even when stays the same, as we age, it gets bigger, broader, as we understand more about ourselves and the world.

But that answer is difficult to accept when we want our way. And it’s so easy to sit back and focus on how unfair life is.

Because it is.

Life is unfair. Work is unfair. Ministry is unfair. Because the world is unfair.

And I don’t know where we (Christians, that is) get the idea that life on earth will be fair when nothing here is fair. The world is broken. We broke it, and it’s not going to be fixed again until after Christ comes back for us.

There’s nowhere in Scripture that says life is fair. There’s nowhere in Scripture where God promises that we won’t have trouble. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO (where I spent my weekend)

Today’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

This is Jesus talking to the Disciples. Maybe you read that differently, but to me that sounds like a confirmation that sometimes life is going to suck.

This world isn’t our home. We don’t belong here. I think it’s in Hebrews where the writer calls us pilgrims and strangers, aliens in a world we’re just visiting. We’re just passing through.

So why are we surprised when things don’t go our way? Is it the well-meaning teachers of the prosperity gospel? I’ve heard what they say. Those people claim that if you do what God says is right, you’ll have everything you want. Never mind the Bible never says that.

The Bible does say that if you obey God, you’ll be blessed. But being blessed has very little to do with getting what you want. So many times we don’t even know what we want or what we want is bad for us. So how would God be good if He allowed us to have something that would ultimately hurt us?

How many times has God provided what I needed? How many times has He showed up in my life at the pivotal moment? How many times has God let me down? I mean really let me down? I can’t think of once. I can’t think of one promise He’s made me that He hasn’t kept–to the letter.

And how do I repay Him? By whining when I don’t get my way? By grumbling when life isn’t fair? Hasn’t He proved Himself to me by now?

It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to fall back on God when we’re so disappointed. It’s hard to keep trusting when you feel betrayed or let down or like God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain. But when you feel that way, ask yourself if you really understood the bargain to begin with.

God never promised we wouldn’t have trouble, and He never promised that He’d give us whatever we wanted. He just promised that we’d never go without what we need, and we’d never face the struggles of life alone.

We’re going to have trouble. And we’re not always going to get our way. But God always knows what He’s doing. God always keeps His promises.

So just hold on. The world isn’t fair, but Jesus has overcome the world. That means He’s bigger than any trouble you’re facing right now. And if you can just hold on long enough, He’ll prove it to you.

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It never rains, it hails

I live in Kansas. Have I mentioned that? Because I do. But I don’t just live in Kansas. I live in a small, remote area of wheat fields and sheep farms that tends to attract the most extreme weather in the state. And Kansas is a land of extreme weather.

I have multiple friends who are trained weather spotters, and one of them calls my house the Bermuda triangle of weather. Generally speaking, if there’s bad weather going on in Kansas, the strangest weather will be right over my house.

Take Wednesday night for example. The whole state had storms, yes. But the big, glaring red spot with Ping-Pong ball size hail was where? You betcha. Centered right over my house. And yesterday morning I got up for work and looked at the house, and in the morning light it looked fine. My brand new vinyl siding had weathered the storm! Hooray!

Well, hold your horses. I didn’t check the south side of the house where there were a dozen holes in the siding–some the size of tennis balls. Brand new siding–totaled. Brand new window screens–totaled. Brand new gutters–dented and dinged.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. This same thing happened in 2007. We had a horrible storm, Broke windows, destroyed the siding, totaled the roof. So we got it fixed. And the week after–maybe even the day after–the last bit of work finished, another storm blew through and did twice as much damage.

And don’t think I’m complaining. This is life in Kansas. And we got off easy this time, honestly. None of the windows broke. The cars were all under cover. And all the trees that could have come down have already come down. If I wasn’t willing to handle this kind of life, I would have moved years ago.

But what struck me as I stood in the back yard, gawking at my Swiss- cheese-formerly-known-as-vinyl-siding is the timing. Oh, the timing of this storm is just amazing. Smack dab in some of the busiest months of my year. I’m running wild. My parents are running wild. And in the last few days, it feels like everything has just blown up.

What do you do in moments like that? How do you keep moving forward? How do you press on when it feels like every step you take is just the prelude to taking three steps backward?

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 1:6-7.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to 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.

Life here isn’t perfect, and it’s never going to be perfect. If we think it’s going to be, we’re just asking to be disappointed. And, let’s just face it, Christians, we have an enemy out there who doesn’t want to see us succeed for the cause of Christ.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should start jumping at shadows. I’ve met people who like blaming their difficult situations on Satan when it’s usually fairly obvious that their own bad choices have led them to where they are.

So don’t hesitate to examine your life. Check your heart. Check your attitude. See where you are with God. Before you start blaming all your life’s problems on Satan, make sure that you haven’t made decisions that have led to your current trouble. And if you find out that you have made mistakes, stop.

But, if you examine your life and you find that you have done the best you can, that you have held to what the Bible says, that you’ve put God first in every aspect of your life–and you’re still having crazy insane issues that don’t seem to stop? Well, then it’s a good chance that the Bad Guy is trying to slow you down.

And in that case? Don’t let him.

When you can step back and recognize that what you’re experiencing is simply our enemy picking on you, his petty schemes are easier to spot and they’re much easier to laugh at.

Yes. Laugh at.

And honestly that’s the best thing you can do. If he has to resort to throwing sticks and (hail)stones at us to upset us, he really must be desperate.

Don’t let him win. Don’t give in. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s overwhelming. But think of the big picture. Remember who’s already won this war. And when you put the whole thing into context, you aren’t in as much trouble as you feel like.  Because God is bigger than anything Satan can throw at you.

So remember that the next time it hails on you. Siding can be replaced. Houses can be repaired. Lives can be rebuilt. And, in the end, Satan has already lost because he can’t take the things that really matter away as long as they already belong to Christ.

Old red shed at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Following God doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days

What happens when you obey God? I think we all make the assumption at times that if we do what God tells us to do, God will do what we ask Him to do. But that’s not really how it works, is it?

I’d like to think that doing what God commands would protect me from trouble, and in many instances, that’s true. If we do what God says, we’ll avoid the paths that can lead to danger and negative circumstances, but obedience doesn’t mean we’ll never face challenges.

Old red shed at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Old red shed at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 34:19.

The righteous person faces many troubles,
    but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

Verses like this aren’t the kind that we like to read. We want to hear that righteous people never struggle, that righteous people never get sick, that righteous people never fall down. But that’s not the case.

Righteous people–or people who obey God’s Word–still live in a broken world, and bad things happen to good people in a broken world. That’s what makes it broken.

I’ve heard many Christians talking about how obeying God will protect them from trouble. Some Christian leaders in our culture preach messages that claim doing what God says prevents difficulty or challenge or struggle in our lives, but that’s not true. God doesn’t promise that we won’t have trouble in this life; He promises He won’t leave us when we do.

We are guaranteed to have trouble in this life. We don’t belong here. This world isn’t our home, and as Christ followers, the world will hate us. Plus, we have an enemy. Satan is constantly looking for ways to derail us. Put all of that together and you’ve got a recipe for conflict.

Christ followers will have trouble. Period. We’re going to run into difficult times, dark days, and challenging circumstances, but God has promised to come to the rescue. We don’t have to face those troubles alone. We don’t have to fight by ourselves. God will be right beside us every step of the way, offering His strength, His resources, and His insights into what’s really happening.

So when you run into trouble today, don’t be surprised. Don’t let it shake you. Don’t question whether God is really there. Realize that trouble is something everyone experiences, and God has promised that He’ll help us through it. So ask Him for help and wait for Him to show up. He will.

Incoming waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Walking in the storm with Jesus

It seems like 2013 has been an active storm season. People in Oklahoma have just been pounded, and while we in Kansas haven’t seen as much damage, we’ve certainly had our fair share of storms this year.

A storm chaser friend of mine tells me that I live in the Bermuda triangle of weather. And I’m really beginning to think that she’s right.

I was laughing last night as I was finishing up my packing because a pretty bad storm with lots of wind and rain and thunder just appeared over my house. It happened Monday night too, where there was just a little green on the radar and the moment the storm got to my house on the map, it blossomed into this terrifying looking swirl of reds and yellows.

And last night, the red and yellow just parked on top of me for a little while. Just in Reno county. Nowhere else.

And, yes, more branches are down (How is that possible? I have twigs instead of trees! Where are all these branches coming from?), but the basement stayed dry.

I thought it was interesting that this storm appeared out of nowhere last night because I had been thinking about what I was going to post this morning. I heard something on the radio yesterday that really encouraged me, and I thought I’d pass it along.

Incoming waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Incoming waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Matthew 14:24-27.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Everybody knows this story, just about. If you’ve been a Christ-follower for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard that Jesus walked on water and calmed storms. This is one of those iconic stories, and if you want to read the whole thing, you can find it in Matthew 14:22-33.

Usually everyone talks about Jesus walking on water. Or later in the story, Peter walks on water for a little while, and that has been something people talk about a lot too. But a comment I heard on the radio, made by Christian music singer Natalie Grant, has changed my perspective on this verse.

She pointed out that Jesus didn’t calm the storm from the shore. He didn’t calm the storm and then go out to them. No. He walked out to them in the storm, met them where they were, and then stayed in sight throughout the storm until He decided it was time for it to stop.

Have you ever thought of it that way? I hadn’t.

Everyone experiences storms in life, those difficult circumstances that weigh us down and frustrate us. Everyone goes through those times. And in the darkness of those moments or those seasons of life, it’s really tempting to think that Jesus isn’t close at hand. Because if He were close, there wouldn’t be a storm, right? Isn’t that our logic? If Jesus is around, everything will be fine?

Well, that’s true. But sometimes our definition of fine needs to be adjusted.

I truly believe that everyone is going through a storm in life, whether it’s work or family or whatever. We’re all surrounded by aspects of our life that we can’t control. We’re all being threatened with waves we can’t see over, with dark clouds that block the sunlight, with wind that makes it difficult to move, with the uncertainty of how long the storm will last. And it’s so easy to get so wrapped up in the storm that we forget to pay attention to Jesus. He’s standing right there. In the storm, in plain sight.

And, like in the story, He may even be calling you to get out of the boat and come join Him on the waves. I think it’s awesome that He didn’t calm the storm so Peter would feel more comfortable walking toward Him.

We may have to go deeper into the storm before He’ll choose to calm it down. We may have to go through a lot more trouble. But as long as we keep our eyes on Him, we won’t sink.

Don’t forget that He’s there. Don’t get so overwhelmed with the difficult things in your life that you think He isn’t right there with you. Remind yourself that He has walked out into the storms of your life to stand with you in your darkest moments, and when you can see Him, don’t take your eyes off Him.

Just think. Storms are powerful things, with a beauty that calm, peaceful days can’t quite capture. But we’re afraid of storms–and rightly so. But if we walk with Jesus, the storms can’t touch us. So don’t be afraid of them. Embrace them. Walk in them along with Jesus, and you’ll get to see the storms from a different perspective. Because if the storm can’t hurt you, then you just get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t be afraid of trouble

Do you ever feel like life is just too much for you? Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed with the task God has asked you to do? Or have events in your life become so heavy and difficult that you wonder if God is still listening?

If you haven’t and you’re a Christ follower, it’s just a matter of time. If the things in our lives didn’t overwhelm us, that would mean we’re not doing things for God. Living for God is always outside our reach alone; we need His help. And honestly, life is just too much to handle without Him.

Troubles come. That’s just life. But I’m not a good enough Christian to say I look forward to the trouble. Granted, a part of me welcomes it because trouble means (sometimes) that you’re on the right track. Trouble brings growth. Trouble brings eventual joy. And even the things we see as trouble often turn into blessings. So I always try not to judge trouble when it arrives and see it for what it can be.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

But when trouble after trouble after trouble comes pounding at the door, I get tired. Yes, each trouble is interspersed with great and joyful things, happy things, wonderful things, but it’s like the roller coaster of life never really ends and I can’t help but feel like the ride is just starting. For every exciting hill we crest and coast down at top speed, there’s another mountain to climb. And climbing up is always harder than coasting down.

I don’t do this very often, but Psalm 46 just encouraged me this morning. I have so many things going on, many good and the rest frustrating. It’s good for me to remember that God is always there, especially in trouble. I want to be thankful for trouble. I want to be thankful for the difficult things in life because they always help me in the end.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

If you’re going through trouble today, don’t be afraid of it. God hasn’t left you. He’s working behind the scenes to make sure events unfold the way that’s best for you.

He knows what He’s doing. It may feel like we’re trapped in the middle sometimes. It may feel like He’s dropped the ball. And it’s absolutely tempting to give up. But resist the urge to strike out on your own and trust Him.

And when life gets to be too much, just tell Him. Run to Him. Let Him remind you that He’s still there, that He hasn’t forgotten, that He hasn’t gone anywhere, and that He still has everything under control.