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!

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.

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.

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.

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Many times I wonder why God allows trouble to come into my life. Most of the time, that answer is impossible to know. It could be just the fact that this world is broken and bad, troubling things happen constantly. It could be that there’s something in my life that God doesn’t want and He’s allowing circumstances to reveal that truth to me. In either case, though, no matter where the trouble came from or why, there’s something I can learn from it.

I think the best example I can think of is my job situation for the last ten years. My first job was at my town library, and I loved it. And that carried on into college, where I worked at the Campus Library at Pensacola Christian College and (apparently) did well enough to merit a promotion to the Circulation Desk when I was halfway through my freshmen year (everyone else working at the desk was either a junior or a senior). After I came home and began attending Wichita State, I worked at the WSU Libraries, first as an assistant in the Dean’s Office and second (after I graduated) as a staff person at the Circulation Desk.

I enjoyed my work very much (and I simply adored the people I worked with), but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to write. And there were so many times I felt like I was helplessly spinning my wheels, doing nothing but going around in circles and never actually accomplishing anything. It was depressing and frustrating. And I was upset with myself because it felt like all my life I had worked to be able to get jobs that paid the bills but sapped all my energy from my writing.

Please don’t misunderstand me, though. I loved where I worked, and I loved the people where I worked even more, no matter if it were Haven, PCC or WSU. (There was an in-between time where I worked as a customer service rep for a tax accountant software company and calmed angry attorneys down via telephone while they cussed me out. That job I hated. But I met a really awesome lady there who I’m still friends with to this day!)

Then, God opened the door (wide open) for me to leave the world of libraries and move on to the job I have now. And, even though I struggle with learning how to deal with the amount of stress I have now, I love my job.

But I can tell you without any hesitation that if I had tried for this job when I was fresh out of college, I wouldn’t have gotten it. I didn’t have the people skills. I didn’t have the office skills. And, honestly, I didn’t have the writing skills. Even though my job(s) working at libraries didn’t utilize my writing skills, I worked on them on my own in the background. For five years, I worked jobs that had little to do with my degree, and then I got a job that uses all of it . . . but I couldn’t have gotten the job if I hadn’t had all the experience I’d gained at my other jobs.

Now . . . . that’s a very long story to use as an example of what I learned through that whole situation, but it’s a true story. At the moments where I felt discouraged and frustrated, I should have remembered that God uses every circumstance in our life to teach us something, to get us ready for what’s coming, to prepare us for the road that’s ahead. Through all that, I learned that God has used every occurence in my life for the last ten years to prepare me for the job I have right now. And I can only assume that the stress that I’m encountering in my job right now is training for whatever is next for me in God’s plan for my life.

I thought of all this when I read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 this morning.

 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

God knows what He’s doing. He never makes mistakes. He always keeps His promises. So we can trust Him. And when He tells us something is for our own good, we can believe that it really is, even if it feels like it’s not fair.

That’s comfort.

Comfort is knowing that even if a circumstance or situation looks impossible God is able to work everything out perfectly. Comfort is not worrying at all, whether it’s about things we can control or things we can’t. It means letting go of what troubles us and letting God put the pieces back together.

When everything looks like it’s falling apart, take comfort from God because He already knows how to fix what’s broken.

And then, when you realize that God really does know what’s going on, use what you learned. Don’t just sit on truth like it’s something nobody needs to hear. Whatever God taught you through the experiences He allowed to take place in your life is something that everyone needs to know. That’s the other thing that I’ve learned. God teaches us lessons through life that apply to everyone we know.

I can’t tell you how many times the story of my “God-job” has encouraged other people. It makes God’s hand in my life very clear, and that’s something that everyone needs to know. And I can’t tell you how many times I have been encouraged about how God took care of someone I love, and even if their circumstances are completely different than mine, God still provided for them the same way He’s provided for me.

We live in a troubled world. Our world is broken, shattered to pieces by our own hands. Our relationships are wrecked. Our governments are hanging by a thread. Unemployment is higher than the sky. And people are sad, discouraged, and lonely.

Hey, Christians! Take comfort from God. He wants to comfort us. He doesn’t want us to worry. He doesn’t want us to be afraid. He’s got us covered. He’s going to work everything out, and when He’s done, His solution will exceed our expectations. So take comfort from that . . . . and share the love. Let the rest of the world know how God comforted you in your time of need. And maybe when the world sees that you really do need God and that He’s never let you down, they’ll understand that they need Him too.