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Embrace the Trial – Part 6

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part two we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. In part three and part four, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” In part five we sought to understand the struggle of the ongoing trial. Here in part 6 we come to the topic of contentment in the trial.

Understanding Contentment – “Embracing God’s Sufficiency

Recently, I was in the process of preparing a Sunday morning message when I found myself struggling with being content.

In the midst of my current trial, as I battle with a number of health concerns, my three-year old accidently poked me in the eye and scratched my cornea. I found this painful and discouraging, but I also found myself on the wrong end of discontentment. This incident coincided with a busy week with a tight schedule and no room for distractions, let alone poor eyesight and additional visits to doctors and waiting rooms.

Looking back on the timing of things I see the wisdom of God. In my eyes this was absolutely the worst timing possible, but in God’s infinite and perfect wisdom He knew I would gain the most from having this personal object lesson to pave the way for change. I also see God’s humor as it made me the object lesson for the message I was preparing. A few weeks prior to this, the Lord had laid on my heart His will for our church to study Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. In the fourth chapter of he writes,

“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”—Philippians 4:11b

I contemplated on the setting where these words were written and my heart was struck with rebuke. I know that the trial the Apostle Paul endured was far greater than my own, yet saw how he surrendered to God’s way and submitted to God’s wisdom and understanding. How did he do this? How could he write these words with such honesty without even a hint of underlying sarcasm or bitterness? Instead there is obvious peace and joy.

As I meditated upon this passage, a simple outline rose to the surface which explains the Paul’s contentment. It begins with the premise that I can be content in any circumstance no matter what (v. 11). It is then followed by two simple yet profound promises which speak of God’s sufficiency regarding His strength (v. 13) and His supply (v. 19). The reality of profoundly obvious truths in Scripture is that unfortunately they are often practically obscure in our lives. Often what appears so simple and clear on the pages of God’s Word and even in our minds remains hidden in our lives.

This was clearly the case, as I meditated upon this passage and was struck by how practically obscure these truths were, right at that moment in my life. With this realization I bowed my head in repentance. Then knowing God’s forgiveness, I smiled seeing God’s perfect timing, bringing me into a head-on collision with the details of my life and these truths that were so absolutely necessary to confront them and bring my heart to rest. The encouragement came as these truths began the twelve-inch journey from my head to my heart where they found a resting place and where my heart found the much-needed contentment even though the circumstances had yet to change.

Paul begins with a premise that on the outset is bold and daring. He says, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” It is a statement that, at first, comes across as “too good to be true” or may be only something that is for the “elite Christians” like Paul. But after further consideration and drawing in the promises that follow I see that this premise statement is meant for me—it is meant to be one of the statements of my life. It is meant for each of us “ordinary Christians.” God desires that my heart would rest content “in whatsoever state I am.”

Before we consider the promise, keep in mind that Paul’s statement isn’t a lesson that just came naturally to him but was one that he “learned” by experience. It was through trial after trial as he “learned” to rest in the stabilizing truths of God that he was able to, with a clear conscience and genuineness of heart, speak these words that, most often, seem to defy reality.

Now consider the promises, as pillars of truth, upon which the house of contentment is built. The foundation of these pillars is the sufficiency of God. Paul writes, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). The key to contentment begins first with a proper understanding of our inadequacy. Until we find ourselves to be lacking in our own ability to sufficiently deal with every detail of life we will never look outside ourselves and look to God. It is through the trials of life that God brings us to the end of ourselves—to the end of the façade of our own sufficiency and sovereignty as we turn to Him in dependent trust finding Him to be sovereign over all things and sufficient for our every need.

The first promise of God’s sufficiency from Paul deals with God’s powerlearning to rest in the strength of God.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”—v. 13

This verse gives us both the strength and the source of contentment, which is the Power that comes from within—the indwelling Holy Spirit Who enables the believer to do all that the Lord calls upon him to do and go through. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). It is God working in us giving us the desire to do His “good pleasure” but also empowering us as well. “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). This is the grace of God at work in our lives as we humble ourselves before Him, for “God giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

Learning to rest in this truth of the sufficiency of God’s strength for every situation of life is vital to our contentment in life. When the temptation to give in to sin is seemingly greater than your strength to fight, run to Christ and remember that He has promised that His strength will be sufficient. Remember the promise that “I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Whatever state you find yourself in, trust Him to be sufficient to carry you through. “Faithful is He that calleth you who will also do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

The truth is that I can be content in every circumstance because God’s strength is more than enough. His strength is sufficient for me to stand fast against the temptation of discontentment and trust His providence to be right and best.

The second promise of God’s sufficiency from Paul deals with God’s provisionlearning to rest in the supply of God.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”—v. 19

In this verse we see the supply of contentment. I find it interesting to consider our American definition of the word, “need” as defined by how we use it. Quite often we use the word “need” where we should be using the word “want” instead. God has not promised to supply our wants but our genuine needs or those things that He defines as necessary. Once He stops providing it, it is no longer necessary.

It is important to keep in mind that our needs come in positive and negative qualities. The positive side of our needs are those things that God provides that we are lacking such as financial or health needs. On the negative side we see those things that are painful which God uses to teach us wonderful truths and help us deal with specific sin.

The truth is that I can be content in every circumstance because God’s supply is more than enough. His supply is sufficient to help me rest in His providence and stand fast against the temptation to doubt that I have what I need or that God will fail to provide it in His perfect time.

In summary: Biblical contentment becomes a reality in the believer’s life when we become humbly dependent upon the Lord for both His strength, to endure our trials, and His supply for our every need. Biblical contentment is learning to thank God for our troubles while we are still in them.

 “So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 4

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing more of ‘Who’ God is”

It is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself.

This quote comes from her book, “These Strange Ashes,” where Elisabeth Elliot writes,

Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He had cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now … the reward of my obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks into the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo …. It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself. This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange gives Himself to me.”

As I read these words, I am struck by her raw transparency as she struggles to reconcile Who God is with the reality of the pain of her suffering. God giving Himself to us in the trial speaks of His attitude toward His children, as He reveals more of Who He is. The truths of God bring great comfort in the trial, when we learn to embrace Who He is.

How will my attitude toward my trial change when I embrace the truth that God gives Himself? What changes in my mind when I embrace this truth? How will my response to my trial change when my focus shifts from off my pain to the Person in control of the process?

The shifting of our perspective from off the painful process to the Person Who is providentially seeking to bring about His loving purpose results in worship. In part 3, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” We considered Paul and his response to God’s negative answer to his prayer. His response is one of surrender as he embraces the trial in worship. The reason? He knew and trusted his loving, heavenly Father.

The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too
.”

The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He tenderly taught His disciples, seeking to prepare them for His departure, which was their greatest trial up to this point in their lives. Over and over He teaches them life-changing, stabilizing truths about His Father.

In John 15 we see a comforting word picture of the purging process. It illustrates for us both the purpose and the process of trials, but it also shows us the Person orchestrating the process for His good purpose. Take a few moments and read through these verses noting the Father and Son, as I have highlighted them to draw our attention.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:1-5

Amongst the many stabilizing truths in the passage, two great truths stand out, bringing great encouragement. In this passage Christ speaks of the loving relationships between the Husbandman and the Vine and branches.

The first, in illustration form, is that God is a vinedresser lovingly pruning His vine branches. What I find so encouraging about this word picture is the attitude of God the Father, the husbandman, going about pruning His branches. Picture in your mind a vinedresser coming alongside each vine with his pruning shears as he gets in close to the vine. He is very deliberate and methodical about where he cuts. He desires to maximize the fruit-bearing potential and quality of each branch so he cuts off only what is necessary—he applies only necessary pain to the branch. In this we see the careful attention the Husbandman gives as He wraps His loving arms around the Vine and prunes each branch—like a loving father embracing his child.

The second great truth is Christ’s desire for union and communion with His branches. Through this purging process Christ, the vine, is ever present and calls for us to “abide in Him,” ever seeking to draw us into closer, more intimate fellowship of dependency. From these words we see God’s attitude of love pouring forth like an unending fountain.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s love: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the heart of our God in every action He takes—He is the unchanging, loving God.

In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks of the 70 years of judgment, in Babylon, that the nation of Israel will suffer through. He then reassures and reminds them of Who He is. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected [desired] end” (Jeremiah 29:11). He is saying, “Remember Who I am! I Love you, and desire peace for you and not evil. I desire a good and purposeful end to this process. Trust Me, I love You!”

A few chapters later Jeremiah writes, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee [He lovingly encourages His people into a closer relationship with Him]’” (Jeremiah 31:3). God reminds His servant that His painful actions toward His people are rooted in a love that will never end. It is with this love that He draws His people closer to Himself through the trials of life.

A second word picture has been helpful for me as I consider God’s praiseworthy purpose. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

I find it helpful to keep in mind that God is a master sculptor skillfully sculpting His masterpiece. A.W. Tozer wrote,

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A marble sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.”

This illustration pictures for us the process that is necessary to fulfill God’s praiseworthy purpose. It is a painful process but never forget that it is always with purpose from the hand of a loving God. Remember, “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints” (Warren Wiersbe). It is always for a good purpose.

Just as a master sculptor takes the necessary time to complete his masterpiece, so too, God the greatest, all-wise Master Sculptor takes only the necessary time, and necessary cuts to bring His masterpiece to completion. Remember the end goal for this painful process, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

Let’s keep in mind that God’s masterpiece will only be fully completed once we see our Savior face to face, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Until that time, God is seeking to sculpt us into the image of His Son, day by day, trial by trial.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 3

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.

In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”

The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that ye, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may abound to EVERY good work” (emphasis added).

But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r
.”

Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.

I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.

The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.

Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.

“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.

This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10).  He counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord (v. 8). This is how he could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake: (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10b).

He had learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.

As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

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Embrace the Trial – Part 2

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”.

Here in part two we consider the “why” question.

Understanding the “WHY” Question – “Embracing ‘Why’ I Am Going Through This”

God never wastes the sufferings of His saints.”—Warren Wiersbe

Is this statement true? Or could there be times when we go through unnecessary suffering? Is it possible that God could overdue my pain and suffering? Are there times when God steps back and just allows our times of suffering to go too far or for too long? How would you answer these questions? As read each question, do you feel a growing sense of uneasiness asking, “Could God actual fail at something or do something wrong?” Maybe these questions echo those you have already heard yourself asking.

The battlefield of the mind is filled with pathways of thought upon which we have repeatedly walked. These are often debilitating thoughts, tempting us to doubt God’s love and goodness promoting defeat instead of leading us to victory. Far too often, in trials, we find ourselves asking the unproductive question “Why?” instead of the questions that lead us upward to victory.

“Why me?” The question often asked, when confronted with a trial.
But is this the right one to be asked, facing the upward mile?

When we face a trial, the biggest question we struggle with is “why?” more specifically, “Why is this happening to me?” As I sought to come to grips with embracing this trial, I am seeing the necessity to look beyond this question of “why me?”. My desire is to encourage us to learn how to get beyond this question by considering its Biblical answer and in turn asking the better question of “Who is God?”.

I genuinely believe that when we learn to look at our trials in the light of Who God is and what His purpose for our trials is, we will then embrace our trials, understanding that they are for our best and for His glory. When we see our trial from God’s perspective we will see the value of the trial and in turn gain from it God’s best for us.

I am confident that “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints,” but what I am also sure of is that we can often waste our times of suffering, in spite of God’s best intentions. Often when confronted with a time of difficulty, whether financial, relational, physical or any other kind of trial, we can become angry and in turn bitter. Often, we rebel against the trial, fighting it at every turn. Instead of allowing God to draw us closer to Himself, we become distant to God and others.

Considering the trial before me, I know I need to be led by God in order to not “waste this suffering.” But how? What is necessary to be a faithful steward of this trial? What is necessary to gain from this trial the truths that God desires to show me and the lessons He desires to teach me?

The first step is understanding what’s wrong with asking the question, “why”? What’s wrong with genuinely desiring to understand the reason why something difficult is happening to me? I believe that in and of itself this question can be innocent, yet it really depends upon the heart and mind behind the question.

The reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s often asked with the wrong perspective. Unfortunately, all too often when this question is asked, it is with a heart that is really asking, “Why me”? When asked this way, we are implying that we don’t deserve this trial based upon any number of reasons that all make sense to us at the time. We may be tempted to say, “I haven’t done anything to deserve this!” The question, “why me” truly is the natural first question but asked with the wrong perspective and attitude. With this statement, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus in on my self instead of on my God.

Another reason that this question is unproductive is because it’s asked with the wrong theology. When our trials are due to punishment or chastisement, in our heart of hearts the answer seems more understandable. It is easier to see that God is dealing with a specific sin. But when the trial seems beyond our understanding, or when it continues on with no end in sight, in weariness we are tempted to doubt the wisdom of God in allowing this to take place. If we are not careful, we can allow the pain of the Refiner’s fire to redefine our theology about the Refiner Himself. We therefore question who God is by questioning His love for us because it doesn’t feel like He loves me. There are other things that we question, but usually we start with His love. This is where we begin to waste the suffering. It is important to listen to what God is saying to us.

Embrace the trial,” God says to me, “and fight not My design.
My way seems hard, the road unsure, when questioning the line.”

God responds by encouraging us to surrender. He wants us to stop focusing on the painful process and instead look to His praiseworthy purpose.

The next step is understanding the Biblical answer to the “why” question? Biblically, the why question has a simple answer which gives our times of suffering great purpose. Consider what Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son. God’s purpose for our suffering is the development of Christlikeness.

Why would He desire this purpose, one might ask? The answer comes from Revelation 4:11, which reads, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were created for God’s pleasure—that we should be to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12). The way that we can accomplish this purpose is by submitting to God’s process—His process of developing the likeness of Christ in us, through the trials we face, in order to faithfully display the likeness of Christ, to others we face.

Sometimes this answer isn’t enough for us. Sometimes we still want to know “why me?” As the struggles of the trial continues, we plead with God for answers. We often plead with God, “I can’t do this! This is too much for me! Why does this have to be so hard?” Our conversation, with Him, may go something like this…

“My fight is not with You, my God, but why my path so hard?
My Lord, is this the best for me, Your frail and weary child?”

Embrace the trial,” my Lord responds, “Surrender to My way.
Truly it’s for your best, you’ll see, My blessings’ on its way.”

“But Lord, this path is quite unclear and only if I knew,
The length of time to see it through I’d surrender all to You!”

Embrace the trial, my dear child, I want what’s best for you.
I love you more than you can know just trust Me, this is true!”

“But why, O Lord, is this so hard for me to yield to You?
If only but a glimpse of view to bear this burden through.”

And then with loving, gentle voice, the pain He cuts right through,
“My Son will come alive in you, when yieldings’ what you do.”

It is in these times that we must yield our will to the will of God and trust Him. I find that a right perspective, based on right theology, is vital to overcoming this ongoing struggle against embracing the trial.

So, what’s the right perspective?

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”—1 Peter 1:7

The right perspective comes from a proper understanding of Who God is—He is the Divine Refiner skillfully purifying His children like gold. As I study through God’s Word I am amazed at the word pictures that are used to help us learn important truths. Peter speaks of a refiner to illustrate the process of the “trial of our faith.” The refiner heats the gold with fire to reveal the impurities, speaking of the areas of our lives that need to be changed. He then removes those impurities, purifying the gold. The purer the gold, the more reflective it becomes. God, as the Master Refiner, desires to see His own reflection as He looks into the lives of His children being purified in the furnace of suffering. His praiseworthy purpose is to see the likeness of His Son clearly displayed as His children respond in obedience to this painful process.

“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”

“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”

Next time we will seek to begin to look at the “Who” question, embracing “Who” God is to help us as we embrace this “why” question.

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How Long, O LORD?

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever?” Have you ever asked this question? Most of us have said these words in one form or another given the various challenges we may find ourselves in.

So, where do you find yourself today? In what challenging situation of life are you confronted with as you set down to read these words? Do you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand with the struggles of life continuing to go on and on and on and on…? Is hopelessness and despair knocking at your door so frequently that you are on the verge of giving up in defeat? Maybe you have already quit—maybe you have resigned yourself to the thought that this is your lot in life that will never change. I know…I’m often there as well. As of late, my health has been a trial for me that is challenging me in areas that I didn’t think I needed help in. It has been weighing upon me in a way that I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t care to admit. But here I am—coming to grips with my weaknesses and frailties. I’m coming to grip with the reality that I am a man often in need of hope and encouragement.

If you are like me, something is happening where you feel beaten down with the cares of your life? It could be your health or mounting bills due to lack of finances. It could be family struggles—marital difficulties and challenges with your children. Or maybe other relationships are suffering and adding another set of stressors to your already stress-filled life.

Whatever it is, the answer is near. Wherever you find yourself today, know that there is comfort. Although I am in the midst of this battle I have found comfort in the words of my Savior when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

The word “labour” speaks of one who is beaten down, fatigued and worn out. One who is “heavy laden” speaks of one who is overburdened with the cares and struggles of this life being “stressed out.” These are the ones to whom Christ is speaking. Notice the promise that He gives, …and I will give you rest. …and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” So let’s go to Him and see His remedy for our struggles—the “rest” for our weary souls. Let’s approach God’s Word with an openness to see the stabilizing truths of His Word and see where they speak to the pain of life—where they speak to life’s difficulties that beat us up, burden us down and bring us to a place where we question everything we thought was true.

Keep in mind that there is ALWAYS help from God’s Word!

It is always fascinating to me, as I approach God’s Word, where I find myself in a passage that is timely and filled with the healing balm of God’s stabilizing truths. I am blessed to know a God who loves me with an unending love; a love that is never distant or faint; a love that is satisfying and real; a love that is genuine and always what I need. I may not always feel these truths about His love, but as I step back and think—as I move from feeling to thinking—I can always find God’s love to be more than enough…ALWAYS!!

Psalm 13 is medicine for the despairing soul—the soul that is on the verge of giving up; the soul that is facing defeat—at the point of hopelessness, wondering, “Is it really worth trying; is it really worth the effort to take the next step?”

In this psalm, David says what I have been thinking, feeling, battling. He articulates the emotional struggle of a trial that seem like it will never end; a trial that often in my eyes has gone on long enough; a trial that at times can seem to be without purpose. BUT has it gone on long enough? It still continues! Is it without purpose? Although it may feel like it, I realize that there is always purpose especially as I look back and see that God is growing me through this. The challenge that I am confronted with is my need to think based upon what God says instead of how I feel.

David’s Plea—Consider David’s questions in the form of a plea to God.

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 1-2)

He is struggling with feeling alone as if God is distant, having forgotten about him. He starts out by pleading to the Lord as he pours out his heart.  His feelings seem to be the driving force as he cries out to the Lord, “Where are you?” and “When will this end?”

In verse 2 David speaks of taking counsel in [his] soul, having sorrow in [his] heart daily. Literally he is speaking about his thoughts that are a source of constant oppression. It is a daily struggle with no intermission—no reprieve as this trial continues without any hope of conclusion. This is a state of hopelessness which stems from both internal and external oppression. The internal oppression is rooted in how he thinks based upon how he feels. The external oppression comes in the form of persecution from his enemies.  For us the external oppression can be persecution, but more often it is something physical, financial or even social.

Often the saint comes to the point of despair as he begins to lose hope. His feelings betray him as he feels that the Lord has left him.  As the trial continues with no end in sight his soul wearies and his faith can seemingly begin to wane.

David’s Prayer—Next, in verses 3 and 4 we see David’s prayer to God.

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (v. 3-4)

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts are being driven by emotion and feeling. Now in this prayer we can see David’s perspective changing. As a humble man, he is acknowledging his own need—his weakness. In these words, he cries out to the Lord, praying, “consider and hear me!”  He is saying, “Pay attention to me and respond to my prayer.” But notice what he asks next. He says, Lord, lighten my eyes.” With this request he seems to be saying, “Lord, shed light upon this next step upon this path that You have set before me.”  He is asking for the Lord to help him see with spiritual eyes what God is purposing through this trial. Notice that He doesn’t ask God to take away the pain and suffering but instead he prays for spiritual sight in the suffering. His prayer is for help to look at his own situation from God’s perspective.

In verse 4 his prayer continues with purpose. He speaks to God about what he fears will happen if God does not help him. He says, Lest mine enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him;’ and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. His concern is his testimony. If he succumbs to defeat—if he gives up in hopeless despair—his Godly testimony will be marred. His Godly influence will cease. I believe that his concern is that God will not be glorified through him.

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts driven by his feelings. Starting in verse 3 we see a change in perspective. His thoughts begin to be guided by truth. With each additional verse his mind becomes more and more engaged in God’s stabilizing truths.

David’s Praise—In the final two verses we see David’s praise.

“But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” (v. 5-6)

In these last two verses we see three key points of David’s praise. David turns his mindset to truth.  He fixes his mind upon God through the truth of His Word and the peace of God begins to transcend his circumstances, just as God’s Word says.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength [the rock of ages]:” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

He goes from feeling to faith—from how his heart feels to what his heart knows.  He looks back to a point of trustI have trusted in Thy mercy. David knew his God. He knew that He was a God of mercy and that He was the source of his salvation. In the beginning of this Psalm David is feeling as if God is not there; as if God has left. Now his mind rests upon the truth of God instead of his feelings being dictated by his circumstances. He begins to think upon the stabilizing truths of God which dictate his praise to God in his time of suffering.

He then looks forward to a promise of truthMy heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He looks forward with the eye of faith—with anticipation that God will rescue him. His mindset has changed from a perspective of hopelessness to one of patient hope and confidence. In another psalm David writes, “I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2). Notice in these words of triumph how David describes his great God. With each description he makes it personal; He is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my buckler, my salvation, and my high tower.” These are stabilizing truths to David as he focuses on each one as God’s benevolence toward him. This is who God was to David.

As a result of his meditating upon the sufficiency of his great God, notice his commitment to praise. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” (Psalm 18:3).

Finally he looks beyond to his praise of triumphI will sing unto the LORD.” As David relies upon what he knows to be true about God, the result is worship.  Through the trial, that David had gone through, he felt as if God was distant, but his knowledge of God brings him to see the reality that God cannot be any closer for HE is intimately close to David and through this trial David sees that HE is ever closer.

In closing, consider David’s words in Psalm 40. He says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies” (Psalm 40:1-4).

Throughout Psalm 13 we have seen David move from the pit of “miry clay” to the “Rock” of truth. His mind finds rest in the stabilizing truths of God. In tragedy he triumphs, not because his circumstances have changed but because his mindset has changed. His feelings have been replaced with facts and his trembling has been replaced with truth. Herein lies the victory.

Although the storm still rages all around him, the storm has ceased within him. Through a right perspective he has found the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Though his storm still rages his heart is resting—resting upon the stabilizing truths of God—resting in His precious promises.

Whatever storm you find yourself in, always know that God is there with you. When you take your eyes off the storm you will see your loving Savior walking with you and often carrying you. Trust Him for He is the Master of the storm. He is the God [who] is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Let us learn to be still, and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10)—the Almighty God.

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The Cradle and The Cross

“The Cradle and The Cross” — What do these mean to you? The CRADLE is a picture of new life and the CROSS is a picture of death. As we consider the cradle and the cross we see the true reason for this Christmas season—it is all about CHRIST.

The angel, speaking to Joseph says,  And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

One of my favorite Christmas hymns was written by Ron Hamilton called “Born to Die[1].” Consider the words of the chorus:

Born to die upon Calvary, Jesus suffered my sin to forgive; 
Born to die upon Calvary, He was wounded that I might live.”

In these words we see the cradle and the cross.  As Jesus was born the cross cast its shadow over the cradle. This was the purpose for which Christ was born—He was born to die.

This sounds quite depressing if the story ended here. The great reality is that Christ’s death was not the stories’ end but a pivotal moment within the narrative of Christ’s provision for our salvation. The cross is EMPTY and so is the tomb as it could not hold Him. Christ has conquered death and has risen from the grave, just as He said He would (Matthew 16:21; 26:31-32).

The purpose for which Christ came to this earth was to die, to pay the penalty for our sin—which He did. BUT then He rose again the third day, victorious over death leaving the tomb EMPTY as evidence of a risen, living Savior.

Don’t overlook the journey from the cradle to the cross. Stop and look upon the EMPTY cross and see all the suffering Christ bore on your behalf. Then keep going from that tree to the tomb. Again, stop and look inside and see Him there no more and rejoice for He lives! But there is more…continue on from the grave to the glorious mount as He ascended, returning to the Father.

From the cradle to the cross we see how Christ lived as a perfect Example and He died as a perfect Sacrifice. In that He triumphs over the tomb we see that He lives as a conquering King and He saves as a sufficient SAVIOR.

Remember that there is a CHRIST in CHRISTmas for a reason. HE is the REASON for this season. Celebrate HIM as the greatest gift ever given. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Because of Christ’s death on the CROSS we can enjoy the CRADLE of a new life in Christ—a life with Christ that never ends—a life with Him here on this earth and in heaven for eternity.

Do you have a relationship with Christ? Have you received this greatest gift that is eternal life? Consider Christ’s words to a religious man searching for answers about life. Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) The Bible says elsewhere, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Have you responded to Christ when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [peace]” (Matthew 11:28). Christ’s call requires a response. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) But as many as received Him [JESUS], to them gave He power to become the sons of Godeven to them that believe on His name: (John 1:12)

If you haven’t placed your faith and trust in CHRIST alone for salvation won’t you consider doing that today? This Christmas enjoy the greatest gift ever given—His name is JESUS. He will never fail you for in Him alone is contentment, peace, joy, and love that truly transcends all understanding—in Him alone is true life that never ends. Consider reading “How Do I Get to Heaven” for additional insight.

Join with me this Christmas season and make JESUS the center—allow CHRIST to be at the center of your CHRISTmas.

[1] Copyright 1980 by Majesty Music, Inc.

The God Who Knows Me and Still Loves Me

How much do others know about you? People tend to be guarded, to varying degrees, about what they share with others as we all have those areas in our lives that we don’t want others to know about. Although I find it interesting how much some people will publicize about themselves whether it is on social media or general conversation.

Have you ever stopped to think of how much God knows about you? Does the reality that He knows everything about you, even all of your shortcomings lead you to the conclusion that “He must NOT love me because of them?”

The challenge for each of us is that we often depend upon how we feel and in turn allow our feelings to determine our sense of reality. If we are not careful, we can allow our circumstances to define who God is and in turn shrink Him down to a size that is too small for our problems. What good is a small God?

Keep in mind that what you know and rely on to be true about the Lord will transform your life! The Precious Truth that we need to consider is that God knows EVERYTHING there is to know about each of us and yet He still loves us!

If others knew you to the degree that God knows you, how would your relationship with them change?  If you knew your best friend to the degree that God knows you would you continue in that friendship? Sometimes the more we get to know someone the more we wish we didn’t know them.

Consider David’s words here in Psalm 139:1-6. “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”

To what extent did David realize that God knew him? The first thing that jumps out at me is that David was in awe of the fact that God even knew him. Consider what he says in Psalm 8. “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful [think about] of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest [to pay special attention] him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) Picture David the shepherd lying on his back looking up at the night’s starlit sky speaking to God saying, “Lord, As I consider the great expanse of the universe that You made, how do You even know that I am here?” David was moved in worship that his infinite God took notice of his finite life. In the great expanse of God’s creation, the fact that He is intimately aware of each of our lives speaks of His greatness that is so far beyond my comprehension.

In Psalm 139, as I have pondered the reality that God knows everything there is to know about me, I am amazed to think that He still loves me.  How do I draw this conclusion? Well first consider what God knows about each of us.  David tells us in verses 1-4, “O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether.”

David acknowledges God’s full & complete knowledge of him. There is nothing hidden from God.  He knows all the secrets that only we know about ourselves.  He knows all our thoughts, desires, intentions, and motives. He knows the hypocrisy and lies that we may live with thinking we are fooling everyone into believing we are someone that we truly are not. In verse 2 we read, “You understand my thought afar off.” God even knows the thoughts that we have yet to think.  He knows more about us than even we know about ourselves. These are the actions of a God who loves us.

With all of this knowledge that God has about us, IS it a wonder to you that HE still loves you?  It is to me!  He knows all the times that I have failed Him and all the times that I will fail Him yet that does not deter His love for me.

The Precious Truth to consider here is that God’s love is not dependent upon who I am or what I do but upon WHO HE IS! God’s love does not change.

Next, consider what David concludes that God has done for him while possessing this knowledge. “Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5) With this knowledge God has not run from us but has drawn near to us. He knows that we need Him—we need His grace and mercy; we need His love and compassion; we need His wisdom and protection; we need His presence—we need HIM. God knows our needs and in turn through His grace and mercy has made provision for those needs.

Consider what He has done for us. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

God acted upon this knowledge and sent His only Son to make provision for our ultimate need—our need of salvation.  Through faith in His Son, Jesus, we can be united to God in a personal relationship. Through faith alone in Christ alone my heart was changed—my sins were forgiven—my guilt was removed and I came to understand the loving relationship that my heavenly Father has always desired for me to have with Him. Consider reading “How Do I Get to Heaven” for additional insight on how you can enjoy a personal relationship with God.

As David ponders this truth he erupts in such uncontainable joy and worship as he says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:6) This knowledge was outside of his realm of comprehension.  It brought David to his knees in humility and awe as he worshipped his all-knowing Savior.

Get to know the God of the Bible. Read God’s Word and then take God at His Word. He means what He says and He says what He means! Our understanding of the knowledge of God should bring us to our knees in worship of Him.  It should humble us and in turn we too should be in awe of Him.

As you consider what God knows about you also realize that He continues to stay with you. When others choose to distance themselves the more they learn of you, consider how the Lord draws near, fully knowing who we are. David continues in the following verses saying, “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

Our intimate knowledge of God will shape our response to the trials of life. In spite of all our shortcomings God promises, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed [or disheartened as you consider your circumstances]; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Is this “knowledge too wonderful for you?” Does it move you to worship your God as it fills your heart with joy? Let us seek to be intentional about remembering who our God is.  Jeremiah writes, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” (Lamentations 3:21) “This is what I intentionally remember about my God, therefore I have patient confidence.” The truths of God will stabilize you as you meditate upon them.

Quiet Peace in the Storms of Life

All too often you may find yourself in the noisy pits of life—maybe you are there right now. The stresses of life that seem overwhelming; the obstacles that seem insurmountable; the painful moments of heartache; the unknowns; the “what if” thoughts; the thoughts of “How am I going to make it through?!”; each of these can flood our minds with noise—they can be deafening, debilitating, and defeating.

So what do you do? How do you cope? How do you get through? HOW DO YOU QUIET YOUR NOISY SOUL? How do you find peace IN these noisy pits during these storms of life? IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE—CAN YOU HAVE QUIETNESS IN YOUR SOUL and actually be able to have peace even though the storms of life rage on?

The answer is YES! YES!! Yes a thousand times over!! You can and by God’s grace you will.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour [weary] and are heavy laden [beaten down], and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek [gentle] and lowly [humble] in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

The key to quietness in your soul is found in coming to Christ.

Over these past few weeks, God has given me the privilege of repeated opportunities to counsel those who are going through these storms of life while finding themselves stuck in a “noisy pit.” In each of these times, the Lord has brought me to Psalm 40 peeling back a new layer of truth, shedding further light upon its stabilizing truths.

In Psalm 40:1-3 David writes, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.”

 Consider his trial: David is obviously in a significant trial of life. It is a trial that causes him to “cry” out to the Lord in desperation. It is a trial that keeps on going and requires “patience” as he learns to “wait patiently” for the Lord.  It is a trial that has brought into his mind noise—thoughts of noisy unrest.  It is a trial that has brought instability—standing in the “miry clay.” It is a trial in which his song is an “old song” which is depressing and often filled with complaint possibly feeling undeserving of this difficulty.

The phrase “horrible pit” literally means a “pit of noise.” In these trials we often succumb to noise in our souls as we strain to cope with the trying circumstances. This noise refers to how we are thinking. Naturally we can be prone to think anxious thoughts during these times. We dig a rut that becomes deeper and deeper the more we think this way. This truly is an “horrible pit” that God wants to bring us out of.

Metaphorically, the “miry clay” calls attention to our unstable footing—being unsure of what is happening, how we will get through this, all while asking “Why me?!” This only adds to the anxiety—the noise—as we contemplate the unknowns and the “what ifs.”

Consider his confidence: While still in the storm of his life, we see David’s confidence come to the forefront. We see that his attitude is “patient” waiting, knowing that God has heard his prayer and his confidence that HE will do something about it.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined [leaned in close to listen] unto me, and heard [listened intently to] my cry.” ( Psalm 40:1)

Knowing that God hears our prayer should bring great confidence as we consider who God is and what He does. Often we don’t even pray because we don’t see the benefit. But in times like these if we do pray, lacking this confidence, we can find ourselves in a hopeless prayer just going through the motions. Prayer is a vital lifeline especially in the storms of life.  Knowing that God hears our prayer as we pray according to His Word brings peace. Consider Paul’s words,

“Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer [worship] and supplication [attitude of need / humility] with thanksgiving [attitude of gratitude] let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Biblical prayer is praying with the right attitude. It is coming before the God of the universe in worship with a humble heart of dependence and thankfulness laying our “requests”—our burdens before Him. If we want God to listen we must NOT come to Him demanding but worshiping—humbly making “requests.

Paul goes on to speak of the promised peace of God

“And the peace of God, which [sur]passeth [transcends] all understanding, shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

This “peace of God” transcends our understanding—it is the kind of peace someone has that seems impossible at that moment. This is the peace that God promises to us when we pray Biblically.

Consider his peace: David, still in this storm of life speaks of this peace and stability that God gives him.

He [the LORD] brought me up also out of an horrible pit [a pit of noise], out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psalm 40:2)

David is brought out of the “pit of noise” to having peace on the “rock.” He is lifted out of the “pit of noise” as has victory over his noisy thinking. The rut of thought he has dug begins to be filled in with the truth of God. The “rock” is truth—it is the Word of God, manifested in the man, Christ Jesus.  David has fixed His mind upon the Lord, INTENTIONALLY thinking upon what he knows to be true about HIM. He is INTENTIONALLY thinking upon the stabilizing truths of God and as a result the noise in his soul quiets into peaceful rest. Consider this promise from the prophet Isaiah,

Thou [God] wilt keep him in perfect [constant] peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth [commits himself and is confident] in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

God’s promise to the person who fixes their mind—diligently, intentionally thinks—upon Him will enjoy the “perfect peace” of God. Intentionally thinking on His unending love and almighty power, His grace and mercy, His forgiveness and compassion, and all the wonderful truths of God found in His Word brings us confidence.

Keep in mind that NEGATIVE, ANXIOUS thinking leads to NOISY, UNSTABLE living while GODLY thinking leads to PEACEFUL, STABLE living.

Consider his song: The old song of heartache and trouble of trial and tribulation is filled with sadness and complaint. This is figurative language of our words and conversations as we seek to cope with our struggles. David says,

“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:3)

David speaks of a “new song”—a song that is characterized by “praise unto our God.” Moving from the pit to the rock—from the noisy mind to the quiet soul brings a “new song.” The reality is that when in the storms of life we intentionally think upon the Lord, worshiping the Him in humble, thankful prayer we can enjoy God’s transcendent peace. Naturally we will overflow with a new song of praise—praising God for His goodness to us.

Consider his testimony:…many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” As David sings in his suffering he brings glory to God and grace to others. This song of praise flowing beautifully off David lips causes people to respond with awe and wonder. As a result of David’s peace, we see his praise to God—as a result of David’s praise we see others turn to the Lord, trusting in Him.

God desires to use the trials of life to get our attention and to turn our hearts to Him. He desires to use us for His purposes—for His glory. He truly wants what is BEST for us. God’s best for us is to know His peace and give Him praise—to know His peace in our storms and give testimony of His guidance and care.

So what do you do in the storms of life? How do you cope? How do you get through? HOW DO YOU QUIET YOUR NOISY SOUL? How do you find peace IN these “noisy pits” during these storms of life?

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED CHRIST? Have you thought about God’s purpose for you in this struggle that you face?  Do you know the peace of God that leads to the praise of God? Learn to INTENTIONALLY think upon the Lord and let Him quiet your noisy soul bringing you transcendent peace in the storms of life.

Hope that is Based upon Truth

What gets you through the trials of life?  How do you weather the difficult, discouraging storms of life that often leave you in despair?  Often in life we feel as though we are dealt a bad hand and we struggle with the injustices of life.  We feel these are due to bad luck and sometimes we may even blame God for His part in our difficulties as if He does not love us.

In these times we feel so alone and discouraged, hopeless and full of despair because the world seems against us and God seems far from us.  These are the times in which we may lose hope and in turn “hope” that our luck will change even though we feel as though this “hope” is just a “hope and a prayer.”  In these times our hope is based upon our feelings and perceptions about life.  This is a dangerous place for us to be!  So do you just batten down the hatches and ride out the storm or is there another option?

The answer is that there is another option and it is found in God’s Word—the Bible!  God, the Creator of life has given us the guide book to life to show us His designed way to live a life of purpose and peace.  This is the life of knowing Him—not a life of religion but life because of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Unbelief causes us to look at God through our circumstances, and this creates hopelessness; but faith enables us to look at our circumstances through the reality of God and this gives us hope.”[i]

Instead of hoping that our luck will change let us, by faith, consider the “hope that is based upon Truth.”  Let’s consider the words of the “Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah—a man who knew great discouragement in life.  A man who experienced the world against him yet was able to live a faithful life of purpose and hope—a life that honored the Lord.  His hope was properly defined as confidence because it was based upon truth.  Let his words encourage you.  In Lamentations 3:21 he says, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.”

He says, “This is what I remind myself of—this is what I know to be true about my God, therefore I have hope or patient confidence!” Jeremiah reminds himself of the truths of God which he recounts in the following verses.  The truths of God, as they are recalled to mind, should bring us comfort as they reassure us of God’s faithfulness, His love, His mercy, His all-sufficiency, His grace…and the wonder of it all is that the list goes on and on.

What you know, and rely on, to be true about the Lord will transform your life!

Learn to preach God’s Word to yourself instead of listening to yourself.

The “Weeping Prophet” goes on to say, “it is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. ” (Lamentations 3:22)

Jeremiah reminds himself of God’s mercy and compassion.  The trials of life, as fires of affliction, are meant to chasten and cleanse us not to consume us. They are meant to direct not destroy.  Although sometimes we feel the only way we’ll make it out is through death but the divine purpose of God is to purge us in order to prove the reality of our faith.  Keep in mind that because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) we deserve to be consumed by the fires of affliction, yet God in His tender mercy and grace takes us through these fires to bring us forth as gold.

Truth to remember: Our God is merciful and compassionate.

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:7)

The trials of life are the evidence of God’s faithful work in our lives to work in us His divine purpose of “conforming us into the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).  Never forget the truth that all of God’s actions toward us are actions of love as He lovingly seeks to turn us back into right fellowship with Himself and for those who have yet to receive Him as Lord and Savior, He seeks to win their souls to Him.

The LORD’s compassions never fail “they are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Although we at times come to the point of feeling like they have failed, yet the Lord is faithful.  He is faithful in being the living God who compassionately loves us.

The tender mercies or compassions of God “are new every morning” because God has an endless supply of mercy and we must learn to faithfully live each day as a new day.  It is because of God’s mercy that we have a new day to live for Him.

Truth to remember: Our God is faithful.

“The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24)

Jeremiah continues as he says, “The LORD is my portion” or the source of his strength and hope—his confidence.  Is it possible to use up this infinite source? When we are living in this truth, we can have patient confidence that God is in control and what He does is right.  This is where the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) comes from.  It literally surpasses human reasoning in its ability to relieve anxiety in our lives.  Isaiah 26:3 tells us that as we stay focused on the this Source—His Truths—He promises His “perfect peace” will be a precious reality to us.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

When we begin to realize that God is sufficient to meet every genuine need and at the same time that we lack this self-sufficiency, it should increase our dependence upon Him.  When we trust Him to be able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) is when we begin to live as He designed us to live—living a life of confidence in the Lord while enjoying the supernatural peace that only comes from the Giver of peace.

Truth to remember: Our God is ALL that we need.

“The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.” (Lamentations 3:25)

Finally we see the goodness of God.  Stop and think of all the ways that the Lord has been good to you.  Don’t forget to include that difficult times of life where God has drawn you closer to Himself by revealing to you an area of needed change.

Truth to remember:  Our God is good.

Remember that He is the God who loves to forgive.  Those areas that He reveals to us where change is needed—sin is usually the culprit.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” (Psalm 86:5)

Truth to remember: Our God is ALWAYS ready to forgive.

When you stop and consider these precious truths about the Lord do you feel your heart being lifted up? Do you begin to hear the “new song in [your] mouth, even praise unto [your] God” (Psalm 40:3)?  Confidently know the God of the Bible and enjoy the peace that only He can give.  Let Him give you peace in the storms as you rely on what you know to be true about Him. Allow the light of God’s Word to break through darkness and despair and reveal the stabilizing truths about Himself that He wants you to know and hold on to.

Trust in what the Bible says is true about the Lord.  Rely upon this transforming knowledge and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).


[i] Warren Wiersbe, “The Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament The Prophets”, p. 158