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Embrace the Trial – Part 5

Understanding the Struggle – “Embracing the Tragedy or Triumph

I give up! This is too hard! What’s the use in trying anymore!

I don’t recall having actually stated these words, but the truth is my attitude, at times, has spoken these words loud and clear. Although my prayer and desire is to “embrace this trial,” the reality is that it is a continual, and grueling struggle. Embracing the trial is not a one-time-event-kind-of-lesson-learned where you “get it” and never have to go back to it. This is a process—a continuous, repeated action, repeated commitment, repeated surrender. My desire is to be faithful in this process, but often my attitude and actions betray my intentions.

We have considered the why and Who questions which help us to embrace the trial, yet I am reminded of the need to understand the almost ever-present struggle of this process. With this understanding comes the reality of the choice of whether to embrace the triumph or the tragedy, dependent upon my embracing the truth.

As the trial continues, there are days of frustration and defeat. Often, at the end of the day, as I pillow my head, my thoughts are arrested by the battle between my flesh and my mind. The emotional, physical, and spiritual struggles of any trial often bring noise into the soul. Through this process, God in His mercy, seeks to rescue us from these noisy areas of defeat that emerge, seemingly at every corner. For me, He is using this trial to open my eyes to areas of sin that I need to address. Like curtains, He is pulling down to reveal something in the dark corners of my heart that I have yet to realize or have been refusing to address. This “ripping down of curtains” is part of the painful, purging process by which God uses to refine us, purifying us like gold.

At times I feel overwhelmed by this process, as if it will never end and it’s just no use in trying. I feel like Paul in Romans 7 where he bares his heart’s struggle in his battle against his flesh. It is a tiring battle—one that is strong and unrelenting—one that seems to gain the upper hand when I am the most vulnerable, one that has no mercy. Paul writes,

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will [the desire] is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would [I want to do] I do not: but the evil which I would not [I don’t want to do], that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. O wretched man that I am!”—Romans 7:18-20, 24a

Maybe go back and read those verses again. It has taken me some time, repeatedly reading, meditating, and asking the Lord for understanding about them to be convinced that I finally have a handle on them.

With these words, Paul express what my heart seems to say, all too often in this trial. Frankly, even when I am not in a trial like what I am going through now. It is the tug-of-war of my flesh and mind. I know what I am supposed to do, the attitudes I’m supposed to have, the example I’m supposed to set, but all too often I find myself doing what I know I shouldn’t, having the attitude that is opposite of what I should, being the example that is against what I should set. This battle is real and it rages with such strength that often victory seems hopeless and beyond the horizon, so far out of sight and beyond my reach, while defeat seems all too real, breathing down my neck, with its death grip embracing me.

What can I do? The truth is that I’m often simply tired and worn out with no fight left—or so it seems. Paul concluded, “O wretched man that I am!” The idea is that Paul cries out in exhaustion, as if he has been exerting his fullest effort in hard labor in this battle. Does this sound familiar? It is at these times that we fall prey to half-truths that can lead to whole-untruths. These are the times where we are often tempted to wonder, “Does God really care or even know what is going on?” Or maybe, “Is there really a purpose to all of this pain?” We might even ask, “Is the praiseworthy purpose of Christ-likeness even worth it?” These are the times that we need to fight these lies with truth.

Consider Paul’s word as he cries out for help, desiring victory for a problem that only presents defeat. He says,

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”—Romans 7:24-25

In these verses I find great hope and encouragement. Paul sees victory in Christ. I picture in my mind as the great apostle lifts his eyes heavenward and asks the question, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Then with a sigh of relief he smiles giving thanks for this transforming truth with which he triumphs, saying, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is through Christ my Lord, as I surrender to His way that I triumph.

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

What is the way of Christ that Paul is thankful for? Notice the triumphant path that Paul speaks of here at the end of Romans 7. He says, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Paul draws attention to the question of masters. The key to triumph or tragedy is determined by whom I choose to serve. With a renewed mind I serve my Savior but with the natural mind I will give into my flesh and serve self.

The truth is that I can either embrace the tragedy or the triumph. I can either serve self as I give in to my flesh or serve my Savior as I embrace the truth of Who He is.

The realization that I am reminded of is that in order to faithfully embrace the trial, I must faithfully embrace the truth. This exercise at times, is moment by moment. This is the deliberate exercise of my mind being renewed with truth, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind.” In Colossians 3:10, he uses the illustration of changing clothes as he writes, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after [or based upon] the image of Him that created him.” This renewal process is a replacement process.  The old mind needs to be exchanged with a new mind—just as dirty garments needs to be replaced with clean ones, thoughts of sin and deception must be replaced with thoughts of truth and righteousness.

There is a positive and negative side of this truth. The negative side is that I must embrace the truth that this struggle is real and relentless, raging stronger at times more than other times. There is one who seeks to defeat, destroy, and devour us, using our flesh as the battering ram to bring us to our knees in surrender. Jesus warns us of the devil’s intentions saying, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy[1] while Peter calls for vigilance “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”[2] We must never forget, “that we are [not] sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.[3]

The positive side of embracing the truth answers the painful reality of the trial. Yes, the truth is that our struggle is real and relentless, exacerbated by the enemy who roars and rages, yet our loving Savior stands ready and answers saying, “I AM come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly: I AM the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”[4] Our great “I AM” further infuses words of truth saying, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; 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.”[5] He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear.”[6] He says, “Be still, and KNOW that I AM God.”[7]

With these words, my tired soul is strengthened, my hopeless heart is revived, my depressed mind is renewed to once again take on the fight.

I must deliberatelyCast down,” destroying these “imaginations” or deceptive thoughts, “and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.[8] I must daily, “set [my] affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”[9] I must be diligentlylooking unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith[10]holding fast the profession of faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised).”[11]

In obedience, I can triumph instead of becoming the tragedy of wasted suffering. With my mind renewed and stabilized upon Christ, the Rock of Truth, I can once again lay hold upon the trial, embracing the struggle, choosing triumph over tragedy.

“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.”


[1] John 10:10a
[2] 1 Peter 5:8
[3] 2 Corinthians 3:5
[4] John 10:10b-11
[5] Isaiah 41:10
[6] Psalm 46:1-2a
[7] Psalm 46:10a
[8] 2 Corinthians 10:5
[9] Colossians 3:2
[10] Hebrews 12:2a
[11] Hebrews 10:23

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.

God’s Model for Success

On the path of life our walk is often be filled with unforeseen challenges.  What lies ahead? How will you deal with the challenges that you will be facing? The answer is in your mindset as you approach these challenges.  How you take each step that leads to these unknowns will determine how you will handle those challenges.

In the story of Joshua we are given God’s model for success in this life. The precious truth about our God is that He does not leave us to walk alone and feel blindly through this life. He leads us by the hand with His Word, and often carries us through the roughest waves of the storm. Through His Word He gives us confidence to take the next step of life.

Consider Joshua as he is ordained by God to be the leader following the beloved Moses.  The task that lays before him was a monumental one.  How could he lead this people who for the past 40 years had been wandering in the dessert because of unbelief?  Aside from unbelief, these people could be defined as murmurers and complainers.  This was an incredibly large and difficult group to lead into a land they had yet to call their own which was filled with many unknowns.  How could Joshua take on this task and be successful?

In the first chapter we find God speaking with Joshua.  God tells him some things to remember as well as specific ways to respond. In this passage we see God’s promises as bookends surrounding His commands.—Remember & Respond!!

Remember GOD’S promise—“Know this!”  Here we begin by seeing what we are to remember. Consider this promise, in verse 5, as a stabilizing truth. God says to Joshua, “…as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” God’s promise to Joshua is that He will ALWAYS be with him each step of the way. Joshua will NOT have to face any challenges alone. The same is true for us, Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

This promise sets up what follows. In order to be successful in our response we must remember what God says. Remember that success in our Christian lives is based upon our obedience to God and His Word.

Respond to GOD’S Commands—“Do this!”  Here we see what we are to respond to.

Consider the 1st command: Be confident because of God’s Wordbe thou strong (v. 7). God is telling Joshua to “be strong”—be confident because of God’s Words of promise. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light [symbol of guidance] unto my path [way of life]”   (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word is given to provide light so as to be able to walk through this life successfully. His Word is the key to our faithfulness and usefulness. “…He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b). Be confident that the way our Shepherd leads us is the righteous way and the best way.  He puts His name on it. “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). Be confident that He will complete the work that He starts in us.

Consider the 2nd command: Be fearless because of God’s Wordbe thou very courageous (v. 7). Joshua’s courage was to be in God—he could be fearless through the unknowns before him because of what God had said to him—I will be with thee.” Remember God’s Word and respond without fear. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; 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).

Consider the 3rd command: Be obedient to the Wordobserve to do according to all the Law (v. 7). Joshua’s ability to obey was directly related to his confidence in the truth. God commanded Joshua to “observe” or take special care to obey ALL the commandments. Take special care that you show, by your actions, that you hold the commandments of God in high esteem for they are invaluable. When we remember that God has our best interests in mind it will change how we respond to His commandments. Our best is ultimately God’s glory.

Just as God commands Joshua, He also commands us to be obedient to everything in His Word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.   But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22-25) Observing to do,” what God says results in blessing—hearing and NOT doing results in self deception.

Consider the 4th command: Be guided by the Wordturn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest (v. 7). This is a call to submission. When we are confident in Who God is—that He is sovereign and in full authority; when we are fully persuaded about His character and His desire for us is what is best for us—then our submission to Him will not be so difficult. We will then respond by being guided by Him through His Word.  The result is “prosperous” or wise living.

Consider the 5th command: Be vocal about the Wordthis book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth (v. 8). God commands Joshua that His Word should always be present in Joshua’s conversation.  He should always be speaking about God and His Word. When you are confident in Who God is and what He has done for you this shouldn’t be very difficult. When you remember the “mercies of God” (Romans 12:1) you will be vocal in response about the greatness of your God.

Consider the 6th command: Be daily in the Wordthou shalt meditate therein day and night (v. 8). God wants Joshua to daily meditate upon  His Word. To meditate is the same process as worrying where you are constantly looking at something from every possible angle. The difference is the content of what you are focusing on. Meditating upon God’s Word is a great help as it brings peace and quietness where worrying about our circumstances bring only noise and unrest into our lives. The Bible further tells us, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly [abundantly] in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Remember GOD’S promise—“Know this!” Here again we see what we are to remember. This is the other bookend surrounding God’s commands.

Consider the next promise: Know success as promised in the Wordthen thou shalt have good success (v. 8). This is clearly NOT the definition of worldly success. We can chase the world’s success but as Solomon says it’s like “chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 5:16) as it is a sure waste of time. The God who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) promises  that handling His Word His way leads to success—remember and respond!

Consider this final promise: Know encouragement from the Wordfor the LORD thy God is with thee (v. 9). Notice that the Lord ends with the promise He began with—“I will be with you!

Look at WHO is commanding Joshua.  As God speaks to him He is saying “remember WHO AM I?  What have I done?  AM I worthy to be obeyed?  Do My words ring hollow because My past has been contrary to what I AM commanding you now?  AM I not the great I AM? AM I not the One who parted the Red Sea?  AM I not the One who gave you water to drink from a rock in the desert? Have I ever done anything to prove to you that I am unfaithful or that I cannot be trusted?” Consider these words as questions to you.

The most important questions to ask are “Who are you Lord?” and “What do you want me to do?” And so to each of us I say, “REMEMBER and RESPOND! Remember WHO your God is and what He has done for you.” In turn “respond with fearless obedience being confident in HIM, knowing that what God promises, HE is sure to bring it to pass.”