Thanks again for welcoming me to your FaceBook or email box. It has been a while since my last blog. We are living in a different world these days and motivation for blogging has been low. I don’t know about you, but this whole “stay home stay safe thing” is getting old. People are now bravely, or carelessly, depending on where you fall on the paranoia spectrum, going unmasked out to large gatherings. As for my household, we are taking it slowly and being selective of what we do and where we go. It has been months of near isolation and not much peace of mind. CoVid, riots, demonstrations that start peacefully and end up in violence, and nothing but negativity in the media, are disheartening. Like me, you might begin to wonder if this is the best we can do?
I know we are called on to be brave and to help all of humanity. It’s hard to muster up the strength and energy to face the world when it looks like it does right now. But, this is what we are called to do. With this in mind, I have taken up with my keyboard once again hoping to somehow encourage others.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand Isaiah 41:10
For now, continue to look for the positive. Help others, whether in your immediate family, neighbors, or even friends who are present online. A cheerful word, a phone conversation, or emerging to reengage with others socially, are all possibilities for us. There is goodness out there, we may have to search for it.
Life is full of surprises. Some are wonderful and others stop us in our tracks. Through all of this, we somehow foolishly make plans for weeks, months, and years ahead. That is part of our nature. For some reason, we like to plan, thinking planning offers us a sense of being in control. But then, life continues. God has different ideas and a different path for us.
For many of us, we feel we are experiencing a chain of negative or bad surprises. We may mumble to ourselves with a sigh, “The hits just keep on coming,” as we deal with one thing after another. Perhaps we have heard of people in similar circumstances and thought, “Boy, I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.” But then, it does. And when the really big surprises knock us off our feet, we find the strength to grab hold and pull ourselves back up.
But what happens when we pull ourselves up only to discover that, while we feel strengthened again, the circumstances that knocked us down did not change. We must acknowledge, “The struggle is real.” This is when we find ourselves in a “new normal.” How do we adapt? Are we able to adapt? And what of our faith? Did our faith weakened as we were struggling to get back up?
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places Habakkuk 3:17-19
In the verses from Habakkuk, we are told that no matter what, we should have faith and continue to rejoice in God and what He has in mind for our future. We may feel lacking in our faith even when we know we should hang on. Our faith feels diminished somehow.
When the apostles were traveling with Jesus, He gave them instructions on faith and forgiveness. Even His disciples felt their faith was not what it should be and asked Jesus to strengthen their faith.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:5
Jesus lovingly told His apostles that having just a little bit of faith, holding on to the tiniest bit of faith, as small as a mustard seed, would be all they would need to work wonders. When they asked for more faith, this is what He said:
He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you’ Luke 17:6.
That is all we need. Just a tiny bit of faith. In the new normal, don’t give up. Hang on, pull yourself up, and hold on to the mustard seed, then shout for the tree to get out of your way! Tell the new normal your tiny seed of faith is stronger. No matter what our new normal may be, Jesus is always the same. He is always with us. Hold on to your mustard seed and pray.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever Hebrews 13:8
Have you been going along in life and had an obstacle or two thrown at you? You handled those obstacles well and thought to yourself, “Well, that wasn’t so bad.” And you return to what you believe is your “normal” life. You are walking along and BAM! Another one. You go through the same reasoning. Once you figured everything out you say, “Good, things are under my control now.” No matter how many times we are tested, we usually think in the end, we have figured everything out.
I know a mom whose kids test her from time to time. She often asks, “Are you kidding me?” or “Are you serious right now?” She asks because she knows they are testing her with intention. She asks because this testing happens frequently.
Just like this mom, we may be tested in life over and over. We can recover from one event and think we are “over that one.” Once again, you are “minding your own business,” and then the REALLY BIG ONE hits. Now this one is life-changing. Maybe it is a loss, or a sudden unexpected diagnosis. Maybe there is a sudden family financial crisis. Now you are spinning out of control.
You question everything. How could this have happened? I thought I was doing everything right. How did this come my way? Why did this happen? Sadly, you may begin to question your own reasoning and faith. Maybe God isn’t on my side. God left me. You might even become angry because you know your life will never be the same.
Having recently experienced one of life’s unexpected challenges, I was tempted to think those same thoughts. In the middle of my “woe is me” party, I read Job. Now, everyone uses the phrase “the patience of Job,” but what does that really mean?
As a refresher, Job was doing very well in life and was a faithful man. He had a large family and wealth. All of a sudden, his life was full of catastrophes. He lost his family, his wealth, and even his health. He was angry and questioned God. His friends gathered around and attempted to support Job. They tried one explanation after another. They reasoned with Job that God was totally in charge of everything and that Job should not question Him. As one of his friends noted in the verse below, God was watching over Job during these multiple crises. He pointed out to Job that we are all under the light of God.
Dominion and awe belong to God, he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? On whom does his light not rise? Job 25: 2-3
Another friend reasoned with Job that God is with him and does not despise him.
God is mighty, but despises no one, he is mighty, and firm in his purpose Job 36:5
As I came out from the other side of this blow, and of similar events that have shaken my path over time, the most important lesson for me has been the same as Job’s lesson. God is over everything and has a purpose or intention for us that we may not see right away. God may not intervene immediately. Sometimes it seems like forever to get to the other side and know our purpose. God lets us go through this process for a reason. He knows we will be better and He knows what it takes to move us in the right direction. Job eventually recovered his losses and had more children. Job learned the lesson that God is always present and, in the end, like Job, our path will be made clearer to us. Do not lose your faith. As the saying goes, when you are hanging on by a thread, make sure it is the thread of His robe.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise, you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before and you lay your hand upon me Psalm 139:1-5
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4
Did you know the word fear occurs five hundred times in the Bible? And the word love occurs five-hundred and forty-seven times? Faith occurs more than three-hundred times in the Bible and believe appears just under three-hundred times. It is clear by examining the frequency of these words within the inspired word of God that He understands our human nature. God knows even though He wants us to trust him, we will still have fear and anxiety.
Why do we have fear and anxiety? There are many reasons. Some have anxiety about health as they wait for their latest test results. Others are experiencing fear about their children or other loved ones who have challenges or who are away from home for the first time. Some fear they may have said or done something that hurt a friend or a family member. Our friends, families, and loved ones provide us with joy and happiness but we feel anxiety and fear when we know they are struggling.
When we are anxious, we turn our eyes upward and know that God can reassure us and provides comfort and strength when nothing else seems to work. This comfort comes through the love and the spirit we have from Christ within us. We don’t have to know all of the particulars of how this works. We just need to have faith in God and we know He will comfort us. We must trust in Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding Proverbs 3:5
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act Psalm 37:5
By trusting in God, will our prayers be answered? Will God comfort us? Will He fail us?
In our own lives, the world will test us. Our own families provide challenges. In all of our challenges we know we have direct communication with God and can ask for strength and hope. We trust comfort will be received from Him and we know this will help us go through life’s trials.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours Mark 11:24
In the verse above, Jesus tells us something very important. He said to ask in prayer, believe we will receive it, and it will be ours. Does this mean we can pray for anything and get it? Can we provide a shopping list to God of things we want? Not exactly. God’s plans may require other things. Blessings are waiting for us that we might not even have dreamt about. The way our personal battles are fixed may surprise us. Our family issues may be resolved in a different way than we would have designed, but this is part of God’s doing and will ultimately work for the good. We may wrestle with finances or jobs but coming out on the other side according to God’s plan will make us stronger, wiser, and in better shape. Waiting for these to work out requires trust. Our fears and anxieties are diminished knowing that we are His and He has our best interest in mind. Having a relationship with God means that we can rest in His plan. We can trust in His design for the resolution of our challenges. We are simply asked to pray and trust. Praying for comfort and strength first will make the journey easier.
This morning I witnessed an announcement. It was the first brown leaf fluttering down off a large tree. Granted it was only a single leaf but seeing it, I knew. The summer is coming to a close. Schools are opening their doors. Teachers have prepared their classrooms and are meeting with parents and greeting their students. Kids are piling on and off school buses all over the country.
For students, it is exciting and scary. Their excitement is channeled into getting school supplies, organizing their belongings, and checking school schedules for another year. A new school year is full of anticipation about school activities, experiences, new teachers, and new friends.
For parents, there are mixed emotions. There may be more free time for a few hours each day. But there is a trade-off of time spent helping with homework and driving kids to activities from mid-afternoon through the evening. There will be additional expectations of activities on weekends. The return to hectic schedules can be tiring and rewarding.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up Galatians 6:9
When parents turn their children over to teachers for the first time, it can be heart wrenching. After the first few years, it becomes a tiny bit easier. And then, when parents send their kids off to college, to the service, or to a new town for a new job or marriage, it generates more anxiety. Will they find the right kind of friends? Will they remember what they learned at home? Will they turn to you with their concerns? Will they remember to call? Will they stop by the house to see you when they have moved into their own place?
As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty Matthew 9:37-38
In the verse above, Jesus tells us that for those who listen and understand the word of God, those who are deeply committed to God, will increases in goodness throughout their life. Through the word of God and love of God, their blessings will be many.
Parents who raise their children with the love and values taught by Jesus know the seeds have been sown. When times are troubling for your child, you know that underneath it all, they will hear the quiet voice reminding them to love others, strive to lift others up, and to carefully follow the teachings of Jesus.
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness 2 Corinthians 9:10
The air will be cooler, our hours of sunlight will decrease, and we will enjoy the festivities of fall. Before beginning the new season, we can reflect on the closing of one season and prepare for the beginning of a new one. This time of year provides us with an opportunity to give praise for the blessings of seasons, family, and friends.