Have you ever had a trial that overwhelmed your life?
You know the kind. When first faced with the trial, it is like a huge cliff in your path, stopping all forward momentum. Your life comes to a screeching halt and from your vantage point you see no way around it.
If you are like me, when you face trials you are quick to look at the whole problem. We never merely look at today’s problem; we look at tomorrow's, and then the next day, etc. As we look at the endless problems that could come our way we think, "I can’t continue”. We don’t feel that we have the strength to pass through our problem.
A few years ago the Lord allowed me to go through one of these trials. In the midst of it, God used the words of Jeremiah to instruct my heart and bring great comfort.
Jeremiah lived a hard life, filled with trials. He was utterly dismayed and didn’t know how he could continue (see Lamentations 3:1-20). But even in the midst of trials, he found hope. This same hope is available to us today.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
Here is what God encouraged me with through these verses:
Today’s strength is sufficient for today’s problems. Tomorrow God will give new strength for tomorrow’s problems.
God doesn’t want us to look at the big problem (tomorrow’s problems, next week, next year, etc). God wants us to trust Him for today.
God will give us the grace and strength to use for TODAY. And tomorrow, when tomorrows problems come, He will give us new grace and strength for tomorrow. And the next day, He will do it again. He will come with more grace and strength.
He doesn’t want us to worry about tomorrow. He wants us to trust him for TODAY.
No matter how huge the obstacle is, we walk through it one day at a time. God will give the strength to get through TODAY. And as faithful as the rising of the sun, tomorrow God will give new strength to endure tomorrow’s trials.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning”
How great is our Lord who strengthens us each day!
(See other posts on Fear)
Our family recently went through a time of uncertainty. While not going into the details, God used this trial to force us to rely 100% on God for our next steps. The situation was completely outside of our control, leaving us to have faith in: 1. God's plan and 2. God's timing.
Over the years, I have realized that there are 2 paths that fear usually takes. Whenever we are thrown into a trial that is outside of our control, it is an opportunity to live in faith or to live in fear.
Here are two paths that fear can take:
1.To fear something is to fear that God is not in control of that something.
2. To fear something is to fear that God’s will is not best for our life.
Fear that God is not in control:
1. The first kind of fear is rooted in trusting God’s complete sovereignty (His eternal plan and control over all that comes to pass). Most of us believe in our head that God is in control, but what happens when a trial comes? I find that my head and my heart are often vastly different.
The storms of life test our theology. When a trial comes our way, does our heart begin to fear?
Are we concerned at what the outcome will be? Are we concerned that something will slip past God’s watchful care? Usually our fear comes because, like Peter, our focus is on the storm, not the Lord. We quickly forget that God controls the storms. And like Peter, we must fix our eyes on the Lord and take His hand as we walk through the storms of life.
We remind ourselves that He is in complete control. Practically speaking, we do this when we obey the command to “be still and know that He is God." Not only do we fix our eyes on Him, we also present our requests to God. "I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me." Psalm 57:2
When we present our requests to God in faith, we are placing our burdens on His back. We must be careful not to try to pick them up again. They were not meant for us to carry!
Fear that God’s will is not best for our life:
2. The second kind of fear is rooted in trusting God’s goodness. His goodness flows out of His being, He is loving and merciful toward us. When we fear that God may allow something into our life that is not for our good, then we are fearing that God is not going to be loving toward us.
We quickly forget that God is acting from an eternal perspective. He knows what will help conform us into the person He wants us to be. He knows what is best for our eternal good, not just our present comfort. Anytime our comfort is threatened, we begin to fear. Part of this fear is due to the fact that we love comfort. Our attention and focus is more concerned with improving or maintaining our temporal comfort than on improving our eternal joy. So, when God lovingly throws us into a trial to provide an opportunity to improve our eternal comfort, we are fearful. We are fearful anytime our temporal comfort is threatened.
To help us combat this fear, we must fix our eyes on two things. First we must "seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on. earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”. Col. 3:1-4 When we have a treasure that we can't lose, we have a confident joy that cannot be stolen.
The second part of this focus is to remember that God is lovingly acting for our ETERNAL GOOD. Trials have a purpose. They are meant for our eternal good. Like a master surgeon removing a cancer, God is refining our soul by removing sin. Pain is the path to pleasure, we can and must remember that all of God's acts, all that He allows us to endure, come from a loving God. God is a merciful God! "Be merciful to me, 0 God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by." Psalm 57:1 We can cling to the mercy of God. We may not be able to see through the fog of life how God will use our current trials to work for our good, but we can trust in His love and mercy. As we walk through the storms of life, we can't see what the future holds. But we hold onto our loving father’s hand because he sees beyond the fog. He will lead us on a good path. The best path!
When we can fix our eyes on God, and hold His hand through the fog of life while trusting His mercy and His plan ~ the result is joy that spills into praise! "I will give thanks to you, 0 Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, 0 God above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” Psalm 57: 9-11
Life is full of trials, but in ministry and missions you will face even more. God desires to refine us, Satan desires to destroy us. How well we learn to walk in faith rather than fear will determine our longevity in ministry and missions.
When we fix our eyes on God, His complete control over all that comes our way and on His loving mercy that acts of our eternal good, then we can walk through the storms and fog of life with joyful confidence.
This doesn’t mean that the trials won't hurt, or that we merely frolic through life like a carefree clown with a painted smile! Rather we are deeply rooted in unshakable joy while confronting
daily pain and loss. We are at peace.
Nothing gets to us that doesn't pass through the hands of God, AND nothing passes through His hands that is not for His glory and our eternal good.
Believing this in your head takes a day. Embedding it into your heart takes a lifetime…but the journey is worth it.
This challenge from my college professor (Kelly O’Rear) has guided me for 19 years. Most Christians understand this conceptually, but few in practice. When God lays on our heart an opportunity to serve him, something as simple as sharing the gospel or something as life altering as going into foreign missions, our answer needs to be “yes”, not “I’ll try” or “I’ll do it if _____”.
“I’ll try”: The paths that God leads us down will involve difficulty and discomfort. There will be days we don’t enjoy the ministry. There will be days when other things sound more enticing. When we say “I’ll try”, what we mean is this: “if there comes a point when I am not comfortable or happy then I am taking control”. We haven’t surrendered complete control when we are just “trying it out”. God wants our answer to be “yes”, not “I’ll try”.
I’ll do it if _____”: When we put stipulations on our obedience we rarely take the first step to follow God’s leading. We are like the plane that never gets off the runway. If we only obey God’s leading when it fits into our plans, who is really in control? We are. We will obey if it is convenient and comfortable for us to do so. When “if” is our answer, we miss out on many opportunities to be used by God. God is searching for those whose hearts are completely his. He will simply pass us by and give the opportunity to someone who is willing to obey without question. God wants our answer to be “yes, not “I’ll do it if _____”.
When our family first began our path towards missions and said “yes” to a blank job description, I didn’t realize how often I would have to re-say “yes”! Going through ministry, we face many crossroads with one easy path and another far more difficult. The difficult one leads into uncertainty, but deep down you know it is the one God wants for you. Over and over, we must say “yes” before He has ever spoken, before we know what lies hidden in the fog of uncertainty. One thing is true: God’s path is never easy, but it is always best.
Many of the paths God has called us down I would have never chosen for myself, but in the end, I would never trade them either! God’s way is always best.
Whether you are just beginning your journey of following God, or whether you have been following him for years, today, in whatever He calls you to do, “let your answer be ‘yes’ before God has ever spoken!”