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Posts Tagged ‘Struggles’

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Recently students were discussing roller coaster rides they had been on, and one talked about a ride that took you out, over a body of water … and paused. Then, with no hint at what was coming it went from zero to fifty in the blink of an eye, quickly pulling them backwards, and they could not see where they were going.

One of the students exclaimed,

“that must have been so frightening to not know where you were going?”

To which the other replied,

“Nope! If I saw where I was going, I would have been much more scared.”

Her response got me to thinking …

maybe it is better to not know what is coming in our futures?

Then I remembered a verse, from 1 Corinthians 13:12:

 

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. “(this is such a visual! Haven’t we all been walking driving through thick fog that had all but blinded us? Can’t we all recall, or maybe currently going through a time when the circumstances leave us blinded to what might be ahead for us?)

“But it won’t be long” (it won’t be long! Don’t we all feel the seconds tick by when life is a struggle? This reminder will come to an end) “before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!” (yes! the sun is what we need to focus on … the sun in the sky, and the son who sets us free. It WON’T be long! The fog WILL lift!). 

“We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”

Man, when I look back over different periods of time in my life, I could not have imagined the twists and turns, the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and trials that were about to come … or how they would play out in the greater story of my life.

And so we do not see what is to come, how the problems and struggles end, how the difficult road leads to completion, how the blessings become curses, and the curses become blessings.

Our vision is impaired, as though we are in a fog, or going backwards on a carnival ride. But the fog will lift, and from the reversing ride, we can see how vast the image of life appears, and how pieces have fit together.

But we are not called to just sit there and let it all happen, either. For verse 13 gives us our marching orders:

“But for right now, until that completeness,
we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God,
hope unswervingly,
love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love.”

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messy

I walked by the mirror in my bathroom and almost audibly shrieked (but I didn’t because it was 5:05am). I had been too tired the night before to blow-dry my hair after washing it the night before, and the results were … Ursula-like (think the villain in the Little Mermaid movie).

I knew a straightening iron would be the most important tool of the day to come!

Messy hair makes me laugh. Well, of course it does, but I laugh because it reminds me of what my insides are like.

I think that most of us do well at cleaning ourselves up, and presenting ourselves to the world as put-together, calm, cool and collected.

I also think that, much of the time, we are a little messy on the insides.

Outwardly, we walk with grace, while stumbling through our days full of stress, worry, anxiety and regrets.

Outwardly, we sit, regally, while inwardly sitting in the remnants of the refuse that has been heaped into our lives, by others or by our own choices.

Outwardly, we smile broadly, while the tears of loneliness, failure and sorrow are held in the ducts of our eyes until we reach our vehicle, our pillow, our shower where they will flow like a waterfall with no end.

And so messy hair makes me laugh. Dust that covers my house makes me laugh. Sticky floors make me laugh. Laundry piles makes me laugh. Words tumbling out of order or words that fail to come when we just can’t think of that one word, make me laugh. They make me laugh because they are real. They are out there for all the world to see.

They are obvious, and messy and real.

The great thing about the messes in our lives is that, once they are obvious to all who can see them, hear them, experience them, they can be dealt with, cleaned up.

Life is messy, on our insides as well as on the outside.

Don’t be afraid to let your mess show to someone … they might even pitch in and help clean it up.

 

 

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Chatting with a friend, it was clear that something had changed in her life, for I had never before known her to be so comfortable in her own skin.

As a matter-of-fact, she oozed confidence, joy and strength.

“What had caused the change?” I asked.

The answer was not a quick one, waiting on the tip of her tongue, but one that came from asking it of herself … again, and again. For her answer was not in an event or epiphany, but in a slow and gradual change from the inside out.

As we talked, I found myself suggesting different possible events and choices she had made, in the last year, or more. Each suggestion caused her to pause and not, but not in total agreement.

At last we discussed some of the more difficult things she had been through and experienced. The more we talked the more clear it was that life had actually been more challenging, more difficult, through this process of her metamorphosis. There were events and frustrations she had faced that might put many of us back in our beds with the blankets over our heads.

Finally I smiled at her, “I know what precipitated this changed! You chose bravery. You did the hard stuff, you faced the challenges and you kept moving forward.”

She smiled, reflecting on my words, but also reflecting on what had gone on in her life.

She was an overcomer, and doing that hard stuff, the uncomfortable stuff, challenging herself to keep going actually strengthened her, making her even more prepared to forge on when the next, even more difficult challenge presented itself.

Often in our society, today, we are gracious with ourselves, giving ourselves the permission to say no, to bow out and to not complete the tasks that are difficult. This is not all bad, but maybe, what we need to consider, is that it is through perseverance, through humility and through hardships that we condition ourselves, growing in strength as we commit to completing the challenge?

“A sense of weakness may bestir us to a bravery
which else we had not known.”
C.H. Spurgeon

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Ruins

 

Have you ever felt like the image above? Have you ever felt like a part of your life mirrored that image?

old?

trashed?

abandoned?

falling apart?

ruined?

I think we all have at different points in our lives, when the demons who haunt us, and the realities of life in this very human world, affect our daily lives, relationships and bodies.

The Psalmist also had such experiences and feelings:

I say to God my Rock,
“why have you forgotten me?
why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by my enemy?”
Psalm 42:9

… A Psalm of David,
my God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?

Psalm 22:1

Even Jesus, the Son of God, cried out from the cross,

Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew 27:46

When our life, in part or whole, seems to be in ruins, we do not sit in the mire alone. Matthew 28:20 reminds us that “I (Christ) am with you always, to the end of the world.”

What comfort to know that we are not alone in our desperate times, in our darkest moments.

“Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened
and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28

He is always there to lean on, to count on, but he wants to be more than just a shoulder to cry on. He wants us to tell him where it hurts.

“cast all your cares/anxieties on him
because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

A few years ago, Amy Grant had a song released called “Better than a Hallelujah” and one of the lines in it describe our need to cast those cares honestly, sincerely, maybe even with tears in our eyes and fist shaking to the skies:

the honest cries of breaking hearts, are better than a hallelujah.”

Even Job, sitting on a dung heap, scraping the sores all over his body with broken pottery, did not sin with his lips, but did question why God had allowed him to be born. He was (literally) in the dumps, but when faced with God, he confessed his sins, and God put a new dream in Job’s heart.

We need not stay in ruins.

God is always with us, and he does not leave us in our mire forever.

Maybe, today, you cannot see even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe your heart is broken into so many pieces that you could never imagine it being put back together. Maybe the energy to have hope is just too much for you. Maybe your hope is only in the foreverland of life after death.

If you have breath, you have purpose, you can dream, you can pursue the purpose that God has placed in your heart. “Do not let your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1)

God has a plan for your life, and if you still have breath, you can still pursue whatever he holds for you in your future.

If you have breath, praise the Lord (Psalm 150:6). If praising God is all that you can do, do it!

God is with you always, praise him with your every breath.

 

 

 

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Got a temptation?

A constant frustration?

A pain?

A flaw?

Got a thorn?

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul understood struggles with regards to his flesh, his humanness. 

A number of weeks back I re-watched the movie A Beautiful Mind, and was captivated by how true the following lines are in dealing with real life struggles:

“I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites; like my appetite for patterns; perhaps my appetite to imagine and to dream.”

“I’ve gotten used to ignoring them and I think, as a result, they’ve kind of given up on me. I think that’s what it’s like with all our dreams and our nightmares, Martin, we’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”

Both quotes from the movie are lines by the Russell Crowe real-life mathematician, John Nash, who struggled with the effects of life with Paranoid Schizophrenia.

Mr. Nash knows what it is to live with real life struggles.

Though I do not know if the lines, credited to John Nash, speak his own words, I do believe that they speak to us all, in the areas of our life that are our tempters, torturers or trials.

We all live with a thorn (or two, or …). We all know what it is to struggle, to agonize.

What Mr. Nash reminds us is that “we’ve got to keep feeding them for them to stay alive.”

What Paul reminds us is that “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Help us, today, to remember to not feed the thorn in our lives, and help us to rely on God’s strength to thrive despite the torment.

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God won’t give us more than we can handle …

Tell that to the mom nursing her child through the horrible effects of cancer treatment.

Tell that to the student who has dreamed all their life of becoming a doctor, and has not been accepted to a medical school.

Tell that to the man, whose wife, and mother to his three young kids, has just died in a car crash.

Tell that to the woman whose husband has just declared that he no longer loves her, but is leaving her for another woman.

Tell that to the father whose son is a drug addict, living on the streets in a large city, selling his soul to feed his habit.

Or to the twelve year old who has been enslaved in the sex trade.

Or to the family whose every earthly belonging, home included, was swept away by flood waters.

Where in the Bible, are we told that God will not give us more than we can handle? Is it New Testament or Old Testament teaching? Did Moses say those words? Or Paul? Or Jesus? Maybe it was Job?

The closest thing to that rather pithy saying would be found in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
And God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But, when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Of the numerous commentaries I consulted, there were also numerous interpretations of this teaching.

When I went back to read the first thirteen verses of the chapter, I started to develop my own commentary, and it had little to do with the words that could act like the salt in the wounds of the one who feels their cup is full of trouble. The words,

God will not give us more than we can handle …

Those first thirteen verses refer to the temptations which are common to man, through the history of the world. Temptations like greed, lust, envy, gluttony, laziness, pride, wrath (I am sure there are more, but I figure the seven deadly sins are about as common to man as we can get). In this passage we are warned to not give in to these temptations, and encouraged that God will provide a way so that we can resist such evil.

These temptations are very different from troubles inflicted by others, or to our human bodies. These temptations have nothing to do with a little girl, in India, being sold into sexual slavery.

IMG_1618-0.JPGI will no longer, ever, use that phrase, like salt in the most painful lacerations of a human soul, for I believe it to be a self righteous salve that can cause pain to increase even more. It does not offer comfort, but demands that we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Instead, I will lead the hurting to words which are, indeed, from God’s Word,

I have told you these things,
so that in me you have have peace.
In this world you will have trouble,
but take heart
I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

As Jesus was delivering the message of his own, impending demise, to his disciples, he tells that the words above. They are the aloe to a bad burn, the soothing comfort of love and of hope, in response to a very real reality …

You see, in this world we WILL have trouble. All of us, at some time, guaranteed.

But,

in the heartache, in the desperation, in the loneliness, in the pain, in the despair, and even in death

Jesus reminds us that He has already overcome the world.

Victory may not be ours, here on Earth, this very day,

but He has won the battle, and we live with Eternity in our hearts.

Hope, not demands.

That is the example he has given us.

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I sat in my morning chair, enjoying that the time change again allows me to soak in the visual beauty of the deep orange leaves on my neighbor’s tree. This, our eleventh autumn living in this house, was the first that I had ever noticed this tree. My eyes glanced back to my device with the red-lettered ‘wind warning’.

An hour later, with phone in hand I stepped outside to take a picture of that eye-catching tree, knowing that that day would be the last day of morning beauty for my eyes.

Throughout the day, whenever I looked outside and saw the trees swaying, I envisioned orange leaves being battered from the tree and to the ground below.

When I returned home that evening, I was preoccupied with preparing dinner, policing the completion of homework, and preparing again for the next day to come.

The following day, I grabbed my coffee, and headed to my chair, with regret for the loss of my beautiful view.

What I saw surprised me, as the tree looked just as it had the previous morning. I was so surprised I even got our my phone to compare the before photo to the exact replica before my eyes.

I sat in delightful surprise, in awe of, not only the beauty, but the resilience in front of me. Despite gale winds, the tree held her beauty. The wind may indeed have battered her, but somehow she held on.

As I looked, in awe and wonder, I was reminded of Hebrews 10:23,

“Let us hold tightly without wavering
to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”
Hebrews 10:23

We all have seasons when we are battered by the winds, some of them gale force winds, of life.

when families struggle to love each other.

when jobs do not fulfill us, or are lost due to cut backs.

when marriage is not smooth, or is ended.

when our health is failing, or our life is.

when we have to live with hurt, betrayal, disobedience, illness, worry, change, death,

and anything else that is battering our souls.

But, if we hold tightly, without wavering, to the hope that is Christ, He will not let us fall. We might get blown around, like those orange leaves on the tree, but we just need to hold on, to the One who can be trusted.

 

 

 

 

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