Afflictions, Trials, and Heartaches

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Afflictions, trials, and heartaches are all part of this life. We never choose to enter into the storms of life, but they come. They may occur suddenly or gradually, but all the same, we must deal with the afflictions that come our way. What are we to do in the day of tribulation and heartache? Jeremiah, the prophet, shares an answer from God. “O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction.” (Jeremiah 16:19) God shows us three truths about Himself that bring hope amid our trials. 

1. God gives us His strength to endure the storms of life. (My strength) Trials and heartaches have a way of weakening our resolve to move forward with life. Our energy has disappeared. We want to quit. However, God tells us amid our weakness, His strength is always there. God says to the Apostle Paul in his time of weakness: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

2. God gives us His protection to stay faithful to Him during the storms of life. (My fortress) The fortress shows stability and security. During our afflictions, we are tempted to depart from the Lord. However, the Lord keeps us firm in our walk with Him. We may stumble, but He will not allow us to fall. 

3. God gives us His refuge for rest and hope amid the storm. (My refuge) In the midst of our trials, we can become weary. We feel that we have nowhere to go. The affliction causes worry and anxiety. God says to us in our weariness: “Come unto meall ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:29) God’s rest is available. Are we ready to lay our weary souls in His loving arms?

A Prayer. “Dear Father, I did not seek this heartache that is an unwelcome guest in my life. I know that I can not handle this storm on my own. I feel weak, vulnerable, and anxious. You alone can take me through this trial. I look up to you as my strength, my fortress, and my refuge. Thank you for holding my hand as I go through this challenging time in my life. Please help me to glorify your name because of all that you are doing in my life. Amen”

 

Bad Tidings in the Season of Good Tidings

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Storm brewing over Downriver Area of Metro Detroit.

“He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 112:7)

“We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” is a Christmas Carol that people sang since the 16th century in England. It is a song of joy as expressed in the words: “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” However, not everybody receives good tidings during this time of year. We still face trials, sorrow, and pain. We may feel a great sense of loneliness. Yes, evil tidings don’t stop during this time of year: however, there is good news from God.

In the Bible, we see many people who triumphed over the evil tidings in their lives. Joseph overcame many evil tidings, including betrayal, slavery, and prison, to become the prime minister of Egypt. Ruth overcame the evil tidings of the death of her husband and living in poverty. She would soon marry Boaz and become the great-grandmother of King David.

God gives us his Word to encourage us as we face the evil tidings of life that may come our way. Every day, “bad news” can surprise us. We don’t ask for it, but it is a package delivered to the doorway of our lives. How can we triumph even amid heartbreaking news? Psalm 112:7 gives us an answer to this question.

Typically, our first response to bad news is to be afraid or fearful. Fear paralyzes us. It causes us to focus on the bad news instead of our Great God. God tells us that we do not have to be afraid of the “evil tidings” that enter into our life. God knows that fear will keep us from seeing Him. Fear causes us to doubt the goodness and the power of God. For this reason, God gives us many verses that command us to “fear not.”

  • But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob,and he that formed thee, O Israel, FEAR NOT: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
  • ” 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)
  • “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID.” (John 14:27)

When fear departs amid the bad news, then we can do the next step in facing our bad news. We now can “fix our heart” upon the Lord. Our bad news is an opportunity to focus on God. We can focus upon all of His attributes and promises. When we fix our hearts upon the Lord, it may not change our circumstances, but it will change how we face our situations. We will understand with the Apostle Paul that God’s grace is sufficient for the “evil tidings” that may come in our life.

Once fear has departed, and we have fixed our heart upon the Lord, then we can have faith in Him. Faith is responding to all that we know about God. The more we know the Lord, the more we will be able to trust Him. True faith knows that God will never leave us, nor forsake us regardless of the “bad news” that may come our way. His love is unchanging. He loves us with an “everlasting love.”. Faith in our Lord will dispel any fear in our life. It will enable us to bear whatever “bad news” that comes our way.

In summary, when we receive bad news, Psalm 112: 7 tells us three ways to respond to the “evil tidings.”

  1. Do not allow fear to dominate our thoughts and actions.
  2. Fix our hearts upon the Lord. Let our thoughts focus on the Lord.
  3. Place our faith in the Lord. He will carry us as we face the “bad news’ in our life.

When “evil tidings” enter, God has a way of turning those evil tidings into an opportunity to see Him work in our lives. God will turn those “evil tidings” into “good tidings” that will draw us closer to Him, and bring glory to His name.

“Dear Lord, the news that I receive is not always positive. I see people who are suffering. I visit those who have marital problems. I talk with those who have a loved one who is dying. I see people who have turned away from you. I also face difficulties from time to time in my life. I tend to meet the bad news with fear. Help me to turn my eyes off the “bad news” and fix my heart upon you. Please, increase my faith. Help me to believe that you will take this “bad news” and make it into a blessing. Thank you for your excellent plan for my life. Amen”

Can God be Good when I am Hurting?

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Trouble, trials, and tragedy strike every person who has ever walked upon the earth. When crises come, do we blame God? Do we ignore God, or do we trust Him?

King David had his share of problems, but he never forgot the goodness of the Lord. He writes: “O taste and see that the LORD IS GOOD: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8) How does God show His goodness in the troubles, trials, and tragedies of life?

1) God shows His goodness in His attributes. “The Lord is Good” Every trait reflects His Goodness. We see this goodness in His love, in His Compassion, in His Mercy, as well as His Longsuffering. The more we know God, the more we can trust Him in a time of crisis.

2) God shows His goodness in His promises. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great His promises bring hope, encouragement. and strength in times of trouble.

3) God shows His goodness in His Actions. “Thou art good, and doest good” All that God does is Good. (Psalm 119:68) We may ask why does God allow this or that to happen; however, God’s actions demonstrate His wisdom. Our heartaches enable us to trust God and what He is doing in our life. “All things work together for good to those that love God.” (Romans 8:28)

4) God shows His goodness in His Love. “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’s love is His motive for what He is doing in our lives. Our trials are an expression of His love. He knows that our tests only make us a stronger Christian.

5) God shows His goodness in His Wisdom. ” In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3 ) God’s thoughts are way beyond our comprehension. God’s ways are not our ways. We may try to outguess God, but His way is always the way of wisdom.

Amid trouble, trials, and tragedy, remember the reality of God’s goodness. His goodness is an anchor for our soul in troubled times. Have you tasted His goodness lately?

Hope Amid the Ruins (When Everything Falls Apart)

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Ruins tell the story of decay, neglect, and destruction. We can also face times of ruin and decay. We feel hopeless and in despair. The Prophet Jeremiah experienced a time in his life when he was in the midst of the ruins of Jerusalem. Babylon had destroyed the city. All hope was gone. How did Jeremiah handle this hopeless condition? How can we manage our desperate situation?

Jeremiah, amid the ruins of Jerusalem, looked up to God. He said in Lamentations 3:21: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” He knows in himself there are no answers: ” My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:” (Lam 3:18) Jeremiah knows in himself there are no answers; however, he knows that his hope is in God alone.

When we are facing hopelessness in our lives, our only hope is in the Lord alone. We must take our eyes off the ruins around us and in us. Our focus can only be on the Lord. Jeremiah focuses on five attributes of God that bring great hope in his life in spite of the ruins around Him.

1. God is Merciful– “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22) God’s forgiveness brings restoration and hope in our life. As we come to Him with a repentant heart, He takes the mess of our life, and He restores us

2. God is Compassionate. “because his compassions fail not.” (Lam. 3:22b) His compassion gives us a reason for hope. He takes our hopeless situation, and in His love, He rebuilds our life.

3. God is Faithful– “They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness“. (Lamentations 3:23) God’s promises give us hope amid the ruins of our lives. God’uses His promises to rebuild our lives.

4. God is Omnipresent. (He is with me) “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore, will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24) God’s presence gives us hope. He walks with us amid the ruins. He is with us throughout the rebuilding project of our life.

5. God is Good. “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3:25) God’s goodness brings hope to us. We know that God will take the ruins and make our life into something beautiful and glorifying to Him

What will we do amid our hopelessness? Will we stay defeated and discouraged, or will we look up to our great and mighty God? Jeremiah discovered great hope in a hopeless situation, and so can we!!

Ten Reasons to Thank God for the Valley

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The valley is a place that we never choose for ourselves, but God chooses it for us. His plan for our life doesn’t just include the blessings and the mountaintop experiences.  His plan includes the valleys. At times, we are so deep in a valley that we forget God and His promises.

The valley challenges our faith in many areas, including our trust in God, our steadfastness in Christ, and our love for God and others. When we enter the valley, we struggle with having a grateful heart before God. We look at our dire circumstances and feel numb. We feel as though we are watching a tragedy unfold and we are one of the main characters. We lose our focus upon God as we travel deeper into the valley.

After the initial shock of entering the valley, we realize that we need to cry out to God. We ask for deliverance. We ask for relief. We ask for strength. We ask for wisdom. However,  worry and fear are still affecting us spiritually. Why is there no relief? Have we neglected to thank God for our valley?  How can we travel through the valley with an ungrateful heart? Giving thanks to God helps to give us perspective concerning the valley. Gratefulness enables us to see the valley as a place of abundant blessings from God.

As the song writer wrote: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost; Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” What are some of the reasons that we can thank God for the valley.

1. The valley gives us a thirst for God. Nothing can satisfy our soul in the valley but God Himself. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) The valley causes us to run into the arms of our loving Father. The valley creates a thirst that only our Heavenly Father can fulfill.

2. The valley gives us a broken and contrite heart. The valley has a way of bringing us down to our knees. The valley shows us our weakness and need for God’s help. Our heart becomes broken and humble before God. Nothing is more special in God’s eyes than when His children come to Him in complete desperation.  “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

3. The valley gives us an eternal perspective concerning life. Often we are so involved in the things of this life that we forget our glorious future with the Lord. When God takes us into the valley, our perspective on life is changed. The eternal suddenly becomes much more important in our lives. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

4. The valley causes us to search our hearts. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (Psalm 139:23) The busyness of our lives often keeps us from reflecting upon our hearts. We go through the motions and neglect to take inventory of our lives. When God takes us into the valley, we find ourselves looking for answers. This helps us to search our hearts as to our past, present and future.

5. The valley can often bring marriages and families closer together. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he (Lazarus) whom thou lovest is sick.”
(John 11:3) Tragedy and heartache can bring families closer together or further apart. In the case of Lazarus, his death brought his family closer together. When one member of a family enters into a valley, it is a great opportunity for others in the family to travel with their loved one.

6. The valley tests our friendships. “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) The valley exposes the true loyalty of a friend. A true friend doesn’t run away when their friend enters into the valley, but they encourage him. They do whatever they can to help their friend. There are many so-called friends who are exposed in the valley because they watch from the sidelines as their “friend” travels the painful road in the valley.

7. The valley gives us a hunger for the Word of God. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) When times are going well, we read our Bibles out of obligation, but when we enter the valley we read our Bibles out of necessity. The Word of God opens up to us with its promises, comfort and even conviction.

8. The valley is a place where Jesus becomes our sweet companion. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) The valley is a place where we may feel lonely, but we are never alone. We have a companion who walks every step of the way in the valley with us. The walk in the valley is difficult, but we can find it pleasant because we experience a closeness to the Lord that we don’t normally.experience.

9. The valley broadens our ministry towards others. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) God’s ministry of comfort, strength and encouragement in our valley enables us to have compassion upon others who are in the valley. When we respond to the valley in God’s way, we will find many doors of ministry that will become open to us.

10. The valley enables others to minister unto us. “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:” (2 Timothy 1:16) The valley enables others to reach out to us. We become thirsty for encouragement and people see this need and refresh us. They can refresh us with their presence, with their words, and with their prayers.

Yes, the valley doesn’t seem attractive when we first enter; however, as time goes by, we learn the secret of the valley. This is a place of great blessing. This is a place of experiencing God’s love. This is a place of spiritual growth. The key to having the valley become a very positive experience is to thank God for this time in our lives.

“Dear Lord, I didn’t ask for this valley. I didn’t expect this valley. Yes, this valley has been difficult; however I thank you for this valley. It has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade. You have used this valley in my life in so many ways! Please don’t ever stop your work in my life. Thank you for the your wisdom, tenderness, strength and love that I am experiencing in this valley. Amen.”

When There is No One Else (Confiding in God)

Cabo da Roca, Portugal Photo by: Mark J. Booth
Cabo da Roca, Portugal
Photo by: Mark J. Booth

“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

“Will anybody listen to me?”  Have you ever caught yourself thinking this very thought?  Yes, throughout life there are times when we feel alone.  We think no one understands.  When these times occur, we must not forget that there is One who is always available to listen.  He understands exactly how we feel.  Are we prepared to confide in Him?

When we confide in the Lord, we are saying:  “I trust you, and I know that you care about me.  I pour out my heart to you, because I know that you understand.  Please show me what I need to do.”

Why do we need to confide in the Lord?

Has a situation ever come our way and we don’t know what to do?  We feel helpless in the midst of what is happening around us.  Many years ago, King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced the near certain defeat of his army.  Within himself there was no strength or wisdom to handle this dire situation.  He did what we all must do when we are confused and helpless. He went to the Lord. “O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) God is waiting for us to confide in Him in the midst of our confusion.  At times, we don’t confide in God because we are reluctant to admit our need of Him.

Another reason we need to confide in the Lord is that our own viewpoint can lead us astray.  You have heard the saying: “Let your heart be your guide.”  However, God tells us why our heart is not a reliable guide for our life. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jeremiah 17:9)  God makes it clear that our heart is not to be trusted.  We often make decisions based upon our own selfishness or bias.  When we confide in God, we will see life from His perspective.

Trials, heartaches, and difficulties fill our life.  We can’t travel the hard road of this life without continually confiding in our Lord.  Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  When tribulations come, do we forget that the Lord is greater than any trial that comes into our life?  When we cry out to Him in midst of our pain, He responds to us.  When an emergency happens in this life we call 911.  Why are we so reluctant to cry out to the Lord in the midst of our pain?

People say: “I  would be a good Christian, if it wasn’t for other people.”  Yes, other people may hurt us, misunderstand us, ignore us and dislike us, but there is a friend who is always there.  His name is Jesus!  David confided in God when he faced powerful enemies; so can we. “Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;” (Psalm 55:2) The Lord is a Friend who will never leave us or disappoint us.  Will we learn to confide in Him when we have problems with others?

Finally, we need to confide in God because of His Greatness.  He is worthy of our faith.  God is our all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful Lord and Friend.  He is our High Priest to whom we can go at any time. He is a refuge in the midst of any storm. “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8) God’s greatness is like a magnet that draws us to Him.  He can handle any situation that we take to Him. 

How do we confide in the Lord?

Confiding in the Lord is simply to share our requests openly with Him. He already knows what is happening in our lives, but He wants us to come before Him in complete faith and honesty. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God.” (Psalm 59:1)  The Psalmist understood that he could share any request with God, and He would hear him.  Our God desires us to seek Him.  His love means that His ears are always open to our cries unto Him.

As we confide in Him, we must also remember the importance of having a grateful heart. Gratitude is a way of confiding in the Lord that we are totally dependent upon Him.  In Philippians 4:6, Paul writes: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving.” When we cry out to God, we thank Him for all that He is doing in our lives, and all that He will do in our lives.

Confiding in God is also demonstrated when we come before Him in desperation.  We don’t see God as part of the solution, or maybe a possible solution. No! God is the only solution.  The Psalmist writes: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6) Our desperate cry is saying: “I need you, Lord.  You alone can help me.”  God will respond to this humble cry.

We are often tempted to seek to handle life in our own wisdom and strength.  Yet, the Lord is always there. He is always ready to listen.  Why do we choose failure in our own strength and wisdom, instead of choosing success in His strength and wisdom?  God is waiting to hear from us today!  Will we confide in Him?

Prayers of Comfort from Psalm 37

Near Marshall, MI: Photo by: Mark J Booth

Trials are a part of every person’s life.  These trials can be self-induced or they can be caused by events beyond our control.  The question isn’t if we will have trials, but how will we face these trials.  Psalm 37 is written from the perspective of a man filled with trials.  God shows him the way he is to navigate through these trials.  Here are some prayers that go along with this very encouraging Psalm.  May God use Psalm 37 to help give direction and comfort to each of us.

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 37:1)  “Lord, I find myself filled with worry.  I worry about my walk with you.  I worry about my family, and the church.  I worry about my future.  I sometimes look at others and feel as though I am lacking something.  I also fret because evil seems to be gaining ground every day in our nation.  Help me to gain perspective upon the things that trouble me.  I need to grow in faith; so that I know in my heart that you are in control of everything.  I can trust you with my life and with what is happening in the world around me.  Amen”

“Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4) “Lord, I often focus on my circumstances instead of focusing upon you. I forget to take delight in all that you are. Help me to focus upon all that you are and all that you do. May I delight in you today regardless of my circumstances. Amen.”

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) “Lord, I often want to chart my own course in life.  I look at my future from my perspective and not from yours. Why do I find it difficult to commit my way to you? Lord, you do know what is best for my life. Your love for me is beyond question.  For this reason, I need to commit unto you everything I do.  Help me to trust you regardless of what may happen in my life. Amen”

“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) “Dear Lord, I often live in anxiety because I don’t place my burdens upon you. I often run ahead of you instead of waiting for your perfect timing. Help me, to trust you enough to allow you to work in and through my life.  In the midst of my busyness, enable me to stop and remember that you are right here with me. Thank you for allowing me to rest in your everlasting arms! Amen”

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” (Psalm 37:8)  “My Lord, when I face difficult circumstances and people, I can easily become angry.  Usually I keep this anger within, but it does affect me.  It keeps me from pleasing you and ministering to others.  Thank you for your great example on the cross how you forgive those who placed you upon the cross.  Teach me to respond to others with graciousness and love.  Teach me to yield my rights unto you, because my anger is often a warning sign of some right that I haven’t yielded unto you.

“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:24) “Lord, I have stumbled and even fallen many times in my life; yet, you are always there to pull me up with your loving hand. Help me to never let go of your hand as I walk through this life. Thank you for your great love in watching over me. Amen.”

“And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked,and save them, because they trust in him.” (Psalm 37:40)  “Thank you for the concluding words of this Psalm of comfort and guidance.  Thank you for the times that you have delivered me from myself and others.  Thank you for all that you are, because you are truly worthy of my trust.  I gladly commit my ways to you today. Amen”

P.S. I often write prayers with the verse that I write out in my Journible.  If you are interested in learning more about the Journibles, here is my post about this excellent Bible study tool.
http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/07/29/how-to-profit-more-from-your-bible-reading-the-journibles/