God is our refuge and strength
As a pastor I hear this lament all of the time, sometimes it even comes from my own lips, "Why doesn't God help me in my troubles?" This is a legitimate question to ask. A lot of Christians tend to be afraid of asking God why, or earnestly seek to resolve their crisis. Thinking I do not have enough faith or I would not go through this. Or I do not want others to know, for they would think bad of me or that I caused it. Or we use the crisis to grab the attention ourselves.
If we are going through tough times, we need to know why, and what we should do when we are in them. If not we become confused, frustrated and disillusioned. Yet in the Psalms we see David go through so much and still trust and obey more than most of us could ever do. And he does this without the New Testament at his disposal, or the scores of resources and places to seek help that we have. Yet David does ask God the hard questions, but he did not stop there. David also knew God intimately and trusted him wholeheartedly even in times of severe trials, and even going through them again and again. Just read though the Psalms, and see David's passion and conviction to God's call.
We must first adjust the way we perceive life. Even as Christian sometimes we have faulty views and expectations we pick up by listening to bad teaching and bad advice and then there is the influence of our culture. First of all bad things do happen! And they happen to good people (in the way we see good, in God's eyes of course all have sinned and there is no good, except what Christ brings us). We will go through trials, troubles, and tribulations. So what we have to do is figure out what we do when it happens.
What lesson do we learn from it, how do we grow better so we do not become bitter. We need to see His promise is:
Read Psalm 46: 1.
God does not look upon trouble as we do. Where we see stress he sees opportunities. Where we see crisis, He sees growth and betterment. God's purpose in times of crisis and trouble is to teach His children precious lessons. They are intended to educate, and build us up. And when we learn from them and ride out these storms of life, we will see the great promise fulfilled. His glorious recompense will come to us throughout eternity. We need to see the joy and opportunities through times of problems. Because we will learn that there is a sweet and wonderful joy we can have here too. We do not have to wait until Heaven. We can learn to make our life joy filled by seizing the crisis and growing from it. To become the person that we are capable of being for our benefit and His glory.
So when God tests you, or bad stuff happens, we need to see it as a time for you to learn and to trust Him by changing what is wrong with you while putting His promises in your heart and feet. And when it is over we can look back and see that our trials have been necessary. We are better, He is glorified!
I do not like going through trials, for many years I would try my hardest and get out of a trial. And then be thankful that it was over. But they kept happening and happening, so I had to rethink my strategy from my purpose to what has revealed in His Word. And that is to recognize the crisis as a challenge from God to learn valuable lessons to make me grow in maturity and strength. And then I was receiving a better blessing than I ever had before. As stated in I Chron. 4:9-10, as the ministry He entrusted me with grew and grew. I can praise His name in deep suffering and delight in the blessings. And when those storms of trials and crisis come, I'm prepared, because I now see them as opportunities to gain more strength and maturity, and even obtaining a larger measure of Divine grace. Thus our adversity can and will become our tools to grow and learn to be our best for His highest. So things that are seemingly against us, He will turn around in His time and way. We have to get out of His way and allow Christ to work. And this is how we become more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom 8: 37-39)
To be a content Christian and happy with life, we need to see life as a series of problem solving and learning opportunities. Because the problems we face will either overwhelm and overpower us or grow and develop us. Thus, the path of joy is determined by how we respond to them. Unfortunately, most people including Christians will fail to see God's hand in their life. Choosing instead to focus on their problem and allowing it to take over their lives: Like a terrorist holding them at gunpoint and refusing to allow the help to rescue them.
God wants to use our problems for good, to make us better and stronger for our personal development and in turn for us to be able to help others in their lives. So the unhappy, confused and disillusioned Christian will react irrationally with their problems rather than taking the time through spiritual discipline to see the advantage they bring them. So what can we do to refocus ourselves onto the right path?
The Coming Storms of Life
Unexpected crises are a part of life, they are like storms. At this moment you are in one of three storm categories; either you just came out of a one, or you are in a one right now, or you are headed into one. Such as it is with crises, they cannot be escaped, even if you hide in the storm shelter it is still there pounding away! Thus we need to learn how to prepare and ride them out. As with crises, we must learn to prepare and ride them out by learning and maturing from them.
One of the great illustrations of both crises and storms in the Bible is in Acts. Paul is headed from one prison in Jerusalem to one in Rome for an appeal to Caesar. Paul and 275 of his companions where headed straight to the biggest storm and crisis if their lives. It lasted many days, and they lost all hope, until Paul through the visit of an Angel reassured the crew.
Read Acts 27
From this passage we get three insights on how to guide us through the storms of life:
- Determine the reason for your storm.
Bad weather happens for scientific reasons, they are caused by low pressure zones, evaporation cycles and jet streams all converging. Our crises in life too have a root cause. So what is the cause for yours? To make this determination you must dig below the surface of your fears and experiences. You have to uncover things you may not want to face, but have to, to be able to get through them.
For Paul he had three reasons. 1. The ship captain did not listen to Paul's godly advice and focused on greed from the ships owner, in effect bad advice. 2. They also let the bad advice escalate to the crew and their lust for profit and speedy return to the home port. 3. They relied on their greed and impatience to cloud a sound logical look to their circumstance and the right decision to make. Such as the captain, owner and crew knew that storms accrue where they were headed at that time of the year. So they relied on luck and misplaced hope rooted in greed, by a vote of public opinion that led to disaster. One bad decision escalated by another and so forth.
For us we need to be aware of relying on just what we know. Because it will cause us to get impatient and then we will not listen to good advice or even seek it, thus we will make bad decisions. So when the storm clouds begin to form, it is not a time to be impatient and ignore it, hoping it will go away. It is a time to seek His face in surrendered devotion and prayer.
Use the time to seek the reason. Maybe a bad decision you made? Bad advice you received? Sin? Or perhaps you are not growing in faith and practice, and God needs your attention. Maybe you cannot find the reason, Job was never given one. So if you took a careful look inside yourself, immersed yourself in prayer and sought Godly advice, and still no reason, then don't get hung up on seeking the reason. Maybe He does not want you to know it, or you are not ready for it. But in most cases it is there in plain sight, you just need to get the distractions of fear, your will, and expectations out of the way to see it.
- Determine what the result of the crisis may be.
The crew knew the risk of shipwreck and death, but greed clouded their sight. Paul warned them of the result, but they would not listen. So God used their bad judgment to open up further opportunities as stated in Acts 28.
What will be the consequences and possibilities for our direction and decisions? So we need to learn and grow from our crisis, to see the opportunities to enlarge our perspective, sharpen our skills, and develop our character. And we need to do this in our preparation and not wait until the end to figure things out. Because when we have the attitude of learning through it, the storms are not so tough, and we receive the blessing and maturity with less stress and struggle. Look ahead, plan accordingly through your prayer and walk with Him.
- Determine you response.
We need to ask ourselves how do I respond to the crisis, what is the best thing I could do? There are 3 elements that make a Godly and correct beneficial response.
1. Deal with the problem. You cannot solve any problem by ignoring it! This is not an easy process, because it requires us to give up of ourselves and self will and put our focus on Christ. To be able to focus on Christ the lens must be moved from our will to His. Then the proper perspective will come by prayer and His Word, and listening to others and comparing what they say to the Word. Know that God will give you the strength and perseverance, because what gets us through is not our strength, but His!
2. Confess Sin. Many times we bring these crisis onto ourselves. We do this by deliberate sin, or just making bad decisions and listening to bad advice. So we have to determine our part and correct it. Seek His forgiveness and others if necessary. We have to be big enough to allow the Holy Spirit to live in us, and we become big not by food, but by confession, admitting our mistakes and then be willing to correct them. We cannot seek to blame others or make excuses. Yes people will do stuff to you and ruin your life; there too we have to seek our part for allowing it to happen, or by looking at our motives and behavior. Being responsible may not be the thing certain ex-presidents do, but it is what a Godly disciple of Christ does. This is the mark of a genuine leader and emotional maturity!
3. Take God's Promises to heart. Pick up one of those promise books at a Christian bookstore. Then go over the verses in the category that you are dealing with. Then pray through those verses. There are over 7,000 Bible promises that come directly from our Lord and Savior! You need to see them like a credit card with no spending limit and that you do not pay back, except by your love, trust and obedience. So charge away at those verses, see His love is guiding you.
This is the way to use His building materials so your home will become storm proof. So when the crises come you will ride them out to be better, stronger and more content to be the person that Christ called you to be!
But why must I go through this stuff, is there not an easier way? Yes, we can ignore Him and live as a heathen, undisciplined, ignorant, confused, unhappy and purposeless. Then after this very short time on earth we are in Heaven for eternity, our reward, our character, our relationships will be determined by what we have learned here in this life!
During my times of adversity I have learned five ways God will use the problems in your life:
1. God uses problems to Examine you.
People can be like canned food without the label; if you want to know what's inside, just open them up! Does God need to open you up? When has God tested your faith with a problem? How did you respond? What did you learn? What do you think going through problems will reveal about you? Is your will and desire ruling over you or is Christ the true Lord of your life?
Read James 1:2-3
2. God uses problems to Lead you in the right Direction.
Sometimes God needs to slap us in the face to wake us up. Without such wakeup calls we will blindly fall onto the wrong path that leads to greater disappointment and ruin. We will not see it coming, because our will is in the way of His. But know this, God is there leading and protecting us, even when we do not see Him! And be warned if your will is in the way of His, He will light a fire under you to get you moving. If He didn't, it would show He does not love you! Just as a parent will discipline their child out of love. Problems will point us in a right direction if we surrender our will over to His. His love is there to motivate us and change us into the best path and plan, much better than we could ever come up with! Is God trying to get your attention?
Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." Pr. 20 :30
3. God uses problems to Discipline you.
Sometime the only way to learn the lessons in life and to make us better is only by suffering and failure. It is like as a child being told by it's parents not to touch a hot stove. And we all have touched that hot stove! Thus we learned by being burned. Now know this, God is not up there getting His jollies by infecting us, not at all! He loves us so much He will resort to what He has to do, to bring us up closer to Him. Remember He sacrificed His own Son and the extreme pain Jesus went through for us. Pain is a part of life, so it is best we except and learn from it so we do not have to keep getting burned. Most people only learn the value of something, such as health, money, or relationships by losing them.
It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me attention to your laws." Ps 119:71-72
4. God uses problems to Shield you from greater harm.
Problems can be a blessing in disguise, because they can prevent us from being harmed by something more severe. Such as a car breaking down just before is reaches the railroad tracks as a train is zooming by. Car breakdowns are stressful and costly, but the train is even more so. Just as the story of Joseph, he suffered needlessly from our perspective, but God protected him and turned it into incredible good.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..." Gen 50:20 (NIV)
5. God uses problems to Refine and Improve you.
Problems are the main ingredients for us to build character. The key to these building materials is that they need to be used in the right way to be able to fit and function correctly. And that right way is how we respond and learn. God is far more interested in our character than our comfort. In the grand scheme of things, the meaning of life, the reason we live the life we are given is our relationship with God, and then others around us. So the most important thing we have in those relationships is our character, the only two things we will take into eternity, is relationships and character.
"We can rejoice when we run into problems ...they help us learn to be patient and patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady." Rom. 5:3-4 (LB)
Remember this main point: God is at work in your life, even when you cannot see Him. We will go though trials and suffering because of the sin that has infected the world and us. We will grow best for His glory by recognizing and confessing sin. Then we can grow even more when we learn and mature from those experiences. You will have far more contentment and joy in your life when you cooperate and allow God's love to rule in your life, and surrender your fears, desires and pain over to Him.
Read Gal 2:20; Phil 1:6; 3:10
So what happens if I messed up? What can I do to recover from the Adversity's of Life? What should I do when tragedy strikes?
Read Ecc. 8:14
Our primary goal is to learn from our mistakes and experiences, so we can grow in our faith and practice for His glory.
- Ask God to ease your grief. This is not denying it or ignoring your crisis, you are going through it for a reason. But as David did, tell God exactly how you feel. Use this to enhance your relationship with Him. (Ps.34: 18; Ps. 62:8)
- Be willing to receive help from others. Don't isolate yourself. Christianity is not a solo sport, it is a team effort filled with relationships and opportunities. Find your support in a good and solid church family. If you are in a big church get in a small group, do not be alone or anonymous! Gal. 6:2
- Refuse to be bitter. - You have a choice: become better or bitter. (Job 21 :25 Heb 12:15) How can I avoid bitterness? Accept what cannot be changed. (Job 11:13,16) Focus on what you still have, not what you have lost (1 Th. 5:18)
- Remember what is important in life. And guess what, it is not our things and stuff. It is not the career, cars, boats, toys, education, looks, power, or status. It is Relationships, not things, that matter. (Luke 12:15 I Tim. 6:7)
- Focus on Christ. - This is the secret reservoir of strength we have access to. This gives us the perseverance in tough times. (Phil. 4:13)
How do I do this?
- Place your trust and reliance upon Christ; this is where your stability comes from. (Isa. 26:3 Ps.112: 6.7; 125:1)
- Learn to Listen. To our Lord through your prayer and devotions. And to godly advice. This is where our direction comes from. (Jer. 29:11)
Look to Christ for salvation! "God is our Redemption, so because of what He did, we can draw our strength from Him and rest in His protection. Remember He always helps in times of trouble, if you do not see it, then you are not looking. (Ps. 46:2)
(c) R.J. Krejcir 1995, 2002 Into Thy Word
Richard Joseph Krejcir, is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries, 'a discipleing ministry. He is also a pastor, teacher, speaker is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California and has amounted nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry experience mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.