Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘trusting God during painful times’

I Deserve Better Than This! Don’t I?

SOURCE:   Adapted from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Even in Darkness, Light Dawns

When I talk to patients or workshop attendees, they often express a desire for a trouble-free life. And even if they don’t feel they actually deserve it, they desire that problem-free life anyway. It’s true for all of us, isn’t it?

The real question is, “What do we actually deserve?” I’m just trying to keep things real and be straight with you. The answer we all know deep down is: the wages of sin is death. If we really want to accept responsibility for our actions, death is what we deserve.

By choosing “self” over God, Adam and Eve reaped the consequences of separation from God, shame, pain in childbirth (and child-rearing) and difficulty working in the field. Our own sins bring consequences to others and ourselves. We are constantly paying for our sins. And, as we established, when we sin, we deserve death.

Everything we get in this life—breathing, walking, thinking, a home, family, heat, food, or even the ability to read or listen to this devotional—is more than we deserve. What we receive in life is given totally from God. It is His amazing grace-gift to us.

When we think that His provision isn’t enough, it reveals an unbelievable level of immature entitlement, that we feel we actually deserve all the blessings we get. The icing on the cake is that we really believe we deserve more than we already have, despite how much wrong we have committed throughout life.

Instead of being happy about the 38 cancer-free years we enjoyed, we are bitter, believing we “deserve” better than cancer. Instead of being happy about the eight years we had with our son, we ruminate and believe we are entitled to more time with him when he dies. I know this sounds harsh, but we have to get over our level of entitlement, thinking we are the almighty Oz who knows and sees everything.

Just because we had something yesterday, we feel entitled to have it again today (job, finances, college, friendship, health, family, etc). Jesus tells us clearly in John 16:33 that we will have trouble in this world and that we will find peace only in Him. No pain, no gain. When we are weak, He is strong, but we have to believe and apply these time-tested principles.

Today, let go of the illusion of the trouble-free life and begin turning your focus toward your Lord during the dark times, for “even in darkness, light dawns.” Show God you trust His prescription and provision for your life more than your own plan. Remember the grace God extends when you sin. He has a plan for you. Adversity is a necessary component to get your attention and grow you.  Whether you control your reaction to the times of darkness and pain or you let them control you, it’s your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, please help me give up the belief that I deserve a problem-free life. I remain constantly hungry for solutions for all the difficulties in my life. I know now that this is false hope. You tell me through Your Word that in this world I will have trouble. Help me focus my energy on seeking You—the only perfect One—instead of seeking perfection in this fallen world. I know and believe that it is possible to enjoy You and glorify You in the midst of adverse situations and circumstances. In fact, You have taught me that Your light shines most brightly through believers who trust You while they are in the dark. I thank You, Lord, for the Christians you have placed in my life. The kind of trust they have in You is clearly supernatural, possible only by Your Spirit living within them. It’s so beautiful and encouraging to see their steadfast hearts, trusting in You, Lord. I pray this in the name of the One who was perfect and who deserved the trouble free-life, but who instead suffered for me, Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

The Truth

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  Psalm 112:4 and 7

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Joyfully Trusting When The Worst Is Happening

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Joyful Trust – Astounding Behavior

Recent studies of the brain tell us that it operates best when we’re in a joyful state. That made me think of Jesus walking through the betrayal, arrest and crucifixion, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, . . .” (Heb 12:2).

How did Jesus move through these events with any kind of joy?

Looking again at Jesus’ arrest, I noticed how he navigated those rough waters with dignity and self-giving love instead of the attitude of “Just get through this. It will all be over soon” (Matthew 26:47-56). He was others-centered while I would have been me-centered.

I came up with several reasons he would have felt anxious and sorry for himself.

DISRUPTION Soldiers brandishing swords, clubs, and torches broke into Jesus’ intimate, powerful and passionate conversation with his closest friends.

TREACHERY In the midst of all this commotion came the familiar greeting from a very good friend, Judas: a kiss of betrayal.

OPPRESSION Those arresting him were violent and confrontational. They “laid hands” on Jesus (v. 50) and “bound him” (John 18:12). He went from being an honored and revered celebrity to being dirt under people’s feet.

EMBARRASSMENT If you have ever seen someone you love, wearing handcuffs and standing accused, it’s an indignity you never forget. Also, in addition to the soldiers, “chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders,” the highest authorities in Judaism, descended upon them (Luke 22:52). Imagine the governor and mayor coming to your front door to arrest you.

ISOLATION One of Jesus’ best friends assaulted one of those arresting him. After three years of training, Peter still did not “get” Jesus. Did Jesus have anyone who understood him at all?

ABANDONMENT All the disciples fled (v. 56). Jesus was alone.

What do Jesus’ words and actions tell us about what he thought and felt?

CONCERN Instead of being alarmed by Judas’s actions, no doubt hurt, Jesus was concerned about Judas himself, asking “My friend, what are you doing here?” (v. 20, NT Wright’s translation), as if to say, “Think about this. Are you sure about this?”

ASSURANCE As Peter was swinging a sword amidst the olive trees in dark Gethsemane, Jesus pointed Peter instead to reality: 12,000 unseen angels stood ready to help Jesus at any moment.

HEALING Jesus immediately reached out to heal the attacker whose ear Peter had cut off (Luke 22:50-51). Imagine helping someone who was arresting you. Folks who are practiced in physical healing say that it requires a right heart, a compassionate love. So this was Jesus’ inner condition.

CONFIDENCE Twice Jesus spoke of biblical prophecies being fulfilled (vv. 54, 56). Even as a human, Jesus was so immersed in the Trinitarian reality that the ideas penned by the Spirit in Scripture were Jesus’ ideas too. It’s as if he was saying, “I’m in on this. This was my idea! We’re a gang of three and operate as one!”

SUBMISSION Jesus did not try to escape, but stepped forward, asking, “Who is it you want?” When the soldiers fell backward (at Jesus’ presence?), he insisted he was the one to be arrested (John 18:4-8). He had avoided arrest earlier, but now he willingly surrendered (John 7:32, 45).

NEVER ALONE Just a few minutes before this scene, Jesus said, “you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (John 16:32). He understood and lived in the reality of the with-God life, relying on God for everything.

I love this scene!

I confess I think first and mostly of myself, what affects me, and what I want. My learning curve is to rely on God in every moment. The with-God life is reality. When we operate in a state of joyful trust, the oddly-radiant, majestic behavior of Jesus becomes possible.

A Prayer Upon Receiving Troubling News

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Dear Lord Jesus….

Last evening’s troubling stories shape today’s morning prayer. I went to bed last night, wearied with woes of friends. I arise today hungry with hope in you, our great and gracious Savior.

Thank you for being honest with us about life this side of the new heaven and new earth. You’re not an on-demand panacea, promising the elimination hardships and heartaches. You’re not a miracle-computer, passively waiting to be programmed, as we exercise the right formula.

You’re so much more; so much better. You’re a very present help, pledging your presence in every circumstance and trial—committed to working in all things, for our good and your glory. Troubling news doesn’t have to cripple our hearts. Indeed, may it carry our hearts to you today, for you are ever so trustworthy, Lord Jesus.

For our friends stunned with breath-taking health news, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. How we long for the day when words like cancer, dementia and heart disease will no longer appear in our vocabulary. Until that Day, we unabashedly and earnestly pray for healing, and we trust you for all-surpassing peace and more-than-sufficient grace.

For friends saddened with heart-ripping issues with their children, we declare our trust in you, Jesus. Few reports carry more power to dishearten us than those related to our children.

Whether they’ve been vandalized by others’ darkness, or victimized by their own foolish choices, it hurts real bad and real deep. We appeal to your covenant faithfulness and your powerful reach: capture the hearts of our children, Jesus, and help us love them well in the chaos and the crisis.

For friends waking up to pink slips, financial burdens and no apparent options, we declare our trust in you, Lord Jesus. Things impossible with man are possible with you. We pray, not only for your provision, but also for our generosity with one another. May the law of love be fulfilled as we bear one another’s burdens—spiritually and emotionally, physically and fiscally.

Lord Jesus, we can “trust in you as we trust in God,” for you are God—the Son of God and God the Son. We can “take heart” because you took our sin, and have already overcome the world for us.

In the world we will have tribulation and broken stories, but in you we are given all the grace, peace, and hope we need.

So very Amen we pray in your kind and overcoming Name.

A Prayer for Worshiping God Before, In and After the Fire

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-18

Heavenly Father, I am convicted, stretched and encouraged, by the way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego honored you in this story. How refreshing to behold such God-centered, non-utilitarian, heart-engaged, authentic and fearless love for you.

These three friends didn’t worship you because of the gifts you give them, but because of the God that you are. They were firmly convinced that you could rescue them from the fiery furnace; but even if you didn’t rescue them, it would have no effect on their love for you, and trust in you. They would rather be delivered into your presence through the fire, than worship some other false god just to escape the fire.

Father, forgive me when my worship of you varies in response to my perceptions of how well and quick you answer my prayers—how fully you “bless” me, protect me, and grant me relief. As cynical as I am about the “name it and claim it” and prosperity theologies, I’m quite capable of doubting your love when life gets complicated and painful—when I have to wait on you and trust you in the dark and silence. I want to worship you beforethere’s a fire, when I’m in the fire, when the fire’s extinguished, or if you should choose to take me home through the fire.

Lord Jesus, you alone can give me such freedom and love; passion and delight; faithfulness and courage. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire, you were the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around in the fiery furnace—so great is your faithfulness to us. And you were the one who endured the “fiery trial” of the cross—so great is your grace for us. You will never leave us or forsake us—at any time or in any trial. Because of the gospel, “fire” is less about out destruction and more about our purification. You make all things new, including fiery trials

Because of you, Lord Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die; and we don’t have to be afraid to live, either. By your grace, stoke the fire of affection in our hearts for you, so that at the very moment we’re tempted to turn to some false god deliverance or relief, we won’t. So very Amen we pray, in your beautiful and strong name.

 

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