There is a harsh deadness to winter. Will there ever be life again?
Yet year after year we look for signs of Spring. We know from experience that it will come. God has promised and it has always come. So I pray and wait. Trusting a good God will bring Spring and new life out of this deadness. Struggling to thank Him in the winter, knowing it leads to Spring that will be more marvelous because of the winter that came before.
So too trouble comes with its cold, harsh, barrenness.
Sudden storms that are unpredictable.
Storms I have no control of.
Storms I want no part of.
Yet here they are swirling, howling about my life. They refuse to give an answer to my “why?”
So I pray and wait. Trusting God is with me especially in the trouble. Holding me close, teaching me to rely on Him. I haltingly thank Him for His care. Knowing someday there will be a “Spring” that will be even more beautiful because of the trouble that came before.
I have been blessed over the last weeks to have many people praying for me. I am grateful for those prayers and for those who helped in many other ways.
I also think back to the nights in the hospital and even the times I woke up in the middle of the night once I was home. Those were times of being reminded by God of his tender care of me. The verses he would bring to my mind or the fragment of a hymn.
“Jesus the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrow cease. ‘Tis music in the sinners ears. ‘Tis life and health and peace.”
Our world is in trouble right now. It is more than a physical sickness. It is a spiritual darkness that envelops many. We think especially of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, but there are many people hurting in many locations like Afghanistan and China. It seems hopeless, but we have a God who sees and hears. He still comforts those in trouble. He is at work even in the darkness. Our hope lies not in governments or leaders, but in the God who patiently waits for men to turn to Him. My prayer is that the current trouble causes such a turning.
My granddaughter, Arianna and I recorded this a couple of years ago. It was written by Emma and Stuart Townend. “I Am Here for You”.
For further study:
Deuteronomy 3:22 – “Do not fear them, for the LORD your God is the one fighting for you.”
Isaiah 31:1 – “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, And trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!”
Isaiah 41:10, 13b – “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” “…Do not fear, I will help you.”
Jeremiah 31:3 – “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”
Matthew 28:20b – “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
John 16:33b – “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I John 4:10 – “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Even though Joseph was from a dysfunctional family he lived a life of integrity. Several times in scripture it mentions “the Lord was with him”. His life was anything but smooth sailing, but the Lord was with him.
The Lord was with him when he was thrown into a pit by his brothers.
The Lord was with him when his brothers sold him into slavery.
The Lord was with Him when He worked in Potiphar’s house.
The Lord was with him when he was falsely accused, by Potiphar’s wife.
The Lord was with him when he was in jail.
The Lord was with him when he interpreted dreams while in jail.
The Lord was with him when he was forgotten by men.
The Lord was with him when he worked for Pharaoh.
He did nothing to deserve trouble. Yet, God was kind to Joseph by being unkind.
God was kind to Joseph’s family by saving them from the famine, through Joseph.
God was kind to the Egyptians by saving them from starvation, through Joseph.
God was kind to Joseph by allowing him to be part of God’s plan to bring deliverance.
There is no mention of Joseph doubting God’s goodness. There is no hint of bitterness. After the death of his father Joseph reassures his brothers by telling them. “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
Sometimes trouble comes to my life or your life. I don’t know why most things happen, but…
I do know God is kind.
I do know that God is sovereign.
I do know that sometimes God is up to something I don’t understand.
“And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying; BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL, which translated means, God with us.” Matthew 1:21-23
We don’t think of that verse as offensive, but more than likely it would have offended the religious leaders of the day. They were being oppressed by Rome. Their country was overrun by foreigners. They were being abused and mistreated at every turn. They wanted a Savior who could save them from the trouble around them. Shockingly Matthew points to the real problem. It wasn’t their circumstances it was their own hearts.
“…He will save His people from their sins.”
How dare he talk to persecuted people like that. How dare he not enter into their pain and ask them how they feel. How dare he accuse them of being sinners.
And so it is. The gospel is offensive. We think our life would be better if we just had different circumstances. If I just had a different wife, husband or different children. Maybe a different church or friends or job. Maybe if my past hurts weren’t so great. The list is endless.
Trouble is everywhere. You can find atrocities sprinkled throughout history. Your circumstances, however horrifying, are nothing new. The sooner we see the problem is within us instead of without us the sooner we are ready to hear the wonderful story of the gospel.
God became man. (Amazing)
God is with us (Incredible)
His purpose? …to save us from our sins. (Freedom at last)
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! II Corinthians 9:15
Sometimes I just don’t feel like singing. But first, let me explain…
I grew up in a family that sang often. We sang in church. We sang in the car. We sang outside. We sang around the piano. We sang at school. We all had just ordinary voices, but we sang anyway.
Then I grew up.
Life was hard.
It became harder to sing.
When my Dad got sick with a brain tumor we watched him put his violin aside, and soon his voice was gone too.
It didn’t seem right to sing without him.
After he died it took me a year before I could sing without crying.
Many years later, as my Mother lay dying, the only thing that would make her stop whimpering was if we sang to her. So I found a hymn book and sang softly until my own tears prevented me from continuing. When she would start whimpering again I would sing until she calmed down… until tears choked my voice.
Again and again the cycle repeated itself. Those were hard days, but my sisters and I were glad we could be with her.
There have been other hard days, when singing seemed impossible. Yet, singing should not be dependent on how we feel, but because we owe our God praise.
Below is a song I find myself singing when I don’t feel like singing.
Notice the words in the first verse...”He justly claims a song from me…”
We sing, not because our life is free from trouble. We sing, because we have a Great Redeemer who has rescued our souls from hell.
There will be trouble here. But this isn’t all there is. We have eternity to look forward to. This trouble will seem little when we are face to face with our Savior. In the meantime we remember His care of us in the here and now. We remember that He asks us to sing, to remember, to cling to this God who day by day covers us with His lovingkindness.
David wrote the following words when he had to flee to the wilderness of Judah, when his son, Absalom, took over the throne. (See II Samuel 15:23-30; 17:16)
“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise Thee.
So I will bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name…
For Thou hast been my help, And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy.” Psalm 63:3,4 & 9
David wept when he was in trouble, but he also didn’t stop singing. Neither should we.
Samuel Medley 1738-1799
Awake, my soul in joyful lays, And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise; He justly claims a song from me, His lovingkindness, oh, how free! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how free!
He saw me ruined by the fall, Yet loved me not-with-standing all; He saved me from my lost estate, His lovingkindness, oh, how great! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how great!
Tho’ numerous hosts of mighty foes, Tho’ earth and hell my way oppose, He safely leads my soul along, His lovingkindness, oh, how strong! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how strong!
When trouble, like a gloomy cloud, Has gathered thick and thundered loud, He near my soul has always stood, His lovingkindness, oh, how good! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how good!
Soon shall we mount and soar away to the bright realms of endless day, And sing, with rapture and surprise, His lovingkindness, in the skies. Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, in the skies.
A few years ago my husband and I visited Wales with our youngest daughter. We rented a flat, sight unseen, through the internet. After arriving in Conway by train we found our way to the flat and unlocked the door with the key that had been sent to us. We unpacked, bought some groceries at the market and settled in for a few days.
The location was perfect. We could walk anywhere we wanted and we could see the castle from some of the rear windows. We went to bed expecting to explore as much as we could in the morning.
I woke in the middle of the night to hear my husband yelling.
Get off of me!
My bleary eyes quickly focused on a big cat resting on his chest. My husband threw it onto the floor, but it jumped right back on the bed.
He picked the cat up and put it outside on the street. We went back to bed a little shaken, but unharmed. A few minutes later the cat was back.
What in the world…do they give cats their own keys in Wales? My husband put him outside again and this time he shut our bedroom door as well. We slept through the rest of the night without incident.
Imagine our surprise when we opened our bedroom door in the morning to see the cat, again. She came in and swiftly jumped on the bed, like she belonged there. We were puzzled by her presence. We thought maybe the owners had a cat they failed to tell us about. A kind of spy to make sure we didn’t do damage to their property. We tolerated her, wondering if we should feed her? We didn’t.
When we left to explore for the day, we put her out and carefully locked the door behind us…again.
We explored the castle, did some shopping, ate lunch did more shopping and came home tired.
The cat was there to greet us…inside the flat.
That’s when we noticed the back door had a “cat door” built into it. It didn’t matter how many times we put the cat out and locked the door. The cat would continue to come back in.
I tried contacting the owner, asking her if they had a cat. She didn’t get back to me until after we had left Conway. She informed us that they did not have a cat, and she hoped we hadn’t let a wild cat into the flat. (There seem to be several in this town.) She was more than a little angry.
Her response puzzled me. You can say you don’t want cats, but if you have a cat door they are going to find their way in. That’s like leaving a trail of cheese into your house and then being surprised when mice show up.
I know there are lessons to be learned from all of this. I will let you jump to your own conclusions… excuse me while I seal up some cat doors.
I have lived through periods of being overwhelmed. My details aren’t important. Insert your own circumstances into the story I am about to tell you.
One particularly difficult period went on for a few years. I would often talk to God about “this mess that is my life.” I could see no way forward. It was impossible to go back. The circumstances I found myself in were beyond my control and way beyond my ability. It wasn’t a matter of trying harder, it was a matter of being completely undone.
My life was like a train wreck. Twisted metal blocking any clear path.
Sitting crumpled on my living room floor I cried out to God. “This is too hard. I am too weak. I can’t go on.” It was as if He whispered…”Can you get through this hour? I will be with you this hour.” “Take my hand. Moment by moment we will get through this.”
I wanted no part of this train wreck. I wanted a smooth easy existence with blessings floating down to my outstretched hands. God wanted my outstretched hands to be reaching for Him not His blessings.
Severe trouble shifted my focus from things He provides to God Himself. When everything else lay in ruins, God was the only thing left. He was offering to take my hand as I stumbled through the train wreck. The train wreck took years to get through. I still encounter remnants of it. When I do I am reminded of how far God has brought me. From constant, hopeless despair to a moment by moment existence holding tightly to my Father’s hand.
What have I learned? My utter sinfulness. My need, not for new circumstances, but to be right with God. My hope could not be found within myself, but within God’s redemption.
Whatever your circumstances there is hope. Not in yourself, but in God.
We are eternal beings. We will live forever. This life isn’t all there is. You have a choice to make. Living moment by moment with God now and for eternity, or turning away from His outstretched hand to live a miserable existence in this life and the next.
“For God so loved the world, (that means you) that He gave His only Son, (Jesus died for your sins) That whoever (that includes you) believes in Him should not perish (separation from God for eternity) but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV – (notes by me.)
Israel was free. Pharaoh had sent them away. (Exodus 12:31)
God went with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night until they reached a spot near the Red Sea. There they set up camp.
Pharaoh, regretting that he had lost all his slave labor, decided to bring them back. His chariots caught up to Israel where they were camped by the sea.
Israel panicked. First they cried out to God, and then quickly complained to Moses for taking them out of Egypt. “We would rather have been slaves forever than to die in the wilderness.” (my paraphrase)
Moses responded with…”Do not fear, stand by and see the salvation of the LORD…The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Next God tells the people to move forward. God tells Moses that a dry path will open through the Red Sea when he lifts up his staff.
While they move forward God moves behind them with his pillar of cloud along with his angel. They were a barrier, a protection from the Egyptian army.
All night the wind blew a dry path with walls of water on each side. Israel moved through to the other shore.
In the early morning Pharaoh follows this strange new path, but he doesn’t have the success the Israelites had. God causes confusion, their chariot wheels swerve and they drive with difficulty. Too late they realize God is fighting for Israel and at daybreak God “overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.”
An unexpected path led to Israel’s deliverance. It is not a path they could have imagined, or contrived. It was all of God. The incident shows God’s loving care for His people. Even in the midst of their complaining he took care of them.
What kind of trouble are you facing today? Are you in a difficult situation without any obvious means of escape? I know a God who does His best work in impossible circumstances. Believe that He is there with you. Turn to Him for help. He loves you like no other.