Category Archives: Seeking God

Finding the Good in Your Dark Days

As the years go by and I get older in life and in my faith, I grow more in love with Easter.Finding the Good in Your Dark Days

The entire week leading up to it is a good time to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. As much as I love the celebration — yet loathe the flamboyant suits and hats in church — of Easter, I cherish Good Friday.

Historically, that was the bad day. That was when Jesus and His followers took the loss. It was a dark day in Jerusalem 33 A.D.

When I watch movies like Passion of the Christ, it’s heartbreaking seeing the crucifixion. Even though I know what will happen Sunday, I still am hurt by my Lord taking the beating on Good Friday.

But regardless of how it looked then, that Friday was good.

The term “Good” in the title denotes pious or holy. Yet the day is good in our common English sense of the word too.

Interestingly, by definition “good” means “approved of” or “having the qualities required of a particular role.” When we think about it that is so fitting for Good Friday. As horrible as that day seemed, it was “approved of” by God. And Jesus had “the qualities required of the particular role” of enduring the cross for our sins to establish the New Covenant.

Another definition of good is “a benefit to someone.” How great of a benefit was Good Friday to us?

So Good Friday is appropriately named.

Beyond that, Good Friday reminds me of what can come from a seemingly horrible situation. In 33 A.D., there was nothing good about that day. It sucked. Peter and all the other disciples who scattered were scared and confused. Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Mary Magdalene were in unimaginable pain and grief. They would have never thought, in the middle of the chaos and horror, that that day could ever be considered good.

But it is.

Regardless of what it looked like to everyone around, God knew that the end result would be good. And in hindsight, we see how good it was. We realize how it was to our benefit.

I can look back at my life and recall some days, moments and seasons that were dark. When I was in the middle of them, I couldn’t possibly see what good could come from it.

But the same God who turned the execution of His Son into the greatest miracle ever, also turned my worst experiences into my greatest areas of growth and maturity.

Can I look back on my trials and call them good? Well, by the aforementioned definitions, yes. Obviously I had the qualities required to endure those times. And now, I can see how they benefited me.

That’s not to say our trials don’t sting. It’s not to say we should welcome them. There is no pleasure or desire in suffering. But there is growth. There is a benefit to them.

So if you are in the middle of a trying, painful and frustrating situation and you see no light, remember that thousands of years ago there was a dark and depressing day in Jerusalem that we now call Good. One day, you’ll be able to say the same about your dark day.

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How to Stay Encouraged During Life’s Storms

At some point in life, we’ll all get discouraged. Heck, at some point this week we’ll get discouraged.How to Stay Encouraged During Life's Storms

Whether life is going great for you right now or you’re in the worst year of your life, there are moments when you feel down. If you’ve sat through or listened to any number of sermons during your life, you’ve likely heard a minister say you need to “encourage yourself in the Lord.”

That’s a cool saying, I always thought, but what exactly does it mean? And how do I actually encourage myself in the Lord?

The phrase is quite vague, especially out of context, but the light bulb started to come on for me while reading about King David in 1 Samuel 30. David and his army of a few hundred men had just been rejected by the Philistine army (you’ll have to read the background as to why the heck he and his men were trying to join the Philistine army) and were returning to their camp. When they got there, the village had been raided and burned down, and their wives and families had been kidnapped.

Oh snap.

So everyone was devastated, crying, in despair, and angry. Then they turned their anger toward David. They talked about killing him (hey, somebody had to be the scapegoat). Needless to say, this was bad day for David. He was beyond discouraged. But then…

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” I Sam. 30:6

In the middle of his despair. In the middle of the worst day of his life. In the middle of destruction, David encouraged himself. He had no one to encourage him—everyone around wanted him dead—but he found a way to encourage himself.

So how’d he do it? The Bible doesn’t explain how, but theologian John Gill presents a clear explanation in his commentary that we can use to encourage ourselves in times of discouragement.

HE TOOK IT ALL PATIENTLY

Grieving the loss of his own loved ones and being surrounded by a mob of angry soldiers, Gill says David “took it all patiently and exercised his faith in God.” David didn’t freak out. He didn’t react in anger, fear, or desperation. He kept a level head. He was patient. When it seems like hell is breaking loose in our lives, we’re tempted to react in unhealthy ways like speaking negatively, using depressants, venting on Facebook/Twitter, or taking out our frustration on others. The first step to encouraging ourselves in the Lord is to take the hits patiently. This in itself is an act of faith in God (because for most of us, being patient is a miracle).

HE TRUSTED IN THE POWER & PROVIDENCE OF GOD

David trusted in God’s power, knowing the Lord was able to pull him and his men out of their despair, and in God’s providence—His divine guidance and care. We need to remind ourselves that God is greater than our problems and circumstances, and even when we feel alone, His providence is keeping us.

HE REMEMBERED GOD’S PROMISES & HIS FAITHFULNESS

David had been already seen God work in ridiculous ways in his life. He knew God’s promises and experienced His faithfulness to them. In our lives, we’ve seen God’s promises fulfilled—in big and small ways. We encourage ourselves by remembering what God said and knowing He’s faithful in every single promise.

HE RECALLED THE GRACE, MERCY & GOODNESS HE EXPERIENCED

Finally, David recalled the lavish grace, mercy, and goodness of God. Above all else, he remembered that God is good AND He had been good to him. Likewise, we must remember that God has been good to us. Like, ridiculously good. Why, when we need Him most, would He pull back?

If you read the rest of 1 Samuel 30, you see David prayed to God, pursued the scoundrels that burned down their village, killed them all, and rescued everyone’s family—happy ending. I’m sure our stories will be less dramatic. But hopefully, like me, you have a better understanding of what it means to encourage yourself in the Lord.

If we take a lesson from David and we encourage ourselves in the Lord during a dark moment, depression, debt, sickness, or any situation, we’ll not only get through it all, but we’ll come out of it stronger in God, and with a heck of a testimony.

Be encouraged my friends.

 

 

 

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When Life is Hard, We Don’t Need Answers

Life is hard sometimes.

Sometimes it’s trying.When Life is Hard, We Don't Need Answers

Sometimes it’s confusing.

Sometimes it’s depressing.

Sometimes it’s all of the above.

During those times, when life is unstable and uncertain, we search for answers. For many of us, we go to the Bible. Heck, even people who aren’t Christians often turn to the scriptures for answers.

The beautiful thing about the Word is it provides what we need at the right time, not necessarily what we want or expect.

The Bible is not a book of answers.

It’s not a go-to guide for quick solutions to life’s troubles, though we want it to be sometimes. It’s a narrative of God and His people, and from it we learn of His goodness, His grace, His love, and His power. In it we find peace, comfort, and strength.

It’s not full of answers, but it points us to the answer—Him.

When we experience a death of a loved one, we may want answers to why his/her life was taken. But knowing why someone died is not what we need or truly want. We want comfort. We want healing. And God, through His Word and Spirit, provides that.

Several years ago, I was in the midst of the worst year of my life. It was one of the lowest points I’d ever been emotionally. I felt alone, confused, and depressed. I needed something to hold on to and it was Psalm 27:13:

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

That scripture gave me hope. It kept me believing that I would see the goodness of the Lord. It didn’t specify what the goodness of the Lord was, nor when it would manifest. David, the writer of the Psalm, didn’t say he saw the goodness of the Lord. He simply said that by believing he would see goodness, he was encouraged. He knew the trouble wouldn’t last forever.

That scripture didn’t give me an answer. It didn’t give me a three-step solution to solve my problem. It simply showed the words and faith of someone who went through something much worse than I did and how, inspired by God, he got through it. It gave me hope.

Hope was exactly what I needed.

God’s Word is indeed powerful. But it doesn’t give quick fixes and simple solutions to our troubles. It doesn’t necessarily change our situation, but it does change us. It takes our focus off our problem and puts it on to God. Because ultimately, we don’t need answers, we just need to trust Him.

What scripture has gotten you through a difficult time? Is there a verse you often turn to in trouble? I’d love to read your comments below.

 

 

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You Can’t Do Anything Without Courage

I’m sort of enamored with the concept of courage. I love reading the Old Testament with all its acts of valor. Just reading the term “valiant men” anywhere in scripture makes me want to grab a sword and shield or slingshot and go find an uncircumcised Philistine.

photo by rowena waack via compfight
photo by rowena waack via compfight

Of course there are different characteristics of courage now than in O.T. days, but you get the point.

God is big on courage as well. He’s constantly telling us to be courageous, and do not fear (variations of that phrase are mentioned roughly 100 times in the Bible). Yet, I heard one of the greatest explanations of courage from an interview with Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle. Yeah, those two make strange bedfellows for sure. I came across this episode of Iconoclast shortly after Maya’s death, where she explained courage as “the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Wow.

I find that to be true. Whatever virtues you aspire to — whether it’s the fruit of the Spirit or some other set of values — it takes courage to live them.

Courage to love when there’s no guarantee you’ll be loved in return. To love after you’ve been heartbroken. To love when it’s misunderstood.

Courage to be patient when you’re pressured to react. To wait when you want to go. To not get ahead of yourself or the process.

Courage to be humble and admit you’re wrong. Courage to forgive.

Courage to have faith. To believe in the midst of negative circumstances. To trust God when everyone else is doubting.

Courage. It’s the virtue that allows you to live every other virtue. It’s a virtue that is already in you. God wouldn’t tell us to be courageous if it was beyond our ability to do so. He has equipped us with courage. We may not see it. We may not feel it. We may not use it often enough. But it’s in us. We just need to conjure it up more often. Practice it. Doing so allows the other virtues to operate.

 

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Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

Sometimes I feel inadequate. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m over my head, and I don’t quite know how to navigate through certain situations in life. Chances are, you’ve been there too. You may be overwhelmed with those thoughts and feelings now (and if you’ve never felt that way, you will at some point).Your Potential is Greater than Your Limits

There are many people from the Bible who had these same feelings (see Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Gideon…well, everyone actually). Life has always had a way of making humans feel uncomfortable, overwhelmed, and inadequate at times. Whether it’s a result of our own actions, natural circumstances, or God pushing us into unexpected roles, these type of situations can be frustrating.

I was reading about Saul, the first king of Israel, and the predicament he found himself in. Of course, we know Saul ended up doing some stupid things, disobeyed God, and turned into a psychopath seeking to murder his son-in-law (David), but before all of that, he was a pretty decent guy.

Saul was just going about his business one day when the prophet, Samuel, anointed him king. He wasn’t looking to become royalty; God chose him. When it was time for his coronation in front of the people of Israel, Saul was hiding. Bible scholars note that Saul felt inadequate to be king:

  • He was part of an unheralded family of the smallest tribe of Israel.
  • He was being put in a role that was foreign to him.
  • He didn’t even rule his family, but he was being appointed to rule a nation.
  • He wasn’t a warrior, but he had to lead Israel in battle.

And on top of that, there was no example to follow because Israel never had a king. Talk about pressure. Sometimes we feel like Saul did that day. We face seasons and moments of inadequacy. We feel like we’re insufficient or ill-equipped to:

…be a spouse.

…be a parent.

…run or start a business.

…buy a home.

…take on the new role at work.

…go to grad school.

…follow our dreams.

Our inexperience in these areas can bring fear, hesitation, procrastination, worry, and stress. But we can be encouraged by the story of Saul and many others in the Bible. God called Saul to the role of king. Whatever Saul lacked in ability didn’t disqualify him in God’s eyes. God had a plan for him, even if it wasn’t apparent yet. He knew what Saul could become with Him. Whatever endeavor you’re pursuing or role you are in, realize that God has you there. He knows your limits, but He knows your potential as well.

You may not feel “called” or “appointed” to your situation. You may have gotten there by happenstance or mishap. Either way, God has appointed Himself to be with you at all times. And if He’s with you, helping you, then you’re equipped for anything.

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