The pollen levels have been out of control the past few days. My normal allergy medicine has not been enough to combat the problem. Then the officials called for a Code Orange warning, which signifies poor air quality that will thereby impact those who are “sensitive.” This means people who are losing their allergy battle with pollen, people who have asthma, etc., should proceed with caution.
As I was walking the dogs, I was having intense breathing issues from the pollen. My great hope was the medicine that I would take after I finished walking the dogs. As I continued to drag my feet a mile, pollen from a tree blew right into my eye. Pollen 2, Tania 0. I spent the rest of the walk trying to get my watery eye to expel the bits of pollen, only able to walk with one eye open.
Life usually is full of struggle after struggle, whether small or large. It seems when we think we cannot handle anymore, something else is piled on top to cause us more of a burden. Sometimes it appears as if the world is against us. Truth be told, we aren’t meant to carry all this burden alone. Remember, we are not in this alone. Also, the world is against us. If we are living for Jesus, if we are not of this world, then we are standing against the world and the world will always be against us. Thankfully we know this world is temporary. God’s Word tells us that heaven and earth have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth. The world may be against you – but God is always for you!
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:13 [ESV]
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31 [ESV]
Yesterday I attended a family picnic and I got ketchup in my hair. My uncle made me a cheeseburger and I topped it with all the fixings – lettuce, tomato, onions, and ketchup. The wind was crazy. I believe what happened was ketchup dripped to my plate and the plate flew into my hair. I remember having to catch it a few times. When that ketchup was in my hair, I could not stop messing with my hair. It became my primary focus. I wanted so badly to get it out of my hair, though I’m sure if I didn’t know it was there I would have been none the wiser.
When we have problems in life we do the same thing too often. We know about the problem and we focus on the problem. We continue to think about the problem. We continue to consider the need to fix the problem. It almost becomes an obsession. If the problem is small, we spend our time figuring out how we will resolve the issue. If it is a bigger issue or something we do not have the means to fix alone, we continue to look at the problem as an impossible hurdle and depression sets in soon after. Sometimes we make ourselves sick as we continue to fixate on our current circumstances.
Just as I should not have been so focused on the ketchup in my hair (it was only a little ketchup and there is a thing called shampoo), we cannot be problem focused. We have a God Who is a God of the impossible. Our focus, whether we have no pressing problems or we are buried knee deep in problems, should always be on God. When He is our focus, when He is first in our life, then our circumstances, our struggles, our problems won’t control us, depress us, or weaken us. Remember, in our weakness, He is strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” Do you know what is so awesome about that verse? The word keep is “natsar” which means “to watch” or “guard.” The word for peace is “Shalom,” which means “completeness” or “peace.” The word for perfect is also “Shalom.” This verse says if we are fixed on God, if we trust in Him, we will be kept (watched, guarded) so that we are in completeness and peace.
When I was younger, my dad taught me to carry things on my shoulders. In doing so, you are better using your body to carry the weight and less likely to get hurt. But as I became an adult, I began to pile things on my shoulders in other ways. I began to keep a hold of my problems and try to fix them myself.
Some of our problems cannot be solved alone. Some of our problems are problems because we try to do things alone. But there’s another way—another option for each one of us in life. We can give it to God. We can say, “God, I cannot do this alone. I can only do this with your help.” We can give it to Him and take a step back. We can trust Him and let go.
Piling your troubles on God’s shoulders is not giving up. Yes, you are giving up control and trusting Him with it; however, you were never in control in the first place. He was and is always in control. Even so, you are not giving up. You are giving in. Giving in to the fact that you cannot do life alone, giving in to Someone better, giving in for something more. Peace beyond understanding. Infinite power. Unconditional, everlasting love. You cannot handle this alone. He will help you out. Trust Him.
“Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
topple into ruin.”
-Psalm 55:22 [MSG]
When you get angry, it can often be difficult to keep your mouth shut and remove yourself from the situation for awhile. We want to speak out right away. We want to respond. We start to yell. We want to speak our mind. We feel the need to tell the person that we are in the right. We have to explain ourselves. We must get in the last word. We want to tell people when they are wrong and we are right. We can’t help but point fingers.
Nehemiah discovered that people were taking advantage of others. The Jews were charging interest to their brothers. As a result, the people were mortgaging fields and homes. Their children were going into slavery. They were being drained of everything. When Nehemiah found out he was very angry. But notice he did not respond right away.
Nehemiah thought it over; he considered his words and actions. He still went forward and told the people what they were doing was wrong. He told them to return to the people what was theirs. However, he waited till he contained himself and got his thoughts together. Oh how easy it could have been to immediately rush in and start pointing fingers and barking out orders. Instead he gathered his thoughts, went before the people and calmly stated the problem and provided the resolution. Now that is anger management.
“I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, ‘Each one of you is gouging his brother.’”
-Nehemiah 5:6-7 [MSG]
We are not told exactly why Cain’s offering was unacceptable but Abel’s was pleasing to God. In Genesis 4:3-4, we see that Cain brought “some” and Abel brought “the best.” I think if I had to choose between some or the best, I would choose the best. Then in verse 7, Cain is told, “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” It is clear that Cain did not do what was right, and that possibly was linked with a poor attitude that needed correction.
We see this attitude problem from Cain when he gets jealous because Abel’s offering was accepted. God warned Cain that sin was crouching nearby and the attitude needed to be changed, but Cain did not wish to move toward God and seek the remedy. Instead he invited his brother to an outing and then killed Abel. Matthew said that Abel was the first to die for the truth (23:35).
We all have a choice—to be more like Abel or more like Cain when it comes to pleasing God. We don’t know much about these brothers, but we do know a few things. Abel gave the best. Abel did what was pleasing to God. Cain did not present a suitable offering. Cain did not seek out God when told he needed to change his focus. Abel gave all; Cain gave some. Where do you fit? Are you giving the best? Are you trying to live a life pleasing to God? Or are you getting irritated and wanting to do things your own way?
“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must rule over it.’” – Genesis 4:6-7 [NIV]
In 2 Kings 5, Naaman, army commander & leper went to Elisha for healing of the leprosy. Verse 11 says he “went away angry.” He thought that things would be different. Elisha did not come out. Elisha told him to go to the Jordan River and wash 7 times when other rivers were considered better. The servants then said if the prophet Elisha would have told Naaman to do “SOME GREAT THING” his response would have been different.
Sometimes we come before God with our problems, our hurts, our dissatisfaction, our pain, our troubles– and we think that He will act in a particular way and do “some great thing.” As we know, our thoughts and ways are not like God’s thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8). Even so, we can trust in His plan– it is a better plan. It is not some great thing. It is simply amazing, beyond our comprehension. Walk in faith. Trust in Him. He will do more than some great thing. Don’t try to limit God by not allowing Him to move.