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.
I have a medical condition that can make some days nearly unbearable. The pain and fatigue can cause me to not be so pleasant to be around. I try hard to keep myself in the Word and to fix my eyes on Christ, because it is very easy for me to get frustrated and act out in anger when I am not feeling very well.
God’s Word says that God Himself is slow to anger. The Bible says that we can be angry but that we should not sin because of our anger. We are not to react in anger when things are not flowing smoothly. The other morning my knee hurt, my back hurt. I was tired because the pain kept me up half the night. I was trying to work. The printer was not working properly. I reacted. I reacted in anger. I smacked the printer. I yelled. Doing that got me even more angry and frustrated. I wanted to take that printer and toss it across the back yard. Others likely heard me yelling at my printer and that wasn’t a great example.
Thankfully I calmed down. I recognized that I was going down a bad path and I took a break. I fixed my eyes on Jesus and turned on some worship music. I started to sing along. The lyrics reminded me of God’s Word. The lyrics reminded me of His promises. The anger started to disappear. My pain no longer seemed as intense. I was worshiping Him. I was feeling the peace that only He can give. Each day we are given many opportunities. We control our reactions to the circumstances and situations in our lives. We can choose anger, worry, fear, hate—or we can choose love, joy, compassion, courage, peace. We can choose to do it alone or we can choose Jesus.
“BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” – Ephesians 4:26-27 [NASB]
Circumstances change. Situations are not always the same. There are moments in life when you may be “on top of the world.” There are also moments when you are at your lowest point. But in any circumstance, in any situation, at any point in life, you can be content. It does not matter where you are at or who you are with or your circumstances. Paul said that he was content in any situation.
I know people who are never happy. They can only list the negatives in their life, yet if I examine their situation I find many blessings I could list. For some reason or another, some people feel dissatisfied, unhappy, broken, or lacking. For me it is hard to understand. I have grown to understand this same contentment as Paul mentions. Life is really different when you can be content in all situations.
Today I challenge you to look around and thank God for your blessings. Did you have at least one meal today? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a job? Do you have family? Think of what you have—look at the blessings around you. When you focus on them and thank God for them, you aren’t living with your eyes fixed on your lack. If you can look at the situations that come your way in a positive light, you’ll discover this contentment that is only possible through Christ.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:12 [NIV]
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]
Jeremiah mentions in Lamentations that he called upon the Lord from deep within a pit and was answered. God told him “do not fear.” True story. He was tossed in a cistern. Read Jeremiah 38 and see how this all worked out.
We each have different pits in life. We might have just fallen into a new pit or we might have been trying to dig out of a pit for months or years. Each pit is different. Each pit is a challenge. But no matter how deep the pit, no matter how wide the pit, God can hear your calls. We simply need to call upon the Lord.
God listens. God hears. God doesn’t want you in the pit but sometimes you need to be there for Him to rescue you out of the pit. Sometimes you need to be in this brokenness or imprisoned type situation for God to show you Who He is, Who is in control, and just how mighty He is—He can do all things. He can do the impossible. He can pull you out of that pit. Believe.
“But I called on your name, LORD, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, ‘Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!’ Yes, you came when I called; you told me, ‘Do not fear.’” – Lamentations 3:55-57 [NLT]
The approach varies when planting seeds, depending upon the seed. Some items would do best in a particular area with certain sunlight. Some seeds are best planted at a certain time of the season. Some seeds do better in soil that is different from what another seed would need to produce an amazing bloom. Isaiah mentions that a farmer plants seeds “each in its proper way, and each in its proper place.”
A farmer understands the difference between each seed and he or she handles the seeds individual characteristics to help the plant be more likely to be a success. In the same way, God understands that each of us is different. He made each of us unique. Each of our situations is different as well. God deals with each one of us and our individual characteristics and situations with great care. He knows the proper way and the proper place for us to find success.
Remember today that God understands your particular situation and he is very particular with your care, that it will be handled in the proper way, and that you will be placed in the proper place. The only way you can receive what he has for you is to follow his leading. You might not understand the plan that he has for you, but you can trust that it is a beautiful plan—the best plan.
“Does he not finally plant his seeds–black cumin, cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat–each in its proper way, and each in its proper place?” – Isaiah 28:25 [NLT]
There are moments when we look at our problems and they seem so big. Rather than say, “My God is bigger than my problems,” we focus on the problem which causes worry and anxiety.
In today’s verse, we read “this is only a simple thing for the LORD.” Only a simple thing. We need to remind ourselves daily that our God can do the impossible. Something that we consider difficult is “only a simple thing.” Something that we cannot do alone is “only a simple thing” for Him.
God is our Creator. He formed everything. He knows everything. As Romans 11:36 reminds us, “… everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory” (NLT). Remember this today. You might be facing a big problem in your life right now, but for God it’s only a simple thing. Put it in His hands and feel the peace that He alone can provide.
“But this is only a simple thing for the LORD, for he will make you victorious over the army of Moab!” – 2 Kings 3:18 [NLT]
Almost a year ago I sat down to write about Daniel 3:18. When I write, there are two different ways that I begin. First, there are moments when I am walking my dog Max and the Lord leads me to something. Second, there are moments when I am reading my Bible (many times during my lunch break), when He leads me to something and I will scrawl down some notes for later. Nonetheless, this week I was again reading Daniel 3:18 and was led to write about it. But it felt very familiar.
I considered that perhaps I had written about it before. After writing devotionals, other books, papers, sermons, lessons, etc., it was a possibility. I felt this overwhelming need to search, and then I found it, “But Even If.” Does someone need to hear it again? Yes, and God knew—it was me!
Life has been very difficult lately. Life in general is difficult, but lately I have been feeling exhausted. Not tired. Exhausted. Everything is a battle. I have followed the narrow path. But when we are on the journey God has placed before us, our expectations of the outcome might be very different from where God takes us. Hence the exhaustion. For some of us it’s frustration or even worse. But God reminds each of us that He is with us and He has a great plan for our lives. No matter where we are at on the journey, no matter what our expectations for a situation, our lips should say, “But even if he doesn’t” we will still press forward and live each day firmly rooted in Him. I’m pressing forward. He is my hope and my confidence.
“But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:18 [NLT]
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [NIV]