Life is a journey. Over the years, I learned that a journey isn’t the same during each part of the journey. There are highs and lows, good times and bad times. There are moments of rejoicing, and moments of sorrow and tears. When one sets out on a journey, so often the sojourner thinks the steps have been set, the days are fixed, and there is a great picture of what will result at the end of the journey. Consider a trip to an amusement park. You know stops along the way for refreshments and bathroom visits are likely. You know that fun will be had with rides and games. You may even have an itinerary in place. In the end, you know you will leave with a collection of photos, overly hyper children overcome by sugar and fast food, and perhaps a slight case of dehydration from the heat of a sunny day.
Life isn’t like that though. No matter how much you plan, how much you think that the steps have been set in place, that the days are fixed, life does not come all beautifully packaged. Yes, each of your days is written in the Book. Yes, all of your tears are caught in His bottle. Yes, He has a plan and a purpose for your life. Yes, there is a narrow path that few will choose. Yes, there is an end to the journey which culminates with the New Heaven and New Earth as we worship our King. But the journey—the journey is a journey of faith. And when you step forth in faith, you can only cling to the promises of God, lay everything down before Him, and trust that when the journey gets difficult, when the road gets hard, when people turn their backs, when eyes are opened, when jobs are lost, when health deteriorates, when the puzzle isn’t coming together like the picture on the box—that God is Sovereign, that God has everything beautifully orchestrated, and that nothing can snatch you from His hand.
As I sit here today, in the middle of turbulent part of my journey in life, I can certainly say that my mom never warned me of these days. There are days no one can prepare you for except for a life long journey filled with experiences—a journey filled with triumph and loss, pain and suffering, truth and lies. The scars of life, they sometimes feel as if they cover us completely—as if they will have the last say. But it is in the ashes, that we are reminded of God’s love for His children. We are reminded of the price that was paid. We are reminded that we will rise—that even when the days of this journey can be hard, and dark, and painful—that even when these days come—that God, in His infinite wisdom and His unfailing love, has victory. He has overcome. Now in Him, in Him we are washed. In Him, we find peace. In Him, we are made new. Over and over again. And one day, one day when our Lord returns, all will bow and confess, all will see His glory, and all things will be new.
“The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” – Psalm 37:23 [ESV]
“Even a courageous person’s steps are determined by the LORD, so how can anyone understand his own way?” – Proverbs 20:24 [CSB]
Today I sit here with the stomach bug. This is the 2nd time in a month that I have been sick with the stomach bug. It seemed to have circled back around to me. It feels like a great weight upon me as I try to get work done, keep the household running, and take care of the dogs. Simple things seem like impossible tasks.
In the Bible, we read that “The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down.” This is something I’m clinging to this morning. Time and time again, when I am weighed down, it is the Lord who lifts me up. No matter what you are going through today, you can rest in this truth. He lifts up those who are weighed down.
If you feel unable to get through the day or like the world is crashing down upon you, remember that you are not alone. The Lord is with you and He will see you through. He will lift you up.
“The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down. The LORD loves the godly.” – Psalm 146:8 [NLT]
As I sat at my desk going through my task list, I noticed an elderly woman approaching the office door. Was she coming inside? She is not a client. I went to the door to greet her and figure out who she was and what she needed. She saw a van parked outside our office just leave, and she thought that we were the business advertised on the van. I informed her that the company was only visiting our office to do some work and apologized.
As we were about to part ways, she told me she was having a tough time. She recently moved and she was struggling to get everything in order. She was hoping to catch the man in the van, or get some answers from his associates within, only to discover she wasn’t close to the place to find answers. Nonetheless, the Spirit gave me a nudge to help her out. Little did she know; the answers were online. She was led to share her struggles. I needed to listen to the voice telling me to slow down and pay attention. In no time at all, she had the answers in hand and it was time for her to leave. It was a simple encounter, and it was easy to help her. Five minutes. But she was so grateful and she left with a smile.
We often have these encounters with strangers. Do you consider why they are brought your way? Some people are in your path to help you grow. Some people are in your path for you to bless. Some people are in your path for you to shine the Light. Don’t trivialize evangelism. Don’t think sharing the Gospel is all about big demonstrations with fancy words. Small encounters with strangers, embracing and showing compassion—these encounters are precious. Do small things with great love and watch God move in mighty ways.
“And do everything with love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:14 [NLT]
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 will admit I am forgetful. As a crutch, I use my Google calendar to remind me of everything both at work and at home. I make a grocery list to remember what food to buy, and then cannot even remember the list. I kept losing my prayer lists; my prayer list is now on my phone. If I don’t write something down, it is likely it will be lost in my memory bank. I would not call it a memory bank – it’s more like a black hole.
This morning while I was on the usual walk with my dogs, I soon realized as we changed directions that I forgot my sunglasses. The whole way home I was squinting because my oversensitive eyes could not face the beautiful morning light. I even grumbled a bit considering the headache that might follow as a result. All because I forgot my sunglasses.
What a surprise when I got home only to realize my sunglasses were in my pocket. I had my sunglasses the entire time!! The sunglasses I own are magnetic and when I grabbed for my keys, they unbeknownst to me followed along. I spent all that time wishing for the solution, when it was right with me. Sadly, that is how many of us are in life from time to time. God has the answer but we look elsewhere. God has provided what is needed but we are too blind to see (2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:19). God has a perfect plan but we only see the struggles, the pain, the heartache. God is with us through it all but we so often feel alone (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5). My friends, let us open our eyes. Let us look at what He has blessed us with and embrace what He has for us. Let us remind ourselves of what He has done, what He has said He will do, Who He is, and His promise to never leave. We each have all we need to accomplish what God has called us to do in life!
“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.” – Psalm 33:4-5 [NIV]
During our morning walk there was quite a lot of water puddles to make our way around because of the crazy weather during the night. Being a Labrador, Max has no issue making his way through the puddles. I try to encourage him to walk around but sometimes he just walks right on through. With Marci it is a different story. She is a Shih Tzu. Some of the puddles we encountered this morning were like lakes to her.
As we made our way home, Max went ahead and Marci found herself right in front of a large puddle. She was frightened. She tried to run in the other direction but could not get far as she was attached to Max’s leash. I reached down to grab her and save her from the puddle. She did not know what was going on. She ran away from my hands because I think she feared we would start giving her a bath right there in the puddle. I tried to calm her. Finally I was able to get a good hold on her and I carried her over the puddle and placed her safely on dry ground.
We often reach puddles in our own lives. We are fearful to go through. We don’t know what direction to go and we can’t get very far no matter which way we turn. Sometimes we just need to walk up to the water’s edge in faith, understanding that God is right there. Our loving Father is always there. He reaches out and carries us across the turbulent waters in life. He holds us with His great strength. He guides us through the deepest waters and the darkest valleys. There is no safest place to be than in the hands of our Father. Stop squirming. Rest in Him. Let yourself be carried where He made you to be—to a place beyond our understanding. Step forward. It’s time.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” – Isaiah 43:2 [NLT]
Every day I am in pain but some days are worse than others. Today was a really high pain day because there was an incident that occurred when I was walking the dogs. A loose dog came after Max and Marci. My daughter held Marci and continued onward but this loose dog kept after Max and he wasn’t too keen on this new acquaintance. Somehow I got my hand twisted inside his harness and the more movement from Max meant my hand was being squeezed until it could not be squeezed anymore. Finally someone nearby made a grab for the loose dog and my hand was free. It was a great feeling to have my hand free—but the pain has been lingering ever since. That was my bad hand already; I’m not sure what to call it now.
On days like these, days when the pain brings tears to my eyes, I cling to God’s Word. You can page through your Bible and read about people suffering, about people in pain, about people in anguish. This morning I turned to Psalm 73. But as you page through God’s Word, you also read about His promises. Psalm 91 says “’If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,’ says God, ‘I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!’” (v.14-16 MSG)
I am very blessed. Each day, I am grateful for another day—another opportunity to serve. I know there’s a purpose. I know He has a great plan. I know that one day I won’t have to wear braces on my knees, ankles, or anywhere else. I won’t walk with a limp. Things will be different for me and for you. No more pain. No more tears. No more struggles. Think about the party God is going to throw. Yes, there will be a day—oh what a day!
“Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.”
Psalm 73:25-28 [NASB]
There is something that I hear and read too often – My life sucks. Sometimes it really can be frustrating to hear these words, especially from the mouths of Christians. Usually it is not something that is said once, but it is a way of life for some people. Perhaps the person believes he or she is the only one who has problems, trials, and hardships. Perhaps the person is not happy because he or she is not getting what’s desired. Either way, it is like nails on a chalkboard to hear those words.
Since sin entered the equation many, many years ago, everyone has hardships and struggles and pain. It is not how God intended the world, but we made a choice. Jesus has defeated death and through Him we overcome; however, trials and suffering still occur here on earth. I could list many of my personal struggles, and people who know me well can see them just by watching me walk, but it is not about that at all. When people see me and know of my struggles, they don’t hear that my life sucks—they hear that Jesus is taking care of me, helping me through each and every day. They see my testimony without me opening my mouth.
Does your life suck? Are things not going the way you intended? Do you have limited funds? Do you hate your job? Do you have relationship problems? Are you struggling through life? I am sure you have a lot on your plate. We all do. But remember, each day is a blessing—each day is a gift from God. You can walk through life complaining about each day, being ungrateful for the gift or you can ask God to use you, to strengthen you, to be a part of your life and things will be very different. I might have pain this morning as I write this, but I have a joy and peace that only Jesus can give. My life does not suck. No matter how bad it gets, no matter what challenges and hardships come my way, each day is another opportunity, another gift. Each morning I thank Him for giving me another chance. What will you do with your opportunity today?
“The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” – Psalm 29:11 [NIV]
“This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24 [NLT]
Life is not always easy. In fact life is usually not easy. Difficulty seems to find me. There’s always a challenge. There’s always a trial. There’s always something going on in a person’s life. That’s why there’s a quote that tells us to treat everyone nice because we don’t know what they are going through.
I’ve heard many times the question, “Where is YOUR God?” Where is God now? Why are things not easy for you since you accepted Christ? Why are you having these troubles—doesn’t your God care?
We are promised that the narrow road is difficult. It’s a difficult road and it does not make everything instantly smooth. Things don’t suddenly come easy. Mark 10 even tells us that yes, we will receive a hundred times as much as what we leave behind, but that comes “along with persecutions” (v. 30 NIV). The road is difficult but we are not alone. Christ is with us each step of the way. Keep moving forward on this difficult road. He is faithful.
“But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” – Matthew 7:14 [NLT]