Tag Archives: Challenges

Want and Need

What we want isn’t always what we need and what we need isn’t always what we want. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons that God teaches us in our lives as we struggle with purpose and meaning, searching for a reason, wondering to ourselves if He is even listening. Sometimes we just, well we have this image in our head of the way things should be or ought to be and it becomes such a prevalent thought that we can’t picture it any other way. Other times it’s that we look around and we can’t seem to understand why it is the way it is when we know it should be different, even if we don’t necessarily know how or why that should be the case.

It’s the question of divine purpose that so often gets to us, that so often weighs us down as we know what we want or how we want it, and yet, as we do, we have a hard time reconciling it to what God knows that we need in our lives. The thing about it is that we’re not even trying to be that terribly difficult, we aren’t trying to make it that much harder, we just want to know why it is the way that it is, we want to know what the plan and the design of it is, and we don’t necessarily get why it has to be the way that it is.

The deepest questions of who we are, and who we need to be, of where we need to be, they aren’t ever questions that come simply or easily. We don’t just become people, we grow into them. Perhaps, along the way or path is changed or altered, it might be that it we are affected, even shaped by the interactions we have with others, sometimes our road is hard, sometimes it is easy, but any way that you look at it, it doesn’t just happen overnight where, one day, we are suddenly who we are at this very moment in our lives. So why would it be any different with a God who knows how we grow, how we evolve as a person, how we learn and we change with time? Why would He make the answers clear to us in a way that He knows would be unclear because it was given without any thought or consideration to who we are and how we became that person?

What God promises us isn’t an easy path, nor a simple one in any way but to our salvation through Christ Jesus. (Romans 5:8) What He does promise is that, through the fires and the floods, through the dangers and the perils, He will be there for us and with us, (Isaiah 43:2) never leaving us or abandoning us. (Joshua 1:5) What He tells us is that what we need, in those times when we question the purpose and the plan of it is all, is trust and patience, because those who trust in the Lord will find His goodness (2 Samuel 7:8) and those who are patient with Him will find their strength and purpose, uplifted in His love. (Isaiah 40:31) This is the wondrous miracle of His hand in our lives even as we find ourselves questioning where He is when we want the most.

Remember, it is not our wanting that exalts us, it is God, our Heavenly Father, and God alone who does that. (Psalm 46:10) It could be, at that moment, we don’t quite get how He is exalting us, but it’s only when we put those feelings behind us, when we let go of them, in the blessings of His hope that He lets us be of one mind with Him, (Romans 15:5) to see as He sees, making more and more apparent the glorious nature of the lessons He is teaching us to become as we need to be as He makes all things possible to us through the power of His grace made perfect in Christ through us. (Philippians 4:13)

Take a moment today, and look at your life, look at what you are struggling with, what is challenging you. Take the time to look at what you have laid at God’s feet, the burdens you still feel weighing on you, and instead of mistaking want for need and putting what you want out there, say to God, “Lord, show me as You will, teach me as You must so I can be as You intend for me to be.” Let go not just of the struggles but of the wants and the desires you have in them, and make it about what the Lord, your blessed Father, intends for you and let Him, in trust, patience and hope, guide you to where you must be.

It is only then that you will find the true path to the peace you are seeking, the only way you will find the true reconciliation of your will with God’s to the glorious ends of the love He has for you as He makes it about you rather than you making it about yourself.

What if God Doesn’t Care

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder if God actually even cares.

I mean we know He does, or, at the very least, we think He does. It tells us in Scripture He does, and what are the words to that children’s song? “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.” After all, if He cared enough to create us, if He made the promises that He made, assuring us that they are the same, that His love, bound to us through Christ, is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) there has to be something to the idea that He actually cares. Yet, sometimes it feels more complicated than that, does it? Sure it’s the faith of a child that saves, making way the path to Heaven, (Luke 18:17) but we don’t stay children forever, eventually we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11) and adult problems follow us.

During those times God can seem so far distant, He can seem so far removed as we pray for a sign, for any sign that He still sees us, that He still contends with our cause, that He still cares. There are those times when, for as much as we know that He is there, we just don’t seem to feel it, at least not like we did, at least not like we should, and it’s hard. More than anything else it hurts as we just want so badly for Him to make His presence to be known, to let us know He’s still there, that He still sees us. If there is a Hell, if it is being removed from the presence of God, then those moments sure seem like they are as close as you can get to it on earth, aren’t they?

The thing about it is that, whether we feel His presence or not, whether we see His hand or not, God is there, and there isn’t a moment, a second, an instant where He doesn’t care. (Matthew 6:25-34) We know this not just because the Bible tells us that He loves us, that He is always there for us, that He cares for each of us individually with hope and grace, mercy and faith, but because He is the God who gave His only Son as the great sacrifice to wash away our sin and our guilt, to chase away all those problems big and small that would keep us separated from Him. (John 3:16)

You see, this temporal existence is the last great battlefield, and the Devil, our old adversary, he does everything he can to prove to us that Hell does exist, not just as a spiritual plane but as physical one too, and that this, right here is it. After all, if he can convince us that God doesn’t see us here, if He doesn’t see our pain and our anguish here, then is there really a God, is there really a Heaven or a Hell beyond any of this or is it just a moral argument devised millennia ago? After all, for as much as it can be made to feel as much like Hell as it can, our existence this side of Paradise can’t really be made to feel as splendid as Heaven itself, for however close we may wish or want it to be.

It’s not that God doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t understand. It’s that it’s easier for us to believe that He doesn’t see it than it is for us to accept the truth: amidst this life there are going to be struggles and hardships that seem like they are more than we can handle, there are going to be things in it that are going to cause us so much pain we don’t necessarily know what to do, and yes, God doesn’t necessarily stop them from happening. Why? Because even through them He has a plan for them, He has a lesson He teaches us (Jeremiah 29:11) and He knows nothing the Devil can throw at us is more powerful than we are when we put our hope, our faith and our trust in Him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just because we know something is painful now doesn’t mean it can’t lead to something amazing in our future now if we let God show us what it means, just like we can’t know if God takes something painful from us now it can’t lead to a greater pain or a deeper anguish in the future. The nature of faith has to be in the trust, as we put everything we don’t know in the hands of a God who does.

Never for a moment believe that God doesn’t care. He does, and, even in your hardship He is sparing you from some greater challenge, some greater hardship, waging a perpetual battle against sin, death and the Devil for you. He is doing it in ways we can’t understand and can’t conceive, and all He asks of you is a little bit of faith as He guides you through it all. It’s here then that we realize that when we can’t see God or hear Him we need to rely on our other senses, on a greater spiritual sense to find Him. When we do, we know then not only does He care for us, but that He also carries us. It’s then that though that purpose may be lost on us for the moment, we are drawn to the greater moments nearer to eternity when all purpose is revealed to us.

When Faith is a Mystery

Faith can be a mystery to us as we struggle with the deeper questions and the more daunting challenges that we can face. It’s not so much the question of its existence. After all, most who abide in it understand that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Rather, it’s a question of the why and how, finding ourselves wondering what possible good could come out of this even as we try to hold fast to the hope that we need.

Sometimes we don’t easily or quickly find the answers we need. Sometimes it feels as if we push a little too hard, trying to get to where we want to be, to where we feel like we need to be. We battle with these ideas and these thoughts that we just can’t seem to escape telling us something needs to be different, trying so hard to convince ourselves that these things too shall pass, but not entirely sure when or even if they ever really will.

It’s in these times that we struggle, not necessarily with the existence of God, but in what grand scheme, what grand design He has for us. We just don’t necessarily know. We cling to the promises that He has made, the promise that He will never fail us or forsake us (Joshua 1:5) or that if we need answers that He will give them to us. (James 1:5) We pray with that sincere heart, searching for the purpose and the meaning we are in such desperate need of and it seems like it is far removed from our lives.

What we have to remember is that God, He never promised us that the road we are going to go down was going to be an easy one, nor does He promise us easy answers or quick fixes. Sometimes we are told that our Heavenly Father, He just wants us to be happy. The truth is He does, there is little question of that. The redeeming sacrifice of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the perfect example of that. Yet, He wants us to be happy for the right reasons and the right times, knowing that He has a time for all things. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) This is the way that He ensures that we are as He wills, never letting anything touch us that is more than we can handle. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Though the answers and the reasons may not be clearly apparent at first, this is why Christ, our blessed and good Shepherd, is there for us. He is there not just as the great and wondrous deliverance for our sins, but also to take upon Himself the yoke of our burdens, giving us the rest, hope and peace that we so need during the trials that we must face during this existence. (Matthew 11:28-29)

God’s path, and His design may not be the simplest or the easiest. It may, at times, even go beyond our ability to understand or comprehend as we travel it. That’s okay. Not all things are meant to be revealed right then or there, regardless of the challenges it may create. Sometimes, by knowing at that very moment it would even create a greater challenge to the spirit and to the soul that we just find ourselves unable to wrap our heads around, because not only did we not need to know right then, we just aren’t capable of knowing right then and there. Sometimes we need time to travel down that path to give us what we need to grow, to be, to find ourselves before the answers make any sort of sense to us.

Sometimes we need to let go of the how and the why and let ourselves be just transcend it. We need not to think of faith as a mystery but as a journey through the deeper places within ourselves, knowing that the trials we face and the adversities that are there are nothing more than markers on a road towards a greater end for our lives. We grow when we learn to let go, and we learn that though the moments may be hard, all of them weave together to create a greater picture that we are meant to see with time and space.

Let these moments pass through you, but don’t let their lessons pass by you as you search for meaning in them. In the end they will tell you of a grander, greater vision that God, in His infinite love has for you. You just have to let it.

Marking Success and Failure

How do we mark our lives? How do we note the successes of it? How do we mark the triumphs that come with it?

Last week we talked about the feelings of failure that we can have. We talked about those gnawing senses that something just isn’t right. It was a question of when you look around and you can’t help but feel yourself overwhelmed and even a bit overshadowed as this sense that something just isn’t as it should be comes to dominate over you, leaving you with this lingering feeling that you aren’t as you should be.

It’s a difficult challenge that we can face, one that can wreak a special sort of havoc on us. Yet sometimes it’s not a matter of how we understand success or failure. It’s a matter of how we understand life.

You see, for as much as we want it to be sometimes, life isn’t something that’s just black and white. Situations, circumstances, they don’t make it that simplistic. Yes, perhaps we want it to be. It would, in most cases, make everything a lot easier for us. There wouldn’t be the conflicts and the struggles that cause the deeper questions to arise within us. We would know who we are, what we were meant for. No one and nothing could take that from us, because we would see the path’s that are in front of us just so much clearer.

It’s why we need to understand that though God has plans for our lives, plans that He has set out since the moment of our conception, since the time of our birth, (Jeremiah 1:5) it’s never quite as simple or easy as we may like it to be. This isn’t because God is somehow confusing. Our Heavenly Father is anything but, making Himself apparent in all things if we choose to look and to see it. (Isaiah 40:21) The problem is we don’t necessarily live in a world that’s that cut and dry, in a world that is solely guided by His hand and His influence.

Perhaps this is why we are called His workmanship, created anew in Christ for the works that He has intended for us. (Ephesians 2:10) Note the fact that isn’t that it doesn’t tell us that we are completed. No, it tells us that we are a worked by the hand of the Master Craftsman Himself, molded and form, shaped for the things that He has intended for us and for our lives.

What needs to be remembered is that though God’s design for our lives is towards the divine, He sets out His plan for our life with a deep knowledge of this world and our nature. He understands that to the person who everything is given, nothing is really valued, and to those who are never challenged, nothing is ever enough. It isn’t a matter of testing us, it is a matter of teaching us all that we need to know, never giving us more than we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) while showing us the path, showing us the road and the journey that we need to be on.

God uses this, whether it is our failure or our success, to guide us. They don’t define us, not even our greatest success or most tremendous of failures. They are intended to be nothing more than the deeper lessons that we can learn as we are directed towards the people we need to be. Even as one failure grips us, a success is waiting around the corner, and just as one success satisfies this need in us, chances are there are more failures still waiting for our lives. It’s because our Heavenly Father, He knows us. He knows that there are certain things we are only going to examine, that we are only going to question, and to actively seek the answers for, the answers He is waiting to give us (James 1:5) in these situations. Sometimes we need to be humbled to find where we need to be, while other times He elevates us because these triumphs are meant to show us a view that we need to have.

In all of this the question the Disciple needs to ask themselves is why? Why has this happened? It’s not a question to be taken lightly, or out of a sense of pity or arrogance. It’s a question that is meant to lead them towards the sense that they are supposed to make out of it, so they can find what God is trying to show them for their lives.

Once you see your successes and your failures as nothing more than markers on the road of life you can set about really living your life, moving through the journey that it’s intended to be to become the person that you need to. Each one step, it tells you, teaches you a little something about yourself as it shows you not who you are but directs you, in love, hope, faith and compassion, towards the person you need to be.

As we understand that we understand what is intended for us better than we ever did before dwelling on nothing more than the challenges, and the successes and failures of our lives.

Learning from Lou

17 seasons, 2,130 consecutive games, 6 World Series Championships, 23 grand slams, he played in every All-Star Game until the day he was forced to retire, saying his farewell at age 36 in 1939, and to this day I’m convinced that the records he broke, ones that took between 50 to 70 years to even tie or break, would remain untouched if his time hadn’t been cut so short before he was called home.

Ever since I was a child there were few who invoked my imagination amidst my love of baseball like The Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. Even as I marked his birthday yesterday with a quiet, solemn remembrance of the man, I found myself thinking about his legacy. What an amazing legacy it is even today when you sit down and consider it, a man whose name, even now, stirs a degree of reverence and invokes thoughts of greatness even  109 years after he was born, 71 years after his death.

What though does any of this have to do with discipleship? What does it have to do with living an effective life as a disciple of Christ?

The truth is, for all the incredible, amazing things Gehrig did, it’s the courage summed up in a few sentences from his final farewell, “… For the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…. I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” It was that strength, knowing the impossible odds that he faced, the impossible odds that would tear from him any hopes he had for a future, that allowed for him to stand there, in front of God and those fans and say that, despite it all, there was so much he was grateful for and so much left to live for that he couldn’t find it in him to be angry or bitter about any of it, that gives to us an understanding in a lesson taught.

You see we can lose a bit of ourselves amidst the challenges and the difficulties that life has, finding the struggles overwhelm us. At times we can lose sight of ourselves and the fact that there are no temptations except those that are common to man, (1 Corinthians 10:13) as we let ourselves lose sight of the blessings that are in our lives. Yet it’s never the challenges that define us, nor the struggles that have the power over us, that is unless we let them touch us in a way that stirs that dissent and hardship within our spirits and our souls.

Yet, despite any of it, what we need to remember is that despite the adversity, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) to be more than conquerors in Christ, who loves us. (Romans 8:37) That sometimes means looking past the here and now, and the present hardship, even the things that seek to tear us down and cast a veil over us, to remind ourselves that despite the bad breaks, we’ve “… got an awful lot to live for” through the blessed reminder that “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) telling us that nothing built of trial and turmoil has any power over us if we run the race with perseverance and hope. (Hebrews 12:1)

We might not have the world watching as we stand in front it for the answer we give to the deeper challenges we face in our lives, and if our blessed gift of time is cut short, we may not have memorials erected in our honor as people remember our names, speaking it with reverence long after we gone. Yet that just makes it all the more important for us to use our time and our days wisely while we live this temporal existence, it makes it all the more important for us to meet our challenges head on, and to live each day letting only that blessing and the hope of the strength given to us as what defines us in the faith and the love that guides us.

We are as strong as we let ourselves be, so let your strength be forged by courage in the fires of adversity, and know that each day is a gift, a chance to be more and do more, to meet the struggles head on, knowing that even at its hardest, it is nothing more than a testimony to the unbreakable spirit and will that abides in you through faith by the love of a Heavenly Father and the care of a blessed Savior, the works of a divine Spirit, that is with you all the days of your life.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how  we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with  companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.