When Life Troubles You

The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”

We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.

But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?

Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.

The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.

“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”

“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.

But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.

What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.

The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.

Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.

The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.

True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?

Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.

Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”

Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.

Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.

Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?

All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.

When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.

My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!

That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.

Brethren, Pray For Me

Brethren, Pray For Me

2 Thess 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

One thing that is hardly addressed these days is the desperate need of prayer for pastors and missionaries. These men are in the forefront of the spiritual battle. We see so many fall to the wayside due to many reasons both physical and spiritual. Sometimes, they give in to the pressure of being told not to stand for the truth, maybe they become afraid in the battle, or grow weary because of the fight. Maybe they have been ill used by the congregation and their very soul is tattered and torn, maybe they struggle against sin or a specific sin, maybe their family is falling apart and they feel overwhelmed by everything going on, or maybe they are in a deep depression at this point.

Yes, we can all feel those things at one point or another yet how few people realize the tremendous pressure these men are under. They are in the front line of fire, spiritually speaking, and there is much they have to endure that most wouldn’t allow. A lot of people in the congregation think that because they pay the pastor or missionary that he has to obey them in everything. Don’t get me wrong as I believe in accountability but the people don’t own the heart and soul of the pastor and missionary. God owns their soul and is the One whose will should be followed completely and wholeheartedly.

Preaching in the right spirit and with all a person’s heart is quite similar to a day’s work. It’s easy to complain that the pastor doesn’t do anything but a person who says that hasn’t watched a true pastor give himself up in his preaching.

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Brothers and sisters, pray for your pastor. Pray that he will stand true to the Word of God and do what’s right regardless of the cost. Pray that his heart will be touched by what he studies and that the Holy Spirit will speak to him, first, then speak through him when he preaches. Pray that his heart will be renewed day by day. If he has a secular job as well as the ministry, buckle down and pray the Lord will give him strength for both positions. It’s not easy on a pastor to work, take time out for his family, and do what he needs to do for the family of God. Pray also for the health of the pastor who works as he will very seldom get time off.

Brothers and sisters, pray for the missionaries. Pray the same thing for the missionaries except they need added encouragement when they live in a different country. There will be culture shock on their parts and will need extra grace to adjust.

One more thing, pray that the Lord will cover both pastors and missionaries with His cloak of protection. May they each stand firm and do the Lord’s will. A strong man of God will mean one who’s ready to follow the Lord and guide his ministry in the way that they should go but a weak man of God means his ministry will fall into apostasy.

Be Real

When I was young, it was discouraging to me how difficult it was to get close to people. Everyone would put on their best face and was always “fine” when asked how they were doing. This was not my reality but I followed suit. It seemed like no one wanted to really know what was going on in others’ lives anyway, unless it gave them something to gossip about.

The last few years, I have been encouraged by the people God has brought into my life who will be real with me. Now, being real does not mean being down and complaining all the time. If you can never testify to God’s goodness in some area, you are being no more real than those who try to convince you that everything is “fine.” Being real does, however, mean admitting when you are struggling, being willing to lend a listening ear or a helping hand to those who are down, not pretending to be someone that you are not. In the past, I have seen myself as a strong woman but sometimes I’m just not.

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I struggle with not wanting to bring people down and yet not wanting others to think I am someone I am not. I am a Sister who loves the Lord and wants to serve Him and encourage others but there are days when my focus turns to myself and I have to fight to not be discouraged or self-centered. I want my emphasis to be more on God’s goodness but I don’t ever want to be too proud that I can’t ask others for prayer or encouragement. I believe God will help me with this as I keep seeking Him.

I encourage you, my readers, to find people you can be real with and who will be real in return. It’s a lonely existence when there is no one who will help to bear your burdens.

Beloved of God

And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent.  ~Daniel 10:11

And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.  ~Daniel 10:19

I admit I’m a bit different in the way I think sometimes. Words jump out at me and send my mind to wandering. As I was reading the Book of Daniel a few weeks ago, I was struck by the angel calling him “greatly beloved.” To me, that speaks more than just, “You are loved.” “Beloved” means “adored, cherished, treasured, highly regarded, esteemed, much loved.” Daniel held a special place in God’s heart, and God wanted Daniel to know that.

We all know that God loved the world that He gave His Son but it seems like there are some who hold an especially close place in His heart. With Moses, God talked face to face (Numbers 12:8). At one point, God stated, “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3). He called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). I’m sure there are more examples I could give, but you get my point.

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I don’t write this to begin a doctrinal dispute. I just feel like it’s easy to take God’s love for granted and to think that, since God loves us, He will love us regardless of how we live. I want to study the lives of people like Moses and Daniel and David and find out what it was that made God pay special attention to them. They were just men and yet each one of them had a heart that was fully toward the Lord.

I pray that God will find me drawing ever closer to Him, that nothing will be more important than spending time with Him and taking time to hear what He would speak. I pray that pleasing Him would be my goal before anything else. I pray that He would say to me, “O daughter, greatly beloved, I am here.” I can’t think of anything that speaks peace more than that.

Bending Our Will To His

As we pray to the Lord, His power changes our lives. I can’t remember who said it but someone made the comment that when we pray to God we don’t pull Him to us to do our bidding but He bends our will to His. This is similar to anchoring a ship to the land. You don’t pull the land to the ship. Instead, the land holds the anchor and the ship is then pulled to the land. I like this analogy as it reminds me that prayer is one of God’s means of changing me to become like Christ not changing Christ to do what I want. As we pray, the Lord changes us and gives us a view of Him that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

In this body of sin, it’s so easy to forget Who is in control of all circumstances and think we have to be the ones controlling the situations to force everyone to do what we think is right. It’s like the little girl, who is a master controller and manipulator, going into the kitchen and telling her mom, “I’m making up the food today and you will sit down.” That, instead of asking her mom if it would be alright for her to make the food and would Mama like to sit down and rest awhile? That is fine between adults but a little child has no business demanding that her parents obey her anymore than we have the right to order God around, even if we think it’s for a good cause.

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We should be so contented with the Lord’s dispersion that our hearts go out to Him in worship and praise through each situation. Of course, we cannot simply sit there and say, “Que sera sera!” We are commanded to pray and do it fervently. James 5:16-17. We are commanded to be kind to our enemies and pray for them who despitefully use us. Matthew 5:44. We are to do many more things because we love to obey the Lord’s commands but our contentment should be found in Him and not in ourselves or this world.

May our hearts be so overwhelmed with the Lord that we can say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!!” Psalm 73:25-26.

Power Of Prayer

Having looked at contentment in general and thankfulness, I think we have to be careful that we don’t forget about prayer. This is a fantastic way of coming to know the Sovereign of heaven. We really cannot be content or thankful without the Lord giving us that ability. As it says in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Prayer is the power of the true believer but not in the way people think. We don’t pray to God and expect answers as if He were our genie…you know, rub the magic lamp and He will grant all your wishes. It is beyond that! Think of it like this: when I have a relationship with someone I don’t just give them my wish list and say, “This is what I want. Give it to me.” On the other hand, I don’t hide away from them and pretend I don’t know them. if I truly want a relationship with someone I will go out of my way to work on that relationship.

As we pray to the Lord, His power changes our lives. We grow in the Lord just as a baby grows. We wouldn’t expect a baby to stay little the rest of his/her life and neither should we stay a babe in Christ. Somewhere in the middle of that growth we stop fretting and our contentment in Him grows. The peace that passes all understanding fills our hearts which allows us to guard our hearts and focus on the Lord instead of things around us.

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Does this mean it will happen overnight and we will never fret or worry again? Of course not! For some it will be a steady growth uphill and a believer who grows strong quickly. For others it might be a slower pace with lots of ups and downs, then for others it could be very slow growth but each true believer will grow. In 2 Peter 3:18, he tells us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

This is just one reason for our thankfulness towards our Heavenly Father, Who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. What a lovely picture this is and how appropriate that each thing we are commanded to do fits so perfectly together! Let us show Him our love by spending time with Him.

I love Romans 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” He is beyond our understanding, yet how beautiful He is and our praise towards Him should fill the heavens!

Bridle Your Tongue

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Gracious speech is something that many struggle with and something that I strive to attain. It is true that you cannot take words back after you’ve said them. How many words are said in anger and then regretted for the rest of one’s life?

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

This verse tells just how important controlling the tongue really is. It’s easy to think we are right with God but, if we don’t control our tongue, James tells us our religion is worthless. This can be shown by temper, cussing, anything that is the opposite of self-control.

“If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body (James 3:2).

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect person and yet Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye, therefore, perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” If we are to strive for perfection, we must strive to control our tongue.

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:6-10).

Wow. There is a lot in these verses. I encourage you to meditate on these but don’t come away with the conclusion that, “See? It’s hopeless.” The call goes out to challenge you to control your tongue so that God is honored in everything you do.

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When I was in school, I learned how two-faced people can be, especially girls. They would tell you they like you one minute and then turn on you the next. I expect some of that came from insecurity but it was deceit, and I hated it.

Unfortunately, I sometimes see this in adults too. Instead of using words to build up others, we may be nice to a person’s face but then we stab them in the back, killing them with our words. They may or may not ever find out but the damage is done just the same.

What are the primary things that come out of your mouth? Gossip? Slander? Profanity? Curses? Tearing down others?

Or are you speaking words of life, blessing, encouragement, and joy to everyone you encounter? You are the only one who can control your tongue. Or maybe I should say the Holy Spirit in you is able to control your tongue, but you have to let Him. Sometimes you may have to literally bite your tongue to keep from reacting the way you usually would but do that if it helps.

Today can be a new day. When you find yourself going back into old habits, get on your knees, ask God’s forgiveness, and start anew. Do that 50 times a day if you have to. But don’t give up. God can give you a new, uplifting vocabulary if you want it. Won’t you start incorporating that today?