The Weaker I Get, The Stronger My Faith In Him

Strength-FaithFaith in God is a funny thing.

It tends to show up the strongest when we are at our lowest point.

There is an old saying that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This refers to the fact that in times of high stress (such as war) everyone tends to cry out to God regardless of what they claim to believe.

The fact is we all tend to be self-reliant and want to handle things on our own if we can. However, in certain situations, that is just not possible.

I got the idea for this post after reading Shelly Sorem’s blog, Deeply Rooted In Him.  In the post “Ice Bucket Challenge and A Man of Faith,” she talks about a friend who battled ALS.  This friend was incredibly inspiring as his faith seemed to grow even as his body failed him.

As I read this post this morning I could relate to this experience.

I have watched it myself over the last year and a half as my Dad battled cancer.

It seems that the weaker he got physically, the stronger his faith grew.

We made it to countless doctor’s appointments, visits to the hospital, and ultimately in-home hospice care.

At each of these stops along the journey, Dad made sure to let people know that he was in God’s hands and that he wasn’t afraid of what the future held.  He was a Christian his whole life, but when his physical strength decreased, his faith in the Lord blossomed.

I think for many of us, the same thing can happen.

When control is wrenched from our hands we usually have no where else to turn but to God.  It is unfortunate that it has to be this way, but I know that I am a stubborn, slow learner sometimes.

We may not be stricken with a terminal illness for this to occur. Sometimes it is

  • the loss of a job
  • a financial emergency
  • a divorce
  • the death of a loved one.

I have found in my life that I am closest to God when things are most turbulent in my life.  Sometimes there are storms that we face that drive us to our knees as we cry out to Jesus.  Perhaps you have noticed this too.

It is there that I fully rely on God.  I seek solace in the word of Romans 8:28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I can’t understand with my heart why God didn’t heal my Dad.  It hurts and I miss him tremendously.  I know that the grieving process will take time.

However, with my head I can see that his illness impacted many people and furthered the kingdom of God. There were people praying for him from Georgia to Colorado to Michigan to Texas. I hope that some of you were praying from around the world. There were doctors and nurses who marveled at the family support and love that we showered him with.

There was a funeral service where the gospel of Christ was preached, and the legacy of a life well lived was remembered.

I know that one day in eternity, we will see the impact of Dad’s increasing faith and the countless people who his life and ultimately his death impacted.

Consider the chorus of the song “His Strength Is Perfect” by Steven Curtis Chapman:

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

Remember this when you feel weak:  There is one who will walk alongside you, no matter what your struggle is, and give you the strength to do the work he has called you to do.  Never lose heart; never lose hope; never lose faith.  

One day you will see those you have impacted and what a glorious day it will be!

The Hand of Jesus

Clasping Hands Medium

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you live long enough you are going to feel it.  That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Worry sets in.  Uncertainty reigns.  Before you know it, you are descending into full-fledged panic mode.  Your heart races and your palms are sweaty.  Your mind takes over and fills your head with a thousand “what-if” scenarios.

Eventually, you feel like you won’t be able to go on by yourself and you need someone, anyone to give you a hand to lift you up and pull you through…

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

My pastor was preaching this morning about not quitting in spite of the difficulties and discouragement that you may face in this life.  Make no mistake, if you are living obediently, you will face troubles in your Christian walk.  Jesus told us so.  But he also said that he would be there with us.  I loved the illustration that my pastor spoke this morning.  He said that sometimes when he is on stage preaching (he’s been doing this thirty years) that he thinks of this verse in Isaiah and when he holds out his hand to the congregation, he is really visualizing Jesus holding onto his hand.

Pretty powerful imagery, don’t you think?

You see, we often forget that Jesus is right beside us.  He is there to give us strength.  Day in and day out.  There is nothing that we go through alone, because he is there with us.  Our friends and family may desert us, but He never will.  He is always by our side.

Look at the verse again.  Fear, dismay, weakness and faltering are the things that God will overcome for us.  I don’t know about you, but I have known these four well over the course of my life.  These are not adjectives that I want to describe me, but they come visit me when I focus on the circumstances of my life instead of the One who promised to walk beside me through the darkest valleys of life.

When I focus on the storms instead of the One who works all things together for good, fear, dismay, weakness, and faltering are my companions.  They anchor me down during the storm.

When I, instead focus on the One who gathers every tear I cry in his hands, then this I know:

I AM is with me

I AM is my God

I AM strengthens and helps me

I AM will uphold me with his righteous right hand.

So in times of trouble, when my strength is small, this is where my focus turns.  I look to my feeble, empty hand and I envision it clasped in the hands of the Carpenter.  His hands are calloused and they have been pierced, but they are strong.  They defeated death and they conquered sin.  They hold onto me when I have no strength to carry on.  They lift me up when I falter.  They wipe away my tears in this life and they prepare a place for me in heaven.

That is my truth.  

That is my hope.  

That is His promise.


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The Pain of God’s Best

Hands on a rope

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis

Ain’t that the truth?

Stop and think about that quote for a minute.  Does it ring true with you as it did with me? I absolutely know that God has a purpose for my life and that he is using me daily to make an impact on others.  He is also using the circumstances in my life to shape me into the image of Christ.  I know that a lot of times I wish he would mold me and shape me in a less painful fashion. Sometimes it is difficult in the struggles to see what God is trying to do with us.   Sometimes all we can do is just grab hold of my faith in God and try not to let go.  This C.S. Lewis quote made me think of a great passage dealing with the struggles of life.

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul writes:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

Paul, who had no doubt that he was an Apostle charged with spreading the Good News of Christ to the world, also knew that following that path would cause him tremendous personal pain. He was beaten, run out-of-town, his name maligned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and ultimately killed for his words and his beliefs.  In the midst of all that, Paul must have asked himself sometimes if it was all worth it.  However, because Paul stayed the course and “fought the good fight” and “finished the race” he left us with 13 letters in the New Testament that encourage, uplift, and instruct us. He wrote the words above to the Corinthian church knowing that they too would face pressures and confusion and difficulties.


 We will also face these things but we find that God will give us strength to hold on in the pressure, hope instead of despair, a friend in time of need, and restoration when we feel run down.


This is why Paul closes out this chapter with the following words: (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It is difficult for us to fathom sometimes, but God really is reshaping us and making us into new creations.  We can’t see it because we have a finite view of things, but God moves in a way that shapes us into what we ought to be.   We must have hope in him and trust in him even when our circumstances don’t seem to make sense.  We have to remember that we are here for but a short time and that our glory will be revealed in eternity.

Nothing that has ever shaped me in a positive way has come without pain.  Whether it be the benefits of exercise, the learning of a new skill, the recognition of my sin and separation from God; it all requires some pain and adjustment as God molds me into the man that he wants me to be.  Remember a diamond has to be cut many times to sparkle and shine.  Gold must be melted and refined before it is crafted into a thing of beauty.


When the refining is complete, we find the perfect was masked by the imperfect the whole time; it simply needed to be brought forth.


So when you find yourself struggling with the pain of life that comes with God’s best for you, seek deeply to find what God is doing for your life.  Has he healed broken relationships?  Has he drawn you closer to himself?  Has he helped you store up treasures in eternity?

Do not lose heart! Take things one day at a time and remember that our life, our struggles are temporary.  One day we will stand before God, as Paul did, healthy and restored and whole and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 

*Photo courtesy of: JGI / Blend / Learning Pictures / Universal Images Group

Joy in the Journey

Image

So two days ago I was making my morning commute to work.  I glanced at the fuel gauge as I pulled out of the driveway and knew that it was pretty low.  I don’t have a fancy fuel light that comes on when I need to get gasoline, I just have to estimate how far I can make it on what I have left.  Usually if the needle moves a bit, I can go for another ten or fifteen miles.  An imperfect system, I know.  It jiggled as I backed out of the driveway, so I figured that I could make it to the gas station near my work where the gas was about 12 cents cheaper than by my house.  With an eighteen gallon tank, that’s a savings of $2.16!

Down the road I went, sliding around the slower drivers, making it through the school zones and talking to God.  Usually in the mornings I pray as I drive.  It is a quiet place and I have about a 40 minute commute so I like to start my day laying out my requests before God.

This particular morning I was praying about having joy and contentment in all circumstances. Some of my favorite verses on joy and contentment were running through my mind:

  • James 1:2-3Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…
  • Philippians 4: 4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Philippians 4:12:  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.

Just about the time that I thought about being content in every situation, my engine started to sputter.  There is always a moment of panic when your vehicle stops doing what it is supposed to do.  Of course I knew that I was running out of gas, but part of me rebelled at that idea.  Hadn’t I just seen the needle jiggle as I backed out of my driveway?  I knew there was a gas station just up the road on the left hand side, but I didn’t know if I could make it.  I put my truck in neutral and coasted some of the way in the hopes that I could coax a few extra seconds out of the fumes still in the tank.  I came around the corner and there stood the gas station, shining like a beacon on hill.  Unfortunately, there also stood a line of cars; traffic was backed up at the red light so there was no way I was going to make it.

As my truck gasped its final last breath,  I pulled over into the turn lane in the break in the median (the road I was on has two lanes on each side with a median in between.)  I jumped out of the truck, locked the doors, looked both ways and crossed the street, heading for the gas station.

It struck me as funny.  Here I was praying for joy and contentment in all circumstances when my truck ran out of gas.  As I walked up the hill to the gas station, i began thanking God for the opportunity to take a walk on such a sunny and beautiful morning.  I thanked him that I had a little cash in my pocket to go buy a gas can and a gallon of gas.  I thanked him that I broke down within walking distance of a gas station.  I thanked him that I had left a little early that morning and would still make it to work on time.  I thanked him for the blog material and story to tell my class that morning.  I thanked him for his perfect timing and his sense of humor.

Basically, I kept on praying just as I had before my trials and troubles started.

To make a long story short, my savings of $2.18 that I anticipated turned into about $11.70 spent.  I walked to the gas station, bought an $8 gas can because the clerk didn’t have one to loan me, filled it up with a gallon of even more expensive gas than the gas by my house and began the walk of shame back down the hill to my truck.  I threw the now empty gas can back in the truck and started it up.  I pulled back into traffic and went on my merry way to work.  My misadventure really only took about 15 minutes of my time.

So what is the point?

Just this, continue to praise God in all of life’s crazy circumstances.  This time it was my fault, next time it may be someone else’s fault.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we serve a God that loves us and we should rejoice in good times and bad.  If we allow our circumstances to dictate our moods it makes for some tough sledding.  If we let the joy of the Lord be our strength and trust his guiding hand we will find that his joy is enough to carry us through this crazy thing called life.

 

 

Storms, Anchors, and Prayers for Daylight

This has been quite a week. I am literally a broken heart and a lost dog away from a country song.  This week has seen two broken vehicles, one broken furnace, two sick Dads and it’s only Friday morning.  Thank goodness weeks like this don’t happen often!

I have been reading through the book of Acts in my daily devotional time.  And as God often does, He provided me with just the right verse at just the right time.

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they [the sailors] dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. Acts 27:29.

The backstory for this verse is this:  Paul has been arrested in Jerusalem and has appealed his case to Caesar, his right as a Roman citizen.  He is placed on a ship and begins his arduous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome.  Along the way, all manner of misfortune falls upon the ship and its passengers.  Just prior to this verse, the sailors literally tie ropes around the ship in an attempt to keep it together as they ride out a horrible storm that is going on two weeks long.  

I like this verse because it ministers to me as I have struggled through this week.  

Sometimes, all you can do is anchor to what you have, hunker down, and pray for daylight.

As I mentioned before, weeks like this don’t come around very often.  But when they do, you have to start looking around for those things to anchor to.  Fear can quickly and easily incapacitate us.  You have to find, in this case, four anchors to throw out.

For me, I anchored to the Word of God, a family that loves me, a job that provides for my needs, and peace that passes understanding.  These anchors can change daily and what I anchor to can be totally different than what you anchor to.  One thing I know, your first anchor had better be your relationship to God and the promises found in his word.  That is immovable.  

As this week progressed and I tried to minister to others in the midst of my storm, the Holy Spirit led me to Lamentations 3:21-26:

Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

This week, this was my prayer for daylight.  When it gets to the point that you just have to throw out the anchors and pray for daylight, it may be good to remember that our God is a faithful God.  His mercies are new every morning.  If we can just trust him to get us through the darkness of night the light of day will shine again.  He gives us hope.  He is filled with compassion. Nothing in our lives sneaks up on Him and he will use all things to shape us into the image of Christ. 

He will carry us through our storms.

So hold fast, find your anchors to throw out, and pray for daylight!