When we face troubles or trials, it’s easy to stay zeroed in on what we’re going through in the moment. It’s a natural and vital way of coping. But the Apostle Paul invites us to look at these times with a longer view as well. What if, he asks, we could see our difficulties as a way to grow closer to God – and then to encourage others when the right time comes?
It’s a challenge – at least, it is for me. I tend to set my focus inward when troubles come. And there is definitely a time for that – sometimes we need to be needy, and to receive the grace God has for us. But as I “go through,” can I catch a glimpse of the possibilities for ministry later, when I’ve made it to the other side? That calls for a firmer trust in God’s provision and a deeper passion for sharing Him with others. And I’m praying for both.
“I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”
”Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
The thought of God being present in every moment of my life used to make me uneasy. He’s watching me, and will notice when I screw up. Being so aware of Him made me feel vulnerable, almost under a microscope, and I sometimes wanted to hide. God’s desire to remain with His people wasn’t designed to be a threatening thing, though. Rather, He wants to reassure us that He knows our struggles and is already working on our behalf.
I’ve come to see the comfort in Him being near, because it means He loves me deeply. And, I often feel the challenge that comes with Him staying close, because it means what I do really matters to Him. Embracing the truth of God’s continuous presence has actually erased the fear and replaced it with more confidence. I know He always sets wrong things right, and sets me back on the narrow path.
“That’s why we need to practice the presence of God: Not just to acknowledge in some philosophical way that God is present, but to rehearse, to repeat, to work and rework our knowledge that even though we don’t see Him and sometimes don’t feel Him, He is there. He is here. When we practice the presence of God, we train ourselves to desire His presence—to resist our temptation to flee Him. We also train ourselves to experience His presence—to resist our temptation to think that He flees us. In other words, the practice of the presence of God helps us to live between the temptations of Jonah bound for Tarshish and John bound in prison. Jonah is the prophet who wants to abandon God. John is the prophet who feels abandoned by God.”
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Whenever I hear the hymn “Amazing Grace” (including the wonderful Chris Tomlin arrangement) I can’t help but think about John Newton’s life. The transformation he went through, from a slave ship worker to humble servant of God, always stirs my heart up. (You can read more about him here.) After all, if God could do such a miracle in Newton’s life, there’s hope for me, too!
“I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.”
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press ontoward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“Rather than set aside daily time for prayer, I pray constantly and spontaneously about everything I encounter on a daily basis. When someone shares something with me, I’ll often simply say, ‘let’s pray about this right now.'”
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
“Remember Whose you are and Whom you serve. Provoke yourself by recollection, and your affection for God will increase tenfold; your imagination will not be starved any longer, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright.”
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.“
“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’”
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all…”
”God saw Israel’s unbelief as rebellion and rejection of His rule. He had proven Himself over the years. The blessing originally prepared for them was to be transferred to the next generation. May that not be your story.”
“But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes…When God heard them, he was furious; he rejected Israel completely…”
“What are you really living for? It’s crucial to realize that you either glorify God, or you glorify something or someone else. You’re always making something look big.”
“Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
“A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives.”
“Trust in the Lord and do good…”
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
“God made the world from nothing, and if we can be nothing, God can make something of us.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God‘s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.“