Almighty God reserves the right to reveal some things and conceal others. Although we may not know why natural disasters occur, the biblical truths we do know with absolute certainty allow us to trust the Lord even in times of great suffering. Because of the Bible, we can be certain:
God is in control (Psalm 103:19). Nothing in heaven or on earth is outside of His rule and authority. He does not react to events but sovereignly ordains or permits them to run their course. Although we cannot know for certain if He has sent a catastrophe or allowed it, we can trust in His goodness and wisdom.
The Lord loves people and wants them to be saved (John 3:16-17). Giving His Son for the salvation of the world proves without a doubt that He loves each person. This truth stands firm despite the fact that many reject the Savior. He cares for us, even when we can’t feel it or won’t accept it.
God works circumstances for His good purpose (Isa. 46:10). Though we can’t fully comprehend what He’s doing in each incident, every disaster is a wake-up call for humanity. God is alerting us to the need for repentance—so the lost can be saved and the saved can be revived to live totally for Him. The Lord wants to get our attention, and catastrophes open our ears to hear from Him.
The One who loves us perfectly is in full control, working everything out according to His plan. Knowing this should fill us with hope, even in the midst of crisis situations. The Lord promises to turn disaster to good for those who “are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Seeing With Eyes Wide Shut
“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
— Isaiah 45:3 (NLT)
It is a natural human reflex to squint or shut one’s eyes when in pain. Similarly, we wince when we are hit with unbearable experiences and we tend to close out the world around us. The sages taught that this reflex has a powerful message for us.
Our eyes are the vehicle through which we bring objects outside of us into our brain. We call this process “seeing.” But sometimes, we can’t see. If something passes by us very quickly, we won’t be able to see it. The eyes don’t have enough time to process and send the image to the brain.
Another time we have difficulty seeing is when an object is very far away. When this happens, our vision is diffused over a lot of space and it doesn’t have the power to bring the image into the brain. To solve this problem, we squint. By closing our eyes to things on the periphery, we are able to concentrate all our visual capacity on the object we want to see and our vision extends farther.
The sages taught that this same principle applies when we are going through emotional or spiritual pain. When we are going through challenges or difficulties, we need to see the whole picture, the end of the story. We have to see that everything God does is for our best. We have to be able to see that all the pain we are experiencing is for a good purpose.
But how do we attain such a perspective when we are in the midst of deep pain?
We close our eyes.
Sometimes we only need to “squint.” We need to shut out the things that don’t really matter in life in order to see what really does. Often this partial blinding is enough for us to see that all is good. However, other times, we must completely close our eyes to the physical world so that we can focus on non-physical matters. In this space, we can see the beauty and light in our situation that we couldn’t see with our eyes open wide.
In the book of Isaiah we read: “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness — secret riches.” There are some treasures that we can only attain in the darkness; some riches we can only find in hidden places. When we go through challenging times – or even in good times – if we are able to close our eyes to the material world and gain an invaluable perspective on the truly important aspects of life, then we will be truly blessed. Having that clarity through life is one of the greatest treasures we can ever receive.
Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
The Dark Side Of Self Defeating Jealousy
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones. — Proverbs 14:30
It could be your neighbor’s new car or maybe it was your fifth-grade teacher praising your best friend, but not you. There are so many scenarios that can catch us off-guard and bring out one of the ugliest traits that we are all susceptible to — the experience of jealousy. Whoever came up with the expression “eat your heart out” in reference to producing jealousy in another person was speaking a truth. In Proverbs we learn “envy rots the bones.” Jealousy destroys us from the inside out.
But there is a flipside to self-defeating jealousy. The very same verse begins, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.” Literally translated from the original Greek, “a heart at peace” is called “a healing heart.” The sages explain that a healing heart is a soft heart, one that accepts and forgives and is kind and generous.
A healing heart is the exact opposite of a jealous heart. A jealous heart wants what others have. A healing heart is happy for others when they succeed. A jealous heart is never satisfied. A healing heart is always content. A jealous heart is focused on its own personal gain. A healing heart looks out for the well-being of others.
Yet, for all jealous people do to better their own lives, they only bring ruin upon themselves. In contrast, kind, content, and generous people will bring peace and healing to themselves and to others. People with such a positive and peaceful attitude allow the body to function properly while spreading peace and health to those with whom they interact.
Of course we’d all prefer to have a healing heart over a jealous one. But how can we avoid jealousy?
The following story can help us. Once there were two eagles who would fly together. One eagle was able to fly higher and faster than the other, making the less adept eagle very jealous. One day, the jealous eagle spotted a hunter and asked him to shoot the other eagle. The hunter said that he could, but needed a feather for his arrow. The jealous eagle was happy to oblige, plucking one of his own feathers. The hunter missed and needed another feather, and then another and another. The jealous eagle supplied so many feathers that soon he didn’t have enough feathers to fly. The huntsman turned around and shot the eagle who could no longer fly or escape.
This story shows us how to avoid jealousy — by knowing deeply that it harms us most of all. When we feel jealousy beginning to grow and fester inside us, we must allow our hearts to be healing hearts, bringing life and joy to ourselves and those around us.
Most likely, you do not enjoy your areas of weakness. Most of us tend to be problem solvers; often when we identify a deficiency in our life, we stop at nothing to correct the issue.
Our drive to be the best—or, at the very least, “normal”—generally leads us headlong down the path of self-sufficiency. After all, doesn’t the Lord want us to solve the problems we encounter?
While it is true that through God, dramatic changes can occur in the lives of His children, we ourselves must not take credit for the power to change. Our own strength is weak and faulty. John 15:5 says “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The strength of God is limitless. (See Phil. 4:13). Paul captures this image perfectly in 2 Corinthians 4:7, when he says, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”
We can trust this statement because of the apostle Paul’s credentials in adversity: He had been imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and persecuted. Moreover, he struggled continually with a personal ailment, which he referred to as his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7).
The Lord used these things in Paul’s life to keep him centered on divine power, not his own. Pride puts us in opposition to God. What weaknesses are present in your life that the Father may be using to keep your eyes on Him? Praise God today for those things that bring you into complete dependence upon Him alone.
Faith In Action and Attitude
When the difficult times come into your life, what is your response? While it may seem tempting to look for a shortcut out of the discomfort, that’s not the kind of attitude God desires from us. Instead, He wants His children to remain submitted to Him, though that may not end the affliction. But it is the Lord’s will that we hold our heads high and press on through the pain.
This comes as a shock to many new believers. After placing their faith in Jesus, they are often surprised when some unexpected hardship appears. However, it’s a misconception to expect an easy life once we trust God’s Son as Lord. In fact, the Bible assures us of quite the opposite. Jesus Himself declared that if we are found in Him, the world will give us great trouble and heartache (John 16:33).
In James 1:2, we are instructed to consider our struggles as a source of “pure joy” (NIV). This makes sense only when we see our difficulties through God’s eyes, as opportunities for growth. An untested faith is weak and ineffective. Just like our muscles, our faith must be exercised against some resistance. When we face trials with wisdom and endure them with godly perseverance, we will find blessings we never thought possible.
At the end of the struggle, we will see God standing with our reward: the crown of life (v. 12). To use an example from the world of sports, the “crown of life” is essentially God’s gold medal for a job well done. Do you want the Lord’s recognition of your spiritual victory? Then press on through the hardship and discover what lies just beyond the trial.