Nothing is impossible for the heavenly Father. No obstacle confuses God or poses any kind of challenge for Him. Though we know He is sovereign over every situation, we have trouble maintaining this perspective, just like the disciples in today’s passage. Too often when difficulties arise, we …
Experience a shift in focus. During trials, we tend to take our eyes off the Lord and instead see only our problems. The longer we look at our circumstance, the larger it seems. As we dwell on it in thought and conversation, our mindset can become very negative. Though God still has a direction for us to take, we are no longer concentrating on His purposes.
Develop an incorrect assessment of resources. In our troubles, we start taking inventory of our own strength and abilities. When they prove insufficient, we become discouraged. The truth is that we don’t have what is needed for life’s trials—Jesus Himself told us that. (See John 15:5.) But God’s capabilities are unlimited, His power is never-ending, and His wisdom is complete. We need to take stock of His resources, not our own.
View obstacles as barriers. For the obedient believer, impediments represent opportunities, not problems. The Lord can demonstrate His awesome power through our difficulties. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.) At such times, we grow in our faith and learn more about our Father. If we view hardships simply as troubles, then we can miss demonstrations of God’s love, power, and wisdom.
Start each day committed to a Christ-centered focus, a dependence on His resources, and an “opportunity” mindset.
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).
Trials and tribulations have the power to either keep us from abundant life or produce in us character that sustains abundant life. The choice is up to us. Will our faith remain steadfast in the face of trouble or will we abandon the lifestyle of faith for one of the world?
James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Allow the phrase, “Count it all joy” to settle in for a second. What trials have you faced in the past? What trials stand before you today? Is joy the emotion that stirs up within you when you think about your problems?
My first instinct in the face of trial is to run. I long to abandon the problems before me, to act as if they don’t exist. But Scripture commands me to count my trials as joy and run at them head-on for the sake of being transformed into a faith-filled, steadfast child of God. God sees trials as a chance to produce character within me, not as a circumstance intended to harm me or derail his plans for my life.
The greatest gift we’ve been given in the face of trials is faith. When problems are staring at us head-on it’s hard to see around them to the beneficial outcome God intends. In order to face trials the way God intends, we must have faith. We have to believe that God has an outcome as beneficial as the trial is hard. We have to have faith that God will see us through every problem that stands in our way and produce in us a steadfastness on which we can experience abundant life.
Hebrews 10:35-39 says, “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, ‘Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” May we not be a people who shrink back but stand on the firm ground of God’s promises. May we be believers filled with faith founded on the faithfulness of God.
Spend time in prayer allowing God’s word to fill you with fresh perspective about your trials and tribulations.
Saying YES When HE Calls
I’ve met people who know the Lord has called them to do something, but they are so focused on their perceived lack of ability that they keep telling Him, “I just can’t.” Did you realize this is a form of rebellion? It amounts to telling God that He isn’t powerful enough to equip you—and that His will being done on this earth depends upon your natural skills.
On being called to lead the Israelites out of slavery, Moses complained that he was the wrong person for the job and offered an excuse of not being a good speaker (Ex. 4:10). God’s response underscores that not only was He more than able to equip His chosen leader, but He also planned to accomplish His purposes with or without Moses.
The Lord is the one who gives us the ability to live within His will. It’s a divine promise: If we believe Him and move forward in obedience, He’ll show us what we’re to do and then will energize us to get it done. Philippians 2:13 says that God Himself “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” There’s nothing to fear: You never have to take on His work in your own strength, and He won’t ask you to do anything that He will not enable you to carry out. The Father is committed to equipping His children to do whatever He asks.
As a follower of Christ, you have a personal responsibility—first, to say yes when God calls, and second, to allow Him to achieve His purposes through your life. He won’t let you down. Watching Him work through you will strengthen your faith and further the process of conforming you to His Son’s image.
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.
It took two years to paint A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the famous seaside scene. Each color that the eye sees is composed of countless contrasting dots. It is only as the viewer steps back from the painting that the picture emerges from the seemingly random dots.
When we are on the brink of despair, all we see is the color of our current situation. Our souls long for relief. When Job lost everything, he came to a point where he longed for death and wondered why God had forgotten him. Similarly the psalms of David are full of laments, heartfelt prayers to God expressing profound grief and sorrow. When we are in a dark place, it is comforting to know we are not alone.
Biblical stories can encourage us when we feel stuck and hopeless. This is not the end of our story but only a single dot or season. God is at work. He sees and affectionately holds the entire painting of our lives in His hands and has promised to create something beautiful. Don’t give up.
Is it not without its comfort that the two men that conversed with the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration both broke under the strain of their ministry and prayed that they might die?
J. Oswald Sanders