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).
The senior adults were returning from a three-day retreat at a Baptist encampment.
So far this morning, authorities have not determined the cause of the crash. No matter who or what caused the crash, the passengers were not at fault. Yet all but one were killed.
Tragedies like this bring us to the most difficult challenge Christians face theologically. We believe that God is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. No other religion affirms these tenets about a personal God as fully as we do.
Since God is omniscient and not bound by time, he knew that the crash would happen before it did (Psalm 139:4; 1 John 3:20). Since he is love (1 John 4:8), he would seemingly not want such a tragedy to come to his children. Since he is omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), he could have prevented the crash from occurring. The Lord who stilled the storms and raised the dead could have stopped a bus and a pickup truck from colliding.
Yet he did not.
Today there are families grieving the sudden loss of their parents and grandparents. A pastor is trying to help his congregation come to terms with a tragedy their church will obviously never forget. The rest of us will watch with sorrow for those who are suffering.
Many wonder why the God these senior adults worshiped didn’t prevent their deaths. So do I.
I often note that God redeems all he forgives. I’m confident that our Father will redeem for greater good even this terrible tragedy (Romans 8:18). But future hope doesn’t explain present suffering. We grieve, and we should. We ask hard questions, and we should.
But here’s what we should not do.
We need not wonder if the Christians who died yesterday share our grief or our questions. We need not wonder if God was able to redeem their suffering. One moment after they died, they stepped into heaven. When they took their last breath here, they took their first breath there. They moved instantly from our fallen world into God’s perfect paradise. Now they are more alive than we are in a world where “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
In the face of tragedy, we have two options.
We can decide that God is not who he says he is. We can let our questions keep us from experiencing his transforming love and sustaining grace. We can trust our doubts more than we trust our Creator.
Or we can decide to have faith in our Father even when we don’t understand him. The harder it is to trust God, the more we need to trust God.
Which option do you choose today?
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.
In the 2012 Summer Olympics, a sprinter for Team USA, Manteo Mitchell, competed in the 4×400 meter relay. Halfway through his lap he heard a distinct “crack”—and felt the associated pain—in his leg. He continued running, finishing with a respectable time for someone running with a broken leg. Mitchell’s Olympics was over, but the team, with a substitute, won the silver medal because of his perseverance through pain.
In the midst of the race, Manteo Mitchell wasn’t about to abandon what he had trained for years to accomplish. And that is the nature of perseverance: “tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3). That’s why Paul makes such an unusual statement: “We also glory in tribulations.” Why glory in trouble? Because it’s the only way to learn to persevere. And why do we need to persevere? Because “perseverance [produces] character; and character [produces] hope” (Romans 5:4).
So, meditate on the connection between tribulation and hope. The link between the two is perseverance. If you want character and hope, learn to glory in tribulations!
The perseverance of the saints is only possible because of the perseverance of God.
J. Oswald Sanders
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.
If you’re not careful, loneliness might kill you.
Everyone feels lonely at predictable times, like when a special friend or relative dies. But doctors are quick to point out that it’s the continuing, persistent kind of loneliness that carries very real health risks.
In a 2010 AARP survey, 35 percent of all responders reported feeling lonely. Of those, nearly half said their loneliness had persisted for at least six years. That’s a lot of time for a harmful condition to unleash its dangerous effects.
Here are just a few of the consequences of persistent loneliness:
Studies suggest that loneliness is more dangerous than packing on some extra pounds. Yet Americans spend billions of dollars on diet products and often make little effort to address their loneliness.
- Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 14 percent.
- Loneliness affects not only our current mental health—think depression. One recent study also suggests it increases the risk for dementia later.
- Loneliness often brings fragmented sleep, the choppy kind that seriously affects health.
- Loneliness can increase inflammation throughout the body, which carries its own risks. That inflammation can also exacerbate existing conditions like arthritis and heart disease.
Mother Teresa—the impoverished nun who spent her life helping the poor—described loneliness as the “most terrible poverty.”
Time with friends
The July 2014 issue of the Mayo Clinic’s Health Letter suggested strategies for combating loneliness, including these ideas for nurturing friendships:
- Reach out: An unexpected phone call or email, even just to say hello, is a meaningful gesture.
- Be positive: Think of friendship as an emotional bank account. Make deposits of kindness and approval, keeping in mind that criticism and negativity draw down the account. Nonstop complaining also puts a strain on a friendship.
- Listen up: Ask what’s going on in your friends’ lives. Let people know you’re paying close attention through eye contact, body language and reaffirming comments. When friends share details of hard times they are experiencing, be empathetic.
- Extend and accept invitations: Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you’re invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
- Respect boundaries: Don’t overtax the friendship with your own needs. Remember that friendships require both give and take.
Need more friends? That same Mayo Clinic article offers these ideas for finding new friends:
- Attend community events: Get together with a group of people working toward a goal that you believe in, such as an election or the cleanup of a natural area. Find a group with similar interests in an activity, such as reading, sports, crafting or gardening.
- Volunteer: Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
- Take up a new interest: Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility.
- Join a faith community: Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
- Take a walk: Put on some good shoes and keep your eyes open. Chat with neighbors who also are out and about, or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.
- Think beyond two legs: Whether it has four legs or even wings, a pet can provide many of the same companion benefits as human friendships can.
I’d add to that list “Activate old interests.” I’ve made new and interesting friends, thanks to signing up for weekly hospice visits to the sick and shut-ins.
Every list I see about maintaining wellness invariably includes a recommendation for staying socially engaged. It’s good for body, mind, and spirit. Communicating via email and cellphone is nice—and certainly convenient. Still, there will never be anything like the real thing: spending time—together, face to face—with other people.
Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
It is among popular “Christian” belief that an abundance of material and other blessings follow those whose hearts are truly after God and that those who seem to consistently struggle to that end, cannot possibly be in God’s perfect will. I want to submit to you a realization I had about this very thing. I think we might have it all backwards.
Almost all the great men of faith I’ve read about in the Bible had to spend some time in the wilderness. Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, just to name a few.
God had to make them desperate. He had to cause them to be quiet and undistracted enough to hear His still, small voice. He had to make them hungry and thirsty enough to cry out for a miracle.
Interestingly, the word for wilderness, in Hebrew, is “meed-bahr”. And meed-bahr comes from the word “leh-da-behr”, which means to speak. Hmmm.
Some of us are walking through the desert right now. It’s hot by day — there is only rugged, thorny, sandy terrain for miles and miles and there seems no end. By night, the wind is unbearably cold and we stumble over things we can barely see. Snakes and scorpions live here. It seems like a lonely place.
But this is actually a place of blessing! It is for our growth, and ultimately for our prosperity that God has brought us here! Like it or not, the wilderness is where He can speak to us most effectively. It is the place He can most easily get our attention. It is the place we will cry out to God and truly listen for His voice
Know that God is with you today! He is walking along with us through this wilderness and longing to comfort us! If we would only cry out to Him and heed His voice! The promised land awaits!
Driving on the Dirt Roads of the Mind!
If you were driving across a few hundred miles of land, which routes would you take?
Huge, wide, super highways, or small back roads?
Unless you had plenty of time to kill, and wanted to experience local culture, you’d take the highway.
Generally speaking, when we decide to do anything, we take the shortest route possible. This doesn’t have to involve physical movement.
The idea of “killing two birds with one stone” is embedded deep into our psychology for economic reasons.
Every calorie we burn must be accounted for on a microbiological level, so our subconscious minds quickly calculate the least amount of energy needed to get what we want.
Sometimes, though, this doesn’t help us.
Just like real roads, our brains are a collection of superhighways and back roads. Whenever thoughts move around our brains, they take the easiest route.
Unfortunately, the routes that lead to fear are HUGE. This is so we stay safe, no matter where we are, and what we are doing.
Long time ago, our brains decided the most important rule, in all cases, was to not get injured.
This worked great in primitive cultures and environments, but not so much anymore.
Now we get tons of “false positives” when our brains think there’s something to be afraid of when there really isn’t.
This is why so many things that SHOULD be easy aren’t. We know what to do, but for some reason we think it’s hard, or we keep putting it off, or we imagine there’s somebody “out there” that is stopping us.
But here’s the deal. When we build up those back roads, in our brains, so that they are BIGGER than those factory programmed, fear-based super highways, taking action, ANY action will seem easy.
The false images of fear will be removed, and getting what we want will be as easy as baking a cake (at least if you know how to bake a cake!)
How do you do that? How do you build up those positive, “good feeling” paths in the brain so they are the go-to path for your thoughts?
A combination of mental exercises, prayer, meditation, yoga, hypnosis, subliminal’s, coaching, and/or counseling can help. Get into the habit of asking and receiving help. Most importantly, ask God to help as these types of challenges/ problems may require supernatural assistance.
These tools are some of the basic elements of Belief Change.
When you change those back roads into super highways, you’ll truly believe, on a deep level, that getting whatever you want can become easier. (DJS)