When there’s no light at the end of the tunnel

How long is a little while?

The struggles in life has a way of making you feel there is no end to the tunnel.  Darkness seems to cover you like a blanket with no sign of a light.

lightendoftunnel

Unashamedly I admit, over the last fifteen years I asked consistently, “Lord, how long is the pain of betrayal, broken relationships, grief from the loss of loved ones and possessions going to last?  When will the struggles end?” Needless to say, He did not give me a specific timeframe.  Instead, He always reminded me of His Word.   After a while, I stop asking how long and started rehearsing the promises He had given me.  My attitude changed. The more I meditated and spoke aloud His Word over my life and situations, the more my anxiety was replaced by God’s peace.  Still there were nights I cried myself to sleep, but I never stopped rehearsing the promises. I held on to them regardless of what I felt, saw and experienced. I believed God!

Like me, have you looked for the light at the end of the tunnel and wondered how long your troubles would last?

Just know you are not alone while traveling through your tunnel a little while longer.

I posted the following status to my Facebook page earlier this week.   Reading it again the next day or so was like getting a burst of energy from an energy drink.

Your suffering is temporary. Go through the “making” process.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV.

During the time Peter wrote to the Christians, persecution was not just confined to the churches in Asia Minor. Christians were suffering from intense persecution almost everywhere in the known world of that day because they were preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. Peter wrote to remind and console them and us too.  He was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write and encourage them to emulate those who had successfully gone through the test of suffering.  It is important and beneficial to surround yourself with people who have successfully endured some dark days of suffering and can offer you the encouragement you need to stand firm and not give up.

Suffering on this earth—although it appears to be endless—is temporary.  It is much easier to focus on the uncertainty of the length of time we will suffer.  Only God knows the duration of our sufferings.  He sovereignly defines the ‘little while’.  No one’s time of suffering is the same.  Remember Job? He suffered the loss of all things, including his health.  Through it all, he held on even enduring the criticisms and misunderstandings of his friends.

Your suffering is temporary. God through the “making” process.

The duration of your pain will be different from others, but the focal point should not be the time frame.  Focus on the promised outcome after the set time (little while) of suffering is completed.  After you have suffered a little while, here are four (4) things the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself do:

  •  Restore you.  Whatever is broken or missing, He will mend and repair so that you are complete. However long you suffered, afterwards you will be restored.  Your restoration may be physically or spiritually.
  •  Establish you. Suffering affects our mental health; our thoughts are usually focused on our condition and circumstances.  It’s easy for spirits of depression and oppression to control our thinking. God will make you stable in your mind; you will need mental stability. He will make you strong in mind. A strong and stable mindset is essential to your well-being physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  • Strengthen you.  Suffering affects you emotionally; therefore, God will make you firm in your emotions. Where you are emotionally weak and unsteady, He will strengthen your soul.
  • Settle you. Because your whole being has been shaken by your suffering, God will settle (establish) you.  He will lay again a firm foundation to uphold you so that you are stable in all your ways, not wavering, but confident in the God of your salvation.

Why would God do all this after you have suffered for a while?  Because it was never God’s intention for us live in a place of darkness, defeat, disappointment and discouragement .  Again I ask, remember Job?  At the end of Job’s suffering, however long it was, God restored him and all he lost with double.  God’s desire from the beginning has always been for our good. His will is for all mankind to live victoriously through faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). His desire is that we be ‘whole’ human beings in a loving relationship with Him.  All that He allows to happen in the life of His children is scripted with purpose. It is usually in times of suffering and adversity that we draw closer to Him through prayer and supplication.  Moreover, He draws closer to us. During suffering is not the time to become bitter; look to God for the better.

Yes, the struggles in life has a way of making you feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and darkness covers you like a blanket with no sign of a light.  But, we must remember the promises while traveling through the tunnel of darkness. Get in the Word of God because the entrance of His Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130). May you be enlightened and encouraged by this post.

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Your turn..

What will you do when it seems like a ‘little while’ has turned into a long while in a tunnel of darkness?

Will you admit that you focus more on ‘how long’ rather than promised outcome after the suffering?  If you admit yes, what will you do differently after reading this post?

Meditate on this Word: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  -Romans 8:28

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Nevertheless, not my will…

32 They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. 34 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

35 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36 “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

37 Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 38 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

39 Then Jesus left them again and prayed the same prayer as before. 40 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

41 When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But no—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

As I read the above passage, tears began to flow softly as I imagined how Jesus must have felt in that moment as He faced death knowing He had done nothing to deserve such a humiliating death. The separation from His Father was a pain that crushed his soul with grief, which made the ordeal seemingly impossible to face. I also thought how I would feel if my close friends I looked to for support at such a critical time in my life could not provide the support I wanted from them. It was a moment of being alone, yet not alone.

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” No one asked, “Why, Jesus? Why are you overwhelmed with grief? Why are you so sad?”

Did they not care what was going on with him? Surely they’d never seen him at this low point since being with him for three years. He’d always helped others, going to and fro caring for everyone that came to him for help—opening blind eyes, healing all manner of sicknesses and diseases, raising the dead, forgiving sins, working miracles and giving hope to the hopeless. Now he’s overwhelmed with grief. His simple request to Peter, James and John, “Stay here and keep watch with me.” How difficult could it be for those you consider your closest friends? From my own experiences I know it can be difficult when others don’t understand God’s plan for your life, or the depth of your grief. Sometimes what we expect of our friends is impossible even though what we ask seems to be a simple request. I’ve learned that surrendering totally to God’s will means releasing my family and friends from my expectations.

But when I read verse 35, I was immediately strengthened. Why? It reminded me of the power of prayer…crying out to the Father in my times of distress, when I’m overwhelmed by grief. Within Jesus’ prayer his relationship with the Father leaps off the page…”Abba, Father…everything is possible for you.” Although he makes his request known, he wants the will of his Father above his. This says to me that whatever I must face as a part of God’s plan for my life, regardless of how painful it is, God’s purpose for allowing me to go through it will supersede my understanding of that purpose. Therefore, I must trust Him to do the impossible and complete the work began.

After I’ve prayed, prayed and prayed again expressing my honest feelings to my Father, He sends the help I need to strengthen me to endure (Luke 22:43). When I’m strengthen and empowered to suffer the will of my Father, I can’t be upset with my family and friends. In essence, I can’t depend on them to give me what only the Father can, or to do what’s impossible for man but possible with God.

How often have you “cried out” asking God to take away your pain…to take away what’s unpleasant and uncomfortable? Yet, your prayer ends with, “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.”

Gains and Losses

SOON TO BE RELEASED!

I’ve learned it’s so easy to focus more on our losses in the past that we lose sight of any spiritual gain in the future.I firmly believe that gains and losses are a necessary part of life.  I also believe that when professing and practicing Christians lose, God has a plan and way of restoring or replacing what we’ve lost with something better and more valuable.  Usually, it requires an attitude adjustment on our part before we can attempt to make sense out of what we’ve experienced in terms of loss. 

Additionally, if we don’t assess the gains as being more valuable than what we lost, from God’s perspective, we may never realize this truth; and we certainly won’t appreciate the goodness and sovereignty of God. Why? Because we’re too focused on our loss; we are crying hopelessly and looking backward rather than forward to the possibilities of having better and being greater in God.
Also, I am persuaded to believe the greater concern we have is with a carnal analysis of what we define as gains in comparison to what we consider loss.  Unfortunately, our analyses are calculated from a worldly system of operation and thought based on past personal experiences and present unpleasant circumstances.  If we itemize our losses and gains from a worldly system rather than a Kingdom view, we can be easily deceived into believing God is not trustworthy, and is out to destroy us. (That’s a lie from the father of lies!).   Consequently, we itemize our gains and losses from a faulty and unstable system rather than align with God’s way of operation.  No, it doesn’t mean our losses are unimportant nor have no value to God. However, it does means that God sees beyond the here and now.  Remember, God’s thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).  So often what is valuable to us, based on our limited knowledge and understanding, has no real value in the Kingdom, and is useless when it comes to fulfilling God’s purposes.

For example, Apostle Paul came to a point in his life when he made an analysis of his gains and losses. He itemized using the same value system as God.  Paraphrasing, he said in Philippians 3:7-11, what were his assets (gains) he wrote them off as a loss.  Why? Because what was most valuable to him was gaining Christ… having Christ…knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings.  Sufferings! Are you serious? No one wants to suffer, right?  Obviously, Paul viewed all the suffering he endured for the sake of Christ as gain! That was Paul’s mindset.   What about you and me? What are we willing to lose so that we might gain for Christ’s sake?

Sadly, too many Christians fall apart and panic when they experience loss of materials items. No one should deny the truth that it hurts to lose stuff… even loved ones. I know the pain of separation!  It hurts to lose anything you consider as valuable; especially life. But what can be gained? A more constant and consistent prayer life, deeper trust and dependency on Christ to sustain,  increased faith that looks to God for provisions, better stewardship practices,  a greater witness to the faithfulness and peace of God during life’s storm, greater commitment to the work of ministry and helping others in need.  God gives you so much more in place of what you lost when you trust Him as your Source.  

Beloved reader, remember it’s so easy to focus more on our losses in the past that we lose sight of any spiritual gain in the future. Also, like Apostle Paul, we haven’t been perfected yet, but let’s press forward and grab hold of what God desires for us.  Let’s press in to get to that place where God is calling us to reach in Christ Jesus. Let’s not focus on our past losses, and what we’ve left behind so much that we miss what God wants to do  in our lives now, and what He has destined for your future. 

Moving forward on the path to promise,

Book! Soon to be released!

On suffering, still…

I pulled this from Our Daily Bread, and thought about the timeliness of it since I just posted on the subject of suffering Saturday …

 Heman’s Honesty

Psalm 88

 My soul is full of troubles. —Ps. 88:3

 David Roper writes:

             I marvel at Heman, the poet who wrote Psalm 88.  His lot in life was unrelieved distress.  “My soul is full of troubles,” he lamented (v.3).  He was fed up with suffering!

            Heman looked back and remembered poor health and misfortune.  He looked around and saw adversity and abandonment.  He looked up and found no solace.  “I am distraught,” he complained (v.15).  He was “adrift (vv.7, 15), and “cast off” (v.14).  He could see no light at the end of the tunnel; no resolution of his sorrow.

            Heman’s honesty warms my soul.  Christians who never struggle confuse me.  There’s balance, of course: No one wants to be around those who babble on all day about their troubles, but it does my heart good to know that someone else has struggled.

            Yet, there’s more to Heman than mere candor.  He also had a stubborn, intractable faith.  Despite his many problems, he clung to God and cried out to Him “day and night” vv.1, 9, 13).  He didn’t stop praying.  He didn’t give up.  And even though he didn’t sense it at the time, Heman acknowledged God’s lovingkindness, faithfulness, and righteousness (vv.11-12).

            I like folks like Heman.  They strengthen my grip on God and remind me never stop prayer.

 THOUGHT:  Prayer is the soil in which hope grows best.

 

Rejoice in suffering?

Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “…we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. —Romans 5:2-5

MPWM faithful reader, do you like pain?  Do you like suffering? I certainly don’t.  I reach for pain relief meds at the slightest sign of a headache.  How and why should we rejoice in our suffering? Suffering is uncomfortable and painful.

Do you think Paul was speaking only of himself, perhaps in third person? I think not. Based on my belief in the inspired authenticity of the Bible, I believe he’s talking to Christian believers today.   Reading Paul’s letters, it’s obvious that he had his share of suffering—painful experiences, troubles, trials and hardships. 

 

In 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, Paul listed all he endured: 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

(Can you believe the audacity to complain about having to wait in rush-hour traffic?)  Also, in his letter to the church at Philippi, which was written during imprisonment,  Paul expressed his desire to know Christ better by partnering with Him in his suffering. Enduring much suffering for the cause of Christ taught Paul to be content in all circumstances. He encouraged the Philippians to cultivate this same ability. (Philippians 3:10-11; 4:11).

The idea of Christians suffering today is frowned upon.  The message of suffering is no longer on our list of sermon topics or Bible Study teaching series in the local church. On the rare occasions that the subject of suffering comes up it is directed toward foreign countries plagued by enormous hardships, persecution, and suffering.  Yet, in America the reality of suffering, hardships and adversity among Christians is evident by the long prayer lines, many prayer requests. Since suffering is on the rise, perhaps now is the time to teach people how to rejoice and not lose hope during tough times.

The disadvantages and distresses of life are more prevalent in our time than during Apostle Paul and the early Christians lifetime. Why? It’s a different world—larger population, different culture, along with changing socioeconomic factors.  Without a doubt, life can be hard and painful…brutal in fact! The main point of emphasis Paul makes is that of our attitude during suffering. While going through the adversities of life, we must always have hope—an expectation that troubles won’t last always. Having this hope gives us a reason to rejoice…envision better. Secondly, we are able to rejoice when we “know” there is purpose for our pain. Knowing that God is intentional in allowing us to experience the unpleasantness and vicissitudes of life should motivate us. Our motivation is based on our knowledge of God.  Know this: whatever God allows is to empower us to be better, do better, live better, and have a better relationship with Him; living in harmony with His plan for our lives. Ultimately, suffering is a process that produces Christ’s character in us.

How should I rejoice in suffering? By continuing to give God praise, being thankful and worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in spite of hardships, trials and tribulation.  Why should I rejoice? My hope (expectation) is solidified by my knowledge of what the outcome will be. (God always causes us to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14).   Although we have disappointments in life, hope and faith in God will not result in disappointment. He pours into us His love, which will sustain us through all life’s ups and down.

“Hands-On Faith Project”

“The LORD said, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  —Job 1:8

I know I’m not the only one that has felt like God extended an invitation to Satan to consider you as a “Hands-On Faith Project.”

It’s true there are some church folks that would boast of being so highly recommended by God…they thrive on accolades, honorable mention and praise.  Really now?  Who in their right mind would like to be handed over to the adversary so God could prove a point—put you on display for all to see, or make an example of you for generations?  Yet this is basically what God did to Job—granted Satan permission to wreak havoc in Job’s life.  However, before I go any further, God knew the outcome, and did not give Satan full control (2:6).

Job’s ordeal was an extreme test of faith.  The best man on earth (according to God Himself) suffered the worst calamity.  Sooner or later we all find ourselves in a position “somewhat” like Job’s. Our world seems to crumble. Nothing makes sense any more. I admit I’ve gone through some stuff in life; God seemed distant and silent. During these times of great crises, we are put on trial. 

The book of Job records every step in the trial process with unflinching honesty.  Job’s life stands as an example to every person who must go through great suffering.  But, God is faithful, and you will receive double for your trouble.

In my study of Job’s account, I also learned that, like Job, we have a tendency to believe that we shouldn’t go through anything simply because we’re God’s servants, living a Christian lifestyle, doing all the right things, and that we have a right to complain (3:20-26). Consequently, when troubles come our way, first we express despair. In our despair we wish we were never born.

Secondly, like Job, we are apt to defend ourselves against the opinions and often misguided counsel of others. We feel we don’t deserve to suffer…or the trials and troubles we’re experiencing are incompatible based on our good service rendered.  Our emotional state becomes so unstable that we feel we must continue to defend our cause, and we even get an attitude.  We feel that God has betrayed us, and even the people that we considered our friends. What makes the situation more frustrating is when family and friends are convinced that we are guilty of “something” and that God is punishing us.

Finally, someone like Elihu comes on the scene to put things in proper perspective—I call it God’s perspective.  Elihu recognizes Job’s arrogance and bitterness. Elihu has no agenda other than to speak the truth from God’s perspective. He basically tells Job that God is sovereign—He does not answer to you, or anyone else. He is God!  He is a just God; He is a great God…consider nature. No one can force God’s hand, or tell Him what to do. Elihu challenges Job’s thinking, to change his attitude and be patient (36:16-21).  This is also noteworthy: Elihu asserts that God uses suffering for good (36:1-15).  Last bit of advice Elihu gives Job is to stand in awe of God and show Him reverence.

Sometimes, we have to be reminded.  The blessings that God bestows upon us are not an entitlement. We must be careful to always remember that no matter what God allows to happen in our lives, He will always work it for our good, and for His purpose.  Yes, Job complained; he questioned God’s sovereignty in view of his own uprightness and integrity.  But when the LORD confronted Job with questions about His sovereignty, it humbled Job. It opened Job’s eyes.  Job put things in proper perspective—repented and confessed that he knew nothing, and was insignificant in comparison to God’s wisdom and power.  After Job recognized his proper position and got things in proper perspective, God restored his fortunes, and gave him twice as much as he had before.

So if you feel that God has extended an invitation to Satan to consider you as a “Hands-On Faith Project”, rest assured that God is sovereign. He’s all-knowing; all-powerful.  He knows what He’s doing and there’s a reason for it. And there will be a reward as well, if you let Him be God, trust Him and view your situation from His perspective. After all, He makes the recommendation for His “hands-on faith project.”

It Will Be, When God Says, It Will Be!

One of my favorite authors is Chuck Swindoll. When I came across this today, I was inspired to meditate on it and share it with you:

“…I know that You can do all things, and that no thought or purpose of Yours can be restrained or thwarted.” —Job 42:2

First, let me say Job’s faith in the Sovereignty of God kept him grounded through his suffering and adversity.  He resolved that he would trust God no matter what.  And because I believe the Bible to be the infallible and inspired Word of God, Job story convinces me that God can be trusted now.

Many of us who confess our faith in God, and say we believe He can do anything panic and fall apart even over the loss of discomforts in life because we can’t live without the luxuries we’ve grown accustomed to having, or because we worship the gifts rather than the Gift-giver.  (Don’t get angry; keep reading)

The book of Job reminds us that Job was “handpicked” by God to be Satan’s target. Could it be that you are handpicked to be a testimony of God’s trustworthiness as the Sovereign God?  Awesome!  Think about this. Here’s a man, an upright man by God’s standards who lost everything, yet made a decision to believe his God.  Sure, at times he became overwhelmed, but through it all his trust in God is an example that we ought to aspire to.

The above verse (Job 42:2) records Job’s confession of faith in the sovereignty of God.

And as Chuck Swindoll says,

Remember that conclusion….When God says it will be done, it will be done. If it makes me unhappy? It makes me unhappy.  If it hurts? It hurts.  If it ruins my reputation?  It ruins my reputation. . .

You want to know who’s in charge around here?  The One who called the spaces into being, the One who put the clouds in place, the One who established the atmosphere in which we’re able to live, the One who separated the seas and the dry land, who gave you breath for your lungs and the ability to think.  The One who placed you here, now in time, for His purpose, and the One who with the snap of His divine finger will pull you from life into eternity.  Mysterious though our lives may seem, God, and God alone, is in charge.1

This day and in the days ahead, let us remember this truth; the conclusion is: God can do all things and no thought (purpose) of His can be stopped!

 

1Swindoll, Charles. Wisdom for the Way. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.