Going through a trying time? Not sure where things will lead? Anticipating a variety of outcomes, none of which sets well?
All of us, sooner or later, will find ourselves facing trying times. And the added downer is that trying times are repetitive. (They come and go, then come and go again) During such times decisions must be made and we don’t always have the clarity we feel we need. We find ourselves worrying about what is next. Thoughts of possible troubling outcomes rise up in our thoughts. So we resort to wording our prayers to persuade God to suit our desires for the outcome.
When trying times hit us our human nature insists on knowing how this all will play out. Thus the game board is set in place to play the ‘IF’ game. And as is predictable with human nature, our thoughts move to the negative. As a result, the processing of these negative outcomes puts us in a quandary.
Over the last several years of trying times and even more recently, I have become very familiar with the temptation to try and second guess God? (As if that was even possible!) Here’s how the temptation typically plays out.
A problem takes center stage. We enact auto pilot and react. Then as things progress, we scramble to figure out where to land. And the ‘IF’ game begins. Every card we play presents a negative scenario. It’s a loose/loose situation; it seems!
As a result, I’ve come to recognize the “If” game is a tool of the enemy to create hopelessness and despondency. The enemy is relentless and it’s a strenuous struggle to not give over any ground to him. My only reliable defense is to call upon God. Depending upon the severity of the struggle, it may need to be a day by day exercise. (hour by hour in some cases) I sense that God’s will not my will should be the intent of my prayers. Therefore the following has become my plan of action:
I can play the “If” game and reap the consequences
I can choose to adapt God’s way of thinking and reap the rewards:
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” HCSB Philippines 4:6-7
A goodbye is just the beginning of a hello! Or so my 7 year old grandson says!
Now that Nammy Camp has faded into the sunset, what now?
The departures of each family group are accompanied by the waves, shouts of goodbyes and I love you’s by the remaining groups traditionally positioned on the front porch.
In past times, these farewell moments have been painted in gray. For letting go has been an all too familiar scene played out in my life. In spite of these colorless moments , there have been some revelations along the way which have served to paint these moments in a more colorful palette.
Accepting God’s placement for my children and their families, can only be accomplished by preferring God’s will for their lives over my own will. This is no easy task, but through the years it has become doable. It takes time to grow in the knowledge of God’s truths. It takes a bolstering of trust to know that His ways are always better than mine. And as I exercise that trust, it grows stronger and more reliable.
Focusing on what I have and not what I don’t have, is another helpful exercise. This is where the fiery dart lessons come in real handy. It’s mighty tempting as I stand waving from my front porch to dwell on the sadness I feel as the final group departs. But it has been my realization that by overly focusing on the negative, I won’t notice the birds serenading me, feel the cool breezes brushing against my skin, or value the beauty of the quiet. For you see, I won’t be able to appreciate this different sort of quiet. A quiet that offers serenity, peacefulness, and consolation all at once.
I don’t want to miss out on the blessed gifts that accompany this season of my life because I am focusing on the negative. The reality is that time changes things. If I cooperate with God as He works His plan, I will discover the beauty, comfort, and purpose that He has prepared for me within those life changes.
I admit this is a God-size task. One that only can be managed successfully when I defer to God’s way of dealing with the departures that always follows Nammy Camp.
My post today is from a personal perspective. I share this perspective in the hopes that my readers will have the benefit of the lessons I’m learning.. For it’s all about taking to heart the Truths designed to smooth out the rough places along life’s path and in the process prove God’s ways work.
Coming up this week is what my family has come to call Nammy Camp. It’s an event for as many of the 20 of us who can attend. There are 20 of us in all. At present two families live out of state. In order to bunk all of us comfortably, a couple of outside tents are required to expand sleeping quarters. Of course, the adults claim the bedrooms (six in all) and the grans (7 years to 17 years) get to bunk out in the tents. Everyone is happy!
In the years past, my aim was to clean every nook and cranny. That meant windows (all 26 of them), the siding on a two story house, rugs cleaned & carpets shampooed, furniture dusted, bed linens washed and put on beds (all 6 of them) touch up painting in all the rooms, etc., etc. Then there was the outside. Pool needed to be all clean and clear (involving a lot of work), yard mowed (a rather large space which included weed eating and trimming with a push mower), spruce up the deck and front porch, etc., etc. Projects that fell to my strengths alone. Almost predictably by the time people family began arriving, I was drained. All I wanted to do was to sit down and stay that way. But there were expectations that since I was the hostess, there was meal planning, activity planning, etc., etc.
This year proved to be a game changer for me. Last fall my mother in law had to move in with us as the result of a stroke and for the last several years I have attended to my own mother’s care (she turns 100 in a few weeks). And over the past months, the realities of my limitations became glaringly clear. Since my energies have been sapped long before Nammy Camp arrived, there was simply no way I could take on Nammy Camp as I had in the past.
Slowly, perhaps too slowly, I have come to realize that all those things I did to prepare for Nammy Camp weren’t mandatory. My own decline in energy, being 74 myself, no longer was up to the preparations. While Nammy camp was looked forward to zeal and excitement, I can say that being drained as I was, it did dampen things for me personally. The negative, you know, fiery darts bombarded my thoughts. It was a constant struggle to keep them from distracting me from enjoying the sacred family moments that always came forth during this time.
Not so good actually! Blocked in on both sides. Feeling bad about this situation makes you feel bad about yourself. Most days are dark. Most people don’t understand how you feel. Feel taken advantage of! God is the ONLY thing that offers light or hope. And much of that light or hope comes from faithful children.
Caring for an elderly mother and recently an elderly mother in law defines my double decker image. Not a place I ever expected to be but here I am. It’s a day by day of putting one foot in front of the other, or stumbling over my own feet.
Then there are those from whom I need the most help, seem to be clueless as to what that should look like. Thank you’s are meaningless, when really what I need is some empathetic act that will lessen the load, relieve the pressure, or cheer me up. You know like repairing something that’s been broken for way too long. Or completing a task that has been all but forgotten. Oh, and I’m going to be blunt here, doing something nice for me just because they know I like it so much (though they don’t)! Sigh……
While I certainly feel tested during this time (the demands are overwhelming), my grade hovers around a ‘C’ sometimes but a ‘D’ most often. At least, that’s my take on it. Yet Romans 8:1 contradicts those fiery darts of condemnation I am so swift to embrace right now.
I’ll just hang on, though I’m making no great strides. Just can’t muster the strength to handle this like I know I should or like others think I should. So, I’ll just keep getting up in the morning and go through the motions of what is expected of me. God continues to whisper to me that all this will work together for my good.
Jesus will return for His church before His 2nd coming. The Rapture, as it is called, is when Jesus will miraculously take to heaven all those who have come to know Jesus as their Savior. This is an event that could happen at any time. Will we be ready?
Or if our departure from this world takes place before Jesus comes for His church, what will be our destination?
It is having to depend upon God and what He teaches us in His word, that keeps us from being overwhelmed by the troubles of this world. It is in God’s word where our enemy, Satan, is exposed. It’s where we learn how to wage war against him.
Spending time with God in His word and in prayer, teaches us how to live life and develop endurance for the trials that come our way. It teaches us the perspective we should have about things like the pandemic and the political turmoil our country finds herself in. It helps us make sense out of the personal and family problems we endure and lights our way to move forward, without destroying the relationships around us. Satan would use those same trials to alienate us from friends and family. God’s plan is to work it out for our good and then some.
Why would we go to any other source when God’s ways bring peace, strength, restoration, joy and, yes. even long-lasting happiness.
From Jesus’s teachings we learn this earth is not our permanent home, heaven is. Earth is where we make preparation to get there. There is a question that must not be left unanswered. Where will we go when we leave this earth?
Not long ago I read, “There is a higher purpose to be discovered in times of great disappointments.”
But trust me, when great disappointments first arrive, the last thing we want to consider is what the higher purpose might be! More than likely our thoughts are consumed by the pain such disappointments precipitates. While the pain must be processed, we must
Consider the following:
During times of great disappointment, we are particularly vulnerable to fiery dart attacks. Such attacks give rise to an ‘all about me’ mentality. We will be set on a course chartered by self-centered thinking.
Thoughts of false reasoning are attracted by such thinking. Therefore, the pain we encounter, as it is filtered through false reasoning, will only be intensified.
. . . all things work togetherfor the goodof those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 HCSB
But what if God doesn’t work things out in the way we had hoped for?
Those times are tough! And the fiery darts are merciless. We have a tendency to be mad at God. We question God. We feel God is ignoring us. Sometimes, the way God works things out breaks our hearts. Peace evades us at times like these. We might even feel like giving up on prayer, after all what good has it done in those difficult times. We experience frustration when we open our bible because nothing seems to speak to our need. We cry out to God, “I just don’t understand what you are doing here God. This isn’t what I prayed for at all!”
We take on an ‘it’s all about me’ perspective. All we can think about is our own feelings. How disappointed we are. How hurt we are. It’s at times like these, we must remember the following:
We must trust God.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; 6 think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Proverbs 3:5-7 NIV
You know, God sees the bigger picture. He’s in charge and we have to submit to that.
We must remember that God desires what is best for us
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, Ephesians 3:20 ESV
God will sustain us (especially when things get rough)
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalms 55:22 HCSB
God knows we won’t get any relief if we insist on carrying that burden. He lovingly and patiently waits for us to turn it all over to Him.
God loves us:
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 HCSB
The reason we can calm down and trust God is because His love for us knows no bounds. Will God, who sacrificed His innocent Son for us, ignore us in our time of disappointment and hurt? That doesn’t even make sense. But we are tempted to forget that powerful Truth. The Truth that will set us free from the temptations meant to destroy us.
Does your life seem complicated at times? Do you feel like you just don’t have God’s full attention? You pray for guidance but it seems God remains silent. Does the peace you earnestly seek for continue to elude you? You fast, but the answers and the peace do not come. And while you are still waiting for answers, you get punched in the gut with more problems!
Yet, you have the sense to know that answers won’t come from any other source. Therefore, you know you must persevere. So you keep on asking the LORD. All the while wondering when the relief will come.
In the meantime, fiery darts are messing with your resolve to seek the LORD. They plant doubt and confusing thoughts into your mind. With these fiery dart thoughts, your seeking the LORD grows more complicated. For now you must sort through these dark thoughts to be able to hear from and be guided by God’s Truth thoughts.
What do you do in these valley times?
Might I suggest that you attack the fiery dart thoughts (those thoughts of negativity, hopelessness, discouragement, doubt, fear, impatience, etc) as soon as they enter your mind. Replace them with Truth thoughts such as Isaiah 54:17, Jeremiah 29:11, Hebrews 11:1, John 14:27, James 1:2-4, Philippians 2:13, Isaiah 43:4. Words from God to encourage you, give you hope, and to lift you up.
And we’ve all lived long enough to know that sometimes the answers won’t come quickly (which seems the rule not the exception). At times, we might find that we just have to wait for the answers that seem so long in coming. It is during such times that we must arm ourselves withverses that instruct us as we wait.
It is good for us to remember, that these dark times have a purpose. (Romans 8:28) God will use these times for our benefit and His glory. Therefore, focusing on the following word from God, will keep our heads above water. And though the answers still may not come for awhile, these words will give us the relief we need to keep on keeping on.
Isaiah 48:17, “This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you in the way you should go.
Perhaps this whole thing about fiery darts is still sort of foggy–what they are, how to deal with them, etc.?
If that is the case with any of my readers, then please allow me to share a potential calamity that my son and daughter in law recently faced that I hope will clear away some of that fog.
In anticipation of attending an university in the UK next year for his master’s work, my son, daughter in law, and their two small sons (plus all of the paraphernalia that entails) made their way to an airport in Africa to board their plane. My son’s plans were to meet with professors to tie up any loose ends having to do with his registration. They hoped to have some time to look into housing possibilities as well. A few days later we planned to join them and together we would enjoy a vacation that we all had looked forward to and planned on for months.
However, upon arriving at their airline’s check in counter, they were blind sided with the news that their plane had left without them. Apparently, there was some confusion about the departure time. Then to add to the dilemma they faced, they were told their tickets were not refundable($2300)! Oh, and wait, there’s more! The only plane that was scheduled to go to the city where the university is located wouldn’t be leaving for another week. Of course, that would mean we would arrive before them and that would just mess everything up! ! ! ! !
Immediately, my son placed a couple of phone calls–one to me and one to a fellow missionary friend. After my son shared the details of the ordeal with me, I prayed for him, said goodbye and got busy calling all my friends to prayer, urging them to notify their friends to pray. In a matter of minutes, people all over the United States and the world were praying. (My son is a missionary and many of his friends live scattered throughout the globe.)
Now, this is where the fiery dart explanation comes in!
With rapid succession, thoughts of panic, fear, and worry, bombarded my mind. (If they were doing that to me, imagine what they could have been doing to my son & daughter in law). Just imagine how all of our plans would have been derailed if we gave into such negative thinking or yep, you’ve got it,fiery darts!
Now, I preach (might as well admit it) that the most efficient way to extinguish fiery darts are to:
1)recognize the fiery darts
2)reject the fiery darts
3)replace the fiery darts (with Truth thoughts)
Therefore, here are some of the Truth thoughts God brought to my mind:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28, NIV(If we were willing to cooperate with God in this, He would work all this out for our good)
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7(After taking this turn of events to the LORD, we needed to thank Him for how He was going to work things out and accept His peace.)
You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. Isaiah 26:33(We needed to trust (focus on)God so that we wouldn’t freak out and be at peace)
We knew it was God’s way to take all the scatter pieces of our plan and put them back together again! His plans are always to benefit us.(Jeremiah 29:11)That was our confidence because that is God’s character!
A few hours later, after purchasing a one way ticket to another country, where they would transfer planes, they would arrive at a city in the UK 4 1/2 hours from their original destination. There they would rent a car and drive to the city where the university is located. Several hours late, but arriving nevertheless. And, I might add, with a sound mind!
And concerning that non-refundable ticket?
Waiting on God with thoughts of trust (not fiery darts)