Seven or eight years ago, I went through the greatest trial of my life so far. My life has not always been easy, but looking back at most of the difficult times, I can see how God used them in some way in spite of how hard it was to go through them. This last trial, I still cannot see any good that came out of it, and I possibly never will. I can say, though, that God is still faithful. Although He felt distant at times, He kept holding my hand and, eventually, I was able to smile again. He also has opened doors for me that I would not have walked through had I not gone through that. Hmm. Maybe something good came out of it after all.
People like to quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” The key words are “for them that love God.” Sometimes bad things happen because of people’s selfishness or fleshly desires. God is not obligated to bring anything good out of these situations. He may do so, but He may not.
Too many treat God like a genie. When they need something, they call on Him. When everything is going well, they ignore Him. When things aren’t going as they’d like and He doesn’t answer how they wish, they get mad at Him. How this must grieve Him!
I turned 45 earlier this month. That may seem young to some of you and old to others, but I think of it as somewhere in between. I know I have a lot to learn yet, but I have learned a few things in my relatively short time here on earth. The one thing I cling to in the good and the bad times is that God is faithful. People are not always, but God is.
As long as there is breath, there is hope. The fact that I am alive proves that God still has a work for me to do, and I know that is the same for you as well. When troubles come, you may want to shut down and give up. That is the worst thing you could do. Give your burden to the Lord. Let Him carry it while you continue doing the work that God has called you to do.
I hope this encourages you, as that is my intent. “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; [Christ has] overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”
We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.
But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?
Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.
The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.
“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”
“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”
“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”
Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.
But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.
What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.
The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.
Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.
The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.
True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?
Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.
Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”
Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.
Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.
Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?
All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.
When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.
My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!
That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).
I am like everyone else. I have a hard time embracing the trials that come my way but I’ve known the Lord long enough to know that everything happens for a purpose. Most of the time, it seems like the trials in my life come to draw me closer to the Father. Even in ministry, it is easy to become so busy that one doesn’t have a lot of quality time to spend with the One they serve. Because of this, I am learning to embrace down times.
This does not mean I do not get discouraged. Boy, do I ever! But I continue to pray and to praise Him for the good things He has done. I know that He is doing a work in my life, and I find encouragement in that. I would much rather have some inconveniences now than to find myself so far from Him one day and not know what happened.
We serve a faithful God. He is faithful in the good times and the bad times. He gives strength when I need it and, when He doesn’t, I have to trust that it is more important that I be still and rest in Him. Not always easy but vital.
Brothers and Sisters, I hope you are feeling encouraged today. No matter what you are going through, there is a purpose. God desires to draw you to Himself, to make you more like Him, to make you an even greater blessing to others. You simply have to trust and surrender to Him.
All trials are temporary. It will not rain always. Keep looking up, and I trust that you will see sunshine again. Your circumstances may not change but your outlook no doubt will.
Disappointment is defined as “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”
There are many things in life that can and do cause disappointment. Disappointments are like storms that can threaten to overwhelm your heart and soul. It could be the loss of a promotion when you feel that you were qualified for the position that was given to another person. Maybe the disappointment brings sadness when holiday times do not measure up to your hopes or expectations.
What about when your children do not follow your commands? We say that they have disappointed us. Simply put, our minds and hearts are sad or displeased because our children failed to live up to our hopes or expectations.
As we grow older in life, we find that our hopes or expectations of a good long life free of health issues produces disappointments. We realize that life is not easy and that our hopes continue to be dashed with each advancing year and trip to the doctor. One day they take tests and reveal a life-threatening illness, or maybe they are just not able to determine what is causing the severe pain. Either way, we have feelings of sadness because this is not what we could have imagined when we were young and in excellent health.
Life is full of times that cause sadness and displeasure. Life is full of sadness because we are fallen creatures. Sin has caused our minds and hearts to run from what is perfect or ideal in each situation. Our chosen paths do not reflect the image in which we were created and thus we end up with more sadness and displeasure.
Our hopes and expectations do not come to fruition and then we try to make sense of the aftermath. What do we do with that disappointment? Do we allow it to overwhelm us or do we strive to rise above the clouds of despair and set new goals?
The Scriptures are full of times when disappointment was the order of the day throughout different periods of history. Adam and Eve must have been disappointed when they learned the news of Cain killing his own brother. Despite having prepared for 120 years, Noah must have felt a keen disappointment that there were only seven other people in the boat with him while the remainder of the world perished.
Surely, Joseph was disappointed when he was sold into slavery by his brothers and realized that he would probably never see them again. Yet, there was a ray of hope, grace, and redemption at the end of the account. Joseph and his brothers were ultimately reconciled and Joseph revealed the answer to life’s most poignant disappointments.
Are you ready for this? In this answer, you too can understand what many cannot or will not grasp. The answer to all the disappointments is a full recognition of who is in charge of every aspect of your life. Without taking full knowledge of this answer, you and I will long struggle with what happens to us from day to day. We will continue to be filled with sadness and displeasure when our hopes and expectations flee from us like dew before the morning sun. As James 4:14 puts it so eloquently, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Joseph had to go through a great deal of disappointments in order for him to finally learn the truth. Life was not about him. It was not about his brothers. In fact, life was not even about the hardships that he had endured. Was his life full of various disappointments? Yes, of course, but those disappointments are not ultimately what made Joseph such a wise person.
His point of wisdom is found in Genesis 50:20.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
The Hebrew word for evil is also translated in other verses as wickedness, mischief, hurt, trouble, affliction, adversity, harm, or sad. In other words, it is not just the evil out of the heart of man that God means for good to us. There is a reason why you are going through the disappointments of life.
To take the cue from Joseph, maybe we should memorize this verse in Genesis 50. When the disappointments of life come, then we should be learning to say:
“As for you, you meant hurt or trouble or affliction or adversity or disappointment to or against me, BUT God meant it for good.”
Understanding this will enable us to put aside feelings of sadness and displeasure when it seems like our lives are falling apart. Instead of allowing disappointment to overwhelm us like shadows in the valleys of life, we can appreciate verses like James 4:15 where the apostle continues by sharing with true believers, “Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Or, we can even appreciate opening up the wonderful passage in Romans 8 where we learn that all the things that God is working together in our lives is for the express purpose of making us more like His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the total sovereignty of God in action. Our biggest problem as true believers is that we fail to note this every day. Disappointments come and go, yet one thing remains sure –
There’s no disappointment in Jesus!
There was a hymn written before World War 2 that is rarely heard anymore, but I leave the words for you to consider. May they be an encouragement to your heart and mind.
There’s No Disappointment in Jesus
1) There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
He’s more than my tongue can tell;
His love is so sure
And so steadfast,
His friendship divine will not fail.
There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
He’s all that He promised to be;
His love and His care
Comfort me everywhere;
He is no disappointment to me.
2) There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
Tho’ sorrows may press me sore.
He comforts with tender compassion,
His love cheers my heart evermore.
3) There’s no disappointment in Jesus,
He satisfies me alway;
So strong and so willing to help me,
In Him I find comfort each day,