THE REMEDY: The Companionship of Joy and Pain

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)

Recently, I watched a friend bury his beloved wife. His heart is cracking apart with grief. The loss and loneliness are a crushing burden he carries every day.

It seems almost sacrilegious to read this verse about rejoicing when we face trials in respect to my friend’s circumstance. Does God really expect him to rejoice in this devastating sorrow?

Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

Do you see the joy and pain in this verse? God’s adoption plan was sending His only Son to die in our place. What pain! What sorrow!

Look what it says next, “He wanted to do it and it gave him great pleasure!”

Pain and Joy. They seem so diametrically opposed to one another and yet, their mutual presence is at the core of God’s rescue plan for us!

Why should this journey of following our Savior be any different?

Joy comes from knowing God and trusting His way. Joy comes from the deep springs of the soul. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s developed over time as we grab hold of His hand and put one foot in front of the other. As we walk His way.

Jesus said in John 16.33 (NIV), “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Thought:
– Will you choose joy in the pain of your circumstances? What blessings are there in your pain? Take some time today to focus on the good, instead of the bad and make a list of signs of God’s goodness in your life.
– Are you embracing the joy and the pain in your life?

By Kristi Huseby

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THE REMDY: Just Be…Psalm 46:10a

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a

Sometimes we hear a verse so often we stop paying attention. This was true for me for Psalm 46:10. I have this verse on my bulletin board and I see it every day, yet way too often I am not still. In fact, I am anything but that.

At a church conference, a friend shared with me a more meaningful way to read any way-too-familiar verse. She encouraged me to dissect it. Breaking down the verse renewed its meaning for me.

Be still and know that I AM . . . Even though I know He is God, do I let Him be God over my life? Do I put Him on the back burner until I need His presence? When Moses asked Him what His name was, God replied, “I AM.” Jesus told the Pharisees that before there was Abraham, I AM. He is forever present, be it two thousand years ago or two thousand years from now.

Be still and know . . . know not just with my brain but with every fiber of my being. To know is to be certain, without a shadow of a doubt or an ounce of hesitancy. We say, “I know for a fact . . .” when we are adamant about something. Do I know God? How can I know Him better? The answer is simple—by spending time with Him. That requires that sometimes I don’t do all the talking in my prayer life, but I stop and listen. And to listen, I must…

Be still. . . How very easy, and yet very difficult. To be still is also for me to be peacefully silent. Silence is hard to achieve in today’s world. We are surrounded by noise. Being still requires effort, a conscious act of not being distracted. But, this is where you can find God.

Be – that is all God requires of us. We just need to be what we were created to be—to praise and serve the Lord our God with our hearts souls and minds. Our merciful God accepts us as we are, with all our short comings and all our faults. Through the eyes of His Son, sees us as pure, blameless and made worthy when we come into His presence and ask for forgiveness. We don’t need to be perfect. We only need to be willing to “be”.

Heavenly Lord, breathe in us the desire to know You more and more. Help us to realize You are always I AM, and are present in our lives. Instill in our hurried state the yearning to be still and to be content to just be, knowing that in You we are made complete. Amen.

Thought: If a Bible verse starts to lose its impact, take it apart. Read each word and find new meaning, with God’s help. Scripture is alive and breathing with His Spirit. We are not to just read it, but to digest it, make it a part of us, and live it.

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THE REMEDY: Running the Race…. Hebrews 12:1,2 (NLT)

“Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” Hebrews 12:1,2 (NLT).

Racing is all about competition and winning, right? Each runner does his utmost to be ahead of the others, so that he will get the prize. Those who do not win tell themselves, “next time I’ll do better.”

But is this all there is to racing? Recently I saw a video clip which told of another way of winning. It’s not about being first and getting a prize; it’s about finishing a race. An athlete was running a race. He was ahead of everyone until he fell and hurt himself. He got up and resumed running but all  he could do is limp along. Soon everyone passed him by. Still, he kept limping towards the finish line. When it seemed like he’d have to quit, his father jumped into the rink and together they made it to the finish line. “We’re in this together,” he said to a cheering audience.

In 2 Timothy chapter 4:7 and 8 Paul tells us that the Christian race is something like that. It’s not just about  winning a race but it’s about finishing a race. At the end of his life Paul could say, “I have finished the race and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness…”

But the prize is not just for him; “it is for all who have finished the race and longed for Christ’s appearing (His glorious return)” (2 Timothy 4:8).
The race we are running is uniquely chosen for us by God. We are not in competition. We are running for Jesus not ourselves.

We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We will stumble if we look away from him to see how we’re doing in comparison to others, or we look at the circumstances around us. Then we’re apt to become discouraged.

Are you weary of the race? Remember: God is not looking for perfection but for persistence. As you keep your eyes on Jesus, you will get the courage and stamina to keep going until the finish line. And if you stumble, He’ll be there to pick you up and get you back in the race again.

We also need each other. Like the father in the story encouraged his son to finish the race, we can come alongside someone and encourage them. Can you think of someone?

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are with me in this race. I depend on your strength to help me finish well.

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THE REMEDY: Flirting with Doubt…..James 1.5-7

Have you ever pleaded with God over and over again to answer your prayer?  Or felt such desperation in your soul, that you prayed all night long begging God to hear your prayer?  But deep down, did you really expect God to hear you?

In my reading of Acts, I came upon a very familiar story.  Peter is captured by Herod’s henchmen and thrown in jail.  James, John’s brother was killed just days before his capture and the people are thrilled!  Herod, seeking continued approval had turned his attention towards Peter and now Peter was sitting in jail surrounded by sixteen soldiers, all appointed to guard one unarmed man.

It’s the middle of the night and Peter is awakened by a brilliant light filling his jail cell.  He sees an angel but he’s really not sure if he is awake or dreaming.  He follows the angel past guard after guard, gate after gate and soon finds himself alone and very much awake standing in an alley outside the prison gates.

Meanwhile, the believers all gathered at Mary’s house to pray and intercede for Peter.  To say that they were concerned for Peter’s welfare would be stating it mildly.  They were terrified at what Herod might do to Peter, their pastor and friend.  He had just executed another member of their community and they were sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to Peter.  They knew how heavily surrounded he was and in their heart of hearts they secretly wondered if God would hear their prayers.  Look what happens next . . .

“While they were praying earnestly for Peter, Mary’s servant girl interrupted them to tell them that Peter was at the door knocking. Look at what happens next . . . “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept knocking and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.” Acts 12.15-16

As I read this passage, I couldn’t help but cringe inside at all the times I’ve prayed, never really expecting God to hear my prayer.  Because, deep down in my heart of hearts maybe I thought it was too impossible.   Or maybe, I questioned whether it really was God’s will or not or maybe I just simply did not believe that my prayers would really make a difference.  Whatever the reason at the root is DOUBT.  Doubt that God is who He says He is.  Doubt that God hears my prayers.  Doubt that He is great enough for my problems.

Doubt, doubt, doubt.

James 1.5-7 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you MUST believe and NOT DOUBT, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

The more I read the words of Jesus and his followers, the more apparent it is that following Him is an ALL or NOTHING venture.  Having one foot in the world and one foot in heaven just doesn’t work.  Opening the door to doubt, even just a little crack, will leave us unstable and easily swayed.

Lord, teach me to have a faith that doesn’t flirt with doubt.  I want all that you have for me.  Teach me what it looks like to walk the road of faith.  Open my heart to see You for who You really are so that I might know You better and trust You more.  Amen

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THE REMEDY: Learning to Trust the Master

A man and his dog are in the same car. The dog howls bright-moon-in-the-middle-of-the-night caterwauling howls. The man pleads, promising a daily delivery of dog biscuit bouquets if only the hound will hush. After all, it’s only a car wash.

Never occurred to him (ahem, or to me) that the car wash would scare my dog. But it did. Placing myself in her paws, I can see why. A huge, noisy machine presses toward us, pounding our window with water, banging against the door with brushes. Duck! We’re under attack.

“Don’t panic. The car wash was my idea.” “I’ve done this before.” “It’s for our own good.” Ever tried to explain a car wash to a canine? Dog dictionaries are minus the words brush and detail job. My words fell on fallen flaps. Nothing helped. She just did what dogs do; she wailed.

Actually, she did what we do. Don’t we howl? Not at car washes perhaps but at hospital stays and job transfers. Let the economy go south or the kids move north, and we have a wail of a time. And when our Master explains what’s happening, we react as if he’s speaking Yalunka. We don’t understand a word he says.

Is your world wet and wild? God’s greatest blessings often come costumed as disasters. Some of you doubt it. How can God use cancer or death or divorce? Simple.

He’s smarter than we are. He is to you what I was to four-year-old Amy. I met her at a bookstore. She asked me if I would sign her children’s book. When I asked her name, she watched as I began to write, “To Amy …”

She stopped me right there. With wide eyes and open mouth, she asked, “How did you know how to spell my name?”

She was awed. You aren’t. You know the difference between the knowledge of a child and an adult. Can you imagine the difference between the wisdom of a human and the wisdom of God? What is impossible to us is like spelling “Amy” to him.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

I keep taking Molly to the car wash. She’s howling less. I don’t think she understands the machinery. She’s just learning to trust her master.

Maybe we’ll learn the same.

Question: How can we trust God at times when we are confused, frustrated, or just don’t understand where our life is taking us?

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