Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where is God When Trouble Comes

Trouble has a way of stalking us like an unwelcome shadow. We don’t awake in the morning and shout,” Wow! I hope this day is just filled to the max with trouble for me. I hope that the worst trials will happen. This is going to be one exciting day!” Quite the opposite is true. We awake with a whispered sigh that we hope that the day goes well, that we really desire less challenges to our patience, and more uplifting positive experiences throughout the day.

The difference between trouble and our shadow is that we can control the cast of a shadow by standing in a bright room. There is still a shadow there but it is so slight that it is not easily seen. Trouble however, is elusive, unpredictable, often unannounced and most of the time, we can see it as caused by something or someone other than ourselves.

The Reality of Trouble

We all go through times of trouble. Sometimes you can feel all alone and without any resources to figure out what to do. You may even find yourself asking, "Where is God when trouble comes?" The Scriptures teach that God is never far away, and especially reminds us that He draws nearer to us in times of trouble. It was Jesus Christ Himself who said to His disciples one day,

"I have said these things, so that in Me you might have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:32-33

Trouble is often Blamed upon God

Some people logically reason that when God is involved in our lives, and if we are seeking to follow Him sincerely, instead of troublesome times, our days should be easier, more stress free and that others would treat us respectfully. When Moses was trying his best to figure out what God wanted him to do, and as he sought to gain freedom for the Israelite's from slavery in Egypt, he found himself up to his neck in trouble and couldn't figure out why. In fact, he started blaming God for the trouble that had come crashing down upon him.

“The foremen said to them, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”  Exodus 5:21-23

In Times of Trouble you can feel Abandoned by God

The tougher the trouble gets, the more we can feel that God has let us down and is not near, but far away. 

“Oh Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble? The wicked arrogantly hunt down the poor. Let them be caught in the evil they plan for others. For they brag about their evil desires; they praise the greedy and curse the Lord.”  Psalm 10:1-3

The problem is one of perspective. We tend to measure the faithfulness of God by the intensity of our trouble, instead of measuring the intensity of our trouble by the Majesty of our God.

The Reasons for Trouble

Trouble can be God's way to get our Attention

Sometimes the very trouble that comes into our lives by way of difficult circumstances may be God's attempt to get our attention. King Saul was not one to follow God's way of doing things, and he struggled under the prodding of His Spirit. When God's Spirit is convicting our hearts on a matter, it is very uncomfortable and distressing, until we open our hearts and deal with the matter.

“Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him. Whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.” 1 Samuel 16:22-23  

God's uses of times of Trouble when Dealing with Mankind 

It seems that the only time people cry out to God for His help is when times of trouble come their way.

“For what hope do the godless have when God cuts them off and takes away their life? Will God listen to their cry when trouble comes upon them? Can they take delight in the Almighty? Can they call to God at any time? Job 27:8-10

Trouble can be Blamed upon God’s People 

When troublesome times come upon the lives of others, especially when they are in direct communication with God's people about their need to turn to God and not resist Him, God's servants can become the target of persecution.

“But about this time tomorrow I will send my officials to search your palace and the homes of your people. They will take away everything you consider valuable! Then Ahab summoned all the elders of the land and said to them, “Look how this man is stirring up trouble! I already agreed with his demand that I give him my wives and children and silver and gold.” Don’t give in to any more demands,” all the elders and the people advised.” 1 Kings 20:6-8

Trouble comes as a Consequence of One’s Action’s 

It should come as no surprise, when we know that we have done wrong to another, that troublesome consequences become the by product of our wrong actions.

“But you must bring your youngest brother back to me. This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.” To this they agreed. Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”  Genesis 42:20-22

Trouble is often removed based upon Faithful Prayer,

Repentance, and Obedience 

When our hearts are right with God, and we seek His blessing and protection, God is pleased to bless our lives.

“There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.” 1 Chronicles 4:9-11

1 Chronicles 4:9 Jabez sounds like a Hebrew word meaning “distress” or “pain.” 

The Results of Trouble

Trouble should cause us to turn to God

If you only pray when you are in trouble, you are in trouble. We have to realize that today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. God wants our hearts to be prepared, in The Quiet Place, alone with Him, so that when trouble comes, we can step into it with faith, courage and an acknowledgement that God's will shall reign, regardless of the troublesome circumstances that have befallen us.

Notice the example of the Israelites in the Old Testament:

“For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a priest to teach them, and without the Law to instruct them. But whenever they were in trouble and turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him out, they found Him.  During those dark times, it was not safe to travel. Problems troubled the people of every land” 2 Chronicles 15:3-5

Trouble Burdens the Heart and is seen by Others 

It is no easy thing to hide the burden of our troubles from others. It shows in our eyes, and the way that we conduct ourselves. We are created to glow from the inside out. The more the heart is troubled the more that it shows. 

Nehemiah could not hide the heaviness of his heart from King Artaxerxes'

“Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence.  So the king asked me, ‘Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.’ Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” Nehemiah 2:1-3

Trouble Causes a Restless Heart 

When times are tough, we find little comfort or pleasure in life. Job was so overwhelmed that he could only see the dark clouds of trouble that were enshrouding his life.

“So I looked for good, but evil came instead. I waited for the light, but darkness fell. My heart is troubled and restless. Days of suffering torment me. I walk in gloom, without sunlight. I stand in the public square and cry for help.” Job 30:26-28.

Trouble can be used by others to Criticize you

As your faith becomes weakened by the troubles of life, the very friends that once gave respect and affirmation to you, may now so easily become your harshest critics.

“Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope? Job 4:4-6

The Collateral impact of Trouble

Times of trouble can cause fallout upon those who are closest to our lives.  Sometimes innocent people are caught up in the consequences of someone else's wrongful actions.

“Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, tent, and everything he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor. Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble on us? The Lord will now bring trouble on you.” And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies. They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble ever since. So the Lord was no longer angry.”  Joshua 7:24-26

Trouble can Impact others due to Someone's Wrongful Choices

When someone in leadership makes choices that have tumbledown impact upon those who are under their authority, innocent people are impacted by their actions. 

“So I confronted the nobles of Judah. “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?” I asked. “Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Nehemiah 13:17-18

Whole companies and organizations have been shut down and have gone under due to the wrong decisions of  management. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and their homes as a result.

What to Do When Trouble Comes your Way

Spend Extra Time in the Word Of God 

It is critically important to stay in the Word of God during times of trouble. Tough circumstances need Biblical insight to have wisdom on how to deal with them

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105

Your testimonies are wonderful [far exceeding anything conceived by man]; therefore my [penitent] self keeps them [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying them]. The entrance and unfolding of Your words give light; their unfolding gives understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple.”   Psalm 119:129-131 

Maintain a Regular Time in The Quiet Place  

Maintain specific times to be in The Quiet Place. It is only as you worship God, and are comforted by His Love that life's troubles come into perspective. God alone can give you the strength you need to work through times of trouble as you wait on Him.  
I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your Word according to all Your name. On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. ”  Psalm 138:1-3

You may wonder, "Where is God when trouble comes?" We all do at times. Just remember that He is as near as a prayer away. The Quiet Place is a special time for you to seek God and gain hope and perspective on life. Read through several appropriate articles found here in The Quiet Place. It is my prayer and genuine hope, that you will find comfort and peace here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shattered Dreams in the Quiet Place

It seems inevitable that each and every one of us will at some time in our lives, be touched by the painful experience of a shattered dream. Some people may hold on to a fading dream with tenacious passion, even above reason, until one day that dream lies broken in jagged pieces at their feet. It may be a love that should have lasted for a lifetime, a career that was to be the pinnacle of one's life work, or a financial nest egg that was to be there at retirement to provide a measurable life of ease rather than hardship in the senior years .... gone now, with only the memory of what could have been.

Shattered Dreams are Real

Tragedy touches everyone. Shattered dreams are real and they can leave a person devastated and broken. A man who was very acquainted with the reality of living on the raw edge of a shattered dream was the man Jacob, a character found in the Old Testament. He was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the fraternal twin brother of Esau. He was named Jacob as he came out of the womb with his hand grasping his older twin brother's heel. (Genesis 25:26).

These two brother's were opposite in every way, and their relationship was troubled by a harsh and divisive sibling rivalry.  It culminated in Jacob manipulating both his elder brother, and his father Isaac to obtain a birthright that was not his own (Genesis 28:4), bestowing upon him the promise of The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12: 1-3). This was a sacred rite and blessing reserved for the firstborn son alone. Jacob later fled for fear that his brother Esau would kill him for such treachery. Leaving his childhood home he journeyed into the wilderness, alone and uncertain as to his future. He found himself surrounded by a dry and barren wilderness.

“… Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. He gathered some stones there, and arranged them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.” (Genesis 28:10-11)

The stones that Jacob had used to rest his weary body upon may have symbolized what he might have felt that his life had become ... barren and desolate. His shattered dream became a painful reminder that what he had hoped for had not come without cost. Yet in God’s grace and mercy, those very stones became an altar of worship, as God gave Him a vision of the tomorrow yet to be. 

When a Shattered Dream is given to God

In The Quiet Place, God can begin to teach us that even a shattered dream can be used by Him to teach us something of His mercy and grace that can only be learned when our hearts are truly open and He is given full and complete access.

God's Mercy is Revealed to Jacob
“He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. Genesis 28:12-14a)

God's Grace is Extended through Jacob
"All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”(Genesis 28:14b-15)

When a Shattered Dream becomes an Altar of Worship

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.' He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God; this is the Gate of Heaven.” (Genesis 28:17)

In life we often discover that what we thought would make us happy and fulfilled is found to leave the heart empty, restless and unsatisfied. How precious it is to discover that what was once a shattered dream can became God’s means to bless us with much more that we could have ever imagined.

“Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called the place Bethel,  though the city used to be called Luz.” (Genesis 28:18-19)

The name Luz comes from the verb luz meaning to turn aside. In the Bible this word is used mostly as a negative, either as a turning away from wisdom (Proverbs 3:21, 4:21) or used to describe being a "twisted" person (Proverbs 3:32, 14:2). It is used also to describe a crooked uneven pathway. The derivative azut means deviation or crookedness. Jacob’s manipulative scheming to gain Esau’s birthright, when given to God for Him to have His way, changed this barren place into a place Jacob called, Bethel…The House of God; the Place where God dwells. Jacob’s sorrowful place became His Quiet Place where God revealed His will to him. 

The name Bethel is a compound of two Hebrew words. The first segment is the word bayet meaning house, household, home or temple. The second segment is the word El, the common abbreviation of the word Elohim. It is the first name given for God in the Bible, "In the beginning God, (Elohim) created the Heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1).

The word beth ha-'elohim, is a designation of the Hebrew word for sanctuary. In a moment of profound personal revelation, Jacob discovered that his desert place became "The House of Yahweh," the place where God does dwell.
It is only when we allow God to dwell in midst of the broken pieces of our shattered dream, that that very place of grievous sorrow, becomes The Quiet Place of the House of God to our soul. It becomes personal and real, when upon the dark lonely pathway through the forest of disillusionment; the night shadows become aglow with the presence of God.

Jacob understood that in a lonely desert place, his shattered dream had become the pathway to a deeper understanding of the will of God for his life.

Give your Shattered Dream to God

Jacob realized that his bed of stones had become an altar of worship, but only as he yielded his heart and broken dreams to the infinite purpose of God. Are you in a struggle with God, wrestling over a shattered dream that needs to be laid at His feet in humble obedience? Give Him the pieces and He will show you the pathway to discovering how only His will can lead to the creation of a new beginning in your life.

“…and Jacob vowed a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God.” (Genesis 28:20-21)

Honor God with Obedience and Sacrifice 

Jacob recognized that God wanted him to sacrifice a measure of His provision for him, as a token of trust and obedience that God alone must have His way in Jacob’s life.

“… and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s House, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:22)

When the Pathway to the Future is Unclear

The Quiet Place is where understanding becomes enlightenment, and enlightenment becomes a ministry to others. When the way seemed unclear to Jacob, God would later remind him, to return to this place he called Bethel, where God had taken his shattered dream, and gave him the vision of a promised blessing that lay in store for him. God would remind him to return to worship Him there, in The Quiet Place of the House of God.

“I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.” (Genesis 31:13)

“Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” (Genesis 35:1)

Where once it was enough to have his father’s Isaac’s blessing, now in the wilderness of his shattered dreams, he had to have God’s blessing. When our dream is no longer as important as His blessing in our lives, then the horizon of the future will not be the central focus of our hopes and dreams, but rather our focus will be His glory and His blessing alone. It is only then that the Quiet Place becomes not merely a place to clear our heads, but a place to clear our heart and hear the whisper of His voice alone.

Letting go of the sorrow of a shattered dream is no easy thing. For Jacob, this lonely desolate time became a testimony to others as to how God alone can take a shattered dream and use it as a pathway into a deeper understanding of God’s will, God’s provision, and God’s blessing. 

 “…and let us arise, and go up to Beth-el; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.” (Genesis 35:6)

As we journey through our lives, we may discover that the stones that are embedded in the pathway before us, are the footprints of those whose hearts and dreams were shattered and broken. They were fellow pilgrims upon the path of life that experienced personal tragedy in the loss of a life dream.   

What is important to remember is that the rock strewn path need not be seen as headstones meant to mark the graves of lost hopes, but rather, stepping stones to remind fellow pilgrims to never give up their quest to dream yet again, when sorrow cloaks the day into night. The dawn will bring forth the sunrise of God's promise to each one who mourns the loss of a shattered dream. 

He longs to teach us that the horizon yet ahead of us at this moment in time, is His gift to us, but we must take steps, however faltering, toward what we can sense but cannot see. That is faith with the breath of God giving us wings to fly.

Recommended Resource:

Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Pathway to Joy

If God loves me, why does life hurt so much? 

"A new way to live is available to us," writes widely respected author and counselor Larry Crabb, "a way that leads to a joy-filled encounter with Christ, to a life-arousing community with others, and to a powerful transformation of our interior worlds that makes us more like Jesus."

You'll see how God moves you from shattered dreams to better dreams to the highest dream - and the joy that comes from dreaming it.

 "Shattered dreams, "writes Dr. Larry Crabb, "are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit first to awaken, then to satisfy our highest dream."