Posts Tagged ‘Adversity’

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I am not sure if it’s just me, or is there a significant amount of difficulty, adversity and even downright despair in what I see around me right now? Life does tend to be ebb and flow most of the time whereby good and bad problems drift into our lives and then subside (yes, I believe there are good problems, like having so much work you don’t know where to put it all). But in my worldview, I see despair in both friends and family where there should be joy.

I believe that despair is one of Satan’s most powerful weapon because if he hits you at just the right moment, you literally feel no hope…or in other words, you feel despair. Do you remember when you were a kid and you wrestled with your siblings or your Dad and there was always the time when everyone “piled on” leaving the one on the bottom to scream in pain? That’s what Satan does when you are struggling with anything…he piles on driving you into despair.

Did you know that despair is the complete loss or absence of hope? I find that definition interesting because as a child of God, there is always hope…am I correct?

But yet honestly, who hasn’t felt despair even as a child of God? I think we all have, which tells me a couple things:

  1. Satan is alive and well on this earth and seeks to kick your butt anytime he can.
  2. How much are you actually trusting God during this difficult time?

Now, I completely understand that despair is an internal battle for control over what you are feeling inside. Satan is pouring every possible bad thing he can onto you and God is looking to you to reach out to Him and just hang on. That unseen battle is real and I know many of you have felt it before.

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I have a very good Christian friend right now in the midst of this type of despair. He is at that time in his life where his Mother requires an assisted living facility to help with her care but she doesn’t want to go and his fear is that she gets there, she will die. My friend is agonizing over this decision and it’s driving him into a bad place in his life. He feels there is no hope.

As is always true in this blog, I have a couple of verses I want to share with you and then some simple knowledge to pass your way. The first scripture is from Paul who frankly, lived a very hard life once he became a follower of Christ…NOT an easy one. Please note that this verse is clear about life…that he may have been down, but he was not crushed, or in despair. In other words, life is hard…but when you hang onto God, you can get through it.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV)

Secondly, here is word from my favorite Bible character, David.

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you

(Psalms 25:21 NIV)

Simply put guys, despair is a bad place to be and it will take God to get you out of it. That means no only prayer on your own part, but prayers from family and friends. As mentioned, you are in a battle and Satan wants to be victorious over you. He knows that beating you will have the trickle down effect on both your wife and children. In other words, everyone will be miserable. THAT IS HIS GOAL…and you need to recognize that.

I challenge all of you today to hang onto God and to trust in Him for hope. If you recall the story of David, he was near death to many times to count, but as the verse above states, “his hope was in God”. He recognized that without Him, despair would soon come.

I further challenge you today to claim Gods hope for your own life and climb out of the depths of despair. I understand that right now, these may be just words to you, but know that GODS WORD DOES NOT RETURN VOID.

Cling to Christ and what His Word says and He will cling to you…

Until next time guys…

 

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Four years ago, I wrote a blog post simply called Why cant life be easy? Because it kind of fit where I was at that point. Well today, 4 years later, I have reached into the archives because it seems to fit yet again for me. Sometimes none of us can understand the ebb and flow of life’s changes both personally or collectively as a family and how they affect us. Waves roll in and out with some being just annoyances while others knock us off our feet completely. This post is just to serve as a beacon along your journey to NOT give up. Stay the course and stay strong for the people who love you. I hope you enjoy the new and improved version of Why can’t life be easy

 

Have you ever wondered why God allows or even requires the Christian journey to be filled with pain, problems, unhappiness and sometimes misery? Because I have… Why does God put so much emphasis on perseverance, or striving for the prize and winning the race like it says in Philippians?

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Why cant the Christian walk be more like a Sprint instead of a Marathon?

I believe that all the lessons and experiences we learn through life; the “Iron Sharpening Iron” moments like we read in Proverbs 27:17; the falling down and getting back up opportunities, but most importantly and through the adversity, is our ability to keep our eyes focused on Him in spite of whatever is set against us…

Because the reason why the Christian walk is a marathon and NOT a sprint is because God intended life to be truly ALL about the journey.

God watches how WE handle the problems we face in this world…are we the kind of guy who gives up and just walks away? Or do we get back up on our feet and keep forging ahead?

Guys, listen to me here because I truly believe that the ones that can pick themselves up from the problem and still keep their eyes on Him…They are the ones that I firmly believe God has chosen to surround Himself in eternity.

 

Life is hard…there I said it…but don’t just give up and let it overwhelm you! Fight back…

 

One of my favorite warriors of the Bible was David who wrestled with these very same questions. Look at what he says to God in Psalms:

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalms 10:1

The reality is that David, one of the greatest men in the Bible, struggled just like us. He wrestled with pain and suffering and he cried out to God continuously…and do you know what?

God did NOT forsake him.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, Lord, for you have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalms 9:9-10

Guys, this post is titled, Why can life be easy because many times we cant help but ask that question. I encourage you today, as we move into the holiday season to remember that God hasn’t left you during these times of difficulty but rather He is right there next to you lifting you up. Just hang on and trust because someday here is what we, the ones who have persevered, have to look forward to:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21: 3-5

Guys, enjoy the journey that you are on and keep the faith because ultimately you will overcome.

 

Until next time Guys…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I found myself complaining the other day about something I now don’t even remember what it was about but it got me thinking about fundamentally why my first reaction was to grumble about the issue in the first place? Have you ever done that before? When something happens the way you don’t want it to your first reaction is to gripe about it? It can be about small or even stupid things like “why don’t you do this right?” or, “why can’t you put this away correctly?”…But the fact I was doing this got me thinking about complaining or the idea of complaining for really no good reason at all.

I think you would agree with me that there are people in this world who should be complaining or have a more valid reason to complain. For example, when you don’t have enough food to feed your family or when you have lost your job through no fault of your own…those are the folks that should be complaining. But what I find interesting is in some cases, these are the people who don’t say anything. They just go about their business and go on surviving. If they lose their job, they work to find another one. If they can’t feed their family, they find another job to make some more money to help. Please don’t misunderstand me here, this is not a commentary on work ethic or our society, it is my observation that when the going gets rough, there are people out there who simply DO and don’t complain about it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Mark Woodard speak about his life experiences and his insatiable desire to be positive and to persevere, no matter what his circumstances. Guys, never in my life have I heard someone who should simply complain about his life and what has happened to him. Quick summary, when he was 10, a shotgun went off and blew half his face away. After many surgeries, he survived but he was totally blind. After receiving a 7-figure settlement, his drug-addicted mother stole most of his money and later on, a girl friend would steal the rest. Through many various struggles as a ward of the state, fights, adversity like I have never seen before, this guy struggles on. He won’t even think of quitting. He is now 25, and working to get a degree to teach blind people skills that he had to learn on his own. What I find inspiring is his perspective because complaining is not an option to him. He simply keeps persevering no matter what the odds are stacked against him. As I listened, I found myself asking what would I have done in his situation? Would I have persevered in the face of so many obstacles, or just given up? The fact that I began this blog with a confession that I was complaining about something unimportant made me realize that I wasn’t proud of myself in this area. Mark has somehow learned how to be content and persevere no matter what he faces in his life…and he can’t even see. Then I remembered something the Apostle Paul said in Philippians that brought the answer to me in a way I could understand:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:11-13

Suddenly I feel really stupid about complaining about anything. Sure, I have faced adversity in my life…we all have. But the key is understanding how to be content and NOT complain. The key is to keep on seeking God and persevering with all of our might…even when it makes no sense for us to do so. God has promised to never leave us or forget us…

 

Let me leave you with this very simple thought:

 

No matter what your circumstances may be, there is always something to be thankful for…

 

Until next time guys…

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Guys, I am fixated right now on the idea of God making you and me stronger through trials and the difficult times in our lives. I would argue that the chaos of this world around us has ratcheted up its intensity to an even higher level right now…and from what I hear on the evening news, things look to only get worse. So now is the time to be strong in your faith and concrete in what you stand for. This blog has always been about sharpening, exercising and sparring in your Christian faith. I have never been silent about the fact that this life we are in is a war and you are in that war whether you believe me or not. You know whom we are fighting and hopefully, you know what the stakes are should you walk away…

That being said, I was reading recently one of Pastor David Jeremiah’s “Bible Strong” booklets where he spoke about the challenges we face in this life where many times God is at the center of the issue. What Pastor Jeremiah said was “God will take our problems and use them to make us better”, like iron sharpening iron, however before this can happen, God needs our cooperation. Instead of our normal human reaction of rebelling against Him because we don’t like what is happening to us, we should instead humble ourselves and allow God to carve and shape us into exactly the man He wants us to be.

Pastor also used the amazing example of Joseph in the Old Testament and all of the adversity he faced at the hands of both his brothers, who sold him into slavery and the Egyptians, who kept him prison for a long time. But through his time in prison, something happened to Joseph that would not have happened otherwise. Pastor Jeremiah alluded to this in his booklet and I would like to try to develop the thought even further.

While deep inside the Egyptian prison, Joseph spent much of his time in chains, which even included a collar around his neck. His days were dark and lonely spending the majority of his time alone in a cell…left only with his thoughts and his fear. Psalm 105:17-18 (NIV) says it like this:

and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles; his neck was put in irons.

 But another translation (Amplified) puts it in a different way…

He hath sent before them a man, for a servant hath Joseph been sold. They have afflicted with fetters his feet, Iron hath entered his soul,

Iron had entered his soul? I read that a few times before I began to grasp what the writer was saying…While Joseph was in that prison cell, he was changing. Obviously, it would be almost impossible not to. Prison hardens a man. Makes him mean and angry right? Not with Joseph…Even during what were the worst and the lowest times of his life, slavery and prison, Joseph never cursed God because of his situation. Honestly, cursing God would have been a very normal HUMAN reaction, but rather he simply stayed the course by serving Him knowing that God had a plan for him. But yet, he was still in prison, and that prison experience was shaping him into a very different man than when he had entered. The Psalmist said it perfectly and I repeat, “Iron had entered his soul”. So what does that really mean? As a result of the time spent in that hardened environment, God honed and carved Joseph into a leader of men. God used those lonely years to reach down deep inside Joseph, into his inner core, and transform him into a new man;

The kind of man who could handle the adversity of the next challenge;

 The kind of man who would not wilt or falter at the first sign of difficulty;

 The kind of man who knew that true strength was using God as his anchor.

Remember, God admires and blesses strength of character and faith. Faith that in this case, was prison forged into something iron strong. God had taken Joseph through one of the worst experiences one could ever have on this earth and prepared him for his next challenge, to be second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt…But that could NOT have happened without prison.

Worst to First…

Guys, clearly stated…God does not care for “Wimpy Christians”. I challenge you today to follow the mantra of this blog from the verse in Proverbs 27:17, where we are told that “as iron sharpens irons, so one man sharpens another”. Be strong in what you believe and understand that the trials of this life are intended to make you stronger…IF…you keep your eyes on Him…

Until next time guys…

Adversity

Adversity….

We all face it…everyday…

It rises when we do each morning seeking to slow us down, or to knock us off our game. You see without maybe thinking about this, some of us like to get into a rhythm in our lives where we have a routine we follow each day which helps us know if we are efficient or not. For example, I know people who can tell what time it is each day by the task they are working on…seriously…

But when they hit a speed bump…an obstacle in their path…when they encounter adversity…everything; the routine and the rhythm all go out the window. Some of you practice fire management whereby you are dealing with the biggest fire at the moment…but let me remind you that the fires of the day and the problems you encounter all fall under the heading of adversity.

Adversity…I’m really not very fond of that word but I looked it up and found what the online dictionary said:

Adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress:

A friend will show his or her true colors in times of adversity.

A condition marked by misfortune, calamity or distress…? When you put it that way it sounds terrible right?

So why does God allow adversity in our lives? Why can’t we simply face life without always having to deal with a problem or challenge? Wouldn’t life be far better if that were the case?

Let me easily tell you…definitively NO. Here is an example; When you find yourself in a scenario whereby you have to replace an employee because another one is leaving and you are faced with the choice of hiring a person with either experience or no experience…which one do you choose? This is a very easy question to answer right? You, like me, will pick the person with experience in order for the business to stay on track and not lose efficiency in training a new person etc. Well…Believe it or not, that is exactly how God feels too.

I have shared many times before about how this life, the one you and I are living right now, is preparation for eternity. It’s like a “dress rehearsal” before the main event. We get to live our lives, make mistakes, sin, figure out our problems, repent and do this all over again…time and time again.

My point is this; adversity brings us an opportunity to become battle-tested in this life. Are you going to fold your tents and go home at the first sign of trouble? Or are you going to simply say, “I have been here before with my God and WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER”. That is what adversity brings guys.

Let me remind you of the story of Joseph in the Old Testament back in Genesis. He faced unbelievable adversity (and I thought I had problems) he was sold into slavery by his brothers, was falsely imprisoned for years in Egypt, was in the palace and kicked out of the palace for more false accusations…he faced nothing but adversity…

But he never turned away from God…he stood strong, not really understanding why all of this was happening to him but knew that God was still his best option…and as the story goes, God had NOT forgotten him but rather was with him the entire time while he was in trouble. Eventually, Joseph became second in command of all of Egypt because he was faithful to God…If you have never read this story, look up Genesis, chapters 37-45…

On the surface, this may seem hard to understand, but please know that God wants you to be a faith tested Christian and to do that you must face problems in your life. Without adversity, how will you ever become spiritually tough? As I mentioned before, God prefers battle-tested people who have faced challenges head on and were successful because only then are you capable to really help someone.

The reality is what is God preparing you for? What you are facing right now that may seem too difficult is simply preparation for your next challenge. He is always honing and sharpening you.

My challenge to you today is to stay strong in the midst of this battle you are facing. Yes, it is adversity and it may be very painful. Look up to Heaven guys, just like the greatest warrior in the Bible Joshua did and remember those words that God spoke to him…

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5

Hang in there guys; we are all in this together…

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Today is a sad day for me. One of my friends from work, whom I truly respect, announced to me recently that he has lung cancer…and his outlook isn’t good. He pulled me aside and shared this news with me personally and asked that I not tell anyone because he has requested privacy as he and his family battle this deadly disease. As a result, I will call my friend Joe to protect his anonymity for the reminder of this post.

I know that cancer has directly or indirectly affected just about everyone in this world. Cancer doesn’t show any favoritism whatsoever…it strikes whom it wants, when it wants without notice…and its effects are deadly.

As I sit here and ponder the why…why did Joe get cancer when he already has Type 1 Diabetes and suffers daily simply because of that ailment? Or why does he have to be the one out of all the bad people on this earth to suffer? Honestly, he is one of the good guys. I have this idea in my head whereby I have classified people over the years as I have seen the lengths these men have gone to save their families and I simply call them my heroes. I can name them off for you right now…why? Because when I happen to be feeling sorry for myself on any particular day, I think of my heroes and what they went through and that usually brings me back to earth.

Joe is my hero.

He grew up in a very tough neighborhood in New York City and he actually had mob ties early on in his life. He talks about these circumstances very carefully…never fully sharing anything other than he feels lucky to have survived his childhood and teenage years. What he did have however were very loving parents. He described them to me as always being there when he needed them and they provided him a shelter from all of the chaos that was outside their walls…and now as an adult, he appreciates them even more.

Joe got into graphics and it turns out, he had quite a talent in this area. In fact, not only was he an artist, but he also could run a business as well. As a result, he ended up with his own agency in New York working many hours but doing very well. Then one day his youngest son was diagnosed with a very rare immune deficiency disease and Joe’s life changed. He ended up losing everything he had trying to save his son…the good news is that after years of battling the disease, insurance companies etc. his son survived thankfully due to a very difficult bone marrow transplant from his older brother.

Fast-forward 10 years.

His youngest son, for many years has had to live inside the equivalent of a bubble due to this disease but over the last few years, things have improved. He even has fallen in love with one of his nurses…go figure.

However as the situation with his boys has improved, his own health is failing and although I understand the reality of cancer as mentioned above, I am still back to the why? Why Joe? Because as I’ve gotten to know Joe over the last few years, I’ve realized that I connected with him because he is good man at his core. Deep down inside, Joe has faith. In fact, his faith is what is getting him through this challenge right now…and frankly, Joe’s demeanor is one of positivity and grace. Joe is showing me, and all of his coworkers, why he is one of my heroes…If I ever find myself dying, I pray that I can handle things like Joe…pure dignity.

Guys…I know that God does NOT make mistakes because even now I can see the way that Joe is handling his own health problems he is an example to many people. I can also see where his behavior just might be the difference in someone else’s life…In other words, how Joe handles this adversity could affect another person…that is how truly admirable he is…but is that the reason why Joe was struck with this deadly disease?

Personally, I know this truth intimately because when I went through the death of my own daughter 9 years ago…and as I listened to people explaining to me what my daughter meant to them, I felt like I didn’t know her in that way and it changed me…which meant her death had an impact on people…but is that the reason why God took her? And…Is that the reason why my friend Joe is suffering right now in order that more people might come to know Him?

Think about this…I could be the “angry guy at God” right now but after 9 years…I have come to understand that is NOT who I am…

Why does God allow things like this to happen to good people? If I had the “God” answer, I would share it with you right now…however MY opinion is very simple…

I simply trust EVEN though I don’t understand the “why” of the situation. Joe is a close friend of mine and I am very worried that he isn’t long for this earth. I pray for him everyday and “trust” that God will heal him and will spare his life. However, if God chooses not to, it is HIS WILL and I simply trust Him that He does NOT make mistakes.

Guys…what else can you do? True..you can get angry, but anger has no end or purpose here because that kind of anger is from Satan and it will only destroy you and the ones you care about.

I repeat…being angry with God ultimately has NO value because NOTHING can come of it.

Ask any guy who has been angry towards God and he will tell you that he is NOT better off now BECAUSE he was angry. He will tell you he lost his wife and kids and wishes he would have listened to the person who told him to let go and TRUST God…

I know this is probably NOT the best answer you want to hear but this is where we are…God is NOT like you and me and therefore His ways do not match ours. Once we get that particular fact…then what I said above can make more sense.

I care a lot about Joe and pray that his outcome will be positive…but if it Gods will to take him home…Then Joe is in a better place and NO longer in pain and even though I will miss him…I’m ok with that…

Because I get to see him again…

I know this has been a much longer post than normal and for that I am sorry…but please listen to what I am saying to you…

Don’t get angry when you don’t understand what God is doing…

Just trust…

Until next time guys…

imagesHave you ever heard the expression “if you give him and inch he will take a mile”? I know we have all heard that one once or twice before. But why does it matter? Here is why…I want to talk briefly about that first inch that you give up, that you concede, that you compromise. You see, the expression “give him an inch” indicates from the very beginning that you gave in…or you gave up…something…that you thought maybe you had to, in order to improve the situation. What you did was compromise. Now, please don’t get me wrong here. Compromise in a relationship is crucial for it to last, Am I right? We do not agree with our spouse’s or our friends all the time. Have you ever “agreed to disagree” and hopefully still maintained the relationship? Good debate is healthy and promotes independent thinking and I think is the key to long-lasting friendships however compromise in other areas of our life is what I am focusing on today.

I am reading a new book by Dr. David Jeremiah called, The Writing on the Wall, and it talks about the prophet Daniel who while captive in Babylon for 70 years, Daniel did not compromise his God ever, no matter what his circumstances, even in the face of death. His consistency is astounding and frankly a model for all of us to follow. But Dr. Jeremiah makes a point here that I want to illustrate with you which is simply that it takes guts…real guts, to say no, even with God on your side. Daniel was resolute in his defiance in Babylon and for you and I, no matter where we are in life, we do not “have to bend the rules to be blessed of God. Success is NOT dependent upon our compromise”. Everywhere a compromise is worked out in the Bible…bad things happen…

From the very beginning, we see compromises;

  • Adam, who fell right in line with Eve’s sin by compromising and eating the forbidden fruit… Well, he lost Eden.
  • Sarah’s lack of faith in God caused her to compromise and send her husband Abraham in with Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael. As a result, life in the Middle East will never be the same.
  • We all remember Esau who compromised his birthright because he was hungry.
  • King David, who was a man after Gods own heart, compromised Gods morality by sleeping with Bathsheba and then killing her husband Uriah. He lost his son…

The list goes on and on with Solomon, Judas and Ahab. All of them compromised something significant in their lives and it cost them. To think all they would have had to do was to just say NO…I am going to stand on what my God has promised me and take whatever comes my way.

I want to finish with a story Dr. Jeremiah shares in his book about an exchange in a high school class between some students and a godless professor.

In one of his lectures he said, “will all of you who believe the myths of the Bible please stand.” Several stood.

 Then he added, “now this semester I am going to free you from this religious Bible nonsense. I have read the Bible, and it is certainly written by a bunch of mixed up men.”

 One young Daniel stood up and said, “Sir, the Bible is God’s letter to Christians, and if you are confused it’s because you are reading someone else’s mail.”

Guys, I pray that all of us can stand firm and NOT compromise in the face of this kind (or worse) of adversity against your faith or yourself. I will tell you this, this life and its “adversity” will continue to get worse and you are going to be in circumstances where you will be asked to “give an inch”. What’s an inch you say? In our case as Christians, it is truly the difference between a life spent with God in Eternity or the alternative…Hell. It is that simple

You get to make that choice…

My advice, choose Daniel…no compromise…

Until next time Guys…