Monday, December 12, 2016

Make the Most of It

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." -- John 14: 15

Lately I have been struggling with anger and resentment over things that are beyond my control. A summons to jury duty, while an answer to prayer on one hand, has complicated life during my two busiest work weeks of the year.  Thank God for an understanding boss who is handling this better than I am!  I am also frustrated over having been committed to something I didn't sign up for, all because someone acted impulsively and didn't stick to the original agreement we had. I have spent more time stewing over these things, chiding myself for feeling resentful in the first place, and praying for the grace to get through the rest of the holidays without being a Grinch.

When life throws us a curve ball and our patience is tested, what are we to do? Why should we have to do something we hadn't planned to? Why not just cancel and be done with the conflict? Could it be that God is at work with a higher purpose? Perhaps he has planned an encounter that is meant to bless someone, perhaps even me. Even though I could certainly insist on having my own way, what if I simply make the most of it?

God provides us an invaluable resource for dealing with the conflicts in life -- his Word. It's as if he says to us, "Let's see if you can recall what I have taught you and apply it to this situation." Of course we can, if we choose to. Here are a few reminders from his Word to help us -- to help me -- when frustration rears its ugly head:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." -- Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." -- Romans 8:28, ESV

"Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil." -- Psalms 37:8, ESV

"Know this, my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." -- James 1:19-20, ESV

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." -- James 1:2-4, ESV

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful." -- Colossians 3:12-15

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies -- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen." -- 1 Peter 4:7-11, ESV

God doesn't bless us when we act like spoiled brats -- something I seemed to have done a lot lately.  But he does bless us when we obey his Word. Why not simply obey and make the most of it?

Copyright © 2016 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Other Side of Loss

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him"  (James 1:12, NIV).

Lately I have been contemplating loss.  The news has been full of stories of great tragedy and human suffering.  People have been gunned down by angry men, killed by raging floods and wildfires, and been victims of accidents that might or might not have been avoided. Children have been orphaned. Spouses have been widowed. Health has been decimated by cancer, addiction, and chronic illness.

As I pray for those who are suffering, I think about the losses I have experienced in my fifty-plus years on this earth -- the deaths of my dad and stepdad, my grandparents, and other beloved family members; the loss of jobs (both mine and my husband's); and the disintegration of my own moral compass during a lengthy season of rebellion.  I have not suffered poor health, but I have experienced a painful financial reversal and had my heart broken more times than I can count.

One thing I have never lost, though, is my faith in God.  On the contrary, my greatest joys have been experienced on the other side of loss.
  • When I nearly lost my mind with worry over my wayward teenager, God gave me sanity and peace through the promises of His Word.
  • When my husband lost two full-time jobs in 18 months and we found ourselves living on food stamps and the charity of others, God gave us adventure, new jobs, and a truly wonderful life in another state.
  • When I chose to give up a job I dearly loved in order to better serve my family, mourning that loss for more than two years, God began healing my marriage and my relationship with my son.
  • When I suffered the bewildering heartbreak of a broken relationship with a dear friend, God filled the hole in my heart with His love and unbridled joy.
  • Through every loss I have suffered God has taught me valuable lessons and afforded me opportunities to encourage others who are struggling to make sense of their own troubles.
It has been my experience that God doesn't allow us to suffer loss without giving us more of himself. God will turn our tragedies into triumphs, our weeping into laughter, and our mourning into dancing if we will trust Him in our trials.

Whatever you are facing today, know that God is with you.  Know that His heart breaks every time He sees you cry and that He longs to comfort you with His grace, peace, and love.  The loss you have suffered is not all there is.  God is standing on the other side of loss, longing to receive you into His loving embrace and to restore your joy and peace.

Copyright © 2016 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.