“I have good news and bad news,” we
hear. If you were given the option,
which would you rather hear first? In
the long run it doesn't matter, because you're going to hear both anyway, and
you’ll have to deal with the bad news as well as rejoice over the good news.
Plan On Problems
Best-selling author and pastor Rick Warren gave an interview a couple
of years ago. In that interview he said,
“This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest,
with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.
used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark time,
then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth.
I don't believe that anymore.
Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of
like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good
and something bad in your life.
“No matter how good
things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked
on. And no matter how bad things are in
your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.”
need to be reminded of this truth. It
reminds me of a famous line by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Into each life some
rain must fall.”
will have problems; you can plan on it!
I don't like to hear that any more than you do, but it's true. Given that fact, what can a person do? We certainly don't want problems to ruin our
lives, so how can we gain the upper hand over them? How can we have power over problems?
The Right Perspective
emergency landing of an airliner in the Hudson River has left all of
us with an indelible image of that plane sinking into the river. The passengers huddled on the plane's wings
in the deep, frigid water that was ankle-deep and quickly rising as the plane
continued to sink.
that scene: zoom in on the plane’s wings and the people gathered on those wings. It looks pretty hopeless, doesn't it? Were they terrified by what they were facing,
feeling that they would die? I don't
think so, because if you zoom out farther on the picture you’ll see a ferryboat
coming to their rescue. They weren't
alone with the big problem of the plane in icy water. They had company; help was near!
continuing our series of six messages on the theme “The Divine Elephant:
Reason Enough for Embracing Today” with part five: “Power Over Problems.” If God is REAL, He’s the biggest and best
part of our human existence — and the reality of His presence should make all
the difference in the world to us! He's
the Divine Elephant in the room, and we shouldn’t ignore Him! If we let God be the most important part of
our lives, we can (and should) look at our problems from a completely different
perspective than if He wasn't part of our lives.
should be able to affirm what King David wrote: “Find rest, O my soul, in
God alone; my hope comes from him. He
alone is my rock and salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he
is my mighty rock, my refuge.” (Psalm 62:5-7)
way we face and cope with our problems depends on the perspective we take
toward them. When we picture our
problems with God in the picture, we have the right perspective! Oswald Chambers wrote, “We have to pray with
our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
regularly catch myself reacting to a problem as if I have no faith in the God
who loves me and is with me. At such
moments I need to remind myself to look at my problem from a proper
perspective, with God in the picture.
another of King David's psalms — his most famous one, psalm number twenty-three
in our Bible — he gave us the image of a shepherd: “Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are
with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) The shepherd’s rod was used to fight off any
threat from wild animals that might kill the sheep. The staff was used to guide and control the
our daughter’s family’s home in Mexico at Refuge Ranch
there’s a shepherd's shack on a hill.
When the neighbor brings his sheep there to graze and then spend the
night, the shepherd stays in that shack.
Before I go to bed I often step outside to watch the stars. When I glance up at the shack there's a
single light bulb burning. The shepherd
is in there, close to his sheep, watching over them to protect them from theft
by man and death by wild dogs.
is our shepherd — and a very good shepherd He is! As we go through our valleys of problems and
challenges, He’s with us as long as we don't wander away from Him! We can, if we choose, affirm with King David,
“My hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:5b)
Honest-to-God Thoughts and Feelings
faith that God is with us in the midst of our problems doesn’t mean that we
should face our problems blithely, with no concern or frustration. The psalms in the Bible are full of
honest-to-God prayers where the psalmist talked honestly with God: with no
holds barred, admitting his confusion, frustration, and all other
emotions. In the psalm that’s the basis
for this message King David stated, “Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)
me give you an example — from another psalmist — of what pouring our hearts out
to God can look like. The psalmist cried
out, “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9)
all right — in fact, it's best — if we’re honest with God in our prayers about
our problems. We can't hide our true
thoughts and feelings from Him anyway, because He knows better than we do what
we're really thinking and feeling!
after a real tragedy a Christian tries to be very positive, exclaiming, “Praise
the Lord!” That person isn't being
realistic. We want to reach the point
where we can praise the Lord and affirm His goodness in the midst of our
troubles, but that doesn't mean that we should bury what we're really thinking
can't do His best work with us in the midst of our problems if we try to gloss
over them with some trite religious-sounding phrases. Often God wants to use our problems to teach
us and to help us grow into the people He wants us to be. That can only happen when we reveal our true
thoughts and feelings to Him. Hiding
those thoughts and feelings, or ignoring them, won’t further the work that He
wants to do with us and in us. “Pour
out your hearts to him,” the psalmist David reminded us.
A Problem's Possibilities
we pour out our hearts to God concerning our problems, the result we're usually
looking for is that He gets rid of it!
Anyone who says “I like my problems” is weird — or they’re not thinking
does sometimes solve our problems by removing them, and that's absolutely
wonderful! He can heal us, guide us to a
job, restore relationships, and much more.
Those things are certainly possible for Him to do, but sometimes He has
us wait before He removes the problem or sees us through to accomplishing the
challenge before us. In another psalm
David affirmed, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for
the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) Waiting is
very difficult; in fact, it can be considered a form of suffering. We use terms that imply suffering when we describe
waiting, like “I can't stand it anymore!” or “This waiting is killing me!”
There are times when
the problem is never removed. The
apostle Paul had that experience: though he was used by God to heal others,
when Paul asked for healing from what he called a “thorn in the flesh” the Lord
said turned down his request. Paul
described it: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from
me. But he said to me, 'My grace is
sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” (2 Corinthians
God's agenda for us seems to be served best by allowing our problem to remain
to one degree or another, or in one form or another, as with Paul. God isn’t limited to working in a
problem-free environment! In fact, He
does some of His best work with us when we're with Him in the midst of
Kay Yow, a famous and successful college women's basketball coach for North Carolina State, lost her
21-year battle with cancer. Her funeral
was attended by more than 1400 people, and the speaker was Kay Yow
herself! She had taped a twenty-five
minute video that was played at her funeral.
In it she said, “And it's been a wonderful journey, especially since the
time I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
Talking about her Christian faith, she said, “It has changed my
life. It has changed the life of every
person who has accepted Him.” Then she
said, as the funeral crowd watched and listened, “I don't want you to fret over
the fact that I'm not here or question why I'm not here, because God knows what
He's doing. He doesn't make
mistakes.” We need the kind of faith
that Kay Yow had: faith in the Lord that sustains us during and through our
Peterson reminded us that “Prayer is not begging God to do something for us
that he doesn't know about, or begging God to do something for us that he is
reluctant to do, or begging God to do something that he hasn't time for. In prayer we persistently, faithfully,
trustingly come before God, submitting ourselves to his sovereignty, confident
that he is acting, right now, on our behalf.” (Tell It Slant, p.144)
God should be the
biggest part of our lives. In the midst
of our problems, let's not ignore the Divine Elephant in the room! An awareness of His presence, and a positive
response to that presence, can make all the difference in the way that we deal
with our problems. With Him we can have
power over problems! “Find rest, O my
soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.” (Psalm 62:5)