Handling Life – Annie’s Story – Part 5

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2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV all verses following, emphasis mine)

This week we have looked at Scripture and Bible characters who have demonstrated their faith in God during the most extreme of hardships. Through their stories we have seen that God’s Word is indeed true declaring that He is sufficient to sustain us through anything life throws at us.

It’s natural to see people in the Bible almost as “super Godly”. After all, that’s why they are in the Bible, right? Well, no, not necessarily. But it’s understandable why we would struggle with relating to characters in Scripture. It’s natural to see them as extraordinary by default.

So I would like to finish up this weeklong series about God’s sufficiency by sharing a story with you. Last year, Annie went through a war with cancer, the kind that especially terrifies a woman. Annie was so faithful and trusting in God, that it was difficult to even be aware of the severity of her trials. I personally never saw her down, nor ever heard her complain. I never heard her question God, ask why or pity herself. For those that know Annie, they will tell you how happy, vibrant and full of encouragement she always is. She has an infectious enthusiasm for God and proclaims His goodness openly.

God is sufficient in our darkest hour. Not just for Bible characters or super-Christians. For you and for me… for average, everyday people. Annie is one of us. Here is her story told in her own words:

“Ann, you have cancer.” With those words, our journey began. I sang “When I Am Afraid” through my tears over the phone to my sweetheart husband the day I was told I had breast cancer.

Right after I got home from the doctor, my husband and I admitted to each other that we were scared and worried. We knew we had to turn to the Lord in prayer and depend on His Word for comfort. We found a promise from our Good Shepherd in Isa 41:10. “So do not be afraid, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Our fear melted into peace, the peace only God can give.

A couple of weeks later, God would give my husband Duke an opportunity to experience complete faith in Him. Duke wrote in an email:

“Last night at 10:15, Ann became lethargic and would not respond. I immediately went to the front desk, which God had placed right outside our door. I stood in the room and watched the nurses slap Ann’s face and yell at her trying to wake her. I was soon ushered out of the room as I heard them say she is not breathing. I was taken to the end of the hall in shock to sit and wait. Within minutes a ‘code blue’ was announced hospital wide and I watched 15 people rush in to Ann’s room. For the next few minutes I tried to call people who I could lean on and got busy signals and answering machines. The nurse asked if there was anyone they could call for me and I told her I had tried and the only one left to call was the Lord.

It is now obvious that the Lord had wanted me to call on Him first. As I prayed, a sweet nurse named Shirley came out of Ann’s room and slowly walked toward me. From the look on her face I just knew Ann had gone to be with the Lord. Thankfully, she had come to give me the grim update. Ann was not breathing on her own and they were going to put a breathing tube in. She had a pulse but we just had to wait. She apparently had a bad reaction to morphine and they were giving her drugs to combat that. Hopefully they could get her on a respirator and moved to intensive care where she could be stabilized. As I continued to pray and give Ann to the Lord, a second nurse came out and related that Ann was now breathing, on her own, and was asking if her husband was OK.

It is now 3:00am and for the last few hours we have been listening to hymns and choruses and are finding that worshipping the Savior will never be the same.”

Our natural reaction is to pray, “Lord, remove this hardship, ease the pain, take it away.” But often God gives “No” as an answer. God will deliver those whose hearts are set on Him, but it is deliverance His way and for His purposes. Instant rescue is rarely the Lord’s way. He may not answer on the day that we cry out to Him. But He will always answer.

Ps. 27:4-5 says “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.”

The outcome of such intimacy and time with the Lord is a very real sense of security. We grow confident in God’s protection and strength during times of trouble. Duke and I found this to be true when we were faced on another occasion with the possibility of ovarian cancer. An elevated count on a test indicated that I could be facing yet another dilemma. Again, Duke and I turned to our heavenly Father and depended on Him to calm our hearts and replace our anxiety with trust and peace.

Duke and I prayed for the Lord to use this illness to draw our neighbors closer to Himself. At the same time we were praying, there was a couple in Arizona praying for their daughter and son-in-law who had recently moved next door to us. They were specifically praying that neighbors would show them the love of Jesus. One day, my neighbor came over to tell me through tears that she had come back to the Lord after having strayed away for many years. She told me that God had used my response to breast cancer to get her attention.

The Lord showed Himself one day to my sister Sue and me. Sue was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 5 months before my diagnosis of cancer. Try and picture this: the MS patient with her cane and hand-controlled car picking up the breast cancer patient who can’t drive, humped over with her right arm by her side going to the hair dresser because neither can wash their own hair. It was quite comical.

As we were on our way, Sue got a cell phone call. She immediately pulled over to stop because she can’t drive and talk at the same time. While we were stopped, I looked out the car window and noticed a bird hopping in the yard. Upon closer observation, the bird had only one leg. I thought to myself, “That little guy hasn’t let his one-leggedness slow him down one bit. And the Lord of Creation sees him.” When Sue finished her conversation, I said, “Sue, look at that bird. What do you notice about him?” She said, “That’s the same one-legged bird that I saw last week here. Can you believe that God let us both see him together?” We both laughed and cried and thought of Matt. 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” What a GREAT BIG GOD WE SERVE!!!!!

The ultimate answer to our prayers was for someone to come to know the Lord through our suffering. This was answered as a result of the CODE BLUE during the hospital stay. The nurses and doctors told us that a code blue was rare on the 10th floor. I was the 1st “young” person to code in several years. All of the nurses and doctors were visibly shaken and surprised by this. Duke and I believe that the Lord used our reaction to this to draw my nurse to Himself. She wanted to know why we were different and why all the people who visited us were different. Before I checked out of the hospital, she had surrendered her life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

When we find ourselves most helpless, the road most taxing, we find it is then that the Risen Christ comes and makes Himself known to us. This is the one pure joy for those who sorrow.

A few days after our visit with the oncologist I felt the sin of worry creeping in and robbing me of my peace and joy. I was anxious about the unknown world of chemotherapy treatments. I was about to call Duke in to pray with me when I decided to read through the sweet cards that had come in the mail that day. I opened a card with a letter attached. It was from a dear sister in the Lord who had gone through this several years ago. She shared her heart after struggling with just the right words for many days. She addressed each concern that I had. I simply wept through the whole thing, knowing that this was a direct answer from my Heavenly Father who knew about each one of my anxieties. Her words of encouragement came at the very hour my worry was at its peak. Jesus Christ Himself satisfied my need to be free from anxiety, worrying about the unknowns. He refreshed me and I entered chemo with joy in my heart.

Duke and I experienced confident trust in God and expectation of the Lord’s leading in our life again when we were faced with ovarian abnormalities. During this time, for the 1st time, we were at a loss for the direction the Lord wanted us to take. We had many questions regarding more possible surgery, long term effects and more drugs based on my kind of cancer, etc. We felt impressed to have a consultation with our oncologist. Mine was out of town, but were told Dr. Keller could see us. God used this doctor to make His will perfectly known to us. He answered our questions before we even asked them. We were instructed to have a full hysterectomy whether or not ovarian cancer was found.

Once again we entered surgery full of peace and joy knowing our lives were in the best hands possible—the nail scarred ones. Duke titled the email following that surgery: “No cancer, No pain, No morphine, No problem for our God!” Just last week at our oncologist appointment, Dr. Panicker shared that in December, a study revealed that women with breast cancer who have their ovaries removed are just as cancer free as those who have chemo. And here I’ve had both defenses! How good of God to confirm that we had been in His will all along. When I shared the good news with the kids, our son said, “Wow, that was God!”

The hardest time for me to “count it all joy” and trust the Lord came a few nights before surgery when I could not sleep because the Lord wanted my attention. I was restless from 10 p.m.-12 midnight. Finally, I decided to get up and meet with the Lord. This next part is hard for me to explain, but my mind became convinced that I would not survive. Not that the cancer would kill me, but I was sure something unexpected would take my life. This thought was so real that I had to address it. During the next 4 hours, I sobbed and mourned the idea of separation from Duke and the children.

I struggled with how they would get along without me. Who would tenderly raise the girls as they became women; show our son the type of godly young woman to marry; and meet all of Duke’s needs? And then as loudly as I had cried out to God, His answer came to me. “Ann, I love them each even more than you do. I purchased them with a high price. I am capable of meeting their every need. You have given me your cancer, now will you give me your dearest treasures?” So, I surrendered my family and their future to the Lord that night with open hands.

After struggling with the Lord and finally accepting this outcome, I took the time to write “good bye” letters to each of the children telling them how much I had loved them and encouraging them specifically in their walks with the Lord. Then it was time to put into words my feelings for Duke… the lover of my life. Oh, how I wept!! I cried so loudly, I knew I would wake the whole house. Those letters have never had to be read.

Then came the next hardest thing—telling Duke that I truly believed I was going to die. You see, we had promised to each other that we would share each sorrow, concern, struggle, and praise, keeping nothing back. We would go thru this together as one. When I came back to bed early that morning and told him, we cried together as we once again went to the Throne of God to find grace in our hour of need.

When God wanted me to surrender my family, I didn’t know until later, that He had just wanted my heart. Once surrendered, all was well as long as I did not grab them back, as though they would be safer in my hands! Boy, did I grow through that experience.

Through this journey, our family has learned to depend on Him first. God gave us rest from anxiety and worry, and revealed Himself to us in every part of our lives. Learning to wait on the Lord, we grew closer to the Lord while walking through the valley of the shadow than at any other time in our lives.

Is God trustworthy and sovereign? Is He loving and good, faithful to His promises? You will find the answer to those questions most vividly during the darkest hours of your life. But not if you aren’t looking in the right place.

Gracious God, thank You for having the answer for anything life can throw at us. Thank you for dear faithful saints like Annie who demonstrate that You are Faithful and True. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: When tragedy strikes, do you turn to God? When discouragement calls, do you turn to God? When things just simply don’t go your way, do you turn to God? Do you ever turn to God?

Application: Our God has plainly declared that He is sufficient for every trouble life may bring. It is our choice to take Him up on it.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


Handling Life – David – Part 4

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2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV all verses following, emphasis mine)

King David was a man after God’s own heart. His writings reflect the entire spectrum of human emotion from ecstatic joy to bitter discouragement. The Psalm’s are filled with him crying out to God in anguish, despair, depression, frustration and fear of danger. David was always aware that his own heart was the source of his pain, and that God was the answer to his despair.

Psalm 26:2-3 Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.

David suffered from within and from without. Saul wanted him dead. His own son tried to kill him. He was guilty of adultery and murder. He suffered the death of his own children as a consequence. His family dealt with rape, betrayal, murder and treachery.

Don’t forget that during all of this, David still had an entire nation on his shoulders. He wasn’t just isolated with his own problems. He had the weight of an entire nation, God’s nation, that he was responsible for leading. He set the spiritual tone for an entire people.

The weight of his sin and responsibility took him to depths that most of us could hardly imagine:

  • Psalm 3:1 Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.
  • Psalm 6:2 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
  • Psalm 6:6-7 I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies.
  • Psalm 13:1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

Can you imagine your life getting much more desperate than this:

Psalm 31:9-13 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies, But especially among my neighbors, And am repulsive to my acquaintances; Those who see me outside flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I hear the slander of many; Fear is on every side; While they take counsel together against me, They scheme to take away my life.

And yet, notice David’s immediate answer to this crushing depression:

Psalm 31:14-15a But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand;

It’s unfortunate that simple faith and trust in God is considered insufficient today as the solution to life’s hardships. In simple and efficient words, David sums up our sufficiency in God – Psalm 19:7-14 (NKJV, emphasis mine):

  • The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
  • The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
  • The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
  • The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
  • The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
  • The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
  • Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
  • Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

David’s words are either true, or not. His observations about the sufficiency of turning to God are all encompassing and need no help from us. If you’re soul is converted; if you are made wise and rejoicing; if your eyes are enlightened; if you fear God, keep His commandments and have great reward; if you are cleansed from secret faults and are acceptable in the sight of God… what part of dealing with life does that leave out?

Is God sufficient, or not? He claims that He is.

The question stands for each of us to answer individually: Is the Creator of the Universe capable, willing and faithful to sustain us, heal us, and give us victory through the darkest of the blackest of the deepest of human suffering, discouragement and trials?

It is a question of where our hope and trust is placed. It is a question of God’s sufficiency. It is a question of taking God at His word. He who has ears, let him hear.

Creator God, who could know our pain and needs more than You? Who or what is worthy of our trust more than You? If the Creator is not sufficient to sustain us, then how could any created thing be? Teach us to cry out to You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: Where do you instinctively and naturally turn when life gets tough? If it is anything but God, what does that say about your trust and understanding of God? Is there ANY problem, situation or disappointment that is more than God is capable of dealing with?

Application: God most certainly does use people, doctors and medication to help those who are hurting. This is not an issue of discarding all counseling or medical help. It is a question of where we place our trust. It is a question of what you see as the primary source of your hope. It is a question of what you truly trust in when life gets tough. God may lead us to get “help”. The question is whether we trust God first, and fully..

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


Handling Life – Paul – Part 3

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2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV)

“Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”

That could possibly be the world’s most common response following a hard-to-swallow Biblical truth.

  • Rejoice in all things even suffering – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
  • Forgive, no matter how many times – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
  • Bless those who curse you – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
  • Pray for those who mistreat you – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
  • Be patient, kind, loving and joyful – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”
  • Be hopeful and contented – “Yeah, but you don’t know what I’m going through.”

Okay, you’re right, I don’t know. Did God command us to rejoice and forgive and be hopeful – and then leave us with no success stories? Did God give us a record of someone who went through worse than we will ever experience, and yet still rejoiced and trusted God without wavering? How about Jesus? You might be thinking “no fair, He was the Son of God. (He was also fully man in all ways, but for the sake of this discussion we won’t choose Jesus.)

Is there a Biblical example of someone who suffered an extreme amount,
and yet was joyful and unwavering in faith?

The Apostle Paul was a normal man and, by his own admission, the worst of sinners (1Timothy 1:15). Before Jesus got a hold of Paul, he was a murderer. He tracked down Christians and had them imprisoned or killed. He stood by and held coats while a crowd stoned Stephen to death (Acts 22.20). Not exactly “loving your enemy” was he? He was against God about as much as a man can be. And yet he is the one who commands us to rejoice in ALL things and be thankful in ALL things.

Was he a hypocrite? Did he walk the walk or just hyprocritically telling the rest of us how to live? It’s a humorous truth among Bible teachers and writers that you have to be careful what you teach or preach because the Lord is always ready to accommodate with a real live object lesson. I have experienced this phenomenon many times myself! God teaches us and prepares our heart through the gift of first hand experience. Paul was certainly no exception. He suffered, suffered and suffered some more his whole life. (all verses NKJV, emphasis mine)

What hardship, injustice and suffering did Paul experience?

  • 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.
  • 2 Timothy 2:9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.
  • 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
  • Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake;

What was Paul’s response, solution or lesson learned?

  • Romans 12:10-12 Be kindly (NKJV, emphasis mine) to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
  • Philippians 2:17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
  • Philippians 4:12-13 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 everything through him who gives me strength.

Paul lead by example and commands us to have the same response he had – a response that he learned from Jesus.

Yeah, but Paul doesn’t know what we’re going through. Well, let’s hope he isn’t looking because for most of us, it will be pitiful little compared to him.

Lord God, You know exactly what we are going through. And You are the Answer, the Hope and the Source of our joy. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: How do you respond to hardship and suffering? What part does depression, anxiety, worry or pessism have in our response? How much is too much? How long is too long?

Application: We’re plainly commanded to have joy and give thanks no matter how hard life gets or how much we suffer. The Word of God produces spiritually and emotionally strong people who thrive and grow through hardship but it takes practice. You have to PLAN to respond with joy when trial come. You have to PLAN to look up to God when depression strikes. You have to PLAN to give your cares to God when worry comes a-knockin’.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


Handling Life – Elijah – Part 2

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2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV)

Life is hard sometimes. No doubt as Christians we are faced with the reality of discouragement, depression, despair and worry. What, or who, we choose in response defines us as being different from the world. The world quickly turns to many means of remedy. Christians have a much greater solution available.

Elijah was a heroic prophet in the Old Testament. Who can forget his dramatic encounter with the evil prophets of Baal. He prayed that God would send fire from heaven to consume the water-saturated altar (1Kings 18) and it happened instantly. Elijah experienced God’s presence in dramatic ways!

In 1 Kings 19 we find the wicked Jezebel, wife of King Ahab, threatening Elijah’s life. She promised to kill him within 24 hours. Its seems amazing at this point in his life that he would be intimidated by Jezebel. But he was, he really was!

1 Kings 19:3-4 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (NKJV)

Elijah became so worried and anxious that he prayed to God to die. Elijah really knew God well and had no doubt about His power. God sent fire when Elijah prayed, so he probably had no misconceptions about the result of praying for his own death. He really meant it, he wanted to die.

Elijah ran scared. He was frantic and in despair.
He reached the deepest point of depression
in human experience.

He was all alone out in the desert. He was physically and emotionally used up. He was wanted “dead or alive” by the King and had just humiliated the entire religious community which hadn’t won him any popularity points.

Elijah had reached the end of his rope. He had had enough. If a Godly person has ever deserved to be depressed and despondent, it was Elijah. And he embraced it. He got lost in self-pity to the ultimate extreme: he wished he was dead.

What was the answer to this extreme despair? Was it any of our modern therapies, medications or self-help techniques? Was the answer suicide? Was the answer to embark on a long journey of self awareness and self focus? None of the above.

God was the answer. Elijah was God’s true child, just as any Christian is today. God met him at his need and Elijah responded. He spent an adequate period of spiritual rest in God’s presence. Then Elijah had a talk with God. He got to talk with God directly. Christians speak to God in prayer and communicate with Him through the Scripture, the Holy Spirit and Godly shepherds.

1 Kings 19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (NKJV)

Elijah quieted his spirit and got his mind off himself. God communicated in a still small voice that Elijah was now ready to hear. God had drawn Elijah up out of his self-pity and taken his mind off his circumstances and depression. No matter how God may accomplish it in your life, He will always have the answer.

Next, God showed Elijah that he still had a job to do (1Kings 19:15-18). Have you ever wondered how quickly depression or worry would cease if you were busy fulfilling God’s plan for your life? How much self-pity can we have when we are serving others, doing good deeds and helping spread the Gospel? How is it possible to be despondent if we meditate on eternal life in Jesus Christ and what unimaginable treasures God is storing up for us in Heaven?

No matter where you are at emotionally,
God still has a purpose for your life.

Pursuing and fulfilling that purpose leaves little time, or need for anxiety and hopelessness. Elijah had reached a point that is about the lowest possible a human can experience. He truly wanted his life to end. He was so focused on himself; his eyeballs were probably facing backwards in his skull! This is the essence of both the problem and the answer concerning life’s discouragement and anxiety.

When we are looking anywhere except at God,
life will quickly overpower and discourage us.

Getting our eyes back on God is always the solution. Elijah turned to God in his darkest hour even when he was all alone. You can too. If you are experiencing discouragement, depression or worry today, look to God. He is the answer!

Look to God for help. Look to God for encouragement. Look to God for purpose. Look to God for meaning. Look to God for friendship. Look to God.

Father, You have all the answer to life’s difficulties. Teach us to look to You first. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: Where do you instinctively turn when life gets hard? If God is not primarily THE answer, who/what is?

Application: God can use many things to help us deal with the hard times in life. But He must remain the original and first source of our help.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?


Handling Life – Joseph – Part 1

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2 Peter 1:3 …as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue… (NKJV)

In this day and age of prescription drugs, syndromes and professional therapy, I sometimes wonder how anybody who lived before the 20th century was ever happy. Without support groups, Oprah and pharmaceutical companies, it’s a wonder anyone even got out of bed.

The Apostle Peter declares that the divine power of Jesus Christ has given us all we need to live a godly life. The Apostle Paul declares that Scripture is sufficient to instruct us in all ways about living a fulfilled life of good works and Godliness (2Timothy 3:16-17).

There is no doubt that Godly people of past ages were faced with the same emotions we face today – depression, pessimism, suffering, deprivation, worry, anxiety, doubt and fear. If they were without “professional” help and a pill-for-every-problem, how did they handle hard times in life? Maybe they didn’t have it as bad as we do, so they didn’t need medication and therapy. Or maybe, they had an answer that we have lost sight of.

Over the next five devotionals, let’s look at some characters in the Bible that faced terrible problems and circumstances. Let’s see if there is something common in the way they handled disappointment, tragedy, health problems, persecution and hard times. Did they worry? Were they depressed? Did they stay that way? Was it beyond their control? How did they deal with it?

Joseph – a life of injustice and hardship

Joseph was the favorite of the many sons of Jacob. His brothers hated him because their father favored him. Their jealousy began a string of events that would easily merit Joseph the right to be depressed, angry and bitter about life (Gen 37-40).

  • Joseph was hated and taunted by his brothers
  • He was thrown in a pit and was going to be murdered by them
  • He was sold as a slave into a foreign land
  • He was unjustly accused of improper conduct and thrown into prison
  • He was left in prison even after helping someone else get out who promptly forgot about him

Don’t brush over that list too quickly. Five bullets points don’t sound like much, but they represent years and years of non-stop hardship, mistreatment, persecution and injustice inflicted on Joseph. Except for some boyish immaturity, he seemed to be totally innocent of wrongdoing.

Joseph had no modern mental health care professionals, doctors, therapists or medications available. Given today’s thinking, he should have been lost in despair and hopeless – suffering from numerous syndromes and conditions. The kinds of problems he faced would require years of counseling and therapy according to our mindset today. If anyone had earned the right to some self-pity, it was Joseph.

But Joseph lived then, not now. So how did he handle it? In all things he turned to God and took every circumstance as a way to glorify God (Gen 37-40).

  • As a slave he worked hard, was honest and served his master as if working for the Lord
  • He was morally pure and refused to dishonor his owner by giving in to sexual advances from his master’s wife
  • In prison, he was the best prisoner possible, being cooperative, obedient and helpful to others and his captors
  • He forgave his brothers for their treachery and understood that whatever was happening was part of God’s plan
  • He was not a complainer, nor did he descend into self pity

    Genesis 45:3-5 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

Joseph accepted his circumstances as God’s will and rather than giving into his emotions, relied on God to sustain him. We are all too quick to turn to man-made solutions for handling life’s hardships. We have come to trust human “wisdom”, diversion and medication more than the Word of God. The Bible contains ALL things that pertain to life and Godliness, and is able to equip us for ALL good works and living life.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

For the hardships of life and their accompanying temptations of anxiety, worry, depression, doubt and fear, God has given us the solutions and power needed to victoriously deal with them. We have plenty of Godly examples in Scripture to show us the way. Beginning with Joseph today, and over the next four days with others, take notice of a common thread of trust and dependence on God’s sovereign care in all circumstances.

God knows what He is doing. Whatever hardship you find yourself in today, God can use it to transform you more into the image of Christ. Do not seek primarily to escape it, numb it or end it. Seek the wisdom of God to find out His purpose in it. When we see every moment of our life as a moment ordained and used by God, hardships become a source of growth, not dismay.

Hardships don’t need to be medicated, they need to be consecrated.

Great Compassionate God, we turn to all sorts of sources other than You to explain and deal with life’s problems. We ask you to remind us that You are the answer to all of life’s difficulties. Grant us the courage to turn to You first, instead of as a last resort or emergency measure. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplation: Do you worry, doubt or fear? Are you depressed or discontent? Has life got you “down”? What does God say about it? What is it about God that is not powerful enough, sufficient enough or caring enough to sustain you and comfort you? Why would God command us not to worry, fear, or doubt if He knew most of mankind throughout history would not have the professional help and medication we believe are so necessary today?

Application: God has given us everything we need to live a happy, joyful, contented and fulfilled life REGARDLESS of what hardships come our way. When we are less than joyful and contented, it is always based in an incorrect or lacking spiritual viewpoint.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?