On Focus, and Ignorance, During Hard Times

I decided to take a break from the Traits of a Godly Person series for this week. There are so many things going on in our world, and I often wonder should I talk about some of the more difficult issues. I like my blog to be a place of encouragement, whether it is to dress better or to grow in your walk with Christ. However, there are people out there, some of whom might be following my blog, that need a different kind of encouragement.

Life really can be stinking hard! Relationships are complex and often the source of our deepest and darkest pain. More often than not, people who are going through great difficulty do not feel at liberty to talk about the situations they are facing, which means, they are not getting any support or encouragement. People who are going through great loss, also, don’t always feel free to talk about their grief and pain. I’m not really sure, how we got to this point. Why is it that we are afraid to let people know that we are not okay? Why do we hide our pain behind a smile and tell everyone who asks that we are doing fine? Maybe it has to do with not being able to express the deep pain and sadness we feel. Perhaps we are afraid that others will think less of us, if we show them our reality. Maybe we are just too dang tired from trying to cope, that we’d rather not put in the effort to explain all that is going on.

Image by  lisa runnels  from  Pixabay

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

I think there is something much deeper and darker going on when we are struggling. Obviously, I believe in a real God and a real devil. I believe that Satan is our enemy and he is out to kill and destroy.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
— 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB)
Image by  steffenwienberg  from  Pixabay

Image by steffenwienberg from Pixabay

Our enemy is compared to a roaring lion. Why do you suppose Peter used the idea of a roaring lion, rather than that of a snake or some other creature? Obviously, lions are creatures to be respected. A lion can easily kill a man along with a host of wild creatures. Peter didn’t just make the comparison of the devil to a lion, but to a roaring lion. There is significance in the roar. Roaring commonly means, “This is my territory. Don’t get anywhere near.” Isn’t that interesting? Our enemy isn’t just trying to trip us up, he is trying to make us his own. He wants to claim us as his territory.

There are two problems that come up when we are going through difficulty that really affect our next step and our way of thinking. The first is our own focus. It is incredibly easy to focus on our pain. It is, our pain. The struggle is our struggle. Why wouldn’t we focus on it? This is made even harder when there is pain, illness, anxiety and broken relationships. Job loss is hard, but add to that a divorce and a persistent gall bladder problem and you are probably going to be feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
— Proverbs 4:25 (NASB)

Why is our focus so important? When you are walking you need to watch where you are going. This is especially important if you are walking on a narrow road, a path along a steep gorge or across a Lego filled living room. in those situations, it might be important to not be looking at your cell phone, reading a book or closing your eyes. This is also true when we are driving. The need for this straight forward, pay attention routine is even more important when things are getting chaotic, such as heavy traffic or passing pedestrians or bikers.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

When we are going through the hard bits of life, or even through the longer pits of life, we need to keep our eyes on our Savior. In fact it is even more important to focus on Him when we are faced with difficulty. I have been reading, Abide in Christ, by Andrew Murray. I started this book a while back, got about half way through and got busy, so put it aside. When I picked it up a week ago, I decided to start again at the beginning. There is so much good stuff in this book. Read these two quotes:

It is not the yoke, but the resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and Keeper, finds and secures the rest.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Remember how Christ tells us if we are weary and heavy laden we should come to Him.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
— Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

Murray was referring to these verses when he was talking about the rest that is secured in Christ. Now look at this next piece from the same chapter in Murray’s book.

With this grace secured, we have strength for every duty, courage for every struggle, a blessing in every cross and the joy of life eternal in death itself.
— Abide in Christ - Andrew Murray - Chapter 2

Christ is to be our focus. Come hell or high water, this Warrior Prince named Jesus, has our back for every duty, every struggle and every cross we have to bear in this life. All you have to do is come to Him and believe He will do it.

The other problem that arises when people are going through hard times is the ignorance of those around them. How many of you have been struggling with a situation, only to have a friend give you advice on how to solve your problem? How did that make you feel? If you are like me, when I was going through a very difficult time in my life, the last thing I wanted was advice. What I really wanted was an arm around my shoulders, a friend who would pray with me, not tell me they would pray for me, a sincere hug and two listening ears.

Image by  Anemone123  from  Pixabay

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

My dear friends, I can not emphasize enough how important it is to keep your mouth shut and refrain from giving advice when someone close to you is going through a hard time. Give hugs, give time, bring food, pray with them, listen to them. If they ask you for advice, then and only then, open your mouth and be sure you are speaking from the Lord, not from your own large vat of worldly knowledge. In addition to that, sincerely, truly and intensely pray for that person. You will not know all the details and that is okay. God’s bigger than you and will work it out. Just pray.

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
— Proverbs 11:12 (NASB)
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.
— Proverbs 17:28 (NASB)
Pixabay - hope

Life is difficult. Some of you are going through things that you never thought you would have to go through. Don’t give up. Keep you eyes fixed on the author and perfecter or our faith. And for those of you who are watching a friend or loved one suffer, don’t give up on them either. Pray, for and with. Love, help and even just sit in silence with them. For all of us, let’s remember this:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)



Steadfast Hope

Last week I wrote about Elusive Hope. The purpose for calling it elusive, is that there are times hope is very hard to find. When life constantly beats us down, it is hard to keep feeling like there is much hope. Here is where we must make a differentiation. Hope is not a feeling. 

Webster's online dictionary defines hope in these ways: to cherish a desire with anticipation, trust (though it says that this is an archaic definition), to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment, to expect with confidence. 

I find it interesting that this online version of Webster's dictionary calls the definition trust, archaic. I would not dismiss this definition so easily, especially when looking at what the scripture has to say about hope.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
— Hebrews 6:13-20 (NASB)

There is much to learn from the book of Hebrews, about faith and about hope. I actually asked my husband for help on this one. Being a philosophy instructor, he has spent most of his adult life musing over writings that are not easily understood. He has a unique ability to look at something logically, especially when it comes to language. I can write. But I cannot write on the level of a Kierkegaard, or an Aquinas. 

The writer of Hebrews, while fairly easy to understand, still delves into writing that must be mulled over, not glossed over. Just like the book of Romans, there is so much in this book and I am only looking at one small passage. 

The part that intrigued me was this: "...In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us..."

There are several points that need to be made. 

1. When it came to making promises in that day, men swore by one greater than themselves. So, in other words, men would swear by heaven or by God that they would do what they said they were going to do. 

2. They basically sealed the contract by performing an oath. The oath made the promise so. 

When it comes to salvation God did both of these things. He made a promise to us and swore according to Himself, since there is no one higher than Him. He also, then sealed that promise with an oath, or a guarantee. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

God made the promise and then sealed it with a blood oath, that of His son Jesus Christ. 

What I find fascinating is the fact that this phrase was included, "...in which it is impossible for God to lie..." The things that the author is referring to, would be the swearing and the oath. God made a promise to us, through His son Jesus Christ and He cannot lie.

Therefore, we have "...strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us." What is that strong encouragement? The fact that God swore by Himself and that He sealed the promise with an oath. He cannot lie, so the fact that He told us if we believe in Jesus, we will have eternal life, along with all the other promises in the Bible means He will do it. He is as good as His word.

So elusive hope, becomes steadfast, because of what God did. Bringing back the idea of hope to the definition of trust makes perfect sense. We are placing our hope or our trust in an almighty God. There is no one higher than Him. He cannot lie. He is good. 

It is this hope in God that becomes our anchor. It is sure and it is steadfast and best of all it enters into the veil as Jesus did! This hope is more real than the earth we stand on or the stars we see in the sky. 

Next time you feel hopeless or that hope is hiding like a rainbow on a sunny day, take a closer look. Hope is blooming all around us, because it is found in Him. 

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull  

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Elusive Hope

Elusive hope.

A rainbow, seen, real, but untouchable.

The bow in the sky, bordered by storms and darkness, gives us pause.

A reminder that He was with us, from the beginning.

A reminder that no matter how bad it gets, this one thing remains...

     When the conditions are just right, the rain, the sun, the clouds...

The rainbow.

Sometimes we can see hope, like the bow of colors,

Real, seen, but untouchable.

Yet we are reminded, there is always hope, 

     Just like there is always a rainbow.

But hope is not based on just the right conditions.

It solely rests in Him.

Pixabay

Pixabay

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
— Psalm 62:5 (NASB)

Lord God, we are your people; the sheep of your pasture. It is in You that we live and breath and have our being. You are the God of all creation and we acknowledge that we are but dust.

But we are Yours and we are struggling. We need hope. Not an elusive hope, like a bow set in the clouds that we cannot hold onto, but a real living, breathing hope.

Give us a hope that we can see, like the night sky filled with stars that have existed ever since creation.

Give us a hope that we can feel, like the ground on which we walk.

Give us a hope that we can hear, like the bird song that is revived every morning.

Give us a hope that we can taste, like biting into a fresh peach, so sweet and juicy it makes our tongue tingle.

That Lord, is the hope I pray for...for the mother who wonders when their child will no longer suffer; for the father who paces the floor wondering where his daughter is; for the couple who believe the embers of their marriage have finally burned out; for the child who thinks the abuse is their fault....Lord give us hope!

(I know I have posted this video before, but once again it seems appropriate. I pray it will give you hope.)