If you think you have troubles, consider My apostle Paul: He was whipped on five occasions and beaten with rods on another. He was stoned and left for dead. He was shipwrecked three times, and spent a night and a day in the deep. He went through perils at sea, perils in the wilderness, and perils in cities. He suffered at the hands of robbers, his own countrymen, strangers, and even those who wrongly thought they were acting for Me. He was imprisoned and deprived of basic needs many times.1
Over the years I have seen some dear friends be marvelously blessed by God.Some of these same people had previously gone through what seemed to be a series of incredibly trying times. They had faced a lot of difficulty, had been deeply disappointed, and hadn’t seen the fulfillment of their dreams and desires. From time to time, I would comment to my wife, Maria, “It will be so great to see them truly happy!” And the wonderful thing is, today nearly all of them are.
I can’t promise to spare you from the storms of life, but I can promise to be with you through them. My help comes in a variety of forms. It may not always come in the form you expect, but it will come. I will never leave you to struggle on your own.
When you ask for My help, I will answer your prayer. When you are fearful, I will give you faith to trust Me, peace of mind, and courage to go on. When you are weak and weary, lean on Me and I will give you strength like you’ve never known. When your heart is broken, I will mend it.
In times of supreme test, God has revealed Himself to me and I have found Him so real that I could shout with absolute confidence, “I know whom I have believed!”1
God has promised, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”2 “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”3 “If God is for us, who canbe against us?”4
In sudden emergencies and prolonged trials, God fulfills His promises today just as surely as He did in the past. He is saying, “I will not fail you. When you are in the midst of trouble or under great stress, just keep courage. I will not under any circumstances forsake you.” And He means that for you.
In Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey writes, “Many Christians quote the verse Romans 8:28, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,’ with the implication that somehow everything will turn out for the best.”
I firmly believe in a loving God who wants the best for each of us, but the “it’s all for your good” interpretation does sometimes seem too simplistic, too pat, even hollow. How do you tell that to a couple who have just lost their baby, or to a young woman who was crippled and disfigured by a drunk driver, or to survivors of war atrocities? How do you reconcile such a “goodness guarantee” with the realities of an all too imperfect world?
Life is one big learning experience, and for those of us who know and love Jesus, He is our teacher. More than anything, He wants to teach us all we need to know about Him and His love, so things will go better and we’ll be happier.
He knows that none of us can accomplish any real good if we depend on our own supposed strength and wisdom. In fact, He said, “Without Me you can do nothing.”1 But the Bible also says that we “can do all things through Christ.”2 That’s the key right there. We need to learn to let Jesus do things through us.
Life is full of choices. Every day there are choices, large and small, and every day that passes leaves a greater legacy of past choices. Some turned out to be good, some bad, some a bit of both, and some we’re not yet sure about, but each played a part in making us what we are.
Here are a few principles that I find helpful when thinking about the past and what has brought me to where I am today.
Our future isn’t limited by our past. No matter what decisions we have made or what others decided for us, and no matter what point we are at now, the future is still as bright as God’s promises—ones like these: “If you have faith ... nothing will be impossible for you,”1 and “All things are possible to him who believes.”2 If you’re not where you want to be, there is time to change that. Where there is life, there is hope.
At the start of last year I set off on a journey. Sitting on a pier, breathing in the salty sea air, I felt surges of both excitement and trepidation as my eyes scanned an ocean of time that stretched ahead.
In the course of my voyage, I sometimes faced turmoil and adversity. The turquoise sea became a churning, foaming expanse of dark, angry waves. Stinging rain and blustering winds battered my ship. But there were also times of blessings and steady progress, when bright sunlight sparkled on rolling waves and gentle breezes carried my boat forward.
If you’re finding it harder than usual to get into the Christmas spirit this year, you aren’t alone. It’s been an especially tough year for this weary world of ours.
The first two months alone saw popular revolts break out in 13 North African and Middle Eastern nations, following Tunisia’s lead a few weeks earlier. Some were bloodless, others bloody, but all proved that there are no overnight fixes for longstanding social and economic disparities. We all hope for the best for the 300 million people in those countries, but we must also realize that change will be a long, slow, and probably painful process.
During an especially busy time, I had a perspective adjustment that changed my outlook for the better.
I was involved in several major projects, had a huge amount of work to do, and was quite tired—almost exhausted.
The verse that came to mind and changed my attitude about my circumstances was, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”1 I realized that the long hours of work, the tiredness, and the difficult decisions I faced were all part of my “reasonable service.”