How to think about God when life is rough

Life gets rough. How people respond is well known. “Why did God do this to me?” “How can God be good if he allows this to continue?” Adversity can foster many temptations. What role does God play in all of this?

James’ letter takes us straight to our questions about God. He does not answer every question we might pose. Rather he counsels us how to think about God when we are in the thick of it. Continue reading “How to think about God when life is rough”

From why to what now

When disaster strikes, when sorrow overwhelms, when hardship envelops our lives, the first question we often ask is, “Why?”

We wonder why we or the ones we love have to endure pain. We question if God loves us or if we deserve it. We might even demand an answer from God.

Wanting to know why is understandable. Knowing why promises us satisfaction. But does God always tell us why? Continue reading “From why to what now”

Rough road ahead

By Johnny O. Trail — On I-24 going toward Clarksville between exits twenty-four and nineteen, there was an electric road sign that read “Rough Road Ahead.”  This stretch of highway has been problematic for years.  It continually washes out and needs constant patches and repairs.  Suffice to say it is a very rough road—our vehicle’s suspension and tires can attest to that fact.

Would it not be nice if we had various road signs in our lives to warn of “Rough Roads Ahead”?  In the lives of many, this would be a continual warning about situations they encounter down life’s pathway.  What type of signs might one see in their travels?  Of course, signs only work when they are read and heeded. Continue reading “Rough road ahead”

Who do we believe in?

Timothy is one of those people that we know a little about but not a lot. As Paul began his second letter to him we see more of who he was, but would still like to know more.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6-8 NIV)

We learn that through Paul Timothy had received a gift, presumably one of the gifts of the Spirit. We don’t know what this gift was but we do know that Timothy wasn’t using it. Paul told his young friend that he needed to “fan into flame the gift of God” – he needed to get it burning within him again. Continue reading “Who do we believe in?”

Suffering for doing good

Western culture and most of our societies today are based on making one person happy: me. This has infiltrated the thinking of many who would call themselves Christians. Like me, you have probably been told when certain things happen to us that are perceived as ‘bad’ that you are doing something wrong. The prevailing message often taught by many – and that most like to hear – is that if you do everything right, God will bless you and prevent bad things from happening to you. Those who teach this message seem to have never studied the pages of scripture.

We are to live the best lives we can. Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 3:8-12, emphasising the need to live good, upstanding lives where we don’t give evil for evil but are a blessing to others. He supports what he wrote by quoting Psalm 34:12-16.

He then said, “For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good?” (1 Peter 3:13 NET). If we stopped reading there, we might get the impression that as long as we are faithful to Jesus and do what is right, nothing bad will ever happen to us. But we need to read on … Continue reading “Suffering for doing good”

‘Perils in the wilderness’

“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” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26, NKJV).

Paul’s list of his sufferings while preaching the Gospel are absolutely amazing. The experiences cited above are only a relatively small part of the full list found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. One who reads that account might well feel shame to complain about inconveniences and minor persecutions suffered today.

Yet while the extent of Paul’s experience surpasses that of most others, the fact of suffering and danger is a common, expected aspect of the Christian life. Paul promised, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Continue reading “‘Perils in the wilderness’”

Overcoming adversity

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations . . .” (Romans 5:3).

It is not unusual for people to take pride in, or even boast about, the problems that they face in their lives. Athletes will often speak in interviews about “All the adversity I (or we) have overcome” to be successful as an individual or a team. They are not the only ones to use hardships as motivation to try to prove themselves to others. Minorities, the poor, and those with various handicaps will all display their problems proudly to show the extent of their triumphs and successes.

One common error that such pride succumbs to is to feel that one’s particular adversities are somehow special. Maybe they don’t claim that they are more troubled than anyone else, but there is often a distinct flavor of, “I have had to overcome more than most,” at the very least. Continue reading “Overcoming adversity”

Jesus the supreme example of suffering

Some people make it almost a life’s goal to avoid or remove any type of discomfort in their lives. They live by a dangerous misconception that happiness depends upon the absence of suffering and pain. Jesus’ gave us the supreme example of humility and also the supreme example of suffering. Following him is the key to joy and meaning.

Originally, man was created to enjoy life with God without suffering or pain. (Perhaps the deep-seated aversion to them and attempts to avoid them rise from this truth.) The Garden of Eden was the perfect place for man’s fellowship (relationship) with God. He had all he wanted or needed. Nothing lacked. Everything abounded in supply and variety. In the Garden, Adam and Eve had no worries, no cares, no difficulties. This was God’s eternal design. Continue reading “Jesus the supreme example of suffering”

The fog will clear

A few days ago, early in the morning, I glanced out my back window toward the apartment building where my son Joel and his family live. They’re living here for a year and found an apartment a couple of blocks away. But their building was gone! I did a double-take and noticed that a heavy fog had rolled in. Nothing could be seen beyond my backyard.

In less than an hour, the fog had lifted. My son’s building and everything else were in place.

The doubts of life are like that morning fog. Continue reading “The fog will clear”