Sometimes you just want it to stop hurting

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Today’s chapter: 2 Samuel 19

Not long ago I was walking through a parking lot and stepped on a nail. It came straight up through the sole of my shoe and punctured my foot. At that moment I was thinking about only one thing: how to make the pain stop.

Worker steps on nail outdoors

That’s how we normally respond to discomfort in our lives. We want to address it directly and make it go away. When we’re hungry, we eat. When we’re bored, we find entertainment. When we’re cold, we put on a jacket. We deal with the issue so we can be comfortable again.

Sometimes, though, we encounter things in life that hurt in a way that we can’t do much to alleviate. People say things about us that are hurtful or untrue. We find out that someone we love is very sick. We have a friend who is struggling with their marriage or dealing with issues with their kids. When we can’t do anything to make a situation better, we feel stuck.

David is grieving the death of his son, Absalom. Clearly, there is nothing he can do to fix the situation. It just hurts. Joab points out to King David, though, that there is something he can do. In fact, there is something he needs to do.

David’s soldiers are in need of encouragement. They need for their king to take his focus off of his own problems, as real and bad as they are, and choose to encourage them. They have risked their lives for him and need to know he appreciates them. So with Joab’s prompting, David does the right thing. Despite his own sorrow, he goes out to the gateway and gives his men what they need.

Often when we’re hurting, we rationalize why our pain exempts us from ministering to others. Because we’re in need of help, we think we’re in no shape to help anyone else. We decide that we don’t have to concern ourselves with being compassionate until we’re healthier or richer or more stable or problem-free or better off than we are now.

What we overlook is that our struggle helps us better relate to the struggles of others, so we can have true empathy. We don’t need to have all the answers to other people’s problems and we don’t need to pretend to have it all together. Instead, our imperfect lives give us the credibility to encourage them in their challenges, even when we don’t feel encouraged ourselves.

Fulfillment doesn’t come from having your own needs met. Fulfillment in life comes from giving your life away. It’s counter-intuitive, but true.

Happiness doesn’t come as a result of happy circumstances. Happiness stems from a relationship with God and connecting with our purpose. As we shift our focus from ourselves to the needs of others, we begin to realize this is what we were made for. And our own challenges begin to become a lot more bearable.

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Regardless of what’s going on in your own life, find a way to brighten someone else’s day. Identify a need and meet it. Whether someone needs a cold drink, some encouragement, a listening ear, or a word of appreciation, give the person what he/she needs. Don’t be surprised if it changes your own situation. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 11:25 – A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Who will you meet a need for today? What will you do?

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Grace during an oil change

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Today’s chapter: 2 Samuel 9

Today I got the oil changed in my “new to me” used truck for the first time. The technician was extremely courteous and helpful and took a real interest in my truck. At one point he even had me give him a tour of a feature he hadn’t seen before.

Oil Change

When I went to check out, he was gracious to give me a ten-dollar discount on the oil change, which he didn’t have to do. That’s a basic definition of grace: “undeserved favor.”

David wants to show kindness to any living descendant of Saul. It was common practice at that time for a new king to kill all the offspring of the deposed king to eliminate any future threats to the throne. But David had no interest in that approach.

Instead David had Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet, brought to the palace. He restored all of his father’s land to him as his inheritance and promised to provide him with food and shelter for the rest of his life. Instead of revenge or even justice, he showed him grace.

When we treat people better than we instinctively wanted to treat them, we’re usually proud of ourselves for showing restraint and consider ourselves gracious. But just because we didn’t lash out at someone, we didn’t necessarily show grace, either.

I recently had someone tell me that if I would agree with their perspective and if I would promise to do what they wanted, then they would show me grace. But when you require somebody to do something for you before you show grace, by definition it is no longer grace.

Steve McVey wrote this in a recent blog post at SteveMcVey.com: “Spiritual infancy causes us to quickly reject people with whom we differ. Spiritual adolescence leads to reluctant tolerance toward them. Spiritual maturity produces a love toward those with whom we differ, even when we strongly disagree. We don’t have to see things the same way to love each other, nor are we under a mandate to make everybody see everything exactly the way we do.”

Instead of wanting people to see the world through our eyes, what if we started seeing people through God’s eyes? When we look at people through God’s eyes, I’m not sure the standard definition of grace still fits. That’s because God looks at us as if we actually DESERVE His love and favor. We are His children and He delights in blessing us.

In God’s eyes, you are loved, accepted, and blessed. In Jesus’s eyes, you are worth dying for. God sees you as worth redeeming. And He sees the person you struggle with being gracious toward the very same way.

DO IT
Shift your focus from trying to get people to see your perspective, and instead begin to look at others as people who God created. If He views them as deserving of His care and affections, then allow His love to flow through you into a specific action today.

What will you do to demonstrate love toward someone?

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PowerBall odds and depending on God

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Today’s chapter: 1 Samuel 22

The PowerBall jackpot has now soared to $1.3 billion. Lottery fever is running rampant. Even Hollywood celebrities are talking about what they’d do if they won the prize.

The lottery mindset is kind of funny. When the grand prize is $10 million, nobody cares. But when the jackpot climbs over $100 million, suddenly everyone takes notice. It’s as if a few million dollars wasn’t worth the drive to the convenience store, but now a $100 million award is a whole different story.

Of course, the odds at this point of having the winning ticket are worse than ever. Statistically, you have roughly the same odds of bowling a perfect 300 game (1 in 11,500) AND losing an appendage from a chainsaw accident (1 in 4,464) AND ultimately dying in an asteroid apocalypse (1 in 12,500). Yes, I seriously calculated that.

David has gone from living palace in the palace to hiding out in a cave. He had been on the fast track and people were writing songs about him, but now he’s in a cave. He used to be the golden boy with lucrative offers to endorse everything from Famous Dave’s barbecue sheep sandwich to Nike’s new Air David slingshot line, but now he’s in a cave. He thought it was God’s will for him to be king, but now he’s in a cave. What once seemed like a sure bet now appears to be the longest of long shots.

The cave is where you end up when your life doesn’t unfold the way you had thought it would. You had plans for happiness and success, but then your circumstances end up very differently.

Maybe you’re in a cave right now. Perhaps you are out of work, coping with financial pressures, reacting to a health crisis, or dealing with a rocky relationship. Whether your journey to the cave was due to your own bad decisions or someone else letting you down, it can start to feel like God has forgotten you. Caves can be incredibly lonely and even seem like they’re going to last forever.

But caves are where God does some of His best work on us. Perhaps it’s because we are finally away from everything that distracts us from His voice. Maybe it’s because when He is all we have left, we realize He is all we need. For whatever reason, God has shaped me during my times in caves like no other times of my life.

If you think about it, the odds of winning the PowerBall are actually the exact same every time. You always have to match all 6 numbers and the odds of successfully doing that never actually changes. Your chances of success are always about 1 in 300 million.

David learned the odds of God accomplishing His will in David’s life hadn’t changed either. Even though his circumstances had temporarily shifted, he was learning some valuable lessons. Perhaps most importantly, he learned he could talk to God about anything.

The odds of God accomplishing His will in your life haven’t changed one bit. God hasn’t abandoned you. If you’ll allow Him, He will use this time in your life to mold you into who He wants you to be. The odds of Him being right beside you and loving you unconditionally haven’t changed, either. May the odds be ever in your favor.

DO IT
Read David’s prayer in Psalm 142 to see the honest prayer David wrote during this time. Then talk just as honestly with God about how you feel about your own circumstances. Not only can He handle the truth, it’s what He wants to hear from you. Then ask Him what you can learn from your time in the cave. Allow Him to shape you into who He wants you to be.

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