Troubles

I love phrases about futility. “The faster we dig, the farther behind we get.” “Trying to get the water out of a boat by putting a hole in the bottom.” These “old school” phrases are also used to describe being overwhelmed. I work in local government and consult for them as well. I am easily frustrated by the futility of trying to get things done in local government and since I own my own business, I can also get overwhelmed. Having huge swings in workload or enduring the feast or famine cycles of when projects come in adds a lot of stress to my life. I go through this about every other year and with all of the experience that I have at it, you would think that I would have mastered my emotional roller coaster. I’m still learning.

We can all play the “at least it’s not…” game with ourselves to stay positive. Being positive is always the way through troubles in our lives but it is easier said than done. When life starts to get us down, we tend to shift toward asking the question, “why me?” There is never an answer to that question and I believe that the reason for that is because it isn’t about us! Troubles in our lives are not a punishment for something we did or didn’t do. We can have troubles in our lives because the devil is at work trying to break our spirit or because God is trying to prepare us for something else or simply because, life is full of troubles. No matter the case – futility or being overwhelmed, we always seem to make it work and in the end we are stronger because we overcame the circumstances. When we seek the help of others and look at the situation from a step or two away, we see it with a little more clarity. It is in this newfound clarity that we can make peace out of the trouble in our lives. We are not alone on this earth for a reason; we need to learn to lean on each other once in a while.

“…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

In this verse from John is quoting Jesus who is telling us that we WILL have trouble. There was no sugar coating it, no “technically correct” answer or avoidance; Jesus tells us straight – you will have trouble. God never promised us a trouble free life. Look at the Old Testament; the People of God had plenty of trouble. Even Jesus faced trouble in His life on earth. The old saying is that you can count on two things in life – death and taxes. I would argue that we should have three things to count on and add – trouble. We know that God does not give us more than we can handle and we also know that God has a plan for us.

The trouble that we find in our lives may be there so that we can be a witness for others, maybe it’s to strengthen us for the future, maybe its simply to prepare us to help others in need. Whatever the reason, and we will never know what it is; we can handle it. Jesus tells us to take heart! He overcame the troubles of the world by defeating Satan, and sin. Jesus took it all upon Himself in death but delivered us from the chains of sin when He rose to take His place at God’s right hand. Sure, we’ll have trouble but know that through God’s grace and our faith in Jesus, we will not suffer but have eternal life. Just thinking about it makes me overwhelmed but now it’s with joy!

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Momentary Troubles

Mentoring, coaching, succession planning and employee development are the latest challenges for today’s organizations. The baby boomers are leaving the workforce, new managers need additional skills to lead the Millennial Generation and Millennials have workplace needs like no other generation before them. Leaders have a responsibility to develop their staff regardless of what the retirement picture looks like in their organization. A number of years ago, I was tasked with developing a program to build “management perspective” for our staff. We had several young supervisors and several more to promote. We created a series of supervisory programs that exposed these young leaders to a variety of “business” and leadership topics.

A mentoring program was created which allowed employees to function in supervisory positions under the guidance of their existing supervisor then on their own. These employees endured 120 hours of classroom training and countless hours of field training from the time they started the program until they completed their probationary year as supervisors. The bottom line is that with or without a formal program, leaders have an obligation to develop people to achieve all that they are capable of.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

As Disciples of Christ, more than the word of God is mentoring us in our lives. The trials and tribulations of this life are making us stronger for what lies ahead in eternity. Our troubles are momentary but they sometimes seem to pile up. It’s not what is happening to us that matters, it is how we react to it that counts. St. Paul is telling the Corinthians and us, that our troubles are light and momentary.

For those that believe in Christ, we know that no matter what is happening, we will have eternal life in Heaven. We all struggle with the concept of “momentary” as if we are applying it to our understanding of time. A moment to God could be years for us. Open the bible and find peace for what the troubles that are burdening you. Stop looking for the meaning in “why” and start looking at how you can react, with God at your side, to the troubles you are facing. Giving up your control and letting God work in your life is very hard. We have been promised eternal life through Jesus Christ; not an easy life here on earth. Celebrate the gift and live to His glory – the glass is half full.

Seek the Lord

Isn’t life wonderful when things are going well? A promotion or raise at work helps lift our outlook on just about everything. Once something great happens, we often follow that up with the expression of our doubt, “we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop”. When things are going well, we become so proud of ourselves and the great things we’ve done. It is easy to forget where the good comes from when we are successful. When times are difficult, we often start looking for someone to blame. Don’t lose your bearings when things get harder, continue to seek the Lord. Maintain your attitude and Christ-like perspective, people will appreciate and respect you for it.

Rely on God to keep you grounded; He’s the one in control, not you. You will be tested when things get tough. How you treat others, your level of honesty and caring and if you stay committed to serving others will tell a lot about your character but remember, you will lack no good thing. Don’t change your character because the times change. In the workplace, when things are going bad, people seek leaders at all levels and a true leader is often found in the most stressful times. When things start to look bad, keep communicating. Coworkers will be unsure and afraid, help them stay focused on what is actually happening, not on what is perceived to be happening.

“Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” Psalm 34:10

Do you seek the Lord in times of trouble? Keep the Lord as your focus and continue to seek to understand His word as you develop your relationship with God. This will help you continue to seek the Lord in all times – good and bad. Seek Him in everything you do. Start your work day with a simple prayer “Lord, please guide my decisions and actions today so that I may bring glory to you and to care for those around me”. Keeping God as the priority in your life will bring good things to you. The old expression “when one door closes another will open” describes this Psalm perfectly.

Just as you see things being bad, God will show you the good in the situation. If you are seeking the Lord in the good and the bad times, you will start to see the good things all around you. The thing to remember, and the hardest part, is that change in your life will be on His timeline and not yours. Remain patient and focused on the Lord, he will reveal His plans – have faith no matter how bad things seem to appear. Jesus faced the worst week of His life and yet remained faithful to His Father. No matter what you have happening in your life right now, it pales in comparison to what Jesus went through. His example teaches us that we should remain faithful and in the end we will be rewarded with eternal life. Happy Easter!

Where do you turn?

Where do you turn in times of trouble? For most people, it’s a good friend or a relative. Someone who’s shared your tears and joys over the years. These are usually the same people who you turn to when you have exciting news or something great to share. For many of us, these people become our best friends. When you work in a field like the fire service, this is what forms “the brotherhood”. People turn to each other for support and they become almost closer with each other than they do with their families. Highly threatening team activities or in-extremist teams (FF, police, military, bomb squads, etc) rely on their team mates to keep them alive. For those not in life/death situations, we find these people in our lives.

At work, these special people become either mentors or confidants. A mentor is someone who helps you excel and grow in your career by providing advice, opportunities and guidance. A confidant is someone who you can share things with but they don’t provide a direct source of career growth. If you are lucky, you will find someone who can be both. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us the bold truth and other times we need someone to be sympathetic to our emotions; rational or not. My daughter will call and ask for “reality check dad” when she needs to know what mom will never tell her. I’m lucky that I get to be both a confidant and a mentor to her; I can read her pretty well and know when to hold the bold truth until she’s ready. We all need these people in our lives. My wife has a huge cheering section of friends and a few close friends that she can talk to about everything else. I guess my point is to make sure that you have these types of people in your life and don’t forget that they are there. Life is so busy that we often forget that we don’t have to carry all of the burdens alone.

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4

I’ve often said “now that I say this out loud …” We need to say things to others to make sure that we really feel that way. We also have a need to get our feelings out in the open. The challenge is getting them filtered before we say something hurtful. We all know people who are in various stages of suffrage. Cancer seems to strike every family we know, financial stress is still present and family pressures will always be present. If you are raising kids, have siblings or are dealing with aging parents, suffrage is always going. We all find different ways of dealing with it – some healthy and some not so healthy. Last week we talked about our ability to go to God freely and with confidence. This week we see why.

God is all of things in this verse – a refuge for the poor and the needy, a shelter in the storm and a shade in the heat. When things go bad in our lives, God is there for us. It is human nature to ask “why me?” but the truth is that God is there with us in these times of trouble. He’s there when things are good too! God will not abandon any of us, no matter what you’ve done. We are given the promise from God to have eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no “reality check dad” with our Father in heaven. He knows what is on our hearts and in our minds and Jesus is sitting right next to Him saying, “all is forgiven”. I’d like to think that God inspires the advice that we get from our mentors and confidants. If we feel alone, this verse reminds us that God is always there; while St. Paul reminded us to go freely and with confidence to seek God for help.

Trouble Ahead

This past week seems to have brought news about a number of good people who have been diagnosed with cancer or another life threatening illness. I’m sure many of them are thinking, “why me?” In these circumstances, I can’t help but think about all of the people that I saw on their last day here on earth during my career. Some of them were expecting to die, others we saved because it wasn’t their time and for many others, they had no idea it was their last day. The old saying, “if you knew today was your last day, what would you do?” comes to mind. Personally, I don’t want to think about it, so we will move on.

I’m left to wonder, like so many others, why do bad things happen to good people? The guy who kills an entire family, including small children, gets life in prison but the faithful Christian woman who has spent her life serving others has only weeks to live following a cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t seem fair. Daily, we see examples of where life’s circumstances don’t seem fair and rotten people appear to get off “scot-free” in comparison. I would offer that “fair” is in the eye of the beholder. The concept of “fair” is found in the human condition of “keeping up with the Jones”. Life is about being content. You have what you have and that is okay. There will always be people who have more than you but there are also people who have less than you – in everything. Be content and in that moment, I bet you will find happiness. What if today was your last, do you want to happy and content or miserable and jealous? You can choose.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

We find in a number of places throughout the bible that God never promises a trouble free life. I’ve written about this before and can go on about God’s plan for your life. This week I want to focus on the verse – “The righteous person may have many troubles”. If you believe that the bible is the word of God, given to us by Him, then you may also see how this is God telling us – “there will be troubles in your life”. According to this verse, some of us will have more troubles than others (many troubles). There is no avoiding it; we will have troubles. To what degree is left to God; just remember Job. God does not punish us with troubles, He uses them to prepare us for future opportunities or He uses us to prepare those around us.

The second half of this verse is critical to our Christian faith; “the Lord delivers him from them all”. This is our assurance that God will not abandon us in our time of need (or any other time). No matter what we face, God will deliver us from our troubles. Our human nature however, does not understand God’s time frame. We are not assured that He will deliver us immediately or to our satisfaction but He will deliver us. If today is your last day, you can be assured that God will deliver you eternal life because of your belief in Jesus Christ as your savior. If today is just another worry filled day on earth, rejoice in the fact that you are still here and that God is going to deliver you from all your worries. Keep sharing and believing in God’s power and rest easy knowing that Jesus has prepared the way for you. You just need to be content with the life you have.

Why me?

I don’t think that I’ve shared a whole bunch of personal stuff on this blog since I started three years ago so this week will be another first. Last week was emotional in many ways. As I mentioned, my mother was scheduled for surgery to repair a broken bone near her replacement hip. The good news is that she didn’t have the surgery since the hip replacement was still functioning, the bone was “just” cracked near the parts. She was sent to a rehabilitation hospital for physical therapy to improve her strength and ability to walk. It was a stressful week to say the least. She is very anxious to get back to her normal routine but these frequent changes are causing her additional challenges with her memory. She has dementia and stress makes it much worse.

Being in the hospital with her was a trigger for me as well. To be brief, I’ve never really talked the things that I’ve done or seen in my career with anyone; I learned to keep it compartmentalized and locked away. Seeing my mother lying in the hospital suddenly brought out a number of tragic and disturbing mental images for me. I could see faces of people that I’d worked on, I was recalling traumatic incidents that I responded to and I was beginning to recall horrors of my career. I now know firsthand about what triggers PTSD memories and quite honestly, I didn’t like it. I closed up the doors to those places in my mind and pushed on. So, a week after her fall, a non-surgery event, the move to a rehabilitation facility, a mental near-miss for me and renewed dementia concerns, we all keep asking ourselves, “why is the happening?” We never really understand why bad things happen to us and honestly, there are some people who seem to have huge share of the “bad things” happening to them. I believe the verses this week answer this question.

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

God does not give us more than we can handle. He asks us to turn to Him for strength and guidance. As humans we often turn to inward needs or we turn to an escape. We usually only turn to God as a last resort, a kind of “I’ve done all that I could think of, it’s your turn” moment. In the long run, God is building us up, He’s making us stronger because He knows that the devil will be working hard to turn us away form God.

These troubles in our lives are small compared to the love that God has for us. If we turn from Him during these difficult times, what will we do when it really counts? God is giving us the ability to face down anything that the devil throws at us. This weeks verses tell their own story, the problem and the answer are simply contained in two verses. Stand up to your troubles, stop worrying about the “why” and know that God is in control.

Trouble and Doubt

I won’t deny that there are a lot of things to be worried about these days. I would suggest that many of us worry about things that don’t exist or things that we anticipate will happen but never do. This week our daughter will graduate from college and move back home until she finds a job. The job market for college graduates, let alone thousands of others, has been horrible the past five years. Fortunately, she has three great job possibilities that she will have to choose from. I’m not worried. What troubles you? Is it something tangible or is it something that you are worrying about before it actually happens?

I’ve never been known as a positive person. I’ve always had to be planning for the worst but hoping for the best. In management, you have to be on guard for the things that will hurt you or the organization. It’s important however, to celebrate when things go right. Many managers forget to do that. They become so focused on problem avoidance or fixing problems that they fail to recognize the great things happening around them. They worry about things that “could” happen and miss the good things that do happen. So what are you worried about? What troubles you? It’s impossible to avoid worrying so the key is learning to keep it in check. Others have suggested that worry and doubt is more of an emotional response and that the best way to counteract it is through logic. Look closely at what you are worrying about and see if it is an actual or a perceived problem. Th.en you work through the emotions to find solutions

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?
Luke 24:38

In this verse, Jesus was speaking to His disciples when He first showed Himself to them. What if Jesus was asking you these questions? Why are you troubled and what doubts do you have? Jesus would tell you is that you should be sending all of your worries to the Father. It can be argued that the emotion of worry (trouble) is a product of the devil. It is a great way to put separation between you and God because if you don’t think that God is with you in your life when you are feeling crushed by doubt, you will turn away from God.

Maybe you’ll rely more on yourself, maybe you’ll turn to “an escape” or maybe you’ll simply let the doubt take over and crush you. When these things happen, you push God away; just what the devil wants. Before that happens, go back to Jesus asking you – He is speaking to you in this verse; why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? How will you answer Him? We’ve been taught in other verses to lift our concerns to God in prayer. Sounds like great advice.