A Refuge in Times of Trouble

I frequently write about God’s plan because people are constantly saying, “everything happens for a reason”. I believe that we all take for granted the guiding hand at work in our lives. So many bad things seem to happen that we rarely stop to celebrate the good things. It is as if we expect the good things to happen so we concentrate on the bad things. I know that by nature, I am more of a pessimist than an optimist. Looking back, I find no obvious cause for this perspective except my training to prevent firefighter injuries and fatalities. As I moved up the ranks, I found that being in command of incidents in which people’s lives were at risk makes you look at things much more cautiously. I think that is what turned into pessimism.

I am generally not a negative person, but I don’t seek to find the bright side of things either. In any case, I have seen first hand, God’s hand in my life. As a self-employed business owner who relies on larger consulting firms for work, the calendar year of 2020 was completely devoid of work. I’d been through times before, but this was the longest period I’d experienced without any work. I told myself to focus on letting God’s plan unfold and be patient (not an easy task). The quiet allowed me to focus on slowing down and taking stock of what is truly important. I’m writing this devotion at the end of ten days working for Army North during a training exercise. Enough to keep me going at the start of 2021. “God cares for those who trust in Him.”

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him,” Nahum 1:7

It is ironic that this verse was written by someone in the Old Testament, which is filled with stories about people not trusting God. We all know that it was so bad that God had to take matters in His own hands and send His Son to bring salvation. I look at this single act of love as what allows us to turn to God as “a refuge in times of trouble”. No matter what I’ve done, God loves me! I saw an old friend during this exercise who shared the sudden passing of a mutual acquaintance. My friend, a man of faith, was down about this loss – he had forgotten where to turn in his time of trouble.

“What a loss!” he proclaimed. “We were talking about getting together since we are both retired” my friend lamented. I reminded him that his loss was only temporary and that the great memories of our friend would return. We don’t know what God has planned for us or why the things happen as they do but we can be assured that they are part of God’s plan for our lives. Remember, sometimes we are the teacher and other times we are the student. You won’t know which role you are in until time has passed. The key to trust in God and remember that, “The Lord is Good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

Trust in the Lord – COVID-19

COVID-19 is griping the world and it seems as if no one has comfort in anything that is being said or done. All over the world, countries are dealing with the pandemic in very different ways – closing borders, implementing curfews, closing schools, closing restaurants and bars and, cancelling sporting events. It feels like we are all being isolated. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Our Pastor wrote these words to the congregation this week:

“Many people are full of fear because they feel helpless.  Many are full of fear because of the unknown.  This is a particularly frightening time for us all. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in the Lord with our whole hearts.  God has promised to be with us in such times.  We can count on Him to see us through this present situation.  His Word creates and strengthens faith so keep your Bibles close.  Rely on His strength and let the Lord comfort you.  Pray for those who are already infected, asking the Lord to bring healing and help to those in need.”

I’m not going to give my perspective on the various bible verses this week or try to make an analogy either. It is best to let the God inspired words of St. Paul speak for themselves. Please stay safe and healthy; measure your actions and response to the circumstances near you, not those of other countries or states. Trust in God to see you and our world through the outbreak.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Why Worry?

Worry can consume a great deal of time in someone’s life. As children if we did something bad, our mothers warned us to “wait until your father comes home” and then we spent hours worrying. Somehow we are comfortable worrying. I created phrase in our house a while back when I said, “let’s worry about worrying, when there is something to worry about”. We were falling into the trap of worry before we even had a problem. We learned after my surgery that there is a plan for our lives; we simply needed to let it reveal itself to us. We want to be in control of everything and when we can’t adjust the circumstances around us, we start to worry. We do it so often that worrying has become second nature to us. We worry about things at work, we worry about things at home, in the stock market, in pro sports, on our drive to work and we worry about ourselves. I would challenge you to stop worrying and start living your life.

I’m not suggesting that you become reckless but start to look around at all of the great things in your life and look at how they are connected. These are not random events that just happened because the timing was right; they are connected events that if you look hard enough, you’ll see the plan before your eyes. Let circumstances unfold without your intervention or delay your action just long enough to see the real “whole story”. If you are a supervisor or leader, you should be working to keep your staff from worrying. Keep them in the loop on issues and be honest. It’s hard for an employee to worry about something when they know the facts. Ask employees what they worry about, you might be surprised by the answers you get. Worry is wasted energy and emotions so don’t fall into the trap. You control your reaction – worry or action, the choice is yours.

25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26

Luke answers my question – worrying will not add to your life, so why do it? As believers, we know three things about our lives: 1) God has a plan for us 2) Our time here on earth has already been determined and 3) Our trust is in God. We are however, logical thinkers by design. God gave us free will to live our lives. I’ll argue then, that if you believe God has a plan for you and that you trust in Him, what do you have to worry about?

If we cannot add a single hour to our own lives, then what is the point? Is worry the creation of Satan to breakdown our trust in God? I don’t know the answer but I know that far too many people turn away from God because they get lost in worrying and find ways to satisfy that emotion which in turn reveals more worry, etc. There is only one that can weave that sort of confusion in our lives. Let God take that worry from you, He likes to hear what is troubling His children. God will be there for you no matter what you are worried about, give Him your troubles. Let God work in your life and you’ll be amazed at the great things that he will reveal. Put your trust in God and less on your own ability and He will be there for you.

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.