Archive for the ‘Circumstances’ Category

I have tended to be pessimistic most of my life. I have often followed Murphy’s Law that if something could go wrong, it probably will. I have frequently concluded that the glass was half empty, rather than half full.

Yet, I know this is wrong.

An example of this happened in the past this week. I received a number of test results regarding my physical condition. It was mostly good news! Yet a couple of results weren’t to my liking. Since then, I have felt upset over those results, even though I seem to be in pretty good shape overall.

I concluded that the glass was half empty.

But was the glass half empty?

Why We Think the Glass is Half Empty

The world we live in teaches us to see life as the glass is half empty. Listen to the nightly news or read a newspaper and compare positive to negative news. It’s overwhelmingly negative.

In addition, many of us were trained in homes that saw life as the glass is half empty. As a result, many of us have been thinking that the glass is half empty for a long time. Today, I tend to focus on what is wrong with my situation, and discount the good about it.

Also, from my earliest years, I have had low expectations for good things to happen in the future. I tend to expect something close to the worst possible outcome, until it happens for the better. It is a habit of thinking that is hard to go away.

How We Can See the Glass as Half Full

First, we need to change our thinking habits. We need to think more like God, who wants us to see that the glass as half full. ”And we know that God causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28).

He wants us to choose to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8, NIV) about our situation. We tend to think about whatever may not be true, whatever is wrong, and whatever is ugly.

Another way to change our thinking habits and see life more positively is to pray and mediate on the Scriptures, These are God’s thoughts and they help us to gain God’s positive viewpoint on our problems. Such as, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Instead, we tend to curse the darkness and get upset when we are hit with problems.

A third way we can grow in seeing that the glass as half full is to re-train ourselves. For example, when my book sales are low and few are reading my blog, I am training myself to thank God for the meager results that do not reduce my worth, his love for me, and my acceptance. I am learning to receive God’s gift of being important to him for just being me, and not because I am a superstar who succeeds in everything that I do.

So, let’s develop the habit of seeing the positive in our circumstances and our future. Let’s learn to see our glass as being half full!

 

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One of the most difficult commands to obey is to give thanks to God for everything (Ephesians 5:20). I sort of obey it, but not completely.

Why should I thank God for being hospitalized five times this year? Why should I thank him for two surgeries, one in which I almost died? Why should I thank God for the hard time that a church I care about is going through?

I don’t have any problem thanking God for the many good things in my life- like three grandchildren, areas of growth in my life, and pretty good health now.

But to thank him for things that hurt, scare, and depress?

Now that Thanksgiving is approaching, I would like to grow in giving thanks for the “bad” things, or throw the command out and accept the fact that God didn’t mean what I thought he meant.

So, should we give thanks for everything?

God says to us, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He also says, “I work all your circumstances for your good” (Romans 8:28), paraphrased).

What he is telling us is that he controls what is happening to us and makes sure that they bend to accomplish his purposes and our good.

But we may say, “How can this cancer be good?” Or, “How can this big failure be good?”

He responds, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces [godliness] for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

How many children really think that being disciplined is good? My kids never believed me when I told them that the spanking I was going to give them would hurt me more than them (I think they knew I was kidding).

But with God it’s true. He says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). He hurts us that he may do good to us. He desires that we become wise, not foolish – so, he disciplines us.

God considers our circumstances to be good if they lead to our godliness, even if they are painful, scary and depressing. He is bending all our circumstances towards helping us to depend on him instead of pleasant circumstances (which don’t always happen).

Not to say that he won’t give us good circumstances, for he promises us many good circumstances because he loves us so much (Psalm 23:6). Nevertheless, he is relentless in developing an intimate love relationship with us and if hard times will help this to happen, he will cause or allow them.

Therefore, it makes sense to give thanks for everything.

So, I challenge you to join me this Thanksgiving season to give thanks for everything. God will use our pesky problems, weaknesses, and failures to transform us into more godly people.

I know it seems insane to give thanks for things that hurt. But he wants us to believe that he is in control and has our best interest at heart in everything that happens to us.

Though we may not understand what the good is in our circumstances, let us trust this Thanksgiving season that God will cause good to come from them. A good that otherwise would never have happened (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let’s give thanks for everything!

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I was looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend. So many happy memories are tied into this holiday for me. Probably the biggest blessing is that it means the beginning of summer is here!

So I planned to have a relaxing weekend with friends and watching old war movies in honor of the veterans who have given their lives to preserve our wonderful way of life.

But God had different plans for me. I spent much of the weekend in the hospital. Last Friday I was admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. However, the tests showed no evidence of a stroke, so they called it a TIA (temporary stroke). I was released on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, I had to be taken by ambulance from the church service to the emergency room of a local hospital because I nearly fainted. This time it was due to dehydration as a result of being prescribed a double dose of blood pressure medicine.

So, my plans were blown apart. Little happened that weekend that I had planned.

So, what is God trying to teach us through my example?

One thing is that we do not control our circumstances. He does. Whatever we think our future will be, it will only be if God determines it will be. It will not be based on random luck or probabilities.

 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that”’ (James 4:14-15).

One of my first struggles after the weekend was to get some assurances that these circumstances will never happen again. God’s response to me was this: “The circumstances will never happen again – unless I cause them for my good purposes.”

His response does give me some comfort. But my deep desire is to be assured that I will never have to go through these scary circumstances again.

I then recalled how I had had tuberculosis 32 years ago and was cured. I asked the doctor then what assurances do I have that this will never happen again. I never received that assurance.

But tuberculosis never did return.

So, another thing God wants to teach us is that even though we do not control our circumstances, we do not need to be afraid because he is good. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
 all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).

But we will be sorely tempted to retreat into good circumstances to feel safe. But God warns us that we will not find our peace there.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (that rob you of your peace). But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So, how do we live with peace knowing that we live in a dangerous world that is out of our control?

God says to us, “Do not fear, I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).

Is that all you have to say God? Our reason not to be afraid is simply that you are with us?

But he also promises us that because he is with us, “I will strengthen you,

“Surely I will help you,

“Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

He promises us in Psalm 46 that he is not just a spectator of our troubles but a very present help in enabling us to get through them in a godly way.

No, we can’t be assured that nothing threatening will happen to us. Yet, we can be assured that many of the dangers we fear, will never happen to us because he is good. But if they do, God will empower us to meet the challenges with his strength and grace (Deuteronomy 33:25b).

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I was really bummed out yesterday when I heard the news. In some ways I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that my book publisher had gone out of business a few days ago taking $6,000 of mine without giving me anything in return.

Why did God lead me to the publisher anyway? Did I miss God’s will? What do I do next?

I soon did what I have slowly learned to do over the years- I took the confusing mess to God to help me sort out what my next step was.

So, why does life sometimes throw us curves?

One of the first things we need to realize is that God either caused or allowed it. “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13).

It seems that God does not see the curve as a curve but part of his plan of bringing us into a more intimate love relationship with himself by transforming and empowering us. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). And “He predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

God also throws curves at us sometimes to check our hearts. He wants no person or project to be our first love. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

Like Abraham was tested by God to see if he loved his only son more than he loved God, God sometimes tests our hearts to see if he is still Number One (Genesis 22).

So, what do we do with the curve that God throws our way?

One thing we can do is to ask God questions like, “What do you want me to do in this situation? What does it look like to be godly in this difficult circumstance?”

We may also ask him why this happened. But often he will not tell us for he wants us to learn to trust him even without understanding why something happened (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Another thing we can do is to face the curve squarely. We suffer when we choose to deny or run from the pain. We need to feel the full impact of the curve and seek God’s comfort and encouragement. “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

And finally we need to wait and listen for God’s response. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

We may continue on the path we have been on until we hear from him, but we are alert for his response, which can come to us in a variety of ways. Some of the ways include through his Word, through other believers, our thoughts, and circumstances.

So, what curve has been thrown at you? May I suggest that you take that curve to God today and ask him for understanding and wisdom in dealing with it.

 

 

 

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On Thursday of last week I was at a Writer’s Conference having a great time in the scenic mountains of Santa Cruz. My thoughts were filled with questions I had for my writing mentor who I was to meet with at 4. A few minutes before my appointment, as I was going down some outside steps, my foot missed the second step from the top.  The next thing I knew I had hit my head on the concrete at the bottom of the stairs.

As I lay there, being stared at by five pairs of eyeballs, I tried to assess the situation. I sensed that it would not be wise to stand up. Then, one of the pair of eyeballs begin looking me over in a knowing way. I hoped with all my heart that he would not find anything of concern.

We talked for a bit, and then he gave me a choice. One option was to go to the hospital in an ambulance and be checked out more closely. I didn’t want to do that! The other option was for him to take me to Urgent Care in a car and there be examined further. That sounded better!

At Urgent Care I was checked and probed again. This time it was a doctor doing the checking. The conclusion was mostly good, but she did declare that I had suffered a minor concussion. She indicated that this could lead to some serious complications in the next few days. However, she comforted me with saying that these complications were not likely.

It has now been nine days since the accident. I am grateful to God that these complications never happened. I also have nearly recovered from all my visible injuries. This even includes my black eye.

So, what did God have in mind when he allowed this accident? I certainly do not know all that he had in mind, but the following are my takeaways so far:

  • Gained wisdom in going down stairs.
  • Felt loved and protected by God. The injuries could have been much worse.
  • Reminded how fragile life is, and everything can change in a moment.
  • Experienced God’s love and concern through many people during this difficult time.
  • Know that God will bring good from the missed 4 o clock appointment, although I was deeply disappointed in not making it to the time (Romans 8:28).

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When God Closes a Door

I have been dealing with closed doors this summer. I don’t like closed doors, even if God is the one who closes them. For example, it appears that God is leading us to another church after 31 years. This has caused me considerable grief, hurt, and sadness. I love the people at our church and I hate change.

Yet, it seems God is clearly leading Adele and I to leave. He has other works for us to do in other places. At first, I did not fully feel the pain of this closed door because I was so busy. However, a week ago, a ministry I had been heavily involved in ended, and I had time to face the painful emotions deep within. I then developed neck pain, which served as another diversion like busyness did from facing the painful feelings within.

However, in the last few days, I have decided to ignore the neck pain (which I understand to be harmless based on my past history), and focus on the grief I am feeling in the caldron of my soul. Grieving about a closed door is a process and I must be patient, for it does take time. Closed doors often feel to me like rejection, low worth, and not being loved.

However, facing the grief and processing it leads to my acceptance of the closed door. This helps me to develop a positive attitude towards life and not a bitter one. By faith now, but often by sight later, I can thank and praise God for his goodness and grace in closing this door.

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