Resting in God: When God Seems Silent

In writing this particular post, I credit Randy Alcorn’s excellent article about God’s silence for the main ideas/concepts of this post. I recommend that you read this article and glean from it! My desire is to further explore items he mentions.

Article Credit: Randy Alcorn: Waiting When God Seems Silent as posted on desiringgod.org

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/waiting-when-god-seems-silent?fbclid=IwAR2IpA4TwtxpDcxsnm5_Ujef5Wr6WuQfKffTTKyeh34LMtpXAd8goIkRH50

All quotes labeled as Randy Alcorn comes from the above article

Is God Really Silent in our Lives?

This is an important question that we need to consider! How often do we complain that God isn’t present, we don’t know what to do or say, and other similar complaints? I find myself doing this when I lose focus and spend more time worrying than I do trusting in God. Is God’s Word ever silent? Open the Bible anywhere and you will hear God’s voice as you read. If you are like me, you may wonder how what you read applies to your own life and situation.

Read Exodus and see God’s mighty miraculous deeds. Yet, it’s also apparent considering God’s redemptive actions, His people still don’t trust Him when pressured. Are we any different? We want to see and experience God in mighty ways without the confusing and chronic difficulties that come in life. Is it possible that God seems silent because there is so much “noise” in our lives and “busy-ness” that we don’t recognize Him when He speaks?

My old testament professor reminded me that God’s grace is present and visible in every book of the Bible–not just the New Testament Gospels! The historical narratives of God’s people (Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, and Judges) shows that time after time they failed yet God intervenes to save and deliver them. God even sends His prophets–Samuel, Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others to deliver His word. Sometimes the people respond and repent, but as a whole they don’t. That’s why Hebrews warns us about not entering God’s rest (see my previous blog about entering God’s rest).

When we can’t hear or discern God

There are also those times where we are daily reading God’s Word, praying for guidance, and practicing spiritual discernment/disciplines. Yet, God doesn’t seem to be answering us or giving us the answers we need or want. Does that mean that we are sinning or not seeking God? No, it may mean that God wants us to keep seeking Him, hungering for Him in an increasing manner even when we can’t feel or discern that He’s there.

How much do we really desire God? How can we know how much we desire God? This becomes apparent when the confusing and trying times of life come upon us. Our reaction and thoughts often give us clues to our situation. Do we love God’s many blessings and our self-fulfilling dreams more than God Himself? Do we live our lives for ourselves or others more than seeking to live for God? These are important questions to ask yourself!

Perhaps God brings times of difficulty and silence to draw us even closer! Remember the story about young Samuel when God speaks to him and he thinks that it’s Eli. God had to speak multiple times before Samuel (at Eli’s prompting) finally asks God if it’s Him. Samuel had to learn to hear God’s voice!

God loves us perfectly and desires to perfect our desire for Him

Randy Alcorn writes:

“Waiting on God involves learning to lay our questions before him. It means that there is something better than knowing all the answers: knowing and trusting the only One who does know and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).”

This is a lesson that God has taught me during my “dark night.” God graciously allowed me the privilege of attending Bible College (Union University) and a full year of seminary studies (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). I’ve studied theology for the past fifteen years by reading books, articles, listening to sermons, etc. But it’s when the confusion and disappointments of life come that we really understand just how little we understand and know about God! It’s how we face and deal with our deepest wounds that really matters. Do we draw closer to God in humility or turn away in bitter disappointment?

Seeing others suffer and face perplexing difficulties in their lives led me to question God and His goodness. I was like Job’s friends who saw others hurting and found myself unable to provide any understanding or help. Thankfully, God brought some wise authors into my life. Jon Bloom, Phillip Yancey, Larry Crabb, and Randy Alcorn have helped me to grow and expand in my understanding of why God often seems hidden and uninvolved.

Hurting people don’t need our insights or theology. They need to be heard and understood. Listening and walking with them is more important than answering questions (unless specifically asked). A hug or shared concern is more precious than wise sayings or try fixing the problems (which we can’t)!

God increases our faith and purifies us

Randy reminds us:

“Trusting God when we don’t hear him ultimately strengthens and purifies us. If our faith is based on lack of struggle and affliction and absence of doubt and questions, that’s a foundation of sand. Such faith is only one frightening diagnosis or shattering phone call away from collapse. Token faith will not survive the dark night of the soul. When we think God is silent or absent, God may show us that our faith is false or superficial. Upon its ruin, we can learn to rebuild on God our Rock, the only foundation that can bear the weight of our trust.”

What is your faith based on? Recall Jesus’ parable about the man who builds his house on the rock. The storms of life will reveal our foundation! God’s silence as the waves crash upon us can be deeply unsettling! But if this unsettling leads you to trust and depend on Him more is that not ultimately an act of mercy? Now might be a good time to revisit “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” and “Rock of Ages”. A good hymn reminds us of God’s truths!

Applications for the time(s) of silence

  1. Randy explains that “His silence is a matter of perspective.” Randy then provides multiple scriptures to remind us that God is speaking in other ways. He reminds us that God whispers to “bring us to the end of ourselves. To prompt us to be still and seek him. And to build our faith and eventually speak more clearly or heal our hearing problem.”
  2. “If we lean on him while we wait, God will give us the grace to wait and to listen carefully as we pray, go to trusted Christ-followers for encouragement, and keep opening his word and asking him to help us hear him.” Faith is ultimately victorious!
  3. As explained in previous blogs, God draws us to Himself by denying us things that we desire more than Him! Sometimes hearing and understanding God keep us from God as we have “selective” hearing. Are we being obedient to what He has already revealed to us?
  4. No matter how difficult and taxing, keep reading and seeking God in His Word. Go deep in your study–asking questions and seeking to understand God’s message.
  5. Worship with fellow believers. Often when I least desire to attend and participate in church is when I need to be present and involved the most! Fight the tendency to separate ourselves from others when hurting. True worship flows from broken, humble, and contrite hearts!

May God’s mighty grace and passion for you sustain you during the times of silence!

For His glory and honor I write,

Lee Stanfill

Resting in God: The Dark Nights Part 1: The Problem of the Whys

This post series is for the soul who is genuinely seeking God regardless of how difficult the journey becomes. According to God’s Word and church history, those who truly sought Christ experienced seasons of darkness, confusion, and the feeling of abandonment. St. John of the Cross, a 16th Century Catholic Priest wrote about his “dark night of the soul.” He discusses how God works through our spiritual darkness to draw us closer to Himself (simplified explanation of his work). As I’ve mentioned in previous writings, Abraham, Moses, the disciples, and Paul all faced times of difficulty, testing, waiting, and darkness. Considering that I write these blogs to encourage you, you may be wondering why I am writing about difficulties and uncertainties instead of Christ’s victory and the ultimate triumph of faith! All quotes are from Larry Crabb’s: Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy unless otherwise noted.

We will all face times of doubt and uncertainty in our journeys!

Every believer will face times of uncertainty in his or her journey of faith. It’s easy to feel alone, misunderstood, and cast aside when it seems as though everyone else is living victorious and happy lives. I plan to address the difference between happiness and joy in terms of God’s work in our lives in a future writing. If we could see others as our Savior does we would quickly realize that most aren’t as joyful as they might appear to be.

Have you ever encountered a saint who is struggling; who isn’t afraid to admit that things aren’t going well? Such saints often confess that each day is a struggle to find, experience, and understand God. Often we pretend that all is well when around others especially in church. Who likes being around someone who is sad or disturbed? So we put on our happy faces and “all is good” mask when all isn’t well. Larry remind us on page 63: emphasis mine

“Church is too often a place of pretense and therefore a place without hope. When brokenness is disdained, where the real story is never told, the power of God is not felt. Where brokenness is invited and received with grace, the gospel comes alive with hope.”

If we were honest and willing to tell the truth about our brokenness and genuinely, actively listen to others, what might happen? Perhaps someone visiting or struggling themselves might see grace, hope, and community instead of hypocrisy. Larry suggests that we are truthful about what is going on in our lives and ask for help when we need it.

Encountering God brings change and initiates a journey of dependence

Have you considered that anyone who encounters God in scriptures is profoundly changed? This encounter leads to a transformational struggle and journey of dependence on God. Isaiah and Jeremiah’s lives became more difficult after hearing from God. What about Moses? So much for the calm and quiet of sheep pasturing in the desert. After hearing from God, he was sent to confront Pharaoh and endure years of rebellion and complaining.

Consider Jonah. He was so disturbed by God’s grace and mercy for the wicked in Nineveh that he fled immediately! He did this because he knew about God’s mercy and grace. He feared that they might repent and God wouldn’t destroy them. He spent time in the dark belly of the fish after being thrown over board. He asks God to end his life sitting in the desert as he hopes to see God’s wrath fall on Nineveh. Jonah is angry at God!

https://www.gotquestions.org/Jonah-angry.html

The Twelves Disciples all had jobs, families, and plans for their lives. Christ arrives and their hopes for the restoring of the Kingdom of Israel blossoms only to be transformed into something unexpected-a brutal execution, Resurrection, and ascension into heaven! Paul was serving in his ministry as a Pharisee until Jesus confronts him. Acts clearly recounts the many beatings, trials, and dangers that Paul faced in his missionary and teaching ministries.

I have a better option for you to consider! Without being the self-piting Eeyore that most people seek to avoid, is it possible to live authentically?

A sad Eeyore sitting on the ground.
Eeyore, image is property of the Disney company

Yes, when we recognize that God is present even in our dark nights of confusion and feeling abandoned. Larry Crabb expounds his idea that God deliberately withdraws from us to cause us to desire Him more. He reminds us that we often try to “spiritualize” the difficult and confusing events/struggles of our lives. We do this when we mention a difficulty then try to explain how God is working through it in the same conversation.

Let’s be honest with God, ourselves, and others when facing this situation! Often times we don’t know what God is doing. We speculate and try to make it more pleasant for others to hear. It terrifies us when we can’t see or perceive His involvement. We have a tendency to respond to tragedies and deaths this way. We have this compelling need to understand why and try to assign some meaning or see some “greater good”. Perhaps the wise option is to recognize and accept the tragedy and grieve with our suffering brothers and sisters!

In short, we have a mistaken idea that understanding what God is doing will make it easier. Sometimes we “try” to help others understand too in our attempts to help. Consider Job’s friends and their attempts to explain God’s activities and purpose. What if we aren’t meant to understand why? God doesn’t explain the why to Job. God shows up and asks Job questions that he can’t answer. Job agrees with God. Below is a helpful article in understanding how Job reacts to God and what’s really going on!

God demands that Job’s friends repent from their wrong ideas and statements about Him. Perhaps knowing the why becomes more important to us than knowing and trusting God. Job is ultimately comforted by God’s appearance and presence.

The Sun rises and the sun sets–there is a time for darkness to begin and then end.
Encouraging Truths for Dark Moments

1. You’re not alone in the struggle–real faith that honors God is faith that is proven and endures–Hebrews 11. God has a purpose and plan even though we don’t see or understand the “whys”.

2. “God is working when we see nothing but darkness. He is moving with rhythmic purpose though our agony and pain to unimaginable joy.” pg 57. This is in reference to the account of Naomi and Ruth.

3. “Knowing that He’s moving at all sometimes becomes the central piece of faith we need to keep ourselves moving. The courage to not quit, to not settle for immediate pleasure . . . often depends on our conviction that God is moving . . . that there is no other way to get there.” pg 57

4. Paraphrase from Oswald Chambers, Jan. 22–Be certain to build your faith on Christ and keep your gaze on Him when things start pressing against you. The key is to keep looking to Christ!

Our knowledge and faith that God is working through all things then encourage us to grow in our dependence on Him. The uncertainties and difficulties cause us to “look up to God” instead of the pleasures and happiness of the world. Oswald Chambers provides some excellent advice on this in his January 22 devotional. The devotional is available at https://utmost.org/

5. Seek professional assistance when the “darkness” begins to significantly impact your daily life/activities/thoughts. Covid19 pandemic and other stresses are causing mental health problems in many people’s lives including children and teens. Watch for signs that others around you may be in crisis and voice your concerns.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

In concluding this post, I want to remind you that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s important to understand that a “dark time” can be anxiety, depression or some other medical condition that needs to be diagnosed then treated by a professional! When dealing with prolonged anxiety, grief, and/or major life changes, a professional counselor can help you to gain clarity and work through the intense emotions/thoughts you may be experiencing. A licensed counselor (LPC) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) can assess your situation. CBT [Cognitive Behavior Therapy] helped me to identify and work through some issues that led to long term healing and better mental health for me. God graciously blessed me with good counselors who helped me to recognize and deal with past traumas!

I also want you to recognize that depression is a real illness that has spiritual, emotional, and physical components that requires medical/counseling treatment for improvement. I believe in God’s Word, prayer, and God’s ability to heal broken spirits. Sometimes people are afraid to seek mental health treatment when that’s the key to getting better. In my area that are several Christian Counselors who are LPCs. God uses medical and counseling professionals’ treatment to help us to heal!

May God enlighten your pathways! Remember that His Radiant Light can burn off the fog of despair and grief!

For Christ and His glory I write,

Lee Stanfill

Entering Into God’s Rest

For the past weeks, I have been considering how that God shatters our dreams in order to bless us. At times in our lives we experience times of weariness and weakness. Today, I would like to focus on how God provides rest. We will consider the relationship between the Matthew 11:28-30, Deuteronomy 12:9-10, and Hebrews chapters 3-4.

Creation and Rest, God’s example and command

To begin, we need to define what rest is according to God. This concept first appears in the creation account in Genesis. The Hebrew word is shabat which means to “stop or cease.” Genesis presents God as being Omnipotent (all powerful). So why does God rest? Because He completed His creative work. Simply, He finished everything as He desired. No last minute changes were necessary because He did everything perfectly! The basis for a seven day week with rest on day seven comes from God’s example and requirement for rest. For additional scriptures and explanation:

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-rest-seventh-day.html

Why does God command us to cease? Because He desires for us to rest in His finished work for us. Six days of the week we are striving for ourselves, families, jobs, etc. It’s vital that we cease and rest in Him.

Jesus’ call to rest in Him: Matthew 11:28-30

28.Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

When reading these verses, it’s vital to understand the context. John the Baptist has just sent messengers to Jesus inquiring about if He is the Messiah. Reports were spreading that Jesus was eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus has just warned about God’s judgment coming upon those who won’t believe/repent (example of Sodom). He goes to the extent of mentioning known pagan centers (Tyre and Sidon) as being more repentant (sackcloth and ashes if given opportunity) than the cities He had been preaching in. The issue was the refusal to repent. The Jewish people were refusing to accept Jesus as Messiah due to His associating with sinners. Even John the Baptist has his doubts. Why is this so?

The Jewish people weren’t willing to see Jesus as God! They have their own ideals about who and what the Messiah should be. Jesus eating with sinners isn’t part of it. They believed that sin was contagious and being around sinners was wrong. The go so far as to later accuse Jesus of having a demon.

It’s easy to fault them while we overlook our modern misconceptions! When reading the Gospels have you ever got frustrated with the people? Why can’t they just accept Jesus? Why the constant resistance and rebellion? Why do we resist God’s offer of rest? Perhaps it because we believe in our own ways more than God’s.

They (Hebrews) were attuned to a relationship with God that involved obeying rules and making sacrifices. Jesus is the Sacrifice, but one has to accept Him and repent from the false “self-righteousness” that sought God’s favor through outward law abiding in place of inner heart renewal. Do we not make the same error?

We try to please God hoping that He will bless us instead of trusting and resting in His Atonement and work in our lives! We need to live in ways that pleases and honors God. But, we can’t depend on our efforts of pleasing God to remain in proper relationship with Him. It’s about His Grace not about our self righteous intentions or actions! Our self-seeking “righteousness” is like filthy rags before God according to Isaiah 64:4-7. John Piper describes this in his devotional below

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dirty-rags-no-more

In this passage “filthy” refers to the false righteousness of unrepentant being sent into exile. They thought they were okay with God (because of self-reliance) when in reality they were in serious trouble. This verse is properly interpreted in the context of recognizing sinful nature and turning to God for salvation instead of depending on your own self-motivated deeds! It’s Christ’s righteousness that saves us!

God’s Promise of Rest to His People Deuteronomy 12:9-10

God promises rest and peace to His people as well as a place where His people can bring sacrifices and offerings (setting to worship Him). While Jesus forever ended the need for sacrifices, do we not need rest and peace in our lives? The Hebrew people lived in area surrounded by idol worshiping pagans. The entire religious and moral system of the region stands in opposition to God’s. The Canaanites practiced human sacrifice and all types of immoral and cruel idol worship. They were lost in darkness. God intended for His people to be an example/a light that would reveal His Holiness, Goodness, and Glory.

Many in our society are lost as well. There are many who think that having a good job, family, house, car, etc. is the “good life.” As Christians we know that God is the Ultimate Source of Goodness and all good things are gifts from Him. It’s sad to see people trapped in debt and other situations in their pursuit of good things. The good things become false idols to pursue instead of a relationship with God. God’s grace is a refreshing source of life for us and others! Christ shines through His people when they depend and rest in Him!

The Concept of Entering into Rest in Hebrews Chapters 3-4

The author of Hebrews uses the example of the Hebrews in the desert to warn Christians. The Hebrews decided that their way was better than God’s! They refused to obey God’s command to enter into Canaan. Consequently, God kept them out in the desert until all of the unfaithful ones died. Their sin appears in Hebrews 3:16-19

16For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

The sin is unbelief–they didn’t obey God’s Word. They didn’t believe His Promise and choose fear and anxiety over obedience. They saw the “giants” and “great walled cities” as being greater than the Almighty God. While it’s easy to recognize their failures, do we not commit the same errors in our lives? The remedy for this serious sin is found in God’s Living Word! Repent and Trust in God instead of seeking out your own way!

We need to rest in God just as the young runner rests on the bench

Jesus also rests just as His Father! Since Jesus is with God having completed His mission we can rest in Him!

10For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

The author of Hebrews reminds us to: (Hebrews 4:11-16)

11Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Our Compassionate High Priest

14Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For a good overview and additional details/scriptures, I found this posting to be helpful:

https://www.gotquestions.org/enter-Gods-rest.html

Applications

Point 1: Rest in God’s grace and accept His provisions for sins. Realize that our “good” deeds come through relationship with Christ as evidence of His work and presence.

Point 2: Consider how life’s demands: pressures, anxieties, difficulties can cause loss of focus and trust. Recognize when this is happening and turn to God for strength and help.

Point 3: Remember that God’s Word guides and convicts us. Jesus is our High Priest in which we can rest. Religion and self-righteousness are dry wells that lead to increased exhaustion.

Point 4: Boldly and confidently approach God and seek His mercy and grace instead of relying on others or self.

May God bless you and make you a blessing to others as you refresh your soul in His Rest!

For His glory and the encouragement of fellow pilgrims, I write

Lee Stanfill

Shattered: The Puzzle

There are moments in our faith journeys wherein life and faith just don’t make sense. Much like putting a puzzle together without the photo from the puzzle box, we feel as though we are left with a bunch of “random” pieces and no way of putting them together.

I want to encourage you to consider several truths during these moments in your life.

First, God works in us to develop “true” faith that leads us to totally depend on Him as we consider our situation.

Abraham’s faith journey begins with God’s call and promise(s) to him. God promises him the impossible-a child in his old age! Paul speaks of Abraham’s faith in Romans 4:18. Paul writes that Abraham believed “in hope against hope”. In verse 19, he adds “without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Verses 20-21 continues, “yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, v 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”

What seems to be impossible and difficult is what brought about God’s redemptive plan! Verses 23-25 Paul explains how Abraham’s belief in God relates to his righteousness and establishes a parallel for us who believe in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Faith wasn’t easy for Abraham nor should we expect it to be for us. The key to Abraham’s righteousness and faith was a firm belief that God would deliver according to His promises. In simple terms, Abraham trusted God’s Word and believed. Doing so gives glory to God. Have you considered that your difficulties and struggles in faith may be on display for God’s glory? God will work in our lives for His greater glory! Consider Job’s trial of faith in this regard.

The Firm Foundation of Faith is Belief and Trust

It’s important to properly know God and His Ways as He reveals Himself. As He guides us along this journey of faith we will experience His goodness, compassion, and gentle nature; but we can’t base our faith on our experience(s). What if we wrongly interpret or misunderstand the events of our lives? Our perspective can become twisted and colored by our disappointments and difficulties. We must depend on God’s Word and the truths that He reveals about Himself and our nature to properly ground ourselves. It’s easy to misunderstand and incompletely understand events when we are experiencing doubt, grief, loss, etc! God reveals Himself to be a Good Creator and us as sinful and fallen creatures. We need to remember our nature and position in relation to God!

Consistently reading and meditating on God’s Word grounds us in the reality of God’s nature and presence. I recommend that you read and study God’s Word with the intention of applying what God reveals to your life. God’s Word (Bible) is the picture to help us to put together the puzzle!

When the pieces don’t want to go together

Have you ever tried to force a puzzle piece into fitting in the open spaces? Doesn’t work too well does it? Our lives and journeys of faith are complex with multiple layers and dimensions. Have you ever put together a 3D puzzle? They’re a different level of challenge from the normal 2D puzzles.

I use the example of Abraham frequently because his life and faith journey teaches much about God and our nature! Abraham tries to help God with Hagar and Ishmael. That doesn’t turn out well does it? If we are honest, we try the same thing ourselves! Yet God’s grace and mercy shines forth through Abraham’s failures. God doesn’t give up on Abraham! God graciously works in his life and circumstances to make him more faithful and trusting.

God promises us His presence and guidance. Yet, when we get confused or impatient we often turn to our fellow humans or worldly wisdom for guidance instead of going directly to Christ. It’s wise to seek counsel and ask trusted friends to pray for us in times of need. God established the church to provide Christians with community wherein we can grow and strengthen each other in fellowship, community, and service. God gifts men and women with spiritual gifts to serve and edify the community! However, it’s our responsibility to seek God first and invest time in His Word studying so that we can properly relate to God and others.

God allows us to be tested in the areas of His promises to us.

This is obvious in the life of Abraham. God promises to protect him then Abraham has to face the reality of famine and living in hostile territory. He lies to Pharaoh and later Abimelech to save himself from potential harm. This commentary article gives perspective:

After John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, Holy Spirit leads Him into the desert to be tested. Satan’s tests Jesus based on His role as Messiah. Why does God allow this? Because Jesus is setting an example of perfect response to trial. Jesus establishes Himself as perfectly righteous in His total dependence on God and His Word. Jesus shows us the key to victory: living through God’s Word.

Satan will tempt you to despair. He will try to convince you that God isn’t really good. He will encourage you to seek out life in yourself, in worldly pleasures, and in others. Satan’s number one priority is to get us to focus on ourselves and our needs instead of trusting in God. Satan is a powerful force that will come against you in your journey of faith.

The best counter to a lie is the truth! Thankfully, God’s Living Word and Guiding Holy Spirit leads us in truth and keeps us on track. Remember that Satan comes only to lie and destroy (John 10:10). True life comes through our Good Shepherd not through material/worldly success or human religion!

So what should you do when the pieces don’t fit? Trust and wait in God. Remember that we don’t have to see the “big” picture or understand what God is doing to be faithful.

God doesn’t explain Himself or tell us why

Knowledge can be a trap. We often want to know the “why” and “what” of the things that are occurring in our lives that confuse and frustrate us. The danger comes when we desire knowledge about God more than being in a proper relationship with God! This is a subtle trap for young, eager theologians like me. Knowing God better means that we should love and trust Him more! Theology studied and applied leaves us in awe of God’s Great Compassion, Holiness, and Mercy! Studying God’s Word reminds me just how perfect God is and that we humans are so fragile and foolish! Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:25

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Paul is referring to God’s salvation, specifically preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus to the Greeks and Jews. The Greeks considered Jesus being human and divine to be foolish as they considered the spiritual nature to be above flesh. They couldn’t believe that God would become flesh as flesh is considered weak/sinful in regards to spiritual. What god would condescend to becoming human?

The Jews denied Christ as Messiah because He wasn’t a political leader and was “hung on a tree.” Being hung or executed on a tree/cross was considered to be a sign of being cursed by God. They couldn’t understand that God’s curse on Christ is what leads to being made right with God! Tragically, we can see that both the Gentiles and Jews found reasons to deny Christ! This is because both parties are unable to perceive God’s plan and work through His Son. It’s possible to find reasons to not trust and depend on God. This happens when we depend on ourselves and other fallen sources for answers instead of God and His truths! In a similar manner, we also can trap ourselves in a vicious cycle of remaining focused on our difficulties/complaints and attending our own pity parties. When this happens, the best thing to do is re-focus on God.

God might not explain the particular reason why you are struggling or facing difficulties. However, God’s Word provides general ideas of why we suffer: here are 3 generalities

  1. righteous people living in a fallen world will suffer because of our sins and those of others–God doesn’t stop us or others from making bad and evil choices
  2. Jesus promises us tribulations and difficulties–God doesn’t promise us a prosperous or easy life for trusting and following Him. Jesus promises that He overcomes!
  3. God creates faith and dependence in His redeemed–this process involves difficult trials and lessons as He molds us

If God told you specifically why you are facing a difficulty would it make it any easier? Knowing why doesn’t guarantee that we will trust Him more; consequently, it can have the opposite effect. For example, God reveals to King Saul why He rejected him as king. Saul doesn’t repent or trust in God. He becomes jealous and full of hate toward David. God made His plans for the conquest of the Promised Land clear to the Hebrews yet they still rebel against Him. Hebrews Chapter 11 defines faith and provides numerous examples for us. The common theme is that faith involves trusting God’s promise(s) and hoping in Him.

Hope when the puzzle doesn’t seem to be coming together

God works in His own time in accordance with His ways! If we are honest, we often don’t understand or appreciate God’s timing as we have our own schedules! Patience is a virtue that’s easy to consider/desire but hard to acquire. Patience requires waiting and trusting. God is more interested in us as a finished work than immediately satisfying our wants. I write these words to you as I am experiencing a season of waiting. My situation requires that I endure and wait through the “unknown” and anxious thoughts of what comes next.

The good news is that we don’t have to wait alone or face the uncertain future apart from God. I find comfort in considering God’s nature and knowing that what He has started He will finish. Beneficial study on God’s attributes

https://www.gotquestions.org/attributes-God.html

While I don’t have the answers, I have a relationship with the One who Knows All Things (Omniscient God), Has Infinite Presence (Omnipresent God), Infinite Power (Omnipotent), and is Omnibenevolent (God is All Good) ! Since God knows all things and seasons, I don’t have to! That’s a liberating thought when life seems incomprehensible and overwhelming. Since God has all power then He can easily accomplish what He plans. Thankfully, God is completely and perfectly Good. Even when we can’t understand, we can trust because God is Good and His Ways perfect.

https://www.gotquestions.org/God-is-good.html

Faith is victorious and we have assurance of completion in Christ! While our lives may not go easily or in accordance with our dreams/desires, we can trust that God’s plan and purpose for us will succeed. Ultimately, God delivers all the men and women of faith in His Word to His presence! When the pieces just don’t seem to fit we can trust that God is working and that He will deliver us to Himself! God will piece us together, especially when we are most shattered!

The next blog in this series will address finding rest in God (Hebrews Chapters 3 &4).

May God bless you with His presence and enlighten your minds to His great truths as you read and apply His Living Word to your journey of faith! Remember that God doesn’t break the broken reeds!

For His glory and the encouragement of fellow pilgrims, I write these words,

Lee Stanfill

Shattered For A Reason: True Hope

As I sit here and type these words, the snow is coming down. Considering that it was in the upper 70s days ago, the reality of winter weather is upon us! Have you considered what Jesus says about hope? How did He find hope in His difficult moments? Join me as I share quotes and personal insights from Larry Crabb’s: Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy. All quotes are from Chapter 3: Jesus Speaks. All words in quotations are direct quotes. I recommend reading this great book for spiritual growth!

When God tells us to keep hoping

“What God has in mind when He tells us to keep hoping may not be what we usually mean when we think of hope. We wish for things to get better; we want to feel what we want to feel.”

God has a different kind of hope in mind for us that transcends our feelings! We find this in Hebrews Chapter 11. Hebrews 11 teaches us that not every hero of faith was delivered from death. The Gospel of Luke informs us that John the Baptist faced doubts about Christ in Herod’s prison. For details:

https://www.neverthirsty.org/bible-studies/life-of-christ-ministry-in-galilee-early-a-d-32/john-the-baptist-has-doubts-about-christ/

If John the Baptist (great prophet) faces doubt and ultimately dies, what does this mean for us?

God has a different kind of hope for us that finds fulfillment in heaven–not on earth!

Larry reminds us that “apparently God is pleased with people who suffer terribly, whose lives never straighten out, but who keep trusting.” God is most pleased when men and women trust Him even when there is every reason to give up!

Ever wonder why Jesus didn’t rescue John the Baptist? He could have struck Herod down and brought the prison walls down (like Jericho’s walls) with a simple verbal command. Yet Jesus allows the wicked king to behead John. Jesus had something better for John than release from prison alive!

I want you to carefully consider this truth and how it applies to our lives! Some situations and difficulties may never go away or get better. God doesn’t promise us immediate relief and an end to our difficulties. There are things in our lives that we will continue to struggle with until our lives end!

Jesus: Garden of Gethsemane Luke 22:39-46

Jesus faced His darkest moment in Gethsemane the night of His arrest. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to look to Jesus (NKJV):

2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus for “joy” endured His horrible sufferings because He was aware of the outcome. Jesus endured and persevered because He was looking forward to completion of His mission: making all things new and honoring His Heavenly Father.

Look to Him and remember His example when it seems darkest in your life! Jesus is our Example and Redeemer. We can depend on Him and forsake our vain personal efforts to create peace and meaning.

Jesus offers us the power of hope!

Jesus offers us His power (Holy Spirit)! As Jesus prepares to leave earth after His resurrection, the Disciples ask Him about when He will restore His kingdom. The Disciples were hoping for an immediate end to the political Roman oppression. They correctly understood that the appearance of God’s Kingdom would immediately solve all problems. They were hoping for immediate relief when God has something entirely different planned! The Apostles and many early believers in Christ became martyrs. The Roman Empire doesn’t end until the 5th century (in the West) and 15th century (in the East) . Jerusalem is destroyed in 70 A.D. Things clearly didn’t go as many wished! God has something entirely different in mind. He has something much greater than immediate relief and worldly triumph in store for the faithful!

When Jesus addresses His disciples in Acts 1 before His Ascension He says: Acts 1:7-8 NKJV

7And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Larry describes this promise and power as:

“He would promise them not the power to avoid trouble, but the power to live the only life worth living. He would promise them the same power that was keeping Him on course while His own worst nightmare came true.”

In Jesus we have power to live a life worth living even with the difficulties and deep hurts!

Jesus graciously speaks to us reminding us “You will be able to remain faithful to Me no matter what happens in your life!” Jesus gives us sustaining faith and endurance especially in those moments where we most feel lost and hopeless! Jesus gives us enduring faith instead of immediate relief. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us!

Our suffering is not without purpose as it achieves a greater good

“God will never allow suffering to come into our lives that is not necessary to achieve His good purpose. He doesn’t like to see us suffer.”

While we may not currently be able to see the “greater good”; we can trust in God! Knowing that He is in control allows us to rest in Him! We don’t have to know the answers to the “whys” or pretend that all is well. Our role is to trust in Him, depend on His grace, and obey His Word. In the process, we will be made more like Christ and serve as witnesses to a lost world.

Suffering Creates Rich Hope and Great Joy

“Perhaps we’re meant to learn that the richest hope permits the deepest suffering, which releases the strongest power, which then produces the greatest joy. Maybe there is no shortcut to joy. Maybe God sometimes frustrates our desire to experience Him in order to deepen it.”

If we are honest, we would readily admit that we wish and long for things to be different! If you are struggling with these truths as I do, consider that God is at work in your life. Perhaps God is waking us up from a deep slumber of false hopes and insignificant, self-pleasing dreams unworthy of His redeemed!

May God’s light of Truth Shine New Truths to Guide your steps!
What Christ might speak to us–Larry Crabb’s perspective

“Some of your fondest dreams will shatter, and you will be tempted to lose hope. I will seem to you callous, or worse, weak-unresponsive to your pain. You will wonder if I cannot do anything or simply will not. . . And I will seem to withdraw from you and do nothing.”

“When all this comes to pass, My word to you is this: Do not lose hope. A plan is unfolding that you cannot clearly see. . .I guarantee you the power to please me, not to have a good time. But pleasing me will bring you great joy.”

Accordingly, we need to: (paraphrased from page 43)

1.Long to be a part of God’s plan to move His kingdom along

2.Know and seek to please God more than anything else

3.Enjoy God more than anyone or anything else

4.Remember that we have power through Holy Spirit to represent God well.

For God’s glory and the encouragement of His precious Saints, I post this blog

Lee Stanfill

Shattered for a Reason Part 1

It’s taken me several days to be able to put this blog together. This blog post isn’t written for the person who has all the answers or can fully explain the difficulties of life. Let’s be honest before God and others! This post is going to be brutally honest and unsettling. However, if we can recognize and accept the truths that I present herein; we can walk with integrity and certainty with God in our journeys of faith. I consistently grapple with these concepts and applications too.

There is meaning and purpose even when we can’t perceive or understand it

For a biblical example, let’s consider Naomi from the book of Ruth. Naomi’s family left Bethlehem for Moab due to a severe famine. Things seemed okay as her family was able to find wives for her sons. Yet tragedy soon came upon her. She lost her husband and sons. In the ancient world this was a serious situation as her entire family line was in danger of going extinct. She decides to return home to Israel. When she does make it back, she changes her name from Naomi “pleasant” to Mara “bitterness”. I plan to write more about Naomi and Ruth in later blogs.

Like Naomi we will experience death, sorrow, grief, and shattered dreams and hope(s). Are you honest enough to admit that there are times when our lives and situations seem hopeless? Naomi blamed God for her misfortune. I believe that Naomi is being honest and accurately perceives that God has allowed or even brought great suffering into our lives.

One faces two schools of thought in this situation: either God allows or causes events in our lives or things just happen by chance. Can we really know what God causes or allows? An honest answer would be that our finite and human minds can’t fully comprehend God’s ways. We can believe a Good, Loving, Perfect God brings about things for a purpose or we can believe that everything is up to chance.

Larry Crabb compares God to a good friend who doesn’t help us as we would expect. He asks this question:

“How do we trust a sometimes disappointing, seemingly fickle God who fails to do for us what good friends, if they could, would do?” pg. 31 Larry reminds us: “Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams that we improperly value are destroyed. . . They help us discover true hope. pg 32.” He explains that our lesser dreams and hopes keep us from experiencing true joy and hope in Christ. Is it possible that God shatters us to deeper bless us?

What we believe about God is crucial in moments of difficulty.

Reading God’s Word and learning God’s attributes and character guides us in knowing Him. We can choose to trust God or become bitter and angry about the events of our lives. I have done both in my journey. Bitterness begins with the daily hurts and confusion that comes when things fall apart in life. We blame God, ourselves, and others. This then becomes a cynical pattern that gets worse. As time progresses we turn inward and away from God and others. I believe that disappointment and discouragement are Satan’s greatest weapons against the faithful. Once we’re convinced that God isn’t really good; we stop seeking and trusting Him. Later, we can justify just about anything we think or do in our lives because we feel as though it’s up to us to find meaning, purpose, and joy.

We let our experiences and perceptions twist our view of God. When this happens we need to go back to the basics. I recommend reading Psalms 51 and 103 as both will guide you back to God! Knowing God doesn’t make the difficulties go away, but it helps us to keep proper perspective and remain faithful in trusting in God.

God has a purpose and works through our brokenness and hurts

Thankfully, God has mercy on us and softens our hearts with His truths! God’s truth is that we will face suffering and difficulties, but not alone and not without purpose!

“Dreams for good things may shatter, but our pain will always have a purpose. It will not go away, but it will do its work. It will stir an appetite for a higher purpose–the better hope of knowing God well enough to love Him above everything else. . . and trusting Him no matter what happens. The best hope, our highest dream of being in His presence where nothing ever goes wrong and where we fully enjoy Him more than every other blessing, will not be granted till the next life.” pg 32.

This truth should free us from the false appeals of faithless living! Nothing on this earth can ever fully satisfy or give us meaning. Larry reminds us that pain has no purpose in heaven because our appetites for God will be perfect. In simple terms, we will desire Him perfectly and nothing will stand in our way. But this won’t happen until our lives end or Christ returns.

Yet we still live in the present so what should we consider?

“For now, while we still have such a hard time realizing that what’s good is not always best, suffering still has a function. As nothing else can, it moves us away from demanding what’s good. . .toward desiring what’s better . . . until heaven provides what’s best.” pg. 32

We tend to let the good get in the way of what’s best! How does this look in our lives? We all gravitate toward immediate satisfaction and finding joy in temporal things. We seek fulfillment in adventures, activities, relationships, careers, etc.

Over the past years, I have sought meaning and fulfillment in my career choice/jobs. God has recently brought this false foundation crumbling down in my life. I have felt lost and purposeless during the past months. How I feel is a clear indication of just how foolishly I built on a weak foundation.

Broken wall of ancient city
Our feelings warn and guide when things are not right or missing

God created humans with emotions and feelings to warn us when something isn’t right! When our foundations are crumbling, we know that we built/or are depending on the wrong thing. While a good job or career can be a source of blessing in our lives–our ultimate purpose comes from God and our identity in Him! I know this truth but fail to understand and properly apply it.

God is a Jealous God who Perfectly Loves His Children

God mercifully draws us back to Him when we stray! So when things seem the most bleak in life, we need to consider the reality that God is working to ground us in Him. God loves us perfectly. Loving us perfectly means that He doesn’t allow us to settle for good when that keeps us from Him! God is a jealous God–a perfect kind of jealous. Because God is Infinitely Good and Perfect for us, He tolerates no other idols or competing loves that keep us from Him.

While it definitely hurts when God exposes our wayward thoughts and desires, it’s ultimately His mercy that crushes our “lesser dreams.” It’s God’s Love and Compassion that discipline and restore us. Take a moment to read the following passages of Scripture: Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:4-11, and Revelations 3:19-20. Consider Christ’s words to the Laodicean Christians who were “lukewarm” and Ephesian Christians who had left first love (Rev. 2).

Christ invites us all to repent and come back to Him. This call comes from a merciful God who patient works to redeem and restore us! Know that your Good Shepherd doesn’t leave you lost and alone in the wilderness of our lost world. May His voice touch and stir your heart to a deeper, greater love for Him!

For His glory through encouraging others, I write these words

Lee Stanfill

Light for Our Dark Moments

I hope that all of you have enjoyed Christmas with your family and friends! As we approach a new year and reflect on the past moments of 2021, I want you to consider that Jesus is our Light.

Introductory Thoughts: Important Motiff and Imagery John 8:12

The apostle John in his Gospel of John, epistles, and Revelations frequently uses contrasting terms to present Jesus and the world. Two of the most obvious when reading through John’s writings are the concepts of darkness and light. As I wrote in my previous blog, John introduces Jesus in Chapter 1:4 as the “Light of Men.” Light in the Gospel of John represents goodness, truth, and God’s presence.

https://www.gotquestions.org/light-of-the-world.html

Interestingly, the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages emphasized light with massive windows and structural design(s) to allow maximum possible light.

John in verse 9 identifies Christ as “the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” John wants us to understand that Jesus is God and that He enables us (enlightenment) to properly understand God the Father. Remember from last week’s blog that one of the main reasons for Jesus being born (Incarnation) was to reveal God the Father’s character and purpose for humanity.

Jesus reveals Himself as the Light of the world again in Chapter 8. This occurs after He writes in the sand as the Pharisees (representing religion and law) are ready to stone the adulterous woman. Jesus is the Light and gives us light to walk. What Jesus is saying is that He and His Life reveals the true path to God. The religious and spiritual laws don’t lead to God, but as Paul argues in Romans reveals our powerlessness to live God’s standard. God establishes His Law (Mosiac Laws/ Dueteronomy) to show us that we need something greater than ourselves or rules. A proper understanding of God’s Law leads one to understood the folly of self-righteousness. Jesus emphasizes this point when He talks about thoughts being as bad as the action (lust,murder).

Our good deeds and obedience can’t save us! This is the difference between religion and relationship. Religion gives us rules and we obey perfectly (impossible for sinners) to be righteous. Relationship with Christ depends on His grace, truth, and life to work in us to make us righteous before God. We all have a choice: we can fool ourselves into thinking that we can be righteous through ourselves or trust that Jesus can make us righteous (Substitutionary Atonement). For a description/definition and verses for this critical concept

https://www.gotquestions.org/substitutionary-atonement.html

Jesus Speaks to Grieving Martha John 11:25

John records Jesus’ reaction to Lazarus’ illness and death. One needs to remember that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. Jesus deeply loved him and his sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus allows Lazarus to die when He could have healed Him instantly. This thought is in Martha’s mind verses 21-22. As she grieves her loss, Jesus points her toward a much greater truth. Jesus reveals Himself to be “the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha indicates that she does. Imagine how difficult this statement would be to hear! Lazarus believed in Christ yet he had already died! This seems contradictory from a human stand point!

Like many of God’s great truths: we can easily miss the meaning of what has happened. Jesus later restores Lazarus back to life, but he had died and would die again later in life. So what did Jesus really mean? For a detailed study on this:

https://www.gotquestions.org/resurrection-and-life.html

Jesus is telling us that He is life and that He as a Person of the Trinity is the Resurrection. We tend (like the 1st century believers) to see the Resurrection as a future event, but it’s actually a Person and a relationship with Him!

The world and sin are darkness and Christ is the Light! Just as we face physically death, we also face the death of our dreams and hopes as well. Are you trusting Jesus to be the Light to guide and renew your walk with Him?

I enjoy studying theology and philosophy. While theology is about God, it can become more of an intellectual study and thought experiment than personal experience. Information and knowledge aren’t wisdom. Wisdom comes through relationship and experience. As an example, as we can know all the statistical facts about a favorite athlete or historical person yet not personally know him or her.

Jesus is a Person and by accepting His grace and truth, I can be in a Personal Relationship with Him! It’s through the relationship and trust/dependence that Light and Life flows into our lives.

As you reflect on the joys and sorrows you have experienced this past year, may God’s Perfect Son-Jesus enlighten you to perceive His mercy and presence!

Future blogs will explore broken dreams and how that God changes us through the process of grief and renewal. Consider your life through the Light of His Presence! Remember that Jesus is gentle in heart, patient, and kind! He will walk with you through the dark moments just as He does with Martha and Lazarus! Invite Him into your difficulties and sadness! May He bless and enlighten you as He works in your life!

For Christ’s glory and to encourage fellow pilgrims, I write these words

Lee Stanfill

God’s Gift to Us: His Son Jesus Post 3

Introduction to Post 3

As we consider how God shapes our lives through our broken dreams, let’s take a moment to consider the greatest gift God gives! The apostle John opens his Gospel of John in verses four and five with:

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it.

God sent His Only Son to proclaim His Kingdom, redeem our lost souls, and conqueror sin and death forever. Jesus’ birth was a divine invasion! God sent His Son on a mission of conquest and redemption. Got questions lists four reasons why God sent Jesus with supporting verses:

https://www.gotquestions.org/why-God-sent-Jesus.html

Jesus is the Gift of Light! The “darkness” of verse five refers to the evil, worldly system that Jesus defeats through His death and resurrection. Quick read on this:

https://dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com/john-1-5

As we consider Christ’s coming, how does this apply to our lives in relation to our dreams and brokenness? How does Christ transform us?

Point 1: Jesus The Light of Life Makes Us Right

We know from personal experience (just read the news) that our world isn’t what it should be! Some look to political, economic, and even social remedies for our nations’ numerous problems. Governments and governing authorities are established by God as part of His general grace Romans 13:1. However, government laws, economic systems, and a better society can’t remove the sin problem that underlies all of our brokenness! The real issue is the sin that plagues our hearts and minds. We need a Redeemer!

When we see unfairness and injustice in life, we need to remember that:

1.Jesus experienced the most unfair treatment possible: His own people and the Romans brutally executed Him,

2. and Jesus’ own disciples betrayed and abandoned Him.

3. Jesus carried the enormous weight of all the collective sins of humanity on the cross. In short, Jesus suffered so that God would forgive and renew us. He restores those who trust in Him to a proper relationship with God the Father. Jesus made all things anew!

What does this mean for us? First and foremost, it means that Jesus saves us when we trust and depend on Him for righteousness and new life. Second, Jesus understands our struggles. Hebrews 4:15 reveals Jesus as our High Priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” as He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:16 commands us to “draw near with confidence the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Third, we can rest in God’s grace knowing that in love He sent His Son to redeem the world (John 3:16). God knows the true depth of our despair and need for redemption! He took effective action! He doesn’t leave us lost in darkness! Yet, we must recognize then confess our sinful ways and repent while trusting Him to make us anew!

We need to live our lives as God’s people, sharing His truth with others, and seeking to serve those in need around us. To be changed by God involves a desire for Him to work through our lives for His redemptive purpose(s) for the lost around us!

Point 2: Jesus is the Answer!

Several years ago, I worked on third shift. During the long winter months, after being in the dark for hours, it was amazing to see the sun rise each morning. The sunrise served as a reminder that the darkness would eventually end. The holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years is a difficult time for people who have lost significant others. Each holiday can be a painful reminder of who isn’t any longer present.

We need to be sensitive of this reality for our friends, neighbors, and others we encounter in our lives. The pandemic, tornadoes, and other tragedies have affected many this year. Others are dealing with job/career, relationship losses, and other uncertainties in life.

As I have written in previous blogs, grief and loss with shattered dreams are part of our faith journey. Jesus is the answer! I hope that as you read and meditate on God’s Word that you will ask questions and seek God’s truth in His Son Jesus. And when God enlightens you encourage others! The best truths are those that we live and share with others!

Point 3: Jesus is New Life and Truth

Jesus is our Light, Life, and Truth!

Have you ever wondered what Jesus means when He says: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” John 8:32? Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6. Jesus is teaching about His role in giving us freedom. We don’t have to be defined and held captive by our grief, broken dreams, and failed hopes! This author sums up what it means to be transformed by truth in a beautifully concise manner:

https://activechristianity.org/what-did-jesus-mean-when-he-said-that-he-was-the-truth

To know and trust Jesus is to be changed by Him! Jesus offers new life, hope, and dreams that are greater than our “lesser” desires (blog 1 of this series). The world and its desires entrap us into a cycle of sin, despair, and increasing darkness. Jesus provides true and abundant life. For a good explanation of abundant life:

https://www.gotquestions.org/abundant-life.html

As we daily walk with Christ, we realize that the materialistic world system can’t give us meaning or contentment. As children who received toys for Christmas, we should remember the lesson that no matter how great or new the toy, the excitement eventually ends.

The excitement never ends with Christ! He will encourage and challenge you as you seek Him first above all else! May Christ’s presence enlighten your steps on your journey of faith!

Lee Stanfill

Shattered Dreams Blog #2

How do the events and circumstances of our lives relate to God and His movement within?

Oswald Chambers in his December 18 “Test of Faithfulness” gives us some practical and valuable insights! All quotations are from this powerful devotional.

Introductory Thoughts

Are the events of our lives random? Do you recognize the “hands” of God upon your life as you experience daily life? The testimony of the Living Words of God reminds us that God is always at work moving and shaping us into being more Christlike. Things don’t just happen randomly! The challenge comes when we don’t understand and can’t perceive what’s going on in our lives. Yet, we can trust and depend on God to finish the work that He has begun in us! Philippians 1:6 . This is especially important when we are facing times of brokenness and disappointment. Quick explanation of Philippians 1:6:

https://www.gotquestions.org/He-who-began-a-good-work-in-you.html

I believe with good reason that God brings or allows failures, trials, and disappointment(s) into our lives to cause us to seek Him first. I use the terms “brings or allows” because as humans, we don’t fully comprehend the bigger picture nor can we completely understand an Infinite God. Even in my own life, I don’t understand what God brings about or necessarily what He allows. I’ve learned to be especially cautious when presuming to understand God’s Hidden Ways. Yet, we can trust even what we don’t understand because we know that God is Good and His Ways perfect! Romans chapter 8 is a good read for this topic!

Jesus warns the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:4 about losing their “first love.” We too must hear and heed Christ’s Words! Here’s a concise read about what Jesus means in Rev. 2:4:

https://www.gotquestions.org/left-first-love.html

How easy and quick it is to love our comfort, earthly treasures, and dreams more than our Savior! It is truly an act of mercy when our disappointments and failures turn our eyes heavenward!

Insight 1: We must believe God is in Control and Be Loyal to Him first!

“It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in control, but not really believing it. We act as if the things that happen were completely controlled by people. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith— the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our ultimate loyalty must be to Christ alone–not our family, friends, work, etc. We would be wise to consider what God might be working to bring about in us! We need to view our lives through faith knowing that God has a plan and is at work!

May God’s Presence in your life cause you to radiate His love and mercy for others!
Insight 2: Events test our faithfulness

“God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation. We never saw what He was trying to accomplish, and that exact event will never be repeated in our life. This is where the test of our faithfulness comes.”

God’s Word particularly in the Old Testament books of Ruth and Esther reveal that God works through history. The term ordain means to “set aside something for a specific use.” This means specifically that God has a plan and a way to accomplish the plan. God works behind the scenes through tragic deaths, famine, and heart-ache (Ruth) to bring about King David and later Jesus. God works through Esther to save her people. Daniel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah also teaches that God works through foreign nations, national tragedies(invasions, military defeats, etc) to accomplish His purposes. The Christmas Account in Luke chapter two reveals how God uses a Roman census to fulfill prophecy! There are numerous other accounts I could mention here concerning how God works through the lives of individuals and nations to accomplish His plans.

I write this to encourage you: specifically stating that you don’t have to have a complete understanding of the events and what each particular event might mean. This is where faith comes into play! We choose to trust God even when we can’t understand. We demonstrate faithfulness when we trust and reach out to God! We continue to trust and seek even when things are uncertain and perplexing.

that we would be rivers of life flowing into the lives of others
Insight 3: The Ultimate Goal of Faithfulness

“The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.”

The end game is for us to become like Jesus and for God to work in our lives just as His Son! God’s plan is bigger than our dreams, hopes, and shattered expectations for a comfortable life! God is showing mercy when He wakes us up from our soul slumber and selfish ways.

We would be wise to pray for God to give us dreams of His plans! Holy Spirit and God’s Word will mold and shape us into the wonderful works of art that please Him most!

May God touch your life and dreams in a manner that will forever change you for His Glory,

Lee Stanfill

Introduction: Shattered Dreams Series

We will face times of trial and trouble in our lives. Just as there are seasons in weather, so we too encounter seasons in our journey of faith. One of the more difficult seasons of faith comes when our dreams, hopes, and plans “shatter” and fall apart. It’s easy to become angry and bitterly disappointed with God during these hard moments. We face tough questions such as:

Is God really good? Is He for me and if so why isn’t He making things better?

Can I trust a God who seems to be hidden, distant, and uninvolved?

Why are these things happening? I trusted God and have tried to honor Him with my life?

I hope that you will join me as we consider how that God is actually work for us and in our lives during these difficult, dark moments!

I strongly recommend that you purchase and read Larry Crabb’s book: Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy. I will be discussing quotes from this work. You will benefit from reading this book for yourself.

The Choice we face-Central Truth

“When the dream of experiencing now what is reserved for us in heaven is decisively shattered and when the shattering is embraced and not fought, either we’ll sink into despair or we will hope in God, and wait as faith becomes a firmer foundation and godly love of life. . .The shattering of our deepest dream of fulfillment in the present becomes (1). the unexpected pathway to the the happiness Jesus knew during His life on earth the happiness of (2). trusting God, (3). serving others, and (4). confidently waiting for complete happiness in being reunited with God in paradise forever.” introduction xi-numbers added for clarity by me

Our greatest happiness comes in the three things mentioned above! Trusting God, serving others, and patiently waiting for perfect union with God enables us to live for Christ/His glory as opposed to seeking self-fulfillment through worldly, lesser, selfish things.

Larry discusses how that we as natural humans tend to desire “lesser things” such as a “good” life. He reminds us “He’s (God) determined to give us an encounter with Himself. It’s the greatest blessing He can think of. . . An encounter with Him is what we want, but we don’t know it.” pg 3

God, because of His Infinite Mercy and Goodness will bring difficulties into our lives so that we will begin to desire Him more than what we consider to be the good things.

The “good things” are hindering us from God! Let’s think about this for a moment! Carefully consider what you are seeking in your life. Do you seek relationships, material prosperity, health, career, etc. more than you desire God? If we’re being honest before God and with ourselves, we recognize that our greatest efforts and striving in life are for things other than God. We want the blessing(s) more than we want God Himself!

I want you to consider that it’s a merciful God who allows our “lesser” dreams and hopes to fail! As long as we pursue our dreams and ideas of the “good” life then we’re not really pursuing God! Larry reminds us:

Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life. . . Our shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story.”

The suffering caused by shattered dreams must not be thought of as something to relieve if we can or endure if we must. It’s an opportunity to be embraced, a chance to discover our desire for the highest blessing God wants to give us, an encounter with Himself. pg 4

Three Truths to Consider

I want to invite you to prayerfully reflect on the following three truths Larry presents (my reflection follows in line below each truth) on pages 4-5.

1. God wants to bless you

God desires to bless us! God loves us perfectly and works to draw us closer to Him. Often our discouragement, difficulties, and feelings of dissatisfaction are signs that God is starting a greater work in us! Remember that the greatest blessing is God’s Presence–not His blessings or good things in our lives!

2. The deepest pleasure we’re capable of experiencing is a direct encounter with God.

The book of Job reveals this truth. Job’s questions and difficulties are satisfied when God appears. All the great men of faith in the Old Testament were profoundly changed by God’s appearance. The apostles and early Christians were remade by Christ’s presence and influence as well. We need God’s presence and an encounter ourselves! Yet we mistakenly pursue lesser things because we wrongly believe such lesser things will fill the “void” we feel in our hearts. God knows us and works to move us forward! He doesn’t leave us stuck in our small, safe self-made worlds.

3. So the Holy Spirit awakens that appetite (to encounter God). He uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. Shattered dreams are not accidents of fate. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to waken then to satisfy our highest dream.

While we may dislike the shattering of our dreams and hopes, there is a greater purpose! I want to encourage you to deeply consider your life and dreams. Let God’s Word and Holy Spirit guide you as He works to “satisfy our highest dream”!

I write this post as a person who grieves the loss of “lesser” things. Yet, I also recognize God’s mercy in bringing about the death of my lesser desires/dreams. The real danger isn’t that we face loss or discouragement in our journeys, but that we continue to live satisfied and seeking the wrong things! God may not seem kind or compassionate when He causes or allows career and other types of failures into our lives.

During these times we need to remember the central truth that God is Perfectly Good and Just. All we endure is part of His Plan for our lives. I want to end this post with this truth from Larry from page 7:

“The road will take us through some dark nights, but you need not wait for morning to rejoice. Morning will come, but can welcome your suffering now as an opportunity to meet God, to encounter Him with a passion that will free you to get close to a few people in authentic community and to experience genuine transformation in your personal life, especially in the way you love others.”

For God’s glory and the encouragement of fellow pilgrims, I type these words,

Lee Stanfill