A Bump in the Road

What should the Christian do when life takes an unexpected turn for the worse? It might be something major and life changing, or just a minor annoyance that trips up your carefully cultivated plans.

I tend to find that I’m ready with my spiritual armour and confident answers when anticipated challenges occur, or things I can explain, but something that always throws me is when I think I know what God is doing in a situation…and then I don’t.

The Bible tells us to expect frustration and suffering as a part of life. But it’s when I’ve been acting in faith, seeing specific prayers answered, and doors opening seemingly by God’s hand, and something spoils my plans out of the blue, then I’m really thrown by it.Bumps-Ahead

My reaction is fear and worry, and (I’m ashamed to say) petulant anger against God.

What I thought was faith, was really trust that I knew and approved of where God was taking me, and confidence that his will and my plans aligned! I may have let him take charge of the driving, but I’m in the passenger seat studiously glued to my map and panicking at any departure from it. Yet when we follow Christ we agree to do just that! These moments reveal my heart, and God graciously uses them to teach me, but it’s still hard.

 Lessons to Learn

Here are some of the things I remind myself of, when my life and plans hit a bump in the road. I hope they will encourage you too:

1. I am delighted in by God, I am his beloved child (Ephesians 5:1), and he enjoys blessing me. The way he treats me always reflects this, even when he allows me to go through hard times. I cannot be convinced of this and continue to hold the view that my plans have changed because God doesn’t care about me. It helps me to trust him even when I can’t see where help or relief will come from. It produces true faith.  “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” Luke 12:27-8

2. I am not the centre of the universe or God’s plans in it! He is infinitely gracious and forgiving of my self-centred attitude to life, but he will not indulge it, his plans will be for his glory….and my good. God sees the big picture and how all the bumps and twists in the road fit in.

3. Satan does not like it when encouraged by God’s Spirit within us, we step out in faith. He will go to great lengths to distract or dissuade us, and he’s an excellent liar. When we face a seeming set back or disappointment, he is close by, ready to attack God’s character and motives (Remember his conversation with Eve?) He will suggest that God is unkind, untrustworthy, and neglectful. The Cross silences every such accusation of course, but we are more susceptible to his lies when we are hurt, disappointed or fearful, so we need to watch out for them and fight them with truth.

4. God desires humility and faith from his people –  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

5. I must not locate my trust in my circumstances, but in God who guides me. He is completely trustworthy.

6. Although I often believe there are things I just can’t live without, Jesus Christ is able to satisfy me fully in himself if I let him.

7. God’s ultimate plan is to make me more like Christ (which should be what I want too!), this plan is never in jeopardy, whatever happens, it may even be helped by times of confusion and difficulty.

8. Jesus is a faithful and sympathetic high priest in good and bad times, he invites us to come to him for help (Hebrews 4:14-16) He is a strong and peaceful refuge when life is rough.

 

Humble Rest
Trust and rest may not come naturally to me when my plans change or life is stressful, but here is a great Psalm that I’m striving to imitate, as I trust God for his wisdom and provision in the small and the big things:

Psalm 131 

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;

    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvellous for me.
But I have calmed and quietened my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and for evermore.

 

 

Nim

P.S If you want to think more about this subject I wrote about this from a different angle a year ago here

10 things I’m learning about God’s guidance

In recent months I’ve had a couple of big decisions to make about things, and right now I’m seeking guidance again about whether I should do some part time study, and if so, what?

So I thought I’d chronicle what God has been teaching me about decision making and seeking his guidance.

(My one rule on this blog is that I must always write about what God is teaching me personally, and I sense that this will be one of those posts that I revisit regularly to remind myself, when the next decision comes along!)

decisions

1. It’s not easy and there are no short cuts. I’ve had to put aside extra time to pray, and think, research and plan, when part of me would really like God to write the answer in the sky or hand it to me on a plate.

2. Resist impatience. I am quick to tire of waiting on God and praying consistently and faithfully, but perceiving God’s will takes time! WAITING on God is a big theme in scripture, it trains our hearts to remember that he is God, not a divine genie!

3. The goal of seeking God’s guidance is me getting on board with his agenda, not recruiting him to mine!

4. Seeking guidance shouldn’t be passive. I need to think, get advice from people who know me, spend time in prayer and God’s word (Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105), ask good questions, and ‘push doors’.

5. God may answer in ‘spiritual’ or practical ways. Or a combination of both, sometimes by providing a clear opportunity, or a change in circumstances, or through a bible passage that seems to speak to me directly.

6. Sometimes any godly decision is the right decision. We can obsess over making the perfect decision, but if after prayer and waiting, research and ‘door-pushing’ I don’t receive any clear answers, I do what seems wisest, and ask God to bless it or show me an alternative way.

Nevertheless…

7. Sometimes God guides specifically and we need to be ready to hear it. He knows when I’m going through the motions and have already set my own agenda! Or when I’m stubbornly ignoring what he’s calling me to do. Sometimes God does call us to a specific thing, and we need to make sure we are open to hear it and obey. If I’m seeking to glorify God but making the wrong decision, he is more than able to redirect me!

8. God doesn’t see things the way I do!For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways  and my thoughts than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8-9

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

9. Submission is key. I’ve had to submit my will to him again and again. I want to be in the driver’s seat, and set the direction for my own life, but I laid it down at the cross a long time ago, and it’s a process I keep returning too. God won’t be manipulated or brow beaten, he will always do what is right and good.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

10. God does all things for my good. It can be really tough when you thought God was saying one thing, and then your circumstances dictate another – a rejection letter, a missed appointment, ill health. But even when I face disappointment, complexities, and problems, the Bible promises me that nothing is wasted or futile. Romans 8:28-29, and 31-32 says 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whhave been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Even when things don’t go as I hoped, or God’s answers aren’t the ones I wanted, I can be confident that God who gave his son up to death for me, will keep on doing me good!

I’m still trying to learn many of these lessons, and I’m thankful for those that have been taught to me by godly friends and mentors. (Special mention goes to my wise and patient parents, who remind me of them often!)

We serve a God who is wise, gracious, and abundantly kind to sinners, he calls us to come to him for help and guidance, and he promises to answer. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5-6

 

Nim