If God Is with Me, Why Did This Happen? Part 2

A few months ago I read an article that is called “If God is With Me, Why Did This Happen?” I did a blog post about it. If you would like to read it you can click here. This blog post will be going off of the link I shared above. If you would like to read the article you can click the link above and then there is a link to the article. In the article, Vaneetha who is the author, mentioned a book she wrote. The book is called “The Scars That Have Shaped Me”. It is an amazing book and I highly recommend that you read it. I will be talking about some parts of the book that stuck out to me. There is so much in the book and what I talk about will just be a brief snapshot of all that there is in the book.

Suffering is a strange, dark companion; but a companion, nonetheless. It’s an unwelcome visitor; but still, a visitor.

-Joni Eareckson Tada

When Scars Speak

John 20:19-20 says “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them ‘Peace Be With You.’ When he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” Jesus didn’t need to have scars on his body, but He chose to keep his scars there so that the disciples could identify Him. His scars represent His love and our salvation. Just like Jesus had to die on the cross and His scars represent our Salvation by Him doing that, if we are open about our scars we have (physical or not physical scars) and what we have been through people will recognize us that way as well. In Christ, we are conquers of what we have been through, and we have been able to overcome it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Illumination

Vaneetha wondered why she had to struggle her whole life. She flipped through her bible one day asking God why she has had a life of suffering and came across John 9:1-3 which says “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.'” The disciples were focusing on the cause of the man’s disability, but Jesus spoke of the reason behind it. The reason this man was blind was not because Jesus was punishing him or even a random thing that had happened. This had been planned by God all along. This man was blind because the works of God would be displayed in him. Our suffering has a purpose: to bring glory to God.

God uses us to comfort one another with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. And as we tell others of God’s faithfulness in the midst of trial, it reminds us afresh that God will never forsake us. Though we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death we will never walk alone.

-Vaneetha Randal Risner

God’s Presence Revealed

John 11:1-6 says “Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha…. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified though it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Jesus could have gone to heal Lazarus right away, He could have healed Lazarus from where we was in the moment, but if Jesus wouldn’t have let Lazarus die and then bring him back to life, Mary and Martha wouldn’t have had as strong of a faith in Jesus without suffering so that they needed to draw closer to Him in that time of desperation. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus enough to let them suffer so they could experience His comfort. Jesus loved them enough so they could learn to walk by faith.

When Life Stops Making Sense

Scripture never mandates that we are to constantly act upbeat. God wants us to come to Him in truth and because of that, the Bible doesn’t whitewash the raw emotions of its writers as they cry out to God in anguish, fear and frustration when life ceases to makes sense. People like Jeremiah, Job, Habakkuk and David have all poured out their honest feelings of sadness and disappointment to God. Here are some examples, Jeremiah 15:18, Job 7:11-16, Habakkuk 1:2, Psalm 13:1-2 and Psalm 22:1-2. The Bible is honest so that means we can be honest as well. We can complain and cry knowing that God can handle anything. The Lord wants us to talk to Him, pour out our hearts and thoughts because He knows them already. We can experience joy after we have acknowledged our sorrows. Here are some examples, Psalm 13:6, Psalm 22:26, Habakkuk 3:17-18, Job 42:2 and Jeremiah 17:7.

Not Looking Back

Don’t look back on the past and assume it was perfect. The new road that you are on my be bumpy and twisty, but it is the path that God has chosen for you. Laura Story’s sister told her “I think the detour you are on is actually the road.” This new road is the only road worth taking. If we constantly look back at the old road, we will miss the great things we encounter on the new path.

Praying For just Enough

In 1 Kings 17, there is the story of the widow, Zarephath. Every day she is given just enough oil and flour, but no more. She simply has to trust that the Lord will provide for her and her son or she will starve. She has utter dependence on God, and this is a beautiful example of how God provides for us. Just like the widow, we have to trust God that he will provide us with enough, for each day. Whether that is enough food, or strength or etc, you can fill in the blank. In the kingdom of God, dependence is always better than self-sufficiency. Self-suffiency can lead to pride and selfishness. Dependence can lead to humility and intamicy with the Lord. Dependence will yield good fruit from our lives. When you depend on the Lord, He will give you what is best for you.

The greatest good suffering can do for me is to increase my capacity for God.

-Joni Eareckson Tada

Rain for a Reason

Joel 2:23 says “Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness”. When you see God’s perspective of your trials, you will look at them very differently. You will see what they are producing in you, how they are shaping you, and how they bring glory to God. Through trials you can see God’s faithfulness.

Choose Your Focus

How we view our life is dependant on what we choose to focus on. Some angles it could look like a mess, but from a completely opposite angle it could look beautiful, but you have to the willing to look past the obvious.

Enough?

What if your inner most longings are never met? And what if your nightmares come true? If none of your aspirations happen, your health fails, etc, is God enough?

Happily Ever After

Randy Alcorn says “‘They all lived happily ever after’ is not merely a fairy tale. It’s the blood-bought promise of God for all who trust the gospel.” God’s blood-bought promise for those who trust in the gospel is that we will live happily ever after in heaven. This is an astounding assurance and a glorious future.

Continue to trust God through it all!

If God Is with Me, Why Did This Happen? Part 1

I recently read an article called If God Is with Me, Why Did This Happen? It was written by Vaneetha Rendall Risner. In the article she mentions the many things that have happened to her. Just to name a few, she was a polio survivor and constantly in and out of the hospital, her son died, and her husband left her. And as I write this I have just put her book on hold at the library that is mentioned at the end of the article.

I will discuss the parts of this article that stand out to me.

“If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).

Gideon asked the question thousands of years ago, and we have been asking it ever since. Haven’t we all asked that question secretly, if not out loud, at some point in suffering?

A lot of times the people in the bible are our heros, but they are just like us. They want to know why God is causing them hard times in their life, just like why we want to know why God causes us to go through hard times.

Why did this Happen?

I wondered why hard things happened when a loving God was supposedly in control. When people told me that God loved me, I thought, If God loves me, then why did this happen to me?

But when I was 16, God in his mercy answered that lifelong question through John 9. His answer was simple and direct: “that the works of God might be displayed” (John 9:3). And with that revelation, my world shifted.

Vaneetha had wondered her whole life why God allowed her to go through hardships, and at 16 God answer her question.

If we go through hardships with our eyes on God and not turning away from Him, the works of God will be displayed in our life for all to see. But if we complain, people will see that as well. If the works of God are displayed for all to see, doesn’t/shouldn’t that change our view on how we walk through life/trials?

One Little Word

I took comfort in the truth that God was with me and could use my suffering to demonstrate his glory, but when new struggles surfaced, sometimes I would return to that familiar question: If the Lord is with me, then why did all this happen?

Those questions must have delighted Satan. Satan turns truth into doubt with that little word: if. Satan’s temptation of Jesus began with the words “If you are the Son of God” (Matthew 4:3).

God is always with us, but when new difficulties come up we can sometimes forget that, and start using that word of “if”. By why do we use that word?

The Lord IS With You

Satan tempts us in the same way. When our prayers seemingly go unanswered, Satan wants us to mistrust God and question his promises. Satan wants us to doubt God’s goodness and demand proof of his love, inciting us to ask, “If God loves me, then why am I suffering?” Or as Gideon asked, “If the Lord is with us, then why has this happened?”

If the Lord is with us? If God loves me? Those statements should never have an “if” before them. God’s presence and love are guaranteed to those in Christ. When Satan tempts us to question God’s character, we must stand firmly on the truth of Scripture.

In Christ we know that God is always with us. Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He will never fail us or forsake us.

We use the word “if” because Satan is trying to get us to doubt that God is always with us. There are so many references in Scripture that says that God will never leave us, so even though Satan tries to get us to doubt God, if we know scripture there will be no need to doubt God.

Recieving Trials With Faith

With this new perspective, believing by faith that my trials are given out of love, I can deliberately look for the good that God is bringing from my suffering.

Sometimes the good is hard to see. And the little I do see can feel insignificant in comparison to the pain I’m enduring. It is then that I must remind myself that my afflictions are producing “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And God has a purpose in each of them.

While we may not learn the specific purpose behind each struggle, we do know that God uses suffering to increase our dependence on him. To deepen our faith and draw us closer to him. To refine our character, to prepare us for ministry, to comfort others with the comfort we’ve received.

The good can be extremely hard to see. And sometimes we may never find the specific reason why God causes us pain, but we just have to continue to trust Him.

God Doesn’t Love Suffering

God doesn’t love your suffering. He loves you. He will walk with you through the darkest valleys and will never ever leave you.

When God brings trials into your life, don’t question his love or turn away. God is doing something breathtaking in you, for you, and through you. Because the Lord is with you, and because the Lord loves you, everything that happens to you is filled with divine purpose. Every trial you endure has passed through God’s loving hands.

Just keep trusting God through it all!

Don’t Waste Your Illness

I recently read a very short book called Don’t Waste Your Cancer By John Piper. John Piper wrote this book the night before his prostate cancer surgery. I decided to call this blog post Don’t Waste Your Illness because I feel this book can relate to anyone who is going through any kind of illness. If you would like to download this book you can click here. Once you click the link, click download and then you click PDF and it will download for free. The book is 15 pages.

One section of this book that stuck out to me was in the preface John Piper said “So not to pray for healing may waste our illness.” I think there is all a point in our lives where we pray for healing. But as we know healing does not always happen. Of course I have prayed for healing, but when I realized God wasn’t going to heal the way I wanted Him to. The kind of healing I wanted was not God’s Will and my prayer changed. But like John Piper said that if we don’t pray for healing God will not get the glory later on when healing happens.

Another part that stuck out to me in this book was Chapter 2. “We waste our illness if we do not believe it is designed for us by God. I have heard many people say when their health has not been the greatest that God will use me/this for His glory. I believe that is a true statement. But since God is going to use you through a difficult time in your life, wouldn’t it be true to say that he designed this illness; just for you. “If God foresees molecular developments becoming an illness, he can stop it, or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call the purpose a design.” God has designed you just for the illness you are going through and He has designed your illness that you have just for you. If we only believe that we can be used by God but don’t believe that God designed our specific illness for us then we will waste our illness.

“Satan designs to destroy our love for Christ. God designs to deepen our love for Christ.”

The first part of this quote from John Piper’s book is based off of Matthew 13:22, and the second part of this quote is based off of Luke 13:16

Satan tries to destroy some of us by increasing our health and wealth, which can strangle our faith. And he tries to destroy others by multiplying their pain.

When we are diagnosed with an illness God’s goal is to take the anchors that we are holding onto so that we will only rely on Him.

We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:9

A huge point that stuck out for me was in Chapter 5 which said ” We waste our illness if we refuse to think about death.” This was a big one for me because I had thought about death a lot, but every time I did I felt as if I shouldn’t because, why should I think about death, when no one is dead, every if they were very close to death? I thought about death but up until I read this book I thought it was wrong because I was greatly hoping no one would die, and thankfully no one did. But the truth of the matter is we all are going to die. How can we be okay with death if we don’t ever think about it until someone dies. Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” To number our days means to think about the days we have left and how few day that we really do have left.

Another point that stuck out to me in this book was in Chapter 9 which said “We waste our illness if we grieve as those who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says ” We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as other do who have no hope. Even when someone dies, we grieve and that is okay. There is a temporary loss. But we grieve as people who have hope!

“Don’t just think of battling against your illness. Also think of battling with your illness.”

When you get diagnosed with an illness the kind of heart God wants to create in you is “a deeply affectionate caring heart for people.”

*Since I feel this book can relate to any kind of illness I have replaced the word cancer with illness.

*If quotations do not have a name attached to them, it is from the John Piper’s book.

Even If We Have Nothing

This past week I read an article called Blessed Even in the Worst, How to Give Thanks in Every Circumstance.  It started by asking what do we mean when we say that we are blessed? Is it being thankful for the things we have, good health, and the people in our life. The article then asked is this what it truly means to be blessed? Many people think that being blessed comes from having lots of money, or getting to travel a lot, but as I thought about these things, if your job was taken away, or you or a loved one got sick, or you couldn’t travel anymore, etc… would you still be able to say that you are a blessed person?

We can say we are blessed because we have God in our lives. If everything was taken away from us, (family, friends, money, health) all we would be left with is God. God keeps us safe, and gives us His grace. Happiness, and prosperity are things that God wants for all of us.  3 John 1:2 says “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health just as your soul prospers.” God is the source of us being able to say that we are blessed.

God is not only the source of being blessed, but He is also the substance of being blessed. This doesn’t mean that you can consider yourself blessed because you have God and that you will be blessed with more material things. Experiencing being blessed by God is when you experience that you are becoming closer and closer to Him. To consider yourself blessed is to be sure of the fact that God will never leave you. Something to remember is that we can ask God to bless us, but we will only be blessed by God if it is in His Will. 1 John 5:14-15 says “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His Will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.”

If we truly believe that we are blessed because we have God, we can’t only say that we are blessed during the good times of our lives. What it truly means to say that we are blessed is to truthfully say that we are blessed during some of the worst times in our lives. During the hard times in your life you can say you are blessed because you feel God’s presence in your life and that you can feel the closeness and comfort of God around you.

We can shout it for the world to hear, post it for the social media world to read, and nail it to every wall in our home: we are truly, deeply, eternally blessed in Christ.