Peace in the Midst of Storms

Life is never all good nor all bad. It’s an ongoing combination of both. If you think about it, you could find something wrong with every good event. Likewise, you can find something positive even during bad events. In every situation, we make a choice about our area of focus. Life situations can take us by surprise and disrupt our sense of peace, security, confidence, (and if we are honest) control.

The Holy Bible includes many mentions of storms. Just like recent weather reports, the storms of life are unpredictable, forceful, and potentially dangerous. Oftentimes, the threat of so many unknown factors can fuel fear, amplify anxiety, and distract us as we try to chart a course of action to survive the storm. In the midst of life’s storms, we can erroneously assume that the Lord has turned His back and distanced himself from us. This is far from the truth. God is not like man. He will never leave nor forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 says “Don’t fall in love with money. Be satisfied with what you have. The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us.” As difficult as they are, storms can be ultimately beneficial. Consider these silver lining benefits that can occur. During a storm, God:

  1. Has your attention – when life is going smoothly, we can become complacent and fixated on ourselves instead of seeking God’s will. We are not blessed for self-glorification, but to be a blessing to others. Proverbs 11:24-25 says “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” 
  2. Makes you prioritize – a sense of loss often accompanies storms. But, sometimes a physical loss is a spiritual gain. We can rejoice as we develop a stronger sense of awareness and gratitude about the way God provides for our essential needs – the physical and as well as the spiritual. Luke 12:29-31 says And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
  3. Allows you to recalibrate – the aftermath of life storms, can serve as a vehicle for a new beginning. The Lord can renew a right spirit within us and give us opportunities for a fresh start. Deuteronomy 30:3-4 says then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.”

Each storm you face is designed to mature you, not ruin you. In the midst of every storm, the Lord is faithful. He is omnipresent. We need only trust in Him and operate with faith-filled anticipation about Him bringing us out of the storm with a renewed since of faith, hope, joy, and peace. Philippians 4:7 says “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Storms allow us to view situations with new eyes where we can see God directly intervening on our behalf.

Psalm 107:28-31 says Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”

 

Trusting in God’s Timing

The third chapter of Ecclesiastes begins with “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” We often have a plan, our own mental movie starring us and others who figure prominently in our lives. In our movie, we write scenes and timelines, develop our plans, and are deeply disappointed when delays occur. Waiting on God is a bold, spiritually mature, and worthy endeavor. Waiting on God is excellent in theory, but far more difficult in practice. Psalm 27:14 advises that we “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Instead of deferring to God’s divine timeline through His all-seeing and all-knowing filter of wisdom, we want what we want, when we want it. When situations do not occur according to our timeline, it seems that we are more likely to question God instead of ourselves. Although Proverbs 3:5 tell us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding.” We are often guilty of viewing the world through our needs and desires instead of seeking God’s will for our lives. God is not interested in torturing nor discouraging us. He wants us to live a life of abundance. John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” God also wants to bless us with wonderful gifts. In fact, He wants to give us the desires of our heart. James 1:17 says Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Psalm 37:4-5 tells us to “4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” When the Bible speaks of God’s benefits, it is preceded with instruction. All too often, we focus on the benefit, such as receiving the desires of our hearts, because it aligns with our will instead of the instruction based on God’s will.

The key to trusting in God’s timing is to focus on our relationship with God and obedience to His will, instead of a specific result or timeframe according to our will. To trust God is to glorify God. Our Heavenly Father wants to us to cultivate a relationship and build an atmosphere of trust with Him. As we seek His face and His will, God also wants to guide us toward being who He designed us to be, and to bless His kingdom in specific ways. The key to trusting in God’s timing lies in our relationship with Him. The ability to patiently wait on the Lord is a byproduct of a deeper level of trust with our Creator.  It means releasing our pre-conceived notions and plans to defer to God’s plan which is far greater and ultimately more beneficial. Isaiah 40:31 reminds us “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Praying God’s Will

We have an innate desire to be in control. We often blame God when things go wrong without praising God when things go well. Drastic, painful, and unexpected situations are often met with platitudes about a situation being in God’s will. Is it God’s will that so much suffering, violence, and mayhem occur in this world? Does watching the nightly news reveal more about man’s will or God’s will?

I believe the root of this issue is that we toss around the “God’s will” phrase as if there is only one kind. There are two components within God’s will – directive and permissive. Our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God uses this combination of wills to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives. Through Jeremiah 29:11 God tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God’s directive will is divine, perfect, and unchangeable.

Permissive will is what God allows. God’s permissive will often involves testing us so that we may grow. The Lord tests. The enemy tempts. The enemy has no new tricks. Although the Lord allows temptation to occur, He also provides a means to escape. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13

In the acclaimed devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, teacher and evangelist Oswald Chambers, explains “it is our reaction to these things allowed by His permissive will that enables us to come to the point of seeing His perfect will for us.” Through Romans 12:2, God reminds us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I once heard a preacher share a story of a father who planned to give his son a bicycle for his birthday. Over several months, the father planted seeds of suggestion by occasionally mentioning bicycles to his son. The son heard his father’s suggestions and began to earnestly want a bicycle. When his birthday arrived, the son was delighted to receive exactly what he wanted. And so it is with our need to align with God’s will.

Each time we pray, we make a choice to pray God’s will or our own. Wikipedia defines will as “the strongest desire from among the desires present.” Our prayer life often reflects our faith journey. The risk in praying our will is that it is short-sighted and often temperamental, based on our emotions at that time. By contrast, praying God’s will is an act of faith because it goes beyond our understanding of immediate situations. We cultivate faith by acknowledging our trust and desire for God to resolve every issue according to His divine plan. If you find yourself struggling to pray God’s will, begin by praying for a willingness to obey God’s will. As you progress in your spiritual journey, you will begin to desire the things of God. The chasm between your will and God’s will narrows until it is one and the same.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, though Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”-Hebrews 13:20-21

Your Prayer Door

Doors are mentioned throughout the Bible. The sixth chapter of Genesis references the doors of Noah’s Ark. In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, lamb’s blood was used to mark the door frames and spare God’s people. The sixth chapter of Deuteronomy encourages us to abide by God’s commandments, writing them on the frames of our doors and gates to help us remember. Even the book of Revelation asserts that God stands and knocks at the doors of our hearts, seeking entry.

What are doors, really? Literally and figuratively speaking, doors are barriers – they are intended to be protective entrances.  Doors are designed to provide a measure of controlled entry. If any and everything could come through a door, then the door itself would serve no purpose.

If your prayer life were represented by a door, which type of door would it be? For some of us, prayer is a revolving door. We go before the Lord with confessions and requests. However, the moment the prayer ends,  we recover every burden we just dropped at the Lord’s feet and take it back into the world with us. The Lord wants shoulder our burdens, but we must do so willingly. Releasing our burdens to God Almighty is one of the best practices we can ever learn. Giving burdens to God liberates us, allowing us to focus on His will – His assignments for us instead of being preoccupied and weighed down by the issues and concerns of this world. Matthew 11:28-30 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

For others of us, prayer is a swinging door. We make our requests known to God, but then go back and forth between doubting and believing. James 1:6-8 warns against this mindset, stating But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” 

Then, there are those with renovated hearts who consistently trust in the sovereign and absolute power of God. They have demolished the old revolving or swinging door, and spiritually installed a solid, stable entry door. The new door is magnificent! It does not spin, swing, nor go in circles. It is the door to our hearts that we wisely and willingly open to invite God’s power to manifest in our lives. The clear panes in this door allow us to look out into the world, yet be in a safe place, knowing that God is in control and working out all things for our good. Jeremiah 17:7-9 describes it this way: But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” When we open this strong and beautiful door, joy and love go out as faith, hope, and peace enter in. Worry, anxiety, fear, and bitterness are perplexed because they cannot gain access and rush in the way that they used to.

Are you ready for your prayer door makeover? The good news is that it’s yours for the asking!

Provoked to Prayer

As we go about our daily routines, we often observe troublesome situations: the homeless man begging at a busy intersection, a young mother yelling at her child, a senseless news story that breaks our heart.

Beyond observations, there are situations that we directly encounter: a tense conversation with a loved one, a stressful event at work, or unexpected news from the doctor.

All too often, we cluck our tongues, shake our heads and give in to feelings to irritation, frustration, or worry. These feelings and reactions are perfectly natural. However, I invite you to also consider the spiritual aspect of these everyday occurrences.

Have you ever asked yourself why certain situations resonate so deeply with you?

It is my belief that such situations are intended to prompt us to pray. That sinking feeling and burden that we feel in our heart is actually a prayer assignment notification. God is connecting with His very same Holy Spirit which abides in you to solicit your prayers. This is not just a nice idea, but a sacred responsibility. In fact, scripture specifically states that it is a sin against the Lord to fail to pray for someone. When we deny prayer, we are essentially denying the power of God to bring about resolution.

“23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
– 1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

The next time you feel that vexation in your spirit – pray! Ask God to move in the situation of that individual as well as everyone else who who could fall into that same category or be associated with that category. For example, seeing the homeless man may prompt you to pray for him, but also for:

  • the entire homeless population
  • those who provide services to the homeless
  • those in positions of authority to influence policies that benefit the homeless

Your resulting prayer will bring you a sense of peace because you’ve been obedient and fulfilled your spiritual assignment. Prayer is one of the simplest, yet most powerful spiritual disciplines that you can develop. It requires no special tools nor qualifications, yet it has the power to bring about miraculous changes for God’s glory.

My hope with this blog is that you will be encouraged to cultivate a rich prayer life that strengthens, empowers, and blesses you.

So the next time you feel troubled, irritated or aggravated, I hope that you remember this post and are provoked to prayer!