And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Let me see a show of hands, “Who would like a little suffering today?” Not too many. Let me rephrase the question, “Who is looking to be embarrassed today?” Wait a minute, “How about some good old-fashioned desperation, the kind that makes you pull up your bootstraps and grow up in a hurry?”
It may sound ridiculous but our struggles, our challenges, our hardships, and even our desperation, have helped develop each of us as a person. Some of us have had more than their fair share of struggles, but contrary to what we see at our neighbor’s house, EVERYONE has hardships and heartaches.
Some of us may have contributed to our hardships by making unwise decisions. Sometimes other people have helped trip us up, or their actions and decisions severely impacted our lives. For me, it was an unhealthy combination, hard to swallow and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth! For a season I allowed these circumstances to negatively impact my life and those around me.
Seasons naturally change, but sometimes circumstances feel like they stay the same. At a very young age I taught myself to be a survivor, pulling up the aforementioned bootstraps. In my troubles I never gave God a second thought. Never asked for help, didn’t want to owe anyone anything. There were times when I was unsure how things would work out. I dug my hole terribly, terribly deep, and I just kept digging. God filled the gaping hole with His love and washed those years of bad memories out to sea.
How about you, are you experiencing the promises of God? When you become a radical lover of God, you gain a whole new understanding of Romans 8:28. God follows through with his promises when we love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. When we die to selfishness, pride, and envy, we actually begin to live in Him. And those failures and setbacks in our past become building blocks to maturity and growth. Living in Him prepares us to face our challenges, building spiritual muscle, and trusting God with the outcome.
God promises to turn challenging circumstances around for our good and His glory. Take the story of Joseph in Genesis as an example. In his youthful exuberance and immaturity, he alienated his brothers by boasting about his future position of authority over them. That, along with his father’s favoritism, high-lighted by his coat of many colors, set the brothers’ blood boiling with jealousy and rage. His brothers sold him into slavery and for many years Joseph endured one hardship after another, finally ending with a trip to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Psalm 145:13-14 tells us, “The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.”
Joseph could have been discouraged, or quit, but he remembered God’s plan for his life and persevered. Because he was obedient and faithful, God took him from the pit of despair to the King’s palace! In fact, Pharaoh placed Joseph in a position of great authority, readying the nation for the coming famine. When the famine touched his homeland, and his family, the opportunity for revenge was placed right in Joseph’s lap. But Joseph loved God more than anything, and instead of cursing his family, he chose to bless them. In the Book of Ruth, we see another example of living within God’s plan in the midst of suffering. Ruth became a widow at a very young age. After her husband’s death, Ruth gave up everything, including her homeland, to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Bethlehem. Because Ruth made the move with Naomi, she was in a position of alignment to receive God’s blessing. Ruth transitioned to Bethlehem out of her love for Naomi, and in turn, was positioned in the genealogy of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Deuteronomy 28:2 promises, “You will experience all these blessings if you OBEY the Lord your God.”
God gave Ruth and Naomi a secure place to call home and blessed them beyond their own dreams and desires. He always gives us more than we expect when we live in His promises!
All of us have been created by God with a specific purpose to serve Him. We know choosing God will include its own challenges and persecution along the way. God does not promise us an easier life, smooth sailing, or gumdrops, puppies, lattes and roses. In fact, when you say, “here I am, use me as your living vessel,” brace yourself, all hell will come after you! The Bible is full of stories about people facing challenges in service to our God. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.
So, what’s it going to be? Are you ready to flex those spiritual muscles and swim against the tide? Are we willing to trust God completely? Will you stand up for Jesus or sit down and let someone else take the heat? Will you stand strong ignoring ever changing social or political standards? God is for you and he will give you supernatural strength, courage, and boldness, to carry out the plans for your life.“
The scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.” Romans 15:4 (NLT)