When God Ordains Hard Things

We know that bad things happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to bad people. And good things happen to good people. All these happenings are fore-ordained. They’re known ahead of time by God Almighty. He allows all things. All circumstances. All the time.

Matthew 5:45 tells us that our Father in heaven gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means that everyone on this earth can plan to have some good days and some bad days. There’s no way around it.

What does it mean that God ordains all things? You ask. What does it mean that he ordains our days?

Ordain: To order or decree by virtue of superior authority. To issue an order. To order or command.

He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts of the Apostles 17:24-28

If you’ve read the story of Job, you know that he lived through one very difficult time. According to the Bible, he had seven sons and three daughters. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area. Read Job 1:2-3. The Bible doesn’t say specifically how long his troubles lasted, but in the course of one day he lost everything. Literally. His donkeys and oxen were stolen and some of his farmhands were killed. Only one escaped to tell the story. All of his sheep and shepherds were burned in a fire. Only one shepherd escaped to share the news. All of his camels were stolen by raiders, who killed the servants. Only one servant escaped to give a report. Then a powerful storm blew down the house where his children were partying, where they and all the servants died. Only one servant survived to give an account to their parents.

And just when Job was wallowing in grief, he was hit with boils all over his body. He was miserable. He wanted to die. He asked God why he had even been allowed to be born. And his wife suggested that he curse God and die. But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. Job 2:10


His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him–though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27


How do parents respond when they lose a young child? Because we know that it’s not in the course of natural events for a parent to outlive their child. The heartbreak and disappointment can be crushing. The grief and pain of loss is devastating.

These past two years have brought many deaths and disabilities from a new virus. The pain and suffering have been immense. No population on the earth has been left untouched. How are we to process this event? What does normal even look like anymore? Can we adjust to a new normal that is full of roadblocks?

There are Christians in other lands who are hunted, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their faith. They’re living for God, but they’re in the minority in their land. And those hunting them are determined to rid their world of anything godly.

Consider the police officer who accidentally killed someone when she pulled her gun instead of her taser. And then there’s the cop who killed a child when his bullet ricocheted off a wall. These are hard times for these two individuals and their families. And also for the families who lost loved ones. No one is a winner here. The lives of all of these people are changed forever.

Then there are women and girls being trafficked for sex by ungodly people. They’re sold for their bodies to be used against their will. They have no say in the matter. They can’t escape the abuse on their own. They’re held prisoner by unlawful people.

We may wonder why God allows such evil to happen. After all, he is a loving God. Why do bad things happen? We can question God, but he doesn’t always provide the answers we long to hear. We don’t always learn the reason of the whys that we ask. We may never know.

We’ve been given the ability to choose how we live our lives. We can decide to do good or evil. We can chose to treat others with respect or not. We can choose to hurt others and ourselves. We can choose to deny that God exists. We also can choose to walk in step with Him.

If we choose to walk our own path, then our life will reflect those choices and consequences. And we live that life on our own. We live that life without the comfort or strength that only God can give.

If we choose to walk with God, He walks with us through the valleys and mountaintop experiences. He never leaves us. He will give us strength to face each new day, whether that day brings rejoicing or sorrow. Even when days are hard, and there will be hard days, God is with us.

For some, the suffering and struggles may be lifelong. Even if we are Christ followers, we may live hard lives. We aren’t promised an easy, rose colored life.

Oh. We can grovel and complain and moan and groan. We can question God and curse him. We can cry and destroy ourselves. All in the name of suffering. But suppose we stopped and quieted ourselves. Suppose we listened for the still small voice of God. Suppose we reached out to Him at the darkest moments of our lives. And just suppose He brought peace in the midst of suffering. Because it is possible.

Some of the things that you’ve lost in your life, God is not going to bring them back in the exact same way.

Havilah Cunnington

To experience joy in our struggles and difficulties, we must first acknowledge who God is. Everything but God is secondary in our lives. Everything else is secondary. Yes. That’s right. It’s tough to hear, but God must be the priority. Even during times of intense suffering and grief. If we focus on God, we will see that He is supreme. His love is never ending. His compassion knows no boundaries. His mercy is new every morning. His grace is all sufficient. His power is all encompassing. He is the alpha. The omega. The beginning and the end.

So when the thing we have always feared happens to us, we can have peace and quiet and perfect rest in God our Maker and Redeemer.

Shipwreck

It was a trip for the ages. 

Paul was in prison and had requested a trial before Caesar. That meant he must get to Rome, Italy from Caesarea, Israel. What he didn’t know was that he could have been released from prison if he hadn’t asked for a trial with Caesar. But since he asked, he was sent to Rome.

It was to be a long and dangerous trip over treacherous waters.  On the journey, they met with a huge storm. God spoke to Paul time and again on this journey, so he advised the crew on what to do to survive the trip. The storm lasted 14 days. Imagine. 14 days on a wooden ship in a terrible storm in the middle of the sea. There’s nowhere to go. There’s no chance of escape. They must ride out the storm. Will anyone survive?

When God spoke, Paul listened and shared the message he had been given. God told Paul he would survive the trip and stand in front of Caesar. So Paul was calm. He showed no fear. God was with him. God was for him. Not against him.  Paul listened to God and obeyed. His life was spared. He earned a great reputation on that trip. He stayed true to God during the difficult storm. 

They had started the trip with good intentions. The ship was loaded with provisions and trade merchandise for their stops at different ports. They had even tied a lifeboat and pulled it behind the ship. But when the storm arose and never let up, they had to start throwing items overboard. They had to set priorities on what was most important. In the end, they threw out most everything. Then they realized they were close to land, so they decided to run the ship aground. Their bet didn’t work. The ship hit a sand barge and busted up. 

When the boat began to tear apart, the soldiers thought to kill all the prisoners. But no. The commanding officer wanted Paul alive because he spoke with great wisdom and truth.  So the prisoners were spared.

Everyone had to swim to shore with only the wet clothes on their backs. But everyone survived.

They. Lost. Everything. 

For the full story of Paul’s shipwreck, read Acts 27.


In this way, I will show my greatness and holiness, and I will make myself known to all the nations of the world. Then they will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 38:23


We may think we’re living in tough times. This past year has been a blur, but yet our eyes have been opened wide. Some people have had the worst year of their lives. They’ve lost much, and there seems to be no end in sight. They struggle to make ends meet. Their kids are still schooling from home. Unemployment has dwindled or dried up. Thousands of jobs have been eliminated. Families have lost loved ones and haven’t been able to say goodbye.

In this life, as believers, we will struggle. But we persevere with God’s help. God is bigger and stronger than all our earthly struggles. He will see us through the best and the worst of times. In this storm of life, God is calling us to go deeper into our relationship with him. Let’s not just serve God on the surface. Let’s not just serve God on Sunday mornings. Let’s be faithful to him when we need him most. He will not waver or falter. Let’s hold onto him.

We will go through rough seasons in our lives. We may stand to lose everything. We may face loss of life and/or livelihood. But we will survive.  In the midst of the storms of life, God is still speaking. He is still guiding us. We must listen closely and do as he says. We must toss aside the things of life that are slowing us down. We must shift our focus on staying close to God and and obeying him.

Do you feel as if you’re in the worst storm of your life? Are waves of doubt and fear crashing in all around you? Do you fear you may not survive this storm? Have you had to toss aside all the extra baggage that you’ve clung to for security and pride? Have you prepared for the storm? Have you dug deep into God’s Word and filled up with His goodness and mercy? Are you ready for the storm that’s brewing?

And just maybe. Maybe it’s time to stop and count the number of times that God has been with us through other storms. Let’s slow down and remember God’s goodness. His faithfulness. Oh. We may not come out of the storm in the same shape we entered it. We may not come out unscathed. But we can survive and move forward one more time. Let’s remember that the God who helped us in the past will help us in the present and in the future. He never changes.

If we listen for God’s voice and obey, we will be safe in the storm. Oh. The waves may roll and the winds may blow. But God is faithful and stronger than any storm we face. We live in confidence of better things to come. We live in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. We don’t have to suffer in shame. We know that on the day of resurrection, Jesus Christ will receive us into his glory. Let’s live with that bold grace and confidence.

This could be your time. That breakthrough could be tomorrow, or it could be next year. But, you have the opportunity to turn however you’re being tested into a testimony. So many heroes were wounded deeply before they were used greatly!

Tim Tebow

Beauty Awaits

It was Memorial Day. I was weeding the flower bed on the south side of the house.  I’ve decided that this is the year I am going to keep my flowerbeds clean and clear of weeds.  I looked over at my neighbor’s flowerbed. It hasn’t been touched yet this spring.  Not because of a busy schedule.  The pandemic has hit and the neighbors haven’t left their house much.

My neighbor and I have an agreement. Our flowerbeds are not in competition with each other. We don’t try to outdo one another. We admire from afar when the beds are well kept.  We keep our thoughts to ourselves when they aren’t. And that is that.

But so far this year, I’m winning. But as I said, this isn’t a competition. Oh. My flowerbed still has weeds. They’re never ending. But at least, there’s space between the plants. It’s clear where the peonies end and the irises begin. And the strawberries are separate from the zinnias that have begun to pop up. But still. There is much work to do in this flowerbed.

I fear that the deer will soon devour all the strawberries that are blooming. It would be nice, for once, to be able to eat those strawberries ourselves. We aren’t growing them to feed the deer. But then. There are also the hostas and day lilies that seem to get devoured by the deer. Those I’m not so worried about.

There are some very shady spots in my backyard that need attention. With all the rain that we’ve had, the weeds just pop up overnight. It’s hard to keep them under control. Perhaps a good layer of mulch would help manage that problem. But who has the time? Work keeps calling my name. 8 hours a day. 5 days a week. By the time the day is over, who wants to pull weeds? But I realize that’s the sacrifice that must be made in order to keep the flowerbeds looking their best.

I have lofty goals for this garden. Oh. It’s not big. It’s not majestic. It will never win awards. But I want to keep it weed free and thriving. I want to plant a variety of flowers and shade loving, deer resistant perennials. My goal is to see a beautiful garden in the midst of my normal life. But it will take work. Back breaking, sweaty work. Am I up for the challenge?


So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Hebrews 6:1


I find the same amount of work must go into my Christian life. If I want to see beauty and growth in my relationship with God, I must take the time to pull the weeds of sin out of my life. Those weeds can choke out the peace that God provides.

Keeping my relationship with God growing is hard work. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes sacrifice and commitment. It isn’t always easy to make reading my Bible a priority, but it is necessary in order to know who God is. I must choose to spend time in prayer. Spending time with my Maker and Provider is a daily must. There is no wiggle room in that.

As I was weeding the flowerbeds this morning, I realized I couldn’t distinguish some annuals I had planted from the weeds. Until the annuals bloom, I won’t know if they are weeds or flowers. It’s because I don’t recognize the leaf patterns without the fruit. I realized this is similar to my spiritual growth. It isn’t always easy to distinguish between right and wrong. Sin and obedience. In those times, I must lean in to feel the prick of my conscience or the nudge of the Holy Spirit to help me in my weakness and uncertainty.

I have lofty goals for my soul. Oh. I doubt that I’ll be in the same group as Moses or David or Paul or Abraham. But I want to want to spend eternity in heaven. I want to spend an eternity with my heavenly Father. My goal is to walk the streets of gold. But it will take work while I’m still on this earth. Back breaking, sweaty work. Am I up for the challenge?

Fragile Clay Jars

It’s been two years to the day since I felt the sting of rejection.  I was told I was no longer needed for the job.  I was no longer wanted.  The job was no longer mine. In other words, I got the boot.

Oh. I don’t remember the date so I can commemorate the embarrassment of losing my job.  I remember the date for what I gained. For sometimes when you lose, you gain so much more than you ever thought you owned.

Sure. I eventually gained a new job.  New self-confidence.  A deeper trust in God.  For what a better way to learn total dependence on God than to lose a big ticket item you depended on daily.

2 Corinthians 4:7 tells me that I am a fragile clay jar.  And yes, I am.  I’ve learned these past two years that a personal rejection can make or break that fragile clay jar.  It depends on how I have filled the jar. Oh yes.  It’s fragile.  The jar can break.  It sure has cracks in it.  They’re obvious if you come too close. These cracks are caused by greed and anger. Envy. Pride. Fear. Jealousy. And many other uncomfortable undoings.

Oh.  I’ve tried to patch these cracks.  Time and again.  Repeatedly over the years, I’ve worked feverishly on some slow growing crack that just never mends.  The problem is that I tend to try to make all the repairs by myself.  But I’ve discovered a holy patchwork that is flawless.  Oh.  The scars are still in sight, but they can be filled with a righteous covering.  In the midst of my patches and flaws, this patchmaker comes in and has begun filling this fragile clay jar with just the right amount of holiness.  He makes the repairs when the clay softens enough to accept change. 

In the spots where the clay has become so hardened, he gently applies love and forgiveness to soften the spot.  He does that so he can remold this old vessel into one that looks more like him.  Oh.  He doesn’t remove the scars, but he fills them with his signature blend of mercy, grace, love and forgiveness. The blend is actually personalized for each clay pot.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not the clay jar that’s the prize.  It’s the contents that really matter. 


We are like fragile clay jars that contain a treasure.  Our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7


Pressed but not crushed. Perplexed but not in despair. Hunted but not abandoned. Knocked down but not destroyed. 

We are pressed by troubles, but the hope within us keeps the weight of those troubles from crushing the life out of us. Our God is strong when we are weak.

 We are perplexed by loss and momentary troubles, but desperation is not our friend. God provides for our every need with precision in his timing.

We are hunted by the enemy himself,  but God does not abandon us when we are at our weakest. He fights for us. He is the host of heavens armies. 

We will be knocked down. Many times. But we will not be destroyed when we have the light of heaven shining in our hearts. We are not alone in this battle. This fragile clay jar has withstood fiery heat to get to this point of strength. 

Our great power is from God and God alone. It is not of ourselves. Never be fooled into thinking you are strong enough on your own to handle what life throws at you. You are a fragile clay jar. The filler is the key to strength and endurance.