Challenging Days: Part Three
A Prayer to Open Our Study
"Dear Heavenly Father, once again I ask You to bless our group as we come together to study Your Word. Help us to understand that the trials we face are a part of Your great plan. Give each of us the courage to face the unknown. Thank You for Your promise of protection when troubles come and placing us out of its reach. We will live from a place of peace, knowing we are safe in the palms of Your hands.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen."
A New Perspective On Adversity:
Okay, I think we are getting the idea that Mr. Stanley wants us not only to get the idea that adversity is in God’s control, but that God also intends it to be good for us. Sort of like that adage that parents say to their children when they were being disciplined “this is for your own good and punishing you hurts me more than it does you.” How many of you had your parents say that as your bottom burned from the paddle? I can tell you I sure did, and I have said that to my kids too. Sometimes God needs to get our attention off sin, sometimes He wants to move us from one plan to the next step in the plan, and we just don’t want to move. And sometimes he just wants us to look at things in a new light.
When I was young, I had a deep anger against God for being born with a birth defect. I wanted to believe that there was no God, so I could say my life issues were just one of those things. Then I would believe in Him, so I could be mad that He had looked down and said yes this the one who will not run and dance. She will have surgeries, and not feel well most days, but that’s ok I will make others and they will be fine. How could I have been singled out? If God does the choosing, what had I or my parents done to deserve this?
The winter I was 12 I had been very sick. When February came my parents thought a trip to Texas to get some sun would be good for me. Off we went to see my Aunt and Uncle who lived there. While we were there my Aunt and spent some time alone, and She asked me if I had been talking with God about being sick. I told her how mad I was at God, and I shared that I doubted He even cared how I felt. She was the first person I ever shared my thoughts with. She asked me to sit with her and she opened her Bible to (John 9:1-3) “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
My Aunt said it’s all about perspective. The disciples saw the man’s blindness as a problem, but Jesus saw it as an opportunity to show God’s Love. You are only looking at your situation from one direction. You have been thinking your condition results from someone’s fault, and that you are being punished for them. But from my perspective, I see a family that is better because you are in it. You are the glue that connects your brother’s and sister’s. Loving and caring for you has made them and your parents a team. They all give 100 percent to make each day the best it can be. Because of your illness they have learned how precious life is, how quickly things can change, so you have made them a happier family. If you had been born differently, your family would not be the same. I also believe that God loves you, and that He wants the best for you too. You may go through some tough days but have hope things will get better, and you will see the value in your life just the way it is.
That was also the first time I thought I might just be ok, and that I could start looking at my life from a new perspective. When times get hard and I wonder why; I go back to that day in my Aunt’s living room and try to remember that little girl who had hope for the first time.
When I read this verse (John 9:1-3) in Charles Stanley’s study, I knew we agreed on God’s perspective on adversity. You notice that my Aunt didn’t say I see a miracle in your future, and neither does Mr. Stanley. He tells us right out that our greater concern must always be with what results we receive from our adversity. Will we use it to move us forward, or will we let it defeat us? Will you decide to be stronger, and more whole? Can you accept adversity as a teacher?
Read James 1:1-2
6. Mr. Stanley asks, what perspective about your trials does James advise you to take in this passage (James 1:1-2) of scripture? The word that jumped out at me was “Joy”. Can we find ways to be joyful despite our circumstances?
While the events of 2020 have make it hard, think about what you can learn from tough circumstances. We need to work on ways to bring joy into our lives. In an article by Sandy Marantz, a L.C.S.W., Ph.D., of Westmead Medical Group says, "If you're having a difficult time with this global pandemic, try to find something meaningful about it, maybe you've realized you actually like spending more time with your family and don't want to go back to an office five days a week. Understanding what quarantine has taught you can make the harder days more worthwhile."
Looking on the bright side of things is not the same as sticking our heads in the sand and convincing ourselves that everything is great. No, looking for the teachable moment, the positive side effects that come from any stressful circumstance can go along way to adding to our joy. Think about what could bring you joy today?
Think small picture, maybe it’s a home-cooked meal that the whole family had a part in making, or sleeping in, get the most out of each moment. Mother Teresa said, “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”
Take time to reflect on what you are grateful for during the day. It comes down to this quote by David Steindl-Rast: "It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us joyful."
Carve out even 15 minutes for an activity you're passionate about, whether it's sewing and crafting or reading your Bible, find a time just for you. Licensed therapist and radio host Jaime Bronstein says, "Finding joy in life leads you to understand why you are here, and what causes your life to be sustainable, meaningful, and purposeful."
Find something that excites you, work toward a new goal that feels interesting, meaningful, and challenging. Something that will take you out of your same old routine. Forrest Tally Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in California says, “Set a goal outside of your comfort zone. This will not only bring enhanced joy on a frequent basis, but upon succeeding at your goal, you will experience a sublime sense of joy, the memory of which will also bring joy,"
Live in the now, we are usually either thinking about the past or planning for the future, but neither mindset will bring you joy. William Schroeder, licensed professional counselor, and director of Just Mind Counseling says, “Replaying the past or anticipating the future denies us the connection to our own reality and can cause a great deal of pain. If you can learn to exist in the now, then you will free yourself from pain connected to the past or future,"
Make opportunities for laughter. When you are with someone who is laughing, there’s a 90% chance it will make you laugh, or at least bring a smile to your face. Leela R. Magavi, M.D., regional medical director of Community Psychiatry says, "Laughter is contagious, and so is joy,"
Read Romans 12:12 and John 16:22 and Psalm 94:19 and Psalm 126:5 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
7. Charles asks us to consider what James says (James 1:1-2) about the “testing of your faith” and why this is an important trait for you to possess as a believer in Christ? It’s easy to have faith when situations are comfortable, but when challenges come… that’s when faith shows itself strong.
Trials and tribulations test our faith. Read 1 Peter 1:1-25.
When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, it required him to commit to what God was asking but to exercise faith along the journey. In this way God tests the heart to see if we are truly walking by faith or not.
Demonstrating faith requires a sacrifice. Read Proverbs 17:3.
God doesn’t always give us a play-by-play when He asks something of us. In most cases we have little to no information on what’s ahead. Forging ahead in faith, even in the midst of uncertainty, pleases God.
Wrestling fear of the unknown but forging on. Read Joshua 1:9.
The greatest weapon the enemy uses, when your faith is being tested, is psychological warfare. Worrying is an indicator we don’t truly understand our connection with God. The mind and its logic has to be wrapped in the Word of God in order to yield to the spiritual realm of faith.
Worry is war against The Word of God. Read Matthew 6:25-34
8. Mr. Stanley asks us how have you seen your specific trials lead to greater perseverance in your faith?
My faith has been tested in many ways, and I’m sure it will be again. But it’s a poor faith that can only trust God when friends are true, the body is healthy, and the business profitable; but it is true faith that rests in the Lord's faithfulness when friends are gone, the body is ailing, spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father's face is hidden. We are looking to grow a faith that can say, in the deepest trouble, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 13:15) this is a faith worth working for.
Persevering brings success, but beyond succeeding in a worldly sense, God wants our character to succeed more than our circumstances succeed. He will adjust our circumstances in such a way that our character eventually succeeds, for that is His highest aim. When you have persevered, you become transformed into part of the family of Christ. You become His friend and sibling and He prays for you in the presence of the Father during your times of trials.
To receive this kingdom of God should be our highest aim, not just survive our trials. To be part of the world that is coming, not part of the world that is going. So, we must conclude we want to do the will of God. Keep going! Persevere! If you are flagging in your faith, tiring of keeping on keeping on when the struggle seems overwhelming, ask God for the strength and stability to continue. He is with you and for you today!
Read Proverbs 3:26 and Romans 5:3-4 and James 5:11 and James 1:12
Get Ready for Part Four, it is the last part of Lesson One where we will pull together all the things we have been talking about, and secure our understanding that God has a Plan and Purpose for His followers.
More to come…