I’m so grateful for your faithfulness to Soar With Eagles, especially this year when, due to many pressing obligations, I’ve not been able to post articles regularly. I want to say that you can expect two articles per week from now on, but I’m learning, once again, that life is unpredictable, and sometimes we need to recognize that there is only so much we can do.
Our great joy at the marriage of our daughter in October was interrupted several weeks later by the news of a relative’s less-than-glowing diagnosis. Although I’m not at liberty to divulge more, our lives have been jarred by the realities of life. Once again we recognize that God provides no crystal ball to reveal the future. Unforeseen adversity happens and lives are changed forever.
Although good things happen to each of us, it’s the bad things that unsettle us and force us, if we are smart, to examine our lives. Where is God? Am I being punished? Why did He allow this happen? What is His plan for me, for my family?
When my family and I underwent two years of unemployment, we tackled each of these tough questions. And we learned some very important life lessons. Lessons that abundantly prepared us for our future.
So, having spent time in the fiery furnace—and having successfully come through it—I want to share the truths of overcoming the worst things that can ever happen to each of us. When adversity strikes, when our lives are joyless, our first question should always be: Lord, what do you want me to learn through this situation? He’s waiting to give you the answers that will get you through all you ever face on this earth.
Although unseen, God is right here next to me, to you, through every millisecond of each day. He is with us on good days, bad days, and the ugly days that shatter our lives.
While it’s natural to wonder if our adversity is actually punishment, the truth is that God is not a God of punishment. No, He is a God who loves us so much that He will allow bad things to happen to us as a means of allowing us to draw closer to Him. A life lived in closeness to God is one that can weather all storms.
Adversity is actually an opportunity to draw close to God.
While God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us, He does allow them. Because the truth is that for many of us, the only time we seek God is when we are resoundingly knocked down and out. Think how you’d feel if the only time your child or spouse has time for you is when they need something from you. Without question, we want our beloveds to come to us all of the time. It’s no different with God.
His plan for our lives is simple: we are put on this earth not to be self-serving, but to serve God. And every one of us falls short in this. For people who have never gotten to know God, it’s a shock to learn that the real purpose of our life on earth is not to work hard and accumulate wealth, but to serve and glorify the One who created us.
I’ve learned that the worst times of my life were actually the best times of my life because that was when I sought God and found Him waiting for me.
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
To God be the Glory
Last year on Election Day, the faces of soldiers, suffragettes, and Civil Rights activists stared accusingly at me from my Facebook page with the caption: ”Don’t forget to vote. They died so you could.”
These brave Americans were willing to be mocked, beaten, tortured, and killed to cast a ballot and determine the fate of this country. They poured out their blood and sweat, tears and agony so that today you and I can walk inside a voting booth and vote without fear or being coerced.
We are often frustrated by the poor quality of the candidates or by those running unopposed. But how would those courageous faces react to our mantra, “It doesn’t really matter—it’s the lesser of two evils?” What would they think about how few intelligent, thoughtful, ethical, and reasonable candidates appear on the ballot?
As citizens of the United States of America, God has gifted us with a unique privilege. Our history reveals a nation birthed through Divine providence according to most of the founding fathers. Although the freedoms we enjoy today were not universal until recent decades, all adult citizens now have the right to vote (unless a convicted felon). God has placed us in a time and place where we have an unparalleled opportunity to determine the direction and priorities of our government.
Working together, we can fix the government’s current tangled web of budget mismanagement and overspending. This debacle is not the fault of any one party, but of an ideology on both sides of the aisle that says, “What’s in it for me?”
John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
What can we do? It’s been said, “We can do anything once we’ve prayed; but until we’ve prayed, we can do nothing.” Nothing has the power to impact this country more than prayer. Second Chronicles 7:14 promises, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Notice the prerequisite to prayer: “Humble ourselves.”
We must first recognize that we are who we are, as a person, as a church, and as a nation, only by the grace of Almighty God. If our country’s current quandary doesn’t move us to humility, what will?
We also must “seek [His] face and turn from [our] wicked ways.” Seeking God’s face is different than seeking His hand. Instead of asking God to bless our “all-about-me” behavior, we seek His approval by turning from our narcissistic focus to His self-sacrificing ways.
That means putting the needs of others before our own. It means sacrificing everything—maybe even our lives—for something more important than our own comfort. Just like those who purchased our right to vote with their blood.
To God be the Glory
Felicia Bowen Bridges writes non-fiction short stories and novels depicting God’s grace, sovereignty and power. She is a contributing writer in God’s Provision in Tough Times. Follow her lessons learned from God’s Word at: Psalms204.blogspot.comRead More
Have you ever read a story that never leaves you? For me, it’s the monk story.
More than 10 years ago, I sat in a waiting room where, rather than waste time, I flipped through the pages of a magazine until an article captured my attention.*
The author had long dreamed of being a monk, but because a 9-5 paying job seemed more practical, he chose that route instead. Years passed and although he was successful, he never forgot his heart’s desire.
One day the author saw a newspaper article about a local monastery. For men who wanted to consider entering monastic life, the monastery was holding a four-week retreat. Qualified applicants would live at the monastery and participate in its activities. At the program’s conclusion, participants could decide whether or not they wanted to enter the monastic order.
The author’s application was accepted and after checking in on the first day, he was shown to his quarters. His stark, doorless room contained a single bed, dresser, desk and chair.
After unpacking, he and the other would-be monks attended an orientation where they were given their itinerary for the next month.
The author was stunned to learn that morning prayers and vespers began at 3:30 a.m.—attendance mandatory. After an early breakfast, assigned chores were performed in silence until lunch. Afternoons were spent in silent study, and once evening vespers ended, the men returned to their rooms where they remained silent.
Assigned to wash the monastery’s floors, the author thought his chore not so bad until he learned that he would scrub the floors on his hands and knees—in silence. The work was painful, exhausting. Hours of silence magnified the harshness. This was not what the author imagined when he dreamed of monastic life.
After lunch on the fourth day, the author returned to his room and began packing. When the head monk walked past the open doorway, he stopped and asked the author why he was leaving.
The author explained that life in the monastery was nothing like he’d imagined. The hours were long and the work was difficult. And then there was the silence. The painful, lonely silence. It was all too much, too difficult for the author to bear. He couldn’t see himself serving God this way for the next 15 or 20 years.
To the author’s surprise, the head monk didn’t try to persuade him to stay, but rather agreed with everything he’d said. Life at the monastery was unbearably difficult. Why, during his many years there, life had never once gotten easier for him. If anything, it sometimes became harder.
Shocked, the author asked the head monk how he was able to stay.
“As much as I love God and want to serve Him, if I viewed my life as though I had twenty or thirty years left here at the monastery, I couldn’t handle it. I’d pack my bags and leave.
“But God uses the difficulty, the austerity, the silence to teach me perspective. I’ve learned to look at my life one day at a time. When I do that, I can get through the hardships that each day brings. There are some days so difficult that I need to look at my life in one hour - or even one minute - increments or I’d be overwhelmed and give up.
“God has taught me to view my life in manageable amounts. That’s how I get through the unbearable. That’s how I stay. That’s how I’m able to serve the Lord.”
After letting the monk’s words sink in for several minutes, the author removed his clothing from his suitcase.
“What are you doing?” the monk asked.
“I know I can make it till dinner.”
Life is difficult. It can be downright brutal. But I know I can make it through today. What about you? How do you get through the toughest of days? Let me hear from you!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
* I regret that I cannot recall the name of the author or the magazine so that I can give both their due credit and my appreciation. If anyone should recognize this story, please contact me. It is not my wish to take credit for this story.
Cynthia Howerter © 2011, 2013Read More
I love the movie “Rocky.” Yes, I’m talking about the first Rocky movie that came out in 1976. I love this movie for several reasons: I once lived in Philadelphia (where the movie is set), and I love to watch an underdog win.
Rocky’s life was nothing special until he was given the unlikely opportunity to fight Apollo Creed, the World Heavyweight Champion. After focusing all of his time, money, and talent on training to fight Apollo Creed, Rocky comes to realize the night before the nationally promoted fight that he can’t beat Creed. There’s just no way a poor wanna-be fighter can realistically beat a world-class winner.
So why bring up such an old movie now? It’s because I can relate to Rocky on a personal level. Yesterday was a tough day for me. The Evil One used others to tell me all the reasons why the book my co-author, La-Tan Roland Murphy, and I wrote will never be successful—and that it will never recoup a penny of the thousands of dollars we’ve spent to pay contributing writers, an editor, a professional marketing guru, and promotion costs on a book that God clearly told us to write. Man, just kick me and tell me to be hopeless.
Then I thought of Rocky. Realizing he could not win, he was faced with two options: either don’t show up for the fight—or show up and believe that he’s capable of giving his very best effort.
Hmm. Give his very best effort. Now why do those words ring a bell? Because in the movie “Facing the Giants,” high school football coach Grant Taylor realizes that he can’t win at anything in his life, and he is faced with, yes, two options: either give up—or turn to God, focus on Him, and give his very best effort to a God who believes in him.
That reminded me of when my husband was going through the long battle of unemployment. Innumerable people told us that Tim would never get another job. Why? Because he was too old and had been unemployed for too long. These two facts made him unemployable—from their perspective. Which happened to be the perspective of most people. Except Tim and me.
In a terrible, unenviable situation, Tim and I had, yes, two choices: either give up hoping for a new job—or believe in God’s promises that He will give us what we need and when we need it—for starters.
Like Rocky and Coach Taylor, Tim and I refused option one; there was no giving up and throwing in the towel. Instead, we put our focus on the winning team—God. And in doing so, we ignored the naysayers and believed that God can do all that He says He can do. And God did: Tim was given a good job.
Now, back to me and the naysayers and the book. Just like Rocky, Coach Taylor, and Tim, La-Tan and I have, yes, two choices: either we believe that our book cannot be successful because most books are not—or we put our trust and focus on God—who told us to write the book in the first place—and allow Him to do what He wants with it.
And so, La-Tan and I are going to ignore what is reality from a human perspective—that we cannot recoup our financial expenditures because the book can’t possibly be successful enough to do this. Instead, we are going to focus on God who says He can and He will if we choose to obey Him and leave all the consequences up to Him.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY—ALL THE GLORY
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
Recently, my daughter Megan and I traveled together to Pennsylvania. Light-hearted and serious conversations peppered our three-day trip. We laughed, we reminisced, we sang along to our favorite songs. We caught up on each other’s life.
When the trip finally came to a reluctant end, Megan made me promise that we will take a trip together—just the two of us—every year. Of course, it’s a promise I wanted to make, and one that I intend to keep.
I know my daughter very well and we immensely enjoy each other’s company. Why? Because we’ve spent a lot time together. Time talking. Time listening. Time focusing on each other. That’s how good relationships are built.
It’s the same with our relationship with God. When we spend time reading the Bible, we come to really know God. We learn what pleases Him and what He desires for us. When we spend time praying, God listens as we tell Him about ourselves, our heart’s desires, and our situations.
Do you know what your most priceless possession is? It’s your time. Spend it well. After all, once your time is spent, you can never get it back.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22: 6 (KJV)
P. S. Don’t forget to enter the Book Giveaway Contest for God’s Provision in Tough Times! 5 people will each win a copy of the book! The contest will end Friday, August 9, and the 5 winners will be announced. All you have to do is: 1) Be a SWE’s subscriber, and 2) Leave a comment. Be sure to state whether you’d prefer a paperback or Kindle version of God’s Provision in Tough Times.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY