We all face pressure, seemingly insurmountable problems and frequent pain during our life’s journey. Job made this statement everyone can likely affirm: “Man’s days are short and full of trouble.”
When facing challenges, believers often hear these encouraging words from friends: “Joy comes in the morning,” and, “Above the clouds the sun is always shining.” These statements are certainly true, but what about right now while we are in the valley of the shadow of death, loss, health problems, or financial difficulty? How should we respond if employment is lost or income diminished?
When facing any crisis or challenge we have two choices: we can react with a spirit of fear and frustration and find ourselves living in a state of panic or we can respond with a spirit of peace and faith. God says, “Fear not, I am with you”1 and “I did not give you a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and a sound mind.”2 Paul reminds us of God’s promise in Deuteronomy, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”3
The scripture teaches us that our God will direct our steps and that He cares for us so deeply He has numbered the very hairs on our head. Jesus assured us that if our Father cares for the birds, He will take care of us. It is very important when facing any pressure to trust God and know that He will provide help if we seek Him with all of our heart. God is anxious to move our mountain and can lead us safely through any wilderness. We must desire to know His will and seek wise counsel from those who are godly. Far too often, people (including leaders) sit in the counsel of the ungodly and continually make unwise decisions. If we move in haste with anxiety or a spirit of panic, we will always find less than the best and often make decisions that lead to long-lasting negative consequences. The sad effect of crisis-driven decisions can hurt us on both a personal and national level for years to come and often for a lifetime.
There is no question we are living during a time of great pressure and what many consider a potential national economic and moral crisis. If there has ever been a time when together and in our own private prayer times we need to seek God, it is now. God’s divine direction can conquer any mountain – even those that seem impossible to overcome.
I remind you again to scan Isaiah 58 and let God speak to you through specific verses about how you respond when the foundation has been shaken and the walls of protection need to be restored. Remember, God tells us if we do specific things in that passage, He will guide us and protect us.
Recently in my office, a staff member’s husband lost his job with a strong, reputable company. He had been employed there for 12 years. They immediately asked for prayers from those here at LIFE Outreach as well as their family, church members and friends. Her husband quickly responded by searching online for any possible opportunity he thought he was qualified to accept. To say that both of them “put feet to their prayers” is an understatement. He diligently communicated and circulated his resume filled with his qualifications. In a few weeks he found the possibility of temporary employment which he accepted while still searching for a position that he believed would be long-term and even more meaningful.
It has been beautiful to witness the diligence with which this couple worked together in a spirit of peace and trust, rather than panic. It was almost as if daily or at least weekly we were hearing more and more positive results. It seems now very certain that he will actually find a position that is even more meaningful with greater future possibilities.
I know that what has happened here is not always typical, but one of the reasons it’s not typical is because oftentimes individuals respond with fear and panic and do not pursue the most appropriate avenues and possibilities. I am convinced that when we take seriously one another’s need, we can find the way out of deepest despair and difficulty.
I know there are many people who are suffering right now and they have no relationship with any family of faith. They oftentimes begin to resent those who do have security or who have success and find themselves wishing they could get their hands on it or somebody would confiscate what others have and give it to them. There is an entire part of our population that has actually been led to believe that anytime we get in trouble somebody must bail them out. The truth is, in our discomfort it is possible to not only find the needed comfort, but we can find better opportunities. Pain can be a friend. It can lead you away from what caused it and into something far better. Pressure is often the hand of God shaping character strengths in us and even Christ-likeness. If we really believe that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and who understand they are called according to His purpose, this means that every challenge is His opportunity to chisel away certain things in our lives and develop beautiful qualities. Rather than asking if the pressure came from the devil or from God, begin asking, “Lord, what do you want to accomplish through this?”
I watch far too many people facing life’s challenges responding by complaining, “It’s not fair! It’s just not right! Well please remember, life is not fair, but God is faithful. We can find comfort in Him and from those who truly care about others. I believe if we practice compassionate expressions toward others and seek to help others, we will be amazed at how quickly others respond in our times of need. We must look to God for relief and the church family can and should always step up to help those in need.
People have been misled into believing that the agencies of men and even government can care for all individual problems. The fact is, we have put in place many policies and practices that do not alleviate suffering, but actually expand it. Many decisions that are being made do not eliminate poverty; they minimize productivity along with prosperity and more job opportunities. The vast majority during times of intense pressure like we’re facing now and have so many times in the past several decades, we put in place policies and practices that would prove to be more painful than the difficulty we were seeking to deal with. Presently we are witnessing agenda-driven science and policies promoted by special interest groups at the expense of others. Ultimately all improper response to any tragedy or crisis leads to painful and often catastrophic consequences. Beware of inappropriate response and policy related to the present Gulf oil crisis.
It is very important that we take seriously what God said in the first Psalm – that we refuse to sit in the counsel of the ungodly. If we are keeping the two great commandments – loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves – we are likely to respond to problems with a spirit of peace and not react in panic. Keep in mind, self-interest is not necessarily selfish interest. It is often in perfect harmony with the heart Jesus commanded us to have toward God and others. Remember, the problem with the rich farmer that Jesus called the “fool whose soul would be required that night” was not the fact that he had a fertile farm and a great harvest. His problem was not the fact that he farmed effectively. His problem was that he thought only of himself and kept building more and bigger barns and saying, “Eat, drink and be merry!” and not caring about others.
God wants us to find our way in life experiencing joy, peace and love. He says this is the fruit of the Spirit. It is in perfect harmony with His heart for us to want to experience these things in life. But whatever we experience or enjoy, we must not worship. We must worship Him and pursue Him seeking to live according to His will. If we are doing this and loving Him with our whole heart, He promises that He will work all things together for good.
In that same passage in Romans 8, He makes it very clear that His purpose is to shape Christ’s likeness in us. This means that even in these difficult times we can actually experience some of the greatest spiritual and physical growth. This is a time of great testing for each one of us individually and for our nation. That is why I am calling out with all my heart – now is the time to seek Him! It is not the time to panic or be fearful. It is a time for us to come together to lean first on Him and on one another’s shoulders.
I have said over and over, if you want your prayers answered, seek to be an answer to someone else’s prayers. If you want a shoulder to lean on, seek to be a shoulder for someone else to lean on. Don’t ever hesitate to call the LIFE Today prayer line and ask the compassionate members of our staff to join you in prayer. It not only worked for the staff member I referred to and her husband, it works for all who trust and obey. Not necessarily on our timeline, but the problems will be worked out by God for our good and His glory.
22 Timothy 1:7