Trials

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November 6

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Giving Up vs Giving In.

I realize as I write that title some would say, “But Bill. Those are essentially saying the same thing.” On the surface I would agree, but on a deeper level I’d say, “Hang in there with me. I want to take it and stretch it.”

Giving up is what someone does when they seem to have no hope left. We might use the term “throw in the towel” to indicate surrender. Lots of people do that.  Life gets hard; fortunes turn; a medical diagnosis turned life upside down; and we find ourselves throwing our hands in the air. We give up.

On the other hand, we don’t give up…we give in. Like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 36-37. Sennacherib, king Assyria, invaded Judah.  He sent a messenger to the king painting a very dark picture of Judah’s future (as well as slamming on God). Hezekiah seeks Isaiah’s help, then he goes to God himself. Hezekiah could have given up but instead he chose to give in. He chose to give in to God’s plan. Isaiah reassured him but a letter from Assyria drove him to the temple and into God’s presence where he spread the letter out before God and poured out his heart to God. He didn’t give up; he gave in to the only One who could save him and his people. He put his trust in God…where it belonged.

God brought about his/Judah’s deliverance by routing the Assyrian army. God will do the same for me. For you. While it may not be a literal army attacking, he will take what seems like an army and bring it into submission to Him.

“Father, help me not to give up and give into despair. Help me not to give up hope. Instead, help me to give in to You, to take the seemingly impossible situation and trust You to work things out as you did for Hezekiah.”

May 15

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

My title for today’s devotion is God’s Distraction vs God’s Attention.

It’s not unusual to read stories of people who have “Job-like” experiences, ask a lot of questions, but cling to the hope of God’s unfailing love and attention. It’s also common to read of those who are fed up with God’s (seeming) inattention and abandon hope and faith.

I would like to believe that if I ever entered a season of intense pain and suffering and loss that I would cling to hope like Job did. (not that I want to experience that kind of season). When David was hiding from Saul in the cave, he wrote Psalm 57. What a wonderful psalm!! His cries to God in the midst of incredible trial are filled with agony and pain but also hope and peace. Listen to these words:

God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amidst fiery beasts-the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (3b-5)

I love the description of the enemy: lions; fiery beasts; teeth are spears and arrows; tongues are sharp swords. That’s what it feels like when it appears I’m being attacked from all sides. (But I do have to admit I have not been attacked in a Job-like manner. It just feels like it sometimes.)

But that’s not the highlight of those verses. That’s setting the stage for the ending: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” [v.5] There is something to be said about praise in the midst of pain. In 57:1 David says his soul takes refuge in God and he is under the shadow of his wings.

“When the way gets dark, Father, and the clouds roll in; the thunder roars; the lightning flashes and it appears hope is gone, help me to trust in your steadfast love. Help me to not lose heart, to feel as though you aren’t listening or don’t care. Instead, help me to know your attention to my detail.”