Thursday, September 8, 2011

When I Feel Like Running Away ... I Remember

I find it amazing how I can love Jesus with such intensity and yet allow trials and hardships to separate me from him. It isn't that I run from him during those times. Just the opposite, I run to him with all my strength, seeking encouragement and direction from him. Often I call upon him as my deliverer and almost as often get the same answer as the Apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient". And he is proven right every time, as I emerge from those times better for it. However, trials can sometimes be like the waves of the ocean, relentlessly pounding the shoreline, so that we soon become weak and distracted. Those are the times we need to remind ourselves of the Word and regain our strength by the truth of the promises.

If we are at a new level of trials we often think it is too much and we will be overwhelmed. If we are hit by multiple trials we think the same thing. However, we are stronger than we think and our Father knows that. We have a choice at these times, we can decide to grab our blankie and go hide under our bed or we can draw our strength from Jesus and stand. Let's consider this:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

That is reassuring and should encourage us but don't think he wants to show you the exit in every situation because our responsibility is to stand and not give up the ground we have been given. We are more than what we think we are because of Jesus in us:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

Today I want to give you some scriptures to encourage you in that stand. For me the most important thing to realize as I face trials is that I do not do it alone. Jesus promised to always be with us and remembering that along with practicing his presence is often all I need:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

One of the greatest passages for encouragement in the face of trials came through a man who had more than his fare share of trials. This passage reminds us that nothing can separate us from Jesus. Sometimes we can "feel" separated and it becomes of utmost importance that we remind ourselves that Jesus will never allow us to be separated from him:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Maybe from where you are sitting right now that doesn't seem like such a big deal. Maybe you would rather be rescued than to be forged in the fires of adversity. Maybe your personal comfort is more important than the understanding of the preciousness of this promise. Or, maybe this is exactly what you needed to be reminded of as you make the decision to stand instead of run away. Often all we need is the reminder that we do not face these things alone. God has said that the battle is his and the victory is ours. Victory never comes to those who run away, only to those who trust God and stand.

We also need to be reminded that our God is sovereign. Nothing happens to us that he is not aware. In every trial and circumstance he is there to direct us. Consider Psalm 23, not as a funeral Psalm but an encouraging scripture that tells us he leads us and guides us through these things, and it is his presence that is our encouragement and strength:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
  he leads me beside quiet waters,
 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
   through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, 
   they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1-4)

An epic realization of being led through these trials, a realization we must put into practice, holding on to the truth that if something is beyond what we can handle he will give us the way out. But I say again, we can handle more than we think because of Jesus in us so he intends for us to face more than we are comfortable with. Our encouragement is his presence which we can never get away from. Not that we want to but it is comforting to know that wherever we go God is already there:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths,[a] you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
     even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
(Psalm 139:7-12)

That darkness can be anything you can imagine, including the things that Paul had listed above. It includes that terrible place of depression, isolation, loneliness. We can't go anywhere physically or emotionally that God is not there with us. This is what we need to remind ourselves even when we don't "feel" him. We can't go by feelings, we have to make our stand in the truth of his promises. Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ, absolutely nothing, and he is relentless in pouring out that love in every situation we find ourselves in. The promise of his presence should be considered the greatest promise we have in the life we must live in this place.

My friends, make the decision to stand today. Certainly call out for rescue but if the reply is that his grace is sufficient, arm yourself with the truth of his promises. Don't think you are making your stand alone. You are standing in his presence, upon his promises, embraced by his love and encouraged by his strength. Indeed, when Jesus is your life, your purpose for living, you will celebrate David's testimony, "I will fear no evil because you are with me". Be encouraged in your stand for you are loved and our Father is preparing you for eternal glory.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

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