Moving Yourself from Misery to Joy

Some recognition you likely don’t want. It’s 2017. Just named the “most miserable year” in more than a decade. This according to Gallup’s Global Emotional Index study. This study of more than 145 countries found people are experiencing more worry, stress, physical pain, anger or sadness at any point since the polling started in 2005. On an encouraging note, Latin America was named the most positive region.

Can you recall a time when you felt truly miserable? Maybe you are miserable now. Miserable in your marriage, or miserable in your job. What should you do? Consider the New Testament missionary Paul. While in chains in a Roman prison during the first century, Paul gave this challenge to one of the churches: “Rejoice! And I say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Here is Paul in a miserable situation, and he said, “Choose joy!”

So how do we get to “joy” when we are miserable? Consider the following steps.

Quit Trying to Make People Feel Sorry for You
Do you know why we do this when we are miserable? There is a kind of power in causing people to walk on eggshells to make sure they don’t say or do something to increase your misery.

The Better Step: Start living. I think this is what Paul, the missionary, meant when he said, “Choose joy.” We can sit around and sulk, mope, and feel sorry for ourselves because of past mistakes or failures. Or we can get up and embrace a new day. Moving from a miserable person to a joyful person has to start the moment you wake up.

Don’t Isolate Yourself
When you are miserable you had rather close the blinds, shut the door, and just be a couch potato who faces your misery alone.

The Better Step: Build a support system. Who is a trusted friend you can talk with? Who are the people who truly love you and who will tell you the truth? Reach out to those persons. Joy comes from being in relationship with others.

Choose a Different Way of Seeing Things
Miserable people never see or expect the good in anything. Miserable people have no hopes and expect nothing good to happen. If this is the way you feel, choose a different way of seeing your day as well as your circumstances.

A Better Step: Be grateful. Here is an exercise I learned from a helpful book many years ago. Each day thank God for something you have never thanked Him for before. For example, I recall thanking God for a teacher who taught me to write. And then I thanked him that I had a pen to write with. Another day I thanked God for my shoes, and so on.

Refuse to Play the Victim
Miserable people are masters at victimhood. They blame their parents, a boss, a teacher, a husband or wife, or the police. You get the idea. Playing the blame game leaves you feeling stuck, and it only makes your victimhood persist.

A Better Step: You have the power to move on. Love yourself, forgive the oppressor, quit living in the past, and move forward. You really can do this. It’s a choice you make.

Commit Your Misery to Your Heavenly Father
God loves you and wants the best for you. He really does. So, this being true, why would you not place all your trust and faith in Him? He has promised, that if you will live for Him and love Him, He will take every circumstance of your life and work them for your good and His glory (see Romans 8:28).

A Better Step: You can trust God because He is in charge. The Bible teaches God is “sovereign,” meaning in control. This fact points us back to missionary Paul’s joy. Bible joy means I can have inner delight despite my miserable circumstances because I know God is in charge and He has my best interests at heart. Isn’t this hopeful?

Your Problems Help You Know God Better

Country music singer Garth Brooks wrote a popular song, “Unanswered Prayers,” in which he praised God for not giving him some of the things he had passionately prayed for in the past.

The New Testament missionary and apostle, Paul, knew about unanswered prayer. Paul struggled with a painful difficulty in his life. Three times he prayed asking God to more his affliction. God chose not to remove Paul’s problem. Instead, God answered Paul’s prayer differently—He gave Paul the grace and poise he need to handle this problem.

You can read about this experience in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

Everyone Experiences Life’s Pain and Problems
Paul referred to his painful difficulty as a “thorn in the flesh” (v.7). Can you relate to that word picture? All of us have dealt with some kind of “thorn,” that is, some kind of adversity that discouraged us and brought pain into our lives.

Think about cancer, the emotional pain of a broken relationship, the death of someone you love. Your “thorn” could be a period of intense loneliness or a person who slandered you. Typical “thorns” might be a wayward child or a financial difficulty.

Every person has problems and difficulties. Don’t believe that because you have problems that God has singled you out. Even amid your pain, God still loves you like crazy.

Pray When You Encounter Life’s Pain
Paul prayed specifically that God would “remove” his thorn, his difficulty. I’ve prayed that way sometimes when I have had a troubling problem in my life. And I suspect you have, too.

You should pray about your problems because God cares about you and your problems. This means everything that concerns you also concerns God–every problem that you have is God’s problem. If you have invited Jesus to be your Savior, then you have entered into a covenant relationship with God. He desires to work in your life if you will let Him. The moment you invited Christ into your life you became a child of God, and He cares about His children.

God Answers Prayer
Evangelist Luis Palau has explained that God answers our prayers in the following ways:
“No, because I love you too much.”—In this case, God knows that what you are asking for in prayer really is not in your best interest, so He says, No.
“Yes, but you will have to wait.”— Immediate answers to prayer: You want them. I want them. But God simply does not always work that way. And to get His best, we must be patient.
“Yes, but not what you expected.”—This is the answer God gave Paul when Paul asked God to remove his difficulty. God, instead, gave Paul “sufficient grace” (see v.9). This idea of sufficient grace means God gave Paul the daily strength to continue on in spite of his problem.
“Yes, and here’s more.”—God is so loving and awesome. Occasionally He gives what you have requested AND EVEN MORE!
“Yes, I thought you would never ask.”—Prayer is not complicated although we sometimes think it is. Prayer simply is talking with God, openly and honestly, like you would talk to your best friend. The simplest prayer can bring the answer you need when you need it.

Life’s Problems Teach You About God
Verse 9 states, “Therefore I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

Sometimes we experience what Paul experienced. Our problems don’t get better, and our circumstances don’t change, and we are left to lean wholly on God and trust Him. Actually, that’s not a bad place to be because in that position of leaning on God we learn more about His love and the sufficiency of His grace. And that’s hopeful!

Balancing Your Life With Boundaries

When I lived in Nashville, at the northeast corner of our backyard was a marker that designated our property line. The imaginary lines created by that marker separated my property from that of Mrs. Johnson who lived next door. When she would mow her grass, she would mow along that imaginary line, and when I mowed my grass I did the same. That property marker formed boundaries for our respective properties.

Have you established proper boundaries for your personal life? I can make this practical.
• Do you know someone who constantly gives unasked-for advice?
• Do you have someone in your life, say your mom, who tries to tell you where to spend your holidays, how to parent, or how to spend your money?
• Do you know an adult child who has moved in with his or her parents without their permission?
• Do you know someone who never can say “no” to other people’s requests?
• Do you know someone who attempts to “rescue” other people from their problems?
• Do you know someone who touches other people inappropriately?
• Or how about that person who breaks line in front of people?
• Do you know someone who is a people pleaser?
These are individuals without boundaries.

 

 

 

 

 

Boundaries and Your Emotional Health
Boundaries are like property lines that govern our lives, and they bring balance and emotional health to our lives. Here’s how.
• Boundaries help you maintain your separateness. They define who you are, and who you are not; what you are responsible for, and what you are not; and they define what you will allow, and what you will not.
• Boundaries build healthy relationships with others. If you are always complying with another’s wishes, that’s not healthy. If you are always being controlled and manipulated by others, that’s not healthy, either. If needy people are always taking advantage of you, then you need to set some boundaries in your life.
• Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us, and under what circumstances.
• Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own ideas and opinions.
• Emotional boundaries help us disengage from the manipulative actions of others.
• Spiritual boundaries help us distinguish God’s will from our own will.

God Is a Model for Setting Boundaries
Job 38:10-11 states, “When I [God] fixed limits I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther.’” God spoke these words about His creation of the land and the sea. He fixed boundaries for each.

But the concept of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. He defines Himself as unique, separate, and distinct. He said, “Your ways aren’t my ways” (see Isaiah 55:8). God takes responsibility for Himself by telling us what He likes and doesn’t like. By showing us what He feels, what He plans, and what He will and will not allow. God gives us the choice of saying yes to Him or no to Him, and He doesn’t manipulate us into saying either of those. God is a great model for boundaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Set Boundaries in Your Life
1. Be responsible for yourself and to others.—In regards to yourself, you are responsible for yourself. In regards to others you are only responsible to them. Those without boundaries live as though they are responsible for everyone else.
2. Accept that you have the freedom to decide what you will or will not do.—Persons without boundaries are compliant, not able to say no. They are afraid others will reject them or be mad at them so they always comply with others’ wishes.
3. Be accountable for your own choices. —Exercise your God-given freedom. Make your own choices. Just know that you are responsible for the choices you make. Don’t attempt to make others responsible for the choices you have made.
4. Meet your own needs.—Don’t operate as if your spouse, your friends, your pastor, or your boss are responsible for meeting all your needs. Need-meeting lies within your own boundaries.

Sometimes we focus so much on being loving, helpful, and unselfish that we forget our own limits and limitations. Boundaries prevent us from trying to control other people and from them trying to control us. And, best of all, boundaries bring more hope to your life.

**I was  helped in writing this blog post by “Boundaries” the terrific book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It’s the best book on the subject you will find.

5 Ways to Conquer Worry

A UK-firm recently polled 18,000 respondents across the globe asking what worried them most. The top worries of people around the world were:
• Unemployment/jobs
• Corruption and political scandals in their country
• Poverty
• Crime and violence
• Healthcare, and
• Terrorism
What would you say worries you the most? Money to pay your bills? Your health? Whether you are attractive? Your financial future? Growing older? Your pet’s health? The behavior of your kids? Fear of the unknown? Something else?

 

 

 

 

 

How can you conquer worry in your life? Consider these 5 keys.

1. Rely upon God and His Word, the Bible.

A big mistake we make when dealing with anxiety and worry is attemping to tackle it in our own strength. Big mistake! Lean on God during times of worry. Seek His strength. Rest in Bible promises that help you with your worries. Examples are: Philippians 4:6-7; Isaiah 41:10; 1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 6:25; John 14:27. Don’t let your carnal nature persuade you that you can do a better job of handling your stressful, worry-producing situations than God can.

2. Pray About Your Worries

Make a list of all the matters in your life that are causing you to worry and to feel anxiety. Then, daily pray over each item on your list. Claim the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 as you pray. Trust that God will work in your circumstances.

3. Recognize How Little Worry Actually Helps You.

Jesus told us in Matthew 6:27 that worry won’t add hours or days to our lives. And I would add that worry won’t build you up, make you smarter, or give you confidence. But, as Whitney Hopler has written, worry will harm you physically (such as by contributing to high blood pressure, causing insomnia, and suppressing your immune system), mentally (by sending a stream of negative thoughts into your mind), and spiritually (by encouraging fear rather than faith in God). Worry also wastes valuable time and energy that you could be using for better activities.

4. Cultivate Contentment

Would you agree that much of what creates anxiety and worry in our lives is our discontent. We don’t have what others have. We aren’t satisfied with our possessions. We don’t like where God has us. Our home is too small or our car is not new enough. Philippians 4:11 states, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” From this verse we could say that contentment is a choice we make. And I believe when we choose contentment, we conquer many of our anxieties.

5. Be Thankful

Here is an exercise I learned years ago from a missionary. Each day thank God for something that you never have thanked Him for. One day I thanked God that a teacher taught me to write. On another occasion I remember thanking God that I had shoes. You get the idea. Run-through this exercise each day. You will grow in appreciation for what you have, and in the process, you will worry less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God wants so much more for us than to walk through life full of fear, worry and anxiety. So, practice these 5 keys for conquering worry. Best of all, as you conquer your tendency to worry, you will have more hope in your life.

You Are Free to Choose–God’s Gift to You

I live near Rome, Georgia, home of the Rome Braves professional baseball team. The Rome Braves are the 1-A farm team for the major league Atlanta Braves. If you wanted to see the Rome Braves play you have choices of days of the week, choices of ticket prices, choices of where you wish to sit, and your choice of special promotions like Fireworks Night, Jersey Giveaway Night, Ladies Night, and more. Oh, the choices!

Yet, every day you and I make choices—lots of them. No one coerces our choices. No one has predetermined our choices. We get to choose. And this freedom to make our choices is, in my opinion, one of God’s best gifts to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, theologians refer to this freedom to choose as human free will. I need to say some things about that before I help you see how special it is to have God-given freedom to choose.

1. Free will means you have the freedom to make choices that determine your destiny.
2. Free will does not mean you can choose to do anything you want. For example, you can’t choose to fly over the Grand Canyon because God did not make humans with the ability to flap wings and fly.
3. You are accountable for the choices you make. If you make good choices that honor God you will be blessed (see Deuteronomy 30:15-20 in the Bible). If you make bad choices that go against God’s standards you will suffer the consequences (see Galatians 6:7-8 in the Bible).
4. Because all humans have a nature inclined toward sin (disobedience to God), the only way we make good choices that honor God are through His grace and power. Otherwise, we never would choose God’s way.
5. Your freedom to choose overrides a view of life called fatalism. Have you ever heard someone say, “Whatever will be, will be?” Or, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen”? Those ideas come from fatalism, the view that future events have already been predetermined by God or another all-powerful force, such as “Fate.”
6. Your freedom to choose also counters determinism, the view that all events of life have already been determined. No, they haven’t. Your choices almost always determine your future destiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, here’s what I want you to see. God gave you the freedom to choose. And that freedom is one of His best gifts to you. Now, how does the freedom to choose actually impact your life? Consider statements like the ones that follow.

• “I’m not happy.” You have a choice. Choose to be happy.
• “I never have enough money at the end of the month.” You have a choice. Choose to be a better personal money manager.
• “Nothing good ever happens to me. I never can catch a break.” You have a choice. Quit talking like a victim. Take steps to make things happen for your benefit.
• “I don’t have the job I really want.” You have a choice. Get a different job.
• “I don’t know much about the Bible.” You have a choice. Read the Bible. Purchase Bible study helps that improve your Bible knowledge.
• “I’ll never be able financially to retire.” You have a choice. Start saving for retirement.
• “I’ll never get out of debt.” You have a choice. Build a budget. Live within your means. Pay off your debts. Resolve never to go in debt again.
• “I have no friends.” You have a choice. Be a friend to someone.
• “I’ll never get over this.” You have a choice. Pick yourself up, and with God’s help move forward.
• “I don’t know for sure if I will go to heaven when I die.” You have a choice. Choose to give your life to Jesus. Trust His death on the cross to provide forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. You have a choice.

Know Who You Are and You Will Have Hope

When I was a kid my dad’s side of the family celebrated annual family reunions. At each reunion, some adult would come up to me and ask, “Now, who are you?” I gave the same answer each year. “I am Leon Hardin’s son.”

Do you know who you are? Not from some distant relative’s standpoint, rather, do you know who you are from God’s viewpoint? Knowing who you are in God’s eyes is the key to self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, and hope. Since God gave us the Holy Scriptures, we should ask, What does the Bible say about human beings?

You Have Been Made in God’s Image
Genesis 1:26 states, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” When I was younger I often heard people say, “You are the spitting image of your mother.” (Those words were a Southern way of saying, You look like your mother.). To have been made in God’s image does not mean we look like God

In simplest terms, this awesome statement means God has built God-like qualities into us. For example, God is a creator. Humans can create things. God loves. Humans can love. God shows compassion. Humans show compassion. You get the idea.

The concept of being made in God’s image sets humans apart from all of God’s other creation. Never does the Bible say that dogs, trees, fish, bears, or any other of God’s creation have been made in His image. Only humans. This uniqueness gives us a special place in God’s created order. You and I really are the crowing act of God’s creation. This truth means we humans really are special to God.

You Have Been Given Free Will
Free will means the freedom to make your choices. God placed the first humans in the Garden of Eden with these words: “You may eat fruit from any tree in the garden, except one. If you eat from any fruit of that tree you will die” (Genesis 2:17).

God never made you a robot. Instead, God created you as a rational, thinking person. Each day you get to make choices about almost everything. That free will to make your own choices is a gift from God.

However, if your choices are not good ones you will suffer the consequences of your poor choices. The Bible calls our choices to go against God’s design “sin.” Those first humans made the choice to eat fruit from the forbidden tree. They were cast from the garden as a consequence of their disobedience toward God.

You Are a Sacred Person
“For you formed me in my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” says Psalm 139:13. In fact, all human life is sacred (revered, highly-esteemed, valuable) because God created humans. This great truth means your life has value to God. You are not a cog in a machine. You aren’t a primordial blob of something. God values you. He has purpose for your life. Your life really does have meaning.

Here’s another application of the sacredness of human life. Every person (regardless of race, ethnicity, or country of origin) has great value in God’s eyes. Here is one reason for celebrating diversity. God is so awesome that He made people from all over the world. And He loves them all deeply.

You Were Made to Have a Personal Relationship With God
Someone might ask, Why did God make me? The short answer is that God made you for His pleasure. Being created for God’s pleasure does not mean you were made to entertain God or provide Him with amusement. God is a creative Being, and it gives Him pleasure to create. God is a personal Being, and it gives Him pleasure to have other beings He can have a genuine relationship with.

How do you have a personal relationship with God? Remember that Bible word sin? Our sin creates a barrier between us and God. He is absolutely holy, and we are not. God made provision to remove the human barrier of sin through Jesus’ death on the cross. On that cross, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment we sinful humans deserve. Jesus made that sacrifice because He loves us so much. When you ask God to forgive your sins, and you trust what Jesus did for you on that cross, you experience what Christians call “salvation.” You have begun the joyful journey of a personal relationship with God.

Have you made the decision to turn from your sin and to trust Jesus for your salvation? Because God loves you, He began a rescue mission with one goal—that of saving human life from the awful consequences of sin. This venture, in which He has made an inestimable investment, seeks to restore what sin has destroyed.

This is the good news Christians call “the gospel.” And when you live for Jesus’ agenda, instead of live for sins’ agenda, you live with hope.

Acting or Reacting

You might not know James Shaw, Jr., but you probably recognize what he did recently at a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee. Shaw and a friend stopped at the Waffle House for an early morning breakfast. That’s when Travis Reinking entered the restaurant with an assault rifle, and began shooting, killing 4 persons, and wounding 4 others.

Patrons, along with Shaw’s breakfast companion, Brandon McMurray, urged Shaw to hide in a bathroom. Instead, Shaw hid behind a door in the restaurant, and when Reinking went to reload his weapon, Shaw sprang into action. He grabbed the barrel of the gun and wrested it away from Reinking, throwing the rifle over a counter and forcing Reinking outside.

Shaw suffered a severe burn on his right hand when he grabbed the smoking hot barrel of Reinking’s rifle. But the painful burn did not prevent Shaw from going to Vanderbilt Hospital later that day to visit some of the shooting victims.

I would say that James Shaw, Jr., knew the difference between reacting and acting.

All of us face situations every day in which we feel we need to make some kind of response. In those moments we can “act” or we can “react.” What’s the difference?

Kristen Jensen has said, “Reacting typically occurs with little thought. Reacting does not stop to consider potential consequences that come from using a reactive approach. Reacting is almost always based on how we feel. Acting, on the other hand, requires thought and consideration. Acting is based on knowledge, skill, and self-control.”

Ultra-marathoner, Dragos Roua, has written, “Whenever you act, you perform a conscious choice, you decide you’re going to do that thing. You become responsible. But when you react, you’re responding to an external stimulus. You’re not responsible anymore, you leave the responsibility to the stimulus. When you act, you’re the puppeteer, when you react, you’re the puppet.”

You can apply the react or act principle in your marriage. When your spouse says something that doesn’t sit well with you, do you react (yell, become angry, stew and simmer, say something in the heat of the moment that you regret)? Or do you act by saying, “Honey, help me understand what you are saying.” Or, “I’m not sure I agree with you, but let’s keep talking so I can understand your point of view.”

You can apply the react or act principle in your personal money management. Do you sometimes make impulsive, unwise purchases (react) or do you live by a spending plan, and mentally evaluate your purchases (act)?

You can apply the react or act principle to your emotions. You can act by taking control of your feelings, or you can react by responding emotionally to other people’s actions. By reacting, our emotions control us and cloud our judgments and decisions. But by acting we gain control over our feelings and use them for positive purposes.

I’m thinking Jesus knew the difference in acting and reacting. While hanging on the cross, enduring horrible pain and suffering, He looked down on those who had crucified Him. Instead of reacting (cursing those people, or name-calling them), Jesus acted. He prayed to God, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus set an example for us. In the heat of the moment we can react, or we can act. Acting is always the more hopeful response.

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Learn from Bible characters who learned to “act” rather than “react.” Check out my newest book: Wow Words from God: What I Want God to Say About Me. Order from Amazon (Print Edition). Order from Amazon (Kindle Edition). Order from Barnes and Noble (Print Edition).

 

You also may order the Wow Words from God Personal Study Guide containing 30 personal devotions-Bible studies that correspond with the 30 Bible characters in the Wow Words book. Order from Amazon. Order from Barnes and Noble.

3 Things to Do When Life Knocks the Wind Out of You

Lenka, an Australian singer, belts a song titled, “Roll with the Punch.” A line in the song says, “When life tries to knock all the wind out of you, you’ve got to roll, roll, roll with the punches.”

When last did life seem to knock the wind out of you? The death of someone you loved? You lost your job? You lost your home to financial mismanagement? Your spouse walked out of your marriage? One of your children made a life-damaging decision? The doctor diagnosed you with cancer? You faced temptation and made a bad decision?

And when life knocks the wind out of you is all you can do “roll, roll, roll with the punches”? Is there not more you can do? Do you just lay down and roll over?

We can learn from a Bible character named Elijah. His story is told in the Old Testament section of the Bible in 1 Kings 19. Elijah served as a preacher of the Lord. A wicked queen, Jezebel, hated Elijah (remember, we don’t name our girls Jezebel). She sent a message to Elijah: “By this time tomorrow, I will kill you.” I would say that was some kind of threat, wouldn’t you?

What did Elijah do? Trust God? Stand courageous? No, he ran, found a cave, and hid in it. Worse, in that cave Elijah prayed, “Lord, just take my life. I’ve had enough.” Elijah, gripped by fear and despair, sat in that cave, and sulked, enjoying his pity party.

God spoke to Elijah. “What are you doing here?” God’s preacher-prophet shouldn’t be hiding in a cave, fearful of a queen. Yes, life had knocked the wind out of Elijah. What should you do when life knocks the wind out of you?

Stop Looking at Your Problems, and Start Looking to God.
What happened to Elijah here often happens to us. He shifted his focus from God to the problems and circumstances he was in. He couldn’t see how much God loved him. He didn’t seek God’s solution for this issue. All Elijah could see was his problem; and his problem looked bigger than God.

All of us need bifocal vision. That is, we see the problems at hand, but we also see the hand of God at work in our situation. You can’t soar in life when your whole focus is on your problems.

Stop Talking to God, and Start Waiting for God to Speak.
God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Elijah never gave God an honest answer. Instead, Elijah blabbered: “O, Lord, your people are so unfaithful. They have disobeyed you. I’m the only good guy You have left. And now they are trying to kill me.”

God taught Elijah a powerful lesson. He said, “Elijah, go stand on the mountain and I will pass by.” A powerful wind came. It tore apart the mountains. An earthquake shook the ground. Fire came. The Bible says, “But God wasn’t in the wind . . . the earthquake . . . nor the fire” (1 Kings 19:11).

Next came a gentle whisper. God was in that gentle whisper. Nothing spectacular, but real nevertheless. How do you and I hear God’s “gentle whisper”? We sense God speaking to us when we read and study His Word, the Holy Bible. And when life knocks the wind out of you, you can’t do better than to be in God’s Word. He will speak to you through Bible verses.

Stop Moping, and Start Moving.
God had work for Elijah to do. He told him to anoint for ministry 3 different persons. Why did God ask Elijah to do this? To help Elijah crawl out of his self-pity.

One cure for despair and moping is to get busy. And when we start moving we discover all kinds of exciting new opportunities and adventures. If life has knocked the wind out of you, then take some helpful steps to improve your situation. You will find the results amazingly positive.

Might God ask you today, “What are you doing here? What are you doing moping in self-pity? Look to Me! I am your strength. I have solutions to your problems. I will supply your needs.” Every time we look to God instead of looking at our problems He helps us. And, that’s hopeful!.

Valentine’s Day 2018, and Our Hope

Our hearts were broken on Valentine’s Day 2018 when Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 teachers and students.

Any tragedy such as this one causes people to ask, “If there is a good and powerful God, then why is there so much evil and suffering in our world?” How should we respond to this difficult question?

God Created Humans with Free Will

When God created the first humans, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, He said to them, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Adam and Eve, the first humans, were given a choice—eat of the forbidden tree and die, or do not eat from it, and live. God did not force them to make their decision. God created humans as free agents, that is, free to decide whether to choose wisely or to choose poorly.

Much of the evil and suffering in our world is due to the disobedient, unwise, and poor choices of people.

We Aren’t Robots

Think about it! If God created us as robots, then there would be no freedom to choose. We could not choose to educate ourselves, improve ourselves, beautify ourselves, nor pursue our goals and dreams. Thus, our lives would have no significance. We would be no more than programmed machines.

Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and they did eat from the forbidden tree. What they did the Bible calls “sin.” Did God know in advance they would make this poor choice? Yes! God is omniscient meaning he sees and knows everything.

But here is the good news. God in His omniscience saw ahead of time and knew that all of us would fail and fall and need Him. He wanted us to be able to choose Him and His ways. He gave us a free will so that we could choose to be in relationship with Him and to do what pleases Him.

God Has a Plan

Best of all, God provided the way that this could happen. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to become a human being who endured all the temptations, suffering, pain, discomfort, agony, and trials that every human being goes through. The difference? Jesus never sinned. That is, He never made a bad choice.

This fact qualified Jesus to be our Savior. On the cross, Jesus died for us. On that cross He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin that we deserve. We can be forgiven for all the times we did not choose God’s way. Isn’t that good news?

How? By trusting (placing our faith in) what Jesus did on that cross. Out of deep appreciation for what Jesus did for us on the cross, we live with Him at the center of our lives. We want Jesus to guide and direct every happening and choice of our lives.

The Blessing of Time

One day, says the Bible, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (see Revelation 21:4). All evil and suffering will be removed. Until then, even the best of God’s people wail, “How long, O Lord” (Revelation 6:10). We lament.

When we read and hear of horrific events like the one at Stoneman Douglas High School, we cry, we feel sad, and we express our grief and shock. We express what we are feeling deep within our souls by lamenting to God, “Lord, how long?” “Lord, why?” “Lord, when?” And as we lament, we trust that God cares, and  that the day is coming when there will be no more evil and suffering. And, that’s hopeful!

How to Be a “Bounce Back” Person

J. K. Rowling didn’t magically become successful overnight. Penniless, recently divorced, and raising a child on her own, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter. Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript! A year later she was given the green light by Bloomsbury Publishing, who agreed to publish the book but insisted Rowling get a day job because no money could be made in children’s books.

J.K. Rowling showed resilience, persistence, and her perseverance paid off. I believe resilient people are “bounce back” people, that is, they have the ability to bounce back when they have been knocked down. Think about that old-style toy clown punching bag. When you knocked it down, it bounced right back up.

Resilience builds hope into your life. Yes, it really does. “Why?” you might ask. Here are 8 good reasons.

 

Resilient People Are Flexible
They understand that no person’s life rocks along without some bumps in the road, so when troubles do come, they are able to adjust and find ways to adapt.

Resilient People Aren’t Resistant to Change
Whereas some people are crushed by change, resilient people embrace change. They see change as an opportunity to try new things, to branch out in different directions, and to experience something fresh.

Resilient People Are Optimistic
An important strength of resilient people is that they remain optimistic during dark times in their lives, those occasions when life pulls the rug from underneath you. Resilient people don’t deny the difficulties, but they remain hopeful amid those adversties.

Resilient People Are Goal Setters
Goal setting usually grows out of a sense of purpose which allows resilient people to analyze their current circumstances, assess reality, and then plot their next move. They do this through ongoing goal setting.

Resilient People Are Great Time Managers
They don’t get distracted by disruptions, but are able to stay focused on the task at hand, and to envision what’s next. This approach to life requires excellent time management skills, which the typical resilient person has.

Resilient People Don’t Even Think About Quitting
They aren’t delusional, but it’s just that boatloads of perseverance have been built into resilient people. Resilient people keep on going in the face of their challenges and obstacles. Precious few things can stop them.

Resilient People Take Initiative
I know too many people who wait for life to happen to them. Resilient people take the opposite approach. They make life happen for them. They take charge of problems and circumstances. They do whatever is needed to get back on course.

Resilient People Have a Moral Compass
Think about it. You can’t do the right thing unless you know what the right thing is. This is where your sense of personal morality comes into play. Resilient people refuse to take moral shortcuts. As a Christian, I believe God shows us what is right, and what is wrong, in the pages of the Bible

So, How Can I Become More Resilient?
Recently I attended one of our local high school basketball games. I sat several rows up and behind the scoring table. The person who operated the play clock wore a T-shirt with these words across the back: “. . . so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The promises God makes to us in the pages of Holy Scripture encourage us to keep on going, to be more resilient, and to be that “bounce back” person. That’s hopeful!