“Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?”
These words of Psalm 77 are like those of a personal journal. The Psalmist’s ink quail puts to paper the truth of his thoughts. They may be private thoughts; embarrassment would come if anyone else knew how he felt. However, they are relatable thoughts. Many ask the same questions amid life’s troubles. In fact, you may have noticed the questions and wondered how I knew what you were thinking.
It seems we ask these questions in hard times, feeling the answer may be yes, but Scripture reminds us the Lord is always faithful, always keeping his promises. As Hebrews 4 says, the Lord will never leave us, and Isaiah 64 states the Lord works for those who wait for him. The Psalmist said he asked these questions, but found hope in remembering the Lord.
He says in verse 11, “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord.” As he remembered the Lord, the Psalmist hope was restored.
We too can find hope in remembering the Lord.
We can find hope in remembering his deeds.
In verses 11-12, the Psalmist says, “I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”
Remember all the deeds of the Lord: how he brought the Israelites out of Egypt, how he helped Israel with the overwhelming task of conquering Canaan, and how he come walking out of the tomb. The Lord has always provided an answer to his people. Our hope can be restored by remembering his deeds.
We can find hope in remembering his character.
The Lord is holy. The Lord is merciful, gracious, loving, compassionate, faithful, and more! Remembering his character can bring us great hope.
We can find hope in remembering his power
The Psalmist proclaims in verse 14, “You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.”
God’s power has been on display throughout history. It was visible when he brought Israel out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, toppled the walls of Jericho, and calmed the storm with a single word. The Lord’s power is awesome, and he works for those who wait for him. Remembering the Lord’s power restores our hope.
The Lord’s deeds, character, and power can provide us with much hope. The next time you feel rejected, failed, or as if the Lord has turned his back on you, restore your hope by remembering his deeds, character, and power.
Meet Linda Owens. She is someone who is making the world a better place. In the past 34 years, she has been a mom to 81 infants. As a resource parent, this 78-year-old mother has welcomed the littlest of people into her home until they could find a forever home. But she doesn’t stop there, she shares what she has learned about each child with the new parents, and offers a few tips and tricks along the way to ease the adjustment for the new family. There’s always supplies in her home, and she’s always willing to take in a new child at a moment’s notice. And yes, she remembers each of them by name.
She is the kind of hero who never requests praise and she is rarely recognized, but she is making the world a much better place each day. She is a mom, and she is one of many unsung heroes who wear the title of mother.
Our world is graced with motherhood, and our moms make it a much better place. Theodore Roosevelt once remarked, “Praying mothers are one of America’s greatest assets.” “All that I am my mother made me,” remarked John Quincy Adams. There’s nothing like a mother’s sacrifice, love, and influence.
Timothy is an illustration of someone who was influenced by his grandmother and mother. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:5, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” A Godly mother and grandmother were an influential part of Timothy’s life. They provided Timothy with wisdom, love, and grace. Their influence helped him find his way in life.
Mothers, thank you! We don’t say it enough, but we’re grateful that the Lord has blessed us with you.
Perhaps it seems odd, but we share some thoughts with ancient Israel. The Israelites found themselves in captivity, and they were wondering if God had totally left them. Feelings of loneliness and thoughts of abandonment were prevalent. Where was God? Why was he not answering?
We may find ourselves asking these same questions as we look at our circumstances. The political landscape is stressful. There are marriages on the brink of disaster. Finances are operating paycheck to paycheck, trying to stretch every penny farther than it was designed to go. The pressures of life are heavy, and as we start to buckle under the weight, we relate to the Israelites. Where is God? Why is he not answering?
Thankfully, the Lord sent Isaiah to offer encouragement to Israel, and we too can find encouragement in his words. In Isaiah 40, the prophet offers 3 keys to remember amid hard times.
First, the Lord is all-powerful.
Isaiah asks in verse 28, “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.”
It’s as if Isaiah is saying, “Don’t forget…”
“Don’t forget the Lord is everlasting.”
Psalm 90 proclaims, “Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.” There’s never been a time without the Lord, nor will there ever be a time without the Lord. Don’t forget the Lord is everlasting.
“Don’t forget the Lord is the creator.”
Genesis 1:1 reminds us God created the Heavens and the Earth. He was there before anything existed, and he is the one who spoke everything into existence. Remember, God is the creator.
“Don’t forget the Lord never loses strength.”
Jeremiah reminds us the Lord’s strength is always there. In chapter 32, he says, “O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” Nothing is too hard for God. There are things that are too hard for us, but not for him; he carries the heaviest of loads with ease. The pressures of life which cause us to buckle, don’t even cause him to flinch. Jesus says what is impossible for man is possible for God; his word never fails. Keep in mind God does not lose his strength.
“Don’t forget his wisdom is immeasurable.”
“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways,” states Romans 11. Don’t forget there is no end to the Lord’s wisdom.
Remember, God is all-powerful. It may seem are struggles hold all the power, but God holds more. Amid a difficult season, Isaiah reminds us of God’s power.
Second, the Lord desires to help us.
Isaiah says the Lord wants to help us. In verse 29, Isaiah exalts the Lord by saying he gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. The Lord is willing and able to help us.
Third, the Lord will get us through.
It is in our weakest moments it seems the Lord does his best work. He sure did for Israel. The Lord delivered the Israelites from captivity, and he rebuilt their nation. They were wondering where God was; why he wasn’t answering, but he pulled them through the hard time.
As we are wondering where God is; why he is not answering, we need to remember the encouragement of verses 30-31:
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Amid the hard times in life, we need to remember to trust in the Lord. He will pull us through. The stresses and pressures of life are no match for the Lord. His strength will get us through.
The next time you find yourself buckling under the pressure of a hard time, remember, Isaiah’s 3 keys:
The Lord is all-powerful, and can handle anything that may come.
Sleepless nights; you’re lying there, tossing and turning. Your mind is focused on the problems of the day; they are certainly enough to keep you awake at night. From the financial struggles of a pandemic to the decision about a new job, it seems the world’s troubles are prowling outside your window just waiting for an opportune time to pounce. Fear and insecurity are the dominant feelings of the evening, but Solomon reminds us they need not be.
He writes in Proverbs 3:
“You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.”
Our trust in the Lord can bring us security. It can bring confidence of knowing he has everything under control. Just look at how he’s handled problems in the past.
The people of Israel were caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, so the Lord’s solution was to part the sea, giving the Israelites a dry way across.
When Israel was in the desert with no food or water, God solved the problem by dropping Manna from Heaven and providing water from a rock.
The Lord sent ravens to feed Elijah, Naaman to the muddy waters of a river, …
And a baby to a manger to solve the biggest problem mankind has ever experienced. Mankind separated from God because of sin was the problem, and God’s solution was his son, Jesus. The Bible says, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” The Lord has been a master at problem-solving.
Each problem has been met with confidence, security, and compassion. Each one solved in a way only God could. The same God who took care of these problems is watching over us. He is handling our troubles with as much attention and detail. From the smallest of troubles to the biggest of problems, God solves each one in a way only he can. We only need to trust him.
As the Psalmist says in Psalm 91:
“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
Troubles and problems are almost a guarantee. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced these types of seasons in life. If we trust him, the Lord’s security is also a guarantee. He will put his master problem-solving skills to work, and those sleepless nights can become restful ones. Psalm 4:8 concludes, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”
All the Gospel writers tell us of a resurrection. They each approach it from a different angle, but come to the same climax: the tomb is empty. Jesus coming out of the tomb and leaving it empty gives us much hope. Our hope rests on the foundation of Jesus being alive. So, how can, we be sure? How can we be sure the tomb is empty and our hope is resting in the right place?
Paul helps shed some light on these questions. In 1 Corinthians 15, as if he were presenting a case in court, Paul lays out 4 reasons our hope is on a firm foundation.
First, the Scriptures said Jesus would rise.
1 Corinthians 15 says Christ’s tomb was emptied just as the Scriptures declared. There are many Old Testament prophecies that point to Jesus coming out of the grave; Psalm 16 among them. Peter eloquently explains this fact. In Acts 2, he says:
“King David said this about him:
‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’
“Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.”
The Scriptures pointed to Jesus vacating the tomb.
Second, Jesus made several appearances.
To continue his case, Paul brings eyewitness accounts into the courtroom. In 1 Corinthians 15, he says, “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”
Jesus not only appeared to individuals, he appeared to a large group. Over 500 people have the same account: Jesus appeared to them. If this were false, a few individuals’ stories may align, but getting 500 people to tell the same story is virtually impossible. Playing the game Telephone illustrates how difficult it is to keep a story straight in a large group. Each time the story is passed from person to person in the circle, it changes a little. It’s often not even the same story when it makes it around the circle. Keeping stories straight is hard, unless they are true.
500 eyewitnesses taking the stand to declare the same thing is undeniable. The risen Lord appeared to them.
Third, since Christ lives, we live.
Paul’s third point reminds us the way to life is Christ. It was Jesus’ work on the cross and death which paid the penalty for the world’s sins. His corpse was placed in the tomb after his death.
“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So, you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.”
We can sum it up this way: Jesus started a long legacy of folks leaving the cemetery. If he lives, we too can live. Jesus declares in John 11:25, “I am the resurrectionand the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
Fourth, death has been struck a death blow.
In his fourth point, Paul helps us understand when Jesus walked out of the grave, he destroyed death’s power. It was in this moment Jesus stripped death of its grip. The Psalmist writes, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not be afraid,” because death does not have the power to hold onto us. Christ took it away.
1 Corinthians 15 proclaims:
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
These 4 points help us see the empty tomb is a solid foundation for our hope. It is because of an empty tomb we have hope, and our hope is more than wishful thinking. Our hope is the truth of knowing victory is ours in Christ. Our hope is knowing, though we may have troubles now, we will overcome them because of an empty tomb.
“I’m going fishing,” Peter called out as the disciples were gathered. Six others joined him, and the seven men headed out to the water. For the past three years, these men have been following Jesus, but now, they are not going to see him on a regular basis. They may be a little disoriented as they wonder what to do, so they return to what they know: fishing. After all, it was their livelihood prior to Jesus calling them, and they are professional fishermen.
The team of seven spend all night casting nets, but no fish. Spending all night on the water with empty nets was rare, but this was one of those nights. John 21 says, “At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”
“No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So, they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.”
Peter discovers Jesus is the one standing on the shore, and he immediately heads ashore. Peter could have taken the time to pull in the nets and ride the boat to shore, but he’s in too big of a hurry. Peter’s need to get to Jesus compels him to jump in the water. Understanding why Peter was in such a hurry requires us to rewind through time.
Sometime earlier, Jesus said Peter would deny knowing him. The pressure would become so intense Peter would deny Jesus not one time, but three times. Peter is hurt by this statement, and he boldly proclaims it would never happen.
Some time later as Jesus is standing trial, the pressure mounts and Peter crumbles. He is asked if he is following Jesus, and Peter says, “No.” This happens three times, then a rooster crows and Jesus’ words hauntingly echo through Peter’s mind.
In this moment, Peter knows he has failed. The very denial Peter boldly proclaimed would never happen took place. Peter never thought he’d make that mistake. He never thought things would get that far out of hand, but they did. Peter could try to make excuses. He could try to explain the failure away, but reality is he fell short. He failed.
Perhaps this sounds familiar. We all fail. We all make mistakes, and there will always be moments in time we would re-do if possible. Mistakes and failures come in all shapes and sizes. Our stories may be different, but we can relate to the guilt Peter must have felt. This is why he was in such a hurry to get to Jesus.
Usually someone in Peter’s situation instinctively tries to avoid the hurt person. No one likes an awkward interaction or facing failures and mistakes from the past. But this isn’t the way Peter responds. The minute he realizes Jesus is on the shore, he jumps in the water and heads inland because he is confident.
This is not a confidence in himself, but a confidence in his Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is so confident in the Lord’s mercy and grace that he runs straight to Jesus. Scripture tells us we can share in Peter’s confidence.
1 John 1:9 says, “…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
Speaking of the Lord, David writes in Psalm 103, “He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.”
Peter’s confidence proves right. John 21 goes on to tell us Jesus boldly and gently reinstated Peter. We know Peter went on to be used by the Lord in a mighty way. Peter took his failures and mistakes to Jesus, and the Lord lavished grace upon him.
Because of an empty tomb, you and I can take our mistakes and failures to the Lord confidently knowing he will lavish mercy and grace upon us. We can follow Peter’s lead and go straight to Jesus in these moments. It is by grace we have been saved, and this not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God through Christ Jesus.
A family who had twin boys wanted to teach them a lesson about attitude. They took each boy and placed him in a room by himself. The room was full of horse manure. They told the boys they had to stay in their rooms for an hour, then they would come get them. When the family returned to the first boy’s room, he was sitting in the corner of the room just watching the clock, but when they returned to the second boy’s room, he was shoveling the manure out the window. “why are you doing that?” they asked. He replied, “With all this manure in here, there has to be a pony at the bottom of the pile.” The boys were in similar situations but took completely different approaches.
Attitude determines how we approach life. Our attitude determines the approach we take to life. Paul, the writer of Philippians, gives three keys to help us take the right approach.
The first key is not to worry.
Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not worry about anything….” A scholar did a word study on “anything,” and discovered it really means, “anything.” Don’t worry, that sounds an awful lot like what Jesus says, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”
Jesus uses birds for an example; they do not go out and sow seed in the spring, and water the seed all summer so they can reap a harvest in the fall. They don’t do that, yet they still have food to eat. God provides for them, and if he will provide for birds, why wouldn’t he also provide for us?
When we worry, we are putting God into a box and slamming a lid on it. This problem is too big for me to handle, so it must be too big for God. We can’t go there; we can’t raise that much money. In all honesty, that is what we think sometimes. Yet, Ephesians 3:20 says God can do immeasurably more than we can imagine.
Think about that for just a moment. Immeasurably more than we can imagine; you can’t measure something that is immeasurable – it is impossible, and we can imagine some pretty big things. That means God can do immeasurably more than we can comprehend. When things come up that are too big for us, we should be asking, “How big is God?” The answer is, he can do immeasurably more than we can imagine. Jesus says if we seek after the Kingdom first, all our other needs will be met.
Stop and think. There is not anyone who has added time to their life by worrying about it. Jesus says we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, because today has enough troubles of its own. Not worrying is the first key.
The second key is to pray about everything.
Instead of spending time worrying about tomorrow, Scripture suggests that time would be more wisely spent praying about it. Paul says the result of carrying everything to God in prayer is that his peace will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. A peace that we know no matter what comes our way, we’ll be able to get through it with the help of Jesus. We may not understand it or comprehend how this is possible, but we know that it is true. We should not worry about anything but carry everything to God in prayer through Christ. Praying about everything is the second key.
The third key is to have a positive outlook.
We should have a positive outlook. We are encouraged to dwell in the following territory: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Every adjective in this list points to something good, something positive. The opposite of things that are good and positive are bad and negative. The question is, which one are we going to concentrate on – the negative or the positive?
Two men attended the same church service on the same Sunday morning. The first man noticed the organist missed a note during the prelude, the music was too loud, and the preacher had a slip of the tongue six times. The second man enjoyed the prelude because it was one of his favorite hymns, was deeply moved by the music, and listened intently to the sermon because it answered a question that had bothered him for a long time. The difference between these two men is what they concentrated on. The first man took a negative outlook, while the second man took a positive outlook. Which outlook in life are you taking?
The past year or so has served as a great reminder there will always be trouble in life. Lost jobs, economic hardships, and uncertainty will always be a part of our lives. And, I’m not saying if we get up in the morning and think it is going to be a beautiful day, that it will automatically become a beautiful day. We will experience trouble from time to time. We will face trials of many kinds, but how we respond to these trials is up to us. We can either sit around dwelling on the negative, or we can concentrate on the positive.
We all have something to thank God for. Here are some stats.
If you were able to get up this morning in good health, you are better off than 2 million people around the world.
If you are not persecuted, you are better off than 3 billion others in the world.
Attitude determines a lot in life. Put yourself in the story of the twins. Which boy are you? Are you the one sitting in the corner absorbed by the smell and watching the clock? If so, consider putting these three keys into practice.