Where Is God When Times Are Bad?

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

Nothing like a little gem from God’s Word to put things in perspective, huh?

Why is it, I wonder, we are so quick to thank God and acknowledge his presence and hand in the awesome blessings that come our way, but when something bad happens, we say, “Where were you, God? Why did you let that happen?”

When tough times come, has God really stepped away from us? When painful events descend, has he removed his hand from our lives?

If we believe the Word of God—and in particular the above verse from Ecclesiastes—no, God is not an aloof observer when our world is falling apart. He allows grief, hardship, and pain to touch our lives and will use those experiences for good in some way.

Romans 8:28 (KJV) says, ” And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The question is will we believe that truth and trust God when we are hurting?

Let’s remember that we are dearly loved children of God (1 John 3:1), and he stands ready, just as we do with our children, to help and comfort us through our bad times. Let’s not let our trials distance us from our Father. Let’s draw close to him and let him carry us, trusting all the while that he will not waste our pain.

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. ” Lamentations 3:32-33 NIV

*How has God used your pain to bring about something good?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Theme Word 2020: Love

Wow, 2020 is here—and that can mean a lot of things, but one thing each new year means for me is deciding on a new theme word for the year.

I’ve never adopted New Year’s resolutions, but for the past several years, I’ve chosen a theme word to help guide me through the year. Focusing on an over-arching word—a quality, an attitude, or an action—can give me direction throughout the year and also helps me focus on more fully implementing whatever the new word is.

I usually start asking God to direct me to a theme word for the upcoming year sometime during November or December. This year lots of words came to mind, but one of them seemed to encompass practically all of the others. In fact, if I implemented that word, I would be implementing most of the others as well.

That all-encompassing word I’ve chosen for the year? Love. Scripture actually explains why I felt like the word love is an umbrella for so many others. Galatians 5:13-14 says, “serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (NIV)

Also, as in previous years, God was so good to confirm my choice. This time his confirmation came through a book I was reading at the time. In fact, as I remember, he confirmed it within hours. The author actually mentioned that her word for the year was love. Pretty clear confirmation, huh?

As usual, I’m not sure what all the Lord has up his divine sleeve this year in leading me to the word love. But as I try to let love be my guide, I’m sure to live out many other qualities and actions as well. Things like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience, mercy, endurance, faithfulness, helping, believing, as well as following and obeying God. I bet you can think of even more to add to the list.

One thing I’m doing to help me keep my focus on love this year is reading through Bob Goff’s new book Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365-Day Journey. The book actually released in October, but I didn’t discover it until December. And when I did, I knew right away it would be the perfect daily devotional for me in 2020. So yes, you bet I ordered a copy pronto.

If you haven’t chosen a word for the year yet, you’re welcome to join me in focusing on love. I think I’m safe in saying that I’ll (we’ll) be challenged by it every day. And yes, I know that I’ll fall short—and probably daily—but the Author of love himself will be standing ready to forgive and offer his helping hand and perfect example once again. Yes, the Lord will keep showing me what love is all about.

“‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.’” John 15:12 NIV

*Have you chosen a theme word or anchor verse for the year? I’d love to hear about it!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flicker photo by Captured Heart, Creative Commons License

Blogging Break Until the New Year

Friends, I usually take blogging breaks around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this year I’ve decided to take a longer break that encompasses the entire holiday season.

Not only will this help take the pressure off during an already busy time of year, but it will also allow me to give myself grace in the continued time I need to recover from some health problems I’ve had the past couple of months. Don’t worry, nothing too serious, but I’ve had to cut way back on the amount of time and mental energy I can give to writing projects.

I’m sure you’ll understand—after all, we’ve all had life situations that require us to take breaks, haven’t we? So thank you so much for understanding, and I pray that God blesses your entire Thanksgiving and Christmas season with blessings beyond measure. I’ll see you again here in the new year! (In the meantime, please feel free to check out the November and December archives for refreshment and encouragement. Hope they bless you!)

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you . . .” 3 John 1:2 NIV

*How will you take the pressure off in your life during the upcoming holidays?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out Nov. 1st. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by bjimmy934Creative Commons License

Guest Post by James Watkins: Why? Why? Why?

A three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and an SUV, the three-ton vehicle is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals—Just take my hand, Johnnie!”

And on it goes—right into adulthood!

Why didn’t God heal my friend?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do I still have acne at 60?

But like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are often in the form of a question.

 

What can I know?

I can know the truth of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).

For instance, our group health insurance had very few maternity benefits, but had great “major medical” coverage. At the birth of our first child, my wife had complications and spent five days in Intensive Care. But, because the birth was now “major medical,” every penny of our daughter’s birth was covered. Sitting in ICU for five days waiting to know if my wife was going live or die was not good, but it did work for good.

However, it took me nearly thirty years to realize that Romans 8:28’s “purpose” is revealed in the following—and usually ignored—verse:

. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . . .

I may never know the answer to why, but I can know what is the purpose to which God is working all for our good. To be like Jesus! If you look for it, you’ll find throughout the New Testament. For instance:

 

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b, author’s emphasis).

 

How can I grow?

Jesus promises . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:1, 4-5 NLT).

Our spiritual lives depend on this intimate connection with Christ. His life flows into and through us causing us to become organically one with his character. That connection is strengthened through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. And suffering!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT, author’s emphasis).

When I think back to my “successful” years—award-winning author and editor, world-traveling conference speaker, denominational executive, and co-pastor of a growing church—I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years—years between book contracts, estranged relationships, being voted out of a church, and having to borrow money to make a living writing and speaking—that I have come to derive my self-identity and self-worth from simply being a loved child of God.

Who can I show?

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (NLT).

I now believe that God is more than willing to answer those questions and how they relate to living a life conformed to the image of His Son. Even why I still suffer from acne!

From God, I Don’t Understand, Copyright 2017, 2019 James N. Watkins. Available at Amazon.

Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as consulting in book development. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Small Seeds, Big Results

“‘. . . a mustard seed . . . the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” Mark 4:31-32 NIV

We’ve all heard the phrase “little but mighty.” These well-known words are an apt description for many people and situations, and they can certainly be applied to seeds and planting too.

In scripture, Jesus used the example of the mustard seed to show how something great—something big—can come from the smallest of seeds when planted. The humble little mustard seed can grow until it is one day large enough to provide shade for birds. What a perfect example of how something little can become something mighty.

Small seeds that yield big results are not only seen in the world of gardening and farming, though. They can be witnessed in finances, education, in developing talents and abilities, in building self-confidence, and in spiritual transformation as well as many other things.

Whenever and wherever seeds are planted, growth—yes, miracles—are bound to happen. A little boy who’s given a toy microscope as a child grows up to become a research scientist. A little girl receives a set of colored pencils for her birthday and one day opens her own graphic design business. A troubled teen accepts a New Testament during a Gideon distribution at school and later that year asks Jesus to be his Savior. Yes, planted seeds become miracles.

What small seeds can we plant in the coming days, weeks, and months? It might be as simple as an encouraging word to a struggling soul or a verse of scripture shared on social media. Perhaps we could give a scholarship to a camp, conference, or event that will be life-changing for the recipient. The possibilities are limitless.

Let’s do it. Let’s plant small seeds that could become mighty things. Let’s provide shade—or nourishment or inspiration or any number of other things that someone somewhere needs today. Let’s be part of a miracle!

I planted the seed . . . but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

*What seeds have been planted in your life that have become mighty things?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Kapitalist63, Creative Commons License