Is your heart aching?
Are your thoughts whirling a mile a minute with worry upon worry?
Are you concerned for your brother who won’t stop drinking?
Are you frightened for your son whose drug addiction is tearing you and your family apart?
Are you anxious about your debts and your precarious financial situation?
Are you doubting yourself?
Are you longing for the love and attention of your father – who cannot give you the care and assurances you need?
Are you feeling apprehensive about your parents, their health, and their quality of life during their final years?
Are you dismayed by choices that your government is making and you are heartsick?
Are you feeling uneasy about the future and what kind of life your children will have one day?
Are you feeling sad about a broken relationship?
Are you disturbed and finding no pleasure or joy in life at this moment in time?
Are you feeling lost and alone?
And what of your purpose – are you feeling steady and sure about the direction you are headed?
Are you feeling troubled?
Are you struggling to find peace with your God and are you asking Him about what in the world is going on????
Friends, when we experience any one of these issues, trouble is upon us. These are real, heart-rendering disturbances of the soul that have the potential to shatter our hope, demolish our resolve, and stop us from moving forward into our God-given purpose in life.
And these misfortunes of circumstance are no fun.
Recently, I’ve let my eyes gaze and linger upon some precious photos of my children when they were young – ages one, two, three, four, and five. Our boys are all twenty months apart in age and so you can imagine how these three kept John and me hopping during those early days/years of their lives. I can’t say those days were always easy, but I can say that they were days of joy, joy, joy! Our present-day life is still joyous and fun with our teens and young adult, there is no doubt. Yet, as we have aged and matured, life hasn’t gotten easier – it’s become more complex and concerning in a number of ways. We are pondering the future for Jake and Caleb and their autism-affected lives. For John and me, what does life look like once Jake and Caleb have graduated high school – will South Africa work for them in the long-run? For Micah, he’s determining his university options after his gap year – where does God want Him next? We may not be in the throes of despair as we ponder these matters, but they do cause us pause and require much thought.
In terms of my ministry life, I can’t tell you how many women I serve in southern Africa who are besieged with critical, heart-sore matters. Marriage, children, family, work issues, financial concerns, health difficulties, and more are things I am asked to pray through for them. They are desperate for hope, encouragement, and resolution. They wonder if God cares…
How do we respond to the worries and woes of life which weigh heavy upon us?
From the book of Ecclesiastes, we read:
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come,
And the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them….”
Remember him, before the silver cord is severed or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring or the wheel is broken at the well and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it….
New International Version, Ecclesiastes 12: 1, 6-7
The book of Ecclesiastes isn’t exactly a fun, encouraging read. However, the blessing of this book is that it refuses to duck the difficult questions which arise from the adversities and hardships of life. The author doesn’t placate us. Instead, he acknowledges that life’s most perplexing questions and circumstances have no quick-fix answers to our emotional, spiritual, relational, professional and financial woes. Life is filled with uncertainties. The author of Ecclesiastes contends that there is one, stand-alone reality in which we can depend, however. Death is waiting for us all one day. One day our cord of life will be cut, our bowl of dreams will empty, our pitcher of purpose will be complete, and our wheel at the well will turn no more. To dust we shall return.
So, is there reason to hope when troubles abound and death casts a long, far-reaching, shadow?
The message of assurance in Ecclesiastes is that purpose and meaning are found in loving and knowing God. No matter how fulfilling and good, no matter how frustrating and hard, no matter how uncertain and crazy our lives may be, we may trust that our God is near and that He is Lord over each circumstance – good and bad. No pleasure in life is long-lasting – certainly the photos of my children as babies and toddlers exemplify this truth. My sons have grown up to become young men. And certainly, no devastating hardship lasts forever. What concerned us last month, last year, and even many years ago, are yesterday’s fears and challenges. We survived them all – to live another day.
And so, here we are.
Today’s concerns for our children, our parents, our extended family, our friends, our workmates, our neighbors, our cities, our nations, and our world, abound.
So, what do we do?
Do we have the answers we need to address any of these concerns – right now?
However, what the author of Ecclesiastes exhorts us to do is this:
The conclusion when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
New American Standard Version, Ecclesiastes 6:13
Did you catch that?
The problems and challenges of life – of the world – are in the trusted hands of God.
The whole business, the whole purpose, and the whole of man, woman, and child is to honor, love and fear God and obey Him. Our very being draws its life and breath from our Lord and Creator. We follow His commands – the two greatest commands which are most expressed as we love God and love others. We trust our God to see us through each day of our lives. There will be challenges – we cannot escape them. As Scott E. Shaum says in The Uninvited Companion, “Faith is a trait that will be tested. Your faith will be tried – you can count on it. The trying of our faith is as certain as the goodness of God.” Thus, each complication invites us to cry out to our God and seek His help. We are not able to save ourselves – we need a Savior. Each difficulty offers prospect upon prospect to call out in need for salvation – acknowledging our total dependence upon our Lord and Savior – come what may.
The worries and fears, the troubles and hardships, the sorrows and grief, and whatever ails us today do not vanish with a snap of the finger. However, when the Lord, our God is at the center of our thinking and the source of our hope, we trust Him to help us. Our eternity-minded hearts propel us forward in faith – no matter what is happening in our lives. We will trust and accept that the joys and sorrows of this world are held close in the divine hands of our faithful, loving God. Our fulfillment and purpose in life is found in Him – even as we struggle and suffer with difficult things that we never thought we would.
Friends, are you feeling troubled or discouraged about a life event that is way beyond your control?
May I pray for you?
Dear Heavenly Father,
We take every concern before you. We are afraid. We are worried. We are heart-sick. We don’t see why things are happening the way they are; especially when we see people – even ourselves – hurting, lost, ill, betrayed, and seemingly forgotten. Father, we know that You see into each heart and You view each circumstance. We ask for Your guidance, Your peace, Your care and Your wise, perfect intervention into what is occurring in our lives and in our world. We trust that You are present and near. We believe You will see us through this time – but we confess it is hard and it hurts. Help us, O Lord. Inspire us with your Hope and comfort us with your Love. We love you, Lord. And we trust You.
If you’d like me to pray for you and your situation, send me a note. I’d love to to pray for you!