The blessings I cherish most are those challenges that transform me as I grow closer to God and more willingly see through His purpose and love with His compassion. Blessings aren’t always in the form of challenges, and challenges are often difficult to see as blessings, but they are indeed. A challenge is an opportunity for us to exercise our faith in God and to trust His love for us and others.
God’s plan is always best though often misunderstood or viewed incorrectly from our perspective. God uses all situations, challenges included, to draw us closer to Him and grow us stronger and wiser for His purpose. We read in Romans 8:28 that everything is promised to work for our good and His glory if we love God and live to honor Him.
In the nitty-gritty of daily life we sometimes forget that every human is created by God in His own image (Gen 1:27) and that He loves us all, regardless of our heritage and background or where we live (Acts 10:34). Looking more closely at Acts 10:34 we see that “anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable to him.” We know that no person (except Christ) is perfect. In Ecclesiastes 7:20 King Solomon writes, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” King Solomon advises us to wisely remember that we ourselves are not perfect, that we are to overlook the evil words of others against us because we, too, have cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21).
Sometimes situations get muddy with emotions, and we lose sight of how we should respond to attacks by satan through the hands and mouths of others who claim to be believers. It hurts to be judged incorrectly and unfairly, lied and gossiped about, and discarded like yesterday’s trash by those claiming to be followers of Christ. It can be especially difficult to put our own pain aside to love, forgive, and pray for those who satan uses to attack us. However, it is only when we do this that we make satan’s attacks useless.
Satan is no respecter of persons and will use whomever is available. Wrong attitudes, thought, or actions all distance us from our Heavenly Father enough that we forget His love and His how-to’s of how we are to love others. As humans our nature is to put ourselves first. We become offended by the attack and hold it against the person satan is using. There instantly becomes a wedge between God and ourselves and a wedge between the other person and ourselves. We create even greater distance between us and God by viewing ourselves as right with God and in our judgment and view the other person as wrong. Yes, they are wrong, but becoming personally offended makes us wrong as well.
We know that satan is out to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10); that is why we all mess up and don’t always behave with God’s love for one another as Jesus instructs believers in John 15:12. No one is perfect, therefore we all sin and become a pawn of satan at some time. This isn’t a free pass to sin or be self-centered. We all pay for our sins, but we aren’t the judge of others who do us wrong; that’s God’s job.
Proverbs 6:17-19 instruct us of seven things God hates: “a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
Anytime I have been hurt by others claiming to be followers of Christ or not, it has been hurt as a result of one of these things God hates. We see in Deuteronomy 32:35 God says regarding those who forget God and do not live for Him, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” We are reminded in Romans 12:17-19 to “recompense to no man evil for evil…If it be possible, live peaceably with all men…avenge not [ourselves], but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, thus saith the Lord.”
We see throughout the Gospels Jesus teaching believers to not judge others but love them and not do them wrong. In Luke 6:35 Jesus commands believers to “love [our] enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” Jesus continues His instruction for believers to be merciful and to judge not. He says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
It is only when we abide in our Heavenly Father that we have the wisdom and nature of His Holy Spirit to put others before ourselves. It is then that we can see that satan is simply waging an attack through a person for whom we need to pray. We are to not take offenses personally but see them for what they really are: spiritual warfare. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:5,9 in the Sermon on the Mount call us to meekness and peaceful living: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” I want to be known as a child of the most high God, the one, true God. If I revere myself better than others and don’t pray for them as I should when they lie about me, abuse and attack me, I am giving satan room for folly in my own life and not praying him out of the lives of others.
Remember that satan doesn’t care about anyone but uses whoever he can at any given moment to offend and prevent God. He spitefully uses people against one another to hurt God. We know his plans and can deny him that power in our own lives by actively seeking and constantly abiding in God. By viewing our situations as challenges to show God’s love and opportunities to grow spiritually when we are done wrong by others, we weaken satan’s attacks making them of no effect. Pray that through God’s blessings of wisdom and love you will see every situation for what it is in the spiritual realm and that you will respond in a manner pleasing to God. Love others as Christ beckons in Luke 6:27,28, “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” Understand that no believer is your enemy but can behave as an enemy when they are not abiding in the Father as necessary to share His love with us and others. Pray for others always and do not judge. There’s always a weakness in them satan is attacking in order to attack you. We are shielded from the attack my abiding in our Father in heaven; we aide in reconnaissance for others when we pray for them in love, never hate.
I have been greatly influenced by a commonly known Bible verse, Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Recently I have become irritated that my grown daughter doesn’t seem to have time to communicate anything meaningful, anything more than hitting the button to “love” a text I sent her or by texting me that she loves me and hopes that I have a wonderful day. I want so much more than these thin lines of communication with my only child.
Starting before I became frustrated with her lack of time for me, I had been praying very specifically for her and her husband, for God to draw them near to Himself and to cause a deep hunger they realize only God can fill. I had been praying for God to keep them safe and preserve them for His ministry while they are searching for the truth in various directions, not having God as their center.
With God’s gentle reminder for me to keep my mind on what is good, I have many blessings to thank God for in the communication I have with my daughter. By even her brief texts and “likes” of my texts to her, I know that she is safe and well. Those two blessings are not to be taken lightly, especially with COVID, the fact that she is often on the road very late driving home from work, and that they live in a big city where their apartment complex often has one or more homeless folks outside, and countless other factors making these two blessings reason enough for me to smile and raise my hands to the God who is protecting and providing for their every need.
Satan wants to use the lack of deeper communication with my daughter against us both. He wants her busyness to hinder her relationship with God, and he wants it to hinder my prayers for her and her husband.
I am thankful the Holy Spirit is in us to remind, encourage, and fortify us to think on what is good. I recall when my daughter ran away from home as a teenager how difficult it was to focus on the good without communication for two and a half months to know that she was safe and well. God kept her safe in her questioning and rebellion, and He is not going to give up on her now. During that difficult time, I remained in constant prayer recalling God’s promises and acknowledging His faithfulness regardless of what appeared to be true at the moment.
I had given my daughter to God while on my knees, pregnancy test in hand, thanking Him for the blessing she was, nine months before I laid eyes on her precious face. All her life I saw God’s handiwork as well as satan’s strong attempts to pull her away and deceive her. I knew she was created with leadership qualities and a servant’s heart to serve God. I had to choose to remember this every day while waiting to know that she was safe and well after she ran away. Alone remembering God’s promises for my daughter wouldn’t have pushed fears and worries aside. The Holy Spirit strengthened me to remember and trust that God never breaks His promises.
I raised my daughter to find, know, love, trust, and obey God. We were very active in church and had a God-centered home life. I knew based on God’s promise in Proverbs 22:6 that because I had raised her in how she should go, when she is old she will not depart from it. That promise alone gave me comfort to know that she would not pass from this earth without living in a strong relationship with the Lord as her savior and guide. This promise eased my fears and fueled my prayers for God’s intervention in her life.
As Satan tries to use busyness to distract my daughter from God and to weaken my prayers for her and her husband, I am at peace knowing that satan is desperately clamoring for our attention because he isn’t winning against God in this attack. Based on God’s promise in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose," I will continue praying fervently for God’s protection and intervention in my daughter’s and her husband’s lives because I know God has great work in store for them which will be for their good and His glory.
Now and always I will choose to be thankful for the blessed communication I have with my daughter and pray against my own selfishness wanting more. I pray for her relationship and communication with her Creator who pursues her heart with unrelenting, all-knowing, grace-filled agape love.
Isaiah 58:11 says, “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”
I recall my first full time teaching position was particularly challenging as I strived for acceptance in a tight-knit community to whom I was an outsider. I consistently worked over eighty hours per week as a teacher, a single mom in a new house, and taking on more volunteer work at church. I had little time left for sleep. I remember many hours pacing to stay awake while I graded papers. Yet I got up after typically a very short night of rest refreshed to spend a couple of hours in God’s Word and on my knees before waking my daughter and getting ready for school. I knew in this challenging teaching position as a single mom, I needed bible study and prayer more than oxygen.
In Psalm 32:8 God promises, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye.” We read in Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” I often messed up as a parent and teacher which taught me new things every day, but I always felt God’s strong hand holding me, encouraging me, not letting me give up or continue in the wrong way that would inevitably lead to disaster for me and those children.
There are distinctly different outcomes when we trust and obey God step by step and when we simply venture out on our own wits. Proverbs 3:5,6 urge us to “trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 16:3 continues, “Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” I was never a perfect parent or teacher by any stretch of the imagination; however, I know that God blessed me and others through my relationship with Him as I parented and taught.
Because of our human nature we will make mistakes from which we can learn and grow; nonetheless, submitting to the authority and will of Christ over our life leads to peace, joy, and much other good fruit easily distinguished from the fruit of a life endeavored apart from Christ. I will never regret the hours on my knees and in God’s Word.
I have many well-meaning friends who during that first teaching position and for years afterward tried to convince me of my need for moderation. They rationalized that I had to teach and parent and must sleep and eat and have time of rest.
I admit that I am OCD, having a personality equipped with an obsessive compulsive disorder. I embrace it as part of who I am, a quality God built in to me as compensatory helping me to focus on and do the things I need to. Psalm 18:30 has always assured me God not only knows all my details but designed them to work together perfectly to bring Him honor and praise. “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those who trust in him.” To further assure me and calm my fears, God gives us a wonderful promise in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
God gives us friends as a wonderful gift in this life. They encourage us, balance us, help us observe from different perspectives, and provide intellectual and social engagement, a true source of joy. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” First Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us that we are to comfort and edify one another. Paul rejoiced in the beginning of his second letter to the church in Thessalonica that as the individuals’ faith grew, so did their charity toward one another. Friendship is designed by God to bring us closer to Himself.
However good, friends’ words or actions are never to overpower God’s direct leadership during and resulting from earnest prayer and study seeking His will. The Holy Spirit is in each of us who are saved to guide us how, where, and when we should go. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). Let us never forsake this unparalleled advantage in life. We unleash the power for the Holy Spirit to guide us as we pore over God’s Word intently seeking its full meaning and application to our own lives.
We must live, read, and pray in faith. First Timothy 2:1,3,8 say collectively, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men… for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour… I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Colossians 1:10 continues why this is so important, “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” I knew as a single mom and new teacher in a needful community that I could only genuinely love and serve others if I committed time for prayer and fasting concerning them.
Today my situation is very different than it was as a single mom and a new teacher, as certain as your situation had changed or evolved, but God’s call to us all remains the same: to seek Him first, abide in His Word, trust and follow His guidance so that we successfully encourage and challenge others, leading the way to Him, amidst the busyness and demands in our daily lives. Just as Paul challenged the Roman church, I challenge you: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1,2)