When Does It End?

In the last couple of weeks…

  • Two family members have undergone surgery.
  • A couple of close friends have learned that they are facing medical tests which could lead to life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.
  • A family member has been harassed to the point of requiring police involvement.
  • Another family member has been defrauded by someone close to them and is facing difficult decisions about how to handle it.
  • Another family member is dealing with physical pain that cannot be helped medically.
  • A couple of close friends are dealing with adult children who are making unhealthy and unsafe relationship choices.
  • A couple of friends are dealing with the possibility of imploding marriages.

And those are just the tip of the iceberg.  Those are just some of the issues in my immediate circles of family and friends.  There are a ton more.  And that doesn’t even touch on things like the deepening divisions in our nation, the threat of war with North Korea, and a hundred other disturbing news items that I could highlight.

Where does it all end?  When does it end?  It feels like one one thing right after another, like one thing gets dealt with and before it’s even completely dealt with, another thing is popping up.  It’s like life has become a giant, losing game of Whack-A-Mole.

How do you deal with all of that without becoming cynical, fearful, anxious, depressed – without just throwing up your hands and giving up?

Hope.  We have to have hope, despite all that is happening around us.

And what reason could there be for hope?

Jesus.  And…Jesus’ promise:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29 (NIV)

Did you catch that?  At the renewal of all things.

Plant

The way things are now is NOT the way that they will always be.

The way your life is now is NOT the way that it will always be.

One day, all things will be renewed.  Re-made.  Re-created, as some Bible translations put it.

All things restored, put back as they were originally created and intended.

I know, it sounds too good to be true.

And there’s so much more there – so much deeper that we could dig into this.  But that’s beyond the scope of one short blog entry.

For today, it is enough to remember that there is hope.  That a day is coming – a day that Jesus called the “renewal of all things.”  On that day, He will fulfill what God promised in Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV):  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”  Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

It’s All Up To You

In one of John Maxwell book “Developing the Leader Within”, he quoted the following:

We cannot choose how many years we will live, but

We can choose how much life those years will have.

We cannot control the beauty of our face, but

We can control the expression on it.

We cannot control life’s difficult moments, but

We can choose to make life less difficult.

We cannot control the negative atmosphere of the world, but

We can control the atmosphere of our minds.

Too often, we try to choose and control things we cannot.

Too seldom, we choose to control what we can…our attitude.

How true that is, and how powerful once we understand it.

There are two important truths here:

    • There is not much that I cannot control in life, but
    • I CAN control my own attitude.

I know people – and I’m sure you do – who spend their entire lives trying to control.  Trying to control their spouses and children and grandchildren, trying to control other peoples’ perceptions of them, trying to control other peoples’ actions, trying to control their lives, trying to control what the future will look like.

And it’s all futile. 

The discouraging truth is that we begin life with no control, we gain some control over our lives as we become adults and make our own decisions, but ultimately, aging is a process of increasingly losing control of different aspects of our lives.  Depressing, isn’t it?  And yet, it’s the human condition.  It happens to all of us, and no matter who we are, how influential or powerless we are, how wealthy or poor we are, how spiritual or unspiritual we are, how well we plan or how poorly we plan, it will happen to each one of us.

But the good news is that while I cannot control what happens to me, I can control what happens in me.  No one can choose my attitude but me; no one can control my response to life’s situations but me.

positive thinking or think negative positivity or negativity opt

Viktor Frankl was a Doctor of Neurology and Psychology.  In 1942, he and his wife were forced by the Nazis to abort their first baby.  In 1944, they are sent to Auschwitz, where he is separated from his wife, mother, and brother.  After Auschwitz was liberated by U.S. Troops, he learned that his wife was transported to Bergen-Belsen, where she died at the age of 24; and that his mother and brother were murdered at Auschwitz.  Despite all of these experiences, Frankl went on to write the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” – the book in which he wrote these powerful words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Wow.  Consider the weight of those words after all that he himself experienced.  No one can take from you the freedom to choose your attitude.

None of us knows what today will hold, what we will face in the coming days or hours.

None of us can control most of what may happen to us.

But every one of us can control our own attitude.  Every one of us can choose how we will face this day, and all that it brings to us.

What attitude will you choose today?


If you’re interested in learning more about following Jesus, check out my new devotional book, Forty Days of Walking With Jesus:  A Devotional Guide, now available on the Kindle Store.  The paperback version is NOW AVAILABLE for $6.99!  For ordering information, contact me at don@donwhunter.com

Questions, Problems, Feeling Forgotten, and God’s Absence

How’s that for a title???

I began blogging for the New Year on January 2.  I wrote these words:  Last year, before Advent, we were working through some questions that several of you had submitted to me – questions about following Jesus in our daily lives and dealing with some of the struggles that we can face on that journey.  Several questions dealt with feeling like God was absent, not listening or answering, or had simply moved on to something or someone else and had left someone feeling alone and forgotten.

I wrote one blog on that subject, about the fact that God loves us, and God is always good, even when He seems distant.  I intended to move from there to writing about the power of brokenness and some other important concepts about dealing with pain and disappointment and feeling distant from God.

Then I lost a close friend, my family ran the gauntlet of flu, I had a medical procedure, annual reports came due, appointments stacked up, and a ton of other stuff felt like it hit at once, and I got sidetracked from blogging.

So I planned to begin this week with an “I need to get back on track with blogging day.”

I want to get back to these important issues of feeling that God is absent, and subsequently feeling either that God is not hearing or that you are alone and forgotten.  These issues can arise for a number of reasons, like unanswered prayer, suffering, trauma, disappointments with God or with people, uncertainty, a lack of clarity when you feel like you’ve done everything you can to hear God’s voice and discern His will, tragedies, and the list can go on and on.

I was starting to plan out what I was going to write about all of these.

Then, on Friday afternoon, Jewel and I were in DuBois picking up a few things at Staples when I got a phone call from my doctor – “get to the ER right away.”  It turns out that I had a major problem with some blood work results from that morning.

Not too many phrases get your attention as immediately and as completely as “get to the ER immediately.”

At first, I kept this very private.  I’m not always as willing to be as vulnerable as I should be.  My ministry experiences and my experiences growing up as PK mean that I am used to life in the “fish bowl” – and so, as a result, I have tended to protect my privacy fairly fiercely.  But I’m learning that while a certain level of privacy is important and appropriate, I also need community, and as a leader, I need to be willing to vulnerable if I want to be able to minister deeply to others.

So, full disclosure – as I am beginning to write about struggling through some of these questions and issues, I am not just writing about things I’ve worked through or dealt with in my past.  I am also writing about my present state of mind and about processing some of these same questions myself. 

I am living in the midst of uncertainty.  I’ve got at least three medical procedures looming over me, with the potential for more.  My family is very worried about me.  I’m dealing with symptoms and issues and limitations that I am not used to dealing with, and that I don’t want.  I didn’t ask for this.

But I can also say this:  it is well with my soul.

God is good.  He’s got me, He’s got this, and He’s got my family.

We’ll continue the conversation tomorrow.

In the meantime, I pray this for you:  I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 (NLT)