You know how some things that happened to you early on in your life are events that just seem to stick with you...even though it’s possible that they happened many, many years ago they seem just as fresh as the moment they occurred. I remember one evening when I was feeding my dog, Teddy, when we lived in Plainview, Texas. That was my job, and I’m sure my parents told me to be really careful when opening the can of dog food that I would gingerly spoon or shake out of the can to give to Teddy. But on this particular evening, I don’t know, I guess I was in a hurry or something. I was probably 13 or 14; yes, there was a time when I was 13 or 14. I was trying to get the lid off of the can, because I had used a can opener to open the top of the can but just hadn’t quite gone far enough around and so I just thought I’d rip the thing off the rest of the way and I’d be good to go.
Well, you guessed it, that tin can lid just sliced through the meat of my thumb pad and blood started gushing out like Niagara Falls in the middle of the spring. I told you I can still remember the traumatic episode to this day... and it seemed like Niagara Falls. I started to feel faint and started wavering when my mom saw what had happened and employed all the necessary bandaging skills to stop the bleeding and begin the healing process. Even had to get a tetanus shot from the doctor. That was probably the first time that I can remember the value of pain. I learned a great lesson about how to take a lid off of a can without slicing up said hand and I’ve never repeated that mistake again. Don’t try to rip a tin can lid off with your hands, finish using the opener. And since that day I’ve continued to see repeated in my life the fact that life has a lot of pain that can really rock your world, and God can use it for good in your life.
Have you had your world rocked lately? It seems to occur to me most of the time in the form of problems. I guess that having problems in this old broken world is one thing we all have in common. They come in all shapes and sizes; they can last for a short period of time or a lifetime, and they cause all kind of instability. They are a real pain, most of the time. But, regardless of the source of our problems a lot can be learned about who we really are. Not sure who said it, but someone said that people are a lot like tea bags. You don’t know what’s in them until you drop them in hot water.
When you study the Scripture we find out that the Lord has a lot to say about the problems we face. He reveals some of the sources of our problems. They begin with us, yes, we cause a lot of the problems we have in life. Hey, I opened the can in the wrong manner, it wasn’t anybody else’s fault. I’ve caused myself a lot of problems over the years, that’s for sure. The next source would be Satan. While God has a good plan for our lives, Satan has a terrible plan for our lives and will use any and all problems to defeat and discourage us. Then there is the world. The world wants to have us lower our standards and change our convictions and give up and go with the flow and leave our faith behind. Then there’s one more that becomes obvious as you read the Bible - God. There are times that God wants to rock our world, for the good.
If your world is being rocked, you can know this, regardless of the source, God wants to use those problems for good in your life. It’s true what the Scripture says,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (ESV)
“All things” include our problems. Sometimes God uses the problems in our lives to reveal to us something that’s out of whack in our life. A motivation, a thought process, an emotion, our character, and the problems we have reveal it to us. God already knows about the issue, so He uses problems that we have to reveal it to us. A lot of the time we would be blind to the issue without the problems we have. The problems confront us and show us what’s inside. We should look for God to use our problems. What does this problem reveal about me?
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10 (ESV)
Sometimes God uses problems in our lives to correct us. We all have benefited from our parents correcting us in our lives...that is how we learned not to touch a hot stove, and how to cross the street in the right way. Instead of letting us do what was wrong, which would have caused us great harm; they corrected the things that we did wrong because they loved us. God loves us even more and He corrects us through problems that we have that bring a lot of pain into our lives on occasion, but no pain, no gain, right.
Our human fathers correct us for a short time, and they do it as they think best. But God corrects us for our own good, because he wants us to be holy, as he is. 11 It is never fun to be corrected. In fact, at the time it is always painful. But if we learn to obey by being corrected, we will do right and live at peace. Hebrews 12:10-11 (CEV)
There are times when the pain of a problem becomes so intense that it leads us to change. We can learn a lot through failure. Hey, I never opened a can of dog food in the wrong way again.
God used problems throughout the history of Israel to bring change into their lives; whether it be the wandering in the wilderness, or the seventy years of captivity, etc. He will rock our world to correct us. Look for God in your problems. What is my problem teaching me?
God will often use problems to redirect our lives. Just think about the custom made problem that Jonah received because he was headed the wrong direction; west to Spain, instead of east to Nineveh. You know some problems will swallow you whole and spit you out. Ever happened to you? When Jonah was spit out, he was headed in the right direction. Problems can change our plans. Have you ever changed your plans because of a problem? Well, there you go-God redirecting. In fact the pain that comes through a lot of the problems we have God uses to redirect us for good. Which one of us would ever take a visit to the dentist on our own, without the pain of a throbbing tooth? That would be nobody. Look for God to use our problems for good. Where is this problem leading me?
Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. Proverbs 20:30 (TEV)
God often uses our problems to protect us. We can do the right thing and still have a problem and God uses it to protect us. Joseph had a lot of problems going on in his life in the first 40 years. There were people who intended to harm him, but God used all the problems to bring him out on top. You remember what he told his brothers.
20 As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 (TLB)
Some intend to harm...God will use it for good.
Why do you think that God doesn’t always erase our negative emotions and feelings? Because they are just symptoms of the real issue, wrong thinking. He wants to protect us but we’re going to have to address the real issue, the real problem. He is going to leave those emotional problems in place until we deal with the wrong thinking, which will change the emotions. God uses problems in our lives for good, if we are looking for God in our problems. How could this problem be used by God to protect me?
And God uses our problems to help us to grow in Christ. The very thing that is rocking our world God wants to use to develop us. That’s what really matters; for there is a reward that is coming. Look for God to use your problems to grow you. How can I grow from this problem?
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)
Look for God in your problems...if you don’t, well, that’s a real problem. We should respond to the problems in life with trust and faith, and look for God to work some good out of what we’re going through. Even when we don’t understand why?
Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way? Proverbs 20:24 (TLB)
Don’t be consumed with asking why? Ask what? What is God going to do in me? Look for God and then trust. Then you will rejoice...I know...sounds crazy...but it’s true...and it works.
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
God changes the way we look at life and our problems....right? Don’t just survive your problems, thrive off of them....for His glory.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)