Trials

I was lying on my bed trying to do my Bible study. Instead, I couldn’t keep from crying. Some difficulties with the children had discouraged me, and the tears were flowing. At 10:30 p.m. the phone rang.

“Mom, it’s Nathan. My car just spun out, and I am sitting in the median. I’m not hurt, and the car isn’t either. A guy stopped to help me. He’s going to try to get me out. I wanted you to know so you and Dad could pray that we can get it out.”

Nathan, our twenty-one-year-old son, was returning from a long weekend retreat with a friend. Driving home, he had entered into freezing rain. While driving fifty miles per hour on the interstate, he hit a patch of ice.

Suddenly, the troubles of a few minutes ago didn’t seem so important any more. We now were thinking about life and death. God’s hand of mercy and protection were greatly evident in the events of the accident. I continued to cry–for another reason. Steve immediately knelt down at the bed to pray. He praised the Lord, thanked the Lord, and petitioned the Lord.

The little trials God sends my way are not sent to discourage me. For me, right now, these trials usually have to do with my children. Your trials may be different. Trials are meant to get and keep my focus on the Lord. Where will that focus be? Will it be on me–my failures, my inconveniences, my feelings? Or will it be on the Lord?

Lately, too often, I have allowed my thoughts to dwell on the small, negative things happening around me. Then I am caught in a trap of discouragement. Sometimes this discouragement so overwhelms me that I can’t even begin to think the right thoughts. Then I cry and feel defeated. Of course, these are the times I most need to call out to the Lord rather than allow my mind to continue to dwell on me and on what is going on. The truth is that sometimes I can’t even do this. When that is the case, I have to make myself take out my spiritual notebook.

My spiritual notebook is a large three-ring notebook that I was encouraged to begin five years ago. It has ABC tabs and normal tabs. Behind the ABC tabs, I have pages of Scriptures for specific needs. As I find a verse that has special meaning to me, I will write it on a page under an appropriate topic. Verses to help with discouragement are written on a page filed after “D” and ones on discipline on another “D” page. There is a page for verses on sin, love, fear, patience, thoughts, etc.

One of the tabs has pages of special spiritual notes, book notes, and handouts. Another section has areas in which the Lord has dealt with me in the past. This includes Scripture and encouragement He has given me that I have written out. When I read through the Scripture and notes in this notebook, I begin to have the right thoughts and focus, even though I haven’t been able to have them on my own. These verses are familiar ones. They are verses that have ministered to me and met my need in the past, and they continue to do so. I have to take what little steps I can, leaving the emotionally distressing situations behind as I go to be alone with the Lord to seek Him. To be honest, even this step can be difficult for me in the midst of an emotional storm. However, if I will go where I know the truth is, the Lord reaches out to meet the need.

Last night, after the call from Nathan, I realized I was allowing little things to take too much of my attention. Steve encouraged me to stop thinking negatively about things and get my focus back on the Lord. Doesn’t that sound right and easy? But again, when I am allowing my emotions to run my thoughts, it is not easy. So I, a little facetiously, asked Steve exactly how I was to do this. His response was that I needed to put my energy into crying out to the Lord in prayer, expressing my concerns and inability to speak truth in my heart.

Knowing he was right, I also recalled the words of our pastor that morning. He was preaching on God’s purposes for storms–physical storms–and drawing analogies to God’s purposes for allowing storms in our lives. He was encouraging us not to try to hide from the storms, in storm shelters, but to let God work His purpose in us through the storm. If my heart’s desire is truly to know Jesus Christ and be conformed to His image, why am I not willing to accept difficulties that will cause my heart to look to Him?

I decided one way to get my mind back on the Lord was to read in Psalms. I started reading Psalms 91. I was stopped as I read verse 4, “. . . his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” That verse spoke to my heart and my need at the time. To move my thinking from myself to my Lord, I needed this thought of God’s faithfulness. Concentrating on Who He is and what He has done put my attention where God could use it positively. I was able to recall the verse throughout the day. It was a comfort and encouragement to me, keeping my heart on the Lord, not on myself.

Do you have times when your thinking is off track; perhaps emotions are controlling those thoughts in a negative way? Does it seem impossible to get them back on the Lord and on His truth? When this is the case, don’t allow yourself to continue that way, but take one tiny step. Get out your Bible or spiritual notebook, and put God’s thoughts back into your mind. Then allow those thoughts to push out the wrong ones. Let them speak truth to your heart, and believe them, whether you feel like it or not. Your heart will be at peace once more; you will be filled with true thoughts; your mind will be focused on Jesus Christ, not on your own self!

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