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Hard Seasons | Voices

Hard Seasons | Voices

Monday  Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?  Psalm 10:1 

You prayed and prayed. You thrashed through sleepless nights, claimed Bible verses, spoke faith, and pretended you were stronger than you really were. But she died anyway. Your job folded anyway. Your true love left anyway. The crisis may have passed, but all you have left are pieces of your heart. Tatters of your old life. Memories instead of hugs. You want to be able to sing and recite God’s faithful promises, but they echo with emptiness. It’s hard to say it out loud—but God let you down.

One voice that trumps all others is often the voice of disappointment with God. It shouts down any attempts to worship and taunts us when we pretend it’s not there. After all, why should we praise a God who heard our cries and ignored them? We thought we knew Him pretty well—until we didn’t. And everything we’d learned in Sunday School looked like a lie. We wonder if it’s the end of our faith. It is. It’s the end of the kindergarten blessings-for-prayer god we thought existed. Sometimes God lets us go through faith-shattering seasons because we had Him in a box. But He wants more for us than a business arrangement. So He lets us come to the end of ourselves, to the end of our fantasy god. Only in our desperation can we know Him as the Lord God Almighty instead of the God-in-a-Box we prayed to. Disappointment with God can be a blessing in disguise.

Challenge Question:  Have you been disappointed with God? Those hard seasons could be a blessing in disguise.

Prayer: Lord, have I put you in a box? Have I been more like a business partner than a passionate worshiper? Please forgive me for being angry with you. You’re God; I’m not, and I want to know you as you really are. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Tuesday And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:4

This verse is a dot-to-dot treasure hunt. It drops clues, but we have to follow them to find the prize. We start with “endurance” and trace the dots to “perfect work,” then to “perfect and complete,” then to “lacking nothing.”  At the end is a treasure— a character which is perfect and complete. But what does that mean?  Perfect and complete means our lives have no glaring deficiencies that would disqualify us from great service to God, the kind that earns eternal rewards. God wants us to develop character traits of maturity, wisdom, contentment, and integrity. Enduring through hard seasons is His plan to get us there.

Our habits and hang-ups are the result of NOT having those traits and it causes grief and pain. But we only reap the benefit of endurance if we started the treasure hunt at the beginning: repentance and salvation at the cross. God gives us a blank slate, then offers power to pursue maturity, which keeps us from tripping over every temptation. Wisdom keeps us from acting like fools. Contentment keeps us from jumping the fences for greener grass, and integrity makes us trustworthy—even for God. He’s excited to give us opportunities to be Big Shots in His kingdom, but only after we’ve proven ourselves through seasons of heartache, discouragement, or disaster. If we stay obedient to Him—even in the hard places—that suffering results in endurance. And endurance leads to a character that is perfect and complete. So follow the dots on God’s treasure map.

Challenge Question:  Did you know that simply hanging in there creates maturity, wisdom, contentment, and integrity?

Prayer: Father, sometimes I feel like I’m barely hanging in there and I wonder if it’s worth it. Your word was penned by people who understood suffering greater than mine, so if they endured until the awards’ ceremony, so can I. In Jesus’ name, amen.  

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Wednesday  Trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold…  1 Peter 1:7

Ted and Leroy rode into the mining town, excited. “I’m sorry you didn’t find as much gold as I did,” said Ted. “I tried to get you to join me on my strike, but you wouldn’t leave that little streak in the cave.” Leroy frowned. “Yeah, I appreciate it, but I’m content with my strike.” They entered the refiner’s hut where they’d left their year’s-worth of work. “What’s that smell!” cried Ted. “Stinks awful!” The refiner met them at the door. “Bad new for ya, Ted,” he said. “That smell is your income burning up. Fool’s gold. Pyrite. Worthless.” He turned to Leroy. “But your haul was fantastic! It’s in the fire now and it’s looking good!”

Both Ted and Leroy thought they had struck it rich. On the outside, their hauls looked the same. But it was the refiner’s fire that revealed the truth. The fire proved Ted’s bounty to be nothing but mineral, but Leroy had the real deal. As Leroy’s gold melted in the fire, impurities rose to the surface to be scooped up and thrown away. The gold that was left was pure and valuable. That’s the picture Peter paints in this verse. On the outside, many people appear to be Christians. They go to church, act nice, and talk about God. But in hard seasons—temptations, distractions, and struggles—they reveal their true nature. Christians go through fires too, but as the impurities are revealed, we repent of them. The heart that is left is pure and valuable.

Challenge Question: If you were thrown into the refiner’s fire, what would it reveal about your true nature?

Prayer: Lord, I don’t want to be fool’s gold. No matter how I look on the outside, you know who I am on the inside. Help me deepen my devotion so that when trials come, I’m not revealed as a poser but purified as a Christian. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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ThursdaySo when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.  1 Peter 1:7

It was happening! She could hardly believe it. The day she’d read about in the Bible was really here. Jesus was back and the entire world was on its knees in worship. A booming voice began announcing names and rewards and she joined in the wild applause. Famous missionaries, authors, evangelists, and pastors were coming forward to receive rewards from Jesus Himself. Then she heard her own name called. Shock rippled through her being. She’d done nothing worthy of praise. But there it was again, an angel calling her name: “For trusting God through long seasons of great trials…receive your reward!”

Have you thought about that day? What stunning rewards might have your name on them? God’s rewards are not just for   earthly superstars. When we endure, obey, and continue praising God in spite of our tears, He makes careful note of it. Neither your sacrifice nor your endurance will go unrewarded. Even the smallest act of service in His name is recorded in His book. Every preschooler’s snotty nose you wiped, every insult you endured with grace, every injustice you took without seeking revenge—it’s all recorded next to your name and Jesus can’t wait to reward you for it. His rewards are heaven’s currency. We hate hard seasons, but when we endure them with grace and obedience, we are earning praise and glory and honor.

Challenge Question:  How would it help you endure if you saw every trial as an opportunity to earn rewards from Jesus?

Prayer: Father, I don’t understand your kind of rewards, but if you say they’re awesome, I’ll believe you. I don’t feel like my life has counted for much, but help me remember that every act done in your name will earn a reward. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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FridayTo everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.  Ecclesiastes 3:1

“I wish I was old enough to go to school,” sighed four-year-old Amy. Ten years later, she sighed again: “I wish I was out of school.” Five years later: “I wish I was married.” Six years later: “I wish I wasn’t married.” Five years later: “I wish I had children.” Ten years later: “I wish these kids would grow up.” Eight years later: “I wish the kids were little again.” Wishing, wishing, wishing. We use up a lot of our time on earth wishing we were in a different season. But our lives are like a book with many chapters. We can’t skip some or peek in the back or it won’t make sense. We’re not ready for those chapters.

God has assigned us different roles in different seasons and supplies the grace we need to endure them. Some seasons are beautiful and easy, but some are HARD. The season in which we raised a handicapped child, cared for an Alzheimer’s patient, or worked three jobs to make ends meet are not ones we wish to repeat. But they have a purpose. Those long years when we felt invisible, when no one understood the depth of our pain, longing, or loneliness, we wondered if God did. Was it all for nothing? No, it was a season meant to build toward other seasons. No one loves peace like someone who’s come through a war. We don’t value ease unless we’ve endured difficulty. And we don’t appreciate grace unless we’ve faced God’s judgment.

Challenge Question: Do you know the season you’re in right now? It’s not the end of the book, only a chapter.

Prayer: Father, it helps me to remember that this season of my life will pass and I’ll enter a different season. Remind me often that this is not the end of the book. It’s only a chapter. I want you to write it because I know it will have a good ending. Amen.