We all have those times when life seems to take an unexpected turn – perhaps problems in relationships surface, there are difficulties at work (or finding work), health issues arise or we face a sudden tragedy in our family or community. In those times, it is easy to start to spiral downwards, questioning 'why' and railing at God when we don't find any answers. God graciously wants us to open up about our feelings of frustration or confusion (the Psalms are full of examples of people doing just that), but getting caught up in the 'why', or staying at that point of questioning doesn't do us any good.
In my last column I shared with you how my year hasn't been as I expected it to be so far. I have had to get used to doing things slightly differently to usual. There have been days when I've enjoyed the slower pace – other days when I've pushed myself too hard and suffered as a result. But in it all, I've been reminded of some of the verses that have spoken to me most in my hardest moments.
I know that always trying to find a reason for why something happens is fruitless, but I also believe that God is ultimately in control of all life. I have been reminded even today during my devotional of how, when we suffer unexpectedly, God may well be reaching out to others through us in ways we might not even be aware of. We have an eternal hope to share, whatever our physical circumstances. As someone who can be prone to being negative that is certainly food for thought!
I am aware of the importance of not lifting verses out of context, as it is so easy to make them say what we want them to, rather than what they actually mean. However, I have also experienced those times when God has spoken to me directly through verses that have 'jumped out at me' as I've been doing my daily Bible reading. What an encouragement it is when those moments happen, as it reminds us of his great, never-ending love for us as individuals.
So let me share with you some of my 'go-to' verses when I need to remind myself of how God is holding me in the palm of his hand – I hope they encourage you too.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful."
"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."
"Be still, and know that I am God."
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the Lord and refuse to do wrong."
"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
1 Peter 5:6-7,10
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you... And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."