Troubles

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus, as quoted in John 16:33 (NIV)

“Troubles” was the name of the dog that made rounds in our neighborhood every day when I was growing up, “baptizing” my mother’s transplanted pine trees. 

Why on earth anyone would name a dog “Troubles,” I have no idea. He wasn’t mean-tempered or destructive. He just padded from yard to yard, sniffing and marking his territory. No turf was off limits. Back then there were no shock collars to keep a curious canine contained. You either tied him up (and the whole neighborhood heard him yap from morning ’til night), kept him inside, or let him roam. 

Isn’t that what trouble does? Makes rounds of the neighborhood. No one is immune from its visits. You can’t tie or lock it up to keep it from coming. And you can’t live in a box, afraid to venture out in case Trouble is in the yard. It will leave its mark. Sometimes it changes your life forever. And it always brings with it a lesson, if you’re not too stubborn to acknowledge it. 

But I’m preaching. Sorry.

I got to thinking about trouble when I read “Trouble Was Bound to Come,” chapter 13 of Debbie Macomber’s book, Once Upon a Time: Discovering Our Forever After Story. As I prepared to respond to the chapter prompt, “Describe a time when trouble knocked at your door,” I ran into a little, uh, trouble. After six decades, deciding which time to write about presented a challenge. I could write a book, not a journal entry. 

But that wasn’t the only difficulty I encountered with this assignment. Writing about a time of trouble meant resurrecting something I buried long ago and had no desire to exhume. 

I’ve learned to deal with trouble by treating it as an opportunity—to grow, to change, to make changes, to better myself and my life in some way. Trouble, I’ve learned, is a wake-up call, a chance to see things from a different perspective, from the underside, as upside-down becomes the new normal. Trouble removes the blinders or rose-colored glasses we don in order to cope with life. 

Does God send trouble? Sometimes—when He needs to get our attention. “See, I have refined you,” he says in Isaiah 48:10. “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

But most times trouble comes simply because we live in a fallen world. The only time in earth’s history there was no trouble was in the Garden of Eden before The Fall. 

Trouble comes because of our choices. Trouble comes because of others’ choices. Trouble comes because things happen. That’s life. Most of which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is out of our control.

So where does this leave us?

Back in the yard with Troubles. 

How you perceive your visitor—and note that I use the word visitor—is your choice.

For me, yes, I have troubles, but I prefer to remember the words of Job: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

When trouble visits, Lord, remind me that I’m too blessed to complain. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Peter 1:6–9.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

For the LORD gives wisdom . . . he holds victory in store for the upright. – Proverbs 2:6, 7 NIV

I love baseball!

I often think how guidelines to playing the game translate into wise counsel for living life victoriously. Here, in no particular order and listed as they came to me, is some of the advice I heard my husband give my son during our baseball years:

Keep alert. Be ready for that ball to come to you. Anticipate the next play. The same is true in life. Much comes bouncing, flying straight at you when you least expect it. “Stay alert,” the apostle Peter wrote, “keep a firm grip on the faith” (1 Peter 5:8 The Message).

Listen to your coach. Know the signs and heed them. He’s the coach for a reason—he knows more than you about the game and he sees what you, in your position on the field, can’t. He wants you to overcome the opponent and come out on top. In life, “trust in the LORD and do good,” (Psalm 37:3), for in heeding Him “there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11). (Don’t forget Isaiah 55:8–9.)

Back up your pitcher. Support your team members. I remember the wife of David’s Little League coach cheering for the team to “talk it up out there.” The coach didn’t want silence on the field—he wanted to hear them encouraging each other. And don’t expect the pitcher to do it all. No matter how well he’s pitching, he needs some run support from the rest of the team if they want to win the game. “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Bad calls are part of the game. There’s nothing you can do about them. Arguing, whining, and letting it affect your attitude the rest of the game won’t help you or the rest of the team. Shrug it off. Life isn’t fair, either. Forget what’s behind you and press on to what’s ahead (Philippians 3:13–14).

Rain delays are part of the game, too. Sometimes you find yourself in a waiting period. You can’t stop the rain, but you can use the time to practice patience. (Psalm 37:7, Isaiah 40:31)

You win some, and you lose some. Cut your losses, learn from them and don’t let your wins get to your head. Instead, work on your weaknesses and don’t let pride nullify what strengths you have. (Proverbs 16:18).

Training is necessary, painful, and stretches you beyond your limits. But it also builds strength and character. The difficult things you face in life are the training ground God uses shape you into the person He wants you to be. (1 Corinthians 9:24–29)

Put on your game face. Attitude can make or break you. Like the renowned catcher Yogi Bera said, “Ninety percent of the game is half-mental.” So it is in life—what you think, what goes through your mind day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute—can be the determining factor in winning or losing, in overcoming or succumbing.  (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8–9)

You can do a lot on two outs. “The game isn’t over until it’s over” (Yogi Bera). Or in the words of the late Winston Churchill: “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

And in the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

 Help me, Lord, be to wise enough to heed Your guidelines. Amen.

Read and reflect on Proverbs 2:1–11.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.