Archives For Adversity

iStock_000000456905XSmallWhen I was about three or four years old my mother took all four (four at the time) of the kids with her to the store.  The only problem was that when she left, she left me standing on the sidewalk.

Now that was in the day when you could leave your child alone and he would be perfectly safe.  At any rate, she soon realized that she had left one. Hey, remembering three out of four is not bad, unless you are the one who is left behind.

When she arrived back on the crime scene, there I was crying.  I was so young I do not recall the incident, however I am sure it accounts for some of my behavioral idiosyncrasies today.

Let’s fast forward to adulthood.  We still don’t want to be left behind or left out.  There was a time in Israel’s history when they thought God had forgotten about them.

In fact, the pain was so great that in the 80th Psalm the Psalmist repeated himself three times (verse 3 is repeated times).

Psalm 80:1-3

Please listen, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph’s descendants like a flock.
O God, enthroned above the cherubim,
display your radiant glory
    to Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.
Show us your mighty power.
Come to rescue us!

Turn us again to yourself, O God.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.

The historical context is not certain.

Perhaps Israel is about to be invaded by the Assyrian army, or it may be in the past. Either way Israel was in trouble.  And as human nature is they felt forgotten and abandoned by God.

Well, that is exactly what Israel is praying.  In fact, verse 3 is repeated three times in the Psalm.  Three times!  This is an impassioned plea for God’s attention.

As I stood crying on the sidewalk, I suppose that was my way of saying, “Mom, please turn around and rescue me.”  And when you are in trouble, you will repeatedly ask God to turn around, smile with favor upon you, and rescue you from your trouble.

Yes, you will feel abandoned at times.  But just because you cannot see God does not mean He does not care.  He’ll show up.  Just keep looking.

iStock_000019630934XSmall_smilefaceIn my recent post, Life Can Be Cruel, I mentioned three things that seem to compound the intensity of our sufferings. Joseph experienced all three and stands out in the Bible as one who maintained a positive attitude and reflected a kind, and uplifting demeanor through it all.

For many of us it is much more natural to become angry when we do not get our way.  Or we become very impatient after a ninety second wait at our favorite fast food joint. If someone really ticks us off or highly offends us then we get bitter.

Our series of misfortunes and mistreatment run the gamut. When we survey Joseph’s life I wonder if we just gloss over it figuring he must be the exception.

But the Bible is clear that the stories were written to encourage us and give us an example to follow.  With that in mind, three words come to mind as we take a closer look at Joseph’s life.

1. Walk.  Joseph knew that he was walking with God.  There was no obvious sin in his life which brought on his personal hardships. While he was not perfect, he was not living under a cloud of guilt.

2. Willingness.  One of the hardest truths to accept is that God often uses suffering to refine us and shape us.  In the NT Peter mentions this in one of his letters.  As the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” Yet how many of us find ourselves willingly suffering and trusting in God’s purposes?

3. Witness.  This no doubt gets overlooked way too often.  One reason we keep singing and smiling is to show God’s strengthening grace.  You can’t explain it, but you can experience it, and expose it.  What a testimony to those who do not know the Lord.  What a testimony to fellow Christ-followers.  What an example for our kids.

There is too much at stake to allow the hardships, the unjust cruelties, and the slander of others to get us down and keep us down.

Three simple words to keep you smiling when life is down.

Football-Penn StateA new era has begun at Penn State.  Coach Bill O’Brien has somewhat of a formidable task.  Due to the unfortunate incidents over the last several months several of Penn States top players left for other colleges to continue their football careers.  When Coach O’Brien arrived the situation was already bad.  However, after his arrival things became even worse as players left.  With that sad here are some of my thoughts.

You have walked into a mess.  The current is against you.  There are few favorable winds at your back.  But you took the job knowing all that, and because you believe your previous experiences, your character, and your success coaching football have prepared you for this undertaking.

I would add at this point that unless you have ever been broken at some point in your life, this job will become even tougher.  You have walked into a broken situation, you will be surrounded by broken people, and you must be able to walk in their shoes.

One of the great stories from the book of Genesis centers around the life of Joseph.  Let me encourage you to read that story multiple times and learn from how he led during a great famine.  And quite frankly, Penn State football may be entering a time of famine, and it may last for a few years.

Here are six lessons to begin with:

1. Not all leaders can lead during a famine.  Egypt went through seven years of famine and Joseph led the way.  Part of your job is going to be to lead Penn State through the current crisis.

2. Do not complain.  Everyone knows the circumstances.  Everyone knows there is a famine in the land.  Be proactive and lead.

3. Don’t play the blame game.  Yes, people previous to you made some poor decisions. We get all that.  Remember, you took the job knowing all that, and you felt like you measured up to the challenge.  Deal with it, and do not bring up the earlier administration.

4. Set the example.  Avoid spending too much time looking in the rear view mirror or you will wind up in the ditch.

5. Identify some benchmarks or milestones to track your progress along this long journey.  As you travel, you will gain hope as you reach these along the way.

6. Cast a compelling vision for a bright future. Stay positive, encourage those around you, and serve your coaching staff and players well.

Yes, the sun has gone down on the University of Penn State.  But it will rise again.  And you can be the coach who is at the helm when that happens.

One more thing.

Remember that the country is pulling for you.  Yes, Penn State has that much influence.  And many will be cheering for your success.

Believe in YourselfLife is full of adversity. Obstacles seem to be around every corner.
If you ever feel like throwing in the towel and bailing on your dream think about the guy who…
*failed in business at the age of 32.
*ran for the state legislature and lost at the same age.
*gave business another shot at age 33 and failed again.
*lost his sweetheart at age 35.
*had a nervous breakdown at age 36.
*defeated running for Congress at 43.
*defeated again at age 48.
*ran for the Senate and defeated at 55.
*ran for Vice Presidency and defeated at 56.
*ran for the Senate again at 58 and lost again.
But he never QUIT!
*In 1860 he was elected President of the United States!!
Abraham Lincoln kept believing in himself.
Keep believing in yourself. You’ll be glad you did.