Difficult Days…

When your day becomes unexpectedly challenging

Ever have an overwhelming day? Or week? Or month? Or maybe you’re still in the middle of a difficult day right now.  No matter what you’ve gone through, what you’re going through right now, or what you will go through, God will use the difficult days to make you into the person you need to be.

Difficult Days

Our household is in the middle of some “difficult days,” so this week’s post will be short and sweet.  My week started with the unwanted stomach flu, which has now turned into our three year old and four month old getting sick as well.  Just when one germ infested area is cleaned up, another shows it’s face!  Everyone is in different stages of sickness, except my wife — who is a trooper.  The house would completely fall apart if she got sick as well!

Much of my pastoral work can’t be delegated and is often timely (ie. Sermon prep for Sunday), so the push is on for me, and Deidre is in the highest motherly-DEFCON mode! Needless to say this week has been challenging to get through.

One of my mentors quite regularly mentioned James 1:2-4 when facing difficult days:

2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4, ESV)

So we need to celebrate the fact that God desires to mold us into who he wants us to be — “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” That’s a difficult idea to digest in the moment (it doesn’t really help my frustration), but quite rewarding when looking back.

That said, I find we tend to compare our difficult days with the difficult days of others and disregard our personal struggles when others are going through “worse” days. Because we’re all on different journeys and have experienced different things, it’s impossible to compare stress and trials (even if situations are similar).

In our #journey we’ll encounter many #trials, but those trials will make us #stronger! #James1 Click To Tweet

Likewise, if you’ve already experienced what someone else is only now experiencing, that means you’ve already grown through it — it should be easier!  But that doesn’t negate the overwhelming day others are having for the first time.

James was encouraging early Christians who were spread out everywhere and who were facing “trials of various kinds.”  That means, everyone was facing something, but everyone wasn’t facing the same thing.  No doubt many were facing life and death situations, and yet others were challenged with the anxiety.

We might relate to James 1 in different ways, but the truth of the text never fails. In every part of our journey, we’ll encounter many trials, but those trials will make us stronger!

No matter what you’re facing right now, these difficult days will help you to become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  And if you have to encounter a similar situation again, the strength gained today, will help bring you through.

Your turn…

What has helped you get through difficult days?

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Don’t Worry, Christians Don’t Worry?

“Don’t worry, God won’t give you something you can’t handle,” said no Bible verse ever.  That’s right, that phrase isn’t found anywhere in scripture!  In fact, from my experience, the opposite is true – God regularly hands me situations that I can’t handle on my own.  Situations that I’m not ready for, too busy for, or otherwise just don’t want.  But God looks at me and says, “Get ready, I’m about to shape you! I’m about to give you something you can’t handle so you can learn to rely on me.”


So if God is willing and able to carry us during times of stress, does that mean that Christians don’t worry?  Scripture can sound like that sometimes – almost a “holier than thou” picture.  The truth is: it’s not that Christians don’t worry, it’s that worry has no power over a faithful Christian.

I awoke with chest pain…

Last week chest pain got between me and my sleep.  It was significant enough to wake me up at 1:30am and for me to call a friend to ask to bring me to emerge.  The five hour ordeal left me with more questions than answers.  The good news, I didn’t have a heart attack.  The bad news, the doctor explained, the pain could be caused by nearly anything else (stress, lungs, pulled muscle, diet, gas, and the list went on).  I wish I could say I avoided the “educational” WebMD.com, but my questions required anxious answers.  A couple days later, my trip to the family doctor led to an x-ray and yet another anxious result three days later – negative.  My doctor has now narrowed it down to a muscular issue, or acid re-flux.  So the journey continues, and so does the natural human emotion of anxiety.  Unfortunately, the “unknowns” seem to always outweigh the positive news.  But let’s face it, we’re human and anxiety is a natural feeling.

To avoid anxiety seems impossible. Scripture, however, makes it seem obvious – “…do not be anxious about anything…”i Is that even possible?  The minute we all experience the unknown, our natural tendency is to think about the “what if…”  We may not call it worry, but asking “what if…” is simply worrying about tomorrow’s outcome.

So as Christians, how do we respond to worry and anxiety?

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus talking about anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-34).  Here’s the message: you don’t have to worry about what you will eat, drink, wear, the condition of your body, or even how you will pay for tomorrow’s needs because: 1) worrying won’t change anything; and, 2) God provides for all his creation, so how much more will he provide for His children. So instead of worrying, seek the Kingdom of God, and all your needs will be provided.

The key to understanding this “peace of God” seems to be found in Matthew 6:33.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I think we often misunderstand this verse. We are quick to ask God for help. But are we as quick to seek “the kingdom of God and his righteousness”? We are quick to ask God for help. But are we as quick to seek “the kingdom of God and his righteousness”? Click To TweetTruth be told, we probably pray for OUR WILL to be done long before we pray for GOD’S WILL to be done.  And yet Jesus told us to seek His Kingdom FIRST.

We probably read into the last part of this verse as well by interpreting “all these things” to mean whatever we are going through – be it our needs, wants, desires, or something else.  Jesus is telling us, to focus on His Kingdom and He’ll provide everything we NEED.

Paul put it this way when he wrote to Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”ii

The “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” is available to those who are abundantly Kingdom minded.  There is no promise that the feeling will NEVER happen.  The promise is that ANXIETY HAS NO POWER over the Christian who rejoices and puts their faith and work in Jesus and His Kingdom.

ANXIETY HAS NO POWER over the Christian who rejoices & puts their faith in Jesus & His Kingdom! Click To Tweet

Instead of anxiety ruling the situation, God takes these moments of being overwhelmed, and shapes us into who we need to be.  When we feel stressed, anxious, fearful, or otherwise overwhelmed, we have to remember that God wants us to grow through them and turn to Him for peace.

God has a purpose (even if we don’t see it) for every situation we find ourselves in.  James, at the beginning of his letter, said it this way:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”iii

So when I face worry or anxiety…

I need to keep quoting three scriptures:

1. Matthew 6:33– “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all [my needs] will be [provided].”

2. Philippians 4:6-7– “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, [I can let my] requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [my] heart and [my] mind in Christ Jesus.”

3. James 1:2-4– “the testing of [my] faith produces steadfastness… [so that I] may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The feelings of anxiety will still come my way, but the power of anxiety is decreased when I increase my dependency on God and seek God’s Kingdom first.  Quoting scripture is a beautiful way to remind ourselves that this truth is indeed a reality.

If we seek the Kingdom FIRST, pray with THANKSGIVING, and remember each situation SHAPES us, anxiety has no power over a faithful Christian.


Your turn…

Have you ever experience anxiety? Have you experienced the peace of God? If not, put your faith in Jesus and the power of anxiety will lose steam!

[i] Philippians 4:6a (ESV).

[ii] Philippians 4:4-9.

[iii] James 1:2-4.

Santology, Part 2 – Who has the power? (Omnipotent?)

This is part 2 of a discussion on the sacred and secular struggle many Christian households face during Christmas.  My goal isn’t to condemn secular traditions; rather, to ensure we are thinking about the impact some of our secular traditions have on our spiritual lives.


Christmas is a time to reflect on how God reveals Himself to us.  While we understand that to be true, it is somewhat beyond our understanding of how God operates.  In fact, Christians wouldn’t argue that God is omnipotent (meaning all-powerful); however, we often allow secular Christmas (Santa, Elf on the Shelf…etc) to hold aspects of power without thinking of the potential impact it may have on our spiritual Christmas (Jesus).  While the issues are usually subtle, the impact is often great.

Our all-powerful (omnipotent) God.

Sometimes we misunderstand the tension between ability and willingness. God is fully able to do anything, but not always willing to do what we want Him to do.  God’s goal is to mould and shape us by the experiences in our lives.  To explain this, James wrote:

 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.[i]

God uses his ultimate ability in this way, because he loves us.  God is our heavenly Father who, even though we don’t understand most of the time, disciplines us so that we can grow and mature.  With that said, our choice to either ignore God or embrace God will either end with a real consequence or real reward respectively.

16 For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[ii]

Out of love, however, God doesn’t wish any of us to be lost forever.  In fact, both 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9, both point to the fact that God’s desire is for all of us to be saved. This of course brings us back to God’s omnipotent power – God is able to save all of us, but, out of love and desire for us to mature, gives us the freedom of choice.

So, what does this mean for our understanding of God’s power and Christmas?

Three things we should understand about God’s omnipotent loving power:

  1. God always can, but not always will;
  2. God loves us in a way that helps us; and,
  3. God’s consequences and rewards are real.

Most of us understand these three spiritual realities; however, when Christmas approaches, we sometimes forget that these spiritual realities are sometimes trumped (or at least downplayed) by Santa and/or Elf on the Shelf.

The “Knotty or Nice List”

Depending on where you go in the world, the consequences of being on the knotty list are different. In our North American context, any child who is “bad” should expect to receive coal Christmas morning.  Some may argue the meaning of receiving such an item, but the general understanding is: if you’re bad, you’ll be on the knotty list, won’t receive the toy you asked for, and instead receive coal.

The Elf on the Shelve has a similar power, in that, if a child is bad, the elf will report to Santa and thus giving the threat of “toy letdown”.

Do we allow Santa to have godly power?

At first, you might laugh at that question! I did!  Over the past few years, I’ve thought about some of the implications, but my attention was seriously turned toward the topic when I saw the movie “Santa Buddies” where kids actually pray to Santa. Have a look:

We may quickly dismiss this as something we don’t do; however, there are some serious threats of a potential negative impact on Christian households.

From what I can see, there are two (2) main issues surrounding this topic:

  1. We give Santa the ability to determine good and bad and resulting consequence or reward.

By focusing our attention on this, Santa becomes the provider and punisher.  If kids are misbehaving, why don’t we focus on the fact that God is always watching (not just during Christmas) and wants what’s best for us, because He loves us.  To me, that’s a message worth focusing on!  That’s a message of hope; much better than “no toys” or “you’ll get coal!”

  1. The “Empty Threat”

Let’s be honest for a minute.  If a child misbehaves to the point of threatening, “you’ll get no gifts on Christmas…”, we all know the threat is as empty as your wallet!  At the end of day, the gifts remain.  The only thing we teach our kids is that consequences aren’t real.

So, what’s the potential impact on our Spiritual lives?

While I know there are many other factors at play other than Santa, a secular focus during Christmas, doesn’t help in combating against these three (3) things:

  1. If God doesn’t, I must have been bad (have sin);
  2. If I experience bad things, God doesn’t love me; and,
  3. It doesn’t matter if I’m bad; consequences are empty.


When the real truth could be as far from these three concepts as possible, we need to make sure we focus on the right things during Christmas. We can have fun without giving God’s authority to Santa.  If we do give over that authority, we really take the risk of encouraging these three backward ideas.

What are my options?

As I’ve said before, I am not trying to condemn secular Christmas!  By writing about these issues, I want to make sure we are thinking about the potential impact on our spiritual lives so we focus on the most important things.

Focus more attention on what you want to see.

If you want to use the Elf on the Shelve, maybe you can have a look at the “The Kind Little Elf“.  Instead on using the Elf in terms of a behaviour tool, the Elf encourages acts of kindness throughout the Christmas season.

Reserve godly characteristics for God.

Why do we point to Santa, when God is more powerful?  Have fun with Santa, and when times of behaviour and/or need come into play, make sure to point to God.  When I was a kid, I had an imaginary friend named Mary.  I was the first child, so my imagination took over.  There was no issue with having an imaginary friend.  In fact, creativity and play are encouraged among kids for development.  The problem came in, however, when I used my imaginary friend to hide my parents car keys when we were visiting a friend.  I didn’t know where the keys were, because Mary had hid them.  Long story short, my father asked me to ask Mary to get the keys (in the father-like serious tone no kid can ignore)!  The fact is, using imagination isn’t the problem.  The problem is when our imagination trumps or goes against important truths.  Parents have the responsibility of working through that tension.

Your turn! Have you ever noticed Santa was allowed some godly attributes?  What have you done as a parent/grand-parent/friend to counteract this issue?

Click here for PART 1

[i] James 1:2-4, ESV.

[ii] John 3:16-17, ESV.