I don’t know about you, but my life has been full of a lot of “setbacks” lately.
For a couple of months we’ve been helping some very dear friends in Colorado purchase the house across the street from us. I’ll share more about this long-distance adventure in a later blog, but suffice it to say it has been a real roller coaster fraught with tons of setbacks. One minute the four of us were cheering and thanking God, and five minutes later (after another upsetting communication from the house’s previous owners), we were in tears and ready to forget the whole idea.
Now, I realize that in the whole scheme of life, my setbacks right now are fairly minor. But I have several good friends who are experiencing major setbacks–life-threatening health issues, painful difficulties with teenagers, unsettling hitches in important plans, and overwhelming problems with terrible anxiety. Each is facing a huge setback and trying to find hope and peace in the midst of it all.
I’m curious…what is your first reaction to setbacks in life?
Complaining? Obsessing? Blaming?
Depression? Avoidance? Maybe anger?
“When we suffer a setback,” author/teacher/historian Chris Tiegreen* says, “our first instinct is usually to lament about it, analyze it, wonder what we did wrong, and try our hardest to get out of it.”
However, a “better instinct,” Tiegreen says, “is to ask God what He is doing in it and open our eyes to the opportunities it creates.”
Let me be the first to say that I don’t find this kind of response comes quickly and easily. But I do agree with Tiegreen’s assertion that “whatever situation we find ourselves in, there is some way to reflect God’s face.”
“Does it give us a platform to show God’s mercy? His power? His compassion, patience or love?” Tiegreen asks.
When our friends and we were dealing with the many setbacks in their home-buying process, we all prayed that God would shine through us.
Was it easy? No way. Did we still have to fight against the urge to get back at the wrongs done to us? Absolutely. But in the end, I’m so grateful that God’s Spirit empowered us to exhibit our heavenly Father’s patience, offer His compassion, and show His mercy (after all, the latter is undeserved for all of us).
“Train yourself to think differently about your hardships,” Tiegreen recommends. “See them as opportunities for God to manifest His character and His kingdom. Pray toward that end and step through the open doors.”
We can do this with assurance and trust in our faithful God because as Tiegreen concludes: “Everything that happens to you is under His hand–and somehow useful in yours….Our crises are usually His stage.”
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.
You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.
So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.
Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
–James 1:2-4 The Message paraphrase
Ask God to let your crises–your setbacks–be His stage to reveal Himself through you. It’s a prayer He longs to hear…and answer.
*Quotes are from The One-Year Heaven on Earth Devotional by Chris Tiegreen, my favorite devotional author. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I hope you’re encouraged by this music video from Casting Crowns. God is the “God of all My Days”–especially the ones with setbacks.