Life is a journey filled with joys & sorrows, good times & bad, successes & disappointments, life & death, just as we read in Ecclesiastes 3:1, To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven.
The good times make it easy to smile and be positive, however those tough times? Well that's a different story - it's where the rubber meets the road and the true test begins.
It's very easy to get angry and bitter when things don't turn out the way you expect them - a divorce, losing your job or retirement savings, or even worse, losing a loved one to an untimely death.
We understand the temptation to become bitter, having ourselves sustained one of life's most difficult blows - the loss of a child.
It has taken a lot of grace from God and the patient love of family and friends to help us guard our hearts, not allowing bitterness to overtake us, especially in the beginning. However, at times even now we still run into God's arms of love when we're hurting, receiving another layer of healing from HIM.
He helps us become better instead of bitter
While in England recently we spent some time with a dear friend, Jeff Lestz, who reminded us of his story. As he shared, I remembered that famous quote from Chuck Swindoll; Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Born into a Jewish home in Chicago, both of Jeff's parents died within three years of each other, and this was by the time he was only eight years old. Sent to orphanages and foster homes for four years, he had become so angry, confused & hopeless that he attempted to take his life. At this, authorities ordered he be admitted into the notorious state psychiatric institution with criminally insane adults, which was a horrific experience.
With nothing to lose, he found a way to escape that "prison," and at the age of 12 ended up living on the streets of Chicago, eating out of garbage cans until he found a group of hippies that took him in. It went from bad to worse when he began to sell drugs for them, as well as using and abusing the drugs himself.
After many years of struggle and frustration, Jeff was finally introduced to Jesus Christ and accepted Him as his Messiah (he always thought Jesus was Catholic:). This began a journey of healing, success and prosperity, which continues to this day.
Every time we get the opportunity to visit with him, we marvel at the grace of God to change a man, and grace to overcome such obstacles.
As we've also experienced, when difficulty comes, you can become bitter or better. With God's help, Jeff chose to become better and not allow this terrible upbringing to destroy his future.
It's not how you begin that matters most, but how you finish. Some have had very difficult childhoods and end up ruining their lives, while others become champions. The end does not have to look like the beginning, in fact Ecclesiastes 7:8 says The end of a thing is better than its beginning. Thank God!
The apostle Paul also knew pain and difficulty as he was severely beaten and thrown into a NASTY prison in Philippi and on several other occasions. Through God's love and grace he learned the secrets of forgiving and navigating through tough times which enabled him to boldly say, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We all have that same grace available today, and can end up on top, winning in life, regardless of what the enemy may throw in our path.
Please remember, life is not so much what happens to you, but what you do with what's happened to you. Paul was handed a number of difficult things in his life, but he kept his heart right, eyes on Jesus and pressed forward to finish his race well.
I often remind myself to never let the pain of the past hinder me from the joys of the future. Everyday is a new day with a new start in God, and your future with Him has endless possibilities.
No matter what you have been through or what disadvantage you may have started with, you still have today and your future can be beautiful and wonderful through the amazing grace of God.
Let's stand together and encourage each other to be better and not bitter, no matter what we may face, and press on into the Lord's plan for each of our lives.
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.
Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness
grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
(Hebrews 12:15 NLT)
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I wrote a song several years ago about Jesus' encounter with Mary & Martha from Luke 10:38-42 titled Listen to His Heart. I can reme...
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