DAY 1: We Live in a Fallen World
Life is not the way it is supposed to be. Something has gone wrong.Seriously wrong. Painfully wrong. Everything is broken. We are broken. Disasters and accidents happen. The forces of nature can run wild and we are sometimes in the way of those forces. Be careful out there.
What do to about living in a fallen world.
Courageously face reality. It has been said that while you CAN ignore reality, you CANNOT ignore the results of ignoring reality.
Don’t minimize or deny what is wrong. Don’t whitewash it. Don’t spin doctor what is wrong. Groaning is permitted in a fallen world.
What are the hardest, most difficult things you are facing? What are you going to do about that hard reality?
Consider how God can use you as a repairer of what is broken. Who is hurting that you are positioned to help? Pray as Francis of Assisi prayed, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”
DAY 2: We are Finite & Limited in our Perspectives
Ruth 1:13 , 20–21; 2:20; 4:14–17; 22
Your IQ is probably under 160. God’s IQ is well over 160 trillion. God knows more than you do. God sees the world better than you do. God understands what is going on better than you do.
“We live life forward, but we understand it backward.” —Kierkegaard
What to do about your finite and limited perspective.
Best advice: Be humble, very humble. The puzzle of suffering is hard to piece together.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (or theology), said Hamlet to Horatio.
You only see a little bit. You don’t see very far. And what you do see, you have a hard time understanding. The good counsel, do not lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge God (Proverbs 3:5–6), applies to suffering.
Because you don’t know it all, be a learner. Be patient with the process. Be open to the lessons God has. Wait, listen, discover as time goes on.
We don’t know how it is going to end, but God does. Like Ruth and Naomi discovered, all will be well, in some manner and in some way, all things will be well. Spend some time in praise and celebration, thanking God for his providential care.
Be very careful in giving answers to someone who suffers. First, give them lots of love and friendship, support and help. Slowly and gently, help them turn over pieces of the puzzle to make some sense out of suffering and, even more, discover what to do about their suffering.
DAY 3: We Have Free Will
DEUTERONOMY 30:19 ; Galatians 6:7–9; Ephesians 5:15–17
We make choices. We decide on our options. We pick, we select, we determine, and then we act accordingly. We are not robots, nor are we puppets. And there are always consequences for every choice.
What to do with your free will.
Be responsible to do good and to say no to evil. Be preventive and proactive by doing good. The Bible is full of instructions (commands) on how to use our free will so we will flourish and not suffer.
If you do what is wrong (sin), admit it quickly, turn from it quickly(repentance), seek forgiveness, make amends quickly, and repair what you broke quickly.
Don’t blame God for the consequences of your bad decisions. Instead, ask God for forgiveness, healing, and resilience. Ask him for the grace to deal with the consequences of bad decisions.
Pay attention to the free will of others. If they do bad things, their choices will impact you. Seek to restrain or limit the choices and repercussions that come from the wrong actions of others.
Be especially sensitive, smart, and careful in your relationships with unhealthy people. Get help and counsel to know how to deal with these difficult relationships.
Common sense will go a long way in making good choices that reduce the amount of pain and suffering that comes your way.
DAY 4: Embrace the Season of Formation
Romans 5:3–5; Hebrews 5:7–8
We need a lot of soul-shaping, heart mending, and life making. We are all in need of renovation. The way life is in a fallen world, some of our greatest growth and transformation happens in, during, and through our hard times. The Divine Potter is at work shaping your soul so you become more like Jesus, more like the person you were meant to be.
What to do about the season of your formation.
Trust the formation process. It will produce good things.
Trust God, who is at work in the formation process, to will and to work according to his pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Receive the graces of God so you can cooperate with and maximize the learning you can only get through hard times.
Always ask: What can I learn? How can I grow? What responses will work together with God so that the best change can take place in my life?
DAY 5: God if Faithful & He is Not Yet Finished With You
ROMANS 8:28; PHILIPPIANS 1:6
Please understand this vital distinction. God is at work in all things, even the worst of things. The passage does not say God causes all things. Certainly, God at times directly causes things to happen. But never start with that assumption that a bad thing is from God. The truth of Romans is that God is faithful, loving, powerful, and at work. God can bring good out of what is very bad. And he will finish the good work he has started in your life.
What to do when bad things happen to God’s people.
Above all, understand you can live with love and joy, with faith and hope, with peace and confidence. God is GREAT and God is GOOD.
Live with the long view in mind. Don’t fixate on the immediate moment or even the short term.
When life is hard, seek after God. Draw near to God in prayer and worship. Keep your eyes open for the work-rescue-healing of God.
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