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Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Ginny Owens, a Dove Award-winning Contemporary Christian singer and songwriter, began losing her sight at age two from a congenital eye disease. While physically blind, she has beautifully expressed the message of the above verses in both her testimony and her songs.

As I thought about an effective way to get across the message God had put on my heart for this week’s Teach Me Tuesday post, I could think of no better example of what it means to fix our eyes on Jesus and willingly run with endurance the race God has set before us. Ginny shared this testimony on her website after the release of her album Love Be The Loudest.

“Most people think my greatest life challenge is blindness; I’ve been blind since age three. But that simply isn’t true. My greatest challenge is doing battle with the critical voices in my head that distract me from what’s most important. It’s the whispers of those who feel sorry for me because of my physical challenge and don’t think I hear their comments. It’s the shouts of my own doubts and insecurities, asking, ‘Do you have anything valuable to contribute to society?’ It’s the mindless chatter of our culture, inviting me to believe that any voice, as long as it’s loud, is fine. Every song on this album is an invitation to my heart, and the heart of the listener, to allow God’s perfect voice of love and truth to be irresistible to our hearts, drowning out all other voices, and moving us to action.”

Where we fix our spiritual eyes – and where we tune in our spiritual ears – determines how we run the race God has set before us! This is never more true than when we are facing difficult circumstances, an unexpected “detour” from our intended route to our destination.

This has been one of the main lessons God has been teaching me during the past week. Some days have been encouraging and my heart has been at peace. Others have been just the opposite. And when I asked God what was causing this, He reminded me of the above Scripture. The only way to run with endurance the race God has currently set before me is to fix my eyes on Jesus.

The Greek word translated “fix our eyes” in Hebrews 12:2, aphorao, comes from apo meaning “away from something near” and horao meaning “to look away from all else and to look steadfastly, intently toward a distant object.” The idea is to direct our attention without distraction as we choose a forward-gaze. This verse is talking about inner, spiritual vision that overcomes all distractions and looks ahead with confidence in the lovingkindness and faithfulness of our God.

DISTRACTIONS FROM A SINGLE FOCUS

On the surface, this may not seem like a challenging assignment, but this past week it was the biggest struggle I faced. I learned that fixing my eyes on the Lord in the midst of my current circumstances wasn’t going to be an effortless task. Ongoing pain in my left knee, fears about the possible complications if I move forward with the surgery, a delay in getting a referral to a orthopedic surgeon, then a further delay in getting an appointment once the referral finally came joined together to make it a difficult week.

The distractions from fixing our eyes on Jesus fit in four main areas:

  1. Our circumstances – When we are in the midst of circumstances causing physical pain or emotional stress, it’s easy to fix our eyes on our problems. This is the first distraction we need to overcome.
  2. Our emotions – Fear and anxiety about the future, dread of what lies ahead, doubts about our ability to do what we believe God is calling us to do for His Kingdom – all of these have the potential of paralyzing us spiritually and keeping us from continuing the race God has called us to run.
  3. The voices of those around us – What Ginny called “the mindless chatter of our culture,” or closer to home the discouraging words of family members and friends, can become major distractions from finishing the race. But we need to keep in mind that other people are not our real enemy.
  4. The lies of the enemy – Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We have a spiritual foe whose greatest desire is to cause us to doubt God and turn out back on Him. He uses such tactics as saying “did God say?” as he did with Eve and by planting thoughts in our minds that cause deception, discouragement and doubt to take root. To finish the race successfully, we need to put on the full armor of God and stand against his attacks. We need to learn to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. When we submit to God and resist the devil, James 4:7 says he will flee.

Jesus gave us an example to follow when He faced the Cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew‬ ‭26:39‬‬‬) Jesus didn’t want to face the suffering of the Cross, but without the shedding of His blood we would all still be lost in our sin. So He submitted to the will of His Father. Hebrews 12:2 gives us some insight into how He endured the suffering – by focusing on the joy set before Him. This is also one way we are strengthened to face the hardships that are a part of life of this sin-stained earth.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we are setting our inward gaze on One who understands suffering. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” And He invites us to “draw near” to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” https://www.bible.OverDcom/100/heb.4.15-16.nasb

The Sacrifice That Pleases God

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me…

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalms‬ ‭50:14-15, 23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Are you in a “day of trouble”? That would be a good way to describe the season I’m currently walking through, with a pending knee replacement surgery that I’ve been purposefully avoiding for several years because of the complexity of my knee problems.

In addition to having final stage osteoarthritis and meniscus tears in my left knee, I also have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in the joint. This was caused by the extensive damage to the joint and surrounding nerves from the automobile accident we had over forty years ago, so bad that the doctors told my husband they weren’t sure I’d ever be able to walk on that knee. The most common cause of CRPS is actually Knee Replacement Surgery. So while this surgery could relieve the pain and inflammation in my joint and restore the range of motion in that joint that the original damage took away, there’s also the possibility that another surgery would make the pain worse.

This troubling situation has resulted in lots of time spent crying out to God in prayer for wisdom concerning what I’m to do. My desire is to walk through this situation in a way that brings glory to God, so when I read the above verses this morning they really spoke to my heart.

Are you currently in “the day of trouble”? If so, join me in following the instructions given in the above verses.

  • OFFER TO GOD A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING. The Lord no longer calls us to offer animal sacrifices for sin that were a part of the Old Covenant, since Jesus “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews‬ ‭9:26‬) But there still is one type of sacrifice that pleases God. My Bible gives an alternative translation of this phrase: “Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God.” That could include acknowledging your sin and receiving cleansing from it (1 John 1:8). It could be songs of worship to our good God. It could be simply giving Him thanks for the good things He’s doing in your life in the midst of this difficult season.
  • PERFORM YOUR VOWS TO THE MOST HIGH. Have you made any vows to God? A vow is a binding promise, made to men or to God. Vows made to God especially need to be kept. “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it…” (Deuteronomy 23:21a).
  • CALL UPON ME IN THE DAY OF TROUBLE. We call upon the Lord in the day of trouble by coming to Him in honesty, sharing our fears and concerns with Him, and then asking Him to intervene. We run to Him as our refuge and strength, our very present help in our times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
  • TO THE ONE WHO ORDERS HIS WAY RIGHTLY I WILL SHOW THE SALVATION OF GOD. This is a promise we can stand on during “the day of trouble.” To order our way rightly is to make sure it lines up with the will of God, as revealed in His Word. For me, this means praying for wisdom concerning how I am to walk through the current trial, spending time in prayer and in the Word of God to put myself in a place where I can hear His voice, and then being a doer of the Word and not a hearer only (James 1:5-8, 22-25; 3:17-18).

On this Thankful Thursday, I encourage you to spend time sharing the troubles you are currently walking through with the Lord and possibly with a trusted friend. But also remember these clear instructions from Psalm 50 about how we are to walk through the “day of trouble.” What will you offer up to God today as a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving?

Receiving the Word with Eagerness – and Caution

“Now these Jews (from Berea) were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11 ESV

As I work my way this week through Acts 17, I had an interesting study this morning in verses 10-15. This short section on Paul and Silas’ ministry in Berea included a helpful reminder of the attitude which pleases God whenever we hear a “new” teaching that is supposedly based on Scripture.

We live in a world where so much of what we hear on the radio, watch on Christian television, and hear or see on the internet raises questions in our minds. When that happens, we need to be like the Bereans, who “examined the Scriptures daily” to discern if what they were hearing was truth or error.

This isn’t talking about a casual reading but rather a curious and diligent search by looking at the Bible verse in it’s original context, maybe checking out some cross references and the meaning of some key words, done with sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And this wasn’t something the Bereans did occasionally. It was a daily practice.

Charles Spurgeon compared this to making “a strict, close, diligent, curious search, such as men make when they are seeking gold.” Psalm 119:72 compares God’s Word to gold and silver, and yet so often we approach it casually, based on how it makes us feel.

The following quote from Our Daily Bread, written by Dave Branon, especially caught my interest since I’ve faced a similar situation many times.

“‘A deadly jungle spider has migrated to the US and is killing people.’ This was the story sent to me and to others on my friend’s email list. The story sounded plausible—lots of scientific names and real-life situations. But when I checked it out on reliable websites, I found it was not true—it was an Internet hoax. Its truth could only be verified by consulting a trusted source.

“A group of first-century believers living in Macedonia understood the importance of confirming what they were hearing. The folks in Berea “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so’ (Acts 17:11). They were listening to Paul, and wanted to make sure what he was saying lined up with the teachings of the Old Testament. Perhaps he was telling them that there was evidence in the Old Testament that the Messiah would suffer and die for sin. They needed to verify that with the source.”

Like the Bereans, when we hear teaching that raises questions in our minds, we need to verify what we’re hearing, in much the same way as I’ve learned to verify “news” I see online to make sure it’s accurate and not “fake news.” We need to search the Scriptures for ourselves, check out reliable Bible study resources to gain a better understanding of what was actually being said, and allow the Holy Spirit to give us discernment between truth and error.

The Grace of God

One of the devotions I use regularly during my personal quiet time chose 1 Corinthians 15:10 as the key verse for Monday’s devotional. (All verses in ESV unless otherwise noted.)

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

I always look up the verse in my Bible to see the context in which it was used, and with this verse I sensed it was time for some more in-depth study. This passage begins with a reminder of the gospel message in a nutshell. Written by the apostle Paul, in verses 3 – 5 he says:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

‭‭Then next four verses tell of the appearances of the resurrected Christ to His apostles, ending with Paul’s own visitation on the road to Damascus. In verse 9, he identifies himself as “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle“, because of being a persecutor of the church prior to his conversion. And then Paul speaks of the grace of God in verse 10.

After studying a verse in context, one of my favorite online resources for gaining a clearer understanding of a verse or passage of Scripture is the website preceptaustin.org, which often has a detailed commentary and other resources to help me see the verse in light of the whole of Scripture. I decided to check that out today, and found some help getting a clearer understanding of what Paul was trying to communicate in this verse.

First, this resource gives the verse being studied in a variety of translations. As I read through the list, one version stood out to me for it’s clarity, one I seldom use in my personal study. In the Barclay translation, this verse reads:

“It is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and his grace to me has not proved ineffective, but I have toiled more exceedingly than all of them, but it was not I who achieved anything but God’s grace working with me.”

The commentator on this passage, who is a retired physician, points out that grace is used “in triplicate” in this verse. He compares 1 Corinthians 15:10 to a prescription from God, written in triplicate, for “spiritual health” in both our personal lives and in our ministry to others.

By the grace of God that I am what I am

Most of us have a basic understanding of the meaning of grace. The Greek word for grace, “charis,” means undeserved favor given to us. There are two main kinds of grace taught in the New Testament, saving grace. This is the kind of grace spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

‭‭Paul definitely acknowledged this kind of grace in his life, but this isn’t the kind of grace he is focusing on in this verse. The second type of grace has been called sanctifying grace. This is the daily grace God extends to us as Christians that empowers us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Sanctifying grace is the ongoing work of the indwelling Holy Spirit that enables us to grow spiritually, so that we become better representatives of the Lord to those around us. It is the process described in Romans 8:29, and it will continue until the day we see Jesus face to face.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

His grace toward me was not in vain

The proud Saul of Acts 7 who was rejoicing over Stephen’s stoning and who “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” in Acts 8:3 is gone. And more than his name was changed. He had been changed on the inside. And God’s grace was responsible for the change, first in bringing Saul to saving grace and then in changing him into Paul through His sanctifying grace, a key instrument of God in spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth and author of much of the New Testament. The message for us here: The grace of God in our lives is effective in accomplishing His purposes in and through us.

His grace in our work and ministry.

The third mention of grace in this verse is the one that caught my attention. Paul worked diligently at the tasks God had called him to do. But the changed Paul took no credit for what he had accomplished. Instead, he acknowledged anything achieved in and through his life was the result of God’s grace. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8,

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

‭‭‭Paul further explains this in Philippians 2:12-13,

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

‭‭Yes, we have a part in living the successful Christian life. Our part is choosing to walk in obedience. But total obedience isn’t something we can accomplish in our own strength. If so, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to send the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the life He calls us to live.

  • Grace is what brings us to Christ.
  • Grace is what helps us grow more like Jesus.
  • Grace is what empowers us to do the work of the Kingdom that God has prepared beforehand for us to do.

The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead who offers us saving grace and sanctifying grace, and He is also our source of empowering grace for the work God has called us to do.

Are you in need of God’s grace today? I sure am. If you don’t already know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, if you haven’t put your faith in Him for forgiveness of sin, don’t put this life-changing decision off another day. You need God’s saving grace and the Holy Spirit you will receive the moment you surrender your life to Jesus.

If you already have become a Christian, did you know that sanctification is a work of grace, accomplished as we cooperate with the indwelling Holy Spirit? Or are you trying to change your “problem areas” in your own strength? Paul described the results of doing this is Romans 7:14-15, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We have a part in the process – renewing our minds in God’s Word, choosing to lay down our will and walk in obedience – but the needed power to walk out His will comes from the Holy Spirit within all believers. The Holy Spirit will bring both conviction concerning areas that need to change and the power to make those changes.

Are you struggling with seeing what purpose God has for this season of your life? Is there something you believe God is calling you to do but don’t have any idea how to get started? In this area too, God’s grace is the answer. The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is given to make us God’s witnesses in the neighborhood and city where we live, the surrounding area, and even to the ends of the earth if that’s a part of God’s calling on your life.

A Psalm for Giving Thanks

Psalm 100: “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.”

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Other than Psalm 23, the above verses are some of the most often memorized from the book of Psalms. Many of us who have been attending church from childhood memorized at least some of these verses as young children.

I know for me personally, I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t familiar with the ideas expressed in these familiar verses. The idea of making a joyful noise to the Lord, even if I never had the best singing voice, was familiar. And the truth that we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise were known, even if I had no idea what God’s gates and courts were. Now I understand these terms refer to entering the presence of God.

Psalm 100:4 says we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Do you sometimes find it difficult to connect with God? To stir your desire for Him? Then open the gates with words of gratitude for all the good things He has done for you. Find a song of praise, especially one that acknowledges His power, worthiness, and glory, and enter into praise.

Are you having a good day? Give thanks to the Lord. Lift your voice in praise.

Are you having a bad day? Give thanks to the Lord. Lift your voice in praise.

Remember, the Lord is good every day. Even if you’re not having a good day. He’s always loving, always faithful. And He’s waiting for your words of appreciation and praise.

As Ann Voskamp has said, “Gratitude is not only a response to God in good times – it’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times. Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens.”

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s practice using our mouths to speak out words of gratitude to God. Let’s take some time singing songs of praise or possibly reading aloud some Psalms as confessions of praise. Today and every day, God is worthy of our expressions of gratefulness and praise, regardless of what we may currently be facing. Remember, the gates into God’s presence swing open when we lift up our words of thanksgiving to the Giver of all good gofts.

Facing the Unknown With a Known God

Youth With A Mission, better known as YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), is an interdenominational Christian missionary organization founded by Loren Cunningham and his wife Darlene in 1960.

While on a beach in Hawaii, looking out at the waves, Loren Cunningham saw a vision of a different kind of waves – waves of young people taking the gospel message to the ends of the earth. YWAM was founded as a result of that vision. Fifty-nine years after it began, YWAM continues as an effective tool for fulfilling the vision He gave Loren and the Great Commission of Acts 1:8 upon which it was based and of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

YWAM has had a special place in our lives. Some close friends of ours, Billy and Lyn Littlefield, went through the YWAM discipleship training program in the 1970s, and their training became the catalyst for a discipleship training program my husband Mitch and I were a part of in the early years of our marriage. A few years later, Mitch’s sister Shirley also spent time with YWAM.

I think the thing that has stuck with me more than anything else from these early years of our marriage and our indirect involvement with YWAM is the stated purpose of this Christian organization: To know God and to make Him known. I can’t think of a better description of the effective Christian life!

To Know God

John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The Christian life begins with a personal relationship with God. Through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we receive forgiveness for our sins and come to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. J. I. Packer, author of the book Knowing God, said:

“There’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.”

Knowing God begins when we become a part of His family through faith in Jesus Christ. But it is also a growing process as we come to know Him more fully through His written Word. As we read and study the Bible, we learn what He is like – a faithful God, loving us with a steadfast love, showing us mercy by not giving us what we deserve and grace by giving us what we don’t deserve. His names, attributes, promises and the total of Scripture progressively reveal the fullness of Who God is. This kind of knowing is a lifelong process.

To Make Him Know

Once we know God through a personal relationship with Him, Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and share that knowledge with others. Starting with our “Jerusalem” – the neighborhood, town or city where we live and moving out from there, we begin sharing the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As disciples, our call is two-fold, to grow personally in our knowledge of God and to be disciple-makers, introducing others to the good news that has changed our lives.

When An Unknown Future Looms Ahead

At no time in our lives is truly knowing God more important than when we face an unknown future. When things feel totally out of our control, knowing God gives us confidence that our circumstances aren’t out of God’s control. God has not promised to shield us from trouble. He has promised to be with us, whatever we must walk through.

Peter Marshall, pastor and chaplain of the United States Senate from 1947 to 1949, said: “God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Ravensbruck German concentration camp and Christian speaker and author of The Hiding Place, a memoir telling the story of her family’s hiding Jews from the Nazis, said: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

As I write this Teach Me Tuesday post, I’m preparing for an MRI on my left knee that has been swollen and extremely painful since the end of May. As I await this test, scheduled for today, I don’t know what lies ahead. So I’m choosing to focus on what I do know.

  • I do know God has promised to go before me and be with me, no matter what lies ahead, and He always keeps His promises. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭
  • I do know God promises to work all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purposes, and I am one of the called. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭
  • I do know that God uses the circumstances He allows to touch my life for His purposes, specifically, to conform me to the image of His Son. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans‬ ‭8:29‬
  • I do know God is good and I believe I will see God’s goodness while I’m still on this earth. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalms‬ ‭27:13‬ ‭
  • I do know God is faithful. He never promises and then fails to deliver. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭
  • I do know God is love. God’s love is so great that He gave His only Son to bring us into fellowship with Him. With His love, He embraces each of us personally. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:9-10‬
  • I do know when this life is over I have an inheritance awaiting me in heaven. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-4‬

As Corrie ten Boom said, if we know God we have no reason to fear the future. If we understand His love for us, we can know the difficulties we’re currently walking through will produce blessing, both in this life and in eternity when we go to be in His presence forever.

When Life Takes a Detour

Have you noticed sometimes your plans and God’s plans don’t seem to mesh? You’ve been seeking direction from God, the path projected ahead of you is clear, and you’re ready to start moving forward. Then suddenly circumstances change and there’s a major detour in the road.

A few months ago, God had strongly impressed upon my heart that He had some work for me to complete before my time on earth was done and I went to be in His presence. I had recently celebrated my seventy-first birthday, so there was a sense of urgency to get started on what God was calling me to do. I had clear direction concerning my next writing project, putting together an original Bible study for our small group at church, and had made a commitment to do this. My health was the best it had been in years, and I was ready to begin moving forward.

Then suddenly overnight everything changed. One day I was able to walk for thirty minutes with little or no pain. I was able to do my part of the weekly housework without a struggle. Things were going exceptionally well, as they had been for several months. The next day even walking from my bedroom to the living room caused excruciating pain and swelling in my left knee. The housework wasn’t getting done. Pain was robbing my sleep several times a week.

I honestly thought this was just a flare in one of the long list of chronic illnesses I live with, and I expected it to turn around in a few days. It didn’t. I was facing a major detour from the path I had thought laid ahead.

The process started of trying to find out what was causing this drastic change in my level of pain and ability to function. It’s now over a month later, and I’m still waiting for a diagnosis and treatment plan. My circumstances feel out of control – they are out of my control, but I know they aren’t out of God’s control.

Facing Challenging Circumstances with the Right Attitude

Retired NFL football player and coach Tony Dungy shared an important truth about controlling our attitude toward difficult circumstances that God permits in our lives, in his book Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life.

“You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.”

My first challenge during this time of waiting has been to control my attitude and response to these unexpected changes. The natural response to unwanted change is to focus on the circumstances we don’t like and give place to a complaining attitude. The response that pleases God is one that acknowledges He is still in control, He has a purpose in this situation that just looks like an unpleasant detour in my limited understanding.

It takes strength – and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit – to respond to situations such as the one I’m currently facing in a way that pleases God. It takes purposeful effort to take our eyes off of the current disappointment and focus on what can be done to improve the situation causing us distress. Seeing this detour from my plans through the lens of God’s unchanging love, goodness and faithfulness has been a challenge.

Why Does God Sometimes Take Us On a Detour?

There are two main reasons for detours. Sometimes, our disobedience and lack of faith will cause God to place a detour in the path He has called us to walk. The story of God’s chosen people Israel is an example of this type of detour. As a result of their failure to trust and obey the Lord, they spent forty years wandering in the wilderness. One whole generation failed to make it to the land God had promised them. This type of detour is a call to repentance.

The second reason we face detours in our walk with the Lord is that we aren’t yet ready for the next thing He has called us to do. These detours are times of preparation for the future. Joseph is a biblical example of this type of detour. The Lord’s plan was to use Joseph to preserve His chosen people during a time of famine. But as a young man he lacked the needed maturity for this calling. So God walked Joseph through a series of difficult circumstances to prepare him for the work he would eventually do.

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s give thanks to the Lord for the truth that He is at work even in the circumstances we wish we could change. Are you facing a detour from the path you expected to be on at this point of your life? Seek understanding from the Lord concerning what’s going on. If He shows you a sin you need to repent of, be quick to respond. If He shows you this detour is to prepare you for the work He’s calling you to do, choose to cooperate with His process. Even though detours are usually difficult and for a season it seems as though life is getting worse, they are really part of God’s design to prepare us for our future.

Let’s hold onto hope in the midst of circumstances that seem to be taking us away from what we honestly believe are God-given purposes for our lives. He knows what He’s doing!