Time to Look Up

Image result for look up in prayer

Core scripture“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises” (James 5: 13).

Message: With the recent events at Austin’s, a local sports bar down the road from our school, it is difficult to see how God is at work.  Almost two weeks ago, a man lost his temper, left the bar, went home to get a gun, and returned to shoot three people.  One gentleman died and the other two were critically wounded.  I remember sitting on the couch reading to my boys, listening to the parade of sirens that pierced the night, one after the other, not even giving it a second thought that something awful may have happened.  When we heard helicopters, swooping in to catch the scene from above, I knew something was up.  My wife, already listening to the local police radio, quietly informed me of what happened.  Our community was in shock.

I awoke the following morning with a curious thought in my head.  How was God going to work this for the good?  How was something beautiful going to be birthed from a tragedy?  I prayed deeply about it, sipping on my coffee and lifting my heart to God.  There are times His ways are totally oblivious to our selfish human instincts.  We will never truly know what He is up to.  God’s plan is so much higher, so perfect, so glorious.  I drove to school that morning wanting to pass that message on to my students.  The problem was that I could not cite scripture.  I had to find a creative backdoor way to plant seeds of hope that God will work everything for the good.

It was the talk of the day.  Gossip filled the hallways about why the man did what he did.  Was it racial?  Was it because he was dying of cancer?  Was it because he lost his job?  I even had one kid suggest he was upset over the KU game.  None of the information was proven, and I put the squelch on it all as I wrote two words on my screen: gossip and good.  The kids were confused.  I then explained that much of the information they had been hearing about the Austin’s shooting was indeed gossip.  Opinions.  None of this information appeared in the local news reports.  It was all hearsay.  The kids got that message pretty quick.  It was the good that they struggled with.

“Goodness,” I said, pausing to let that word sink in.  “Goodness is hard to see during tragedy.”

Many heads nodded.  I delved further into the conversation.

“Have any of you had something bad happen to you that actually turned out for the good?” I questioned.

A few kids looked confused.  A few others were nodding.  Blank, curious stares came from the rest.  I began calling on a few hands that went up.  Nobody’s answer was quite what I was looking for, so I had to pull an example from my own pocket.

“Way back when I was 19-years-old, I remember I had a pretty rough week.  Both my grandmas died one day apart.  One had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for years.  We expected her to go.  The other?  Cancer ate her down to the bone.  She passed one month after being diagnosed.”

You could hear a pin drop.  I had them hooked.  This was real stuff, and though that horrendous day was over half my life ago, tears welled in my eyes.  I collected my feelings and continued on.

“Two funerals in two days.  I didn’t know what to think.  It was a downright awful week for me, and if you had asked me if something good would have come out of that week right then and there, I would have laughed at you.  I would have thought you were crazy.”

I paused, wiping a tear sliding down my cheek, and continued.

“Looking back on that week today, I know something I didn’t know back then.  My family is so much stronger.  We rallied around each other.  I have a closer relationship with my brothers and my parents because of that week.  We would not be as strong as we are today without the tragedy of losing both of my grandmas a day apart.”

I let those words linger and sink in.  A few of the kids were tearing up just hearing of the story.  My final words of wisdom came in a mere whisper.

“Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that something good might come out of this.”

Oh, how I ached to be able to cite Romans 8: 28 in front of the class!  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Can you go there in times of adversity?  It is odd how during the storm I find it difficult to see the good.  It is always a reflection.  But I have seen it all too often in my teaching career.  God will take the worst of situations and spin it for His glory!  For all believers.  That is the catch, folks.  So many ask the question of why God would allow something bad to happen.  It is almost as if they cross out the last half of the verse.  That may be the most important part.  It declares that God will work things for the good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.

It is time we asked ourselves how often we praise God.  Do we praise Him in the good AND the bad?  Do we look up as opposed to looking at the gloominess around us?  It is this time of year that we must look up!  It is essential that we remain in constant communication about what God needs from us and how God can use us.  To be frankly honest, my week has been pretty rough.  As a matter of fact, I’d venture to say it has been downright awful.  I am desperately trying to look up to see how He is working this for my good.  Though it is difficult to see, I have the faith that God is behind it all.  His love will prevail, and I will have the privilege of sharing the testimony of His awesomeness down the road after the dust settles.

What good can come out of the challenges you face today?  Maybe you have a student who is pushing your buttons, acting out in class.  Couldn’t God use that as an opportunity for you to display grace and forgiveness?  Maybe you have a student who has made some poor choices.  Couldn’t God allow that student to reflect down the road learn from their mistakes?  God is at work, people.  Have faith in that truth today.  Praise Him no matter what the circumstance.

Challenge: What struggles are you going through now?  Write down your top five.  Next to each one, think outside the box.  Write down how you think God might be working this situation for the good.  Let your heart be at ease in the promise that He will never leave you or forsake you, and He is working it all for the good.

Song to bring it home: This one has been around awhile, but it never gets old, and it always inspires.  Listen to Tree63’s “Blessed Be Your Name” for an awesome reminder that we should praise God no matter what happens in our lives.

Prayer: Lord, through the good times and through the storms, let us lift our hearts to You in praise.  You are the orchestrator of it all, and though we may not realize it, let us praise You for Your perfect will.

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