When Struggles Strain Your Relationship with God

Here’s what to think and what to do when you feel like Gideon.

You will face disappointment today. I will too. When these frustrations shove their way in as unwelcome guests, the promise of God’s presence with us often feels thin. That’s just what Gideon thought.

When Struggles Strain Your Relationship with God

(Photo: Ophrah, where the Lord met with Gideon. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Frequently, we respond to these disappointments like Gideon did while at Ophrah:

If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? (Judg. 6:13).

We say this (or think it privately) because we have a firm opinion of what God being “with us” looks like.

No pain.

But such a view treats the Bible like a buffet lunch where we pick and choose what we want to swallow about God. When we do that, the plate we hold in our hands represents a god in our image—a freak unlike the God whose tells us His ways are not like ours.

Why would we want to worship a God we can control or understand? Where is the awe in that?

There’s a better way to think about it—and a better way to respond.

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Surrendering Your Will to God in Difficult Times

How Jesus' decision in Gethsemane is the only path to peace.

I have discovered that the most difficult battles in life simply mirror Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. His words to the Father remain the most challenging words we could utter:

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done. —Luke 22:42

Surrendering Your Will to God in Difficult Times

(Photo: Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus surrendered His will. Courtesy of Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.)

Surrendering your will to God in difficult times is often harder than the trial itself.

Our greatest challenges come not from those circumstances that press in upon us, but from the internal struggle to surrender our will to God. We enter Gethsemane daily and have to drag my will to the Father in prayer.

Here’s how.

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One Massive Gate Jesus Absolutely Refuses to Enter

The keys are in a surprising place.

The Old City of Jerusalem has a lot of gates. On the eastern side of the city walls, the Golden Gate stands bricked closed. It reminds me of the one massive gate Jesus refuses to enter. 

Golden Gate

(Photo: Golden Gate at Jerusalem’s eastern side. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In front of the Golden Gate lies a massive Muslim cemetery. In fact, dotted along either side of the Kidron Valley lie thousands of graves. Some Muslim. Most Jewish.

Ironically, both cemeteries lie there, in part, because of the Messiah.

Here’s why. 

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3 Truths You May Have Missed about Struggle in the Christian Life

How to release the life you want for the one God wants to give you

We had no idea what following Jesus would require. Oh, we thought we knew. We had great ideas. The disciples had the same hopes one day in Capernaum. It didn’t include struggle in the Christian life.

3 Truths You May Have Missed About Struggle in the Christian Life

(Photo: Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

That day in Capernaum, Jesus set straight some people who intended to make Him king by force, and He spoke some hard words. Afterwards, many no longer followed Him.

Jesus then turned to His disciples with a question.

It’s also a question for us. 

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How to Apply those Bible Verses that No Longer Apply

A Timeless Truth Hides Behind Every Oddball Command

If we’re honest, reading the Bible sometimes seems like reading a TV Guide from 1975. Amusing and nostalgic, sure—but out-of-date. It seems better fitting in a museum. So why apply the Bible?

Gospel of Luke 7.12-22, fragment

(Photo: Gospel of Luke 7.12-22, fragment. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After all, any book that commands us not to eat shellfish or to refrain from mowing the yard on Saturday seems archaic. No wonder the world reads the Bible with a shrug. 

But it’s too easy to pigeonhole the Scriptures as irrelevant just because its principles often hide in the context of yesteryear. Behind every oddball command sits a timeless principle that helps us apply the Bible today.

Our challenge? How to find it.

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Land O Goshen! Why it Seems Like the Wheels are Coming Off

Hope for the day when God will again draw the line.

The curious phrase: “Land O Goshen!” is a way folks in the southern US expressed amazement or angst. As we look at today’s world, the biblical land of Goshen gives us good reason for amazement and frustration.

Land O Goshen in Eastern Nile Delta

(Photo: Land of Goshen in Eastern Nile Delta. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

As Christians in a fallen world, it’s easy to feel like the wheels are coming off of God’s plan. After all:

  • Morality is optional.
  • Truth is relative.
  • Disease runs rampant.
  • Power is abused.

And (here’s the rub) God stands by and allows it all.

But the land of Goshen offers us hope. 

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Valley of Achor: How to Change Your Trouble to Triumph

Why You Should Never Give up if You're in a Hopeless Place

Some places in life have hard memories. Maybe it was your hometown or even your home. The events associated with those places taint their memories. The Valley of Achor was such a site.

Valley of Achor: How to Change Your Trouble to Triumph

(Photo: The Wadi Qilt, perhaps the Valley of Achor. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After Joshua’s victory at Jericho, the Israelites suffered defeat at Ai because a man named Achan had buried banned spoils of war under his tent (Joshua 7:1, 21). Following this event, the Valley of Achor served as a reminder of failure, of setback, and of defeat.

But God would change the place from a site of trouble to a place of triumph.

He can do the same for you.

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The Secret to Revealing the Lies of Temptation

Learning from Jesus at the Pinnacle of the Temple

Temptation is hard. That’s because the lies of temptation sound so convincing. When Jesus stood on the pinnacle of the Temple, He faced temptation with a wisdom we also can apply.

Temple Mount southwestern corner - The Secret to Revealing the Lies of Temptation

(Photo: Temple Mount southwestern corner. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Some believe the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem represents the pinnacle where Satan dangled temptation before Jesus (Luke 4:9). Satan is the best marketer in the sin business. 

A recent phone call reminded me of this. 

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Why Forgiving Someone is Hard and How to Really Do It

2 truths remain essential if we hope to move on.

Would you like to hold a grudge with God’s blessing? Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly how much of the same guff you had to take from someone until you no longer had to forgive?

Why Forgiving Someone is Hard and How to Do It

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

The problem with forgiving is that the debt is real.

  • Your parents neglected or even abused you.
  • Your spouse betrayed your wedding vows.
  • Your best friends backstabbed you.
  • Someone hurt you so deeply you feel you may never recover.

The debt is real. And in order to forgive, you must give even more than has already been taken. And this is hard. Very, very hard. But if we want God to forgive us, it’s essential.

The good news? Scripture shows us how.

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How to Breathe When God Steps on Your Air Hose

Habakkuk Helps Us Turn Our Panic to Peace

We aren’t surprised when we see people sidestep God. What shocks us, however, is when God seems to ignore people. The God of the Bible isn’t a far-off deity. So why does He seem so uninvolved?

How to Breathe When God Steps on Your Air Hose

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)

God’s response to people’s non-response to Him seems conspicuous by its absence. For those of us who believe in God, it’s tough to breathe when it seems like God is stepping on our air hose.

A prophet with a funny name helps us turn our panic into peace—and to take a deep breath.

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