The Storms of Life

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We hear (and say) a statement often that goes something like this…”God never gives us more than we can handle.” How many of us have said this in an attempt to be encouraging to those around us?  Often it is out of a compassionate spirit we say this, but quite honestly it is a bunch of bunk, completely unscriptural.  The Bible does tell us that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13), but that applies to temptations that man is susceptible to, not everyday struggles and hardships.  I believe we consistently encounter situations that are far beyond our capabilities.  In fact, the Bible tells us that God chooses the ones who are not mighty, wise, or noble as to allow His grace to work in a way that is completely counter cultural to what the world knows (1 Cor 1:26,27).  God uses the meek because He desires teamwork…He knows those who understand their limitations will look to Him for strength, wisdom, and companionship.  He knows there is far greater joy in overcoming obstacles together, rather than alone.

This blog post has been stiring in me over the past two weeks.  The company (family) I am blessed to be a part of embarked on a journey of making some significant technological changes.  We knew this would not be easy and would require every employee to rally in order to pull it off, but we also understood it was a necessity.  The last year was about preparation for a single weekend where significant change would be made…that was last weekend.  Without going into great detail, we accomplished the goal and will continue to refine the new system, but like any significant change, it came with significant challenges.  This post is not about the details of what occured, but rather it is meant to focus on our human nature during times of significant stress and change; specifically what I learned from the experience.

There were three major stages I went through over twelve straight days of long hours…

  1. The calm before the storm
  2. The storm
  3. Peace in the midst of the storm

I am not sure when, but over my 41 years the Lord has instilled in me that I am nothing by myself, but with Him and those He surrounds me with, we are able to tackle any challenge we are faced with.  My hope is found in Him alone; I am keenly aware that the storm gets really bad at times, but His light always shines in order to guide us through the roughest of seas.

The Calm Before the Storm…

The days leading up to the weekend were filled with lots of planning and even more prayers.  I know that myself and others were commited to praying for this event.  Leading up to the weekend, I would walk through the warehouse simply praying for our company and our people.  There were times when I could physically feel His presence in the building…yes, God’s presence rests wherever His people are and cry out for Him, not simply within the church building.  His grace is always abundant before the storms of life; it is preparation and a reminder of His faithfulness.  Psalm 91:4 (TPT) reminds us that “His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you.  You can run under his covering of majesty and hide. His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.”

The Storm…

Remember, He never promises to save us from the storms of life, yet He always is there guiding us through the storms.  The weekend was long, we accomplished a lot, just not all we had hoped to accomplish.  So coming into Monday morning we were behind schedule and quickly being presented with the pressures of taking care of our customers.  On a side note, there are so many things I love about our team, but one of the greatest attributes I respect above all is their desire to serve our customers.  When you are behind and confronted with additional pressures at every phone call and conversation you can quickly become overwhelmed with the task ahead of you.  The key is taking one hurdle, one challenge at a time.  I am so thankful for God’s grace because I knew we would see the light soon, but as with any difficult situation it can take a toll on human emotions.  I recall one tangeble example of His amazing grace…I was sitting in a co-workers office feeling overwhelmed.  Not knowing how to pray, I sent a quick text to some close friends and simply asked them to pray.  Within minutes, the pressure released and God’s peace overwhelmed me to the point of tears.  Our Father LOVES us and is awaiting your call for help…He will wrap His arms around you and bring you comfort in the storm…all you need to do is ask.

Peace in the Midst of the Storm…

Much of life is a storm.  There are constant pressures from the world around us…bills, kids, spouse, health, jobs, etc.  I have come to the conclusion that I am extremely thankful for the struggles in life.  Through the struggles I have gleaned more strength and wisdom than anything else.  There is no book, no school, which can teach us what good old fashion struggles teach us.  On Wednesday morning I walked into work and even though the pressure had not released and we were still behind, something changed inside of me.  The turmoil and stress on the inside had left and all that was in front of me was a series of hurdles we needed to strategically take, one at a time.  With every problem solved we were coming closer to our new normal and though we are not there yet, we are well on our way to the strongest our company and our team has ever been.

The deal is, if all we ever do is seek the easy way out and never learn to walk straight through a storm, we will never grow.  When storms hit, we will not be prepared and resentment and fear will take over.  We will NEVER reach the mountain tops that God has planned for us to climb.  Life is full of storms, God never promised that we would be able to face them alone…He does however invite us to walk through the storms of life along side of Him.  And when we do, we come out on the other side with a strength and confidence that only comes with being in communion with a loving, compassionate, and grace-filled God…my Father.

“Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.” (Psalm 23:4 TPT)

 

What Happened to Respect?

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My natural tendency is to see the best in people; I am often the optimist in the crowd.  I am not perfect by any means, but I know each person has extreme value regardless of the things they have done on this earth.  Sometimes that is a hard pill to swallow, because it means the murderer, the drug addict, the spouse who had an affair…they are all valuable as a human being.  They simply made some poor choices, but redemption is possible.

In our world we have reduced people to objects, thus stripping their humanity, their God given value away from the individual.  Women are objects in our society; out of one side of our mouth we cry for empowerment and equal rights, but out of another side we are more addicted to pornography than any other time in history…and this is NOT just a male issue!  We protect animals, which is good and just, yet we have a society who does not believe in the sanctity of human life.  We justify death, because of a human mistake or an inconvenience.  We go to Facebook and Instagram to openly share our “true” and “honest” feelings.  The only problem is our words of truth are filled with criticism, hate, disrespect, and it is all done in the name of “raw honesty.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we not be honest and open.  I am, however, suggesting we be respectful, loving, compassionate and always speak through the lens that we are just as messed up and damaged as the person we are talking about.  When we strip away the humanity, we inhibit our ability to be respectful and civil towards one another. Personally, I cannot think of anyone who was changed by another person berating and criticizing them for their mistakes.

I was reading a story this morning about the ultimate respect for a human being, and it wasn’t due to the persons righteousness or their kind deeds. It was solely because they were valuable in God’s eyes and the man wanted to respect the position that was held.

Let me summarize the story…Mark, was the CEO of a large company.  He had come from very meager beginnings, I believe it was a family of farmers. He was a tall and handsome man; he was the tall, slender, good looking guy you see on the cover of Inc. magazine leading the next fortune 500 company.  He was well respected by his people to the point they won a lot of business and crippled many of their competitors. Unfortunately, Mark began to elevate himself and before he knew it, he viewed himself as more important then his employees.  Mark began to make unilateral decisions, without the support or collaboration from his team.  Because of Mark’s perspective change, the company began to lose some very profitable customer contracts.

One thing Mark struggled with the most, due to his own insecurity, was his inability to raise up leaders in his organization.  The board of directors began to realize they had no succession plan for when Mark would retire from the company.  Unfortunately, this concern for succession planning was not even on the table until they began to lose some long term customers and contracts.  The individual board members made it their goal to get to know some of their employees.  They really had two goals in mind, 1) understand the culture and organization better and 2) to understand if there were any potential future leaders of the company within the walls of the organization.

The chairman of the board, being a smart and humble man, took a lowly mail room attendant out to lunch to understand the challenges the company had at the lowest level. When he met Matthew, he was shocked at the abilities the young man had.  Matthew was very respectful, full of vision and ideas, yet was tempered by a business sense that most seasoned business executives never gained.  Matthew was indeed a leader among leaders.  The chairman did his best to rattle Matthew a little and to get him to give him the honest truth about the organization, but all he would get from Matthew was an optimistic outlook for the organization.  Matthew would talk about systematic problems and solutions, but not once would he attack an individual personally, it was not part of his character to do that.

Over time Matthew moved up in the company, became a leader and built a good relationship with Mark and some of the members of the Board of Directors.  Matthew was different though, he would challenge the company, but would never challenge Mark, and in the end respected Mark as the CEO of the company.  Unfortunately Mark started to let his insecurities get the best of him and began to see Matthew as a threat to his position.  Mark, did his best to get Matthew demoted and even fired at times.  He made it his personal mission to remove Matthew from the company.  Matthew on the other hand never compromised in his support of Mark and the board of directors of the company. He understood that hurt people tried to hurt people, and he knew his only responsibility was to be a good steward of the things God had given him.

One afternoon Mark was presenting to a potential client, a client who could single handedly help the company meet their growth goal for the year.  As Mark was presenting he made a comment that did not sit well with Matthew and in a moment of pride, Matthew corrected Mark’s comment.  Matthew could have completely underhanded and compromised Mark’s leadership in that moment, but instead his conscience got the best of him and he apologized for interrupting Mark and offered his support for him as the leader of the company.  Matthew realized that even though he was right and Mark was wrong, he needed to respect the position that Mark held and the company he worked for. Matthew had an opportunity to speak “raw truth” that day and at the same time show the client and everybody else in that room how smart he was.  It was a moment driven by pride and the need to be right, but instead Matthew took the high road and offered his support to Mark.

In the end Mark was let go, because he allowed his pride to get in the way of serving the people, the Board of Directors and raising up future leaders for the organization.  When Mark left, the chairman of the board, with complete excitement, offered Matthew the role of CEO. Matthew humbly accepted the position and because of his servant leadership style, he had 100% support of most every employee within the company.

This story is one that is actually found in 1 Samuel; it is the story of King Saul and David. Saul ended up being a wicked and prideful leader, yet David, even having the opportunity to kill Saul, always took the high road.  David respected the position Saul held so much and had so much faith in God, he never put a hand on Saul.  At one point when Saul was in a most vulnerable state, David cut off a corner of his robe.  He had done this to simply prove he could kill Saul if he wanted to, but David was overcome with conviction over his disrespect of Saul and the position he held…he repented of his pride.

My question to myself and you is where has the respect for humanity gone?  Why do we feel the right and need to publicly and verbally crucify people because we do not agree with what they stand for or are doing?  Take our president for example.  He is not the best speaker, he seems to make rash decisions, and doesn’t appear to have the best moral compass in the world.  That said, he is our president and I respect the position of the President of the United States of America.  I also respect Donald Trump as a human being, one created by God himself.  Personally, I hold the belief that God placed the government and the leaders in power for a reason, and although I do not alway understand that reason, I trust the Lord (Romans 13:1-7).

So what do we do?  We stand for truth and principle.  We speak to the systematic problems and we offer solutions, never attacking individuals.  We live a life that is focused on finding a better way, problem solving the issues that are out there.  We truly live out the Gospel message, which is to surrender oneself for the betterment of the next generation.  We think long term, not seeking short term pleasure.  We raise our kids in a way that respects and loves humanity, yet shows them the only true answer to our problems and broken society is Jesus.  We watch our words, because words can destroy or bring life.  We make it our mission to pray for our leaders and seek the Lord for ways we can BE the change.

The only way we stop the lack of respect we see and experience today, is to give the respect God’s creation deserves expecting nothing in return.  The message of the Gospel is to lay down our lives for our brothers in action and words…so take a step today and stop talking about what needs to change and BE THE CHANGE you want to see.

Blessings,

Scott