How to Wait Well

Posted: September 22nd, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

 How to Wait Well

Have you noticed the medical test results or the hiring decision always seem to come next week?

Have you ever waited for something important to come in the mail, but it doesn’t come on Friday? You hope it’ll come on Saturday, but it doesn’t and…now you have to wait another 48-hours until Monday.

A few years ago, I’d gone out to dinner (Joe’s Crab Shack in Branson, MO!) with my wife and son. On our way back to where we were staying, we came to a traffic light that had turned red. We waited for it to turn green. And waited. And waited. And waited. It’s not like this was a busy intersection. In fact, it wasn’t busy at all. There were almost no cars on the road that had the green light.

The waiting made no sense at all.

And yet, we, along with the car in front of us and the car in front of that car…continued to wait. And wait. It was the longest red light I’ve ever seen. And it was all made worse by the fact that the waiting seemed so pointless.

Finally, the first car in line just went through the red light. So did the next car. I would have also except when I got to the front of the line, the light finally turned green.

Waiting is hard. It’s especially hard when we can’t understand why we’re waiting.

Are you waiting for something?

Results of a medical test?

A spouse?

Your spouse to finally understand your needs?

To be reconciled with a child?

A job?

An answer to a prayer?

A baby?

A financial breakthrough?

A miracle?

There’s nothing easy about waiting. In the Christian life, it’s probably the hardest things we’ll ever do. Because if we’re waiting, it means we probably don’t have what we need or want. We have a desire that’s unfulfilled. Or we’re in emotional or physical pain. It means we have to do battle to believe God, not what we see or feel.

I’ll be honest, one of my greatest weaknesses has been waiting well. When a need or desire goes unmet long enough, if I don’t guard my heart and mind, I can become angry and disappointed. Not just at life, but at God. That’s been a dark road for me more than once.

I’m in a season of waiting right now. Maybe you are too. If you’re not, I’ll bet you just came out of one or will soon enter one. That’s just the way life is.

So if much of life involves waiting, let’s look at how to do it well. Here are four suggestions…

  1. Choose to believe God, not your circumstances or feelings. If we focus on our circumstances, then it’s easy to become fearful, worried and anxious. It’s also easy to begin thinking God isn’t very good or faithful. We have to settle it once and for all that we will choose to believe God is good, loving and faithful…no matter what. I’ve found that if I view God through the lens of my circumstances, He doesn’t look kind or loving at all. He seems distant, unconcerned and uncaring. I’m still on a journey of viewing my circumstances through the lens of God’s eyes.
  2. Delight yourself in the Lord. That means choosing to make Him your priority, to find your pleasure and enjoyment in Him. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This isn’t a magic formula, but it is a way to get our desires met. As we delight in God, He can change our desires to match His desires for us…and then fulfill them.
  3. Know that God likes to be trusted. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” I found out what a big deal this is to God a number of years ago. You can read about it by clicking here.
  4. Use the power of your imagination to anticipate God’s blessings and favor. We can either focus on our current circumstances and/or on a worst possible outcome to our situation OR we can begin to anticipate the good God is bringing about for us. You don’t need to know how God is going to work on your behalf, only that He will. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to figure out how God will meet your need or fulfill your desire. You can’t possibly imagine all the ways God could bless you or answer your prayer or fulfill your desire. Let Him choose to surprise you if He wants to. Let Him be creative if He wants to be. Don’t project your limitations onto Him. He doesn’t have any.

My oldest daughter and her husband just celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary. They tried to get pregnant for about five years. Without success. After several years of trying, they began seeing various doctors and trying various procedures. Without success.

It was hard and disappointing for them. It was also hard and disappointing for this dad. I so badly wanted them to have a baby. My heart ached for them. And I had to fight hard to not let my negative thoughts run wild. It was a battle to not head down that dark road of anger and doubting God’s goodness.

We spent this past Christmas Eve at their house. When we arrived around dinner time, my daughter and son-in-law wasted no time in handing each of us an envelope. I have to say, I’m pretty perceptive. I usually have a good sense of what’s happening around me. I can read the vibes in a room. But not that night.

We all opened our envelopes at the same time. In it, was an ultra-sound image of our grandson. I was speechless. Maybe because of the lump in my throat.

Tyler was born on July 31st. This picture of me holding him was taken a few days ago.

 How to Wait Well

I don’t know what you’re waiting for. God does though. And He knows when and how He’s going to answer your prayer, meet your need or fulfill your desire. In the meantime, choose to wait well…


Expectations of God and Life

Posted: May 20th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Years ago, I heard it said, “Life wouldn’t be so hard if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.”

Apparently I wasn’t listening well enough. That one expectation may be the source of more of my aggravation and disappointment than anything else in my life. On second thought, there’s no reason to include the words “may be” in that sentence. Let’s replace them with the word “is.”

My default setting is to expect things to always go well. As in easy. As in my favor. As in without struggle.

Where did I get that idea from? It’s not even close to reality. It’s certainly not found in the Bible. There’s nowhere in all of Scripture where God promises a life of ease and comfort. In fact, the opposite is true. We’re promised hardships and trials and suffering.

Yesterday, we looked at Israel’s trek through the wilderness and how after a little over a year, they were whining and complaining about their conditions. They missed the food they had in Egypt. They were tired of manna and wanted some meat.

Even Moses started griping at God. He ended his little rant with, “If this is how You intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”

I understand how Moses felt. Don’t you?

Moses expected it to be easier. He thought they were headed to the Promised Land. Instead, they’re camped in the wilderness. If you’re a mom of young children, you know how frustrating it can be when they’re whining and complaining. Moses had two million of them to deal with.

After making their way to the edge of the Promised Land, they send spies in to scout out the land and bring back a report. The spies tell of a great land, but also strike fear in the hearts of the people by telling them they’ll never be able to defeat the nations already in the land. That’s when God sends Israel back into the wilderness as punishment.

Fast forward forty years…

Moses says to the nation of Israel:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

I’ve seen this pattern in my life and in the lives of others. God begins to change your circumstances. Maybe it’s a new job. Or a new relationship. Or a new place to live. Everything looks great! God has answered your prayers!

But often times, there’s a wilderness between where you’ve been and where God is leading you. And there are lessons to be learned there before moving on. God humbles us. He tests us. He causes us to hunger and then feeds us. He’s teaching us that we can trust Him. He’s disciplining us and training us for our own good and for greater fruitfulness.

My problem is forgetting that. I expect things to be easy. I fail to remember there’s often a wilderness to cross first.

Are you in a wilderness? If so, don’t lose heart. God’s at work. He’s not planning to abandon you where you are now. He’s bringing you through this difficult season to prepare you for what’s ahead, to reveal Himself to you and to teach you that you can count on Him no matter what you’re facing.


Aggravated With God

Posted: May 19th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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It’s been over a year since Israel left Egypt. They’ve camped at Mt. Sinai, received the law and now they’re on the move. They know when to move and when to stay because God leads them through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The cloud or the fire are always visible.

God also provides food for them every morning. The manna appears on the ground with the dew. They gather what they need, grind it up and bake it like flat cakes.

Wouldn’t you think these people would be in awe? Wouldn’t you think they’d be blown away after seeing all the plagues God sent in Egypt, how He parted the Red Sea and how He’s been leading and providing for them in the desert? Wouldn’t you think?

Well, they’re not in awe. Or blown away. In fact, they’ve had enough already. And they’ve started complaining.

I’d like to ask them what in the world they were thinking when they started complaining, but I don’t need to. I can just ask me. I’m them. I totally get where they’re coming from.

In Numbers 11, they’re complaining about their hardships, so God sends a fire into the outskirts of the camp. They scream for Moses to help and after he prays, the fire stops. But some of them die.

Then some of the foreigners traveling with Israel start reminiscing about the good old days in Egypt when they had all the delicious food they wanted. Well this gets some of the Israelites stirred up again and they start complaining again.

Moses can hear the people complaining, so then he gets in on it. Here’s the account in Numbers 11:10-15…

10 Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the Lord became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. 11 And Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? 12 Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? 13 Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! 15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”

Can you relate? I can.

Moses didn’t ask for this. He didn’t want to be God’s spokesman to Pharaoh. He didn’t want to lead all these people. He didn’t ask for this trouble.

And yet, here he is. Right in the middle of a big old mess trying to lead a couple million complainers through a desert.

I counted them. He asks God seven questions. Are any of them familiar to you? They sure are to me.

Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly?”

What did I do to deserve…?”

Did I…?”

Did I…?”

Why did You tell me…?”

How can I…?

Where am I supposed to…?”

Moses isn’t a little frustrated. He’s aggravated. Very aggravated. I get it. I would be too. To be honest, I’m aggravated about far less than that right now. And I’ve got some of those same questions for God.

What about you?

Are you aggravated with your circumstances and with God?

Maybe you’re wondering why God is treating you the way He is. Or what you did to deserve the situation you’re in. You’re wondering why God told you to do the things He did and why things are falling down around you. And now you’re trying to figure out how to fix the problem God has gotten you into. So you’re looking around for help or answers you need and can’t find any.

I’m right in there with you if you’re going through a hard season. And you and I are in good company. Moses struggled too.

More thoughts tomorrow…

By the way, if one of your aggravations is your marriage, then let me encourage you to check out my FREE video by clicking here.


Does God Test Us?

Posted: January 31st, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

In Mark 6, a huge crowd has been following Jesus. It’s now late in the afternoon. His disciples come to Jesus and tell Him to send the people away so they can buy food at the nearby farms and villages.

Instead of doing that though, Jesus says, “You feed them.”

Naturally, the disciples ask, “With what?”

That would be my question. Some of us with an attitude might have said, “Seriously? Seriously, Jesus? Are you for real? Come on, there are thousands of people here.”

Jesus simply replies by asking, “How much bread do you have? Go and find out.”

When the disciples return, they report to Jesus they have five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus has everyone sit down in groups, He blesses the food and gives it to the disciples to distribute. There was so much food left over they filled twelve baskets. Mark tells us over five thousand men and their families were fed.

I don’t know how much time has passed, but in Mark 8 there’s another large crowd gathered around Jesus. This time, the disciples don’t approach Jesus with the problem, He calls them and says, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”

I would have loved to be there to watch that scene play out. The circumstances are identical to last time. Large crowd. No food. What do we do?

It’s playing out like when a parent is helping a young child with homework. “Okay, let’s try it again. Two plus two equals…”

But the child isn’t quite catching on yet.

“Now think about it for second, if I have two apples and then I add two more…how many apples do I have?”

The parent stares hopefully at the child. The child stares cluelessly at the parent. The answer is so obvious. But still the child isn’t getting it. Like the disciples. Like you and me.

His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”

Apparently, they don’t remember how things worked the last time. Not one of the twelve thinks to say, “Hey Jesus, You don’t have to send them away hungry! I have an idea! Do that thing You did last time! Remember? Remember that time You made all that extra bread and fish? Just do that again.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t be too hard on the disciples. I don’t remember things God does either. It’s like I’m Lucy in “50 First Dates.” God may have done something great for me yesterday or last week, but I don’t remember it. All I can see is the unmet need today and so I get worried and anxious.

If it was a test, the disciples didn’t do so well. They didn’t remember what Jesus had done in the past, so they didn’t see He could be counted on in the present.

As He did the previous time, Jesus asks, “How much bread do you have?”

This time they come up with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. And as He’d done the last time, Jesus multiplies what they have and feeds the entire crowd of four thousand people. The disciples gather the leftovers and fill seven baskets this time.

Faith is a big deal to God. He wants to be trusted. He’s pleased by our faith. So don’t be surprised when tests come. Don’t get discouraged when the circumstances seem stacked against you and there’s no way out. God has been faithful in your past. He will be faithful in your present.

And He will be faithful in your future.


Prayer for a Breakthrough

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I don’t want to suffer. I know you don’t either.

We want good health for ourselves and those we love. We want to always have enough money to pay the bills with some left over. We want our relationships, especially with family members, to bring us joy and satisfaction. We want to be successful in our work. And we want our neighborhood, our city, our country and our world to be a safe place to live. And when we pray about something, we want God to answer. Sooner than later.

Does that pretty well capture what we want?

I’ll be honest. I don’t want to walk by faith. I don’t. A few days ago, I wrote a post on this site about seeking and trusting God. And really, that’s what this blog has been about for the past seven years. But if I’m honest, I have to admit I don’t really want to be in a position to have to trust God.

I want all of my needs met today, not tomorrow. I don’t even want to know how things will work out in the future, because that implies they’re not worked out today. And that makes me uncomfortable. And I don’t want to be uncomfortable. I know you don’t either.

That’s just not reality though. It’s not the way life works. It’s not the way God works.

James 1:2-4 says:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James is cluing us in to how life really works. And it’s contrary to the way we want it to work. It’s contrary to the way the world system tells us it should work. It’s even contrary to the way some Christians tell us life should work. We’re told that if we just have enough faith then we’ll have all the money we want and we’ll be healed of every sickness.

That’s not true though. My good friend died from colon cancer last year. He had great faith.

James doesn’t say “if” troubles come our way, he says “when” they do, we’re to consider it an opportunity for great joy. Yeah, I wish it didn’t work that way either, but it does.

We’re to consider troubles to be joy because we know that when our faith is tested, our endurance grows. When our endurance is fully developed, we enter into a new dimension of relationship with God where we discover He’s all we need, that in Him, we lack nothing.

When we pray for “breakthroughs”, I think what we’re really praying for is a quick way out of our troubles. At least that’s what I’m doing. It sounds something like this: “Oh God, please help me! I need a breakthrough today!” We want an end to the suffering today, don’t we? Have you ever prayed for a breakthrough to come in six months? Me either.

Maybe the better prayer is not for a breakthrough, but a go-through: “Oh God, give me the wisdom and strength to go through these troubles. Increase my faith. Help my endurance grow. Help me see I need You more than I need comfortable and pleasant circumstances.”


The Chief End of Man

Posted: January 16th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The nation of Israel was in slavery to the Egyptians for four hundred years. I wonder what the Jews who were born, lived and died in Egypt during those four hundred years thought. All they knew their entire lives was slavery. They never saw God’s miracles. They never made it to the Promised Land. Maybe Hebrews 11:13-16 was written for men and women like them:

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

If you’re like me, you want trials and difficulties to be over today. If not, yesterday. That doesn’t always happen though. Ten years ago at this time, my dad was battling through the last few months of his fight with leukemia. A year ago, a friend of mine was fighting through the final stages of colon cancer. My dad and my friend would have liked to survive their illnesses. They didn’t want to die. But for them, the trials didn’t end with deliverance, but with death.

Maybe you’re battling a chronic illness today like they were. Or maybe you’ve been trying to repair a marriage or find a job or get pregnant.

And you wonder where God is and when He’s going to help.

Sometimes though, He has something better for us planned than immediate relief. But I’ll be honest, it’s hard to write that or accept that. I don’t want to suffer any more than you do or the Jews in Egypt did. My hope is that your difficult circumstances will come to an end as they eventually did for the generation of Israelites who lived four hundred years after Joseph.

In Exodus 3, God appears to Moses and says, “I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land.”

God was aware of what the nation of Israel was suffering. He saw. He heard their cries. And He came down to rescue them. He came down to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He may be coming to rescue you any day now. Don’t lose hope. Keep crying out to Him. Keep seeking Him…not just relief. Keep seeking Him. I too often have made the mistake of only seeking relief from circumstances I didn’t like. I wish I’d spent more time seeking His face. Because sometimes the trials don’t end when or how I want them to. So what I really need is peace and joy in the midst of the hardships.

Mostly, what I’m reminded of today is that life isn’t about you or me. Whether our trials end today or tomorrow or next year isn’t the point.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a statement of beliefs completed in 1647 to teach the doctrines of the church. The first question and answer in it is:

Question: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

That’s why you and I exist. It’s why the Jews exist. It’s why they endured hundreds of years as slaves and were eventually led out by Moses. It’s why you are in your circumstances today. And why I’m in mine. If our current circumstances persist, it’s our opportunity to glorify God and enjoy Him. If He brings relief, it’s our opportunity to glorify and enjoy Him.

In the midst of whatever you’re facing today, how can you choose to glorify God and enjoy Him?


Where is God When You Need Him?

Posted: January 8th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Have you ever wondered where God was when you needed him?

I have.

In some dark moments, I’ve raged at Him, “Where are You, God?! Why won’t You do something?! Can’t You see?!”

It can feel like just when we need God the most…He doesn’t show. We desperately cry out for help…but we’re met with silence. A day stretches to a week which stretches to a month which stretches to a year…and longer. And still we wonder where He is and why He’s not helping us.

Last time, we looked at Joseph and how he ended up in prison for years. For a crime he didn’t commit. And yet there’s never any mention of Joseph becoming angry or depressed. We never see him losing hope and giving up.

So what’s going on? How was Joseph able to persevere through a lengthy prison term without becoming angry at his brothers (for selling him as a slave) or at God?

Genesis 39:21 says, “But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him His faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.” The last part of verse 23 says, “The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.”

The same was true of his time as the manager of Potiphar’s  house before he was thrown in prison. Genesis 39:2 says, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did…”

Let’s stop here for a minute and consider a couple things. First, Joseph was experiencing God in the midst of circumstances he would never have chosen. No one wants to be betrayed by family members. No one wants to be sold as a slave and taken to a foreign land. No one wants to be falsely accused. No one wants to be wrongfully imprisoned.

When we find ourselves in a situation we don’t like, it doesn’t mean God isn’t with us or actively at work. Maybe God is most at work when our circumstances are the least desirable.

Second, success may not always look like we want it to. Joseph was a successful slave. He was a successful prisoner. I don’t want to be a slave or a prisoner. When I’m in hard circumstances, I want God to change them. Right away. And yet God was at work in and through and for Joseph regardless of the circumstances.

Eventually, after years of imprisonment, Joseph is let out because he’s able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Rather, God reveals to Joseph what the dreams mean and Joseph relays the meanings to Pharaoh. God has warned Pharaoh that a seven-year famine is coming. Pharaoh responds by putting Joseph in charge of the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph makes sure the people stockpile grain so they can survive.

After the plentiful years, the famine hits, not just in Egypt, but in the whole region. Including the land of Canaan where Jacob and his family are living. To make a long story short, Jacob, his family and his descendents are saved because they’re able to buy food from Joseph and eventually move to Egypt to live there.

In Genesis 50:18, Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

During the years as a slave or the years he spent in prison, Joseph couldn’t see what God was up to. Surely, there had to be times he was wondering where God was when he needed Him the most. It was only in hindsight that he could see how God had used his brothers selling him as a slave, Potiphar’s wife falsely accusing him of rape and meeting Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer while in prison to accomplish His greater purposes.

Your current circumstances may not make any sense to you.  You may feel like God has forgotten you.

But He hasn’t.

He’s at work where you are, even if you can’t see it or sense His presence. Trust Him. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. He is at work in you, around you and for you.


Life’s Heavy Fog

Posted: October 27th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Recently, I was in Toms River, New Jersey with two of my kids visiting my mom. We walked on the boardwalk, ate pizza at the Sawmill in Seaside Heights and watched my old high school win a football game. I also got to see some friends I grew up with, but hadn’t seen in years. And I was able to show my kids where I grew up in Brick Township.

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My daughter, Amy, got to practice her German with my mom who speaks it fluently.

So a week ago at this time, we were getting ready to drive back to Philadelphia for our flight to Charlotte and then our connecting flight to Northwest Arkansas. Things started out smoothly…

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. We checked-in, went through security and had dinner before our 7:25 p.m. flight. The flight to Charlotte, NC was uneventful. In Charlotte, we had an hour or so before our flight home. At our gate, I ran into a friend who was heading home after a business trip. We boarded on time, took off and were about ninety minutes into our flight when the captain made an announcement.

He said there was heavy fog around the airport and visibility was down to a quarter mile. To land, he said they needed visibility of at least a half mile. At this point, we were probably within twenty or thirty minutes of landing, but he said we were going to head back to Charlotte. When we deplaned in Charlotte, US Airways had agents at the gate calling out names and giving us our updated itineraries.

My friend’s new flight left two days later. Another guy was booked on the same flight only the next night. I wasn’t holding out much hope for what we’d get, but a minute later my name was called. They had re-booked us on Delta for the next morning at 7:15 a.m., which would get us home to Northwest Arkansas before noon. We were given a discounted hotel room and finally got into bed around 1:45 a.m. Our shuttle back to the airport was at 5:00 a.m., so we set our alarms for 4:40.

After a couple hours of sleep, we returned to the airport in Charlotte and boarded our flight to Cincinnati. Everything was again going well. At the start.

Our flight from Cincinnati departed on time and an hour or so later, we were beginning our descent into Northwest Arkansas. And that’s when the captain made his announcement. The fog from the previous night hadn’t lifted yet, so we were unable to land. He said we were going to circle in the area and wait for it to lift.

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Those aren't clouds, that's the ground fog covering the airport.

I’m not sure how long we circled, but it was long enough for the captain to make another announcement. He said we were safe, but were beginning to run low on fuel. So we turned to the west and headed toward Tulsa where we would refuel. By the time we landed in Tulsa, refueled and made it back to Northwest Arkansas, the fog had lifted and we landed safely.

When we’re in the midst of a fog, it’s tough to see. Planes can’t land. Drivers can’t see ahead. People can’t even walk. A friend was telling me that his wife had gone out for a walk that Monday morning when the fog was still in place. It was so thick, she had to go back home because she was afraid of bumping into something. My wife, Robyn, could only go 25 mph on her way to pick us up.

How do you respond when you find yourself in the fog?

Whether it’s something minor like a delayed flight or something major like cancer or being laid off from your job, you and I have a choice. We can believe God is still good, loving, faithful and all-powerful and can work in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in or we can panic, get angry or become discouraged.

God’s vision isn’t limited by the fog you’re in today. He still sees. He still knows what He’s doing. He knows exactly when the fog will lift. And until it does, He will walk you through it. You’re never alone. He never expects you to figure things out on your own.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem where He’d suffer and be killed, but come back to life on the third day. Peter pulls Jesus aside and reprimands Him for talking like that. Here’s how Jesus replies:

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Why did Jesus react so strongly to Peter? Wasn’t Peter just trying to look out for a friend? Get away from me, Satan? Peter is a dangerous trap?

Like Peter, it’s easy for us to view life from merely a human point of view, not from God’s. When we do, we not only lose our peace, but we fail to see the plan God is working out around us. And His plan always takes precedence over our plan.

What if rather than asking God to remove our difficult circumstances (which is always what I want him to do!), you and I chose to trust Him to take us through the fog and accomplish His greater plan in our lives?


What Do You Expect God to Do?

Posted: September 5th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Don’t you love it when someone exceeds your expectations? It could be your spouse who prepares your favorite meal while you relax. Or a server in a restaurant who anticipates your needs and meets them. It could be an online retailer who ships your order sooner than you expected.

On the other hand, it can be very frustrating and disappointing when we have expectations that go unmet. Even if our expectations were unrealistic or never even expressed, we can still feel disappointed.

When I meet with couples to do their premarital counseling, we talk about expectations they have for marriage. The more they understand their own expectations and their spouse’s the better off they’ll be. Unmet or unrealistic expectations are a relationship-killer.

That’s why it’s critical to understand our expectations of God and whether or not they’re realistic.

You’re probably familiar with the story in Genesis 6 where God sees the extent of human wickedness and decides to destroy every living thing on the earth in a flood. Only Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives will be spared along with pairs of animals. We don’t know exactly how long it took Noah to build the ark, but it’s safe to say it probably took decades.

In Genesis 7, the flood comes and completely covers the earth for five months. At this point, mankind has been wiped out. Only those in the ark survive.

Do you think Noah looked outside after those five months and said something like, “Okay God, mission accomplished. Take away the water now.”

I would have. I would have figured I’d done everything God asked, everyone was now dead, I’d been at this a long time and so it was time for the water to go.

But Genesis 8:1 says, “He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.” Verse 3 tells us, “…the floodwaters gradually receded from the earth.”

God sent a wind? The floodwaters gradually receded? Really? Gradually?

If you read all of Genesis 8, you’ll see that Noah, his family and the animals were on the ark for a total of about a year. A year on a boat. With your family. And a lot of stinky animals. Noah was a righteous man, so maybe that means his expectations were realistic, but being under those conditions for a year would be really, really tough.

Without realistic expectations, I can see how Noah would have gotten very angry. I can understand it, because of how I would have felt. I would have reasoned that if God was powerful enough to cover the earth with water, then He could just easily make it all go away. I have the tendency to do that with problems that are much smaller than a worldwide flood.

Isn’t that how we want God to deal with our problems though? Don’t we want Him to just make them go away?

That’s not how He seems to work though. At least not in my life. More often than not, God works gradually. My problems or trials or weaknesses don’t just disappear overnight, they gradually recede as I trust Him and walk with Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

If you find yourself feeling angry or disappointed with God, check your expectations. Just because He’s all-powerful and loving, it doesn’t mean He’s going to snap His fingers and fix your problem. What I see is that God is more interested in helping me walk through problems rather than rescuing me from them.

There are days when God does move dramatically. Days when He shows up in some big way in our lives. And I love those days. But today is more likely to be a “gradually recede” day. And that will require me to have realistic expectations and walk with Him by faith.


How to Change Your Feelings

Posted: April 30th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Earlier today, I was talking with a friend who had some skin cancer removed this week. He has to wait nine more days for the pathology report to learn whether the cancer cells were contained or if they’ve possibly spread to his lymph nodes. I commented about how hard it would be to wait for nine more days. His response was, “I don’t care. God is sovereign.”

What my friend is really saying is, “I don’t have to care, because I know God does and He’s the one who’s in control.”

His thought or belief is: God cares about him and is in control of whatever happens.

The feeling that results is: peace.

Thoughts produce feelings.

If I had three pieces of information about someone, I think I’d be able to accurately tell you how they were feeling…whether they were: Happy? Hopeful? Anxious? Worried? Peaceful? Stressed? Calm? Fearful? Angry? Discouraged? Loved?

Here’s what I’d need to know:

1. What do they read?

2. Who or what do they listen to?

3. Who or what do they look at or watch?

Given that information, I’d know how someone was feeling. Why?

Because if I know what they’re filling their mind with, then I’ll have a good idea what they’re thinking. And if I know what they’re thinking, then I know how they’re feeling, because again, thoughts produce feelings.

How do you feel today?

If it’s something negative like fear, worry or anxiety, then the solution is to change your thoughts. And of course that’s much easier said than done. My friend didn’t just wake up this morning and start believing God was sovereign. I guarantee that’s a belief he has cultivated for many years.

What thoughts have you been cultivating for many years? Are they true? Are you believing the truth about God? Yourself? Life? Or have you mostly filled your mind with ideas and principles from the world system?

Your feelings will let you know.

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul writes…

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Regardless of what you’re going through–peace can be yours. You can present your requests to Him and His peace will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. And you can choose to think about the things that are true and to put them into practice and the God of peace will be with you.

I’m not suggesting this is easy. It’s a battle. A moment by moment battle. And it’s fought in the mind.

Anything good is worth fighting for, right?

Take an inventory of your thoughts today. Where are they coming from? If you’re feeling anxious or fearful–stop for a moment and trace your thoughts back. What thought led to that feeling? What truth needs to replace the wrong thought? We have to learn to do this because…

Thoughts produce feelings.