When the Bucket Meets the Road

October was a long month in some ways and way too short in others. I wrote 4 novellas, so every day I went to my first job, and then my second job, and then I came home to write a couple thousand words. I was happy to see November and was down to correcting the last two novellas to send to the publisher.

Driving home in the dark, suddenly there appeared a bucket in the road. Not your average bucket, but a heavy duty one. I couldn’t swerve or stop because of traffic; I had to hit it straight on. I figured it would hit and bounce, maybe ding my already dinged car, but no. It had staying power. It scraped and screamed on the asphalt and refused to break loose or break up, so I finally pulled over. I couldn’t see it and the side of that particular highway was not safe due to high traffic. Since all of my tires seemed fine, I waited for all the traffic to pass and then eased onto the road and drove to the parking lot of an empty building down the hill.

I finally found the offending bucket wedged under the front of my car and managed to pull it loose and toss it to the side. Saying a quick prayer, I got back in the car and headed home, thankful not to see any warning lights on the dash. I made it home without any further ado and went inside to finish what I had started.

It occurred to me that the incident is a lot like life. We are rolling along taking care of business when suddenly life throws a bucket at us. Whether it is a unexpected bill, an illness, a death, or just a bad day, it throws a kink in our plan and slows us down. We want to pull off the road and quit, but we still have to get home, so we have to deal with the problem and carry on.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1 Peter 5:7-8

First, the Bible says to cast our cares on God. We weren’t meant to carry them around. God wants us to trust Him with our problems. The devil is trying to trip us up and throws whatever he can at us, even a bucket in the road, but God is on the throne and better equipped to deal with the obstacles at hand. God allows the obstacles and uses them to help us grow in faith and in character.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Genesis 5:20

The enemy and even people will make plans against us, but they cannot over throw the will of God. He has a plan even when it seems like nothing is going right. Joseph had to be sold into slavery in order for him to end up in the right place to save his people from starvation. We may not always know the purpose of the bucket in the road, but we do know God.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

God can use even a bucket in the road to teach us something, or even protect us from something that we can’t see. There might have been a potential wreck further down the road, or it might have just been a warning to slow down. Regardless, God can use it for our good if we let him.

So, when the bucket meets the road and you can’t avoid it, know that God will be there by your side. You need only to ask for His help and carry on. It’ll work itself out eventually. Stop stress eating because of poll results and getting angry over social media posts, God will work the bucket out however He sees fit. It’s out of our hands and that’s probably a good thing because we would have tried to save Joseph from being sold into slavery and look where that would have led.

Be Still

Dropped stitchI was working on a knitting project late one evening and found what looked like a dropped stitch. Past experience taught me that trying to fix things when I’m tired only leads to more problems, so I used a stitch marker to hold it in place and put it away. I was frustrated because I was almost done with the project and wouldn’t be back at the yarn shop until after the weekend. The next morning I pulled out the project to look at it in the light of day and realized there actually wasn’t a problem, just some pulled threads, and any “fixing” I might have done would have made a problem where there hadn’t been one. I was able to finish the project over the weekend and move on to something new.

What is your first response when you encounter an obstacle or problem? Do you go into Ostrich Head in Sandproblem-solving mode? Do you get stick your head in the sand? For most people, we either hide from the problem, pretending it doesn’t exist, or we try to jump in and solve the problem using our own abilities. While this is the human approach, it is not necessarily the best way.

 

Parting Red SeaWhen the children of Israel left Egypt, the Pharaoh’s army followed them, leaving them trapped between the army and the Red Sea. The people cried out in fear, “13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever. 14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). God parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could pass over on dry land, and then the water fell on their enemies and destroyed them without them lifting a finger.

When we face problems, it is tempting to try and take control of the situation; however, if we stand still, God will fight the battle for us. Our first instinct is to DO something, but God’s Word tells us to stand still and watch God work. We often want to jump in and straighten things out, but we often just make the situation worse.

Psalms 46:10 says, “10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” The translation of “be still” has the added meaning of releasing your grip. Instead of holding tighter to the reins of control, release your grip and let God have His way in the situation. Then sit back in faith and watch Him do things you never dreamed of or thought possible. The Israelites certainly didn’t expect the water to part before them and their enemies to be drowned but God always had a plan. They just needed to have the faith to step forward in obedience.

So the next time you face a problem or an obstacle, instead of panicking or jumping in, take a moment to be still and let God take the lead. Then we can rest in the knowledge that, no matter what comes, God is in control and will work it out to our good (Jeremiah 29:11). The bright light of morning may reveal that the problem only existed in our perception of the situation and a little time allowed the stitches to fall into place so that we can move forward once again.

Sunrise

Road Blocks and Obstacles

Road ClosedRunning into road blocks, road construction, or other unknown obstacles make me irritable. Have you ever considered that God places irritating obstacles in our path for a reason? For instance, I had made plans to finish an outline I was working on by a certain date, but during that week my work load increased exponentially. I was later getting home every day and too tired to do anything besides eat dinner and start getting ready for bed. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to reach my goal. That weekend I went to a seminar that changed my approach to the project. The outline I was planning led in the wrong direction.

In Genesis 12, God told Abram to leave his home country to a place unknown to Abram. It was by faith that Abraham walked into the unknown, but he didn’t go alone. God went before him and made a way for him. God already had a plan made out and knew exactly where Abraham needed to be. There were obstacles along the way, but God used them to direct Abraham to the right place at the right time. Abram was probably tempted to stop in several different places along the way, but God used incidents to keep him moving. For example, when they went into Egypt because of the famine, God used a run-in with the pharaoh to push him forward instead of lingering. God even used a multitude of riches and a conflict with Lot to move Abram even further south until he was exactly in the land God had set aside for him. Many of the places he had journeyed through seemed good, but God wanted to give him the best.

DirectionsWhen we run into obstacles, often it is because we are headed in the wrong direction or are tempted to settle in a place that is comfortable but short of God’s plan for us. Our plans are not always God’s plans. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We have to trust that God only wants the best for us, so his plan has to be better. When we quit struggling to make our plans work and follow His leading, we will find joy and contentment that we never dreamed possible.

The Unknown

Unknown

I am a planner. I like to plan out things for maximum efficiency. For instance, if I know I have several errands to take care of, I will plan out what order of attack will be the most efficient based on the locations of errands in relation to home, each other, and traffic patterns (such as left-turn signals or busy roadways). I also take into consideration if I need to go to one place first, such as the bank. Then I implement my attack. I get great satisfaction in ticking off my list as I go. It makes me feel productive. What I don’t like is going into the unknown, whether it is a new grocery store or a new career. I want to know the plan and the best way to get there; however, God often has other ideas.

When I was called to serve as a short-term missionary to Seoul, South Korea, I was excited and a little nervous. There were all kinds of plans to be made, such as what to do with my car while I was gone or what to pack to take with me. I thought I had everything under control; however, there was a hiccup in the transportation plans. I wrote to the mission about my arrival, but I never received a response. I had a plane ticket and my passport, but I had no idea what would happen once I arrived at the airport, such as who, if anyone, was picking me up. The last and main leg of the journey was a 15-hour non-stop flight, and I spent 90% of that flight trying not to worry about what would happen when I got there. When I stepped through the doors of customs into the waiting area, I searched the crowd, my heart racing. At first, I only saw a mass of strangers rushing to greet other passengers, but then I spotted a group of people holding a welcome sign with my name on it and felt a wave of relief wash over me. God had provided a way even though I did not know of the plans He was making in my behalf.

When Abraham left his country in Genesis 12, he had no idea where he was going. He went by faith. When God told Noah to build a boat when it hadn’t even rained, it took faith. When the Israelites left Egypt and walked into the desert, they didn’t know where they were going either. I did not know what would happen when I got to the airport, but God did. The reason God leads us into the unknown is to build our faith and force us to trust in who He is instead of in ourselves.

We want to know the plan, but God just wants us to know Him. The goal of this life is a relationship with God, to know Him better, to trust Him. The only way to do that is to step out in faith from the known path into the unknown, to cast out into the deep away from the seeming safety of the shore, knowing that whatever He has planned for us is better than anything we can dream up.

While planning has its place, we also need to be open to following God into the unknown believing in faith that He knows what lies ahead and will be with us all the way. If we follow His lead, we will never go astray. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” The phrase “be still” can be translated “cease striving” or “release your hold” or “relax.” God is in the driver’s seat, and He knows more than any GPS about what lies ahead, so relax and enjoy the journey. God’s got this!

Obstacles vs. Opportunities

As I wrote in an earlier blog, perspective is everything, especially when it comes to attitudes. I have often found that if I change my perspective, I can change my attitude. For instance, a slow car in front of me may make me irritated and in a bad mood, but if I think about it being God’s providence, then I can lighten my mood and maybe even work up some gratefulness for unknown mercies, such as avoiding a potential wreck. When things happen that don’t go according to our plan, we see them as obstacles in the negative sense. For instance, a little while ago I started writing a blog post, but didn’t save the working copy. Usually auto save in Word will at least save a copy that can be restored, but I walked away for 10 minutes and my computer froze without Word even attempting to save what I had written. I had a choice:  I could curse the computer and get upset, or I could start over and see it as an opportunity for something better. I opted for the last choice, which culminated in an example for another blog idea I had jotted down in my bullet journal.

We often get a plan in our heads without consulting God as to what He wants. Those plans rarely come to fruition, but when they do, it is usually not to our benefit in the end. God’s ultimate purpose is to have a relationship with us. He wants us to depend upon Him and not the things of the world. He sometimes has to put up obstacles to keep us from going the wrong way, like a parent putting up a baby gate. Sometimes he puts up obstacles so that we can strengthen our faith through working our “faith” muscles in overcoming the obstacle. Sometimes he puts up obstacles so that the only way out is reliance on God. We can do all things through Christ, not through our own efforts. We must start with dependence on God, which is easier said than done.

This week I have been in a constant waiting mode. I haven’t been able to make plans in advance because circumstances kept changing on a day to day basis. I have had to let God have the reins and work on what I could that day. I tried to use it as an opportunity to do what God had given me to do that day instead of worrying about what needed to be done tomorrow or next week. That is how we should live…one day at a time. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof “(Matthew 6:34).

I am trying to start out each day focusing on what God wants me to do today and leave everything else in His hands. I’m not saying I succeed at it, but I am trying, and that is all we can do. So, stop worrying about tomorrow and just deal with today by putting it in God’s hands and see what He will do with it.