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Grace Nuggets: Simple reminders of God’s great love for you.

You don’t gain anything by being punished for some wrong you have done. But God will bless you, if you have to suffer for doing something good. 1 Peter 2:20 (CEV)

Usually when I’ve read this verse I’ve focused on the words ‘punished’ and ‘doing good’ with the idea of persecution for following Jesus, or for being honest when dishonesty would be the ‘norm’ or completely understandable.

Punishment for doing good isn’t always the physically abusive kind of punishment though and it’s not always administered by those intent on hurting us. Sometimes the suffering we endure comes at the hands of unknowing and, if we were honest, unintentional attacks. These are the attacks that don’t leave bruises or scars on the outside, but wreak havoc on the inside.

Random acts of kindness are often lauded as being some super-heroic gesture that brings us lots of joy and fulfillment. But when our acts of kindness and consideration are unnoticed it hurts. The legalist will tell you to suck it up. To look for recognition is nothing more than sinful pride. But I don’t buy that completely. While it’s true that the ‘Christ-like’ things we do should be done regardless of whether they are recognized or not, that doesn’t mean that that it’s some great heinous sin to expect that we get thanked for what we do.

One day Jesus was walking along a path and came upon ten lepers. He told them to go to the priests and show themselves to the priests. As they went they were cleansed of their leprosy! Only one of the ten returned to say thank you and that person was a much hated Samaritan. Jesus response was a very human one. He looked for the other nine!

“Wait a minute…Didn’t I heal ten men? And even though I delivered them from this deadly, stinking, socially repulsive sin, the only one who thought to say thank you was this foreigner? Where are my friends? Where are the ones who should have been first in line, my countrymen?”

It’s been over 2,000 years since that story and nothing has really changed in our human nature. Those who are closest to us are usually the ones that notice our kind actions the least. It’s often strangers that say thank you more often than our spouses, children or closest friends and that hurts!

Two lessons come to mind when I re-read this story. First of all, I want to make sure that I am appreciative of all the things, large and small that people do for me. My prayer is that no act of kindness will go unappreciated.

Secondly, from all appearances, the other nine were healed. Even though they weren’t thankful, Jesus knew that his true reward would come from his Father. The same is true for me. The kind things we do may go unnoticed on earth, but they are never forgotten in heaven.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many times when the things I’ve done have gone unnoticed. People seem to notice my failures much more than my kindness. Empowered by your Spirit, I resolve to make sure those who are kind are recognized by me. I praise you for remembering even my most insignificant act of kindness to those around me. In Jesus name, Amen.

The worst of my fears has come true, what I’ve dreaded most has happened. Job 3:25 (The Msg)

Ever gone through day or a period in your life when absolutely EVERYTHING seems to go wrong? I don’t just mean little things like burning your toast in the morning, being late to work because you were stuck in traffic or having a flat tire on the interstate in a driving rain.

These are difficult things to go through but nothing compared to Job. He’d lost his children, his wealth, the position of respect in his community and his health. Even his wife had withdrawn from him at his deepest time of need. He was all alone and in physical, emotional and spiritual agony. To top things off he had three visitors who claimed to be friends. They took on the self-appointed position of judge, pointing out all the things that they knew about how ‘wrong Job was’!

While few of us have ever gone through the devastation Job endured there are times in our lives when things are so bad that we are unsure that we will be able to go on. The death of a dearly loved family member or friend; the end of a relationship in which you thought ‘everything was fine’; financial collapse; watching a loved one die of some disease, or finding out you are dying from some disease. All of these and more can cause us to lose all hope in ourselves, God or others.

While there aren’t any easy, quick fixes to the pain and despair that life deals us, there are a few things that may help ease the pain for a time.

  • Don’t instantly blame yourself. Job lived a nearly perfect life in God’s eyes yet endured unheard of pain. Take stock of the situation. Sometimes we have to admit that the things we are going through are consequences to our own choices. Ask Jesus to forgive you for your part and to give you strength to make it through the time of ‘discipline’ we call consequences.
  • Realize that sometimes the pain we go through has nothing to do with us. It could be God’s way of strengthening us for the challenges we face tomorrow. It could be God’s way of empowering us to help those who have gone through similar devastation.
  • Listen carefully to friend’s advice and measure it up against what you know. Sometimes even the most well-meaning friends are just plain wrong! Even pastors and spiritual leaders can be wrong sometimes. True, Christ-following friends won’t be critical or harsh. They will love you and support you and gently walk with you through the darkness.
  • Don’t just go looking for people to agree with you. But remember that it is God who judges and He alone knows the reason for your pain. Continue to grow in your relationship with Him. Don’t abandon Him. In the darkest night He is the only true light.
  • Most importantly, in spite of your pain and anger and despair, don’t turn your back on God. Even though things seem impossibly painful God DOES love you and has the power to see you through anything, ANYTHING life throws at you.  Talk to Him. Read His love letter to us (the Bible). Ask Him for wisdom and strength to make it through life’s challenges.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’m about at the end of my strength. I’ve even thought of just ending it all because I’m not sure I can go on. You say you are there and I want to believe it but sometimes the darkness is too overwhelming. Please help me to see you in all this. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to sense the peace and love that passes all understanding. Right now I need to feel your love. Amen.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22 (NLT)

There is nothing as painful as being betrayed by a close friend. When we were created in God’s image, one aspect of that was the need for intimacy and love. Jehovah God is love. That means that His very essence, His very make up is love and love means relationship. When relationship it broken it hurts us because it attacks our feelings about whom we really are. Broken relationships equal rejection and rejection cuts to the very soul.

King David knew about being rejected. In Psalm 55 he states that being rejected and attacked by an enemy hurts, but that is to be expected. Being attacked by a friend, especially a close intimate friend, hurts more than anything else because it destroys faith and trust. The burden he talks about in verse 22 is the burden of being rejected by a close, personal friend. When that happens, he says, he turns to the one friend that never lets him down.

Another person that knew what it was like to be rejected was Jesus. On the night before he was crucified one of his closest friend came to him and kissed him on the cheek. That was a very intimate act on the part of Judas. But it wasn’t real. It was self-serving and malicious. It eventually led to Jesus’ death and Judas felt so guilty and ashamed for what he’d done to his friend that he committed suicide the next day.

Jesus knows rejection. That’s why he’s such a good friend to have. True friends stand with us during the hard times, are patient with us when we fail, uplift us when we are discouraged, love us enough to tell us the truth and never keep us from being who we want to be. They give us room to grow and a shield from danger or discouragement.

Even the best of friends will fail us at some time simply because they can’t fully understand  how we feel because they can’t look inside us and see our heart or read our minds. Jesus is the perfect best friend because He’s also God. Jesus knows exactly how you feel on the inside. As our Best Friend Forever (B. F. F.) Jesus will stand by you in during the times when no one else knows how you feel.

John W. Peterson wrote a song shortly after he experienced a huge let down from a friend. It goes like this:

No One Understands Like Jesus by John W. Peterson

 No one understands like Jesus. He’s a friend beyond compare;

Meet Him at the throne of mercy; He is waiting for you there.

 No one understands like Jesus; Ev’ry woe He sees and feels;

Tenderly He whispers comfort, And the broken heart He heals.

 No one understands like Jesus When the foes of life assail;

You should never be discouraged; Jesus cares and will not fail!

 No one understands like Jesus When you falter on the way;

Tho’ you fail Him, sadly fail Him, He will pardon you today.


No one understands like Jesus When the days are dark and grim;

No one is so near, so dear as Jesus–Cast your ev’ry care on Him!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I thank you today that you fully and completely understand my every thought, my every feeling and my every fear. I confess to you that sometimes I’ve not been a good friend to others and let them down miserably. I have also felt the pain of being rejected and abandoned by people I thought loved me but really only wanted to use me. There have been times I even have felt like You abandoned me. Help me to feel your presence and love today; to learn to walk with you and lay every care, concern, fear and hurt at  Your feet. Wrap your arms of love around me. Amen

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

David was just a simple shepherd boy given a huge opportunity by God. Being a shepherd was a lonely existence in which you would sometimes spend months alone in the hills with just a bunch of sheep, facing the elements, attack by wildlife and tending to a bunch of animals prone to wander off.

All that changed when David was thrust into the political spotlight as a result of God’s choice for him to be king. He must have felt every emotion imaginable during this time of his life. Loneliness and fear may have gripped him from time to time in the hill country. But he learned during that time to trust God for safety, wisdom and provision.

He no doubt was overwhelmed when the Prophet, Samuel, anointed him and informed him and his family that David would be the next King of Israel. The excitement of the possibilities no doubt grew when he was invited into the palace to live with King Saul. Here he learned the political ins and outs of ruling a country.

He learned to be patient during the confusing times when the king tried to kill him during Saul’s frequent fits of rage and anger. Where was God’s promise? Why did he bring me here only to face more danger? David knew how to fight lions and bears, not kings.

There must have been times he was ready to give up on God’s promise. To return to the hills and tend sheep as his family had done for years. But something kept him going. One of those things was a friendship with Saul’s own son, Jonathan. Time after time Jonathan intervened on David’s behalf, risking his own life so that David would be safe.

Jonathan had nothing to gain and everything to lose being David’s friend. David was the one person who stood before him and the throne. He was well aware of the fact that in order for David to be King he would have to die. Yet he encouraged David to be strong and encouraged his faith by telling him to stay strong.

In each of our lives we encounter hardships and trials. These are painful life experiences that seem to want to sap the energy and strength from our very lives. During these times we need to seek out good, Godly friendships. We need people who we can rely on to encourage us during the down times, be honest with us when we need to hear honesty and listen to us when we just need to vent.

Surround yourselves with sincere, Jesus following friends who lift you up and spur you on to greatness. Godly friends are those who selflessly encourage us to rely on God and pursue the very best for our lives.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for the examples you give us in the Bible of true friends such as Jonathan and David. Lead me into circles of your followers who will listen to my dreams, be patient with my struggles and lead me into a closer relationship with you so that I can attain all you want me to be. Amen.

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June 2023
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