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More often than one might expect, people ask me why bad things happen to them.  If you live long enough, you will experience trials, hurt, loss, and challenges.  What I tell my children and my congregations when tough times come is it is appropriate and expedient to ask yourself two questions:

What is it you want me to learn?
What are you preparing me for?”

When I encounter adversity, I stop and prayerfully ask the questions above.  God promises nothing will come upon me that He doesn’t foreknow or allow.  If you recall the story of Joseph, after experiencing captivity, slavery, and false imprisonment, he recognized God’s great blessings through his adversity.  He said to his brothers; “‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.'” (Gen. 50:20, NIV).  Many times God is preparing his children to minister to others or sanding off a rough spot in our lives. There is, however, another reason for tough times, discipline.  I’ll be honest, I don’t rush toward disciple.  Even though it makes a person better, it always comes at a cost.

Discipline manifested through adversity is God’s way of delivering a message that He wants me to get my act together.  He wants me to see a sin, an idol, a hidden area in my life that needs to go if I want to be His child.  Some people respond to His discipline by saying, “God, you don’t love me!”  The Bible makes it clear God does love you.  In fact, the disciple you may be experiencing is actually an expression of love.  The bible says, “For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” (Hebrews 12:6 NLT) and in another place, “for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12 ESV)

Whether God is disciplining you or God intends some good you cannot see right now to come from your circumstances, look up.  Look up in the difficulties.  Look up in the tough times.  Look up and ask the two questions above and He will direct you to what you need to learn, prepare for, or change.  In everything remember, God loves you.