daily devotional

My family has two very unlikely Christmas traditions. When we gather around the table, we play. Our first game is BINGO. My great-grandma started the tradition before I can even remember. She loved her BINGO. In the center of the table is a pile of random wrapped gifts. When you BINGO, you unwrap a gift. Then when the next person has their lucky number called, they either steal your gift or unwrap a new one. Last year we ended up with a lot of food items in the wrapped gifts and we made a rule, whatever you unwrap, you have to eat it. It was all fun and games eating lollipops and caramel popcorn until someone unwrapped the sardines in mustard sauce … that didn’t end well. But dang was it funny.

Later in the night, we break out the poker chips. High stakes go down when my family gathers around for some Texas Hold’Em. Half of us don’t know what we’re doing, some are trading cards under the table, mama was always stealing Daddy’s poker chips to grow her pile, and Daddy was forever singing Kenny Roger’s “Gambler.” Gosh, I’m going to miss him singing this year.

But, we’ll still play. Literally, we will still play and we will play the hand we’re dealt.

Life doesn’t always go the way we imagined. Plans change. People get sick. Families split. Jobs end. Feelings get hurt. We win … and we lose. And there’s a whole lot of it we just can’t do a darn thing about. It’s the cards you were given.

I can’t tell you how or why some people seem to get such good cards in life while others are handed a hot mess of a hand. I can’t find the logic behind some circumstances in life. Some things just don’t make sense to our human minds and limited perspective. We see right here and right now and sometimes that looks like a 2 of hearts and a 5 of clubs in your hand with nothing matching up and no hope of anything better coming. What do you do with that? Especially what do you do with that when the gal in the seat next to you is squirming because she’s got something good working.

Why did she get her hand while you were dealt yours? Maybe you sat in the wrong seat. Maybe those cards should have been shuffled one more time. Should you fold, or should you stay in the game to see one more card?

I’m no poker expert and I’ve never played for real money, but I know this much … some hands you get all the right cards, and some hands you don’t … it’s all in how you play them. My husband Lonnie is a winner. I mean that. That man is a winner. He’s good to his core and takes better care of me than I deserve. He’s also a darn good poker player, and it’s not because he’s lucky. He just knows how to play his cards.

Whew girl, don’t you see God’s life lesson coming your way right now? Bad cards are part of it sometimes. Unfortunate things, hard times, difficult situations are all in the deck of life and sometimes they end up in your hand. The only thing you can do about it is play it well. You can’t determine what’s coming your way, but you can decide what you do with it.

It’s been said that life is 10% what happens to you … 90% how you respond to it.

It’s not the player with the best hand that always wins … that would make every poker champion just lucky. It’s the player who plays the hand they’re given best that wins. It’s in the response.

The cards are just 10% of the game. The other 90% is how you play it.

I always think of our poor unlucky friend Job in the bible. Job had a good life and then he lost everything. I mean EVERY THING. First his employees were attacked and killed. Then a fire came and killed his animals. A windstorm blew down the house and all his children were killed. After receiving all of this news at once sitting at the table, we read in Job 1: 20-23: “When Job heard this, he tore his clothes and shaved his head because of his great sorrow. He knelt on the ground, then worshiped God and said: “We bring nothing at birth; we take nothing with us at death. The Lord alone gives and takes. Praise the name of the Lord!” In spite of everything, Job did not sin or accuse God of doing wrong.”

Most of us know what happened next … things got even worse for Job. Chapters of Job’s suffering and torment. One bad card after another. In his suffering he cried out to God, and God seemingly did not answer. Everything was lost and no one could console Job.

What always puzzled me in this story was God chose Job. He chose him because he was faithful. He chose him because he knew exactly what was inside of Job, because he put it there.

God chooses you because he knows what is in you. He put strength within you. He put discipline within you. He put fire and passion within you for specific things and then presents obstacles for you to overcome. Those obstacles fan the flame. The flame isn’t there to burn you up. The flame is there to drive you and direct you towards your purpose.

You don’t get to choose your cards. Job certainly didn’t. He would have never chosen the hardship. He would have never chosen the loss. And neither would we. But God knows. He knows what can be done even with the worst hand. He knows how he can work within cards that don’t make sense. He knows exactly how he designed life to be 10% nothing you can do about it, and 90% how you respond to it.

You know how Job’s story ends, right? You know after 40 chapters of Job’s life getting worse and no one being able to help or comfort him, finally God responds to him. God responds and reminds Job that he alone is God. He alone understands the workings of the world. God says “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Who marked off its dimensions? Have you ever given orders to the morning,or shown the dawn its place? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? Does the eagle soar at your command?”

Basically God is saying … I AM GOD. You do not know what I know. You do not see what I see.

And Job’s response? ““I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?

Hey God, I don’t understand why this is happening. It all seems really unfair. I don’t like it … and the truth is we don’t have to like it. We don’t have to understand it. We just have to play the cards we have been dealt the best we can. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.

And with Job’s response to all that had happened to him, God restores everything he had lost, even doubled it. Job 42:12 says “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”

Decide now you will play the heck out of the cards you are dealt and trust God with everything else.