During a time when much of North America and other countries are experiencing extreme weather, a summer setting records for high temperatures, this week’s title Extreme Heat couldn’t be more appropriate.
The broader definition of heat can include unrest and dissatisfaction. As people struggle to survive against the rising prices of inflation, many are experiencing extreme heat.
Extreme heat can destroy and it can purify. With it, things rarely stay the same. The stories of Craig Cooper and Walker Hayes are examples of heat bringing about changes. They are now next door neighbors and best friends. Coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, their stories are both unlike, yet similar. Cooper is a pastor who lost his job. Walker is a country music artist, who was an alcoholic who couldn’t make enough to provide for his growing family.
Yet, each was what the other needed in times of loss, in times of extreme heat. They collaborated on a book, “Glad You’re Here.” It is the story of “two unlikely friends breaking bread and fences.” Each writer tells his view of parts of the story leading to where they are today, on-fire Christian neighbors whose families bought houses next door to each other and removed the fence between their backyards.
Cooper sums it up well. “God takes delight in using the depleted to display the power of His own grace for His joy and ours.”  He was able to understand what Walker Hayes was going through because of the difficulties he himself had experienced.
The stories this week bring to mind the inevitable nature of dealing with difficulties in our lives. As we look around, it may seem that some appear to escape pain or problems in life. But upon closer examination, one might gain perspective and understanding of the situations in which they have learned discipline, patience, and empathy. Everything may not be as easy as it appears.
The story probably presenting the most questions for us is that of Abraham being asked to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Cultural norms from over 3500 years ago seem difficult for those of us living today to understand. Research into those times may help to bring clarification. What would be against the law today may have been practiced by some cultures in a different time. In actuality, God’s request of Abraham brought a contrast to those practices rather than following them. God had a way planned for Abraham and for Isaac, who was not sacrificed, but saved. Abraham made the decision to follow God’s direction. In doing so, he could see that God chose not to follow child sacrifices as some neighboring peoples did. Instead, he saw how God provides in all circumstances.
Extreme heat entered the life of Job as he dealt with the loss of family, fortune, and friends. The experiences again brought forth an individual ready to represent God as the One who loves and leads. Like Abraham, Job, or Paul, God may ask us to go through extreme heat and if we endure, the understanding we gain may bring glory to God and allow us to minister to others.
 Glad You’re Here, p. 83
Connecting: Have you ever experienced a difficult situation in life and felt comfort or understanding from someone who had been through a similar situation? What impact did that experience have on you?
Sharing: As you read the stories of Abraham, Job, and Paul from the lesson texts, what assurances could one learn about God?
- Some, like Abraham, may be given tests that seem contrary to God’s love. In actuality these tests may prove how great that love is.
- God’s presence, assured to everyone, does not provide immunity from pain and hurt in this world.
- At times those going through the most difficult trials are a testimony to others of God’s love and provision.
- Trials and temptations are only encountered by those who are living lives contrary to God’s will and guidance.
- When our focus is sharing and understanding God’s love, growth rather than difficult times may become the focus.
Applying: Think about a particularly difficult experience. Could there be gifts in adversity as well as in prosperity? What could one or some of those gifts be? Write down some things that you or someone you know has learned from those situations.