Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dealing with Trials

"In this world you will have tribulation..."

We're not promised an easy time of it, as Christians or otherwise. Every religious scripture worldwide confirms the universality of suffering. Certainly many trials come from poor decisions and mistakes, but it has never escaped notice that the innocent and those who try the hardest to live righteously and make good decisions often experience the worst of it. How is it that the lifelong alcoholic can live in blissful oblivion, while his family suffers, and complete strangers to him are devastated by the results of his drunken driving? How is that fair? Why are there people who smoke, drink, and eat junk for food and never experience anything other than a bit of high blood pressure; while a 28 year old mother of two, who never smoked, drank to excess, or ate much junk food at all, ends up with stage-4 cancer? The questions are endless, and confounding. There is no simple answer. What I know for sure is that difficult times come to everyone, and when they do, we are all tempted like Job, to sit and question God and wonder if we did something to deserve our condition. It is a pointless position...totally futile. You could sit and ponder these questions for an entire lifetime and not end up with a single sufficient answer, and your life will have been wasted.

So what attitude should we take in the midst of the inevitable trials of life?

"...but be courageous, for I have overcome the world" (John 16:33)

When faced with trials, people seem to have one of two reactions: Despair, or Hope. The above passage is translated several ways: "be courageous, take heart, be of good cheer, have confidence." A "cheerful" attitude has been, at times, a bit much for me to muster, I must admit. "Have confidence," has got to be my favorite. I don't see many people "cheerfully" enduring their job loss, foreclosed homes, or deaths of loved ones, but I have seen many who can hold their head high during times of adversity. There is something substantial about knowing that Jesus suffered as we all do, and through his suffering has shown us the way to redemption and eternal life. We can have confidence that, if he can overcome the world, then he can also help us overcome whatever obstacle we are facing. The Greek word PROSDECHOMAI has become one of my favorites.

It carries the connotation of expectant waiting for the fulfillment of promises made. It is the attitude that has carried me through many difficult days, and I have to say that when I waited expectantly in the midst of difficult circumstances, God ALWAYS showed up in the most amazing ways:

It was Christmas time in Minot, ND. The thermostat hadn't crept above 0 degrees for two months. My hair had fallen out as a result of the Chemo treatments and though my tumors had begun to dwindle in size, the Doctors still weren't convinced that I would survive. Josh's First Sergeant, the man whose job it was to support and encourage his troops in difficult situations, had taken the position that I wasn't really that sick and that we were just trying to "milk the system." He had been putting pressure on Josh to make me drive myself to my Chemo treatments so that he could be at work, and had repeatedly refused our requests for financial assistance. My Mother had been with us for a few months to help, but had left abruptly because of her difficulty handling the stressful situation (for which we could not blame her), leaving us no choice but to pay for full-time day care for the children. It was a financial obligation we could not afford, but could not do without. I assure you, we felt "hard pressed on every side." (2 Cor 4:8)

Imagine my surprise, then, when Josh's First Sergeant showed up on our doorstep one evening the week before Christmas, dressed as Santa, bearing presents from complete strangers, a Turkey, a Christmas Tree with decorations... AND finally, at long last, a paper bearing his recommendation of us to Air Force Aid! (probably requested by the Squadron Commander) I could tell by his demeanor that this was totally against his will. He had absolutely NO desire to be carrying out this little errand. The disdain was plain to see on his face, but it carried no weight for me. My children were thrilled! They had no clue that there was a Scrooge underneath the costume, they just saw Santa and presents. In my hand I held his recommendation to Air Force Aid, an answer to prayer that had been months in the making. I could barely keep the tears from my eyes, and I'm sure he must have been wondering why. He could have had no clue that God had made his presence known, at that very moment, using HIM...the LEAST likely candidate we would ever have thought possible.

It is only one example of many, many ways God made his presence known to us during one of the most difficult times we have ever been through as a family. I think it is easier to recognize his presence in even smaller ways with the added perspective of time. The passage of time has also helped me to see the many ways this trying situation made us better as a family, and as individuals. It is something to say that you believe in God, but something else entirely to be able to say that you KNOW God. I started out, as we all do, with a childish belief in someone else's faith. I only knew what I was told, and though I held it to be true, it was not until I had need to lean upon this faith that God become real for me. I waited, I trusted, I hoped...and God showed up. He walked beside us in the midst of our suffering. Though those we expected to help us may have not been able to, for whatever reasons; God made his presence known through the kindness of strangers, the prayers of many, and his use of even unwilling emissaries of his love.

After living through an experience like that, it is not hard to awake every day feeling so blessed, and thankful for the fullness of our lives together. After living through something so difficult, the minor disturbances of daily life seem terribly insignificant. Even though we know that we will have more trials to live through, we are hopeful. We know that God will always show up for us.

"Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Zion." Psalm 84:5-7


S said...

This is so moving Maggie, we are so sad over the B family trials, I just can't imagine..... Gene lost his father abruptly at the beginning of 2001.... I can't imagine being a little child and losing my mother like that, it crushes my heart to pieces.... your blog post was beautiful, I wanted to write something but just couldn't even think of where to begin or what to say. (((Hugs)))