The last few years our family has been through a lot. We lost my mom to cancer, our daughter and family moved to 'that other state,' taking our grandson with them and then they found themselves in the middle of a contested adoption. Along the way, there have been other daily nuisances to deal with, but those are just the big things. Of course there has been joy along the way as well. My son married the love of his life and some aspects of the adoption were just as much a joy as a trial.
That's just it, people think that when they become a Christian, everything is going to be perfect. That knowing and walking with Jesus will somehow give us a pass from all of the hurt, pain and ugliness that is life on this earth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, Jesus tells us that just the opposite will happen.
Just this week, in a monthly publication we receive called the Silver Star, I stumbled upon the following article. It is written by Chaplain Carey Norman and posted with his permission:
The first century stoic Epictetus penned these insightful words, "It isn't your problems that are bothering you, it is the way you are looking at them."
A contemporary writer shared the same thought with these words, "Most of our difficulties in life boil down to 10 percent circumstances and 90 percent perspective."
Contrary to what a few of those flamboyant television evangelists with their permanent smiles would have us believe (i.e. "walk with God and you'll never have a care" or "if you have enough faith, you'll always be healthy and wealthy"), God never promised any of his children a divine exemption from problems, trials, disappointments, or hardship. In fact, Jesus plainly taught us, "In this world, you shall have tribulation." Difficulty, trial, and suffering are a part of the human experience. There's just no getting around that reality of life.
What then should be our perspective toward such things? Groaning about our woes? Complaining about our lot in life? Blaming others and God for our difficulties? Unfortunately, many of us choose to respond to life's setbacks in such ways. In fact, complaining seems to have become a favorite American past time.
Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about the job, the boss, the government, the Chargers, the wife, the kids....well, you get the picture. Although many of us seem to enjoy our griping and complaining, in all my years of ministry, I've never seen groaning, complaining or blaming others improve any one's situation. On the other hand, I have seen such responses make bad situations even worse.
As strange as it might seem to us at first glance, the Bible actually encourages us to respond to life's difficulties with joy. The apostle James writes, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."
James is not encouraging us to become masochists who love pain and who can't wait for life's next disappointment. What he is challenging us to understand is that God allows trial in our lives for a good purpose, namely, to produce endurance, staying power, and spiritual stamina. There's an old saying in the weightlifting business, "No Pain? No Gain!" In other words, if the muscles aren't hurting, not much real value is coming from the workout. That slogan fits our situation in life as well.
Most of us have experienced difficult and challenging periods in our lives. Given the choice, most of us would probably not want to go through them again. Yet, at the same time, we can often look back and say, "While I didn't enjoy the problems, I did learn a lot about life from them, and I can honestly say that I'm a stronger and better person because of them."
Understanding that God allows trials in our lives, not to break us but to make us the people He wants us to be can go a long way in helping us not only to endure the hard time, but even to find some measure of joy and satisfaction in the midst of the them.
I think old Epictetus was on to something when he said, "It isn't your problems that are bothering you, it is the way you are looking at them."
As Grandparents, we walked the path of this contested adoption right along side our daughter and son-in-law. Everyday we prayed for the desires of our hearts and, of course, that would be to keep our little grandson right where he was. We also prayed that ultimately God's will would be done and that He would give us the strength and the faith to get through whatever His plan was. As most of you know, Little Buddy is going to stay right where he is. The whole story isn't ours to tell, but God worked in a mighty way providing an outcome that none of saw coming. That is the beauty of a relationship with our heavenly Father. Just when we think we have something all figured out He lets us know that we are clueless.
Through all of this we tried to make sure that we were a witness to our faith. To give God the glory on the bad days as well as the good. We tried to show others that we believed that, whatever the outcome, we served a perfect God. A God who doesn't make mistakes. We certainly didn't succeed all of the time. We didn't even come close. We had our moments when we were simply 'over it.' That being said, we tried not to ask why them? Our daughter and son-in-law never wavered in their faith. Our little grandson's faith was developing under the weight of this trial and what an amazing faith he has. They KNEW that God was in control of this every step of the way and that they were right where God wanted them to be. They didn't ask for it, but they didn't question it either. We are so proud of the witness they were during this whole process.
Thank you to all of the people who came alongside us in this journey. Lifting us up when we needed it, listening when we needed it, praying without ceasing and just letting us know that you were there. It meant the world to us. Special thanks to my sister's on the Women's Ministry Board, the men on the Elder Board, our amazing Life Group and all those who prayed beside us for these past 14 months. (Teri, I would have never made it without those morning pancakes.) What a comfort and a joy to have you in our lives! We love all of you!