It really is a universal raw deal. If you live on this planet for any length of time, you will find your share of pain, problems, and predicaments. They are as common as air and water. Some of them are easy to fix. Some of them are so large they seem impossible. They strike at will. They have no rhyme or reason to their course of action. The difficulty is not in their coming. We know they are coming. We halfway expect them to come at any minute. The real problem is knowing how to get through them with any semblance of sanity and testimony.
Ever heard of the phrase, ďHope for the best and prepare for the worst?Ē Knowing that these three menaces are lurking around the corner has given us the mentality of waiting for the other shoe to drop. We have no control over the events that occur to cause these monsters to plague us. But we can prepare for most of them and be ready to minimize the effects of their path of destruction.
Now, this does not simply apply to the many forms of natural disasters that happen all over the world. There is no place on Spaceship Earth that you cannot be touched by a tragedy of nature. We get hurricanes and tornadoes in my neck of the woods, and this is supposed to be the vacation capitol of the world. Itís also the lightning capitol of the world, and not just the hockey team.
Storms in our lives are just as sure as the storms of nature. In some ways, they are even more devastating than their natural counterparts. These donít just rip through your house. They rip through your being. They donít just tear a hole in your backyard. These storms tear a hole right through your soul. You feel the after-effects for an eternity, it seems. Letís examine these three and identify them for all to see.
No other ailment has more remedies than pain. There are doctors that specialize in its diagnosis and treatment. Break your arm? They have a pill. Pull a muscle? They have an ointment. Have a migraine? They have a shot. The list of treatments is as endless as the list of ailments. For everything that could go wrong in your body, they have at least three kinds of fixes ready to go; prescription, generic, and herbal. But what happens when the pain is not physical? What happens when events in your life cause a hurt that pills will not cure? I donít care what they say, Prozac is not the answer.
Life hurts. I would love for that to be news to somebody, but I donít think anyone that could read this rant would doubt that phrase. Pain will occur from the time you are separated from the umbilical cord till the time you meet God. There is no way around it. Some of it is manageable. Some of it is paralyzing. It grips your soul and refuses to let you go. I know. It inspired this rant. You canít get away from it. Sometimes, you canít even breathe. There is no ready answer. All of your exits have been blocked and locked. Youíd give your eyeteeth for a match just to see if you really are in a pool of gasoline. The prospects are grim for you to even negotiate your next ten minutes, much less the rest of your day.
Take heart, my friends. Pain is a monster that can be defeated. You just need the right Sword. You need the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. C.S. Lewis once wrote, ďÖthe far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all. ďThe Problem with PainĒ was written after the death of Lewisí wife. He knew the pain I am referring to now. He also had a brilliant insight into how to deal with it.
Since we all have to carry our share of pain, it would be important to know the best way to deal with it. (No, Prozac is not the answer on this page either.) When the pain hits, we can pity our selves. We can be brave in the face of whatever comes at us. We can reason our way out of the pain. But only God can erase it. Only God can provide a way for us to bear it. Paul once wrote of the thorn in his side. It is not definite what the thorn was. What is known is that, though Paul was made to carry it all his life after conversion, he was still content. Paul knew that whatever he had to carry with him, it was nothing to the pain and suffering that Jesus endured for his sake. That was his courage. It was also evident that God did not give Paul more than he could bear.
God is loving to us. Even in the times when He seems to be the most distant, he is still there. He knows what you can take and what you canít. If He has given you a load to bear, than He has also given you the strength to bear it. We limit what God can do through us when we fail to see that He has provided for us everything we need to accomplish this life in a Godly manner. When the load seems heavier than you can lift, try using your knees.
Everywhere you look, there are problems. That honey-do-list that you get haunted with every weekend is really nothing more than a detailed list of problems that only you can fix. Moms get that call from school, and itís about a problem that the teacher had with your child that day. They are everywhere. Yes, they even cause pain. (They tag-team every now and again) How are you going to fix this? How are you going to solve that? How are you going to get out of the mess youíre in right now?
Planning only goes so far. A popular phrase in the military is that the best-laid plans are scraped at the sound of the first shot. No matter how well you plan, situations are going to come up that you were not ready for. Knowing this should be more of a comfort than a curse. Know that it is coming, and donít beat yourself up about it.
But now what? Iíll tell you what. Jesus told us that in this world, we are going to have problems. What? You mean they all donít just go away when I convert? Nope, they are still going to be there as long as you live. They are going to be around every corner of your life. They will be waiting with baited breath for the first opportunity to pounce on your happy little world.
But Jesus also told us that, even though these problems exist and are inevitable, He has overcome the world. Jesus has overcome the world. (It needed to be said again.) No matter the problem, Jesus has already thought of your answer. Heís solved final jeopardy before the show starts. Having Him there in your life with all the answers is one thing. Are we smart enough to listen? See, Jesus wants us to lean on Him for guidance and understanding. What He sometimes says, though, appears to be way out in left field. The answers we get to our prayers sometimes donít make any sense. We can often be heard to say, ďLord, I donít understand.Ē
Well, guess what? We are not supposed to understand it all the time. If we understood the answer every time, we wouldnít have asked for help, now would we? The problems that really confuse us are the ones most likely to be prayed about. The answers sometimes are even more confusing than the problems. Do this; tell your brain to take a break. Stop trying to figure it out and just do what God has lead you to do. Weigh the answer by the Word of God, and just go out and do it. Stop trying to have God make sense to you. Youíre a hundred times smarter than a cockroach. Ever try to explain something to one?
A predicament is usually brought about when we get ourselves in too deep. Itís kind of like a problem, but it has greater consequences. These events are always tough. Thatís their nature. You will have the toughest times trying to get through them. Problems are often gone with one answer. Not these bad boys. They are going to require some serious thought and a series of answers. They are also often accompanied by pain. (That one really gets around) You may have beaten the thing back for a while, but some of them never die. They haunt you when you are ill prepared to handle them. They creep up on you and take away the peace that you have worked hard to achieve. Most of the time, you have battled the beast for so long, that you will throw up your hands in defeat and pronounce it game lost.
Not so fast weakened and wearied soldiers. There is a light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train. (No Prozac) Have you ever thought that maybe you are going through this to learn something? Oh my, a new thought. Yes, my friends, a learning experience is in store for you. You may not know why, but I would be willing to guess that the answer is not too far in the distance. Are you going to open yourself to the experience or just try to weather the storm?
Let me give you a piece of advice. God sends these trials to us so that we have the opportunity to grow. When we have successfully conquered these trials, they become building blocks for our faith. That means the more we learn, the more we grow in our trust in the Lord. Persecution always makes us grow if we are smart enough to learn from them. Iíll add this little tip. If you donít get it right the first time, donít worry. God is generous. He will give you another opportunity to learn from it. That means you can count on getting the puppy again. You wonít like it any better the second time around.
Open yourself to the possibilities that there is a purpose to the pain, problem, or predicament that happen to be jumping up and down on that last nerve of yours. I know that you donít want to do it again. Just lean on God for your strength and guidance. You will be better off in the long run. Donít take my word for it. Take Godís.
Mark A. Bradley
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