Life’s Troubles

head-in-hands.JPGI recently spent some time with a young woman who has seen her share of life’s troubles. Even though she was sort of involved in church as a young person, she had never really heard how much God loved her before she met a neighbor who told her about Jesus. As a result of her conversations with her neighbor, she became very interested in learning more.

At her request, I was privileged to enter into their spiritual conversation. When I told her that the Bible is an unfolding story of God’s work to reach out in love and restore relationships with those who have turned away from Him, she was amazed. When I told her that the gospel tells how God wants to enfold her in His story, she was utterly astounded. The essence of our exchange which followed is:
“God wants a relationship with me?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “God wants a relationship with you. And, there is no telling who God will use you to share His story with.”
She was in shock. Tears welled up in her eyes. She then said, “I want to know more about this story.”
Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to our next meeting when I hope to share more of the story of God’s great love for her.

As I drove back to my office, I began to reflect on the many things she has experienced in her relatively short life. In my estimation, it appears that she has seen more trouble than most people twice her age. And, yet, as I navigated the busy streets I could still see her in my mind’s eye sitting across the table from me listening intently to every word. I really think that she was imagining herself fitting into God’s story for the first time in her life. She has a long ways to travel, in my estimation, but her journey has begun.

As I reflect on this young person’s life, I’m reminded of a story that first crossed my desktop years ago. Unfortunately, I do not know the source. It is a story about an old Hebrew rabbi. The message seems so appropriate that I’d like to share it with you:

An old rabbi was compelled by persecution to wander far from his native land. Other than the clothes he wore and the Jewish Scriptures he carried, his only possessions were a lamp by which he studied the Scriptures and a donkey upon which he rode.

Late one evening, after a long day’s travel, he came to a village and there sought shelter. The villagers refused him lodging. The only shelter he could find was inside a well-curbing at the edge of the village. Making the best of his situation he lit his lamp and began to read from the Scriptures. But a violent wind arose and blew out his lamp and all his efforts to relight it failed.

Unable to read he lay down to sleep. But his rest was disturbed by the roar of a lion. He aroused himself and, looking up in horror, he saw a lion seize his donkey and drag it into the underbrush. By this time the poor rabbi was beside himself with grief over his losses. He tried to pray to God, but complaints over his misfortunes, rather than prayers, escaped from his lips. Finally, in exhaustion the poor rabbi fell into a deep sleep.

The first rays of morning sun awakened him to a shocking sight. On the streets and in the huts of the village lay the evidence that a band of vicious marauders had swept through the village during the night. They left only death and destruction in their wake.

As he surveyed the carnage, he began to understand. If the villagers had received him, he would have been numbered among the robbers’ victims. If the wind had not blown out his lamp, the robbers would have seen it and found him. If his donkey had not been killed, it might have betrayed him, as well. Thus, he painfully learned that deliverance sometimes comes through losses.

My best judgment is that this is just a story—one of those moral stories designed to reinforce the idea that there may be a greater good that arises, even out of the bad things that happen in our lives. Looking beyond the here-and-now and thinking about life with an eye towards eternity, causes me to realize that spiritual deliverance is offered to us, but only through a loss. That loss was the death of the one and only Son of God. His loss is our salvation. Therefore, let us look above and move beyond life’s troubles and see the eternal good that God holds out to each one who calls on the name of the Lord. If we can get our minds around this idea, I’m convinced it will give every day of the rest of our lives greater meaning and purpose. What do you think?

________________________________

© Bill Williams, September 14, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in bereavement, Blogroll, Christian Living, Dealing with Grief, Depression, Evangelism, Kingdom Living, Life. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Life’s Troubles

  1. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Bill

    Great post my friend. Have I mentioned how much I like your writing style, very fresh. Enjoyable.

    I’m not too attached to the “we must die to live” kind of logic. I’ve been through enormous pain and I wouldn’t wish in on anyone else. So when I talk to young Christians I warn them that SOMEDAY Jesus will ask them to give something up… but until that day… John 10:10 we are to live an abundant life. Have a great time, it will totally annoy the enemy. He sets a table for us to eat at in the presence of our enemies. Eat! Enjoy! Live it up.

    And walk humbly before Him, knowing He is the one who is blessing us. Thank Him for choosing us and for sharing His goodness with us. We are not born into a state of adoration and love for Him (well, I wasn’t) but it can form if we ask Him to show Himself to us.

    He is wonderful and He challenges us to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I pray that your friend whom you will guide, I pray that she will be encouraged to taste and see that He is GOOD. No need to talk about the challenges of giving things up in some future time.

    In my opinion, it’s so important that our Christianity is not based on doom and gloom and it’s not death-based… as a result we’d not become “friends” of His out of our love for Him… we will merely be obedient out of fear. That’s not His best for us.

    Yes there are tears in this world for Christians too, but He promises to bless us and make us free of sin and death. A lot of that comes through having people like you around her who accept her past and love her anyway. Love is what she needs. Loving is what we are commanded to do.

    That is the good news your new friend has waiting for her (and I was too). A freedom from her past. HALLELUJAH.

    (I am sure I’ve ranted on and it’s off-topic and probably bears not resemblance to what you wrote. Sorry. hehehe. But I am just discovering His goodness. I wanted to share how I feel.)

    Bless you,
    Mark.

  2. Rachel says:

    Wow…I’ve been experiencing this over the past several weeks, and just last night my son and I were listening to a song by Mercy Me that talks about remembering the day when God forgot our sins and remembering when the joy came tumbling in, instead of focusing on the things that life sometimes throws at us.

    There is also a song on their new album that talks about “bringing the rain” if that is necessary to evoke our praise and bring God glory. I believe that God uses all things for His glory although I may not always see it initially or even later on down the line. To quote a song sung by Kristi Starling…”on the days when I feel like I’ve failed you, on the days when I feel I’ve been failed, I need to praise you because I am Yours!”

    Sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed with the trials of life that I forget something completely awesome and amazing….I AM A CHILD OF THE KING!

  3. ksreyes says:

    WOW! First your comment over at my blog made me laugh out loud (loose screws…) and now your post has made me cry…….I’m a mess!! I feel like Paul when he says that he knows what he is supposed do; desires to do what he is supposed to do; yet he still doesn’t do it…..! I hate sin! I hate its bondage! Help me Lord to keep my eyes on You even in the midst of my trials. Help me to turn away from sin!

    On a lighter note (LOL), Ecclesiastes is awesome!! I loved your reference to “Gloom, Despair, Agony On Me…la la la la la…..excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all….gloom, despair and agony on me…….!!” Did you know that Ecclesiastes is the ONLY book in the Bible that is written from a human perspective ? And that you have to read the very last verse of the very last chapter to “get” the divine framework from which to understand the rest of this amazing chapter in the Bible??!!! Our leader said that we ladies are going to gain some weight this year – spiritual weight! Now that’s the kind I like……..

    Sorry for this rambling post!
    Peace+blessings to you
    Kiersten

  4. Cecil Walker says:

    Great story. Bottom line and this is the maddening part of life; we just don’t know! We don’t know the future, we don’t know why things happen the way they do, and we don’t know why (at the moment) we’re being persecuted or running into a string of bad luck. But praise be to God, He does! Just give me the patience Lord to await the outcome of your wonderful plan for me.

    Good stuff Bill.

  5. Greg England says:

    The rabbi must have slept well not to hear the noise of marauding hoardes in the village.
    I think we are so blessed in the context of our nation and most of our circumstances, we simply find anything that is even the slightest inconvenience to be a hurdle to faith. Not that I’m complaining! But I wonder how we would fare in our faith were God to remove the hand of blessing for a while?

  6. Mag says:

    I don’t think we have to worry about every loosing the hand of God’s blessing individually, but if we did corporately as a nation…whew…yeah, we’d learn from the teacher called “Pain”.

    I agree with the balance of the article AND the expression of the first commentor. I have learned to summarize it this way in my own life:
    1. God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Noticing the condition of obedience and following in finding God’s blessing and redemption).
    2. God can redeem anything.
    3. I am to learn from the past, see God redeem it, but not juice it like a dry lemon everyday. It can only offer me so much. But, God can take the same lemon and make a lemonade whenever He wants to. I have to give Him the lemon. Reflect at times on it, but not like it get wedged in my throat demanding that it show me the lemonade! Now!
    4. We gain relief from introspection and the past from learning to find celebration points in every day. After a time of pain, we have to learn and be taught and be encouraged to release, let go, and allow ourselves to experience joy again. At one time in my live, someone held me accountable to not only seek God for the past, but seek Him in the present…every day. Name for me 3 moments of intense joy, spontaneous laughter, or suprise joy you experienced today…you can make it happen, or cherish it when it happens…but, teach your mind to find the hope and joy of today.

    Jesus does want a full and joyful and praise-filled life for us. AFter trauma, sometimes that joy has to be intentional until walking in the balance of intensity vs. abandon is learned or taught.

    For most leaders, that is a teetor totter whose balance has to be protected with a vengeance. If I am just happy go lucky…I am not responsive to teaching, the in depth work of the Holy Spirit in my heart, or others. I forget how to “go deep”.

    If I stay too deep, I miss the daily joys that only come once in a lifetime. I miss young kids who are only babies once. Satan keeps me so “deep” that I am no longer learning from the experience as much as he is keeping me distracted, robbing me from living life in the now.

    I, too, have struggle with the balance of intensity and abandon.

    Great story. I read a book once called “Thank God for Pain” about lepers. I will never disregard the gift of pain again.

    I don’t look for it, mind you–enough trouble comes of it’s own! I don’t think you have to create your own pain (though fasting and other disciplines are valuable to an indulgent, undisciplined society). I just look at it as a necessary part of life to be managed, valued, and handled well.

    Great thoughts here…post and comments! Made me think and try to articulate some things.

  7. Bill says:

    Mark:

    I certainly don’t disagree with you. However, the only qualifier that I would add is to note that the truth spoken by Jesus in John 10:10 (re: the abundant life) must be contextualized to be fully appreciated. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus, on the other hand, came so that the sheep who hear his voice may have life, and have it to the full.

    Out of the ashes of your pain God has lifted you up to soar on eagles’ wings again. I’m so glad that God lifted you up! I’m so glad that you are going on your way rejoicing! It’s those who have been healed by the Great Physician that give a reason to hope to those who are still wrestling with life’s troubles. It’s those who are living the abundant life Christ has called us to that show the way to a better life for those who seek it. God at work in your life, gives me hope that God can and will work in my life! That’s not gloom and doom; that’s Good News!

    Praise the Lord!!!
    -bill

  8. To quote the words of another blog we are at times spoiled in our social context. Perhaps too much. Perhaps so much that we have lost a “feeling” of what it means to be a disciple of the way of the cross.

    Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  9. Bill says:

    Well, I sat down here with the intention of writing a few remarks regarding all of the comments. Each one takes a different view of this and focuses on a unique application. I said that’s what I started to do. While I was writing my reply to Mark, Mag posted her comment. Now, for the rest of you please don’t feel slighted but I refer you to Mag’s comment…she says it so well! Thanks, Maggie!!!

  10. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Mag

    Thanks for the post, I visited your blog (yet again) and blogrolled you.

    Hi Bill

    You’re so right. I suppose I should have explained that I don’t think “abundance” is having oodles of money, but rather peace, joy etc. That is abundance to anyone who has experienced the pain of this world.

    Bless you,
    Mark.

  11. Bill says:

    You’re so right, Mark. I surely wouldn’t want to minimize your experiences, either. I shared with someone via email earlier that my wife has a plaque with these words: Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God.

    Sure liked your last two posts!

    Blessings to you, my friend,
    -bill

  12. Kathy says:

    OT – can anyone explain to this novice blogger how to blogroll? I have NO idea how to do so. 😦

  13. Kathy says:

    Mark, I have no idea, of course, what form your pain has taken in your life, but obviously it has been extreme. No one can reach my generation’s age without having suffered intense pain at sometime or other in life, gifting us with an insight and sense of another’s pain.

    In order to survive, I’ve had to learn to put the past where it belongs, thanking God for bringing me where I am at this point, As you say, the only way one can continue to put one foot in front of the other is living in God’s abundance of joy and contentment – the quiet life Paul writes about.

    So often as I look back on some of the great losses in my life, I can see the loving hand of God walking me through the minefield of destruction that could have accompanied those losses and my major mistakes and again, I’m humbled and thankful to Him for bringing me to this point.

  14. Bill says:

    Kathy:

    If you will click on this link I think it will give you the information you need:
    http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=41427&topic=8920

    In blogger or blogspot this is called “Link List”. If you click on the first link in my blogroll (Cecil’s Blog) you can see what it looks like.

    Let me know if this doesn’t put you on the road to discovery.

    Peace,
    -bill

  15. Mag says:

    Thanks Mark and Bill. Consider that a terrible draft! Bill is too kind. The speed with which that came out was a torrent. I owe you some real estate, Bill.

    Mark, thanks for your words. I loved that “we can learn to praise by asking God to reveal himself to us”…”Our acceptance takes people back to joy.” Thousand chorus amen to that.

    Bill demonstrates this grace so well–just read his responses to people! Keep teaching us! I just want that grace and edification to infect me! Why? I know how much I’ve needed it–increasingly need it from those whose job doesn’t command them to give it. That’s a lifeline…but there comes a point for the church to take over with people and alleviate staff. To get people to “normal”…the church has to take over. That’s a tall order .

    On blogrolling. SO honored to be added to people’s blogrolls righ tnow. Humbled. I almost quit a few months back, not being able to find the “meat and potatoes” people I really wanted for my own blogroll. I was valued, but lonely.

    God just took me through a paring down of my blogroll about three months ago for a lot of reasons on my heart. In cutting some popular blogs that linked to me, I thought my traffic would absolutely crash. It’s slowly tripled in three months time.

    Having men contribute is awesome–I can’t help but wonder what ya’ll will do when my scrapbook layouts start popping up this winter? 😀

  16. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Mag

    What are scrapbook layouts and how do they pop?

    Bless you,
    Mark.

  17. Pingback: Healing conversations « My life as a Christian

  18. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Kathy

    You’ve been blogrolled by me for quite some time. 🙂

    Yes, it was so extreme that I shut down and had to accept it as normal… because it didn’t stop no matter how much I prayed. I eventually explained my life (in terms of the bible) by focussing on the violent and judgemental side of God.

    It was a very twisted view of reality. It’s been a long road back to balance… a road that hasn’t finished yet. God is *so* good though. I know that now.

    BTW everyone, there is a similar and complementary discussion going on here right now
    http://roddjefferson.com/2006/09/14/ok-world-you-win/

    Bless you guys, I love how we can support one another and make each other feel “normal”.

    Thanks,
    Mark.

  19. Mag says:

    Mark: “Pop?” Mmmm–Hmmm: You’ve been reading “Creative Keepsakes” on the sdie,…I can tell. This links for you: http://pdbscrapbooks.blogspot.com/

    Good to hear more of your story. My pastor tells me we often go to one side to the other until God teaches us “the balance”. Hmmm. I said, “What? Balance? I just am where I am..I hope it’s good enough.”

    Balance? Normal? To me, a position of peace and contentment…no major churning with where you are with God and others…that sort of thing. An Aaaah place. Not absence of problems or strive…just not stuck there!

    Hi Kathy! 🙂 Don’t know you yet…just wanted to say hey.

  20. Mark Wilson says:

    Hi Mag

    > the aaaah place

    Yeah, I describe that as a “Christmas” feeling. It just feels goooood. Joy! (to the world… tra la la la!)

    Bless you!
    Mark.

  21. Bill, I’ve just spent the last hour or so reading through the Spiritual Oasis, and I’m so happy to know that you’re doing something like this. One of our biggest fears about living in the Dominican is being cut off from the edification & inspiration that comes with meeting with a body of beleivers on a regular basis. Though this blog obviously isn’t church, it can fill that hole that we’ll have in the Dominican. Church there is very small, with new believers and mostly children, and NOT in English. So I’ll look forward to reading the Spiritual Oasis often. Thank you for the time and dedication it must take to make this a reality. What a blessing it is to see people using their gifts for the Lord, via many different media.

    Love,
    Holly

  22. Oh, Holly, you have made my day…no, my week…no, my year! Thank you for your kind words.

    I’m just so proud of you and TJ for what you are doing in the kingdom, it thrills me so much to know that you are drinking from the Spiritual Oasis. There are some regular visitors here that are incredibly wise and caring souls. They have blessed my life beyond measure in recent months. So, please, come back often and join in on the conversation. I’ve no doubt that you will be blessed!

    Grace and peace to you,
    -bill

    BTW, I got your recent email and am just beside myself with excitement about all of the possibilities!!!

  23. Mag says:

    Yeah…I say “Deck the halls”!

    Now that I don’t have a house with three preschoolers to shuffle through the holidays, I actually know what that Christmas buzz is about again!

  24. Lisa New says:

    Do you know who wrote the quote, “Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God”, I can’t seem to find the author.

    Thanks!

    Lisa Jane

    I’m not sure where it came from. It’s on a little plaque that my wife has in the kitchen. Sorry.

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