God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1 (NIV)
When we walked into our Bible study this week, it was just another Wednesday evening. But in a few minutes, we were given news that filled us with a muddled mess of feelings- feelings almost impossible to even identify or process.
Its a complicated story, and not mine to tell, but some dear friends of ours are being faced with a situation that would grip any parent’s heart with fear.
The situation is one that -it seems-couldn’t possibly be God’s will. It looks to us like a threat to their children; and could change their family’s life in ways that in our human minds- could only be negative ways.
We went almost immediately into prayer, and I felt tears running down down my face the whole time, just thinking about my sweet friend, and wondering why our God would allow this in the lives of people so sincere, so devoted to Him.
Why does God allow hard things to come to His people? Why do others’-or maybe our own lives- seem so fraught with trials, struggles and pain? What is the purpose in all the hurting, the sadness, the fear, that we or those around us have to face in life?
God has been good to me; I’ve not had to face many hard things in life. But when I’ve had those times, I observed some real blessings coming from the experience. There are more; but I will give you the top three.
#1: A deeper relationship with God. Most of you reading this will automatically know just what experience I’m referring to; if not, keep reading, I’ll explain. But for now I will say that it was both the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me.
There is a saying that says: “When life knocks you to your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray.” In this case, things were so far out of my control that there was absolutely nothing else I could do! And although I never EVER want to experience that kind of fear again, it was good for me.
I had to depend on God, lean on Him, and lean on others, in a way my independent self had never really been forced to do before. I do realize that my need for Him never changed; but I had never before been so intensely aware of that need.
My realization of my need for Him was followed shortly with an almost tangible Presence that I know was the Comforter. He pointed me to 2 Chronicles 20:15-17, where I read that the battle was not mine to fight. I knew He was in control, and He was right there with me, closer than I had ever felt Him before.
Cory also experienced Gods nearness; he later said that through it all, he could feel the assurance that he was loved. The scripture that was shown to him was Psalm 23… simple, comforting and relevant to his situation.
We came through that experience by God’s grace alone, and in our minds we resolved that this closeness with His Spirit was something we didn’t ever want to lose. I pray we will always live and walk in the Spirit.
#2: The realization of how important my church family is in my life.
Not only the congregation at Bank Mennonite Church. (Your out-pouring of love and concern and prayers was huge and amazing. I don’t minimize that one bit.) Your support, accountability and friendship continues to bless us- and Bank feels like home.
But in addition to that, there was also immense support from what my Cory calls “The Big Church”, (meaning all God’s people who we associate and fellowship with- including, but not limited to our home congregation.) Without the support of other Christians, where would we be?
#3: More ability to sympathize with others in their struggles.
Because my husband had a freak psychotic reaction to a medicine, (an antibiotic, of all things) and spent four days in jail, I can now identify to a small degree with those who only see their husbands through a thick glass window.
Because this reaction caused erratic behavior and eventually landed my husband in a mental institution, I now have greater understanding and sympathy toward those whose family members deal with mental illness on a daily basis.
We are extremely blessed in the fact that the effects from the medicine were temporary, and left no long term effects. So many times that might, he was in situations where he could have lost his life, but God spared him.
Today I still have my husband, a devoted Christian man, and I get to spend part of every day with him. But, having experienced the cold, gripping fear of not knowing whether I would ever see him alive again makes me able to (somewhat) fathom what life looks like to those who have lost a spouse.
So why does God allow trials in the lives of His children? I don’t have all the answers, but His word does say He chastens those He loves. He prunes those who are bearing fruit for Him, so they will bear more fruit.
As I have been thinking over all this, a song has been playing over and over in my mind. It answers some questions for me; maybe it will bless someone else as well.
God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform,
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Ye fearful souls, fresh courage take-the clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy and shall break, in blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour, The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace,
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain,
God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain. -unknown
Isn’t it encouraging to know that the things that seem so unfair to us now, will make perfect sense? But until then we can trust in Him, resting in the confidence that He is our “ever present Help in trouble.” We can trust Him to fight our battles. We can trust Him to do what is best according to His will.
As the church of Jesus we have a duty to lift one another up in prayer, and though you don’t have the details, please pray for my friend and her sweet children, that they would be given strength to face whatever unfolds.
And to you, my friend, God is bigger than this! I was so blessed by your testimony that the battle isn’t yours, but God’s, as that scripture (2 Chronicles 20:15-17) is the very one I was going to suggest to you. Cling to those promises, and let God fight for you. He is your refuge, your strength… He is ABLE!
God bless you all.