(Vintage photo from my grandparents’ real life experience in East Africa!)
It’s a funny thing. Every once in awhile when we aren’t looking or thinking too much about it, life runs over us with a steam roller. Maybe that never happened to you. If not, I’ll have to guess you’re below the age of about five. The reality of school makes a good start on this line of action for a lot of people. Yeah. No joke.
It’s been rather busy this year in one way and another. This is in addition to the usual round of life – sickness, projects, extra work hours for my husband, friends, church, etc. We had a wonderful visit with my in-laws in January. February and March held some drama of an undesirable nature. In early March my mom also had surgery again. (She has been recovering in an amazing way this time around. God has blessed so wonderfully in that!) April has now produced a large project to transpire in early May – something along the lines of a fair amount of preparation here now; followed by a longish, hectic trip back East to help family out with a big project.
What do you do when you had a lot of things that just “needed” to get done, and the Lord steps in and says, “No, forget all that stuff. Here do this now instead.”? Well, if you’re smart and value your own hide at all, you do what He says. But, that doesn’t mean that you don’t feel overwhelmed about it if it’s a big change and a lot of work!
I suppose that some people might think that feeling “overwhelmed” shows a lack of faith and even that it is sin. If so, we’re in good company because it is mentioned no less than eight times in the Psalms.
King David wrote this -
Psalms 142:1-3 I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path…
Isn’t that beautiful? What comforting words - When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path… What a wonderful thought. He kneweth the way that I take, as Job said (Job 23:10).
And, please notice that David said he poured out his complaint before the Lord. This isn’t the only time he mentions that either. For some reason that I’m at a loss to explain well, the Lord is fine with us letting Him know our complaints. Granted, I Know He doesn’t want to hear us complaining constantly and over every little thing, but there are times when life really is “too much”. It’s a blessing to be able to talk with the Lord about these things. For one thing, He can do something about it – either help us with the trouble we’re having, or change our attitude. That last part isn’t what we’re usually looking for, is it? But, so often it seems like that’s the one He starts with – changing our attitudes.
It’s easy to glibly quote Romans 8:28 to ourselves or others and pretend that makes everything all right, when it really doesn’t. Rom. 8:28 doesn’t make the hard things go away, nor does it guarantee that we’ll feel less overwhelmed. It does mean that all things will eventually, in one way or another, work together for good “to them that love God”. That means we may not get the results that we want, but good will come that will help the Lord’s people, including us, in some way at some time.
Life is hard sometimes. My little trials are not really that great compared to what some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are going through – persecution, hunger, homelessness, death of loved ones, serious illness, etc. But, that doesn’t mean that my trials aren’t real to me in my own situation. Sometimes people have the tendency to down-play other’s trials. It’s as much as implied, or even said outright, that if you aren’t dying for your faith at this moment, then you should shut up and put up with it. I don’t think that’s a right way to deal with others, or ourselves.
I have heard it said that suffering from illness isn’t “suffering for the Lord”. I hate to hear people say things like that, because I know the Lord sometimes takes us at our word and will put us through some things to make us reconsider what we said or think. I’ve been there and I don’t wish it on other Christians because it is not pleasant.
The reason I don’t agree with the idea that suffering “ordinary” illness is not suffering for the Lord is because of John 9:1-3: And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
The Lord makes it clear that God allows illness sometimes for His glory, so that His works can be manifest in the sufferer. Sometimes there is healing, but other times He is glorified by the outpouring of His grace through their tribulations. This can be true of other things besides illness. It might be true of many types of suffering, in fact.
Now look at this: Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Some passages refer to suffering in persecution, but I’d like to point out that this one does not specify what the suffering is. In fact, some of the sweetest and most helpful writing has flowed out of the lives of those Christians who suffered greatly due to illness and non-persecution related trials. Annie Johnson Flint is one of those who bore fruit through illness and the loss of all her family. The poet Martha Snell Nicholson was bed-ridden for years. Fanny Crosby, the great hymn writer, was blind and had other life tirals. They remind me of this – Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Being overwhelmed with life, suffering, troubles and trials – all these things can be used to the glory of God and the good of the saints as His love is shed abroad in our hearts. Life is rough sometimes, but it can lead to great victory or praise of the Lord as He leads us through those things and brings us closer to Himself. It should anyway, and we should strive to keep this in mind during such times.
Psalms 138:7-8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.