Sunday, June 03, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - When there are no easy answers

Things are a little calmer this week.  I will take calmer even if it is just a little. I was sharing with an extended family member what the previous week had been like and he asked me how I handled all of it.  I told him I have a very good prayer life.  He thought I was joking.  I was not.

I live in an area where spring can bring a constant threat of severe weather.  If the threat exists, we are under a Storm Watch.  If the threat is real and on radar, we switch to a Storm Warning. Most of the time I see life as being in a constant state of Storm Watch with dips into Storm Warnings.

The thing is, there are many reasons one lives under a Storm Watch.  Quite often, like me, it is pretty much out of our control, we live in a fallen world.  It occurs when one has a special needs child, when you are taking care of a friend or relative who is ill or unable to help themselves, when you are in a season of financial stress, when you are recovering from a natural disaster... just to name a few.

These are areas of life that... barring a miracle... have no quick and easy answers.  These times are when we have asked God all the "why" questions, only to have His answer be that He will provide the grace to walk through the storms.  That is when your decision counts for everything, including your future walk with God.

I have met people who chose a separate path than the one of grace, who were mad at God and everyone around them.  A few leave the faith entirely while others live lives of desperation, hanging on until Heaven.

In some ways, they are like the servant who buried his talent and did nothing with it, telling the Master upon his return that he knew he was a "hard man and accusing him of doing wrong things".  So the servant did nothing and the Master did not have anything good to say about him. (Matthew 25:14-30).

Nowhere in the Bible do you read that God judges harshly one who has taken what he has been given and failed.  God's grace can more than cover our failures.  No, what I have seen is what happens when a person who has gone through severe trials places the attributes of the enemy of his soul onto the God who loves him by blaming God for... everything.

How different are the people who respond to great trial by the renewing of their faith.  They come out of such trials strengthened because they run to God... not away from Him.  Often when I hear of a tragedy such as a sudden death in the family, I pray that this trial brings people closer to the Lord and not away from Him.

It is when we are in the midst of such trials that we are vulnerable to the enemy.  God knows that and understands.  Jesus really was tempted in the desert by the enemy after going without food for so long, otherwise it would not be a real temptation.  When he rejected Satan, the angels came and ministered to him.

The prophet Elijah was ready to give up to the point of wanting to die, exhausted and hungry and depressed.  What did God do?  God gave him sleep and sent an angel to provide bread and water until he was strengthened for the rest of the journey.

The One who created us knows we are "but dust" while in this earthly body. 

Sometimes I think at the heart of the problem with pain in the Western world in general and America in particular is the theology that is prevalent today.  If you read the literature and prayers of Christians from past centuries, it is evident that trials were seen as a natural part of life.

There was a deep understanding that this world is flawed and fallen and that we must depend on God to bring us through.  We seem to have a Christianity that is closely associated with the American dream.  If we just work hard enough, then we will accomplish every desire and goal.  That is not what the Word says life is all about.

We are told that in this world, we will have tribulation.  However, we are not left hopeless for we are also taught in His Word that it is God who will bring us through each trial.  We are told He "delivers them". (Psalm 34:19)  I do admit that sometimes His way out is Heaven and not healing.  I don't know about you but I'd take Heaven any day.

I can't say it is fun when one is in the midst of storms, it is easy to grow weary.  I think the hardest thing for me is when the worst of a storm is over and there is some calm in my days... I sometimes have this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.  What next, God?

That is when I have to renew my mind in the Word.  It also helps to lead my thoughts to dwell elsewhere, watching a good movie or reading an enjoyable book.  They may not strengthen my soul like the Word can do but they calm my emotions enough so that the Word can bring peace.

Laughter really does "do good like a medicine" and last night I watched a favorite episode of a TV show from the 1990s while messaging Stephanie.  It was almost like watching it together, even though we were 1,000 miles apart.  I had seen that this episode was going to be on (a benefit of cable and satellite TV) and I made certain all of the necessary work was finished before that time.  I finished with about one minute to go.

So far I don't have an all consuming miracle in my days. There have been little ones along the way... a gift from a friend, Florie's infected eye healing without a vet's bill (I guess she wanted to empathize with me), finding our lost cell phone and that it still worked after days in rain (the benefits of a flip top phone)... little things that meant a lot.

Sometimes we have the big miracles but we need to learn to appreciate the small answers to prayer even if the big stuff is still there.  I have come to accept that this is not Heaven, yet.  Perhaps perfect days will not be seen until our days here are over.  Our life can be good, even in the midst of imperfection.

Whatever happens here, I know without a shadow of a doubt that Beauty and Perfection await us for eternity.  I cannot remember who wrote it (although it sounds like something Lewis would say) but I once read a book in which the author wrote that perhaps God allows pain in this world so that we do not become too attached to it.  We are to long for another world.  It makes sense to me.

Image: Artist: Svetlana Berdnik


Carla Hoag said...

We talked about this in Sunday School today. The modern church doesn't prepare us for the vicissitudes of life. Our Pharisees are too busy telling us that it's always our fault if we're sick or in trouble. We need to be exhorted to be courageous, and having done all else to stand.

Good post. said...

Such affirmation and soothing balm is this post today.. thank you

Ann said...

As always, your words convey the stirrings of my heart much better than I can do myself. They put my mind in the proper perspective to greet life as it comes. Praying that this week brings you an easier and more comfortable time.

The Journey said...

Sometimes life seems so full of these storms. I look back how long it took me to learn- PRAY at all times, sometime I can only say- please Lord take care of me. Last yr it has been begging for healing for someone dear to me. Sometimes all I can say is a sentence. Lord knows our hearts, our frames- we are but dust. You suppose he allows these trials for us to long for heaven?

Sandi said...

It tugs at my heart that your family member thought you were joking about prayer. How do people make it through the day?

"I think the hardest thing for me is when the worst of a storm is over and there is some calm in my days... I sometimes have this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. What next, God?"

You know, that is not from God. It's a pebble from a slingshot.

Thank you for sharing this and being so open and honest.


Anonymous said...

Dear Brenda, this meant so much to me today as it has been a tumultuous weekend when you didn't know when the next storm was going to hit. Maybe one "blessing " in your hard places is the grace and wise words God gives you to minister to included. Grace, Elizabeth

Terra said...

This is a great post and meaningful to me as I am going through hard times, and I like the painting, it is rare to see an older lady in a painting.

Vee said...

You are going to love Bandersnatch. Christianity tied in to The American Dream...yes, I see that thinking many eagerly working to perfect their Christian walk. If they were capable of that, they’d not need the Savior in the first place. Now I wish that I knew the program you watched that brought so much laughter. 😉

Rebecca said...

Amen to your observations. Life is NOT "easy"; God's grace is enough.

Mabel Jane's said...

Yes, God's grace is sufficient. Thank you for sharing.

GrammaGrits said...

Such needful thoughts and words - thanks for sharing your heart. I want to grow 'better' and not 'bitter' from pain and trials; however,just last week the Lord showed me a very bitter area in my heart. Grateful for His grace and forgiveness. As I read Psalm 1 this week, verse 6 had three words that jumped off the page and have become my words for this time - "the Lord knows". I understand about context, etc. and I know sometimes God gives His word to sustain and encourage our heart. Blessings on your coming week and grace for the way!

Carol said...

Prayer and God's blessings are all that get us through this world. I am truly not sure how people survive life without those two things.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

So much hard earned wisdom today, my friend. I so agree about American Christianity tied into our view of the American Dream.

Praying for you still.

Much Love! said...

That would be an answer to your prayer about the phone.
We are learning about this type of living as we journey through the book of Ecclesiastes in our Bible School class each Sunday..." Life is vanity (puzzling, poof! therefore enjoy what God has given you for today!). Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a great message.
The American thought is bigger and better... never ending- always need the latest, greatest everything.
My daughter lives in a very modest home- nothing special. Her and her family are comfortable and safe and grateful to have it. Family and friends are always asking them when they are going to move to a bigger, newer home. We think that is a rude thing to say because they are very happy and grateful for their home but some people are unable to understand that.

Susan Humeston said...

Most of my Christian life I have been living in the expectation of American fulfillment until a few years ago I began to realize that if the Apostles and Jesus Himself didn't have much American type "fun" here, why would I expect it? I have never suffered as those who live in other parts of the world, so I want to be careful to always be thankful for the things and people with which He has blessed me abundantly. But it took me a long time of beating my head against a wall to "get it". Silly Americans.

Jenny of Elefantz said...

I think it was indeed Lewis who wrote that, his insights have lifted my eyes heavenward more than a few times these past months.
I love what you've written, so simply explained and so true.
My life has been one of chronic migraines since childhood and they are worse now than ever before. People, in their kindness, are always offering ideas for treatments, as have my many doctors over the years...but when I have a migraine it is to God I run, and as I nestle in His arms He delights in me. In my extreme pain I am closest to Him than at other times and this is not something I would wish or pray away.
Christ is our Rock, our sustenance through all situations and He has proved Himself faithful to me in the darkest of times, the bottomless pit of grief, the deepest of valleys.
As C S Lewis writes, those who achieved the most for the Kingdom of God had their eyes firmly fixed on heaven and not on the temporary comforts or things of this world.