Tuesday, June 10

Strength in adversity

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift You up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you steadfast." 1 Peter 5:6-10

A brother in the family of the Lord is struggling, mirror image to my own struggles with finances, stress, family, and employment crisises. In his requests for prayer, you can see the stretching and painful growth that is taking place, and the bigger danger of losing a faith that isn't defined enough to contain the suffering he is going through.

In those times, it is our Christian brothers and sisters that need to come along side and bear the burden of the world for the brother in need. A Christian in the process of growing, all alone, is very suspestible to the enemy's whisperings. As in the case of false teachings, it is this isolation during times of struggles and trials that is a great danger to the faithful.

God gives us a measure of faith. What we do with that faith is what will spell us during times of intense struggles and sorrowful events that dot the landscape of this broken and unconcerned world. It seems the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the closer we come to being gods in control of the world we realize that we aren't in control at all. Good happens to bad people, from the Caddilac 300 that zooms through a traffic light to Muslim extremists that kill innocents trying to improve their country.

Bad happens to good people, from a faithful servant developing Stage Four cancer and dying a short time later to the innocents who are killed by roadside bombs because they want to believe in a God who loves them and sent His Son to die for their sins. Throughout the world, this is the guarantee; life doesn't care for who you are.

I am not the man I was when I was twenty. I am far from the man I was at thirty. But who I am is a direct reflection of the struggles and sorrows that I have faced in my life for the last forty years, ever since I took that first breath of air on a world broken and distorted from its original design. I began to die that day, and continue every day since. My life hasn't been the easiest; but even at the darkest moments, it was far better than those who suffer with much less, and even with much more.

We aren't unique in suffering the trials and tribulations of this broken, fallen world. But the suffering is unique to our lives and therefore takes on greater weight in our own eyes. There aren't many people in Africa, for instance, that wouldn't fight for the food that is in my pantry or the roof over my head and yet I struggle financially to keep those things available and worry about being homeless, hungry, every day. I go to a job that isn't the thing I want to do, worried about whether the company is going to sell enough product to keep me employed, and yet there are those who have to beg to get employment that is too often not paying enough to keep them in the 'necessities' of life.

Yet, we allow our struggles to control our reactions. We get ulcers and have stress-induced breakdowns because of the trials of our lives. We allow the whispering of the enemy to consume our God-given peace, that peace that Christ perfected in His time here on earth.

There is only one person I know that showed us how to struggle, as my leaders in the Awakened Hearts Ministry say, "well". He knew from at least the early age of seven, when His parents found Him in the temple, what He was going to do. "I am about My Father's business", He told His earthly parents....knowing that that 'business' was to die upon a cross of wooden pain, with metal spikes driven heartlessly into His hands and feet to compliment the piercing thorns of a fashioned crown. Under the glaring eyes and careless words of those who rejected His life's beating desire; that they would know eternity free from sin's punishing death.

"Struggle and pain are a part of our Christian walk - but they are not to be feared. Rather we should be grateful for them as this is the process the Holy Spirit uses to grow and refine us, which will, in the end, make us stronger." Carolyn Baker states in this devotional today from AllAboutGod.com, "The trick is to remember that in the midst of the struggle, you must not allow Satan to deceive or discourage you. Ask the Holy Spirit now to reveal Your weaknesses so He can grow your strengths."

I am not the man I was at thirty-five and I am far from the man that God designed & purposed me to be. But, under the intense pressure of living and struggling against the sinful nature to which my ancestor Adam imparted to me through his own inaction at the Fall, I have realized a strength that is God-defined, God-purposed, and God-inspired which holds me to the course to which He has set before me. For I will only suffer a 'little while' before I realize the fullness of my Father's love.

All I can do is to struggle well.

No comments: