Friends, as I take a look at this Sabbath lesson’s “The Week at a Glance: What are the causes of the difficult times that we experience through our lives?”
I am discouraged myself. I just got off the phone with a friend, who lost his son a year ago, and has had a wife in and out of the hospital since Thanksgiving. He has his own health issues, and now he just informed me this evening that his wife is back in the hospital with a broken hip. Speculation is that she broke her hip in the hospital that just sent her home last week. I don’t have all the answers, if any at all, because at this point I am crying out to God, “How much is one family supposed to take?”
I have to be honest, the last several years have been good to me. But I remember going through the fire and asking God how much more I was supposed to take. Friends told me my trials were so I could develop patience. I told them if everything would just go my way I wouldn’t need patience! Friends told me God was working on my character. So I woke up the next morning and suggested to God we just take a break from working on my character for a while. Just let me enjoy life for a while. It seemed everything was a crisis, a trial or some moral dilemma. I just wanted to enjoy the carefree days of my youth again. But while I may have more questions than answers tonight, I have learned a few things about what causes the difficult times in our lives, or why they come our way.
Sure we have all seen the Facebook meme, that says “Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is because we are stupid and make stupid choices.” As funny as that may sound there is a lot of truth to that. Sometimes we create our own problems.
Years ago I was going through a breakup with my fiancée, and I lost my job. Nothing was going right. I moved to a new apartment and changed banks. I threw the old checks away in the apartment dumpster. You guessed it. As if I did not have enough going on, now I had to take off from my new job to go to the police station on several occasions and prove to them I did not write those checks. That had nothing to do with God working on my character. It had nothing to do with my former girlfriend or my job. There was a reason for it all, though. The reason for it all was because I made a stupid choice and threw the checks away without shredding them. Still I survived everything. Even Agur, who shared his wisdom in Proverbs said,
I am too stupid to be human, and I lack common sense. Proverbs 30:2 NLT
Sure enough, sometimes our own stupidity is the only reason for our problems. Good news is that God looks out for stupid people like Agur and me. By the way, I realized my own foolishness. I did not need anyone to tell me, and I do not need to tell anyone else they are stupid. Only a narcissist will try to make someone else feel stupid. And actually I don’t feel stupid. I know I am not alone. I just thought that, while we are looking for reasons for difficult times, we can’t ignore this explanation.
Another reason for difficult times is it does indeed increase our faith. When you were in school you may have noticed the math books often had the answers in the back of the book. But your teacher did not want you to just write the answer down. She wanted you to work the problem out and show why “X” is the answer. You worked the problem out, not to find the answer as much as you did to find out why it was the answer. The Bible tells us Jesus is the answer. But we need to work out our problems in life for the same reason we needed to work out our math problems in school. So we know why Jesus is the answer.
In Mark 4:35-40 Jesus tells His disciples to cross the lake in a boat. A huge storm comes. Jesus knew that storm was coming when He told His disciples to cross the lake. After calming the storm Jesus asked His disciples why they didn’t have any faith. But weren’t they showing faith when they asked Him to calm the storm? Sure, but that is not what Jesus was talking about. When Jesus said, “Where is your faith?” He was asking them why they needed Him to calm the storm, instead of just riding out the storm with Him. After all, sailboats can’t get anywhere without some wind. Sometimes it’s the storms that get us to where we need to be. Why should Jesus calm a storm He just sent them into? The storm was there for a reason. We show more faith and growth when we ride the storm out with Jesus, instead of asking Him to calm every little wind that blows our way. I am reminded of a saying, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Maybe instead of asking God to calm every storm, we should ask Him for dance lessons.
But my friend’s phone call tonight is still on my mind. After all they have been through, I don’t think God needs to work on their faith and character any more, but then again, I am not God and I really have no clue. I do remember a similar experience with my own mother. She had tons of health issues and had been battling cancer when she fell and broke her hip. Again I thought, come on God! How much more can my poor mother take! My mother ended up making it through not one but two hip surgeries. I was sure the broken hip was going to do her in. But it didn’t! I honestly believe the rehab made her more strong and determined! My aunt who was a nurse agreed with me. Instead of killing her, it made her stronger. She lived several years after the broken hip. When she was diagnosed with cancer she was given 2 to 3 years to live, and that was if she took the treatments. She refused the treatments and lived 12 more years. I truly think the broken hip gave her a reason to fight and get some of those 12 years.
After all, I remember when I got sick many years ago and had to go to the emergency room. I did not have good insurance like I do now and was left with quite a bill. I called a friend who was remodeling their home and asked if I could work on the side for them to earn the extra money to pay the medical bill. In the end I made way more money than what I owed on the medical bill. My trip to the emergency room created an opportunity to get a side job where I not only paid the bill, but turned my whole financial situation around for the better.
Sometimes we go through difficult times to grow our faith and develop our character. Sometimes it is so we can be more sympathetic to others.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT
Its very important we assure others who are suffering that they are not suffering alone. Of course that does not mean we have to “one up” their suffering. Actually when people are suffering they don’t need us to share our problems, they just need us to listen to theirs. But we need to know we are not alone in suffering. In the movie Black Hawk Down, an entire military troop is injured. The general tells the private to take a Humvee loaded with injured soldiers to the hospital. The private protests, “But, Sir, I am injured.” To which the general responds, “Everyone is injured!” We may have to be injured caregivers at times, but even then we are not alone.
Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:9 NLT (last part)
Satan wants us to feel alone and isolated in our sufferings, but our sufferings should actually bring us all closer together.
Job’s friends did a miserable job of trying to comfort Job with all their philosophy. I doubt I have done any better at answering Sabbath’s question at a glance, concerning what causes difficult times. Like I said earlier, after getting off the phone tonight with my friend I have more questions than answers about why God has allowed them to suffer so. But while I don’t have the answers, God has given us some promises.
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18 NLT
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NLT
Please pray for my friend who called me tonight, and for his wife. Please pray for everyone who has had more than their fair share of difficulties lately. By the way, I said earlier, “to be honest the last several years have been good to me.” Well to be more honest, God has always been good to me, All. The. Days. Of. My. Life.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6 NLT
If not before, when we get to God’s house, we will understand better why we went through such difficult times, and we will have many triumphs to celebrate. We will also see that even in the difficult times, God’s goodness and mercy were with us, all the days of our life.