Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trying Scenes of Life

"...there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24

Last night was what you would classify a bad night...
in some ways, at least.
All three of us are battling illness.
None of us could sleep.
If Kevin or I did finally doze off,
one of us would waken the other with a loud coughing fit.
Or Zachary would cough from down the hall, 
and we would find ourselves awake again...
unable to fall back to sleep.

You know how those kinds of nights are.
We all have them.

Why does illness always seem to worsen at night?
I think it is because the devil loves
to work and dwell in dark, shady places.

I finally ended up in the living room recliner somewhere around 6:00 am,
exhausted, frustrated, longing for healing for all of us.
I figured if I sat upright or kept somewhat elevated,
maybe the coughing would subside.
It helped some.
As I sat there,
I realized the Potter had set this up...on purpose.
Out of the great love in His heart, He had orchestrated a divine appointment.
He wanted to talk to me.
I was more than ready to listen.

Sometimes He speaks by bringing a Scripture passage to the mind.
Other times, He speaks directly...straight to the heart.
Still others, He brings words from a comforting song.
Last night, He spoke words from the old, familiar hymn, 
written by Mrs. H.A. Hendricks & Daniel O. Teasley in 1903,
"There Is Not A Friend Like Jesus".

"There is not a friend like Jesus,
In the trying scenes of life;
He can hear the heart's faint whisper,
Calm the tempest's raging strife.

There is not a friend like Jesus,
Patient, tender, kind, and true;
If you'll be a friend to Jesus,
He will be a friend to you."

Penned by inspired writers 110 years ago,
yet, so relevant.
So applicable.
So true.

The trying scenes of life.
Who would you rather have there with you?
By your side?
Pulling for you?
Cheering you on?
Giving you hope for a brighter tomorrow?
Always positive.
Always steadfast.
Always strong.

Throughout life, I have learned that
there is not a friend like Jesus,
and there is no one I would rather have on board during a trying scene.
There is none more capable of easing the worry, distress, and heartache.
None other so kind and so gentle.
He never scolds.
He doesn't say, "I told you so".
Who needs that?

I felt His comfort so strong,
felt the warmth of His everlasting arms,
as I listened to His reassuring voice.
He is so faithful.
Such a mighty fortress.

"For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy."
Psalm 61:3

I love this verse!
He is my shelter.
How many times have I run to Him throughout the ups and downs of life?
There is no other friend like Him.

Life has its share of trying scenes, doesn't it?

Trying scenes.
God never promised we wouldn't pass through them.

But they are only scenes.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17, the Apostle Paul wrote,
"For our light affliction,
which is but for a moment,
worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory..."
(emphasis mine)
Trying scenes are mere snapshots...
eventually fading into more pleasant times...
in our individual stories of life.
They are not permanent.
Later, we look back upon them and realize that
we are better and stronger for having passed through them.

The trying scenes are not without purpose.
Sometimes, we are running too fast...full speed ahead...
without devoting sufficient time to spiritual growth.
God knows we will turn to Him in distress,
therefore He allows a trying scene to appear.
There is no soil more fertile for the deepening of spiritual roots
than soil that is saturated with trials and suffering.

We all cringe from the trying scenes.
We draw back from the mere thought of anything uncomfortable.
We don't want to hurt,
spend sleepless nights,
see our loved ones ill,
or pass through anything undesirable.

The world in which you and I live is obsessed 
with the elimination of anything unpleasant.
Quick fixes and fast remedies....
so we never have to feel.
We dull our senses to the point of completely deadening our emotions,
and in the process, we stifle God's opportunity to minister
and reveal His love to us in the most personal of ways.

He longs to do that.
His great, Father-heart yearns to nurture His children.
He can most effectively do that in trying scenes.

A friend of mine relayed a story to me recently about a family member
who passed through a vale of great sorrow,
losing her husband and two sons in a matter of a few, short years.
While passing through such suffering,
she began deadening her pain to the degree that
she never permitted herself to grieve properly.
After many years of remaining in a completely numbed state,
the doctor began to wean her off the substances to which she had become addicted.
As she went through withdrawal and the numbing effect wore off,
she surprisingly found herself at the exact point of grief
she was experiencing when she began deadening the pain.
It was like her emotions were frozen in time,
put on hold, if you will,
and they were staring her straight in the face

Her emotions were never permitted to feel God's healing touch.

Last night, as I listened to God's voice,
I was thankful for the trial.
Because otherwise I would more than likely have been sound asleep,
oblivious to anything He wanted to share with me.

Times of adversity are grand opportunities to draw nigh to God.
We can fuss and complain and gripe,
continually asking God "why me?" and "why now?",
or we can look for the good.
It is there.
Every time.
God never allows a trial that is without the intent of our spiritual betterment.
It is all a part of the refining process....
here on the Potter's wheel.

The sooner we relax in His arms and stop squirming,
the more effectively He can work and speak and teach.

I will here insert a story from a Homespun Devotional dated October 6, 2011,
entitled, "Squirming Puppies".

"Not long after Kevin and I got married, we went to visit my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Orville who were living in JacksonvilleFL.  It turned out that their neighbor’s Chow had just had puppies.  They were the cutest things, and naturally, they talked us into bringing two of them home with us.  We were living in an apartment without a fenced-in yard, so it became obvious very soon that our puppies needed to be taught obedience.  Especially, the female, whom we affectionately named Katie.  She was quite a little gal, with plenty of spunk and rebellion and her own will.  She refused to cooperate and come to us when we called her, and she would take off on daring adventures that left us exhausted in our quest to bring her safely back home. 

We had heard of a local obedience class for dogs, so we enrolled Katie and her brother, Teddy, and began our weekly classes.  One of the exercises they taught us is still fresh in my mind after all these years.  It involved the issue of trust, and it has taught me valuable spiritual lessons about our view of God in our trials.  We were taught to hold the puppy on its back in the palm of our hands and make it stay in that position until it stopped squirming.  Can you imagine?  As crazy as it sounded, we began to try it at home.  At first, the puppies squirmed and squealed and tried every way possible to wiggle over on to their feet and away from the firmness of our hold on them.  But, try as they would, we wouldn’t give in.  We would force them to stay on their back in our palm until the squirming stopped.  The whole point of the exercise was to prove to the puppy that they were safe.  That we would not drop them or let them go, under any circumstance.  That we were in control, and they had to succumb to our authority.  That their will must be yielded to ours.  Needless to say, they didn't like this exercise...not one, little bit. 

Wow!  Who does that remind you of?  I hate to admit it, but I must say it sounds very much like me.  Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…”  Everlasting arms.  Arms that have always been and always will be.  Arms that have enough power and strength to hold the world in place.  Arms that have picked me up time after time after time and held me close until the fear in me was stilled, and I stopped trembling.  Arms that have carried me across raging tempests and through fiery furnaces and over insurmountable mountains.  Arms that make me feel safe and loved and comforted.  How many times has God had to hold me firm in an uncomfortable, vulnerable position until I stopped squirming?  And when will I learn that the longer I squirm, the more I complain and whine and grumble, the longer He will hold me there?  It is all a matter of trust.  If His everlasting arms are underneath me, and they have never let me go, why can’t I trust Him now? 

I am just like the puppies, sad to say.  But, you know what?  Over time and with a lot of patience and consistency, those puppies finally learned that we were not going to drop them, nor were we going to let them go until we were good and ready.  Trust was built between us.  They knew they would be okay, that they were not in control – we were, and one day the time came that they didn’t squirm anymore…well, at least, not as much or as often!! 

So, I believe there is still hope for me.  The other day, it hit me that I was just a bit more trusting while going through a severe test and trial.  I realized that I had consecrated the battle to my dear Lord a LOT quicker than I used to.  So, maybe I, like Teddy and Katie, am making progress in this issue of trust.  
Maybe one day, I won’t squirm at all."

As time goes by, I am learning more and more to trust.
I don't squirm quite as much.
I am learning to be content...
even in the trials.
They all time.
The Potter's time.
He knows how long they should last.
When trying scenes make their way onto the steadily moving picture of life,
I turn to Him a lot quicker...
eager to know what it is that He is trying to teach.
There is always an object lesson behind a trying scene.
It is always valuable....
always worth the effort to learn.

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