No one can escape from enduring severe afflictions. All question how to find God in severe afflictions. Where can we look?
In the midst of pure affliction resides the opportunity for each and every one of us to view the hand of the one who created all that is around us. Choose now, because that is our greatest gift, whether you will see or not. We may not yet be able to view His countenance, but at this very moment we can see and benefit from His work. Choose now to follow along with what I witnessed years ago. The conclusion is for you to decide.
I’m standing over my 10 day old son. He’s lying unmoving in an incubator. He’s had tubes coming out of his arms and legs and head. The doctor just told me that she doesn’t know if he will live for die. Where is God in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit? The bible talks a lot about faith, hope, and love. Those are three things that I never think about until they’re gone. Right now, they’re nowhere to be found.
I looked up to heaven, screaming at God. “Where are you? You should be here, helping my son! You say that you are a God of love! This really doesn’t feel like love to me!”
I remember that day like it was yesterday. I felt alone, so alone. The pain was immense. When I looked for God, here are the words that I heard.
Our son was born in a hospital that could not have helped him. He was discharged after 3 days.
Our son saw a pediatrician the next day with problems with jaundice.
The pediatrician gave him three days to get better.
After three days, my wife heard a voice telling her we had to get our son to the hospital.
Our son was admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
They put him under special lights to cure the jaundice.
They gave him antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.
Within 24 hours our son passed a bloody stool.
Within 40 hours, our son developed 5 holes in his descending Colon. If he wasn’t in All Children’s hospital at that moment receiving antibiotics, he would have died.
A dear friend came to sit with my wife and I during the long operation.
Another friend watched over us as she worked at the hospital.
We were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald house where friends and strangers served us our meals.
My wife spent 12 hours a day, 7 days a week sitting next to our son. Every day, friends came to sit with her offering her lunch and words of encouragement. They shared their stories with my wife and she shared our story with them.
The doctors and nurses were thorough and loving and caring.
The doctors and nurses took the time to thoroughly explain every step to us.
In those words, I saw God’s hand.
In the amazing care that our son received … I found hope.
In my daily talks with God … I found faith.
In the helping hands of friends and strangers … I experienced love.
God came near to me; and it was good.
Behold when the day comes when we are all able to see what Isaiah wrote about in Isaiah 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Twilight moments of light
Life slices filled with ultimate joy
Peak moments of a successful contest
Life slices filled with perfect love, hope, and trust
Moments hidden between the busy-ness of our lives
Life slices turned visible with peaceful observation
Defining moments of a heartfelt relationship
What happens when you’re not looking
A small taste of a perfect life
A laughing father filled with smiles
A first born toddler being bounced on the bed
An out-of-control toddler lands on the bed post
Blood and stitches complete the unhappy event
Accidents do not create the missed moments
Fathers who never play with their toddlers
After an accident suddenly appears
Creates the missed moments
Fear kills the moments
Burning through the intense pain
Experiencing the birth of a fourth child
The laughter and joy of seeing a healthy child
Having to go to the hospital with a medical emergency
Knowing that waiting one day would have killed the child
Spending twelve hours a day every day in the ICU with the child
Knowing the child didn’t care where he was as long as you were there
Hearing the doctors say they didn’t know whether the child would live
Reading the bill in your hands that says you owe the hospital $380,724
Watching the child next to yours die of heart failure without her moma
Carrying a healthy child in your arms out of the hospital to go home
Knowing that all of the hospital bills have been taken care of
Magical moments don’t happen when accidents stay away
Amazing moments happen when you face the fear
And learn again that the power of love is stronger
Defining moments of a heartfelt relationship
What happens when you’re not looking
A small taste of a perfect life
last for a
Can people call on God if they don’t believe? Can they believe if they haven’t heard? Can they hear without someone telling them about God? Can someone tell them if they are not sent? If we don’t listen to God’s calling, who is going to suffer for it?
As it says in Romans 10:14-15 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”
Is it not true that we have all been called? Is it not true that God has asked us all to go somewhere? We may be called to a foreign land. We may be called to a poverty stricken region. We may be called to our own back yard. God calls us to where we need to be. If we don’t listen to God’s calling, who is going to suffer for it.
As it says in 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
If we don’t listen to God’s calling… Wait, how often does God call? Plato said it best “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” How often? Every day. Everyday, someone close to us needs to hear about the confident expectations that God has given to us.
If we don’t listen to God’s calling, who will not hear about the incredible strength of our hope with God? Where faith and hope grow, miracles blossom!
When I first came to the mountain, I expected huge cheers from my family. I expected that my friends would be proud of me. I had so many expectations. It turns out that one of them were true. No one cared. They were polite at first. Then they were polite and aloof. Then they simply ignored me.
I guess they thought it was a phase I was going through. I guess they thought that I would get over it. I guess they really wanted to stop thinking about it. I did a lot of guessing, but I didn’t really know why. No one was honest with me for a long, long time.
Finally one day they slipped. Or, they just got fed up. “Really, what DO you see in that broken bridge? why does it captivate you? Can you please just get over it already?”
Stunned was an understatement. “Haven’t you been listening? It’s not the broken bridge. It’s what’s past the bridge. It’s past the bridge! Here, let me tell you about it! You have to come and see it!”
They wouldn’t listen. They’re not listening now. Perhaps they never will. “Oh please God, how can I tell them that they’re wrong? How do I get them to understand? How can I tell them that this is the view that I see? This is the view that they could be seeing too!”
My heart broke. ” God, I guess people can only see what they want to see. Perhaps, one day, if I work hard enough, they will be able to see it through my eyes. Now I understand what you said in Matthew 13:9-16.
“9 He who has ears, let him hear.” 10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ” ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”
It deeply hurts to think of the staggering number of sports icons whose lives have been destroyed because they took illegal performance enhancing drugs. The lives that they destroyed because all they could focus on was winning a couple of games or races. It’s a sad statement. Without exception, they lost sight of what was truly important to them. One of the major sports icons, who I won’t name here, spent much of their earnings creating and growing a spectacular charity that helped many thousands of people in desperate need. When it was discovered that this sports icon was cheating with drugs, the icon’s sporting career and reputation was forever destroyed. What’s worse, it nearly destroyed the entire charity as well. This icon had to be completely disassociated with the charity in order to save it. That which was loved was lost.
That’s what happens when we take our eyes off of the finish line, when we lose sight of the goal. All we see are the obstacles. When we fail to keep our sights on where we are going, the obstacles that we face grow and grow until they completely dominate our vision. What once was only an imperfection turns into a pebble, then a rock, then a boulder, then a mountain. When all we see is how important it is for us to win a couple of games or races, we completely miss how important the charity, that we created, is to our lives.
Look at Romans 8 verse 15. “Fear always tells you what you’re not, what you don’t have, what you can’t do, and what you’ll never be.” Fear wants us to believe that we can’t win that next race; that winning the game is out of reach. Fear wants us to believe that we need to take that illegal drug. Fear wants us to see only our obstacles and give up.
No one is immune to fear. Everyone has it. Look past the obstacles and see the opportunities! It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? No problem, right? It’s just the opposite. It takes hard work and persistence. This is one of those situations where it’s easy to write it down on a piece of paper, but it’s hard to put into practice.
Okay, let me show you how deceptive and destructive these kinds of obstacles can be.
Here’s a common challenge for many of us. Let’s drop in on a conversation with Rudy. Rudy is a friend of yours. He’s asked for the two of you to meet at one of your favorite restaurants. He has a problem that he needs your help with. Rudy’s married with two small children. He’s 5’8″ and athletic with brown hair and brown eyes. His wife’s name is Karen. She walked away from a TV career so that she could raise James, their three year old, and Jessica, who’s only 4 months old.
You and Rudy sit down at the table and order dinner. You’re waiting for Rudy to start talking and Rudy’s been silent. The dinner finally arrives. Rudy takes one look at it and pushes it away. “I have a problem. Something happened two nights ago and I don’t know if I should apologize to Karen or not. Could you please listen to the story and help me decide what I should do?”
Without waiting for an answer, Rudy launched into his story. Rudy’s Story
Work had finally finished two days ago. It certainly didn’t end soon enough. Chalk it up as one of the worst days that I’ve had in a long time. Thoroughly exhausted, I was looking forward to taking it easy. “Come on, one step at a time. Just park the car, lock it, find the key to the front door, open it, grab some snacks and a drink, find the couch, pick up the remote control, and zone out to some TV. Oh, this I can do.”
Karen came in and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “Welcome home honey. Good idea about grabbing something to eat before we go. The kids are almost ready. Yumm, can I have some of that cheese?”
My smile was weak at best. I had totally forgotten that my toddler and I were going for haircuts. “Hi hon. Sure, here’s some cheese.” I lifted up my coke for her. “And I got a coke for you too.”
She grabbed a handful of cheese and took a big drink of coke. “Thanks, you’re a doll.”
“I hate it when you say that.”
“Oh, sorry honey, I keep forgetting.”
I watched her as she bolted off to the back bedrooms. “Ugh, I don’t want to do this. My hair looks fine.”
My wife whisked back into the room and thrust the baby into my hands. “Can you hold the baby while I finish getting James ready? Good, thanks. James is almost ready. Oh, I just said that, sorry. What a day, we’ve been running non-stop.”
I quickly put the coke down and stuffed the rest of the cheese in my mouth as a baby came hurtling towards me. Okay, the baby wasn’t really hurtling towards me, but with the way I felt, a turtle would be moving too fast for me.
There was a crash in the back bedroom. “Oh dear, James, are you okay? Mommy’s coming.” And she was gone in a flash.
I yelled at her retreating figure. “You’re making me tired just by looking at you!”
I heard my wife yell at me from across the house, “Bad news, James just broke the new lamp. He’s okay. The lamp is toast.”
“Really, the new lamp? Aren’t you smart enough to figure out how to keep him from breaking lamps?”
She didn’t say anything for a while and I didn’t see the hurt in her eyes. Her voice was distinctly quieter when she spoke again. “We’re ready to go.”
So, with baby in hand, and half the city packed into the trunk of the car, I drove us to get haircuts. I didn’t notice anything wrong.
James talked nonstop in the car. “Why is the sky blue? Why do we stop at red lights? Why do I need haircuts? I’m hungry. I want chicken. Why do I get chicken for dinner? Can I have some water? Why don’t we have water in the car?”
It was an endless barrage of questions.
My wife was quietly looking out the window when I spoke at her. “Can’t you figure out how to stop him from doing that? I mean he’s not even waiting for an answer. Come on, stop just staring out the window and do that mommy thing that you’re supposed to be doing.”
My wife again was silent. I couldn’t see her face. From somewhere deep in the recesses of a purse that magically contained our entire household she pulled out a bag of cereal and gave it to James. He magically went quiet as he happily munched away.
I didn’t say anything else, not even thank you, until we reached the hair cut place. As we were taking the kids out of the car, I asked her, “Why are you so quiet?”
“I’m just tired. Nothing is wrong. Do you have your IPAD? I want to give it to James while you get your hair cut and the baby is sleeping. I’m going to be on my IPAD.”
Wordlessly, I gave her my IPAD.
The hairdresser gave us all a big smile as we walked in. “Whose first for the haircut?”
James bounced up and down. “I am. I am. I am.”
I collapsed into a seat and closed my eyes. Please take a long time. Please take a long, long time. James was done in like five minutes.
The hairdresser looked at me, “your turn.”
I tried to smile. I think I got one out.
I walked back to get my hair washed. “Can you wash my hair a couple of thousand times? It really feels good.” To my surprise, she washed my hair three times. That has always been the best part of getting a haircut.
We walked back to the barber chair and I looked at her. Her eyes twinkled in her round face. She’s been cutting hair for more than 20 years. She truly loved her job. She also loved to talk. That was a passion that I didn’t share at the moment. She kept asking me questions. She was an expert at getting people to open up. Finally, I landed on a story that I knew that everyone loved. I also knew that my wife loved to tell the story. “Hey honey, you should tell her that story about the wedding.”
My wife didn’t answer. She seemed immersed on something on the IPAD. James didn’t answer either as he usually did. He was lost in one of his stories on my IPAD. I asked my wife again with the same result. The fifth time I asked her she poked her eyes over her IPAD and made eye contact with me, but said nothing as she went back to the IPAD.
I could feel my temper close to the surface. I was getting agitated, but I ignored it. I made an excuse for my wife having some work that she had to get done on the IPAD and I told the story. I had the hairdresser laughing and laughing, but my heart wasn’t in it.
The rest of the time passed at a snail’s pace.
We were all quiet when we got into the car. Even James was quiet as he was still immersed in a story on the IPAD. I turned the radio on so at least there was some noise.
I don’t know when it started to happen. A brand new three quarter ton white pickup truck in front of me in the left lane was going 30 mph in a 45. Some kid was driving. I followed for a while, not thinking much of it. Eventually, I passed him on the right. He quickly caught up with me and cut me off, badly. Then he slowed back down to his 30 mph. I went into the left lane and passed him. He repeated the maneuver and cut me off again and slowed back down.
When I passed him on the right this time I looked into the truck and saw the driver. He was pointing at me and laughing. Apparently, this was his idea of a joy ride and he had targeted me. I lost my temper and I communicated with him out my window. Okay, I flipped him off. Then I drove off behind the cars in the right hand lane.
The right lane was moving faster for a couple of minutes, an eternity on the road, but, I could still see the truck behind me. He weaved back and forth a few times to keep up with me as best he could. Eventually, he caught up to me. He was in the left land and I was in the right. That’s when all hell broke loose. He threw a rock at my car and hit it with a very loud thud! Then he gunned the truck down the left lane.
I wasn’t going to let him get away with it. I hit the gas and I caught up with him. I didn’t flip him off this time. I didn’t throw anything at him. I did something worse. I forced him into a left hand turn lane and made him stop. I stopped in front of him.
I started to get out of the car when my wife started yelling, really loud. She totally freaked out. She yelled at me to not get out of the car and to get the car moving. She wouldn’t stop yelling.
Eventually, I listened and started the car moving again. Somewhere in the back recesses of my mind I knew that nothing good would come from me confronting that truck driver. So, I drove off. I angrily drove off. I looked in my rear-view mirror as I was leaving and watched the truck do a u turn and drive slowly away in the other direction. He wasn’t a happy camper.
I turned to my wife and I yelled at her. “How dare you yell at me like that!” I had a lot more words to say, none of them were nice. I don’t need to repeat them. I think you get the idea. How to Help Rudy?
For the first time Rudy looked at me. “For the past two days, Karen and I have been friendly with each other, but we’ve been distant. It’s like the events are taboo to talk about. Please help me, what should I do?”
How would you answer Rudy? What should Rudy do? Who was wrong and why? Do you have any bible verses to back up your thoughts?
Well, while you’re thinking about it, how about I show you some of the bible verses on anger. There are many good verses on controlling your anger.
“A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” (Proverbs 12:16 NLT)
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:19, 20 NLT)
“Short-tempered people do foolish things, and schemers are hated.” (Proverbs 14:17 NLT)
“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27 NLT)
“But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:22 NLT)
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:1, 2 NLT)
“Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9 NLT)
“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.” (Psalms 37:8 NLT)
Romans 12:9-21 NIV (with meditations)
Do you have an answer? Well, you’re right; Rudy was way out of line to get angry. However, don’t miss the fact that the kid in the truck was wrong, Karen was wrong, and Rudy was wrong. So, is that the answer to the question?
Take a look at Romans 12:9-21. I wrote the verses followed with questions and meditations (in parentheses).
Love must be sincere. (Am I being honest? Am I being deceitful?)
Hate what is evil; (What does God say that is evil and good?)
cling to what is good. (What boundaries di I need to create?)
Be devoted to one another in love. (Where can I be generous with my time and resources?)
Honor one another above yourselves. (How can I show respect for their abilities,skills, and achievements?)
Never be lacking in zeal, (Where is my energy and enthusiasm?)
but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (What is the Lord asking me to do?)
Be joyful in hope, (Know origin of hope – which is Jesus, the bible, and heaven)
patient in affliction, (Is God in control? Am I hurting anyone?)
faithful in prayer. (Yearn for God by listening to, talking to, and studying God’s ways.)
Share with the Lord’s people (Who are the Lord’s people in my circle?)
who are in need. (What does God want me to share today?)
Practice hospitality. (Who can I make feel welcome today?)
Bless those who persecute you; (What Godly attitude can I reflect back?)
bless and do not curse. (How can I spread hope or increase trust?)
Rejoice with those who rejoice; (How can I celebrate their successes?)
mourn with those who mourn. (How can I show empathy & give comfort?)
Live in harmony with one another. (What stresses them? How can I help?)
Do not be proud, (What is mine and not God’s?)
but be willing to associate (Who in my circle does God not love?)
with people of low position. (Who do I believe is below me?)
Do not be conceited. (How do I need other parts of the body of Christ?)
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (Is there ever a reason to do wrong?)
Be careful to do what is right (How am I showing the fruits of the spirit?)
in the eyes of everyone. (What example did Christ set for me?)
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (What are people going through? Am I listening, understanding, and emphasizing?)
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, (Seeking revenge will stop my progress)
but leave room for God’s wrath, (Do I trust that God will take care of me?)
for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; (Am I responsible to pass judgement?)
I will repay,” says the Lord. (God is fair. Only He knows our hearts)
On the contrary: (Focus on completing our given tasks)
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; (Do I know what my enemy needs?)
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.(Do I have a balanced view the situation?)
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Everyone has blind spots.What are mine?)
Do not be overcome by evil, (What activities refill my tank. Do I know my limits?)
but overcome evil with good. (Only love conquers hate.)
After reading Romans 12:9-21 my view of who was wrong changed. Rudy made bad choices the entire night. Even if Rudy was correct in getting angry at the truck driver, forcing the truck off the road was a bad idea. But, that’s not where the problem started. Rudy was taking his bad day out on his wife. Anger became an obstacle for Rudy. Rudy should have been focused on the relationship with his wife, not on the anger about his day and not on taking revenge on a truck driver driving badly. Besides God, Rudy’s marriage is the most important thing in Rudy’s life. And Rudy forgot that. He allowed anger in and forgot about the relationship. Rudy disrespected Karen. He did not honor her. He did not show her love. What’s worse, Rudy didn’t ever allow Karen to help him get through the tough day. Rudy made Karen the enemy. And, that’s what anger does when it becomes an obstacle.
Obstacles appear when we lose sight of the goal. And, sometimes those obstacles can be very, very hurtful to those around us. Know where you’re going. Don’t lose sight of the goal. Or, you may find that instead of having clear sailing, you have a giant iceberg in your path. Then, everything becomes much harder.
Besides anger, what other obstacles do you allow to block you path?
Anger is never the primary emotion. Anger is always masking something else. Think about the last time you were angry. Remember? Why were you angry? Remember? But, why did that make you angry? Ask yourself that question a couple of times and you’ll be surprised at the answer.
Whenever you lose your temper with someone, you lose. It doesn’t matter whether you’re right or wrong. You lose all credibility when you lose your temper. How could you have handled your temper better that last time that you lost it?
What are the warning signs that you are about to lose your temper? We all have those signs. If we can recognize them soon enough, we can head off losing our temper.
What bible verses about controlling your temper really move you? Memorize those verses.
What is the opposite of anger?
Thoughts to Meditate On
Here are some of the lyrics to a song called Blessings that Laura Story sings.
“All the while, you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if You’re healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”
What we should be praying for is to look past our limitations and see God more clearly, to know him more dearly. We should be praying for growth. When we clearly see the end of our strength and our abilities, that is not a signal to stop! That is an opportunity to see God working!
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:29-32 NLT)
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalms 30:4, 5 NLT)
The wisdom in Michael Jordan’s quote can be found in thousands of posters. I’ve never doubted its truth. Still, that’s not what keeps me fighting.
The reason that I fight is in every sunrise and every sunset.
The reason that I fight is in the love and joy of friends and family.
The reason that I fight is in a promise that I know that I win in the end.
The real reason that I fight is not in the successes or failures. It’s in the why I stood up in the first place. He created the sunrises and sunsets. He created my friends and family. He fought the battle and won. He invited me to come with Him. And He’s invited you too.