In the first two parts of this series, I explained the family crises with which we were recently faced. One involved my mom’s health and the other our daughter-in-law’s miscarriage. We have been looking at the help Scripture gives us for dealing with the emotions these situations can create within us. Because this is the final article in this series, I encourage you to go back and read the first two because the information in each one grows from the previous articles.
Last month, I detailed what happened with Melanie’s pregnancy. This month I will fill you in on my mom. Before our trip, my mom had become quite weak, and we had two doctor’s appointments, first with a family practice doctor and then with a cardiologist, to try to determine the problem. After several high-tech tests, her heart was determined to be doing well, and it was time for us to leave on our trip. While we were away, my mom had two other doctor appointments concerning her condition, and at her request, the decision had been made to postpone further medical appointments until after we returned home.
If you recall, we sat and talked with her the night after our arrival home from our trip after being gone for five weeks. We knew she was very weak, but now we observed that her speech was slurred. The evening before, we had seen her inability to chew and swallow. The other symptoms were concerning us, but these two particular ones were alarming. She and Dad had plans to join my sister and her family for a vacation in two weeks.
At this point, though, it became clear that Mom could most certainly not enjoy the vacation and perhaps she wouldn’t even survive it. The pulmonologist my mom had seen while we were gone had determined Mom’s lungs were fine but had recommended that she see a neurologist. That evening I e-mailed my dad’s neurologist at Kansas University Medical Center and explained my mom’s case history and symptoms. I pleaded with him to see her. The Lord certainly intervened on our behalf because he e-mailed the next morning and said she could have an afternoon appointment. Usually it takes several weeks or months to get a new-patient appointment with a doctor at Kansas University.
Within an hour, the neurologist had diagnosed my mom’s condition—myasthenia gravis. It is a serious autoimmune, neuromuscular disease where the communication between the nerves and muscles is broken down. He gave her a prescription and said it would work immediately. The medication has allowed her to be able to swallow, speak clearly, and do much more than she could do when she was at her worst. However, she still remains very weak and can’t accomplish much beyond making meals for herself and Dad each day plus daily life maintenance. She is now being treated to try to reverse the disease.
There are two passages of Scripture that would speak specifically to us in these kinds of situations. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). Can you imagine glorying in your tribulations? My natural response to trials is most certainly not to glory in them. I simply want to get through them and have them over—a kind of “grin and bear it” attitude. However, here I am told that I would choose to glory in these difficulties. The verse tells me why I would want to glory in them. It is because of the knowledge that they will develop several good qualities in my life, including patience, the ability to deal with future problems, and a growing faith in my Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is another verse, which is quite similar to Romans 5. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). In this passage of Scripture, the word “temptations” means trials or problems. To me these verses make it clear that the Lord wants me to make a decision as to how to respond to trials.
The verse doesn’t say that I will feel full of joy, but rather that I should count it as joy. In other words, I am to make a purposeful decision to have an attitude of joy. I don’t believe that means I am joyful over the situation, but rather I am joyful in my Lord Jesus Christ—no matter what happens. The reason I am to consider it as joy is because these situations are trials of my faith. Will I trust the Lord not only through the easy times, but also through the valleys filled with pain or suffering?
I have faced trials of life both ways, in the flesh and in the Spirit. In the flesh the misery of the situation is compounded by the self-pity, negative thoughts, and fear that I have allowed to overwhelm and demoralize me. However, when I glory in tribulations and count them as joy, the problems still remain, but my heart is not weighed down. There is a steadfast peace in my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit that allows me to do what I need to do in the situation with a heart resting in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The situations we faced with my mom and with Melanie after our trip involved major interruptions to our normal daily-life schedule. Because we have a schedule to help us accomplish what we need to do each day, I was free to help in other ways when my time priorities were temporarily rearranged. I am to be busy about the Lord’s work. Usually that means I am teaching homeschool, cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, and other household tasks. However, for a season, those tasks were turned over to my girls, and my time was invested in doctor’s appointments with my mom. I also spent time at Nathan and Melanie’s helping with Abigail and doing cooking over there. My heart’s desire is to be used as the Lord wants me to be used, and my schedule helps me be available when there are unusual interruptions to the schedule such as these.
In each of our lives we will have problems, difficulties, trials, hardships. Some are quite major and catastrophic while others are minor and inconsequential. When confronted each of these kinds of situations, we have a decision to make. Will we allow our minds to be self-focused and full of pity consuming our thoughts with gloom and doom? Will we choose to glory in the problem and count it as joy? We have comfort from the Comforter, strength from the Strong One, and peace from the Peaceful One.