When Life Turns Upside Down – Part 3

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.

Worldly Friends – Part 4

In this series of Dad’s Corners, we have been discussing a question a brother recently asked me concerning how to raise children who will not condemn worldly friends and won’t be drawn to their worldly lifestyles. If you haven’t read the previous Corners I would recommend you do so before reading this one.

We have already seen that Scripture teaches that there isn’t any way for our children to have worldly friends and not be affected by them. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). This verse deals strictly with the angry aspect of worldliness, but we have seen how all types of worldly friends will have the same effect. The closer a child’s heart is drawn to worldly friends, the more he will be changed by them. Therefore, it is dangerous to the souls of our children to have worldly friends.

The family that doesn’t believe worldly friends, Christian or unbeliever, will influence their children is headed for a rude awakening as evidenced by the e-mails we receive from families who are in the midst of just such a crisis situation. They will describe problems they are having with a child who wants to quit homeschooling, make worldly choices, or follow a worldly lifestyle. When we ask about the influences in the life of the youth, we will be told of a worldly friend. The justification the parents give for allowing the friendship in the first place is often that they didn’t want to offend the neighbor family to whom the child belongs.

However, parents should ask themselves if losing their child is worth the possibility of reaching the neighbor? I believe that Proverbs 27:12 has the answer. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.” There will be other ways to share Christ with a neighbor that won’t involve compromising the spiritual direction of our children’s lives.

In our quest to help our children choose not to have worldly friends, our example will be very important. If we have worldly friends, our children will also be drawn to those same kinds of friends. I am defining a friend as someone with whom you spend significant amounts of time. The book of Jude gives us an exhortation and pattern for our interactions with those of the world, and it doesn’t involve friendship. Let’s study it so that we can learn from its instruction.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3,4). Those who are worldly and want to be our friends do not come up and identify themselves as being worldly or ungodly. They are as dangerous to us as they would be to our children because they can deceitfully pull our hearts away from the Lord Jesus by drawing us to their worldliness and ungodliness. The exhortations in Jude’s epistle apply as much to us today as they did when Jude first penned them.

What is the tool a worldly friend uses against a believer? He uses the same one that has been used through the ages. “You’re free in Christ. Go ahead. It’s okay.” The first steps of compromise may be small, but soon bigger ones will be offered, all under the cloak of “grace will cover it.” Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-17, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.”

Looking at a man’s fruit and what he promotes is a good way to discern whether he will be a friend that walks after the Spirit or after the flesh. If he is after the Spirit, following his example will lead us to a walk that is holy, without blemish, and a denial of fleshly pleasures. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

Worldly friends will not lead us down a path of self-denial but one of gratifying the flesh, lasciviousness, and worldly pleasure. Yet the walk of a believer is to be the opposite. “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12).

In Matthew 7:16, which was quoted above, Jesus said we don’t gather grapes (good fruit) from thorns. In Luke 8:14, Jesus tells us what the thorns of this world are. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” The cares, riches, and pleasures of this life are the fun things that many believers are chasing today, perhaps because this is what their worldly friends are pursuing. It is probably no wonder then that there is little real spiritual fruit being produced from these lives. I find it deeply saddening that the pursuit of fun and pleasure is a “high place” today within the professing church. We now live in a pagan nation while the professing church has lost its savor as salt because of the pursuit of fun. (Side note: is it any wonder that youth groups and all their fun activities have not produced real dynamic fruit?)

As we lead our children away from worldly friends, we need to set the example for them. We want to evaluate the fruit in the lives of those with whom we spend time. Are they drawing us closer to the Savior or away from Him toward fun and entertainment? I want to conclude this series next month by finishing our look into Jude for direction in our interactions with those who are worldly.