We returned home from our five-week fall speaking trip on a Sunday evening. Settling back in after being gone several weeks requires the all-out effort of every family member. We busily began our unpacking routine, but by Monday evening we were faced with two major crises.
Late Monday afternoon, Melanie, our daughter-in-law, received word that her weekly blood tests, to monitor her pregnancy hormones, had recorded a drop indicating an impending miscarriage. Nathan and Melanie had struggled with infertility for five years. When the Lord finally opened Melanie’s womb, their little Susannah only lived three days. Then came the blessing of Abigail, now one and a half years old. Melanie had experienced a miscarriage in February of this year, and now it appeared that it was happening again.
After receiving the news from the doctor, Melanie called to ask for help with Abigail until Nathan was able to get home so she could sort through her emotions. Abigail ended up coming over to our house where her “aunties” played with her while I stayed with Melanie. We prayed, talked, read Scripture, and cried.
During this time, Steve felt the Lord putting it on his heart to go over to my parents’ house to talk with them. We all live within a block of each other, so these interactions are very convenient. My mom was having some serious health problems, which had begun just before our trip, for which we were all concerned. Her family practice doctor had sent her to a cardiologist who determined her heart was fine after several extensive tests. The cardiologist had sent her to a pulmonologist who had determined her lungs were fine after a few more tests. The pulmonologist suggested a neurologist.
Since we were to soon be home from our trip, the decision was made to wait for our return to decide what to do next. As Steve sat and talked with my mom that evening, he saw that her face was droopy and her speech was slurred. We already knew she was so weak she could hardly walk from one room to the next and that by the end of the day she couldn’t swallow her food. I joined them at the end of their conversation, and both Steve and I were quite alarmed by the extreme deterioration of my mom’s physical state.
We all face trials, struggles, and tribulations. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 provides us with a description of how Paul felt in the midst of the deep trials of life and the outcomes he experienced: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”
I would have to say that Paul’s troubles were far more than any you or I will likely face. Here is a list of many of the trials Paul experienced. “Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).
Paul had physical persecution and also the emotional strain of spiritually caring for and leading the churches. Through these particular struggles, Paul felt the same emotions that we feel when we have problems. However, he wasn’t overcome and overwhelmed by those emotions. His goal in the midst of the difficulties was that Jesus would be glorified.
When all is going as we have planned, when we can handle it, when we have it all together, what need is there for the Lord Jesus? What glory does He receive? However, when it is beyond our strength and outside of our personal resources, and we choose to rely on the Lord Jesus, Who gets the praise? “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). In these verses, Paul says he despaired of life, but from 2 Corinthians 4:8, we know he was not in the depths of emotional despair. His situation was simply so desperate that he didn’t think he would live. In the midst of those kinds of circumstances, he had learned not to trust in himself but in God.
That kind of trusting comes about through the grace of the Lord. Again, Paul helps us with the practical life application. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
It is amazing to me that Paul could say he would glory in the struggles he faced because they provided the opportunities for God’s grace and power to be seen. That is the attitude I want to have when there are crises that happen in my life or the lives of those I love. I desire that my focus would come off the problems and onto the One Who helps us through our difficulties.
There is much more I would like to share on this topic, so I will continue it next month. Plus I will be able to tell you the outcomes of the situations with my mom and Melanie. In the meantime, may I encourage you as you face trials in your life to realize that the excellency of the power is of God and not of you. Would you look on your problems as opportunities to see God’s grace and power in your life?