Tag Archives: When Life Turns Upside Down

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.

When Life Turns Upside Down – Part 2

Last month, I began the Mom’s Corner by telling about the crises we faced when we returned from our last speaking trip. Our daughter-in-law was having indications of a miscarriage, and my mom was having serious, undiagnosed health problems. Here is a link to that article with more of the details of the problems and beginning thoughts about how we deal with difficulties when they arise.

The day after Nathan and Melanie received the negative lab results, the doctor wanted her to have an ultrasound. Because of the many ultrasounds Melanie has had with previous high-risk pregnancies problems and the bad news they often have carried with them, Nathan and Melanie dreaded ultrasounds. This one was certainly going to be the same. From the miscarriage symptoms Melanie was experiencing plus the lab report, they knew full well what the ultrasound would show—their precious little baby with no heartbeat.

As the technician began the ultrasound, Nathan and Melanie heard her say, “The heartbeat looks good. Do you want to see your baby?” Totally expecting to hear the exact opposite words, it took a few moments for the news to sink into their hearts. They asked her whether she really meant there was a heartbeat, and she assured them that she did. Emotions went from grief to elation, but with reservations because of the other information that was indicating a miscarriage.

We continued to pray fervently for the baby, but the next lab work didn’t show any improvement in the hormone levels. By the third draw, the hormones had actually dropped, and other miscarriage signs continued. Again an ultrasound was ordered, but this time the results were what had been anticipated the first time. Melanie miscarried the next day.

Some of you have probably experienced a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages, the loss of a baby because of prematurity, or even the death of a baby or child after birth. Perhaps it was the death of a husband or another loved one. Maybe you are dealing with serious health or financial problems. Maybe your struggles are small as compared to these kinds of difficulties, but they are still issues you must face and deal with emotionally.

As we face these kinds of trials, we begin with a focus on the Lord, knowing that His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. That was the thrust of last month’s article.

One way that we can put our eyes on the Lord is demonstrated to us in His Word.

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Our trials can seem to be too big, too painful, and too difficult to get through. However, when we realize that the time we pass in the midst of those problems is very small compared to the time we will spend in eternity, our hearts can be encouraged. Pain doesn’t last forever for the believer.

In addition, we aren’t left to try to manage disappointment, pain, grief, or any other emotion that comes from the crises of our lives alone. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 tells us: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

God’s comfort is offered to me, but I have discovered that I have to receive it. When I allow my thoughts to think the worst, feel sorry for myself, determine that it is too hard, or question and blame God for what has happened or is happening, I am putting up a barrier that doesn’t let me experience His comfort. The focus is pity for myself at that moment, and it keeps me from experiencing His comfort, grace, and strength.

I have a responsibility as to what I will do with my thoughts. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Look at what Job did with his thoughts in his greatest moment of emotional pain: “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:20-22). I want to have Job’s response of worshipping my Lord Jesus in the midst of the very smallest to the very biggest trials that I face.

When those fearful, overwhelmed, negative emotions try to rise up within me as I face a crisis or even a simple problem, here is what Paul did and what I am to do too. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). “Be careful for nothing” means that I am not to worry or be anxious. Certainly my natural response to difficulties is to be fearful, think the worst, or fret about it. Here we see that in every thing – big or small – I bring my request to God. I am not to do it with muttering, complaining, and self-pity, but rather with thanksgiving.

The result of that prayer is the peace of God. We have peace because the problem isn’t ours to bear responsibility for or to solve. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). If we feel the yoke is hard or the burden heavy, then we know that we haven’t given over the responsibility to the Lord Jesus. We are still carrying it ourselves or pushing to lead in the yoke when we should be following. Here again we are reminded of where our cares should be placed. “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Next month I want to let you know what has happened with my mom and share more thoughts on what we do when life seems to turn upside down. I pray for each of you facing normal or unusual difficulties that your thoughts can move to eternity, that you will experience God’s comfort, that you will worship your Lord, and that you will cast all your cares on Him.

When Life Turns Upside Down – Part 1

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?