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Dealing With Difficult Trials - Part 1

By Steve Miller, Founder of Legacy Youth Ministry Resources

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Note from Delve Christian Ministries: This series was authored by Steve Miller of Legacy Youth Ministry Resources, and was originally written as a lecture series for youth pastors. We are extremely grateful to Steve for allowing us to offer this series on Delve Into Jesus

Author's Note: I didn't write these articles from an ivory tower. I wrote them while caring for my dear 37-year-old wife as she fought cancer. We had been on the mission field for a year when doctors found the cancer, forcing us to return to the States and fight cancer for the next four years. At the time, our four boys were 9, 6, and 8-month-old twins. A few months after completing this series, the Lord took her home. In most situations like this, grieving hearts scream Why?! With such a need for missionaries, why would God call someone to drop everything and go, only to call him back after one year? And while many abusive parents live long, healthy lives, why would He take one who daily showered her children with love. So I know firsthand something about living with grief, sorrow, and unanswered questions. I also know firsthand about the very real comfort that Jesus can bring in the midst of it all. So, these messages were written from one suffering heart to other suffering hearts, letting you in on where I found the comfort and peace to carry on.

Introduction

Is your happiness totally ruled by your circumstances? You know, if your family is getting along, your friends all like you, and your grades are fantastic, you're on top of the world. But if the next day you wake up to the sound of your parents fighting, look in the mirror and find a huge pimple on the middle of your forehead, go to school and your friends all laugh and call you Cyclops, then your emotions go to the pits. Most live on this emotional roller coaster, unable to find joy or peace when circumstances turn sour.

But in a world where most students can't handle hard times, those who find joy even when things go wrong can't be ignored.

Steve, a tenth grader, went on a ski retreat, mainly because a girl he liked was going. It was a horrible day for skiing. The ski report called it a hard, granular surface, which meant that most of the snow had melted during the warm days, frozen back at night, leaving a slope of hard, lumpy ice. The horrible conditions, plus the fact that none of the people were experienced skiers, made for a terribly frustrating day. More skiers were on their rear ends than on their skis. But in the midst of the contorted bodies lying on the slope, Steve observed a fellow named Ron who seemed different. Although Ron, too, spent most of the day on his rear, he seemed to have a joy and peace that set him apart, as if his joy didn't come from his circumstances. That evening, Ron spoke about John 10:10, telling how Jesus came to give us an abundant life. Steve knew that Ron had something he was missing, and that night knelt by his bed and surrendered his life to Christ.


Would you like to have a life like Rons, that makes people wonder, "How does he do it?", when they see you handle adversity? Would you like to get off the emotional roller coaster and find a joy that will stick with you, even during your darkest days?

Through this series of articles, we will search God's word for answers to "How To Master Your Circumstances, Before They Master You". And we will illustrate God's answers with the lives of real people, including a professional athlete who lost his pitching arm to cancer, a brilliant astrophysicist who copes with a crippling disease, an active teenager who became a quadriplegic, and some who survived Hitler's concentration camps.

Before we start on our road to joy, let me clarify a couple of things. I'm not talking about:

  • Hiding your hurts behind a fake smile.

    "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart." (Rom 9:1,2; cr. 2 Cor. 6:10)

    This was no wimp who wrote this. It was the apostle Paul, a spiritual James Bond who spoke the truth boldly, whether he risked beating, imprisonment or death. But when he thought of those of his race who rejected Christ, it tore him up emotionally. And he wasn't afraid to express it. It's healthy to grieve at times in our life. It's also healthy to tell loved ones what you are feeling. Those who bottle up their emotions sometimes regret it later.
  • Never feeling down.

    "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." "Jesus wept." (John 11:33-35; cr. Luke. 19:41; Hebrews. 5:7)

    Remember, if Jesus wept openly, then none of us should hesitate to express our sorrow, thinking it is unspiritual, unmanly, or uncool. But it's one thing to express emotions and quite another to be ruled by them.
So, when I talk about mastering our circumstances, I'm not talking about hiding your hurts or never feeling down. I am saying that, like the Apostle Paul, we can face persecution, physical pain, betrayal, and even undeserved imprisonment with a deep peace and joy that no one can take away.

How many of you would like that quality of life? Let's turn to God's Word.

Prepare Yourself For The Battle

A. Don't Get Caught Off Guard

"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God."(Jn. 16:1)

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim. 3:12, cr. Acts 14:22; 2 Cor. 6:4-8; 1 Pet. 2:20-21; 1 Peter 4:12-14; Jn. 15:19-21)

Dave Dravecky, formerly a major league pitcher with the San Francisco Giants, faced some intense challenges when doctors diagnosed cancer in his pitching arm. But he wasn't the only one who suffered during his surgeries and loss of an incredible career. His wife, Jan, struggled not only with Dave's crisis, but the recent death of both of her parents. It seemed that her life was tumbling in.

But what made matters even worse was that her understanding of the Christian life was falling apart. As she put it, "I was angry because I felt I had been lied to. The road to the abundant Christian life had been pictured to me as a scenic journey, something like a yellow brick road leading to a wonderful wizard who would grant all my wishes. But where had that road taken me? It wasnt the Emerald City." And for a moment, she thought about turning back to her old life, away from Christ. (Dave and Jan Dravecky, When You Cant Come Back, pp. 79,80, Zondervan, 1993)


But had Jesus really let her down? Did the Bible ever promise that life for Jesus followers would be all roses? No. It was those who painted a false picture of the Christian life, not Jesus, who let her down.

And Jan's not alone. Many of us became Christians because of some need in our life that God graciously met. Wasn't it exciting to get that guilt off our shoulders, find peace, or get some other need met?! But some Christians mistakenly took it that from then on God would just sort of bulldoze all difficulties from their path.

Do you ever ask questions like,
  • "If it really pays to serve Jesus, then why don't I have as many friends as the bad crowd?"
  • "If Christianity is true, then why did God let my parents go through that nasty divorce soon after I became a Christian?"
  • "If God is good, then why did my close friend have to die so young?"
If questions like this bother you, you may have an emerald city picture of the Christian life. And just like Jan, you're setting yourself up for a big shock.

To get a more balanced picture of the Christian life, look at what Peter wrote in 1 Pet. 4:12. He probably wrote this between 63 and 68 AD. In AD 64 Nero viciously persecuted the church. Rumor had it in the empire that Nero had ordered the fire that ravaged Rome. To dispel the rumor, Nero set up the Christians as the culprits. They were arrested, convicted, and killed in sadistic ways. Some were dressed in animal hides and torn to death by dogs. Others were crucified, still others set on fire to illumine Neros parties. ("The Neronian Persecution," 64, Tacitus, Annales, xv. 44) And Peter himself would soon die at the hand of Nero, crucified upside down in Rome. Thats why Peter warned these folks, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you." So where do people get the idea that the Christian life in the 90s should be easy?

Make sure you hear me. Living for Jesus doesnt insulate you from hard times. Learn now what Jan Dravecky learned, and your faith won't fold when hard times hit.

Prevent Unecessary Troubles

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Gal. 6:7; 1 Tim. 6:6-11; cr. Prov. 13:15; Num. 14:26-35; Ps 89:30-34; Heb. 12:4-11)

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 43 million US citizens (almost one in five) have an incurable sexually transmitted virus. Some will die of it, others will suffer with symptoms all their lives. (Dobson, When God Doesnt Make Sense.) A recent issue of Jane Magazine (not a Christian magazine) reported that girls who have sex with more than one partner have 500 times the chance of getting Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (March, 1999, p. 90, quoted from the book, About Sex). And once you get it, its no picnic. So, if you decide not to save sex for marriage, and one day find yourself face-to-face with a serious-looking doctor who breaks the news that you have a Sexually Transmitted Disease, don't start asking Why me, Lord? He warned you about that lifestyle over and over.


So if you're hanging with the wrong crowd, drinking the wrong drinks, holding unforgiveness in your heart, dating a loser, surfing web sites that you'd close in a split second if Jesus were to walk into the room, and rebelling against your parents, don't be whining "Why me Lord?" when life tumbles in. You see, God's been around a long time, and if he warns us against that lifestyle, its because he knows it's self-destructive. He wants you to avoid much of the heartache that others are bringing upon themselves.

And the good news is that no matter how far you've traveled down a self-destructive path, God still loves you and wants you back. Before the apostle Paul was a Christian, he dragged Christians off to jail and oversaw putting to death a godly saint named Stephen. But God still loved him, washed him clean, and gave him a fresh start. And He can do the same thing for you.

Conclusion

Some of you have bought the lie that God is an almighty party pooper in the sky, who constantly looks around for someone having a good time so that He can say "Now you stop that and get back to work." There is a force in the world that's out to destroy you, but its not God. As Jesus Christ Himself said,

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (Jn. 10:10)

Not a life without difficulties or even tragedy, but a life that can be lived to the full in the midst of it all. Do you want that kind of life? It starts with getting honest with God and telling Him that you've blown your life and desperately need His forgiveness and a new start.

 

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Comments


Steve - your articles are a real blessing. Thanks so much for deciding to share them with us. I have no doubt that your teaching will have a real impact on the lives of people going through tough times.
7/29/2007 2:32:32 PM - Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries


Great article! This past march, my wife of 16 years told me that she doesn't love or respect me anymore... She flat-out refused counciling and has left the church completely.. She's filed for divorce and we're walking (slowly) thru that now. (Yuk!) God's mercies are new every morning.. I've clung to the cross more than ever. I don't really understand why this is happening (although, I do know that I've contributed). I do know that God is in control.
8/24/2007 9:48:52 AM - anonymous


Thank you very much.A very well balanced article Drkurian cherian India
8/25/2007 3:57:18 AM - anonymous


thank you for sharing there story with other christian, I believe that some christian really do not understand the true meaning of God Word, and should make it a habit to study daily and pray so that, they can put on the whole armor of God and be protected from the ememy.
8/25/2007 10:48:06 PM - anonymous


Thank you. I will continue my study eagerly.
8/26/2007 12:27:52 PM - anonymous


It is good to hear of faithful followers of Jesus and I am being bless as i am living in obedience to God's Word. Thanks
8/28/2007 6:39:09 PM - anonymous


Thank you.
8/30/2007 12:54:55 AM - anonymous


These clear headed observations do not just apply to young people, they are universal truths that help us all. Thanks for placing them on paper for others to understand we are not alone in these trials of life.
8/30/2007 5:43:03 PM - anonymous


Since July 2006, my husband and I have lost a first grandchild (our older daughter mis-carried), our 22-year old younger daughter was killed by a drunk driver, my husband's father passed away, and 2 days before this past Christmas, my father passed away.

All the trials and so much pain...so much loss. Our only source for comfort and peace has been our loving God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Everything has caused us to turn more to Him for everything, and has built our faith. It has even made our marriage stronger.

Did we have rough times? Sure we did, but we pulled together and turned to God for ALL comfort and ALL peace. The trials even helped us find friends who would be beside us with no reservations, who would be there for us no matter what. And it weeded out people whom we thought were friends, but didn't have the time to deal with the process of grief and turned us away.

Thank you so much for sharing this story. It's another confirmation that my husband and I are following the right course on our walk with God.

KBM, Fairbanks, LA
3/20/2008 12:51:00 PM - anonymous


i am sorry i am late in writing this but i just found this site and am very thankfull. I just tore my acl and am on crutches till august. God is teaching me so much through this. I was at a point in my life where i thought i was on top of the world and God brought me back down and showed me that no matter what he is in control. This article really helped me to see that although times are hard God will always be there because he loves us and is there to pick us up and hold us when we feel alone and helpless.
Thanks
Kyle
6/22/2008 11:27:24 PM - KyleD, Member of Delve into Jesus since 6/22/2008


Thanks a lot for the article.God bless u !
Allen,India
7/12/2008 5:11:29 AM - anonymous


I was brought to tears, spiritually moved and comforted by your articles. God has truly blessed you. Thank you from someone who is searching for words that will strengthen her spirit and give her peace.
7/17/2008 9:14:49 PM - fgrimaldo, Member of Delve into Jesus since 7/16/2008


There is no end to the mercy of God. I struggle daily to remember that it is not my will, but God's will that directs our lives. "Let go and let God." Pray for me and others that this will become our mantra.
8/1/2008 10:08:04 AM - anonymous


You articles are very encouraging. What a unique way to be a blessing to others.
6/27/2009 2:27:57 PM - anonymous




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