Tag Archives: adversity

More Than You Can Bear – Part 3 – No Where Else To Go

What am I to do when the circumstances of life become more than I can bear; when rising from my bed in the morning is like climbing a mountain and putting one foot in front of the other is exhausting, painful, overwhelming; when questions assault me on every side, my mind becomes a windstorm of thoughts, tears flow like rivers and my heart is broken?43966153

I had to know.

So I asked.

I found a simple, yet most difficult answer.

Trust.

Do I believe in a God who can heal? Absolutely. I’ve seen and experienced healing and know He can and still does.

Do I believe in a God who can miraculously deliver me out of trouble? Definitely. I’ve encountered that in my own life and the lives of others.

Do I have faith for instant miracles? No question. All I need is faith the size of a mustard seed. I sweep dust from my kitchen floor bigger than that.

Do I believe God is sovereign and I won’t always understand His ways?  Yes. So my mission is simply to believe Him, to trust Him.

No matter what.

To trust I am loved. Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To trust I am never on my own.  Matthew 28:20 I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 13:5  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

To trust in the darkest place. Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

To trust He has a plan for me.  Jeremiah 29:11 I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Philippians 6:6… being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.

To trust He will bring me through. Isaiah 43:1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

To trust He knows what I need. John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

I have nowhere else to go. I’ve searched everywhere. No one, nothing, provides the answers I want or need.

It is only Christ who proves strong in my weakness, mighty in my suffering.

 “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

Jesus walked where I walk, He felt what I feel. He experienced the wide range of emotions life on Earth brings.

He knows my frame, how I’m put together and what makes me tick.

He knows without Him I’m nothing but a pile of dust.

He lived, died and resurrected to fill the breach between Heaven and Earth. He did all that for me.

When I’m weary, broken, my faith is small and my hope is almost extinguished, Jesus sees and hears.

Compassion overtakes him.

I imagine Him, sitting to the right of the Father, his nail scared hands resting on the arms of the throne room chair.

He leans into God’s ear and pleads my case, reminding His Dad that it’s not easy being here, being human.

He rehearses what it was like to come to Earth and wear the same flesh suit I wear, walking this hard, dusty ground; totally immersed in what it is to be one of us; hungry, tired, thirsty, in pain, rejected, despairing, alone.

He understands I’m having a hard time, struggling under the weight of my affliction, breaking under the heaviness of my pain and pleads with the Father to provide extra mercy, a little more grace, to pour out some additional love from His endless supply; reassuring the hosts of Heaven that I’ll come around.

I’ll be alright.

When it’s all said and done I will come out of the furnace refined like pure gold, shining a little more like the beautiful gem that I was made to be.

This adversity will transform me, “for I know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”Romans 8:28

I’ll say like Joseph, “..you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.“ Genesis 50:20

I’ll say with Apostle Paul,” But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” 2 Corinthians 1:9

In everything.

At all times.

And especially when life is too hard to bear.

In God I will trust.

 

“When there’s no getting over that rainbow, when my smallest of dreams won’t come true I can take all the madness the world has to give, but, I won’t last a day without you.” ~ From the song, ‘I Won’t Last A Day Without You’ by The Carpenters~

2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 17-18But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 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…For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works 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 12:8-10Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

More Than You Can Bear – Part 2 – What Kind of God is He Anyway?

Sisyphean toil (3d isolated characters on white background series)The faulty premise of being told, “God won’t give more than you can bear,” eventually brought me to a place of confusion, guilt and even condemnation.

I didn’t understand why I was crushed, overwhelmed, barely able to breathe? Why wasn’t I stronger, more in control in the midst of my misery and heartache? Where was my faith?

Believing this about God leads to several flawed conclusions:

  • He sits on His throne handing out adversity to those He sees as tough enough to get through it. Does God look down on me and say, “That one there, see her? She’s a tough cookie. Give her the disabled kid and chronic illness. She can handle it.”
  • He randomly tosses out varieties of affliction upon the earth and wherever it lands it lands. Does God have an Affliction Lottery Machine He draws from or a Wheel of Misfortune He spins until my name comes up? Whatever category it lands on is what I get to deal with in life?

I don’t think so.

Who wants to believe in a God like that? That makes Him no different than other gods men have fabricated throughout history.

God’s original intention for man NEVER included suffering. He created us and Earth in perfection. One result of living in a fallen, sin-filled, broken world is hardship and adversity.

He also created man with the ability to choose. Sometimes our adversity is at the hand of others and we become victims of man’s free will; the spouse who leaves, the prodigal child, the friend who betrays or the child who is abused, kidnapped, murdered, the family killed by a drunk driver, the people who are maimed and die by a suicide bomber.

Other times suffering is the result of our fallen and cursed earth; natural disasters such as flood, tornadoes, mudslides, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, fire, illness, disability and death.

And still other afflictions come from our own decisions; addictions, bad habits and attitudes, faulty thinking, poor diet, lack of exercise, rest, discipline and self control.

When my son was young and recited the classic child disclaimer, “But it’s not fair!” my reply was always, “Sorry kid, I was there the day you arrived. When the midwife put you in my arms, I checked you over from head to toe. I never saw a sticker on your behind that said you were exempt from the unfairness of life.”

There are many in scripture who were overwhelmed by misery and suffering. If it’s true that God won’t give us more than we can bear, He better apologize to these folks.

Job – “Why is life given to a man like me? God hasn’t told me what will happen to me. He has surrounded me with nothing but trouble. I sigh instead of eating food. Groans pour out of me like water.What I was afraid of has come on me. What I worried about has happened to me. I don’t have any peace and quiet. I can’t find any rest. All I have is trouble.” Job 3:23-26

David “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.”

Apostle Paul For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, ofthe affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” 2 Corinthians 1:8

Hebrews Faith Heroes – And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented…they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise…” Hebrews 11:36-39.

Yes, even Jesus –  And he [Jesus] was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.’ And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was great drops of blood falling down to the ground” Luke 22:41-44

Existence on Planet Earth is often an exercise in our definitions of unfairness. We all experience cycles of joy and pain, laughter and sorrow, contentment and frustration, peace and unrest. No one is exempt from tasting the full range of circumstances life doles out.

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation…” John 16:33 and “He [God] makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” Matthew 5:45.

So I figured something out. Stuff happens, good and bad.

We all get some and like everyone else, I get my share of each.

Now what to do with it?

If you’re discouraged about all this, don’t be. I’ve saved the good news for last.

Scroll down for part three…’No Where Else to Go.’

 

 

 

 

More Than You Can Bear – Part 1 – The Premise

In 1979 Mike and I had been married four years and had just returned to our home town in upstate New York from Portland, Oregon. We were fresh out of Bible college; our heads were stuffed with theology and our hearts were stuffed with hope. We were ready to turn the world upside down for Christ.

We took the volunteer position of youth pastor at our home church and settled in to see what God had planned for chapter two of our love story.

Little did I know that the next three years were about to test everything I believed or thought I knew. Our first child, Jonathan, was born with Down syndrome, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, Mike was diagnosed with toxic neuropathy, and my Jesus loving dad had a nervous breakdown and landed in the psyche ward.

My well ordered little life suddenly swirled out of control.

I was devastated, crushed, overwhelmed, and angry and questioned, prayed and sobbed, demanding answers.

I reminded God of my “do good” list, how I’d spent my entire life in church, never smoked, did drugs, only drank alcohol once in high school, and was still a ‘good’ girl when I married, then moved all the way across country and back so my husband could go to Bible school.

For some unknown reason, God had piled way more than I could handle on us, and I didn’t know what to do about any of it.

There’s this thing that’s been gnawing at me for years, like a pebble in my shoe on a long walk.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the verse from 1 Corinthians 10:13 quoted to me and others who are over whelmed by suffering, trials, sickness, death and loss beyond their control.

“God won’t give you more than you can bear.” Sisyphean toil (3d isolated characters on white background series)

I’d heard it, believed it and even said it, but something wasn’t adding up. It seemed to me that plenty of people, in the Bible, in history and in my own life faced hardships far greater than is humanly possible to endure.

I decided to study this verse out, instead of just believing what I had always been told, (see my post ‘My Favorite Love Story’: http://aplacecalledspecial.com/2013/08/29/my-favorite-love-story/ for more on that).

What I found was revealing. This passage isn’t talking about suffering and affliction at all, it’s referring to the temptation of sin.

In context, Apostle Paul explains how the Israelites complained in the wilderness, worshiped idols, indulged in revelry, committed sexual immorality and tested God with their grumbling.

According to Brother Paul, their hearts were set on evil and as a result, some of them were killed by snakes and a destroying angel. (1 Corinthians 10:6-10)

He follows that with: These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

After this, Paul immediately addresses the subject of idolatry and what is lawful but not necessarily edifying behavior. At no point in this passage is there any reference to trials of affliction or suffering.

The word tempted or temptation used here comes from the same Greek word which means to test, entice, prove, scrutinize, or examine and is used in the following verses to give confirmation of the same meaning.

Matthew 4:1 “then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Matthew 6:13 “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Luke 22:45-46 “When He [Jesus] rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

Hebrews 4:15 “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

James 1:13-15 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.’’

God does not tempt us to sin, EVER, but when we are tempted He is right there, providing a way out, strengthening us so we don’t give in.

Jesus was the only one on earth who withstood the temptation of sin. By His sacrifice on the cross and by His example, we have everything we need to resist sin and also be forgiven when we succumb to its pull and power.

As Christ followers, our greatest enemies are the world, our own flesh and the devil (Ephesians 2:1-3).

All three seem hell bent (pun intended) on destroying us, so next time you are tempted to sin remember this, say this: “God is not tempting me beyond what I can bear but has provided a way of escape.”

Based on my new understanding of this passage, I had just wiped one of our most used Christian clichés off the radar screen and had to come face to face with God and the problem of suffering.

OK, so now what?

What are we to do when our pain is greater than we can humanly bear and how do we justify that with a loving God?

Scroll down for part two….’What Kind of God is He Anyway?’