Many of you may not know that this year has been extremely difficult for our family. The difficulties that we have experienced have not been of our doing. However, through it we have learned some really valuable lessons with regard to how we respond while in the midst of a prolonged continual trial.
It's so easy to have a difficulty arise and say you've given it to the Lord to handle and then look back once you've been through it and say, "Ah, I trusted the Lord and He got me through it." It is something entirely different when there is something that is thrust upon you, that you had no part in and in spite of efforts towards resolution and reconciliation, it only intensifies and keeps going.
What do you do? I learned many years ago when I was facing difficulty running, not walking, to the Psalms and reading them or singing praises to the Lord really helps refocus my thoughts and emotions. However, I have recently added something that I will do in addition to reading, praying and singing to the Lord. I believe another way to help us stay deliberately focused on CHRIST and not focused on our problem or difficulty is to go share the Gospel. Before you think, that is a really whacked out response or that I am disconnected from reality or trying to be "super spiritual" I'm not. It's just that the reality of what I claim was not consistent with what I believed. If I cower from a situation because I fear then I am allowing the fear to rule the situation and govern my actions.
Our family (my husband and children and myself) have experienced a situation that has caused us to be fearful for our lives. But, I have realized that I loved my life more than I ought. What happens if, for example, a gunman were to walk in and mow us down at a school, university, or gym? We get promoted, right? Why do I fear man (or woman) in this way? I shouldn't. It has caused me to understand more what is said in Mark 8:34-38,
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
Particularly, v.35 stands out to me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
In an effort of self-preservation I have avoided facing a difficult situation. I have allowed fear of death to prevent me from pushing through circumstances that may or may not result in this. I was listening to Mark Cahill address a group of college students about the Virginia Tech shootings that had happened. He challenged them by asking, "If the Virginia Tech shooter were to walk in this room right now, what would you do?" Most people would want to hit the ground. He challenged the students with the thought, "What if you could stop the gunman either by addressing him by name (as was the case with the boy who confronted Michael Carneal in the Paducah, Kentucky shootings) or would you and a group of men ambush the attacker while he reloaded instead of preserving your own life, knowing that you may die trying?"
He wasn't talking about stupidity that would run right into the cross-fire and take a bullet nor was he talking about placing yourself in harm's way for the sake of placing yourself in danger. That is foolishness of the highest degree. However, the deeper truth he was trying to convey was this: Do you value your life so much that you spend the majority of your life and allow the decisions you make to benefit you with the goal of preserving the life you have now, this side of eternity? Think about it for a moment. What are you doing in your life that is causing you to cling to THIS life you have now? My best life is not nor ever will be now! My best life is going to be on the other side of eternity. While I have known this I don't believe that I have ever understood the depth of this truth until my own life has been dredged this past year.
When experiencing a trial there is always collateral damage. There are unintended consequences to your life or things you suffer as a result of the difficulty. Today, I had that Helen-Keller-at-the-water-well experience as I understood that I have got to get out of "life preservation mode" and make certain that my focus and objective are not obscured by circumstance. I shared the Gospel today with two brothers in Christ who, while trying to walk in obedience, were only giving part of the Gospel. I have been sharing the Gospel this past year, but I also have allowed my problem to make me more lazy and less inclined to be obedient. I also have avoided the problem for fear of what the outcome may be.
Obviously, because I haven't revealed the details of our difficulty it seems somewhat enigmatic. Suffice it to say, I finally learned the lesson today that despite the trial or fear you believe you may feel as a result of it, God has never called us to be obedient whenever things are going our way or easy for us. I've known that on some level but never comprehended it at the depth I did today.
In a deliberate effort to establish habits that are God-honoring I will probably start sharing the Gospel when I am experiencing extreme difficulty, or saddened, or fearful. That is the one sure cure for making certain that I maintain my laserbeam-like focus on being obedient to the Lord no matter what. Lesson learned.