given on Sunday, November 16, 2014
Look around us. No matter where we turn there are troubles that fill conversations, television screens, Facebook postings, not to mention doctors’ offices, and more. Trouble seems to be a constant that multiplies rather than fades away. And even though we do not want to hear it, that phrase is thrown into our face over and over—life isn’t fair.
Yet, Christians have a different way of handling all the trials and tribulations that confront us each and every day. Granted, some days seem to be more loaded than others, but Christians seem to take the troubles and put them into their place.
In a little prayer book I have been using, day 53 has “a prayer about ADVERSITY: when I need to face the troubles that will come my way.” I read this prayer several times, and realized that it placed troubles into four categories that helped me to understand how adversity can overwhelm our lives. These are the words of that prayer:
Please don’t let the trials of life defeat me. Instead, let them make me stronger. Please help me see adversity with the proper perspective. It comes in a multitude of ways—accidents, sickness, calamities, disappointments, failures, grief, hard times, hurts, misfortunes. But this shouldn’t surprise me. You tell me in your Word that adversity will come, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes you send trials as a consequence for sin or as a way to strengthen my character. Other times Satan may send adversity to try to get to sin, and sometimes I bring trouble on myself by acting foolishly or sinfully. Others’ poor decisions or sin can bring adversity as well. I guess the one thing I can count on is that adversity will come? O Lord, may I understand that avoiding difficult times may not always be best for me. Though trials don’t feel good, if I don’t let them defeat me, they will is fact make me stronger. And may I always remember that you not only care for me during times of adversity, but you have promised to be with me through them.
The source of the troubles sets the tone for how well we manage them. First, sometimes troubles are simply an accident. There is no way to avoid or to prepare for them. You are at the wrong place at the wrong time. As a Christian, no blame is placed and you turn to God while you heal.
Trials do develop when one sins. The Old Testament is filled with stories of the sins committed by members of the chosen tribes. Sins are mindful decisions that go against God’s laws. The Old Testament provides a concise list of sins in the Ten Commandments, but giving in to Temptation damages our long-term relationship with God.
There are times when the troubles we experience are the result of someone else’s actions. We have a way of getting tangled up in them. Maybe it is due to a bad decision a friend made or maybe they get in a bind and lean on you for a solution. These are difficult to manage because the other person is a friend, a family member, or maybe a boss. Saying no to them appears to have other negative consequences. The question is what decision is a God-like decision.
Of course, the troubles we experience do provide us with some positives, too. In fact, as implied in the poem, some adversities may be God-planned in order to strengthen us or to build up certain weaknesses. While under the pressure created by one’s trials, we pray and listen for God to guide us. When we turn ourselves over to God, and trust in him, he will be with us no matter what.
Day 53’s prayer does not provide us a simple solution to managing adversity, but it does guide us to keep an open channel to talk to God. When we acknowledge a new trial in our lives, it is easy to give up; but this prayer reminds us God is always with us. The scripture reference used is Isaiah 43:2:
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you,
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not
be burned up; the flames will not consume.
These Old Testament words are echoed over and over in the Bible. Even one of the most familiar psalms—Psalm 23—reminds us that God is with us, always.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
The scriptures provide other words of encouragement throughout the Old Testament or the New Testament. Living the Christian lifestyle is challenging in a world that seems focused on having power and money at all costs. Christians are challenged by the non-Christian world.
In the prayer about adversity comes another secret for living with adversity:
O Lord, may I understand that avoiding difficult times may not always be best for me. Though trials don’t feel good, if I don’t let them defeat me, they will in fact make me stronger. And may I always remember that you not only care for me during times of adversity, but you have promised to be with me through them.
No matter what we do, we cannot avoid trouble. Whether it is a problem we make for ourselves or whether the problem spun out of somebody else’s decision, trouble is part of living our human lives.
God understands. He understands that we are human and we do make mistakes, and we do get into all kinds of trouble whether we want to or not. Yet, because we believe that God loves us so much that he gave his only son so that we may be forgiven, we only have to ask and to rely on God.
Jesus said it all when he prepared the Apostles for his final departure:
“You believe at last!” Jesus answered, “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Take confidence. God is with you. No matter what trouble you encounter, whether you caused it, Satan caused it, or someone else did, turn to God. Ask forgiveness. Believe. Pray. Each time you confront adversity you have an opportunity to grow in faith, to become a stronger Christian, to witness to others how life with God is good even when times are tough.
Dear Holy Father,
We know how difficult these days are
And how easy it is to gripe and complain
About the troubles in our lives.
We know that you have told us repeatedly
To turn our problems over to you
But I still worry.
I still make wrong decisions.
One trouble follows another trouble.
Help me turn my life around by trusting you.
Thank you for the gift of your son, for listening,
For words of assurance, and for the Christian family
Who supports and guides me, too,
In living through adversity.
May I continue to love others as I would love myself.