Responding to Unpleasant Realities

I have been experiencing some health-related complications. I’m having to adjust to some new and unpleasant realities and the adjustments are not easy. As one who has been blessed with good health for most of my 77 years, I admit I am spoiled. I am strongly “tempted to complain, to murmur, and despair,” as the old song says.

But then, I read about the sufferings of the apostle Paul, as I did the other day. My momentary, light afflictions are minuscule compared to his. He described  being repeatedly threatened, beaten, starved, shipwrecked, and imprisoned (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). In these verses you can read about the multiplied dangers to which he was subjected in his missionary labors. By comparison, my troubles are but minor inconveniences.

Yet they are my troubles and I must learn how to cope with them. I want to do that in a way that pleases God and does not diminish my testimony as a Christian. I have been learning to do a few things to help me respond Christianly to life’s difficulties.

I have found myself reviewing and reciting promises God has given his people for times such as I am facing. One such promise is 1 Peter 5:7 — “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It is a comfort to remember that God cares for me, he really does. In praying this promise back to the Lord I remember his faithful provision  and guidance in the past. He has cared for me in the past. He will be faithful to do so in the future.

Another response is to recall the attributes of God. Naming the characteristics of God in prayers of praise and thanksgiving deflects my attention away from my problems. This trains my mind to concentrate on God’s goodness, whether or not I understand his ultimate purposes. Often the scripture I am reading on a given day will show me some aspect of God’s nature. As I am reading, I pray that scripture back to him in praise. Sometimes I write those verses in my journal and refer to them again and again in my praying.

One example is Isaiah 57:15 — “For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” I love that verse because it magnifies God’s transcendent majesty, coupled with his willingness to be near to humble people who seek him. He is holy, he is eternal, yet he is also open to a relationship with folks like us.

Another thing, I want to resist the temptation to complain. If it is true (and it is) “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28), then complaining is an insult to God. If he has a purpose in my suffering, then I must accept that and “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). The context of that verse says that “God works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). It may be hard to see God’s good purpose in my circumstances, but I am given this promise so that I will know that he is at work in my life, even when life is hard.

These practices, remembering God’s promises, meditating on his character, and avoiding complaining, do not make our problems disappear. But they represent attitudes that contribute to our peace of mind and that meet God’s approval.

The Lord willing, I will undergo an operation in a few weeks. I fervently hope that it will provide some relief and improve my health. Whatever the outcome, I want to respond to life in a way that glorifies God and honors Jesus Christ.

If you have read this far, I assume that means you care enough to pray. Please pray for Connie and me, that we may “enjoy good health and that all may go well with” us (3 John 2). We appreciate your prayers.

Pastor Randy Faulkner