Do you ever wonder how much more bad news can you bear? I’ve felt that way of late, and recently had a week of just one piece of bad news after the other. None of it directly affected me or my family, but it concerned people in my circle of friends or connections, and it made me wonder what was happening.
A woman who had been perfectly fine one week, ended up needing brain surgery the next. A man in his forties, fine one day, the next in the hospital ready to have open heart surgery to open up four blocked arteries. Hot weather one week, and floods the next, brought on by former hurricane Barry, affecting major areas of the country.
These were not small matters, but huge issues of health and nature that affected families and states.
Just when life seemed so calm…everything changed.
As I write this, I reflect on this same week three years past, when not one, but three dear friends passed away within days of each other. Lives forever changed by loss and grief.
What do you do when you’re suddenly derailed by illness or disaster?
Know the saying, “there are no atheists in foxholes?”* When pushed against the wall in shock and fear, we cry out to God. Situations beyond our control are just that…reminders that we’re not in control. God is.
Turn to him.
We call on people of prayer. Those already within the Body of Christ do this without thinking, but for others, who are estranged from God or denying him on a fairly regular basis, there is this overwhelming need to reach out to those who are known to pray. When a family recently faced tragedy in Guatemala, a woman I only knew from a speaking engagement at her church several years ago, called me and asked me to pray and to get others to pray. The family needed God’s intervention. God intervenes when his children pray.
We begin to look at the amazing “ifs” surrounding the event. The doctor told the woman with the tumor, “if you had not come in when you did…” The wife of the heart attack victim told me, “if he had not decided to change jobs last year, he would never have realized how bad off he was.”
What we so often fail to see, is that it is in the little things of life, the snap decisions, the sharp but fleeting pain, that God is working, waking us up to trouble within or trouble without, and putting us in position to recognize his presence after disaster strikes.
Just like a failed marriage, health issues, natural disasters, even death don’t come without warning, as sudden as we think they are. There are warning signs all around us. We just have to wake up to see them for what they are. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church saying,
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.*
And this is the final reaction to such times — Fix our eyes on Jesus, not this world.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.*
Who is the eternal one? Jesus, who told his followers:
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.*
So, are you overwhelmed with trouble? Cry out to God, call on others to pray for you, look at how God has been working even before this happened, and fix your eyes on Jesus.
Know the peace only HE can give in the midst of the storm.
Grace and Peace
*Attributed to several, including Rev. William T. Cummings, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, C.V. Hibbard, among others.
*1 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NIV).
*1 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV).
*John 16:33 (NIV).