Trusting God through Afflictions

One of the most incredible stories in the Bible can be found in the book of Job.  As we read through this book, we can see how Job went through a horrible loss, and yet God led him through and upheld him in all things.  In one day, Job lost his entire fortune, his children, and his servants but still kept faith in God.  Over the next few days he was stricken with horrible diseases and was brought almost to death.  Even after all seemed lost and he was given seemingly every excuse to curse God, Job was granted the strength to keep his faith in God and was even given great rewards and blessings.

As we travel through this earthly pilgrimage, we often find ourselves in situations that we would rather not be in.  We sometimes find ourselves echoing the words of the psalmist in Psalm 77: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favorable no more?”  Whether it is because of a loss of a job, a death of a close family member, or persecution from the world, we are called to maintain our faith in Christ to lead us through all things.

As we look back on our lives and throughout history, we can see countless examples of God using trials to the advantage of his children.  We are called to constantly trust in Him and to know that everything will work out to our profit.  One passage that has always given me strength through trials is II Corinthians 12:9-10.  In this passage, the apostle Paul is given a “thorn in the flesh”, and asks repeatedly for it to be taken away.  The answer he gets is something that we all need to hear when facing adversity. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Fast Food and Instant Coffee

Some things in life are better when they’re faster, like internet connections, horses and cars (okay, those last two depend on the person). For other things, though, there’s just no substitute for waiting for the real thing. For instance: fast food and instant coffee. Both will do in a pinch when you need a quick lunch or caffeine kick, but the quality just isn’t there.

In a culture that’s all about quick fixes and immediate gratification, it suddenly struck me that our Christianity sometimes reflects that. The results sometimes aren’t all that great when you take the easy route. There’s just no substitute for a home cooked meal or a freshly brewed cup of joe.  Here’s a couple ways we sometimes treat our spiritual lives like fast food and instant coffee.

It seems like a good idea at the time. When all we really want is to feel better, to be in a relationship, or have kids, it seems like the sooner, the better. What could possibly be wrong with NOW? It’s funny how we think that solving one little problem in our life will create total happiness and utter contentment for the rest of our lives. We don’t realize that the easy way out isn’t usually as satisfying as it looked beforehand.

It doesn’t last. The crazy spiritual highs we feel at certain times in life are amazing things. Singing with raised hands and crying out “Amen!” with a group of believers isn’t a bad thing, but it will leave you hungry again soon, just like a trip to a drive-through burger joint. A home cooked meal of doctrine and gospel, however, will fill you up and keep you going until the next meal. There’s no substitute for that. In relationships, churches and most of life, it often pays off in the long run to take the time and put in the effort for higher quality friendships or deepened doctrinal understanding.

We just don’t have the time. It takes ten minutes or so to brew a full pot of coffee. It takes several hours or more to fix a full Sunday dinner. It also takes time to cultivate a real relationship with God. Still, running through the drive through every once in a while won’t hurt you, and having instant coffee isn’t the end of the world. It’s so easy to listen to contemporary Christian music radio (NOT a bad thing in itself!!), but we can’t live solely off that. It won’t have the same effect on us that sitting under the preaching does. We need to be willing to put in the time every day to work for lasting, fulfilling results, not instant gratification Christianity.

Simply praying to God for the things we want doesn’t guarantee that we will receive them, and even if we do, it doesn’t guarantee that we will have lasting contentment from them. That job we’ve wanted for so long won’t necessarily solve our money problems. That relationship we’ve longed for might not fill the loneliness we feel. When I think about the things I want, I want them right now! I often find myself thinking “Lord I need this, and I need it yesterday!” I often need to realize that the best thing for me right now is to sit back and let God prepare a fuller meal. Wait a little longer for something so much better. Trust that if God hasn’t given you instant coffee this morning, He’s brewing up something so much better.

Suzie Kuiper

Depression and Suicide

A great deal has been made of the death of 63-year old actor and comedian Robin Williams. The entertainer took his life by means of hanging himself from a belt attached to a closet door in his bedroom. He thought that life wasn’t worth living anymore because he suffered from depression and was in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Robin Williams, of course, was not the only one who battled depression and committed suicide as a result. Many people both famous and unknown have felt so miserable that they have either ended their lives or seriously considered doing so. Christians too can fall victim depression. Elijah, for example, felt extremely sad after killing the 450 prophets of Baal by the brook Kidron and proving that Jehovah is God after the Lord sent down fire to burn his sacrifice on an altar on Mount Carmel.He even told God “it is enough; O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers”(1 Kings 19:4). His sadness and even depression was due to the fact that he felt all alone. Elijah was afraid that Jezebel was going to have him killed for what he had done. He thought that he was the only one who cared for the ways of God. The Lord told him that there were 7,000 other people who had “…not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18). All of God’s people, even those who are considered to the be wisest have battled depression. What is depression? It is defined as being a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are certain chemicals that affect the way the brain processes and responds to emotions. Symptoms can include loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed, weight loss or gain, and sleeplessness among other things. Sometimes depression is the result of sin. David felt depressed after Absalom and Adonijah, his own sons, attempted to overthrow him and died in the process. He was also deeply saddened when the first child born after his affair with Bathsheba died. These coups and the death of his newborn son were the consequences of his murder of Uriah and adultery with Bathsheba. Job, on the other hand, was depressed because he had lost all his children, his friends didn’t have any comforting words for him and his wife told him to “…curse God, and die” (Job 2:9). In addition he became significantly ill when boils broke out all over his body. In his afflictions he complained that God wasn’t treating him fairly. While God showed him that he was wrong and Job repented, he still faced trials that tested his faith and left him greatly discouraged. Ultimately God restored Job his health, his family, and his earthly possessions. Sometimes God uses the afflictions that we experience in life to draw us closer to Him and to test our trust in him. Robin Williams did not have faith in God. He was a wealthy actor who had everything that heart could wish and then some. He owned, among other things, an extensive bicycle collection. Ultimately, his wealth and possessions didn’t save and certainly did not earn him a spot in heaven. What Robin Williams didn’t know or have the assurance of is that “…godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:6,7). What he did in committing suicide was wrong for two reasons. First, it was selfish. Ending one’s own life in such a way shows that he thought only about himself and not the affect such a death would have on family and friends. Secondly, suicide is sin. It is unlawfully ending the life that God gave you to live. If you as a young person or young adult are experiencing depression and thoughts of suicide, talk to your pastor. Don’t end your life in such a disastrous way! What about the Christian? The Christian, unlike the wicked, can still have peace, contentment, and joy, even in the midst of depression. How is this possible? It is only experienced by the grace and holy spirit of God. It can’t be found in earthly prosperity. It can’t be found in the writings of Joel Osteen and others like him who promise a life almost free of pain and affliction. It can only be found in God. May we as young people look to God for grace as we go through our trials in life, including depression. When we look to Him, He will give us the peace and contentment that we seek.
Kevin Rau