2004-05-24 - Adversity
Lamentations 3:32, "For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness."
On Friday, May 14, I had a procedure done at the hospital because of my continued poor health. By Monday, May 17, it had resulted in an infection and I was admitted through the ER for the entire week. Upon my release on Friday, I went home to find that a neighbor, well meaning as he was, had brought my mail in for me. Unfortunately, he left the house unsecured and open. When I returned home I found my three indoor cats, who had never been outside, were gone. I was sad, but also very angry. They have no idea about traffic, or how to fend for themselves, and I was sure my friends were dead. I remember thinking, "Lord, what next!?!" By the grace of God, they all came back, but as I began my reading on Friday evening I was amazed that everything I read was on the topic of adversity in the Christian life. It was a topic close to my hear, and here are a couple of things I learned from the authors Thomas Brooks and Thomas Adams.
"Afflictions are God's furnace, by which he cleanses his people from their dross. Affliction is a fire to purge out our dross, and to make virtue shine." (Brooks) My initial response was anger. It was not anger at God for bringing this challenge into my life, but rather, it was anger at the guy who left the house open. It is a blessing that he was not home when I returned home. He and I attend church together, and I very quickly decided that I could not forgive him and I would start refusing communion for the time being (Matthew 5:23, 24). My anger was wrong. A proper response would have been to seek to understand what God was teaching me in the midst of the hurt. As Brooks says, "The harder you beat me down in affliction, the higher I shall bound in affection towards heaven and heavenly things."
"No man can despair, that truly knows our good Lord Jesus." (Adams) For me this was the proverbial last straw. I called 2003, after three trips to the hospital via ambulance, losing my job because of health reasons, and a death in my immediate family, my "difficult" year. This year has been even tougher than last year. I told the nurses last week that I was living by the motto, "Cheer up, it is going to get worse." But that was not the thought in my head when I returned home Friday afternoon. I was borderline despairing. But again, this should not have been my response. A proper response would have been trust in the graciousness, mercy, and sovereignty of God.
In the movie, Heat, the lead bad guy, played by Robert De Niro, lived by the concept that in order to be a successful criminal you could never grow so attached to anything that you could not leave it in 30 seconds. The Christian needs to have a similar mindset (But not so radical -- affections are often a good thing) in his/her affections toward earthly things. It is a very hard to achieve, but we are not to be tied to thethings of this world. The things of this world are like a breath or a fading flower. They are soon gone. We are soon gone. As Christians we are to have a mindset that is set upon heavenly things. "So let the world take from us our riches, yet we have Christ; let it take from us our friends, yet we have Christ; let it take from us our liberty, yet we have Christ; let it take from us our wives and children, dear comforts, yet we have Christ; let it take from us our life, yet we have Christ; that is to us both in life and death an advantage." (Adams)
I am not sure how I will deal with the next adversity that hits my life, but I have to remember that I am a work in progress. Every child of God, while breath remains, is a work in progress. We can learn from our victories, but often we learn more from our mistakes.
I will close with a final quote from Brooks, "A gracious soul may look through the darkest cloud, and see a God smiling on him. We must look through the anger of his correction tothe sweetness of his countenance; and as by the rainbow we see the beautiful image of the sun's light in the midst of a dark and waterish cloud."
Soli Deo Gloria,