2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
How many times have any of us become weary of the routine events of daily living; experiencing nearly identical patterns day after day. Living a routine lifestyle is comfortable but offers little excitement. Humans frequently enjoy having something new and exciting come their way. New things have an appeal that attracts us and very often distract us. The Christian faith offers newness that disrupts the daily routines in a number of ways. Many have reread a scripture in the Bible and have it suddenly reveal something that they never before observed or thought of. Many have attended a worship service and have experienced a conviction to serve they never before felt. Some, during a period of prayer, felt a presence and, perhaps, a Spiritual direction they had never before felt. Such disruptions are blessings that are personal in nature and instrumental in spiritual growth. I hope that everyone may experience such disruptions in their lives.
Psalm 5:1-2 NIV – Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. A Kenny Rogers song from the late 90s includes the following lyrics in the chorus.
I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times, But this time your hurting won’t heal
It is probable that most of us have experienced sad and bad times where it seemed that the pain and sadness would never end. Painful times weigh heavy on the body and soul. Such times can take us to the very limit of our endurance and faith. Some may have even lost their faith if it were not well rooted to begin with. In times such as these we might ask God why we have to go through such woeful times.
There is no simple answer for such troubles that come our way in this fallen world. Still, there are some things we can remember when we next face them.
We are never alone in our pain and sadness. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”.
In these times God may seem far away but he is always with us. He stands ready to guide our everly step as we respond to our suffering. Still, people who believe in Him continue to suffer all over the world.
We live in a broken world, one in which humanity creates situations that bring suffering even onto the innocent. God does not create this suffering but all things are under his sovereign control and in his hands “all things work together for good”(Romans 8:28).
More immediately, when we go through periods of pain and sadness, there are a few things we can try.
Remember better times – Even while your mind is occupied with your current troubles it is possible to remember times of happy blessings. Take time, even in your sorrow and worry, to remember the times when prayer was answered and joy was abundant.
Pray – It may be difficult to find the words to pray when you are hurting, still, the Lord knows the desires of your heart. Reading through the Psalms quickly reminds us that King David was at times overcome with grief and feelings of abandonment. In Christ, we are never truly alone, no matter how much we may feel so, and prayer draws us closer to our Lord and God.
Letting Go – Letting go isn’t always easy. Sometimes we must let go of a lost loved one, remembering them fondly but not immersing ourselves in our sorrows. At other times it may be the letting go of anger or disappointments. Human relationships are loaded with interactions with imperfect people, why should we expect any relationship to be perfect in every way?
Waiting for it – Humans are impatient, always wishing to feel better immediately. Getting over any bad time takes a period of healing. Have the patience to allow God to be faithful and to heal you in his time when he knows you are ready.
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV – Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
The sign next to the front door of the church read, ‘The most influential person in your life is the one you refuse to forgive’. Have you ever given that idea any consideration? If you focus on the person you cannot forgive, all too often you lose your focus on those who should be foremost on your mind. Anger and hurt have the power to consume your attention.
The problem with anger is that it can temporarily give a person an ego boost, a false and dangerous boost. It is normal to feel upset or angry with someone who offends you and it is easy to fall into a sense of righteous anger. Unchecked anger often allows someone to elaborate on the wrongdoings of others causing people to imagine deeds greater than those that were actually done. Forgiving someone does not mean that you endorse the actions of another. We have all heard the phrase ‘accept it and move on’ but the word accept is fuzzy and has different levels of meaning to people. To some, to accept something is the same as endorsing something.
Acceptance does not mean to endorse or to justify the actions of another. It means that we acknowledge that some event occurred and we will no longer let the event have control over us. Forgiveness is an attitude more than it is a decision. To make a decision to forgive is not enough, we must be prepared to forgive over and over again.
Matthew 24:40 ESV – And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
William Booth founded the Salvation Army in London, England in 1865. Their mission was to help the suffering souls throughout London who were not willing, or were unable, to attend a traditional church service. The Salvation Army ministered to all people equally. Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and drunkards were among their first converts for Christ. On Christian Eve, 1910, General William Booth was invalid and nearing the end of his life. It was impossible for him to attend the annual Salvation Army’s convention yet he greatly wished to encourage their many laborers for Christ in some small way. He decided that a telegram to be read at the convention might bring them encouragement but funds were limited and telegrams were priced by the number of words in the message. Booth pondered this carefully before acting. As the thousands of Salvation Army delegates met for their convention, the moderator opened the gathering by saying that General Booth would not be attending due to his failing health. A cloud of gloom quickly swept across the faces of the attendees until the moderator announced that Booth had sent a telegram to be read at the opening of the first session of the convention. As the assembled watched, the moderator opened the message and read it. It simply said, “Others!” General Booth wished more than anything that the people in attendance focus themselves upon the needs of others. Any ministry that focuses outward will continue to flourish while ministries that become inwardly focused will gradually wither. The measure of a person or organization is often found more in what they, or it, are willing to do for others than in what they, or it, are willing to do for themselves.