In Your Mid-life Struggles: Look at the Big Picture
"No one is immune to pain or insulated from suffering, and no one gets to skate through lfie problem free." Rick Warren
"Life is a series of problems. You solve one, another on is waiting to take its place!" Have you ever noticed that your darkest days - the days when you feel abandoned, betrayed, crushed by all kinds of living incidents for which you are out of options, when the pain is great, that's when you turn to God! That is when your prayer is the most heartfelt and honest...
God rules over all things...He's in control...He sees the picture of your life journey. Has challenging as this may sound to our rational mind, He would never aloud anything to happen if it was not in the best interest of our personal and spiritual development. Through struggles we develop character (patience, serenity, hope and trust)
"To believe that in your suffering God is distant, unfaithful and inattentive, or that your suffering is a sign that God is evil is to lead yourself into major discouragement. Who else can you count on if He’s not there assisting you in your trial journey of pain?
Analogy to illustrate the action of the All Mighty in our sufferings
I would like to illustrate this with a real life analogy from the book: “Where’s God When it Hurts?” by Philip Yancey The author met this young lady we will identify her to be Janet. To summarize her painful journey of suffering, let us say that this young girl was a very sportive: riding horses, playing sports or swimming when a “two-second mistake completely changed her life, but not her optimism. Without thinking, she dove off the side of a raft in shallow water, and hit a rock with her head. “My limbs splayed out. I felt a loud buzzing, like an electric shock accompanied by intense vibration… I couldn’t move! My face pressed hard into the grinding sand on the bottom, but I couldn’t pull away. My brain was directing my muscles to make swimming motions, but none of them responded. I held my breath, prayed, and waited, suspended face down in the water.”
The treatment begins…surgery… Picture her strapped on a frame, flipped at every few hours- her face poked into a small opening in the canvas sheet to which she was strapped… metal tongs inserted into the holes in her skull –hoping that it would solve her problems and put her on her feet again when the doctors confirm that the injury is permanent and that she will never walk again and will only have limited use of her arms.
A period of depression and of discouragemen,t a feeling of helplessness; wanting to die… as much of a full life she as known, what will she do now? Where is God in this situation? The answer came from a visitor as he quoted a Bible verse: “I have come to give you life in all its fullness.” Picture Janet’s cynical reaction: “I was so bitter and cynicals,the thought struck me as mockery. Life in all its fullness?”…In her spiritual struggle…Janet had to learn:
To overcome the barrier any disabled person must face which is to learn to accept her condition and its limits.
To Search for new ways of coping with her handicap and to educate “normal” people that often feels uncomfortable with her, normal reacting approaches.
To Learn to accept the help of others in her state of dependency just as much for emotional and spiritual support.
The spiritual journey"Everything that happens to you as spiritual significance." Rm 8:28,29
Through suffering Janet experiments God’s compassion as she discovers(The paralysis of Jesus on the cross; (God has experimented suffering in the person of His Son. Janet discovers that her identity is now merged in Go, for He lives and suffers with her.
She learns to depend on Him:
“O.K., I am paralyzed. It’s terrible. I don’t like it. But can God still use me, paralyzed? “Maybe God’s gift to me is dependence. I will never reach a place of self-sufficiency that crowds God out. I am aware of his grace every moment. My need for help is obvious every day when I wake up, flat on my back, waiting for someone to come and dress me. I can’t even comb my hair or blow my nose alone! But I do have friends who care. I have the beauty of the scenery I paint. I can even support myself financially – which is the dream of every disabled person. Peace is internal, and God has lavished me with that peace.”
Janet found her mission… she became a public speaker, she learned to paint, she even drives her own van with customized controls. She’s married. “I thought my life had been crushed beyond repair. But, with the help of God and my friends, it has been rebuilt. Now can you understand why I’m so happy? I’ve recovered what I thought would always elude me – life in all its fullness.”
What more can we say?
Janet journeyed through “war” with God; she went as far as to contemplate suicide. She experimented the feeling of hopelessness, of anger, of doubts about His Love and the wisdom of His teachings.
There’s a very important message we can grasp from her experience; learn to let go of our self and to trust in God, to surrender. Allow God to use your weaknesses for His glory - for, His glory consists for you to bear good fruits.
When Janet journeyed out of her spiritual war - she chose to hope and to believe - it was a new beginning for her. She received the grace to accept, and from then on began to find ways of coping with her handicap. Progressively, she journeyed in discovering God's plan for her...and we know the rest of the story. The conclusion is striking: her happiness as she rediscovers a new sense of fulfilment about life, like she never expected it before, and that was her reward.
This miracle can happen in our lives if we give God a chance. We might consider our mid-life journey to be meaningless and we might be tempted to find comfort in the attractions of this world – shadow-glories in sports, in voyage, in sex, in excessive food consumption, in excessive work or in material goods. The following story illustrates this situation.
There was a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father: "Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me. So, the father divided his property between them.
A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating but no one would give him anything. One day he came to himself and he said:
"How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him:"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands!"
So he set off and went to his father. While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son."
The father said to his servants:"Quickly, bring out a robe the best one – and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals to his feet. Get the fatted calf and kill it, let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is now alive again; he was lost and is now found! And so they began to celebrate. Now his elder son was in the field and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. He replied: Your brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound. He became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father:
" Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But this son of yours comes back, after having devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!"
The father said to him: Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found. (Luke 15, 11-32)
I would like to conclude this encounter with the following reflections:
Hope vs. Positive thinking
We attempt to interpretate hope having everything to do with positive thinking. We are human beings with a rational mind and yes a positive attitude is necessary if we wish to journey forward through our everyday issues. But, there comes a time when the challenges we face are so overwhelming and we feel they are beyond our control... This is were hope comes in and this is much more than positive thinking.
In French, hope as two words:a) espoir (is more like a strong desire, or wish for something)
b) espérance (is a strong belief or absolute conviction based on a promise. There's the element of assurance) Espérance comes in when all human facts shows a situation to be without any issue or hopeless. In this case we must count on the promise of Someone much greater than humanity with faith,trust and love.
Nothing as been taken for granted in God planning of your journey
This quote of Rick Warren stresses this.
"God's plan for your life involves all taht happens to you - including your mistakes, your sins and your hurts. It includes illness, debt, disaster, divorce and death of loved ones. God can bring good out of the worst evil."
God's plan is good...Where do we find positive in a swimming accident that deprives of your physical abilities? Can there be something more frustrating than to feel an itch and not being able to scratch yourself! Can there be something more down grading than having to earn a living feeding pigs with an empty stomach? Yet, you have seen the outcome,so...refuse to give up...Take this opportunity to grow in character, in faith and hope! Not easy!We have to recommit to this on a daily basis, I know!
The spiritual definition of maturity according to Rick Warren is: "Beginning to see the hand of God in the random, bafling and seemingly pointless circumstances of life. Instead of asking the question: WHY ME? ask the question WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS?"
Holy Bible - The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Bible Press a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville Tennessee 37214.
Where is God When it Hurts? by Phillip Yancey, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, Copyright 1997
Graphic of The Prodigal Son http;//www.bridges-across.org/ba/nouwen.htm - Masculine and Feminine God
The Purpose Driven Life - What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49530 Copyright 2002