James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I am reading a book right now by a woman who lost her mother to cancer. And she is struggling with the common Christian idea that all trials and tragedies are “gifts from God, meant for our good” and that we are to be thankful for them.
Are we supposed to accept infertility, fatal car accidents, chronically-ill children, divorce, disease, cancer, natural disasters, the death of loved ones, etc. as “gifts from God” that He has deliberately given us for our good? Are we required to push away any pain or heartache or frustration because these are “gifts from God”?
I would say “No”!
Matthew 10:38: “and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
Oh, those crosses that we are asked to carry! They can be so awkward, heavy, and discouraging. Maybe it’s the cross of loneliness or a job you don’t like, financial concerns or a too-small house, a broken family or a difficult relationship. None of us like to carry these crosses, these burdens and heart-aches. That’s why we have to be told to do it. Because our natural instinct is to not carry them, to try to get them off of our backs and take the easy way.
And doesn’t it often feel like you didn’t really do anything to deserve some of those crosses? Like Simon (Mark 15:21), you are just walking along and minding your own business when, out of nowhere, someone grabs you and lays a cross on your back and forces you to carry it. And the kicker is that Simon wasn’t even one of the people screaming for Jesus’ death. He was from out of town, just passing through all the hoopla. He wasn’t part of the group that was crucifying Jesus (as far as we can tell). And yet, he was the one chosen to carry the cross. What a shock! What a change of plans! What an incredible, unexpected, “unfair” burden!
“When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. . . .
Jesus asked the boy’s father, ‘How long has he been like this?’
‘From childhood,’ he answered. ‘. . . But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’
“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.’” (Mark 9:20-24)
“A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” (Matthew 8:2)
“If you can” verses “If you are willing.” These are two very different things. One comes from a place of doubt, wondering if Jesus is really that powerful and if He can do what we are asking Him to do. And one comes from a place of hope and trust, knowing that He can do anything we ask but that He might not and we will have to trust that He has His reasons.
Jesus tells the first man that “Everything is possible for him who believes.” If we don’t believe that Jesus can do something, we don’t ask. We don’t persevere in prayer. We don’t take any steps in faith. Because we’ve already decided that it’s not really possible for Him. And our unbelief prevents us from getting His help.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)]
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46: 10)
A couple months ago, I was struggling with prayer, with laying requests down at God’s feet, with asking Him for more. I just couldn’t bring myself to “ask for more” when He’s already been so good to me. I felt like an ingrate who wasn’t satisfied with what He gave me, like asking for more would be showing that I didn’t appreciate what He already gave me, like it would say that I wasn’t content or joyful with my life.
I found myself tripping over the words in my prayer.
“Lord, You have been so good to me. And I am thankful for what I have. I’m not asking for something else or something more because I am not thankful, I’m just trying to be honest with what’s going on in my heart. We are supposed to be honest and lay our requests before You. But I don’t want to seem like I’m not thankful or content. You know that I am. Or at least I really try to be. But I still think it’s right to go to You with all wants and needs. So I’m not coming to You with my requests because I’m not thankful. I mean, You have proven to me how good You are by blessing me so much in the past, by always answering me, even if it’s not the answer I expected or wanted. But You always listen, always answer, and have always been good. And so I feel bad bringing another request to You, but . . . it’s just that . . . it’s just that . . .”
#19 Parenting is a learning process and we all do it differently. Go easy on yourself. When I was a child, I didn’t realize that parents could be scared and clueless and unsure. That went against the whole idea of being an adult. Adults knew what to do in any situation. Adults were confident and wise, even at the ripe old age of twenty-five.
I used to think that parents had the answers, that they had an innate sense of what was the right thing to do in any given situation. And what they didn’t know, they looked up in the big book that they all got when they became parents. You know, the one with all the answers.
Well, maybe I didn’t get in the right line because I never got my book when I had kids. Instead, the curtain was pulled back and the truth revealed - so much of parenting is really done by the seat of your pants. Oh, I know some parents do better than others, and it comes more “naturally” to some than to others. But it’s a job were all of us go from not being parents to being parents. It’s a job where we all have to learn as we go. And we all come to learn that we know a lot less than we thought we did. As I see it, the older you get, the more you learn, the less you know. Which is why we parents desperately need the Lord. We need to be constantly on our knees in prayer.
#12 On a more practical note, take the responsibility of being a wise parent seriously and make conscientious decisions in life. By all means, put thought into the who, what, where, when, why, and how of raising kids. God gave them to you to raise. Never just accept what others say as truth, including the “experts.” Research it for yourself.