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Monday, October 10, 2011

Can Life's Adversities Draw One Closer to God?

Throughout the years that I have been involved in various types of Christian ministry--music director, Pastor, evangelist, chaplain--sooner or later the issue of life's adversities will come to the forefront of discussion. It is inevitable, for if you live long enough you will encounter loss, pain, disappointment, grief, sadness, and even despair.

Such is the nature of life.

And, as human beings who have been endowed by their Creator with a brain, we have serious questions to ask concerning such suffering that go to the very heart of our faith.

As one who has been heavily involved with ministry to those who are in crisis, I have observed that it can go either way--either a person finds themselves pushing God out of their lives due to the feeling of abandonment, or they will find themselves drawn closer to God in the midst of such suffering.

Thus, I can say that life's adversities can draw us closer to God, provided we keep a level head and think our way through it.

God never promised a life free of pain and suffering, but He did promise that He would be with us through it. His presence helps us deal with the devastating effects of illness, disappointment, grief, trauma, and hopelessness.

And, if we push away the very One who helps us during such times, then we are dreadfully alone in the middle of it.

I will confess that I have reacted both ways to various and sundry calamities that have befallen me.

Earlier in life, I had my plans mapped out. I knew what I wanted to do, how I would do it, and I set about to reach those goals with a single-minded purpose. Then, the rug was pulled out from under my feet. I was absolutely devastated to the point of complete despair, hopelessness, and overwhelming anxiety, having everything I had counted on taken away from me. God was at once a source of strength but also a source of my blame. At one point the blame was so deep and thorough that I wanted nothing to do with church or ministry.

Eventually I saw the absolute folly of that course of action and corrected it.

But then, in other episodes of deep pain, I have found the presence of Christ to be the only thing that kept me going.

Some of you are aware of my various physical maladies that have befallen me in recent years. I had no idea anything was wrong until one day, out of the blue, I was struck with a serious vision problem that sent me to a specialist on a emergency basis. I was then referred to yet another specialist.

The diagnosis was clear, but the underlying source of it was a mystery.

In the meantime, I began to experience other distinct symptoms involving multiple body systems such as the joints and skin. This gave physicians an important clue, which eventually led to a diagnosis. I was also diagnosed with yet another malady that had nothing to do with this one.

The good news is that the eyes, after 3 years, have stabilized. I still have intermittent problems, but nothing to the degree with which I suffered for the first 2 and a half years. I am told that, if the diagnosis is correct, the eye problem should gradually clear up--in about 7 more years. I kid you not. 7 years is a long time, but it is much better than going blind.

The other problems, however, represent the bad news. They are chronic and lifelong.

I cannot work a 9-to-5 job like most people due to the ill effects of the illnesses on the body, and the medications for them. I would qualify for government disability, but I will not do that if I can avoid it. For one thing, I don't believe in it, and for another thing, I am not ready to give up or give in to the maladies that beset me.

Thus, I am forced to work 3 different jobs in order to piece together enough money to squeak by--barely. That in itself takes its toll.

Through it all, however, I found that the presence of Christ has grown more poignant, my spiritual life deeper, and my faith enriched like it has not been in years. My troubles this time have not resulted in my pushing God away in anger but in drawing Him closer, infinitely closer. And I am most richly blessed.

My friends, do not push God away when life comes apart. He may be the only friend who can truly help you through it.  

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