It is Well With My Soul: Trusting Jesus When Tough Things Happen
Leila and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the Cru staff wives of the Pacific Southwest Region last week at their biannual regional wives conference. I played too hard and came down with a sinus infection, flu-like yucky blah-blah. So now I’m stuck propped up in my bed breathing through my mouth. Can’t taste. Can’t smell. But I can type.
Reflecting back on our time, I was struck with how every attention to detail was met with excellence and beauty. Truly a time to showcase the various talents and skills of these incredible women coming from all over California, Arizona and even Hawaii. And to top it all off, the air was literally scented with orange blossoms everywhere we walked. Simply divine.
Leila and I were invited by the conference director, Becky, to be a part of the “share the wealth time.” In a brief hour and a half the women would have an opportunity to select three groups to take part in on various topics of interest. We were asked to give five minutes of content and facilitate ten minutes of discussion and then the group would rotate. Three rotations in all. Our topic: It is Well With My Soul: Trusting Jesus When Tough Things Happen. Clearly with that kind of topic we easily could go on for days, but amazingly we were able to condense into a couple of brief nuggets some thoughts and principals for walking through dark times.
Here is my attempt to capture what we shared:
The theme of the conference was In Every Season.
Leila started off with sharing how she loves the theme of seasons because they are ongoing and cyclical in nature. We are always in a season or moving into a new season or coming out of a season. Seasons are different not only during different times of the year, but also in different hemispheres. There are so many varying factors that go into fruitfulness: type of plant, age of plant, condition of plant, location of plant. Summer, she shared, was a time of harvest and fruitfulness. Autumn is a time going into death or dormancy. Winter is a time of seeming death and unseen growth. Spring is a time with signs of new life. There is no right or wrong to the seasons, they are just different. In the same way, there is no simple formula for how to Trust Jesus When Tough Things Happen. However, it is important to be in tune to where the Lord is at work because He is with us in every season.
I shared a few thoughts about a comment a pastor in India made to a famous seminary Professor. He said, “One thing I’ve observed about North American Christians is that you don’t enter into pain very well.” It’s true. Just walk down any medicine aisle in any store and every imaginable combination of pain relief is available for purchase. We are experts at numbing out pain: medicine, work, ministry, eating, shopping, cleaning, sleeping, surfing the net, staying busy, helping others, feel free to add to the list. (For the record: I absolutely support the use of medicine to help with chronic pain and brain chemistry, what I am addressing is more along the line of escapism).
Three things stood out from the tough time of battling cancer for me. First, I needed to learn to be a gracious receiver. I like to be the strong one, the helper, but in going through tough times I learned to depend and lean on others. Bringing people into the difficult times is key. Second, tough times caused my heart to soften towards others who have difficulty trusting God and for others who are walking through trials. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to convince others why they should follow God fully, but when faced with cancer I began to look at life differently. Life gets increasingly complicated and often there are more questions than answers. Tough times caused my view of life to become more shades of grey rather than rigid black and white, and it humbled my heart in a very positive way towards others who struggle. And finally from Psalm 23:
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Youprepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Such a well-known and familiar passage. But the observation that leaps out is how David switched from describing the Lord as He leads, He restores, He guides, etc. to You are with me; Your rod, Your staff, You prepare. “He” becomes “You” in the valley of the shadow of death. That kind of personal intimacy cannot be bought or taught. It is forged in the darkness, in the quiet of winter.
Leila then asked, and I invite you to answer as well:
What season are you in?
Where do you sense the Lord in the midst of where you are?
What do you need?
Another post you might find helpful along these lines: Wine and Trials