In this past month my family and I have been journeying through a real stressful time. For the past month I have been house bound recovering from serious spinal surgery. The pain is slowly going away and the medication has decreased from 22 pills a day to only 2. To make matters worse, half way through my recovery, my son was involved in a serious car accident. Though the car he was driving is totaled he is okay but I’ll never forget that phone call informing us of the accident. It was terrifying.
Needless to say the stress around our household has been intense. My poor wife has been left holding the bag, taking care of a debilitated husband, doing work and chores, driving our daughter back and forth from school every day and also to and fro from soccer four times a week. While she drives both her and I fret that our last remaining car, which is over 12 years old, will break down because it truly is on its last legs (or should I say wheels?). When it rains it pours and right now we are in monsoon season here. All of this craziness has circled our lives and I get a front row seat watching it storm all around us as I go stir crazy sitting in my house for over a month.
I know there are many people who have it harder than us right now. I also know that there will be other times we will face rough patches in our lives. I suppose this is just par for the course. But man this is a tough course to play in! So, how do we get through tough times? I would like to share a few thoughts for what they are worth:
1. Expect Trials
Rough patches in our path of life should not surprise is. In fact they should be expected. In fact Jesus told us; “In this world you will have trouble…” (Jn 16:33) So, get ready for trials. They are all part and parcel of this crazy thing called life.
2. Learn From Trials
Not only should we expect trials but we should develop an expectancy of learning during suffering.
When I received the phone call about my son’s car accident I quickly grabbed hold of the crucifix I wear around my neck I bought back in 2004 when I went through a worse string of trials then this current round. (Murder of a friend, death of a child I knew & a paralyzing accident). I intuitively was clinging to the cross. It was all I had.
I have learned the way to deepest spiritual growth goes through the cross. Prayer, sermons, Bible study, church, etc. are good but we learn the deeper things of the soul only through suffering – this is the way of the cross. I wish there was another way but there isn’t. It is only through the cross we are given the opportunity to be purged of any false idols we cling to that give us cheap thrills but, in so doing, block us from close contact with our Father. Suffering purges us of idols that cannot help us in times of trouble & drive us to the only reality that provides purpose & meaning – God. Suffering gets us to the point we can pray, in the words of the great martyr, Oscar Romero; “I can’t. You can.” That is the type of prayer God answers because it welcomes him into our lives.
3. Expect From Trials
If we prepare ourselves to the reality of trials & allow them to purify our souls of false attachments we are left with total dependency on God. This is a great place to be. The alternative is bitterness. In surrendering we find God because suffering, if we allow it, produces humility. By clinging to the cross of Jesus we receive the peace of Jesus as we come to realize that the greatest blessing in our lives is not the cessation of suffering but the presence of Christ. This is why Jesus said; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33) Accept the cross of suffering as a gift by surrendering to God & you accept the Savior on the cross. That sounds like a great deal. In this way there is triumph in suffering as God’s greatest miracle is the cross of Jesus. The sad alternative is to not cling to the cross of Christ & become bitter fools. It all depends on how we react to suffering.
Rev. Colin McCartney is the founder of UrbanPromise Toronto and Connect Leadership Ministries. He has appeared on Canadian television, radio and national newspapers regarding urban issues. Colin is the author of two best sellers, The Beautiful Disappointment and Red Letter Revolution, is a mentor to pastors and business people and is in high demand as a speaker who has spoken to audiences as large as 7, 000 people.