We are up to principle 29 out of 30. Last week’s was on not going it alone on your Christian walk. Part of that sneaked into our discussion this week, the fact that the early Christians were mostly Jewish and had to cope with a lot of persecution from family and synagogue alike. Some moved away from their ancestral homes, and must have found it rather difficult to cope without their usual support systems. My impression is that they depended on Jesus and other Christians to fill in the gaps. That’s not a bad plan. I know when my mom was dying, it helped so much to be surrounded by loving sisters in Christ.
This week’s principle is that, “we learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.” We were looking at James 5, where he tells us to have joy in our trials. You know how is goes; testing our faith leads to perseverance, which in turn leads to maturity or completeness. Now our talkative class did not stick very close to the book, but I’m pretty sure none of us actually enjoy trials! But of course someone observed that we are not trying to learn lessons when it happens, we only figure it out afterwards. We spent a bit of time tossing around why endurance or perseverance is important. I can’t recall off the top of my head what was discussed, but had a story that I could not quite edge in going through my mind at the time.
When I was in junior college, I helped with the youth group, high school aged kids. At one time I was led to tell one young man that his faith was going to be tested and he should hold on tight to Jesus. Well, shortly after, he had a health crisis, the nature of which I can’t recall. We were all praying for him to recover and I believe he did, but he never returned to church. I have no idea what happened to him after that and can’t even recall his name. But I think it illustrates what happens when we get it in our heads that some adverse situation means that God doesn’t love us any more. We then make things worse by choosing wrong responses to whatever it is. We may lose years of our lives that could have been spent in fellowship with God, simply because instead of going through things with Him, we get mad and go off on our own and fall into who knows what. Hopefully that young man eventually came to his senses and came back to the Lord.
On the other hand, being we are a class of mostly well seasoned Christians, most of us have memories of the times we did hold tight to Jesus and some awful situation often had unforeseen benefits. When we endure, at the very least, we usually find it builds our faith. We got off on a bit of a tangent here, talking about people who seem to be in a bit of health limbo. They become ill, perhaps mortally so, but still there is a period where they are alive and in distress, and yet for whatever reason, the Lord has not yet called them home. An example was an elderly lady who really can’t get out an do anything any more, so she feels useless. Another example is one who is suffering from metastasized cancer and each needed treatment seems to depend on another, none of which would guarantee recovery. I don’t think we had any answers for those individuals, but we can certainly pray and support them as much as possible. I sometimes wonder if death is delayed in order to help the family cope. I felt that was the case with my mom at least. We had over a year to get used to the idea and figure our where the paperwork was and so on. It was helpful.
I don’t think we got much beyond all of that. The book suggests that if the adversity is bringing up anger, unforgiveness, bitterness or a lack of trust in God, then those may be the very issues God is wanting to deal with. We all need hope to cope with the ups and downs of life. As our MFT mentioned, if someone comes to her so depressed that they have no hope at all, they are most in danger of attempting suicide, unless they begin to have hope again. The hardest part in adversity seems to be to keep your eyes on Jesus, instead of the enormity of whatever you are facing. When we keep in mind that God can bring good out of anything, even evil, then we can have hope that eventually we will get to the other side of whatever we are currently facing.