Trusting Through Trouble
By Jill Briscoe
As we begin to accept that storms happen and as we meet adversity, we are faced with another choice. In what spirit will we accept these dark, difficult days? We can grit our teeth and hunker down to wait out the storm with something akin to fatalism, or we can begin to trust God to bring something good out of a bad situation. Elisabeth Elliot calls this latter approach “a trust that becomes a springboard for action.” She delineates a difference between resignation and acceptance – and there is a difference. What is more, Elisabeth Elliot should know!
Doing Something Positive With the Negatives
Along with four other women, Elisabeth waited by a shortwave radio, listening for a message from their husbands, who had taken a flight into hostile Indian territory. The young couples had been trying to reach the Auca Indians in Ecuador with the gospel. When no message was received, a search party was sent out after the men, and eventually the dreadful truth was discovered. The young missionaries were found lying face down in the river, killed by the poisoned lances of the Indians.
This terrible happening had not been on Elisabeth’s agenda! Now her whole world had crashed around her.
Elizabeth discovered she had a choice. She could resign herself to the situation and return home with her young daughter, or she could ask the Lord, “In what redemptive way can You use this?”
Elisabeth chose to trust God to do something positive with the negatives. And she decided to be part of the action. She and her young daughter and Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s sister) bravely set off into the jungle and found the tribe that had killed Nate and Jim. The women were well received and allowed to make their home among the Indians. After the Bible was translated and the Gospel shared, many in the tribe turned to Christ. Later, Nate and Marge Saint’s daughter, Kathie, was baptized in the river where her daddy had died. Truly God used that particular situation in a redemptive way.
Trusting God brings a certain element of hope to our hearts – that there is something redeemable in the most awful situation. This trust is a tenacious, spiritual insistence that God is in control and already taking eternal measures to work out his ultimate purposes. What are we supposed to trust God to do for us? To right the wrong? To reverse a disease? To bring our loved ones back from the dead, or an unfaithful spouse home again? Sometimes God does the unbelievable, but other times He doesn’t. There are, however, certain things we can bank on His doing.
Learning Something New About God
First of all, we can trust God to show us something new about Himself. John 11 tells the story of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were close friends of Jesus. One day Lazarus fell ill. Jesus was busy teaching far away. As Lazarus got worse, Mary and Martha decided they had better send for Jesus. When Jesus got the message, His disciples expected Him to drop everything and go to help Lazarus at once. They knew how much Jesus loved this man. The sisters also fully expected Him to come immediately. But Jesus did the strangest thing. He stayed just where He was for a few days. No one could understand this, as Lazarus was near death.
In John 11:4, Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” This whole situation wasn’t about Lazarus getting sick; there was a bigger picture being painted. When Mary and Martha’s brother died, everyone was confused – except Jesus. He always knows what He is doing. He knew exactly what His dear friends and disciples would learn. They would learn something new about Him!
When Jesus eventually arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. The sisters asked the Lord, Why didn’t you come? “If you had been here,” Martha and Mary protested, “my brother would not have died” (Jn. 11:21, 32). Undoubtedly this was the truth. But Jesus wanted to teach them that He was not just a great healer, He was the Resurrection and the Life. So He raised a man to life who had been dead four days, and He did it in front of witnesses. What great glory was brought to God!
Through this experience, those close to Jesus learned a greater lesson, and sometimes that can be reason enough for the seemingly unfathomable behavior of a God who appears to be paying no attention whatsoever to our urgent demands. It is certain that after this event Lazarus was able to say like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15)!
Above all, the thing God wants us to learn about Him is that He has our greater good in mind in order that we may see Him more clearly. Job said, “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you” (Job 42:5, TLB). Because pain drives me to refocus on God’s “size” – His might, power, and ability – I am more ready to cast my care in His direction, more ready to trust that He knows what He is doing, whatever happens to me. No book on the subject of pain can be written without Joni Eareckson Tada coming to mind. At age seventeen, Joni dove into a lake and broke her neck, causing paralysis from the neck down. After agonizing adjustments, Joni says, “My paralysis has drawn me close to God, and given a spiritual healing which I wouldn’t trade for a hundred active years on my feet.”
Years ago, Joni accepted an invitation to speak in Milwaukee. I had the privilege of accompanying her to the auditorium. We waited, along with many business people, to get into the hotel elevator. Joni was radiant. No one in the elevator was talking. So I asked Joni what she was going to talk about, and when she said “Grace – and I’m going to sing about it too,” there were more glances. Then she began to practice! I wish I could have captured the reactions on film. When we exited the elevator, there were many tears on the faces of the people. Joni sang, pointing people to a God of gracious enabling. Her trust shamed those of us who could walk out of that elevator on our own two legs. She would say that God has her greater good in mind. God is her Heavenly Father who has promised to never leave her nor forsake her. When our children were small, David, our six-year-old, hurt his arm. I called the doctor, and after a visit, he made an appointment for an X-ray. David had the accident on Friday, and the doctor assured me it would be fine to wait until Monday to go to the hospital. My husband told David he could stay home from school because he was going for an X-ray.
The weekend over and the time having arrived for the appointment, Stuart told David it was time to go. Our son seemed to be very reluctant to get into the car. On the way to the clinic, my husband glanced at him and saw that he was white and trembling. “Dave,” he said, as reassuringly as he could, “there’s nothing to be frightened about. It’s only an X-ray, and I’ll stay with you all the time.” “Don’t tell me there’s nothing to be frightened about, Dad,” our little boy replied. “I know what an execution is!”
My husband and I were aghast that the poor child had had to wait three days with this on his mind! The amazing thing was that he turned up! In effect, he got into that car, saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” It was his father who had made the arrangements. Somehow, it had to be all right, and his dad had promised not to leave him alone for one minute. Oh, that we could all have such trust in our Heavenly Father.
Learning Something New About Myself
If trusting God during trouble allows me to learn something new about Him, it also teaches me something new about myself. Learning trust (which I can never learn unless I have something to trust God for) shows me how far I have to go in my own growth and development. It shows me the caliber of my faith. When I was a child, the Second World War drove my father to move his family to England’s Lake District. A particularly vicious air raid resulted in our running as far away from the bombs as we could. My father purchased a sturdy little cabin cruiser and deposited us on it until he could find suitable housing in our new environment. We learned to be up early in the morning, dive over the side for a quick bath, and be ready for breakfast and school in no time flat.
I will never forget breaking the thin film of ice on the lake as winter came. No matter that we knew how cold that water was, no amount of mental preparation could help us with the actual experience of jumping into it. In the same way, no matter how well we think we have prepared ourselves for the troubles we know will be our lot, the actual experience takes our breath away. It’s like diving into that ice-cold water. You are prepared to pay the price and plunge in, believing that, once submerged, you are equipped to cope. As soon as you hit the water, you find yourself gasping and spluttering. You are surprised at yourself, but you are learning something new.
Pain really hurts. Bodies really bleed. And trauma is traumatic! The mind can do its best to prepare us, but when we are in over our heads, we will find out exactly who we are and what our trust is made of.
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