Up in Smoke
By Tillie Marchman
"Most senseless of all is the incredibly fast pace of living that robs everybody of everything but their unwanted fatigue." When I first read this sad statement describing the American lifestyle, it caused me to stop and take a good look at my life and what I was doing with my time. As a result, I made the commitment to simplify my life in any way I could, take a good look at my priorities, and to determine what was really important to me and to God.
Consequently, the daily-grind type of stress that Chuck Swindoll calls "the tyranny of the urgent," the kind that comes with overcommitment and living the hurried lifestyle, has eased considerably.
But there are other kinds of stress that come from living in a world where Jesus promised us that we would have suffering. He said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b).
Because we live in an imperfect world, this kind of stress can "hit us from the blind side". We may feel shocked, hurt, or sad. We may even find ourselves questioning God.
Oswald Chambers said, "The things we try to avoid and fight against – Tribulation...Suffering...Persecution...are the very things that produce abundant Joy!"
That's a strange statement...almost like an oxymoron. But I have experienced the wonder of it...
When I was in Home Health nursing, I dropped by the office to pick up some supplies. I was met with anxious faces and bad news. "Tillie, we've been trying to contact you. Your neighbor called and said that your house is on fire!" While my mind was trying to process the alarming information it had just received, I was able to calmly give the paperwork and instructions for my last two patients that day to another nurse. As I turned to go home, two of my coworkers said, "Let us go with you. You shouldn't have to face this alone."
I graciously declined their offer because I needed to be alone with God. I needed to get peaceful before I had to face the reality of this shocking news. I had learned that in most situations there is a small space of time between the moment you actually get "the phone call" or the potentially disastrous news, and the time you are given all the facts.
It's like a window of opportunity to go to God and say, "I don't know what I am about to face or what I may have to endure because of this situation. It is not what I would have chosen, but it is here." Follow the example of Jesus and say, "‘Father, if it be thy will, take this cup from me. NEVERTHELESS not my will but your will be done.' Then say, ‘Father, help me to glorify your name ... no matter what.'"
Remember, there is power in relinquishment:
You will be prepared.
You will have a peaceful heart.
You will glorify His name.
On the way home I said, "God, everything I have is yours and if you want it all you can have it, but I sure would like to have my family pictures; and you know that needlepoint that Grandma Kitty made for me before she died – the one with the purple violets hanging over my bed? Could you just kind of direct the fire in another direction away from that? I sure would appreciate it."
With peace in my heart and a willingness to give all my "things" to Jesus, I turned onto my street. Emergency vehicles were everywhere. Fire hoses were stretched across my front lawn and people I didn't know were coming in and out of my house. Apparently they had been able to put the fire out.
The firemen had to knock the back door down, to get in. Then they dragged the hoses through the house and up the attic stairway. An anniversary clock lay broken on the floor. Since the fire started in the attic, that's where all the water went. The ceilings, unable to bear the pressure, began to leak coffee-colored water onto the furniture and rugs. Eventually the ceilings fell.
As I was standing there thinking, "It could have been so much worse," a fireman came up to me and said, "Is this your house?" When I said, "yes," he told me that he saw a couple of men pulling the sofa and chairs to the center of the room where they were going to cover them with a tarp to protect them. He said, "I looked over there and saw that beautiful antique piano and I said, ‘Leave the stuff alone, it can be replaced. Help me move this piano.'" Then he said, "I saw all those family pictures on top of the piano. I laid them down and put your family albums with them before I covered the piano with a tarp."
I couldn't get to our bedroom because the way was blocked, so I walked around the back of the house and looked in the window. Grandma Kitty's needlepoint was hanging over the bed in perfect condition. This was probably the only room in the house that was completely untouched by the fire.
We didn't know it, because it had never been tested, but our insurance was wonderful. By nighttime all our furniture and other belongings that would have been damaged when the ceilings fell had been loaded onto two large moving vans and taken to storage.
The afternoon had been a frenzy of hyperactivity and noise. The children were all away at college. So when the firemen had come and gone for the last time and all the neighbors and friends who came by to check on us had left, Mac and I sat on the floor of our now empty dining room with peaceful, thankful hearts, discussing the events of the day. In the quietness of that moment, we were counting our blessings and experiencing an incredible closeness to each other, and it was good...it was very good. I felt the abundant joy that Oswald Chambers was talking about that day.
Because... as I drove out to the house, I prepared my heart to trust God – no matter what. In difficult times David was encouraged by remembering what God had done for him in the past. I thought about all the times that God had given me "beauty for ashes." He had proved to me many times that He could be trusted throughout the hardest circumstances and with the most sensitive and important issues of my life. Because I had grown to love Him so, and because I had come to know and understand His nature:
So powerful, and yet so gentle...
So uncompromising and yet so patient...
So righteous and yet so forgiving...
So all-knowing and yet so compassionate...
So wise... So good... So loving...
I was not afraid. I gave it all to Him and He gave it all back to me... and more.
Also, the fact that He so wonderfully granted my very specific prayers about the family pictures and the treasured gift from my grandmother was a confirmation of His love for me and His concern about the things that were important to me.
We stayed in a hotel for six weeks and came home to a practically new house. Everything was beautifully restored, better than before. And the insurance took care of all the expenses.
This was a classic example of God's promise in Isa. 61:3, "...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
Yes, stress can come upon us unexpectedly and be very difficult to deal with. But God is faithful to keep His promises. When we trust Him enough to really give Him our cares, no matter what, we will experience a peace and joy that we have never known.