In the Midst of Trials, But God! – Part 1
- Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Last June, I felt that first searing pain shoot down my right leg. Within a couple of weeks, I could barely walk and was having a difficult time in general as my back and both legs hurt. After x-rays and talking with a lot of people, I thought I had a disk problem and started forcing myself to walk at least a half hour a day in hopes of a gradual recovery.
During those days, while the pain eased off after a walk, my condition slowly worsened. I learned how to move carefully, among other things, but soon got to the point where I couldn't sleep. So, by the grace of God, I did get a lot of work done during the long nights over the last eight months. Eventually the pain so intensified that I could no longer walk around the neighborhood.
Then, just after Thanksgiving, something unexpected happened. The muscle spasms started. So often, as they came wave upon wave, all I could do was sit in my chair and scream. I would occasionally fall to the ground unable to walk. I would sit or lie almost paralyzed in pain, sometimes for hours at a time. Of course, pain medication and muscle relaxing medication provided some relief. And yet by January, I was only able to walk short distances and that with a cane. I could no longer stand to preach but had to sit on a tall chair. By February, I was relegated to a wheel chair, almost immobilized. What I did not know at the time was that if something was not done, I was on my way to being paralyzed.
I finally saw a doctor who recommended an MRI. After two of them, a benign tumor was discovered on my spinal cord. The solution was surgery to remove it. The neurosurgeon consulted with me on a Friday and operated on a Tuesday. Her feeling was that we could wait no longer if we were to avoid permanent paralysis. By the grace of God, the surgery, two weeks ago, was a complete success. I am walking now, and that pain free. But God!
Some of you even now find yourselves in the midst of a trial. You have not found relief yet. My momentary light affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17) lasted eight months until surgery and now I am on the road to recovery. Your trial may have just begun or you may be approaching that point of relief. Indeed some trials end in heaven rather than relief in this life, though most end in relief here. But whether your trial is over or just beginning, whether you see light at the end of the tunnel or not, the words are still true: but God!
The apostle Paul found himself in the midst of trial on many occasions. At one point in his life and ministry, he was in prison for the sake of the gospel. He was in chains for Christ. In that position, he was concerned for the saints at Philippi and wrote to them very specifically, among other things, "I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel (Philippians 1:12)." From this word from God, and sharing something of my own experience as illustration, we can glean some lessons for those times when we find ourselves in the midst of trial.
First, in the midst of trials, we must remind ourselves that we have a certain knowledge. Paul says, "I want you to know." Obviously, Paul wanted the Philippians to know that his trial had served to advance the gospel. But, there are certain things behind that affirmation that we must know if we are to make such an affirmation. In other words, we must take this verse and our trials and put them in the context of what God is doing in His world and in our lives.
For example, we know that God loves us, despite the fact that we find ourselves in the midst of trial. Peter tells us that we are to cast all our care upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
We know that in the midst of trial, we have an advocate. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted/tried/tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15)." We can get grace to help from the Lord Jesus in the midst of our sufferings.
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