By Lisa Copen
Friends aren’t perfect (even Jesus’ friends couldn’t stay awake when He asked them to!) but they make the journey easier. Sometimes they can make even the horrible, laughable.
Why are Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Vacation movie series so popular? Because we can relate! Someone else has vacations that include kids fighting in the backseat, car problems, strange relatives, and closed amusement parks.
When my family drove four hours out of the way to an amusement part that was closed, my mom made us get out of the car and take photos at the gate and sign that said “closed for renovations.” We were disappointed, but we laughed and sang the Wally World song (from Vacation) for a few hours on the return trip.
The mishaps in life are always more bearable (and even laughable) with someone who has been there! Share your feelings with a friend.
God is not finished with you yet!
Jeremiah 29:11 says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
God knows the appointed time that you will come to Him in heaven. Do you really want to interrupt His divine plan? Imagine planning a huge birthday party celebration for a friend. You’ve ordered the cake, you have the decorations up, and you’ve invited the loved ones to attend.
The big surprise is at 5 o’clock. When you arrive at 5, however, your friend sits there with cake all over his/her face, the gifts unwrapped, the room a mess and says, “You know, I came home early and I just couldn’t wait any longer. . .”
Magnify this to what God must feel when you dare to disrespect and not fear Him or the consequences, by messing with the party He has planned for your arrival in heaven.
Consider the possibility that your presence here on earth is necessary for God’s work to be done in the lives of others.
While we are quick to read the beginning verse of Paul’s feelings in Philippians 1:21, we need to read on.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. . . I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you [the believers] that I remain in the body.”
Read that again. “. . .it is more necessary for the believers. . .”
Death, resulting in heaven, (for believers) may be more comfortable, but it is more necessary that we remain.
In the book When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada, she confronts the issue of suffering head on, without wavering from the tough questions or how it emotionally feels, despite what we know to be true. When a friend questions Joni on why she should hang on any longer, Joni points her to Paul’s writings.
She tells her friend, “You may think it’s far better to depart and be with Christ, but as long as you remain in the body, your family and friends have something to learn. Think of the eternal importance.”
Many of you have shared with me how God has used your illness as an instrument. And some of you are stubborn in the most positive way! Regardless of the comments that believers throw your way, the pain that you suffer daily, or the doctor’s bleak predictions, you know that as long as there is breath in you, God is going to use you to glorify Him.
How does God do this?
He does this in many ways. One of which is giving non-believers something to ponder; if you can radiate joy, in the midst of your circumstances, why is their life falling apart because they drive a Nissan, not a Volvo? But Paul writes that his presence is necessary for the believers. What? Aren’t they covered? You ask. You mean I have to hang out in this turbulent world, without a moment of aching joints and difficulty breathing just to work on the hearts of those who God has already dealt with? What’s with that? Can’t they get it together on their own without my suffering?
Well, yes. Take the “me” and the “I” out of it and focus on God’s reasoning. God has a purpose for your life-right now, right here; the ways that God can use our suffering to mold us to make us more Christ-like number beyond infinity. But despite personal gain, imagine what the presence of pain in your life can do for those around you.
[pullquote]People learn to become more patient, compassionate, grateful and caring.[/pullquote] The nurse wonders why you glow with the Holy Spirit and she can’t seem to get motivated to go to church. The person that sits behind you in church thinks, Boy, he really seems to be in a lot of pain, but he’s still here. I wonder what I would do in that situation? I’m glad I know the same God.
When your brother watches a movie about someone fighting against all odds to climb a mountain, he may think, Wow, I should have that kind of discipline and motivation. When he goes to church, he looks around and thinks, Gosh, I really should read my Bible more. But when you arrive, your presence, your spirit, and your character, with God ingrained into each part of your soul, can, through the Holy Spirit, makes him desire to change, not just think about change or casually wish for change.
Crabb mentions this in his book Inside Out.
“Some people push me to do better by trying harder. Others draw me out to be better by enticing me with an indefinable quality about their lives that seems to grow out of an unusual relationship with Christ, one that really means something. . . The difference is enormous.”
Recently a news show on television took a closer look at what makes marriage work. One family shared their list of goals which included “Own a Lexus” (that was checked off already) and “Visit the Cartier store.” (I’m betting she won’t leave empty-handed!)
These are society’s values. But Jesus says the meek are blessed, they will inherit the earth and experience peace, (Matt. 5:5, Psa. 37:11). For He who is least among you all–he is the greatest (Luke 9:48).
That which we give Christ is precious to Him because we must sacrifice comfort (Mark 12:43). Proverbs 13:8 says, “A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat.” Those of us who have already lost that which we once put great faith in-our health-have no threat of losing it. It is in God’s hands.
Let’s face it: as a believer we know that we will spend eternity in heaven with Christ. We welcome relief from this world. Basically, we are homesick, as Paul likely was when he wrote “to die is gain…”
God knows this. Colossians 3:1 says, “Set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Homesickness is not a bad thing. We should long for our real home. And this world is not it!
We will not find, nor should we search, for true contentment. Contrary to what many believe, earth is not one big Disneyland; rather it is a spiritual battlefield. We are soldiers and we have scars.
Crabb writes, “We desire what we do not have and cannot have until Christ returns and restores everything, including ourselves, to the way it was meant to be. Until then, that intuitive awareness of trouble that clouds our happiest moments is reflecting. . . on a basic truth about life in a fallen world.”
We must rely on this. We must take that grain of mustard seed and hold it up and say, “Lord, I am tired. My faith feels weak. I don’t understand, but if this mustard seed can move a mountain, surely this amount of faith can get me through one more day.”
God never set us up to believe that this world would be easy. We’ve done that to ourselves. Many of us Americans have lived in a world where we get whatever we want. Because our luxuries are large, our God is small. When we lose our ease in life, our perspective of God becomes bigger.
God never changes, but our perspective of Him does. But He says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).
God is the ruler of your life.
“Unless God is the major pursuit of our lives, all other pursuits are dead-end streets, including trying to know ourselves,” shares Charles Swindoll. “They won’t work. They won’t satisfy. They won’t result in fulfillment. They won’t do for us what we think they’re going to do.” Only God’s Word will provide us with peace, wisdom and the ability to hang on one more day… And then one more day. . .”
Don’t give up! There is hope and help!
Lisa Copen is the author of ‘Why Can’t I Make People Understand: Discovering the Validation Those With Chronic Illness Seek and Why and the founder of Rest Ministries. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia since 1993.
There is no answer to these questions that can adequately be addressed in a single article. Our Rest Ministries Shop does have some wonderful books that will give you a chance to do some life-changing, follow up reading.