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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trials and trivializations result in character and refined faith

We have all faced trials in our lives where we have said, "Why is this happening to me?"  Or we have said, "Why do I have to endure such pain or misery?"  Yet the challenges we face are never more than what we can handle, and they always make us a better person, even if we don't see it that way at the time.

Character, modesty, humility, wisdom and a refining of our faith are developed through the hardships we face during the course of our lives.  We may sometimes feel as though things could not get worse, or we may feel like things may never get better, yet there is always a way out.

"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it" (Corinthians 10:13)

Another great description of the hardships of man is Psalm 77 which was written by the philosopher Asaph.  He describes his cries in the night because something horrible has happened to his life.  He describes his terrible suffering.  We all can relate to Asaph in this Psalm because at some point in our life we all faced a challenge that seemed to be never ending.

We face death and the challenges of death.  We face disease and the challenges of disease not just of our selves but the other people in our lives.  We face failures, such as the inability to get a job or of losing a job.  Since we are presently in a recession, many of us are presently facing the economic hardships that come with a recession.

Asaph writes, "...and my soul refused to be comforted."  Here he is describing how many of us felt during our time of hardship, our time of need.  No matter what we did we couldn't think of anything that would comfort us.  No words of others were comforting.  It seemed you were doomed to live in the miserable world you saw that day.

I remember being in the asthma hospital when I was 15, and even though I was told it would only be for 6-8 weeks, it seemed to last forever.  And then when the 6-8 weeks was up, I was told I would need to stay at the hospital another 6-8 weeks or longer.  I felt trapped.  I felt there was no way out.  I felt that nothing was ever going to get better.  I was depressed. I felt God hated me and was punishing me.

Then in our distress we yearn for the good ole days, as Asaph writes, "I thought about the former days, the year of long ago; I remember my songs in the night."  When I was suffering back then, I remember thinking about what my parent's house looked like.  I remembered my mom's smile and my dad's stern hand.  I remembered playing with my brothers.  I kept thinking of what it would be like to return to those days.  Even though my asthma was bad, I was still happy.

Yet here I was trapped in this hospital where I didn't want to be.  However, I never gave up.  I remember every night after the counselors had us go to our rooms for the night with the lights out, I would crouch down by the little night light on the lower part of the wall and I would open my Bible.  I would pray first off that no one would open the door to come check on me, because I didn't want to get caught.  It's not that I was doing something wrong, it was more I didn't want to explain myself.  And, thankfully, of all the three months worth of days I did this, I never once was caught.

I prayed.  I said every prayer I knew of at the time.  My mom gave me some book marks with prayers on them, and even thought the prayers may not have been relevant to my situation, I prayed them anyway.  I remember one of the prayers was footprints in the sand, and another was the alcoholics creed (although I didn't know it was the alcoholics creed at the time).  It was "God, grant me the serenity to..."

Either way I prayed, and I refined my faith.  Even though I felt trapped, I re-decided it was with a purpose -- to get my asthma better. Yet I was quickly realizing it was more than just asthma.  The challenges I endured at this place with the other kids and the counselors made me a better person overall.

Yes it was hard to see at that time, yet now looking back at it from the mind of the 40 year old me, I see that the challenges I endured at National Jewish Health/ National Asthma Center from January 1985 to July 1985 helped me develop a better character, humility and to become more modest.  Through my suffering, through the challenges that seemed to never want to end, I became a better person, and through my strength and desire not to lose faith, my faith grew to the size of a full blooming tree.

Asaph in his Psalm (versus 10-12) writes that in rediscovering ourselves we must remember all the good things that happened in the past, and all the good things going on in our lives today.  And Lord knows there are many good things going on in your life at all times, even though the hardships seem to overshadow the good things.

Yet I thought of the good.  I thought of how I have such great parents who gave me this opportunity to get my life in order, and my asthma better.  I have such good counselors and friends.  I had a good life overall, and when I got out of the hospital my life was going to be all the better.  Sometimes this was hard to do, yet as often as I was able I tried to think of all the good.

And the most remarkable thing about this entire event is that I did get out one day.  I remember my dad saying late in June of 1985, "Rick, you're coming home. I don't know exactly how I'm going to do it, but you're coming home.  I'm going to hang up now, but I want you to sit by the phone until I call back."

The funny thing was that we were only allowed 15 minutes on the phone, and my 15 minutes was up.  I was afraid my counselor would kick me out of the phone room so someone else could use it.  But for some rare reason (God perhaps) there was no one waiting behind me.  And my counselor wasn't being mean this day, and he allowed me to sit and wait for dad to call back.  My strength and prayer was answered.  The phone rang, "Rick, you're going home."

Another ironic thing is my faith came from inside me.  I didn't much read the Bible back then as I do now, what I knew of the Bible came from Catechism classes.  My faith came from my mom.  And I had never read Psalm 77 and even if I did I wouldn't have understood it anyway.

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