Listening to the Pastor’s message this past Sunday, I had a moment where I really thought he had read my mind. He was speaking about overwhelming problems and how they are the necessary precursors to miracles. But he suggested that many of us only see the ‘overwhelming’ part and respond in three ways: procrastinating, blaming others, and finally worrying, stressing and feeling frustration.
I have to admit that in facing the task of getting the Education Building ready for in-person Sunday School, I did ALL of those. And even as I finally began tackling the job bit by bit, I alternated between pouting at not being able to ‘pass the buck,’ stamping my feet in frustration, and whining “Why me?”
If we’re honest, we've all probably had (or at least thought) these responses to the problems that loom large in front of us. For some of us, those feelings pop up when we have a flat tire. Or get a cold. Or get caught in a freak rain shower.
Somewhere along the way, the unconscious thought that life should be good most, if not all, of the time creeped in. As Christians, we may be tempted to believe a good God should protect His children from every hardship, large and small. Even in our western culture, we have been conditioned to have a low pain threshold, both physically and emotionally.
We have shelves full of pain relievers to choose from, and when those aren’t enough, some turn to alcohol or illegal drugs. TV commercials tell us to pamper ourselves in comfort. Any type of difficulty or unpleasantness is treated like an affront to our happiness.
When challenges arise, instead of asking "Why Me?" why don't we ask, "Why Not Me?"
When we ask, "Why Me?" we make our circumstances more important than Jesus. We forget the temporariness of this life and the eternity of life with him. We forget that our challenges and suffering in this life teach us important lessons and develop our Christ-like character:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” --John 16:33
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. -- James 1:2-4
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” --2 Corinthians 12:7-9
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. --1 Peter 1:6-7
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in
That last verse reminded me why pouting, whining, stamping my feet and complaining to the Lord about the unfairness of my situation were the wrong reactions. I found myself thinking “I don’t wanna, I’m not gonna, you can’t make me!” My reaction was like a child frustrated and overwhelmed by a task. But the Lord is like a gentle parent who won’t let you out of the task but will stay with you as you tackle it bit by bit. This is how children grow and mature: by taking on increasingly difficult challenges. Why should we think that growing into mature Christians would be any different?
Adversity can be overwhelming, but escaping discomfort is not the most important thing in life -- Jesus is. Difficulties and trials are unfair. They kidnap our attention and try to force us to look only at our pain, disappointment or irritation. You don't deserve it, but there's no way out. You have to keep going, but don’t forget there's someone going through it with you -- Jesus.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” --Deuteronomy 31:8
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” --Matthew 28:20
Someday, you will stand face-to-face with your Savior. You will gaze at the beauty of your new home, filled with never-ending love. You will look at the nail scars on Jesus' hands. You will know your unworthiness to be there and, filled with gratitude and humility, you will ask, "Why Me?"