November eNews: Find Your Way Through Trials by Giving Thanks
It came about through unspeakable tragedy and then quickly turned into a decision too weighty for any young person to face. It is a crossroads I am very familiar with: I have been there myself and have seen countless other young women approach those diverging paths as well.
Ian and Larissa weren’t much different than other dating couples. The young man had communicated his desire to marry her but she remained uncertain. Then calamity struck: Ian was involved in an automobile accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury.
Now Larissa was at a pivotal fork in the road for her life. Would she cut her losses and move on? Or would she chain herself to a crippled man who could barely even speak?
There’s no question that it would be easy to justify moving on; I mean they were only dating. Nevertheless, she found it to be a very difficult decision. Should she allow a vague sense of obligation to force her into a life of servitude? Or should she just get on with her life?
As it turned out, Larissa’s decision was decided in a way that few young women would even consider: she got on her knees. Only God could tell her which path she should take.
Making the decision to put it in God’s hands was actually the most important decision. Once she knew His will, the decision to marry Ian was relatively easy. You see, Larissa’s life has not been defined by the fantasy of living the “happily-ever-after” American dream. She gave up romance, probably children and a normal married life. How many young women would do that?
If she had held onto any illusions about what such a life would mean to her, they were quickly dispelled. Not only was she forced to be the breadwinner in the family, but she had to spend nearly all her off-hours caring for her husband. How then are we to understand the joy that virtually beams from her face? She made the decision early on that she was not going to enter this path with a complaining spirit. In fact, she and Ian created a bulletin board to pin little notes of gratitude to the Lord every single day.
What a contrast with a woman whose life is defined by selfishness. As the apostle Paul said, “She who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (1 Timothy 5:6)
Over the years I have encountered many women who have faced similar crossroads. These wives weren’t facing an incapacitated husband but one who had selfishly shared intimacy with other women.
Of course, there are those situations where separation or even divorce is warranted. The Lord often nudges a wife to “move on” when the husband remains unrepentant over his sin.
The fork in the road decisions I am referring to have occurred when there are clear signs of repentance from the husband. He is locked in a foul spiritual bondage from which he wants freedom. Being married to such a man makes for a difficult decision. I have stood at that crossroads many times watching a wife grapple with which road she should take: to get on with her life in the hopes of finding “Mr. Wonderful” or stay with the man who has deeply hurt her.
Generally speaking, the wives who have chosen the difficult path are the ones who tend to come through with a smile on their faces! What a contrast their selfless attitude is to the empty life our godless culture teaches young women to pursue! It is all built upon a superficial happiness that constantly needs favorable circumstances to keep it propped up. Isn’t it interesting that at a time when prosperity abounds depression is at an all-time high?
I was thinking about the difficult circumstances Larissa and these other wives have faced when I happened across three pithy statements made by the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.
He strengthened these instructions by adding, “…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So it isn’t enough to do the hard thing? We must rejoice, pray and thank our way through the ordeal? Yes, that is the way of the Savior. Let’s take a quick look at how these three commands play a part in such a difficult decision.
The thought that a person can find joy in the throes of pain seems like crazy talk to many people. I know and there’s no simple explanation for it except to say that when you’re really walking with the Lord it just happens—in spite of suffering.
The contradiction of the Christian life is that we can be living a life of very troubled waters, storms throwing us all over the place and yet inside be as peaceful as a summer day on a placid lake. The interior calm that comes from “knowing” the One who has traversed the raging sea and truly “knowing” that He is sovereignly reigning is more solid and sure than anything this world could ever offer. I have experienced this contradiction, as have many saints. Everything seemingly falling apart, no possible way out of the tight spot and yet inside the peace that passes understanding! The fact that the waves and winds obey Him is what provokes that inward rejoicing.
Pray Without Ceasing
One of the significant differences I’ve noticed with wives I’ve dealt with is the level of their faith in the midst of the storm. A hurting wife who isn’t connected to God tends to be controlled by the wild waves of emotion. I don’t need to tell you that those feelings of fear and anger can turn into an ugly squall of their own in a hurry! But a woman of prayer finds a flow of grace coming forth from within that allows hope in the midst of a raging tempest. Part of that assurance surely comes from the knowledge that her prayers have the power to impact her husband’s life.
It should be noted that Paul didn’t tell suffering saints to just occasionally pray; he said to “pray without ceasing!” But when he said they should pray nonstop he was referring more to a deep communion with God than actual words flowing forth from one’s mouth. When a woman’s heart and mind are filled with the awareness of God’s presence, referring difficulties to Him becomes natural. That kind of life with God has a way of buffering one’s heart from pain. It is the shield of faith that quenches the devil’s fiery darts!
In Everything Give Thanks
This command hinges on the word, “give.” A woman who is a giver is much more attractive than one who is a taker, isn’t she? Jesus was certainly a giver. He gave His life a ransom for many, right?
He said, “Freely you received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) He also said, “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38)
What is Larissa’s secret of joy? My guess is that every time she posts one of those little notes of thankfulness on that bulletin board that it unleashes a tidal wave of God’s joy into her heart!
Let’s face it: the devil has lied to us. Deep, abiding joy doesn’t come by choosing Easy Street. Such a life of fulfillment is more likely found on Affliction Alley—where troubles are found in abundance, but where “the God of all comfort” is quietly lurking, looking for the opportunity to flood some unsuspecting saint’s heart with a tidal wave of joy!
Kathy Gallagher is the Co-Founder and Senior Administrator of Pure Life Ministries. She has been ministering to Christian women for over 20 years and has a deep desire to see them living a fulfilled life in Christ.
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