The great thing with unhappy times is to take them bit by bit, hour by hour, like an illness. It is seldom the present, the exact present, that is unbearable.
Letters to an American Lady – C. S. Lewis
The sage advice of C. S. Lewis to his American pen pal is true, but no one wants to hear it at the time of greatest pain. Yet, if we do listen to it, we will find hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. If we could only follow the advice…
My wife and I seemed to stay in financial hard times. I got out of the military when interest rates were at their highest. I had no advisors to tell me to wait until the interest rates came down. I was tired of apartment living. I created my first hard time. There is a difference in being self-confident in your abilities and trusting in God. Some argue that God gave you the abilities, but we still have to not put God to the test. I was stuck, awaiting a promotion for which I worked so hard. Only to be told that <Multitude of Excuses Inserted Here> put me on the bottom of the list, but “you are still our best employee…” Was that persecution for my beliefs? Were some of the rules regarding promotion legitimate? Does any of that matter? It was after my parents passed away that we had enough to get out of debt. That was on us. Our tunnel was 30 years long, but there was a light at the end. That was thirty years of trusting that God will see us through.
I’m not whining about suffering hard financial times. I’m using it to illustrate that some of our hard times are a product of our own mistakes. When we have hard times, do we pray for God to deliver us or do we pray for God to forgive us? I’m not talking about the words in our prayers, but the attitude. In Praying the Psalms, I talked about my despair upon my last layoff. I prayed Psalm 13 and then Psalm 25 every day for a long time. If David can lament about the hard times, so can we. But note that in each of David’s “woe is me” psalms, David always placed a verse or two of praise for God. While we might be hurting, God is sovereign and He has a plan.
I suffered my first layoff a few months after we finally sold the house that we had moved from nearly three years before. Two months later, there was an ice storm. At first, everybody in northern Mississippi and northwest Alabama was out of power. We scanned the radio and found one radio station in Florence, AL that was running off a generator. For a couple of days, everything remained frozen. I had propane for the grill, and we had food. But then it warmed up, and all of the food spoiled. I substituted for a middle school math teacher during this time. She was without power and chose to stay home. She may have had other problems. I’m not passing judgment. I got paid that day. Yippee! I heated a pot of water and took a sponge bath to be ready for my time as a substitute.
As the power was restored to some areas, we wondered why we were last. A neighbor said that they had called the power company from a phone in town. (Theirs and ours didn’t work due to the lack of power.) We were on a small country road with only three or four houses. The trees had fallen and cut our road’s power line in five or six places. There were too few people without power and too much work. Three weeks later, the family went to Florence, AL on our wedding anniversary. We had a meal. It was free due to a server problem. That was a little blessing, but my wife still remembers it. We watched a movie. For a moment, we forgot – everything. When we got home, every light in the house was on. The power company had given us a gift for our wedding anniversary, but we praised God. Our light at the end of the tunnel had arrived.
During those three weeks without power, we didn’t whine and complain. We simply did what we had to do. Neighbors helped neighbors, and you made it through. We didn’t blame God for the storm or the loss of power, but we did praise him when the power was back.
Without power, I would crank up the camping lantern, and we would get around the dining room table. We would play cards or board games. This family togetherness affected everyone in the family. On the anniversary of the ice storm, our younger son wanted me to trip the main power breaker and set up the board games on the table again. We didn’t, but we should have. Our older son is trying to sell some of the board games and card games that he has invented. We hope that his latest idea will set a new career in motion.
For those who are not in their homes due to hurricanes and other natural disasters, help will come from the government, the insurance (maybe), and the churches, if you fill out the work order. You can rebuild, repair, and replace. It’s hard now, but it will get better.
If you need a little help in your prayers, remember Psalms 13, especially the last two verses.
Psalm 13 (NIV)
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.