I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
- Psalm 77:1-20
“Multiply one day’s crises by 365. Add financial strain, inflation, traffic jams, unemployment, unplanned pregnancies, failure at school, obesity, smog, surgery, loneliness, alcoholism, drugs, and death. Subtract the support of the family unit. Divide by dozens of different opinions … and you come up with a formula that has the makings of madness.
”Block all avenues of escape and you have an enormous powder keg with a terribly short fuse. Even if you are a Christian … and love God intensely … and believe the Bible … and genuinely want to walk in obedience. …
“Christians need to be told that difficulty and pressure are par for the course. No amount of biblical input or deeper-life conferences or super-victory seminars will remove our human struggles. God promises no bubble of protection, no guaranteed release from calamity.”
- Charles R. Swindoll, Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, as quoted from Martha Thatcher, When the Squeeze is On
“If pressure is going to be a stimulus for growth, we must learn to face the inevitable pressures of life with both an understanding of the key issues and a practical ‘handle’ on how to respond biblically.”
- Martha Thatcher, When the Squeeze is On
Ms. Thatcher uses this quote near the beginning of her book. Her book was published in 1987 and the Swindoll book in 1980. We have definitely increased our stresses and stressors since then. The concept of not feeling safe in one’s home due to political and social unrest, rioting, etc. could be added. The feeling of not being safe in public due to a virus with no vaccine that kills people, especially those with immune system disorders, breathing problems, and those of advanced years. That could be added. Rev. Swindoll does not mention climate change or sea level rise. These are all newly added stresses. Yet, the answer remains the same. Regardless of the fears that we can bring upon ourselves, God is bigger than those fears.
Ms. Thatcher wrote her Bible study to illustrate how people in the Bible went into very stressful situations and God saw them through it. God did not steer them around the suffering. They suffered, but they had God to give them strength, and their faith led them to the other side of that suffering.
God does the same thing with us. When we suffer, He stands by our side. His angels watch over us. The suffering may be short-lived. The suffering may last a lifetime. The suffering may lead to death, and in so being that type of suffering, that leads others to bereavement, a form of suffering when a loved one has passed.
As Ms. Thatcher says that this suffering can be used for growth as a Christian. In some cases, it becomes a test. Do you really believe in God and in God’s promises? Sadly, many fall away from the faith that they thought they had due to these tests. They only believed in God as long as things went well, but when suffering occurs, “it is God’s fault.” No one can lose their salvation, but some who profess faith without truly having it can fall away.
But for the faithful, the true believers, suffering is never “enjoyed,” but Joy can be found in our suffering. When you start counting your pains, as a Christian, you start seeing how God had alleviated that pain in the past. We become strong to withstand the pain the next time, knowing what God has already done. And the pain does not present a psychological problem as it might have done the first time. For one thing, we may know what the problem is. Then, the fear of the unknown vanishes.
The title of the essay is “a daily crisis.” I have uttered the prayer to have just one day without a new crisis that is piled onto the previous day’s unsolved crises. Doesn’t it seem that way at times? Does it not seem that each step forward leads to a step in the other direction? I just wish at times that I could reach the point of Rev. Swindoll’s book title, three steps forwards then two steps back. At least the good reverend is making some progress. But when my pity party subsides, the Christian growth is not only how far down the road we get on our journey of faith. Our Christian growth also depends on how we get stronger, because we trust Jesus that much more and we rely on His strength.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.