Dealing with the difficulties in life
A month ago my nephew was rushed to hospital by helicopter with serious brain injuries after a motor cycle accident. Since this time he has been unconscious. There were anxious moments when the doctors operated to alleviate the swelling of the brain. The Christian faith of his family is being tested at this difficult time. Many questions come to mind during such trials, hardships and tragedies.
The Bible says that problems, trials and troubles are inevitable in our lives. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33NIV). James wrote about “whenever you face trials of many kinds” (Jas. 1:2). We can’t stop them happening. We can’t control them. They are unforeseen and uncontrollable. Our only choice is how to respond to them.
So how does the Bible say that a Christian should respond when trials and troubles come our way? First, some bad responses. We shouldn’t complain and grumble, rebel, have self-pity or give up. Looking at each of these in turn:
- Complain and grumble. Paul wrote “do not grumble as some of them (the Israelites) did” (1 Cor. 10:10). The Israelites constantly grumbled against Moses who had been appointed by God to lead them from Egypt to Canaan (Num. 16:41; 17:5). They complained and grumbled at Marah, at the desert of Sin, at Rephidim, after the spies explored Canaan, and at Kadesh (Ex. 15:22-24; 16:1-3; 17:1-3; Num. 14:1-3; 20:2-5). They complained when there was no water and they detested the manna that God provided for food (Num. 21:4-5). The Bible says not to be like them and act as though we know better than God.
- Rebel. The Israelites also rebelled against Moses and God. Miriam and Aaron talked against Moses (Num. 12:1-2). And after the spies explored Canaan, the people said “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:4; Dt. 1:26-33). Then they disobeyed God by attacking the Amorites (Dt. 1:42-44). Also Korah and 250 men opposed the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:1-3). The Bible says don’t be like them and take matters into our own hands. Don’t try to resolve problems in our own power. Don’t boast that we can overcome difficulties in our own power. Such self-confidence downgrades God’s care for us.
- Self-pity is self-indulgently dwelling on our own misfortune, sorrows or trials. For example, Moses asked to be excused from leadership and Jonah was more concerned about a plant that protected him from the hot sun than the children of Nineveh (Ex. 4:10-13; Jon. 4:8-11). They were focused on themselves. The Bible says don’t be like them thinking only of ourselves and seeking the sympathy of others. Because when we focus on ourselves we can’t focus on God or others. Those who pity themselves because of the circumstances of their lives fail to see God at work in them. Such self-pity is associated with self-centredness, loneliness and despair.
- Give up. The Bible says “do not lose heart” when facing hard times (Heb. 12:5). When he was suffering, Paul said, “we do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:1, 16). Giving up doubts God’s care for us. When we feel like giving up, we should think of what Jesus went through: “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). So the Bible says don’t give up on God in tough situations.
Second, some good responses to trials and troubles (Heb. 12:4-12; Jas. 1:2-12). Two of these evident in these passages of the Bible are:
- Endure and persevere. Hang in there to let God work in the difficult circumstances.
- Optimism. Be positive, not negative. Realise that God always has our best and eternal interests at heart (Rom. 8:28).
“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” (Jas. 1:2-4).
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12).
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children” (Heb. 12:7).
Trials enable us to develop endurance and perseverance which leads to strengthened Christian character (Heb. 12:11). Paul said, “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4).
Our Christian faith is being tested. The physical trials of life enable a baby to grow into a child and then an adolescent and then an adult. Likewise the spiritual trials of life enable a Christian to grow more Christ-like and have the fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).
This is expressed in the song “Through It All” by Andrae Crouch which says:
I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys,
And I thank Him for the storms He’s brought me through.
For if I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in His Word could do.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
Lessons for us
So when things are tough, do we complain? Are we arrogant and defiant? Do we indulge in self-pity? Or do we give up? How has our character been moulded through it all? And how has our trust in God been affected through it all?
Let’s persevere and grow more Christ-like through all the trials that come our way.
Also see – What’s the use of trials
Written, August 2013
Today I visited my nephew in hospital. He was in a critical condition with head injuries after a motor cycle accident. As he lay in a coma I was reminded of the fragility of life and the contrast to spiritual life and heaven.
Accidents happen. When Jesus was on earth 18 people died when the tower of Siloam collapsed in Jerusalem (Lk. 13:4).
Physical life depends on an adequate supply of oxygenated blood to our vital organs. In the big picture, life is brief. It’s transient. The Bible says it’s like a cloud or mist that appears for a while and then disappears. It’s also like a shadow and grass and flowers (1 Ch. 29:15; Job 7:6-10; Jas. 4:14; 1 Pt. 1:24). Life is unpredictable: “you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” Jas. 4:14 NIV).
Spiritual life is the main theme of the Bible. It says, “repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19NLT). This life is robust. It’s not interrupted by physical death (1 Th. 5:10). What a contrast to our physical lives!
Another difference is that there are no hospitals in heaven – God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Also, there are no cemeteries there. What a contrast to the sufferings experienced on earth (Rom. 8:18).
Can you look forward to a time when there will be no hospitals or cemeteries?
Written, July 2013
Sharing the gospel in song
Believers are to go into all the world and openly present the good news to all humanity (Mk. 16:15). Each Sunday evening a group of believers faithfully carries out this command, by presenting the gospel in song to the patients in Royal North Shore Hospital, a major public hospital in Sydney, Australia. They also bring patients the comfort and assurance of their faith, the reality and ability of their God, and a reminder that He is there to help them in their time of need. Many prayer requests come from the patients who are touched to know that after being visited by a team member they are prayed for. For some patients it is their last opportunity to receive Jesus Christ as Saviour.
At present the choir consists of nine singers. The longest serving member is the organist, who has served for 65 years. The choir visits three floors of the multi-story hospital, singing traditional hymns for about 20 minutes in each lounge area followed by a brief message from the Bible. There is a nurse who sings with the choir whenever she is on duty.
Some patients have no hope for physical recovery and not long to live. The Christian faith provides hope and peace at time of despair. Singing can have a similar impact on the patients as it did on the prisoners at Phillippi (Acts 16:25-30). The hymns requested most by the patients are: What a friend we have in Jesus, The Lord is my shepherd, Amazing grace, and How great Thou art. One patient said he liked the music, but not the words, because he was an atheist. However, on a later visit he requested a hymn and said that members of his family were praying for him.
The Visitation Team
As many patients are too sick to come to the lounge area to hear the choir, the hospital board gave approval for some to visit in the wards while the choir was singing. They have a great opportunity to witness for Christ in personal contacts and in times of prayer. They also leave a bookmark that has a suitable Bible verse. It is a privilege to be able to do this as many hospitals do not allow the distribution of literature.
A long history
This ministry was started in 1901 by a young commercial traveller who was a good singer, organist and speaker. He gave much of his time in serving the Lord by ministering to others. One of his many business contacts was a nursing sister at the hospital. When she discovered that he was a Christian she said “the patients in the hospital are very lonely and need to hear about God”. He responded to the invitation by getting two others to sing along with him. This ministry has continued for almost 100 years with full hospital support.
A cancer patient
One evening a women dying of cancer requesed Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. She had been seeking the words and the music to this hymn, but her priest had never heard of it. After singing this song the choir gave her a copy of the words and music. She had tears in her eyes as her twin sister wheeled her away. When the choir arrived at her floor the next Sunday she was waiting with the words and music in her hand. She said, “I have sung this song and read the words all through the week and I have read the Bible verse on the bookmark you gave me”. She professed to have trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior. She died within two weeks.
Prayer with the needy
On another Sunday, a Yugoslavian woman was found kneeling beside her husband’s bed; all life-support equipment had been removed. One of the team comforted her, prayed with her and gave her a bookmark. Then the lady said “I have no family, no children and no friends. Of all the friends I thought I had, not one of them has visited me in my time of need with my husband dying. You are the first person who has taken the time to speak with me”.
Words of appreciation
The ministry team often receives letters from of appreciation from the hospital management, and many patients express their thanks for the time spent with them. One hospital board member wrote, “Please convey to the members of your choir the warm appreciation of those of us privileged to hear from the delightful selection of hymns of praise from your melodious choir last Sunday evening. Having been a hospital board member for many years, I know how greatly this work is appreciated by the patients”.
One doctor told us he had heard the hymns over the past 20 years. He praised the work on behalf of the medical staff and nurses. He said it not only comforted the patients but encouraged the staff in their work, and that the message presented was just as essential as the medical work done.
One patient was a retired choir master of an Anglican church. After hearing the choir for some weeks he asked his wife to bring all his music books to the hospital and he presented them to the team in appreciation.
On one occasion an octogenarian said he had heard a group of singers in the hospital 65 years ago. He was amazed when he heard that this group was a continuation of that same work – although not the same people! At the age of 17, and absent without leave from the navy, he was found lying in the gutter by a stranger who took him to the hospital. He never forgot the songs the choir sang. He especially remembered “Rock of Ages cleft for me” and knew that the Lord had been with him ever since he first heard it.
Many older patients attended Sunday School in their childhood went to church during when younger. The hymns bring back memories of previous Christian influences in their lives, particularly in times of illness. One such incident occurred a few years ago when a middle-aged woman, visiting in the wards, asked where the singers came from. On being told, she said that she attended Sunday School in a similar church in Wellington, New Zealand and was looking for one in the Lane Cove area of Sydney. She attended that church for the remaining few years of her life.
Ministering in a hospital is one of the many ways of being ambassadors for Christ to our generation (Acts 1:8; 13:36; 2 Cor. 5:20). The team members consider it a great privilege and opportunity to serve the Lord, and invite you to consider serving in this way in a hospital near you.
Thanks are due to Graham Whittaker for providing the information for this article.
Published, March 1999