Life Is Not a Picnic
I have never really cared for picnics. First you make lunch, then you pack it in containers, then you pack it along with cutlery, napkins, condiments, blanket or tablecloth, etc. You must then unload, unpack, and then do everything in reverse when it is time to go home. Once home it all must be unloaded, stored or cleaned, and put away. That is just not fun...
Are they servants of the Messiah? (I’m talking like a madman!) I’m a better one! I’ve worked much harder, been imprisoned more often, suffered more beatings, been near death over and over. Five times I received “forty lashes less one” from the Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. In my many travels I have been exposed to danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the desert, danger at sea, danger from false brothers. I have toiled and endured hardship, often not had enough sleep, been hungry and thirsty, frequently gone without food, been cold and naked. And besides these external matters, there is the daily pressure of my anxious concern for all the congregations. (2 Cor. 11:23-28, CJB)
...I grew up in Denver and at least one or two times a month in the summer, my parents would put us through this ritual for breakfast picnics in the mountains, usually by a creek or river. We had to dish soap the bottom of a gridle before being used on the campfire, so that the pan would not blacken from the fire. Then fry up eggs and sausages. So, for me, I could say life is a picnic.
Apparently, Paul felt that life was truly NOT a picnic. He shares a list of tribulations he endured, and it was based on his conversion and calling. Add to that he had an eye problem, and his life ended with his beheading in Rome by Nero.
Yeshua said: “I have said these things to you so that, united with me, you may have shalom. In the world, you have tsuris (tribulation)” (Jn. 16:33a). Since the beginning of time, since Adam and Eve listened to satan and were kicked out of the garden, there has been tribulation. But the rest of the verse tells us: “But be brave! I have conquered the world!” John 16:33b. We have not been left without hope and tools from God to carry life’s “hits”. A lot of our problems can be traced to our own misjudgments and behaviors. But often, stuff just happens. I heard a sermon once that gave these points.
- Tribulation is universal and impartial. As an example: tornados destroy the wealthy as well as the poor, educated and uneducated, strong as well as weak. 1Corinthians 10:13 says: “No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience, and God can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide the way out, so that you will be able to endure.”
- Tribulation is painful. War, hunger, emotional, physical, emotional, mental, relational. It is not fun.
- Tribulation can come suddenly or be prolonged. Unexpected loss through death, fire, nature (tornado, fire, flood). Or long-term illness, a wayward child, loss of job, home, child, etc.
- Tribulation can be intense. It can cause us to hurt so deeply, that those who try to care for us feel the pain.
- Tribulation is often beyond our control. It may seem that we feel helpless and have no answer for why God allows us to endure it. Remember Job.
Our knee jerk response is often Why? And Who?
Jesus himself asked this question while on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 KJV. Our Heavenly Father knows His plans for us and has compassion. Having a baby is not a party, but the results of the birth are life-changing and precious. I always remember the verses in Romans eight. Unfortunately, people often throw out Romans 8:28, thinking this the pat answer to all of life’s ills. However, when we look at Romans 8:28 and 29 together we can get an overview of the goal of our trials. Verse eight says “Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;” God works all things for the good. For the good of whom? Those who love Him and are in harmony with His purpose. That is, living in God’s will for their lives. Verse nine gives us the answer to why: “because those whom he knew in advance, he also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son…” Because He knew in advance our hearts and lives and wants us to conform to the image of Yeshua! Wow. If we will just stop, take a breath in our trials, and think – how will this conform me to the image of Christ? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23 shows us the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These are evidence of the conforming God wants to bring about in us through our trials. James 1:2,3,4 “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.” Count it JOY because this trial will produce faith that produces tenacity. And the determination will finish the work in you to be mature, complete, and comprehending.
It is human nature to ask the who question. There are three possible culprits: you, God or Satan. Depending on your conclusion of who – your response can move you to or aways from the Lord.
Typical responses to our adversity?
- Blame - this response only heightens our anger and turns into bitterness.
- Escape - trying to avoid the pain of a situation through drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity only complicates the situation and brings greater problems.
- Denial - burying our head in the sand and denying the situation can just prolong the pain and frustration.
- Self-pity - is avoiding responsibility and accepting it. This will not lead to a positive end and prolongs or increases the negative outcome.
Best response to our adversity?
- Seek the Lord - confessing to our Heavenly Father our confusion and pain and asking Him to intervene in the situation. He will provide a way of escape through mending, confession, surrender and love. As a believer, this is the only valid answer.
The bottom line is to let your situation strengthen, stretch, and grow you into the perfect will of God. Accept your situation as a gift from God and remember He loves you and will never hurt you (that choice is in your corner).
I have found that when I take charge of a situation, I am inclined to repeat it. God wants us to build our faith and morph into a life of His perfect will. It is only through trust and faith in His word and leading that we can walk a mature life of faith.
Is it easy? Oh my, no. However, it does get easier to trust Him after we strengthen our faith muscle. And, as we grow in Yeshua, we can foresee the obstacles that once brought us to negative life situations.
I pray this shared lesson will encourage and bless.
Love from my heart,
Nancy Cohen is the Director of Women's Ministries at Apple of His Eye