Insight 10:

Trained in a Tight Place
The Tool of Trouble (2)



In my distress I called to the LORD;

    I cried to my God for help.

  From his temple He heard my voice;

    my cry came before Him, into His ears.

He parted the heavens and came down (Ps. 18:6,9)

Cast your mind back over the troubles that have come
your way during the past year or two. Can you discern what form and guise they came in? An onslaught of batterings, physical and psychological?

Have you noticed how often Satan manages to send trouble our way just when we are already at full stretch? He isn’t playing around. He waits for us to be physically or psychologically vulnerable before attempting to land the knock out punch.

Remember Corrie Ten Boom? She and her family were betrayed for protecting Jews from the Gestapo. She was actually in bed with the ‘flu when the soldiers burst in to arrest her. Her father died in prison, and so too did her beloved sister in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Corrie herself was released from that dreadful hell-hole - as the result of a ‘clerical error! - just days before she had been due to be executed.

How we can praise God that He is always on the watch for us. Corrie may have been the only one to live to tell the tale (and how wonderfully she proceeded to share the love of God around the world) but all three family members kept their focus on the Lord right until the very end. Despite the most intense provocation, they refused to give in to hate. They overcame their hurt and loss and determined to live and die praising God. The fruit of their lives and ministry lives on in the countless lives that have been touched by their testimony.  

But the ‘fruit’ of those who allow themselves to become bitter dies with them.

It is time to keep the shield of faith high - but don’t chastise yourself for feeling unsettled when storms come. Anyone who travels regularly on the boat from Shetland to Fair Isle will know exactly what I am talking about. The Lord must hear more prayer per mile on this particular stretch of water than anywhere else in the British Isles!

Perhaps your troubles have been caused by the spite and malice of others. There are, after all, few if any, relationship breakdowns that do not have a root of envy somewhere near their epicentre. You are on sure biblical territory if you can forgive (from the heart) those who have done you down. You are opening the way for more blessing further down the road both for you and for them.   

Perhaps, in retrospect, you can look back and realise that at least some of the troubles that so disturbed you at the time were largely the result of exaggerated fears and worries. We looked at this in an earlier insight, ‘The Imaginary Stumbling Stone.’ Even harder to bear, perhaps they came primarily as a result of your own foolishness and recklessness. It often takes more grace to forgive ourselves than to forgive others!

Whatever the source of our troubles, it is our reaction to it now that is all important. Will we allow them to drive us away from the Lord? Or will we cry out to the Lord still more urgently for Him to reverse the damage that has been done and yet find ways to use them to further His purposes for our lives?   


Standing back to gain Perspective

Taking the tonality of the Psalmists as a guide, Phil Lawson Johnson pointed out that the Judeo-Christian faiths are the only ones that allow us to ask ‘WHY?’ True, too much asking ‘why’ in the early stages rarely gets us anywhere. It’s rather like sticking our face a few millimetres away from a painting and wondering why we can’t make out the details. If our pain and impatience will allow us to, it is better to skip the tricky questions for the time being. A clearer perspective concerning our troubles usually takes time to emerge. But how comforting it is to know that we can always share what we are feeling, as honestly and openly as we like with the Lord.

If the trouble (hurt, disappointment, betrayal whatever) is very deep, it may take a great deal of time and effort to refocus our gaze away from it. The lens of our eye has become blurred. If we have found ourselves drawn to look for comfort in other directions, may the Lord forgive our faithlessness and help us to ‘look away unto Jesus.’ (Heb.12:2). 


Two Biblical Insights

1) Promises from Isaiah 54 for the storm-tossed.  

O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,

    I will build you with stones of turquoise,

    your foundations with sapphires.           

I will make your battlements of rubies,

    your gates of sparkling jewels,

    and all your walls of precious stones.

All your sons will be taught by the Lord,

    and great will be your children's peace. 

In righteousness you will be established:

  Tyranny will be far from you;

    you will have nothing to fear.

  Terror will be far removed;

    it will not come near you . . .

"See, it is I who created the blacksmith

    who fans the coals into flame

    and forges a weapon fit for its work.

  And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; 

  No weapon forged against you will prevail,

    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.

  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,

    and this is their vindication from me,"

      declares the Lord. 

2) The fruit of Paul’s seemingly untimely imprisonment

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Phil. 1:12-14)

Oh and one other thing! May we ourselves not be a stumbling stone for Your Kingdom, Lord, but rather be the means of advancing and facilitating it.

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