Distress – Which Way Out?
What was your most distressing experience in life? Was it some terrifying experience lasting a short time, or a long drawn out problem testing your patience day after day or year after year? Did you feel there was no hope, no answer, you would never be happy again, it was useless to try, God had failed you, or no one else had it so tough? Maybe you are at that place now, your night has no stars, your thorns no roses, hope has quietly slipped out the back door, and the will to persevere is gone.
Problems come to all. Job said, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.” But you say, “You don’t have my problems.” True. Yours are different. But I’m sure your friends have problems you never guessed. How do I know? I’ve been stunned to learn of a friend’s chronic problem I wasn’t aware of. Many stresses I face, I never shared. Do you go around telling everyone your problems? I hope not. If you need to, share with one or two friends rather than telling the four winds. We all share the storm tossed ship of life. We think our problems are unique. They are not.
Pressures come in many sizes and varieties. Loneliness overwhelms as death snatches loved ones, financial reverses strain powers to make ends meet, the whip of hurry drives us day and night, our failures haunt us like ghosts in the night, pain and sickness drain our strength, handicaps shout, “Life isn’t fair!” fears of the future of frighten us, and unfaithful mates desert us. The rapid pace, incessant activity, noise, misunderstandings, interruptions, deadlines and demands bombard us. These clutch our being by the throat strangling hope, motivation and enthusiasm. Youth slips away and old age brings lessening powers of sight, memory, hearing, and strength. Children are not exempt from stress. Persistent peer pressure erodes their will to do right. Our tendency under stress is to surrender, throw in the towel. It isn’t wrong to be weary, but there’s plenty wrong with quitting. The only person who gains if we quit is Satan. That thought should challenge us to keep on striving. How welcome the words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Come immediately, repeatedly, boldly, and be at rest.
Why do difficulties come our way? There are many possible answers, and I don’t know which fits your situation.
Problems come because of carelessness. We drove too fast, when too sleepy, laid the knife where Johnny could reach it, or left the stove burner on when we were went out. Though we see why trouble came our way at such times, these are most difficult to handle since we blame ourselves. We say “If only I hadn’t,” or “If only I had.” God forgives us. Surely He wants us to forgive ourselves.
But there are times we see no reason for problems. We tried so hard to do our best. We questioned, “Why? Why me? Why this?” An injured child asks “Daddy why did this happen?” His answer, “I don’t know. Maybe God wanted daddy to learn something.” The one in trouble learns many lessons. But maybe God wants you or me to learn from their pain. Their distress may be a test God uses to see our response to their need. Have we asked God to make us aware of ways to help others? Someone may say, “Thanks for just being here.” In troublous times, just being there is great comfort. Knowing they can fall for a chat day or night is a help. I’ll never forget a dear sister who in my distress, gripped my hand as I walked by. I didn’t know her, and it wasn’t suitable to talk at the time, but I wanted to know who cared enough to express her concern. A friend’s financial distress may test whether we are willing to share. Another’s carelessness or rebellion may bring trouble and test our forgiveness. The next time a friend faces stress ask yourself, “What does God want me to learn in this? How does he want me to help?”
God allows tragedies in our lives so we learn to sympathize. In Corinthians Paul says, “The God of all comfort, comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted of God.” Who knows the heart ache of losing a child in death, the pain of having a rebellious child, the anguish of marital desertions, some great financial loss, the whip of hurry driving a mother of others? The answer is – the person who has been through it wrapped in the blanket of God’s comfort. The Greek word for comfort used by Paul means “called alongside”. We suffer. God comes alongside to comfort us. Others suffer, we step alongside to comfort them. With God’s arm firmly around my shoulders, I have strength and stability to place my arm on the shoulder of another. We do not have the answers, but God does. A. W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful God can bless the man greatly, until He has hurt him deeply.”
Difficulties come to teach us complete trust in God. Painful things can draw us closer to God, the place of blessing. “Blessed be the tempest, kind the storm which drives us nearer home” or near to God. The thickest cloud may bring the biggest shower of blessing. That which draws us close to God, just can’t be all bad. It is easier to rescue a drowning man who has quit struggling. God wants us to rely on Him as our only hope. He allows trouble to knock out our props, we get to the end of our rope, we hit rock bottom, our will to go on fades like the last evening star and we frantically pray:
“Lord I’m drowning in a sea of perplexity.
Waves of confusion dash over me.
I’m too weak to shout for help.
Either quiet the waves or
Lift me above them.
It’s too late to learn to swim!”
The Everlasting Arms will not fail us. The palm of God’s hand we will find quite safe. The sooner we surrender to Him and trust Him the better. He does not plan our ruin – only our refinement Malachi 3:3 “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” A refiner stays nearby, watching carefully, lest the fire gets too hot, yet making it hot enough to purify. When we suffer, God watches carefully to see that our fire is not more than we can bear.
The Refiner’s Fire
He sat by the fire of sevenfold heat
As he watched by the precious ore,
And closer he bent with a searching gaze
As he heated it more and more.
He knew He had ore that could stand the test,
And He wanted the finest gold
To mold as a crown for the King to wear,
Set with gems with a price untold.
So He laid our gold in the burning fire,
Though we fain would have said Him, “Nay”
And He watched the dross that we had not seen,
As it melted and passed away.
And the gold grew brighter and yet more bright;;
But our eyes were so dim with tears,
We saw but the fire - not the Master’s hand -
And questioned with anxious fears.
Yet our gold shone out with a richer glow,
As it mirrored a Form above
That bent o’er the fire, though unseen by us,
With a look of ineffable love.
Can we think that it pleased His loving heart
To cause us a moment’s pain?
Ah, no, but He saw through the present cross
The bliss of eternal gain.
So H waited there with a watchful eye,
With a love that is strong and sure,
And His gold did not suffer a bit more heat
Than was needed to make it pure.
James M. Gray
Not Down, But Through
"When Thou passest through the waters,"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And his promise is our hold;
For the Lord himself has said it,
He, the faithful God and true;
"When you come to the waters
You will not go down, but through."
Seas of sorrow, Seas of trial,
Bitter anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain...
They will never overflow us
For we know His work is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Will not sink us, will not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise will sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose word is true!
We will not go down, or under,
For He says, "You will pass through."
Annie Johnson Flint
Oft we shrink from the purging and pruning,
Forgetting the Husbandman knows
That the deeper the cutting and paring,
The richer the cluster that grows.
– Streams in the Desert
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
A man desired a statue to be carved for him. He went to great expense to buy a large piece of marble and hire a sculptor. As work progressed, he complained about the marble being chipped away. There was much waste. The sculptor replied, “As the chips fall away. The image emerges.” The hard places, the pruning, and the chipping away in our lives, remove the dross and allow God’s image to emerge.
God allows trials so we can be living object lessons to others. We are to be living sacrifices, showing others a life of victory in trial, showing God’s grace, that He may receive glory. Candle light isn’t impressive in bright sunlight. How much brighter it seems to shine at midnight. The darker the night, the brighter the light. God receives more glory when sinners see our faithfulness in great affliction than during time of little trial. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. All the darkness in the world can’t put out one candle. Faith places a candle in the darkest night. Remember the night is not forever.
But living sacrifices tend to crawl off the altar. How often we put ourselves on the altar saying, “Anything Lord, I’ll do or be what you want me to.” But when the fire gets hotter and hotter, and the trial seems to have no end, we falter and crawl off the altar. Too bad. It will be all the harder to crawl back on again.
How often we receive courage by reading of Job and Joseph, seeing God’s care of them in trouble. Many people do not read the Bible. They need to see you and me faithful in trial to encourage them.
To be a good model for those watching us, we say as Christ said, “Not my will, but Thine be Done”
Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
Lead me by thine own hand,
Choose out the path for me...
Take thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill,
As best to thee may seem;
Choose thou my good and ill.
Choose thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose thou my cares for me,
My poverty or wealth.
Not mine, not mine, the choice
In things both great or small;
Be thou my guide, my strength,
My wisdom, and my all.
To show God’s grace in trial, we need to die daily to carnal desires. Little tests come each day, and the flesh wants to react in unchristian ways. If we take our own way, we have the burden of making things work out, and take the blame if they don’t. Decisions are difficult and cause stress. If we say, “Not my will but Thine,” and take God’s way, the responsibility for the outcome is God’s. No longer are we responsible for the outcome. That is someone else’s job.
Stress comes when our mates and we differ, especially when our child’s spiritual welfare is concerned. Though we may feel our way is better, we need to remember God placed them as heads of our homes. Insisting on our way may drive a wedge between us. Only when we are asked to sin, do we have a responsibility to refuse. In cases where their request is not sin, but seems unwise, we can give our viewpoint and appeal for a reconsideration. But if they still make the former request, we need to comply.
Letting God work it out in His way, may take long, maybe years. During this time, God’s grace will help us learn submission, patience, endurance and love and will give us opportunity to show our children God’s grace in trial. God’s grace gives us the desire and ability to do His will.
How can we best teach our child to handle stress? By telling him God loves and will keep him, and teaching God’s promises? These are good, but the best way is to live cheerfully, victoriously by God’s grace during times of stress. Do not fret because of trial. Accept grace during times of stress. Do not fret because of trial. Accept these times of testing as workshop experiences to demonstrate the overcoming life to your child. How can we be over comers, if we have nothing to overcome? How can we teach trust, if every wish falls easily into our lap?
When pressures are heaviest on us, we need to be especially aware of stress in our child’s life. During a time of stress and a very tight schedule for me, Nelson, as a small child said, “Mother, this is very hard on me.” He had changed schools and faced many new pressures. Because of my heartache and heavy work load, I did not realize his. To this day I find it painful to think how I failed him then. When we are struggling with our problems, we tend to be blind to theirs. Also, if we do not handle our problems well, our struggle adds to those they already have.
One of the most stressful things, is seeing loved ones destroy themselves by sin and rebellion. We think, “They just must change!” But remember, you can’t change them. The command in Psalm 37:1 “Fret not thyself because of evil doers,” is necessary to obey. It may differ from “Thou shalt not kill.” or “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, but these commandments of the Bible are given for our good.
Only God can change them, and He will do it only when they are willing. But God answers prayer. So, we will pray they will be saved and presto, it’s done! Not really, because their will is involved. God doesn’t force anyone. If our failure are partly responsible for their condition, our stress multiplies. Again we say, “If only I had done differently, If only if only.” That does no good, only depletes our spiritual resources, and sends us spiraling into depression. Fretting about lost opportunities may cause us to miss present ones. We all have rotten spots in our past, but don’t need to keep on being rotten. If we confess and forsake sin, God forgives. He is more interested in giving us a fruitful future, than in scolding us for our past.
If we can’t change a loved on, what can we do? Our joyful, victorious life can show them the peace we have in God. They enjoy fleeting pleasures of sin, but they don’t have peace. We, as salt of the earth can make them thirsty for God. Pray that God’s Spirit may work in their heart. If they don’t attend church, or attend an apostate one, God can still work. He doesn’t run out of ideas. Proverbs speaks of wisdom crying in the streets, not only in church. One who was in sin many years, said, “You wouldn’t believe the strange ways God spoke to me. Phrases of worldly songs, close scrapes with death, an ever increasing desire for sin but an ever decreasing pleasure, a well planned and eagerly anticipated evening becoming a horrible trap one couldn’t get out of soon enough, and recollection of former peace with God. Many things drew me back to God.”
When a husband is unfaithful, a wife’s self-esteem can plunge and she feels rejected, She may wonder, “Is it my fault? Is something really wrong with me? Am I a failure?” Remember, God told Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but me.” A man faithful to God, will be faithful to his wife. God values us, has not rejected us, and promises to meet our needs. This gives us strength to meet the needs of those who reject us, even if they don’t meet ours.
Waywardness of a father is no excuse to disrespect him. Wife and child must remember he’s still husband and father and has authority. A policeman has authority to ticket you for improper parking if he is godly or not. Wives and children who disrespect or disobey have the judgment of God on them. A wife’s cheerful obedience to an unreasonable husband, has often led him to Christ.
A group of drunkards were playing cards during the wee hour of the night in the home of one who had a Christian wife. They argued about who had the best wife. The man of the house insisted did. To prove it, he called upstairs, telling his wife to get up and get them food. She quickly dressed, came down, and cheerfully made a delicious meal. They marveled at her cheerful submission and agreed she was the greatest.
God allows suffering here, especially in the death of loved ones, to make us homesick for heaven. How easy to forget what we can’t see. How easy to neglect the eternal, and forget the seriousness of straying from God. When things run too smoothly, we settle down as though we’d stay here forever. Too well we know the poison of things too sweet. God jolts us out of our stupor, and makes us wish for heaven. When weary of struggling, trying to cope, we long to lay down the cross to walk the streets of gold, to be where there are no tears, no pain, no heartache, no fears, but rather peace, joy and rest, glorious rest. Anticipating future joy helps us forget present discomfort. One windy snowy, winter day, a man ran out for the mail without putting on a coat. He planned to dash right back. A seed catalogue came in the mail, with lovely flowers and lush vegetables pictured. It made him think of summer and the joys of gardening and harvest. He stood there daydreaming, forgetting the bitter cold and snow, lost in the wonder of anticipated pleasure. Thoughts of heaven can do this, too, lessening the pain of present situations.
I like to remind friends in distress that the experience is just a pothole and not a sinkhole. We may hit it with a thud, it jolts us and knocks us about a bit, but with God’s help we go on. He doesn’t allow us to sink in despair.
One of the greatest needs in trial is hope. Hope to believe things will get better, the pain will be relieved, the misunderstanding be cleared, the problem will be solved. On crucifixion day, the disciples thought things looked hopeless. Life with Christ had been great, hopes were high, but now He was dead. The darkest of night comes just before dawn. In three days their grief turned to boundless joy. Maybe your trial, your night has lasted 3 months, 3 years, or 30 years. But always there is hope, hope for a better day. We must believe God has the answer to our problem. No sin is too great for Him to forgive, no temptation so strong we can’t overcome, no marriage so broken that God cannot heal, no life so debauched it cannot be cleansed, no problems so big that God can’t solve. Life is always worth living if faith hope and love is present.
Jesus gave good examples of how to handle stress. In the wilderness temptation, He quoted Scriptures. He remained calm as Judas betrayed with a kiss. When falsely accused. He did not argue or try to justify Himself. When mocked by Herod, He answered not a word. The cruel, unreasonable demand to carry the heavy, splintery cross on His bruised and bloody back, was obeyed. If we are asked to do something unpleasant, that we feel isn’t necessary or reasonable how do we respond? On the cross in unspeakable anguish, He forgave those who purposely caused His pain.
Do we forgive those who wrong us? We add to our misery if we don’t. Added to the pain they caused, we now bear guilt for wrong attitudes. Christ cannot forgive us if we do not forgive, so we have guilt of former sins on us again. We are a slave to those we do not forgive. We give them the power to make us miserable. Lack of forgiveness leads to bitterness, resentment, and deep depression. If we don’t forgive, we take vengeance into our own hands. When we forgive, it is in God’s hands, it is His problem. We no longer bear its burden. We are free. We have peace instead of bitterness, resentment, retaliation, and depression.
Not of wooden tree.
One for my Lord,
One for me,
And one for Thee.
- Eugene Landis
But you say, “You don’t know how mean he was.” We don’t forgive nice things. We forgive the nasty ones. We may still remember the wrong, but the hurt is gone. We no longer hold the person at arm’s length and we treat them as though the hurt never happened. It no longer matters. Forgiven incidents aren’t important. We are no longer controlled by the hurt, the desire for revenge. Forgiving isn’t easy because we are naturally proud and selfish. Forgiving requires humility and unselfishness. We dare not be ruled by our feelings. Not forgiving hinders our fellowship with God and man. Forgiving changes us, not the other person. It heals past wounds, but does not prevent future ones. When I find it hard to forgive, and hurts just don’t go away, instead of telling myself I must forgive if I want to be forgiven, I think of the worst thing I ever did, said or thought. When I get specific like that, and think how God forgave me those specific sins, it is easier to forgive others. Too often, we think of our sins in general terms, which causes them to seem less serious than they should be.
God gives grace to forgive the hurts of today. If we do not forgive people for things of the past, we carry that burden today in addition to today’s share. Some add to that worry about the future. This means carrying a big bundle of pain from the past, a big bundle of fear for the future, in addition to the little bundle of cares for today. No wonder people think they can’t bear all the troubles they have. God doesn’t give grace today for past or future troubles. He only gives grace for today. Nothing will happen to you today that God cannot handle.
In Jesus’ greatest distress He was mindful of His widowed mother. Our own stress lessens when we meet the needs of others. We have less time for our pity parties, for our minds are filled with better things than going round and round and round thinking of our hurt. When we see the pain of others, we realize we have very much for which to thank God.
Financial stress may require doing without some things we desire, some things other have, things which seem legitimate, some which seem necessary. Years ago, a poor circuit preacher had a donkey to ride, a rooster to wake him, and a light to use when studying. We would think that meager provision. One night a lion killed the donkey, a wolf ate the rooster, and a storm blew his light out. Why did God allow this when he had so little? He learned later that a band of robbers looted homes in the area during the night. A noisy donkey or rooster, or a burning light may have attracted their attention. They may have killed him to get his things. Sometimes loss is great gain, though we don’t see it at the time. Some blessings in disguise are very well disguised.
Why do we compare ourselves with those who seem to have more than we, and think it’s not fair? Why don’t we compare ourselves with those who have less than we? They would feel it’s not fair for us to have so much.
Some people have higher standards of living than they are comfortable with, but their companions made the choice. They may be as troubled with their high standard as you are with yours that you think is too low. Children are spoiled more by wealth than by poverty.
Can we trustingly say, “Where He leads me I will follow?” A foreign missionary who found eating such things as un-gutted chickens difficult, added, “What He feeds me, I will swallow.” Are we willing to bloom where we are planted?
A starving man thinks only of food.
A cripple thinks walking is happiness.
A blind man thinks it almost heaven to see.
The unemployed say, “If only I had a job.”
Remember the man who complained because he had no shoes until he saw a man with no feet.
If a wren can cling to a branch swing
In a mad May wind and sing and sing
As if she’d burst for joy;
Why cannot I, contented lie,
In His quiet arms, beneath the sky,
Unmoved by earth’s annoy.
When fears and discouragements get you down, try this. Tell God all the heart-breaking things of the past, tell all your fears of the future, acknowledge that if it becomes ten times worse than you can imagine, you know that He can keep you. This always brought peace and rest to me. Peace is not controlled tension. Peace is rest.
The Hiding Place
In a time of trouble, in a time forlorn,
There is a hiding place where hope is born.
In a time of danger, when our faith is proved,
There is a hiding place where we are loved.
There is a hiding place, a strong protective space,
Where God provides the grace to persevere;
For nothing can remove us from the Father’s love,
Tho’ all may change, yet nothing changes here.
In a time of sorrow, in a time of grief,
There is a hiding place to give relief.
In a time of weakness, in a time of fear,
There is a hiding place where God is near.
Bryan Jeffery Leech
God always gives a better thing
Than what He takes away,
Exceeding joy tomorrow
For tears we shed today.
For gain we counted loss,
An hundredfold of blessing
For bearing of the Cross.
Moody’s mother, age 41, had 6 children when her husband died. Twins were born after his death and making ends meet was hard. When asked, “How can you be so cheerful?” she replied. “I give others the sunshine and tell Jesus the rest.” Having a proper response to problems is an important as solving them.
In school we experimented to learn about vacuums and air pressure. We put water into a gallon can, brought it to a boil, put the cap on tightly, dunked it in cold water, and watched as the sides caved in. We created a partial vacuum making the outside air pressure push the sides in. I think of this when pressures try to crush us. If we don’t have Christ inside, there will be a vacuum and we will cave in too.
God uses men who stay –
Cool in hot places
Sweet in sour places
Big in crushing places
Humble in big places,
Paul wrote scriptures in prison, John wrote Revelation when banished to Patmos. Stephen’s stoning influenced Paul’s conversion. Joseph in Egypt stored food for famine. Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress in jail. Many songs and poems were written from beds of pain.
The Master Weaver
Our lives are but fine weavings, that God and we prepare,
Each life becomes a fabric planned, and fashioned in his care . . .
We may not always see, just how the weavings intertwine,
But we must trust the Master’s hand, and follow His design.
For He can view the pattern, upon the upper side
While we must look from underneath, and trust in Him to guide.
Sometimes a strand of sorrow, is added to His plan,
And though it’s difficult for us, we still must understand.
That it’s He who flies the shuttle, it’s He who knows what’s best,
So we must weave in patience, and leave to Him the rest . . .
Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God unroll the canvas, and explain the reason why.
Black threads have little beauty alone, but add sharpness and contrast, adding beauty to the whole picture. All things work together for our good. Individual experiences may seem like tragedies, but take them all together and they beautify a life to bring God glory.
Flowers are more fragrant, crushed,
Diamonds more lovely, cut,
Clay more useful, molded,
Vines more productive, pruned,
Gold more precious, refined,
And nails more useful, hammered.
If you feel life’s stresses are like hammers hitting you over the head, remember, the hammer has no mind of its own. The carpenter uses both it and the nail for his purposes. God wants to use both us and our experiences for His glory.
No sorrow leaves us where it found us. It either drives us closer to God or farther away. We choose whether it will make us bitter or better.
“One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the seas are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through the life:
Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife. ”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him. Jesus said, “The servant is not greater than his Lord.” He suffered and we can expect it too.
A talented, well-trained soloist was singing. The author of the song being sung, sitting in the audience, was asked how he thought she did. He said, “She will be a great singer after her heart is broken.”
Sometimes fear of the future frightens us, and we wonder what our children will face. Financial collapse, apostasy, crime, nuclear war, communist control, and persecution are all very real possibilities. Psalm 37 says we are not to fret because of evildoers, but rather to trust in the Lord, delight in the Lord, commit our way to Him, and rest in Him. It also promises the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The poem “Life’s Lesson” speaks of this fear and how to cope with it.
A child came close to his teacher’s side,
His book tight clasped in his little hand.
“Teacher,” he said, with wistful eyes,
“We’re coming to words I don’t understand.
I’ve turned the pages over and over,
And the words are so big, and they’re all so new,
When we come to the lessons where they are put,
Oh, teacher, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
The teacher smiled at the troubled face,
And tenderly stroked the curly head;
“Before we reach them, I think you will learn
The way to read them,” she gently said;
“But if you shouldn’t, I’ll help you then,
And don’t you think that the wisest plan
Is to learn the lesson that comes today,
And learn it the very best you can?”
And it seems to me it is so with us;
We look at the days that are still ahead-
The days that perchance may never be ours-
With a pitiful longing and nameless dread.
But surely the Teacher who gives the task
Will lovingly watch, as we try to read
With faltering tongue and tear-dimmed eyes,
And will help His children in time of need.
- Author Unknown
Growing older has its own stresses. This is the way one person put it.
On Growing Older
Everything is farther away now than it used to be, It is twice as far to the corner and they have added a hill, I noticed. I have given up running for the bus– it leaves faster than it used to. And it seems to me, they are making stairs steeper than in the old days,
Have you noticed the smaller print they are using in the newspapers? And there is no sense in asking people to read aloud...everyone speaks in such a low voice, I can hardly hear them.
It is almost impossible to reach my shoe laces. Even people are changing. They are much younger than they used to be when I was their age. On the other hand, people my age are so much older than I am.
I ran into an old classmate the other day, and she had aged so much, I didn’t even recognize her. I got to thinking about the poor thing while I was combing my hair this morning, and in doing so I glanced at my reflection. You know, they don’t even make mirrors like they used to.
The following poem tells us what older folks appreciate, how we can lessen their stress.
Beatitudes or Friends of the Aged
Blessed are they who understand
My faltering steps and palsied hand.
Blessed are they who know that my ears today
Must strain to catch the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know
That my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.
Blessed are they who looked away
When coffee spilled at the table today.
Blessed are they with a cheery smile
Who stop to chat for a little while.
Blessed are they who never say,
"You've told that story twice today."
Blessed are they who know the ways
To bring back memories of yesterdays.
Blessed are they who make it known
That I'm loved, respected and not alone.
Blessed are they who know I'm at a loss
To find the strength to carry the Cross.
Blessed are they who ease the days
On my journey home in loving ways.
by Ester Mary Walker:
When people are hurting, they need more than a diagnosis and advice. Feelings of those in distress are easily hurt. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle. They need to sense our love and caring. Learn to listen a lot first before speaking and then speak the truth in love. The apostle Paul said he was gentle among his converts, like a mother caring for her little children. A person who is really hurting may say some pretty wild things. Take these with a grain of salt. Deep down they really do not mean them, and in a day or two may tell you so. If you had pinched your finger and were in great pain, you may dance around and unintentionally hurt the person nearest you. If a person is hurting badly, they may lash out with verbal daggers at anyone near. If you are trying to help them you may be one of the victims. Do not take these things personally.
We do not have the answers, so we need to direct them to God and His Word for help. It would not be good for them if they became dependent on us, if we became a permanent crutch for them. Little is gained by endlessly discussing the person who caused the hurt. Much better is to help them find their peace and resources in God. Repeating a thing over and over only reinforces it in our mind. So there is a limit to the time that should be spent going over and over and over a problem. More benefit comes from directing our attention to the solution, finding the response God desires them to have. Very little can be done to help a person if they are not committed to following God’s direction. The most important thing to do is assure them that God has a solution, that there is hope. God specializes in things thought impossible. There is a way out. Things are not hopeless. Life is worth living. When a person thinks all is lost, and life not worth living, encourage them to think of the good things they still have rather than concentrating on the things they lost. After an extremely heartbreaking experience, a dear sister wrote to me, “God has been so good to me,” and she was exactly right the reason she could say that, was because she concentrated on what they had, not on what was taken away. Encourage them to keep busy. Sometimes a person will not want to face people, will just want to stay home and withdraw. This is natural but not advisable. It will be harder later to meet others if they sit at home a while. We can share a good book, some pertinent song or scripture. They may hurt so much it’s hard to think clearly or find their own reading material. Choose some for them, or some tapes that speak to their need. Keeping in contact by phone let’s them know you haven’t forgotten them. Remember you may be the hurting one tomorrow. Speak to them as you would wish to be spoken to.
Remember to keep confidences. If you were in their place, would you want a thing repeated? When you promise to pray for someone, do you, or is it an idle promise easily forgotten?
If you are a Christian, you are qualified to give encouragement. A cheery smile, warm handshake, a listening ear, a promise from scripture, a word of hope, or prayer for them have much value.
Going through similar trials as the one who is hurting may have its benefits in understanding them, but God can direct us to help even though we may not have gone through the same experience.
You may still think, “I’m not qualified.” The way you care for a person is more important than the words you say. Jesus used five loaves and two fishes to bless many. If you feel you only have a fish tail or a few crumbs, give them to God. He can bless with little or much. I went through my Bible choosing verses that had blessed me in hard times. I listed the references on a paper and shared them with one who was hurting. She found these a great blessing and passed them on to another in pain, who passed them on to another. Little things can be a great blessing. I found a small booklet, entitled, “Comfort for Troubled Christians.” I keep the list of Bible references and the little booklets in my purse, so when I meet people in distress I have them along to share. Some are in Florida, some in Canada, some in Kentucky, beside those in Pennsylvania.
The Hindered Christ
The Lord Christ wanted a tongue one day,
To speak a word of cheer
To a soul that was weary and worn and sad,
And freighted with doubt and fear.
He asked me for mine, but 'twas busy quite
With my own affairs from morn till night.
And the dear Lord Christ – was His work undone,
For the lack of a willing heart?
Often through men does He speak to men
Dumb must He be apart.
I do not know, but I wish today
I had let the Lord Christ have His way.— The Pilot.
Before long, our time here with all the stresses will be ever.
Just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven,
Of touching a hand, and finding it God’s,
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial,
Of waking up in glory, and finding it HOME.
– THE END
Miriam Landis Spring of 1985