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    TRIALS
    (see also Tragedy)

    He sat by the fire of seven-fold 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 of 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

    And our eyes were so dim with tears,

    As we saw the fire, not the Master's hand,

    And questioned with anxious fear.

    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 infinite love.

    Can we think that it pleases His loving heart

    To cause a moment of pain?

    Ah, no, but He saw through the present cross

    The bliss of eternal gain.

    So He 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!

    Source Unknown.


    Grace is God drawing sinners closer and closer to him. How does God in grace prosecute this purpose? Not by shielding us from assault by the work, the flesh, and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstance, not yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology, but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely.

    This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another -- it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast. The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak is that God spends so much of his time showing us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find or follow the right road. When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, likely we would impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm brewing and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we would thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn to lean on him thankfully. Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself, to -- in the classic scriptural phrase for the secret of the godly man's life -- "wait on the Lord."

    James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.


    Out of the Darkness

    Out of the dark forbidding soil

    The pure white lilies grow.

    Out of the black and murky clouds,

    Descends the stainless snow.

    Out of the crawling earth-bound worm

    A butterfly is born.

    Out of the somber shrouded night,

    Behold! A golden morn!

    Out of the pain and stress of life,

    The peace of God pours down.

    Out of the nails -- the spear -- the cross,

    Redemption -- and a crown!

    Source Unknown.


    Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.

    The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

    The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned.

    Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.

    Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

    A few days after the trauma, the reporter who'd initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore -- he just sits and stares."

    It's hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.

    Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 11.


    Doctor to patient: "I have bad news and worse news."

    Patient: "So let's have it."

    Doctor: "The bad news is that you only have 24 hours to live."

    Patient: "I can't imagine what could be worse than that!"

    Doctor: "I forgot to tell you yesterday."

     

    Source Unknown.

     


    Louis Albert Banks tells of an elderly Christian man, a fine singer, who learned that he had cancer of the tongue and that surgery was required. In the hospital after everything was ready for the operation, the man said to the doctor, "Are you sure I will never sing again?" The surgeon found it difficult to answer his question. He simply shook his head no. The patient then asked if he could sit up for a moment. "I've had many good times singing the praises of God," he said. "And now you tell me I can never sing again. I have one song that will be my last. It will be of gratitude and praise to God." 

    There in the doctor's presence the man sang softly the words of Isaac Watts' hymn, "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath,/ And when my voice is lost in death,/ Praise shall employ my nobler power;/ My days of praise shall ne'er be past,/ While life, and thought, and being last,/ Or immortality endures." 

    Our Daily Bread.


    The Thames, flowing through London, was at low tide, causing the freighter to be anchored a distance from shore. The long plank, which led from the ship across the mud flats to the bank, suddenly began to jiggle precariously. The smallish man who was carefully pushing his barrow across the plank from the freighter to the shore lost his balance and found himself tumbling into the muddy waters. A roar of laughter erupted from the dockers and from the tall worker on board ship, who had jiggled the plank. The muddied man's instinctive reaction was anger. The fall was painful; he was dripping wet and knee deep in muck."This is your opportunity," a voice whispered in his heart.

    The victim, unknown to his tormenters, was a clergyman disguised as a docker in hopes of getting to know how the dockers felt, lived and struggled. Perhaps as he gained their confidence and made friends, he could tell them of the love of the Savior, who died to give them new life and hope and joy.

    George Dempster came up laughing. A docker made his way to where Dempster had been dislodged, dropped some empty boxes into the slush and jumped down to help him out.

    "You took that all right," he said as he helped Dempster clamber back to the boxes he had dropped. His accent was not that of a cockney. He was no ordinary docker.

    Dempster told the story of this unusual docker in Finding Men for Christ. He recounted the ensuing events:

    "Did I? Well, what's the use of being otherwise?" I replied and followed this by a challenge.

    "You haven't been at this game long."

    "Neither have you," he retorted.

    "No! And I shan't be at it much longer if I can help it.

    Tell me your yarn, and I'll tell you mine."

    I was watching his face as well as I could with my eyes still half full of mud. He was trying to scrape some of the slime from me and meanwhile becoming almost as filthy as I was. We agreed to exchange yarns. I therefore proposed that we should adjourn to a coffee shop nearby and over a warm drink exchange the story of our experiences, and how we came to be "down under" life's circumstances.

    Along we journeyed through Wapping High Street, up Nightingale Lane to London Docks and so "To where I dossed" (slept).

    When we reached the Alley and I indicated the door he said, "Do they let beds here?" "Well," I replied, "I sleep here, come in and see."

    "Oh! I've often passed this place but did not know they put men up here."

    We entered and I instructed that a cup of coffee and something be brought for my friend, while I disappeared without explaining to anybody exactly how I came to be so inelegantly decorated. Mud baths had not yet become a prescribed treatment for certain human ailments, but never could such a remedy, however well prepared or appropriately prescribed, prove so effectual as this one. It had been involuntarily taken it is true, but for like results who would not undertake even such drastic treatment daily? "His ways are higher than our ways." His permissions are all for somebody's good, and in this instance the reason for His permission was not long unrevealed.

    A hurried bath soon put me right. After donning my usual attire, while seeking Divine guidance I hastened to return. "Here we are, now for our yarns," I began. He was staring in amazement and was for a few moments lost for reply. "This is your yarn, is it? What do you do this for?" The first part of his question needed no reply, but I did not hesitate to answer the second. "To find you."

    He looked perplexed as we sat gazing at each other; then dropping his eyes before my enquiring look, shook his head sadly and rose as if to depart. Restraining him I said cheerily: "Now, friend, a bargain is a bargain. Thank you for helping me out of the river and thus giving me the privilege of meeting you, but you promised, you know, and I want that story of yours. You can see mine."

    He was a tall, well-built man in middle life. There were indications beyond his speech that his years had not been spent in his present conditions and surroundings. His features gave evidence of intellect, and the obvious deterioration was recent. His expression was softening even as we stood facing each other. The previous callous demeanor was giving place to something finer. I pursued the question, feeling certain now that here was the purpose of my adventure.

    "Come now, tell me if I can be of help to you."

    Very decisively he answered at once, "No, you cannot."

    "Why?"

    "Because I've gone too far."

    As I prayed silently, presently he looked me squarely in the face as if measuring whether he could trust me and confide. No words came, so I continued. "Does it not appeal to you as a very remarkable thing," I asked, "that we should be sitting here like this if you have really gone too far?" No answer.

    "Was it an accidental thing that I happened to get a job alongside you at that particular wharf this morning? Was it mere chance that those rascals chose me for their rather cruel joke? Is it pure coincidence that of all the crowd you should be the one to fish me out? Or -- did Someone know where to find you and is even now answering someone else's prayer for you?"

    From the pocket he drew hastily two photographs. "These are mine," he said, laying them gently upon the table. One was the picture of a fine-looking lady, the other bore the figures of two bonnie young girls of nearly equal age, obviously the daughters of the elder woman. I was looking closely at them when I heard a groan and then a sob as my friend again dropped his head upon his arms.

    "Yours! And you here like this? Why?"

    It was a sad story, but, alas, only too familiar. Bit by bit I got it from him; although several times with an almost fierce "it's too late," he would have left me. He was a fully qualified medical man with a fine record. He had married into a well-known family where there was no lack of money. Having conducted a splendid practice in the south of England, all went well for him for years. Two girls were born to them, and it was a happy home with a very wide circle of friends. But as so frequently happens, the allurements proved too strong for the man whose gifts and natural endowments made him a popular and welcome guest wherever he went. He was too busy to continue his regular attendance at church; gradually he ceased altogether and always had plenty of excuses to offer when his wife urged him to accompany her.

    The girls were sent away to school where they were educated with a view to following a medical career, but he who should have been their guide and helper failed in his obligations because he had become addicted to drink. At first this fact was hidden, but the habit grew stronger until it mastered him. His practice as well as his home and family were neglected. This naturally led to great unhappiness and depression. In spite of the loving devotion and care of his wife and daughters, he went from bad to worse and finally decided to disappear. So by a number of subterfuges he effectually vanished from the world which knew him and became a wanderer.

    After years of wander in America and Canada, he returned to London. He had never been discovered; he had never communicated with his kin. Down, down he went, living the life of a casual hand, sometimes finding a job, sometimes literally begging for food. He slept out at night, often in lodging houses with those with whom he had nothing in common save a degraded and sinful way of life. When he could get drink, he took all he could obtain to drown his sorrows.

    Once he was lodged in the Tower Bridge Police cells but was discharged and warned. He had simply been found "drunk and incapable," and his identity had not been revealed. Now this thing had happened, and it could not be explained away by saying it was a coincidence. There was more in it than that. "Someone" had known where to find him. Suppose those three whom he had so shamefully deserted had been all the time praying for his recovery? Recovery that he had so foolishly resisted -- so often longed for -- so often dreamed of.

    Suppose it were true that God was now "causing all things to work together for good to them" -- those three -- "that love Him"? Suppose that He was at this moment giving him another -- possibly a last -- chance to return?

    Such, he later admitted, were his thoughts, and he began to pray for himself. He had known in past days the comforts and consolations of worship. Now he began to pray very deeply and truly as he heard from a friend the old, old message.

    Presently he said calmly, "I see," and kneeling by the table, he and I talked with God. Never can I forget his prayer.

    At first the halting, stumbling petition of a brokenhearted repentant sinner who felt acutely two things. First, his base ingratitude to a merciful God Who had not cut him off in the midst of his sins, and then the cruelty of his conduct toward those who loved him on earth. As he confessed his feelings in these ways, he seemed to become capable of clearer utterance.

    How long we thus communed I do not know, but we were both much moved as we stood to shake hands. I seemed to feel again his grip on mine as I now record these happenings. "And you will stand by me?"

    "Yes," I answered, "as well as another man can."

    "Then I'll prove what Christ can do."

    We then fell to considering whether it would be advisable to write at once to his wife and tell her the news. "No! Not yet. Please God we'll try and improve matters before we do that. I must find out more about the position there first. There are the girls to think about. I must not spoil their careers. About now they must be in the midst of their exams. No! Please wait a while until by God's help I am a little more like a father they need not be ashamed of -- then!"

    So we planned. With the aid of a friend who had influence in a certain large, well-known company, he was found a berth in the warehouse, packing drugs and chemicals. In a few weeks, the results were surprising. He was found to be so useful that a better paid job was offered him. Soon it was discovered that he knew a great deal about the contents of the packets he was handling, and when he admitted that the work of a dispenser was not strange to him, he was again promoted.

    It was then that he agreed to my suggestions to write to his wife and inform her that he was alive and well. Very carefully I wrote, telling her something of the events above recorded and suggesting that if she would like to see me on the matter I would gladly arrange to meet her.

    A letter came back, breathing deep gratitude to God for His wonderful answer to prayer and for His mercy. An expression of appreciation for the human agency He had provided, and an explanation that the two daughters were facing some difficult hospital examinations. It would therefore, she thought, be best to defer any meeting until they were through. But would I please keep her informed of his progress. It was a wonderfully understanding and gracious letter considering all the circumstances.

    I showed him the letter.

    He was deeply moved as he carefully and eagerly read it, then returning it to me he said quietly, "I must ask you to honor her wishes. Painful as delay is to me, I must submit. I deserve it and much more. Will you now pray with me that I may prove worthy of her confidence and their love?"

    Six months passed, each day bringing continuous evidence of the "new birth" and of his loyalty to Christ. There was no wavering or falling back. Whatever struggles he had with the enemy, no one saw the least evidence of any weakness. In every way he was proving that he was "a new creature," that "old things had passed away."

    Two brief notes had come from the wife asking more details than my letters conveyed. I gladly told her all she desire to learn.

    Then one day there came a letter asking me to arrange a time for her to visit me. This was soon done, and without telling either of them what I had planned, I made my own arrangements. He was not informed of the impending visit but patiently awaited developments.

    In due time the day arrived, and the wife kept her appointment. I instantly recognized the lady of the photograph, and to my intense delight she had brought her elder daughter with her. Both were much affected as I told them as much as I deemed needful of the facts. I felt it would be wise to leave the husband to give his own version of affairs.

    Then, at a suitable moment, I said, "Would you like to see him at once?" I had not revealed to them that I had him in an adjoining room. But when the wife and daughter said eagerly together "Yes, please," I opened the door and led them in to him. The lady had approached her husband with a smile of welcome and had kissed him; the daughter had put her arms about her father's neck, and I heard just two words, "Dad, darling."

    It was no place for an outsider, so I made for my study and there lay the whole case again before the Father, asking that His will should be done. He heard and answered.

    For an hour I left them alone. Then he came to fetch me. His eyes were very red, and I thought he walked with a new and firmer step. No word was said, but he looked his deep gratitude as he beckoned me to return with him.

    As I entered the room, the wife approached me with an eager look which spoke eloquently of the tense feelings she had. When, after a few moments, she found voice, it was to tell me that it had been arranged to await the second daughter's examinations, which were just pending. This girl did not yet know the purport of her mother's visit to London that day with the sister, who now told me on top of her own success in the exams, she was overjoyed at finding her father.

    "Do dare not tell Margery yet. She is rather highly strung, and as Dad says, it might interfere with her progress. But won't she be just delighted. You know she has never ceased praying for this." So spake the daughter, still holding her father's hand, as if unwilling to part again. It was a most affecting scene, and one felt that there was Another present, rejoicing with us. "If all goes well we shall, please God, make home again when Margery is through, and oh what a day that will be."

    The mother was now feeling the stress of it all and needed rest and refreshment. A happy little meal was prepared, and thanks were given to Him Who had thus brought His promises to fulfillment. But the best was yet to be.

    A happy home was restored.

    In a certain south coast town, a place famous for its exhilarating air and for many of its citizens who have made history, there is held every Sunday afternoon a Bible class for young men. Sixty or more of the finest young fellows in that district meet week by week. It has been the birthplace of many splendid young Christians. Some of them have entered the Civil Service and today hold important positions at Whitehall, where I have had the joy of meeting them.

    Coming one day along one of the corridors in the colonial office, I met a friend who said, "I'm very glad to see you today, because I promised that the next time you came this way I would ask you to come along with me and meet a man who wants to see you. He has another friend in the home office who also wants to meet you. Have you the time to do so?"

    I assented and was led to the room indicated. Here was a man holding a responsible position who, upon being introduced, said, "I'm glad to meet you, sir, because I have an idea that you must be the gentleman of whom a very dear friend of mine often spoke. May I ask if you were acquainted with Dr. ______?"

    "Yes indeed, I know him very well."

    "Then I guess you are the one of whom he spoke. I owe everything in life after my own parents to Dr. ______. He was a wonderful factor in the shaping of my career and that of many others. How did you come to know him, sir, if I may so question? And do you know his gifted family?"

    Of course I could not tell him under what circumstances I had first met the doctor, the beloved physician who had sat in the leader's chair of that Bible class Sunday by Sunday teaching youths the Way of Life, nor that it was he who had helped me out of the river that day when I had my involuntary mud bath.

    From Finding Men for Christ by George Dempster, (London: Hodder & Stroughton, 1935). quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, Ruth Bell Graham, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, pp. 85-94.


    A friend of mine awoke one morning to find a puddle of water in the middle of his king-size water bed. In order to fix the puncture, he rolled the heavy mattress outdoors and filled it with more water so he could locate the leak more easily. The enormous bag of water was impossible to control and began rolling on the hilly terrain. He tried to hold it back, but it headed downhill and landed in a clump of bushes which poked it full of holes.

    Disgusted, my friend threw out the water-bed frame and moved a standard bed into his room. The next morning, he awoke to find a puddle of water in the middle of the new bed. The upstairs bathroom had a leaky drain. 

    Reader's Digest, March, 1993, p. 123.


    While assembling their new water bed, my sister Betty and her husband, Everett, realized they would need a hose. Everett dashed to the hardware store and bought one. They attached it to the bed, ran it through the apartment to the kitchen tap and left to wait for the bed to fill. About an hour later they checked on its progress. That's when they discovered Everett had bought a sprinkler hose. 

    Reader's Digest, March, 1993, p. 123.


    Good Timber

    The tree that never had to fight

    For sun and sky and air and light,

    That stood out in the open plain

    And always got its share of rain,

    Never became a forest king

    But lived and died a scrubby thing.

    The man who never had to toil

    To heaven from the common soil,

    Who never had to win his share

    Of sun and sky and light and air,

    Never became a manly man,

    But lived and died as he began.

    Good timber does not grow in ease;

    The stronger wind, the tougher trees;

    The farther sky, the greater length;

    The more the storm, the more the strength;

    By sun and cold, by rain and snows,

    In tree or man, good timber grows.

    Where thickest stands the forest growth

    We find the patriarchs of them both;

    And they hold converse with the stars

    Whose broken branches show the scars

    Of many winds and of much strife --

    This is the common law of life.

    Douglas Malloch, quoted in Resource, Sept./Oct., 1992, p 7.


    How you can tell when it's going to be a rotten day:

    You wake up face down on the pavement.

    You call Suicide Prevention and they put you on hold.

    You see a "60 Minutes" news team waiting in your office.

    Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.

    You turn on the news and they're showing emergency routes out of the city.

    Your twin sister forgot your birthday.

    Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell's Angels on the freeway.

    Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.

    The bird singing outside your window is a buzzard.

    You wake up and your braces are locked together.

    You call your answering service and they tell you it's none of your business.

    Your income tax check bounces.

    You put both contact lenses in the same eye.

    Your wife says, "Good morning, Bill", and your name is George.

    Source Unknown.


    I humbly bless his gracious Providence, who gave me his Treasure in an Earthen Vessel, and trained me up on the School of Affliction, and taught me the Cross of Christ so soon; that I might be rather Theologus Crucis, as Luther speaketh, than Theologus Gloriae; and a Cross-bearer, than a Cross-maker or Imposer. 

    Richard Baxter in Reliquiae Baxterianae; or Narrative of His Life and Times, I, 21. quoted in Christianity Today, March 9, 1992, p. 45.


    "I often wish that I could lie down and sleep without waking. But I will fight it out if I can." So wrote one of the bravest, most inspiring men who ever lived, Sir Walter Scott. In his 56th year, failing in health, his wife dying of an incurable disease, Scott was in debt a half million dollars. A publishing firm he had invested in had collapsed. He might have taken bankruptcy, but shrank from the stain. From his creditors he asked only time. Thus began his race with death, a valiant effort to pay off the debt before he died.

    To be able to write free from interruptions, Scott withdrew to a small rooming house in Edinburgh. He had left his dying wife, Charlotte behind in the country.

    "It withered my heart," he wrote in his diary, but his presence could avail her nothing now. A few weeks later she died. After the funeral he wrote in his diary: "Were an enemy coming upon my house, would I not do my best to fight, although oppressed in spirits; and shall a similar despondency prevent me from mental exertion? It shall not, by heaven!"

    With a tremendous exercise of will, he returned to the task, stifling his grief. He turned out Woodstock, Count Robert of Paris, Castle Dangerous, and other works. Though twice stricken with paralysis, he labored steadily until the fall of 1832. Then came a merciful miracle. Although his mental powers had left him, he died September 21, 1832, happy in the illusion that all his debts were paid. (They were finally paid in 1847 with the sale of all his copyrights.)

    Thomas Carlyle was to write of him latter: "No sounder piece of British manhood was put together in the eighteenth century of time."

    Bits & Pieces, August 20, 1992, p. 16-18.


    My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me. I cannot choose the colors He worketh steadily. Oft times he weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride forget He sees the upper and I the underside. Not till the loom is silent and the shuttle ceases to fly shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.

    Source Unknown.


    He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity. 

    Ben Jonson.


    One man's life provides a dramatic answer to the question, can God indeed bring positives out of troubled times? This young man's name is David, and he is an awesome picture of God's using difficulties for good. For years he viewed trials as something that affected only his external world, and any blow to what he owned or how he looked would discourage him and leave him feeling cheated. Today, David travels around the world, talking with people about how he discovered that no matter what happens to the outside, it's the internal life that trials really touch. Just like what happened in Jerry's life (whose story we shared in the last chapter), the bigger the trial, the more potential to see God's power and peace at work in the inner person. 

    During the Vietnam War, David went through rigorous training to become part of the ultra elite special forces team the Navy used on dangerous search-and-destroy missions. During a nighttime raid on an enemy stronghold, David experienced the greatest trial of his life. When he and his men were pinned down by enemy machine-gun fire, he pulled a phosphorus grenade from his belt and stood up to throw it. But as he pulled back his arm, a bullet hit the grenade, and it exploded next to his ear.

    Lying on his side on the bank of a muddy river, he watched part of his face float by. His entire face and shoulder alternately smoldered and caught on fire as the phosphorus that had embedded itself in his body came into contact with the air. David knew that he was going to die, yet miraculously he didn't. He was pulled from the water by his fellow soldiers, flown directly to Saigon, and then taken to a waiting plane bound for Hawaii. 

    But David's problems were just beginning. When he first went into surgery -- the first of what would become dozens of operations -- the surgical team had a major problem during the operation. As they cut away tissue that had been burned or torn by the grenade, the phosphorus would hit the oxygen in the operating room and begin to ignite again! Several times the doctors and nurses ran out of the room, leaving him alone because they were afraid the oxygen used in surgery would explode! Incredibly, David survived the operation and was taken to a ward that held the most severe burn and injury cases from the war. 

    Lying on his bed, his head the size of a basketball, David knew he presented a grotesque picture. Although he had once been a handsome man, he knew he had nothing to offer his wife or anyone else because of his appearance. He felt more alone and more worthless than he had ever felt in his life. But David wasn't alone in his room. There was another man who had been wounded in Vietnam and was also a nightmarish sight. He had lost an arm and a leg, and his face was badly torn and scarred. As David was recovering from surgery, this man's wife arrived from the States. When she walked into the room and took one look at her husband, she became nauseated. She took off her wedding ring, put it on the nightstand next to him, and said, "I'm so sorry, but there's no way I could live with you looking like that." And with that, she walked out the door. He could barely make any sounds through his torn throat and mouth, but the soldier wept and shook for hours. Two days later, he died. That woman's attitude represents in many respects the way the world views a victim of accident or injury. If a trial emotionally or physically scars someone or causes him to lose his attractiveness, the world says "Ugly is bad," and consequently, any value that person feels he has to others is drained away. For this poor wounded soldier, knowing that his wife saw no value in him was more terrible than the wounds he suffered. It blew away his last hope that someone, somewhere, could find worth in him because he knew how the world would perceive him. 

    Three days later, David's wife arrived. After watching what had happened with the other soldier, he had no idea what kind of reaction she would have toward him, and he dreaded her coming. His wife, a strong Christian, took one look at him, came over, and kissed him on the only place on his face that wasn't bandaged. In a gentle voice she said, "Honey, I love you. I'll always love you. And I want you to know that whatever it takes, whatever the odds, we can make it together." She hugged him where she could to avoid disturbing his injuries and stayed with him for the next several days. Watching what had happened with the other man's wife and seeing his own wife's love for him gave David tremendous strength. More than that, her understanding and accepting him greatly reinforced his own relationship with the Lord. 

    In the weeks and months that followed, David's wounds slowly but steadily healed. It took dozens of operations and months of agonizing recovery, but today, miraculously, David can see and hear. On national television, we heard David make an incredible statement. I am twice the person I was before I went to Vietnam. For one thing, God has used my suffering to help me feel other people's pain and to have an incredible burden to reach people for Him. The Lord has let me have a worldwide, positive effect on people's lives because of what I went through. I wouldn't trade anything I've gone through for the benefits my trials have had in my life, on my family's life and on countless teenagers and adults I've had the opportunity to influence over the years. David experienced a trial that no parents would wish on their children. Yet in spite of all the tragedy that surrounded him, God turned his troubled times into fruitful ones. 

    Gary Smalley and John Trent, Ph.D., The Gift of Honor, pp. 56-58.


    "I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contented condition, when suddenly a stab of pain threatens serious disease, or a newspaper headline threatens us all with destruction.

    "At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happiness look like broken toys. And perhaps, by God's grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys.

    "Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation in only too clear. God has had me for but 48 hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe the sword for a minute, and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over -- I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness in the nearest flower bed.

    "And that is why tribulation cannot cease until God sees us remade." 

    From The Problem of Pain; used by permission of William Collins Sons and Co., Ltd. quoted in Daily Walk, May 16/17, 1992.


    Lord, I've never moved a mountain and I guess I never will. All the faith that I could muster wouldn't move a small ant hill. Yet I'll tell you, Lord, I'm grateful for the joy of knowing Thee, and for all the mountain moving down through life You've done for me.

    When I needed some help you lifted me from the depths of great despair. And when burdens, pain and sorrow have been more than I can bear, you have always been my courage to restore life's troubled sea, and to move these little mountains that have looked so big to me.

    Many times when I've had problems and when bills I've had to pay, and the worries and the heartaches just kept mounting every day, Lord, I don't know how you did it. Can't explain the wheres or whys. All I know, I've seen these mountains turn to blessings in disguise.

    No, I've never moved a mountain, for my faith is far too small. Yet, I thank you, Lord of Heaven, you have always heard my call. And as long as there are mountains in my life, I'll have no fear, for the mountain-moving Jesus is my strength and always near.

    Source Unknown.


    He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;

    Tho' disappointments come and hope burns dim,

    He never fails.

    Tho' trials surge like stormy seas around,

    Tho' testings fierce like ambushed foes abound,

    Yet this my soul, with millions more has found,

    He never fails; He never fails.

    He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;

    Tho' angry skies with thunder-clouds grow grim,

    He never fails.

    Tho' icy blasts life's fairest flow'rs lay low,

    Tho' earthly springs of joy all cease to flow,

    Yet still 'tis true, with millions more I know,

    He never fails; He never fails.

    He never fails the soul that trusts in Him;

    Tho' sorrow's cup should overflow the brim,

    He never fails.

    Tho' oft the pilgrim way seems rough and long,

    I yet shall stand amid yon white-robed throng,

    And there I'll sing, with millions more, this song--

    He never fails; He never fails.

    J.S. Baxter, Explore The Book.


    A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain.

    Mildred Witte Struven, Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p.6.


    First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

    Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

    Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

    Last, In His good time He can bring me out again--how and when He knows.

    Let me say I am here, (1) By God's appointment, (2) In His keeping, (3) Under His training, (4) For His time.

    Andrew Murray, quoted in Though the Mountains Shake, by Amy Carmichael, p. 12.


    The hills ahead look steep and high,

    And often we behold them with a sigh;

    But as we near them level grows the road,

    We find on every slope, with every load,

    The climb is not so steep, the top so far.

    The hills ahead look harder than they are.

    Douglas Malloch.


    I am not a connoisseur of great art, but from time to time a painting or picture will really speak a clear, strong message to me. Some time ago I saw a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney...the charred debris of what had been that family's sole possession. In front of this destroyed home stood an old grandfather-looking man dressed only in his underclothes with a small boy clutching a pair of patched overalls. It was evident that the child was crying. Beneath the picture were the words which the artist felt the old man was speaking to the boy. They were simple words, yet they presented a profound theology and philosophy of life. Those words were, "Hush child, God ain't dead!" 

    That vivid picture of that burned-out mountain shack, that old man, the weeping child, and those words "God ain't dead" keep returning to my mind. Instead of it being a reminder of the despair of life, it has come to be a reminder of hope! I need reminders that there is hope in this world. In the midst of all of life's troubles and failures, I need mental pictures to remind me that all is not lost as long as God is alive and in control of His world. 

    James DeLoach, associate pastor of the Second Baptist Chruch of Houston, quoted in When God Was Taken Captive, W. Aldrich, Multnomah, 1989, p. 24.


    In 1924, two climbers were part of an expedition that set out to conquer Mount Everest. As far as is known, they never reached the summit; and they never returned. Somewhere on that gigantic mountain they were overpowered by the elements and died. After the failure of the expedition, the rest of the party returned home. Addressing a meeting in London, one of those who returned described the ill-fated adventure. He then turned to a huge photograph of Mount Everest, mounted on the wall behind him.

    "Everest," he cried, "we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us. We tried to conquer you a second time, but again you were too much for us. But, Everest, I want you to know that we are going to conquer you, for you can't grow any bigger, and we can!" 

    Gene Getz, Doing Your Part, Regal, 1984, pp. 152-3.


    Never attempt to bear more than one kind of trouble at once. Some people bear three kinds--all they have had, all they have now and all they expect to have. 

    Edward Everett Hale.


    A funny thing happened in Darlington, Maryland, several years ago. Edith, a mother of eight, was coming home from a neighbor's house one Saturday afternoon. Things seemed too quiet as she walked across her front yard. Curious, she peered through the screen door and saw five of her youngest children huddled together, concentrating on something. As she crept closer to them, trying to discover the center of attention, she could not believe her eyes. Smack dab in the middle of the circle were five baby skunks. Edith screamed at the top of her voice, "Quick, children...run!" Each kid grabbed a skunk and ran.

    Swindoll, The Quest for Character, Multnomah, p. 192.


    After William Carey was well established in his pioneer missionary work in India, his supporters in England sent a printer to assist him. Soon the two men were turning out portions of the Bible for distribution. Carey had spent many years learning the language so that he could produce the scriptures in the local dialect. He had also prepared dictionaries and grammars for the use of his successors. 

    One day while Carey was away, a fire broke out and completely destroyed the building, the presses, many Bibles, and the precious manuscripts, dictionaries, and grammars. When he returned and was told of the tragic loss, he showed no sign of despair or impatience. Instead, he knelt and thanked God that he still had the strength to do the work over again. He started immediately, not wasting a moment in self-pity. Before his death, he had duplicated and even improved on his earlier achievements.

    Source Unknown.


    Joe Scriven was a missionary from Ireland to Canada, working among the Iroquois Indians. He was joined by his fiancÚ who was also from Ireland. Just before the wedding, she was killed in an ice accident. Joe buried her with his own hands, and a broken heart. A year later, in a letter to his mother, he reflected,

    "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged. Take it to the Lord in prayer." Joe was on the road to triumph, even though there were times when the road was rough.

    Source Unknown.


    On December 29, 1987, a Soviet cosmonaut returned to the earth after 326 days in orbit. He was in good health, which hasn't always been the case in those record-breaking voyages. Five years earlier, touching down after 211 days in space, two cosmonauts suffered from dizziness, high pulse rates, and heart palpitations. They couldn't walk for a week, and after 30 days, they were still undergoing therapy for atrophied muscles and weakened hearts.  At zero gravity, the muscles of the body begin to waste away because there is no resistance. To counteract this, the Soviets prescribed a vigorous exercise program for the cosmonauts. They invented the "penguin suit," a running suit laced with elastic bands. It resists every move the cosmonauts make, forcing them to exert their strength. Apparently the regimen is working.

    We often long dreamily for days without difficulty, but God knows better. The easier our life, the weaker our spiritual fiber, for strength of any kind grows only by exertion.

    Craig Brian Larson.


    The Scriptures often exhort us to be filled with various godly virtues--which means what? How do we know if we are "full of goodness" (Rom. 15:14), for example? Think a moment about a water-saturated sponge. If we push down with our finger even slightly, water runs out onto the table. We immediately know what fills the interior pockets of the sponge. The same is true of ourselves. We can tell what fills us on the inside by what comes out under pressure.

    Robert Schmidgall.


    In adversity we usually want God to do a removing job when He wants to do an improving job. To realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the storm.

    Source Unknown.


    Officer Jim Heimerl , a Minneapolis policeman, was taking part in a 16.3 mile run in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Jim was four miles into the race, in a cluster of runners not far off the pace of

    the leaders, when two deer ambled out of the woods and onto the road. The startled buck, no doubt distressed to find himself in the middle of a human marathon, began zigzagging wildly through the runners. Jim didn't even see the animal until the two of them collided and sprawled together onto the asphalt highway. Jim fell flat on his face, received a concussion and opened a nasty gash on his forehead that required 23 stitches.

     

     "Luckily there was a doctor running the race not far behind me," Jim reported. "Because of the way my heart was pumping from running, I lost a lot of blood in a hurry. The doctor applied pressure and got it stopped." The buck, however, paid an even higher price for his encounter. The collision broke his leg and his back, and the only humane response was to quickly dispense him to the ranks of the deerly departed. Jin had already been admitted to a nearby hospital for repairs when state game officials called to tell him Wisconsin law holds that anyone who hits and kills a deer on a Wisconsin roadway can claim the deer. But since he didn't feel up to dealing with a dead deer, and since he didn't want to store the carcass in his station wagon in 80-degree heat while he recuperated overnight in the hospital, Jim declined the offer. 

     

    He lamented his luck. "I hunt deer for 14 years without getting a thing, and then I get one while I'm running a race."

     

    Source Unknown.

     


    A.J. Gordon noted that if you tear down a sparrow's nest the little bird will build again in the same place. However, if you pull it down several times, she will seek a new location--a shelter higher up--where it will be less vulnerable. Gordon then observed that Christians are not always so wise. They form dwelling places of happiness and hope in this temporal world, only to see them pulled down time after time. Yet after each brief interval of sighs and tears, they begin building all over again in the same way. They never realize that through their defeats the Lord is directing them to put their security in Him.

    Samuel Rutherford once wrote, "If God had told me some time ago that he was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that he should begin by crippling me in arm or limb, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing his purpose. And yet, how is his wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps, and then throwing open the shutter to let in the light of heaven." 

    Today in the Word, September,1989, p. 16.


    1) trouble seems to be woven into the fabric of living (Job 14:1). 2) many of our distresses are caused by our own sin and foolishness (Prov. 21:23, Ps. 78:32-3). 3) some difficulties are created by other people (Ps. 9:13). 4) God allows trouble but is always in control (2 Chr. 29:8). 5) we have a refuge and strong defense in the Lord (Ps. 59:16). 6) He invites us to call upon Him in our distresses (Ps. 50:15). 7) we can expect deliverance in keeping with His will (Ps 107:6, 143:11).

    Source Unknown.


    Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford's plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford's plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul"--words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! 

    Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 27.


    God has not promised skies always blue,

    Flower-strewn pathways all our life through;

    God has not promised sun without rain,

    Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

    But God has promised strength for the day,

    Rest for the labor, light for the way;

    Grace for the trials, help from above,

    Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

     

    Source Unknown.


    A small girl had been promised the privilege of climbing to a nearby hilltop where her brother enjoyed playing. But when she came within sight of the steep, rough path, she drew back in dismay. "Why, there isn't a smooth spot anywhere. It's all bumpy and stony!" she exclaimed. 

    "Yes," said her more experienced older brother, "but how else would we ever climb to the top if it wasn't? The stones and bumps are what we step on to get there."

    Source Unknown.


    Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle. 

    J.R. Lowell.


    God brings men into deep waters not to drown them but to cleanse them.

    Source Unknown.


    Vance Havner told a story about an elderly lady who was greatly disturbed by her many troubles--both real and imaginary.  Finally, someone in her family tactfully told her, "Grandma, we've done all we can for you. You'll just have to trust God for the rest." A look of absolute despair spread over her face as she replied, "Oh dear, has it come to that?" Havner commented, "It always comes to that, so we might as well begin with that!"

    Vance Havner.


    When God wants to drill a man,

    And thrill a man,

    And skill a man,

    When God wants to mold a man

    To play the noblest part;

    When He yearns with all His heart

    To create so great and bold a man

    That all the world shall be amazed,

    Watch His methods, watch His ways!

    How He ruthlessly perfects

    Whom He royally elects!

    How He hammers him and hurts him,

    And with mighty blows converts him

    Into trial shapes of clay which

    Only God understands;

    While his tortured heart is crying

    And he lifts beseeching hands!

    How He bends but never breaks

    When his good He undertakes;

    How He uses whom He chooses,

    And with every purpose fuses him;

    By every act induces him

    To try His splendor out--

    God knows what He's about.

    Source Unknown.


    The supreme blessing in which one can truly know the goodness of God is not temporal possessions, but the eternal blessing that God has called us to--His holy gospel. In this gospel we hear that God will be gracious to us for the sake of His Son, will forgive and eternally save us, and will protect us in this life against the tyranny of the Devil and the world. To someone who properly appreciates this blessing, everything else is a trifle.

    Though he is poor, sick, despised, and burdened with adversities, he sees that he keeps more than he has lost. If he has no money and goods, he knows nevertheless that he has a gracious God; if his body is sick, he knows that he is called to eternal life. His heart has this constant consolation: Only a short time, and everything will be better." 

    Martin Luther, quoted in Closer Walk, July, 1988, p. 9.


    Christ was despised on earth by men, and in his greatest need, amid insults, was abandoned by those who knew him and by friends; and you dare to complain of anyone? Christ had his adversaries and slanderers; and you wish to have everyone as friends and benefactors? Whence will your patience win its crown if it has encountered nothing of adversity? 

    Thomas Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.


    By the age of 5, Beethoven was playing the violin under the tutelage of his father--also an accomplished musician. By the time he was 13, Beethoven was a concert organist. In his 20s he was already studying under the very watchful eyes of Haydn and Mozart. In fact, Mozart spoke prophetic words when he declared that Beethoven would give the world something worth listening to by the time his life ended. As Beethoven began to develop his skills, he became a prolific composer. During his lifetime, he wrote nine majestic symphonies and five concertos for piano, not to mention numerous pieces of chamber music. Ludwig van Beethoven also wrote sonatas and pieces for violin and piano. He has thrilled us with the masterful works of unique harmony that broke with the traditions of his times. 

    The man was a genius. Beethoven was not, however, a stranger to difficulties. During his twenties, he began to lose his hearing. His fingers "became thick," he said on one occasion. He couldn't feel the music as he once had. His hearing problem haunted him in the middle years of his life, but he kept it a well-guarded secret. When he reached his fifties, Beethoven was stone deaf. Three years later he made a tragic attempt to conduct an orchestra and failed miserably. Approximately five years later, he died during a fierce thunder storm. He was deaf, yet a magnificent musician.

    On one occasion, Beethoven was overheard shouting at the top of his voice as he slammed both fists on the keyboard, "I will take life by the throat!" 

    Swindoll, Hand me another brick, p. 190-191.


    You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience."

    A.B. Simpson