Tag Archives: perseverance

What I’m Learning From Unanswered Prayer

For 62 years, prayer has been an indispensable part of my life. Admittedly, it has often been either formal or hurried, weak or stumbling. I’m no model of a praying Christian. But like many believers I’ve often pondered the mystery of unanswered prayer.

After all, Jesus said, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). But Lord, why didn’t you answer my plea for X’s salvation or my healing? Oh, I know the standard answer; “God always answers, either yes, no, or wait awhile.” I believe there is at least another reason.

Let me give you some personal background that has led me to this conclusion. Five or six months ago the date was set for my knee surgery. We immediately began to pray for results that did not include complications, as surgery on the other knee had been accompanied by problems. The surgery took place. The surgeon was pleased. Everything seemed good. But shortly we realized that it was infected. Dealing with the infection delayed healing for some time. Why Lord did this happen? Was the answer to our prayers a simple, no? And why did you not answer our plea?

In the months that followed, prayer for ability to sleep at night was also put on the unanswered prayer pile. What’s going on Lord? Do you not want my joy to be full?

Let me be clear. As a couple, Mary Helen and I have no right to complain to God. He has blessed us in abundant and unusual ways. And my quibble about pain and sleeplessness is minor compared to those who suffer with cancer or debilitating diseases or deal with a tragedy. I’m just trying to understand the many invitations in Scripture to bring our requests to our heavenly Father with the assurance of an answer. So what am I learning?

PATIENCE: God has laid bare my impatience. Why do I have to keep relearning lessons about patience? Have I taken my supposed maturity for granted? Unfortunately, for most of us, patience is something we have to keep relearning. And we can’t develop it without going through trying situations. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:3).

EMPATHY: I’m also learning empathy for others, especially those who suffer. This will be a hard lesson. I’m not a very empathetic person. I don’t like hospitals. I don’t even want to go near them. But many in my age group have to visit doctors and hospitals often. And each of us need encouragement, comfort and love. I’ve got a lot to learn about compassion and without it I’m not much use in the kingdom. Paul reminds us of a related reason God sends tribulations into our lives. “The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3). We face troubles so we can understand and empathize with the troubles of others.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP: I’m also trying to remember that I should lean on God for help more than on my own grit, experience, gifts, and abilities. During my missionary and pastoral career, I often faced tasks beyond my ability. During those years several key verses encouraged me to believe that the very unlikely could happen. One was, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). Another pointed me to the source of help. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God has worked in wonderful ways down through the years. But I wonder today, how much was His work and how much was me trying to accentuate my own efforts and abilities. I’m realizing more clearly, that when Jesus says, “you can do nothing,” He really means it. We may be able to build a chicken coop or send a man to the moon, but we cannot accomplish anything positive for the Kingdom without His help. And before we realize that we have face to situations where nothing we do works.

FAITH: Christians know that faith is foundational. In the case of a leper and a centurion (in Matthew 8) who came to Jesus, their faith led them to trust him for healing. But faith, as in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh, does not always lead to healing. Abraham and the other patriarchs trusted God’s promises of a glorious future—not for them but their descendants. I wonder if for many of us today, faith requires us to trust God in the dark. Trusting God even when our requests are not met. Walking with God in apparent darkness, sure of our ultimate destination. We are to, “walk by faith not by sight.” We need to be able to say, “though He slay me, [doesn’t answer my prayer] yet will I trust him.”

Trusting God during periods when He seems distant or silent is not something unusual. Think of slaves trusting God in their misery. Think of Christians wallowing in foxholes during wartime. Think of Christians waiting for healing in cancer wards.

Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers? Often it is because He knows that we will learn more about Christian living and walking by faith if He doesn’t respond to our every request. When He seems silent, He is probably working to make us more Christ-like in patience, faith, compassion, and a host of other godly characteristics. Lord, help me to learn more and grumble less. Help me to accept these tough but necessary lessons in discipleship.

How do you respond to this blog? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have something to add to this meditation?

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Smiling In Adversity

Winter arrived late this year. But inevitably, the temperature plunged and light snow began to fall. After the weather cleared, knowing it might be the last for some time, we headed out for a walk through our park. I was struck by the hardiness of the ornamental cabbage that had been carefully planted by town gardeners. The ornamentals seemed to smile up at me in spite of the nippy temperature.

They reminded me of the cheerful countenance of those who endure severe Ornamental cabbagetrials. Scripture exhorts us to face difficulties with patience and good cheer. However, I’ve often had to rebuke myself for complaining about some difficulty or trial. A sleepless night throws me into a bad mood. Creaky joints make me grumpy. And yet I see so many saints who endure cancer or some debilitating illness or loss with confidence and faith. Currently, our church lists nine people dealing with sickness or surgery plus another five dealing with cancer.

How could James urge us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). That seems so unnatural, so impossible. How can we wring joy out of pain, loss, or persecution? This kind of joy is not happiness which depends on circumstances or some kind of masochistic delight in pain.

James explains how this impossible attitude is possible in the following verses. “Consider it joy…BECAUSE you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). The joy comes from knowing that the trial is not wasted but contributes to character development. We are urged to embrace a settled assurance that “all things work together for good”.

Becoming a cheerful person in the face of tribulation takes time and grace. I doubt if Paul enjoyed his thorn in the flesh any more than he did being shipwrecked or beaten. He pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his thorn. God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Learning about the sufficiency of grace enabled Paul to gladly accept his weaknesses so that Christ might be glorified in his character development.

Finding joy in adversity require a revolutionary change in what we value in life. As Paul teaches in Romans five, “We rejoice in our sufferings BECAUSE we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3-5). Joy in suffering must bubble up from a hopeful, love-filled heart.

Cobourg SunsetWhen we value these qualities that are elsewhere called, the fruit of the Spirit, more than we value pleasant circumstances, good health, and freedom from trouble, then we have a head start on becoming cheerful in trials. This revolution in thinking and values takes place in the heart. Hopeful, patient people are usually joyful people.

Sadly, too often I allow my feelings and circumstances to dictate my attitude. Not good. It shows I have a long way to go on this journey to heaven.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine Job smiling during his excruciating trial. God doesn’t expect us to be hypocritically cheerful. Since Jesus knew pain, He understands if sometimes all we can do is grimace and weep. But, praise God, He helps us to become more joyful and less grumpy and complaining.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Comfort for a Concussion Sufferer

Mary Helen suffered a painful concussion several years ago. Recently, another bang on the head brought back headaches which seem erratic and very difficult to DSCN1515control. However, through it all, she has found the most comfort from talking to the LORD; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These were her thoughts as she wondered down a path in the autumn of that first concussion.

Oh, what bliss to be in your presence, Father…To know that you care.

Lord Jesus, you have promised to never leave me nor forsake me. Thank you for reminding me of that today.

05-07-2007-10-12-28-171As I walk this forest path, the leaves are beautiful in their autumn colours—and you’re here with me. Quietly, yet a very sure presence. Sometimes, the path is even and smooth. Other times it goes up and own, and at times is a bit treacherous. Yet, your arm steadies me and reminds me of your presence. The light ahead is a reminder of our blessed Holy Spirit, leading the way.

From time to time, we meet others, who encourage us and even reach out with encouraging words and actions. Does our Father send angels to clear the way or minister to us through individuals along the way?

The journey of life is empty without knowing you’re there, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Forgive me for failing to share this experience of your daily presence and forgiveness; of your love, mercy, and grace which are so very DSCN1507real. I love you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I haven’t reached the pain-free zone yet, but see the very edge of it up ahead a ways, so I carry on with a bit more strength in my step and stride. (Mary Helen Wright)

“Cast your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “The Lord comforts His people” (Is. 49:13).

Prospering in Stoney Ground

One day we took a walk through a park along the shores of Lake Ontario. I wandered down to the pebbly beach. Wave action has broken off zillions of smooth pebbles from the exposed layers of shale—ideal skipping stones of boys like me.

Although the beach seemed sterile and inhospitable, I was amazed to find a flowering plant rooted in the pebbles along the shore. How, I wondered, could it survive in such a barren location? On the way home we saw another remarkable sight, a mossy stonecrop plant growing out of the top of an old highway post.

Windy day at Presqui'le ParkTenacious plants remind me of Christians like Grace Anderson, the 99 year old woman whose memorial I conducted several years ago. Grace radiated a youthful, exuberant spirit until the day she went to heaven. Her hopeful attitude toward life blossomed in spite of trials that would leave many reeling. She went as a single missionary to India as the flames of war engulfed Europe. She ministered during the Indian independence movement in an apparently barren town in the north. Her first term was nine years, in order to wait for her betrothed. Back in North America, she and her family struggled to find housing and jobs when their 23 year career as missionaries ended. Her secret? A desire to please God and do His will and a persevering faith in her Lord.

Flowering plants growing from stony soil also remind me of stories from around the world. People rising from the ashes of poverty and sickness in Mozambique to flourish for God. A Christian released from prison, choosing to return there to minister to other prisoners. The joy of a converted biker and drug dealer—transformation changing a ruined life. A Christian woman in Pakistan refusing to deny her faith in Christ in order to escape possible execution. The church multiplying in Iran in spite of virulent opposition. Children refusing to convert to Islam when threatened with death.

We don’t have to look far for examples of people flourishing in spite of grievous trials. I’m sure you’ve met many. The flowers of faith, hope, and love seem to blossom most prolifically in the lives of some of those suffering the most from job loss, ill health, disappointment, persecution or tragedy.

In yielded souls, nothing can keep God from bringing blessing out of barrenness,

beauty out of ugliness, godliness out of wickedness. “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). “Is anything too hard for the Lord” (Gen. 18:14)? Whatever is going on in your life right now, He can fix it. He is not only the Creator, He is also the Re-creator!

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Our Love/Hate Relationship With Nature

???????????????????????????????Mary Helen champions the rights of squirrels. “Honey, just let them eat. They work so hard to get your bird seed.”

Unlike Mary Helen, I’m in constant conflict with our squirrels. Our aggressive squirrels, black and grey, repeatedly knock down the finch feeder, even though they’re not finches. Then there is the main feeder that I’d set up to feed our feathered friends: cardinals, nuthatches, rose-breasted grosbeaks, chickadees. The squirrels leapt from the deck the ten or twelve feet to the feeder where they proceeded to ???????????????????????????????empty it in spite of a circular squirrel baffle I’d installed so they couldn’t climb the pole. So I moved the pole three feet farther. No problem, the grey squirrels leapt the distance, knocking it to the ground and breaking the feeder.

This meant war. I went to the local hardware store and invested in a fancy squirrel proof feeder. True, the squirrels—so far—have not have not been able to get into the main storage area. But where I hung it from the eaves trough, they placidly clung to the wire grid and munched away. The store of seed quickly diminished. I decided to ???????????????????????????????go back to the drawing board.

So I designed what I thought was an ingenious way to keep the squirrels out of the seed: a pole with a round baffle to keep them from climbing and the feeder on a moveable arm so I could raise it high above the ground. After installation, I sat back and smiled at my ingenuity.

Lo and behold, within a few hours the grey squirrel found a way to leap onto the top of thiGrey squirrel on squirrel proof feeder?????????s new-fangled invention and munch away. How? I’ve no idea. Is it a magician?

And not satisfied to deplete the regular seed, both varieties of squirrels curl around the finch feeder and using their tiny tongues tease out the miniscule niger seed. I’ve obviously lost the war. Mary Helen tells me to give up and just admire their ingenuity and perseverance. “Doesn’t James say that the testing of your faith develops perseverance?” (James 1:3) Touche

What about chipmunks? Mary Helen loves them. “They’re so cute,” she says.???????????????????????????????

“But,” I reply, “They’re eating the coriander seed, the buds off flowers, and digging up the tulip bulbs. They also dig up peas and sunflower seeds as fast as I plant them. They even feast on half-ripe tomatoes!”

“But they’re so cute,” she repeats.

“True, they’re cute,” I admit. “But they do a lot more damage than garter snakes.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMary Helen’s attitude changes in an instant. “Snakes, I can’t stand snakes. You’ve got to kill them.”

“But they get rid of insects and other pests,” I reply. “And they’re harmless to us.”

“I don’t care. What if they come inside!”

Irrational, I think, but don’t say, as I admit defeat on all fronts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such A Long Wait!

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Crocuses

Throughout this long, long winter we’ve been waiting impatiently for the first sight of green, the first peek of a crocus.

Waiting, like temptation, is common to all of us. Waiting to catch a bus. Waiting for traffic congestion to ease. Waiting in a doctor’s office. Waiting in line at the post office or the check-out line in the grocery store. Waiting for a diagnosis. Waiting for a sick friend to smile again. Waiting for a grandchild to find a godly life-partner. And yes, waiting for God to answer a decade’s old prayer for the conversion of a friend or relative.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe know that our heavenly Father wants us to learn patience while maintaining hope for the future—especially as it relates to the return of Christ. “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains”(James 5:7). But we ask the Lord, do we need so much practice? Our natures cry out, we can’t wait—whatever it is we think we need, we want now—whether it be justice for the oppressed or relief from our own sufferings.

And Lord, two thousand years have gone by since the promise of Christ’s return. Just as we wondered this year why spring was delayed we wonder why the Lord’s return is so delayed. For as we gaze out on a hurting world through the medium of television, it seems apparent that Jesus should return so that justice and peace might roll down like a river. Suffering in Syria. Kidnapped school girls in Nigeria. Human trafficking. Sabre-rattling from Russia. Suicide amonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAg our teens. We cry out in agony, how long Lord?

Although we have not doubts about Christ’s return, we are perplexed and impatient. And so we do what we always do when perplexed, we return to the Word and read again the promises. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God”(1 Thess4:16).

The Scriptures remind us that all God’s promises are fulfilled, though often delayed. The judgment on Israel, the destruction of first, Samaria then Jerusalem was delayed for centuries as the prophets sought to arouse the people to repentance. Perhaps we forget that it is God’s comp???????????????????????????????assion and mercy that delays judgment. “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?”(Rom. 2:4). His delayed judgment on our age is really an expression of his mercy giving time for every tribe and tongue and nation to respond to the invitation of the gospel.

A delayed spring gives us practice in waiting for many things, but especially the return of Christ. After all, Paul did say, “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” when Christ returns in glory and power. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…we ourselves…groan inwardly was we wait eagerly” for the consummation of all things.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And so as we see leaves finally unfurling and flowers finally lifting their faces to the sun, we are reminded that even a long wait is worth it. Our wait for the new heaven and new earth will be worth it.

Pesky Squirrels Model Persistence

???????????????????????????????Our black squirrel took a flying leap from the deck banister and grabbed onto the cage of suet hanging from the roof. What an acrobat! It clung to the cage while it tried everything to get at the suet inside. Finally, it concentrated on the wire tie I had used to keep it closed. It kept gnawing and twisting until finally it broke it off, opened the cage and settled down for a royal feast.

Mary Helen said, “Poor thing. It’s hungry. Let it be.”

True, it’s been a cold, snowy winter that makes it very hard on our furry friends: black, brown and grey squirrels. And they do provide us with almost daily entertainment. The other day I watched one climbing the pole holding our bird feeder until it got to the circular Squirrel on Feedersquirrel baffle. It tried dozens to times to climb over the baffle only to be frustrated by its loose motion. Then it would climb down, survey the situation and try again. When we had an ice-storm, the ice froze the ‘squirrel baffle’ to the post keeping it from moving. Until it thawed, our persistent squirrels were able to swing themselve over and empty the feeder.

The ingenuity and persistence of our squirrels is amazing. Until I used duct tape to hold the finch feeder to its bracket, they kept knocking it down. Do squirrels eat niger bird seed? I’ve had to put stronger and stronger wire on the suet cage to defeat them so the woodpeckers have something to eat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe could learn a lot from our furry friends. Never, never give up. If we accept the difficulties in our lives as a challenge, like the squirrels, we will develop perseverance. Paul and James explain. “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character hope”(Rom.5:4). “The testing of your faith develops perseverance”(James 1:3). Becoming a persevering person is a crucial quality of maturity and character.

As Nelson Mandela said; “The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote; “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Calvin Coolidge is even more insistent on the importance of persistence. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not… nothing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAis more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not… unrewarded genius is almost legendary. Education will not…. the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Lord, give us grace to persevere whatever the obstacle.