Pastor Joe Miller
It’s been almost 25 years ago, but it seems like yesterday. I experienced a six month period that I never thought would happen and never imagined surviving through. Six months of sleepless nights, unanswered questions, fears, doubts, anger, tears, and just plain asking "why?" To this day, there are a lot of things I’m not sure of, but I do understand a whole lot more now than I did back then. Because of that six month period, I’ve gained a little more patience, a little more wisdom, and a lot more hope. Not hope in myself, but hope and confidence that God is working in His children's lives, conforming us into the image of His Son, having a purpose for our lives, and glorifying Himself.
It started on Christmas Eve of 1997. My wife, the kids, and I, bound with presents and Christmas cheer, went down to the nursing home to visit my mother-in-law at a rehab facility and celebrate Christmas with my father-in-law and sister and brothers-in-law. But when we arrived, we were told by my sister-in-law that my mother-in-law had just passed away. I can’t even describe that day or even that week, but it was a very difficult time. One month later, after a nine month battle with cancer at 59 years old, my best friend and hero in life - my dad - passed away. He was my best man at my wedding and my greatest influence and source of wisdom in the flesh, and now he was gone. Why?
Four months later, I’m removing some big pine trees out of the road not far from my house when I ran the chainsaw through my left foot requiring a surgeon, stitches, and a new pair of boots. It was my busiest time of the year, and now I found myself laid up for weeks. Why? About a month later on Father’s Day - tough enough that my dad had just passed, but we were having my father-in-law over after church. Jamie had stew cooking in the crockpot, and the kids were playing on the front porch when we heard a crash and screaming. When we entered the kitchen, Jolene was laying on the floor bleeding with scalding hot stew all over her. She ended up at West Penn Burn Unit for two weeks and wore a burn suit for a year. Why? To sum up those six months like I did was just the tip of the iceberg of sleepless nights, unanswered questions, fears, doubts, anger, tears, and a lot of ‘whys’.
Fast forward 25 years, and two Bible verses and the tribulations in our lives have become a little bit more clear.
Romans 5: 3-4
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
The word ‘tribulation’ means pressure, to crush or break a situation, whether self-inflicted or God-ordained, that you find yourself in and can’t find your way out of. You see no hope - the pressure is more than you can bear. But I know these situations and seasons have a purpose. It is through these trials that worketh patience. The word ‘worketh’ means to accomplish. God is maturing us through these trials, growing us up to see things through His eyes. The things of this world will grow strangely dim and eternity becomes more clear. These trials are meant to cause us to be more patient. The word here means to abide, to endure through uncomfortable circumstances. A quality that does not surrender or succumb under trial or pressure. To stay faithful. When you stay faithful through a trial, whether big or small, your experience through that trial becomes a testimony of God’s glory, His grace, love, faithfulness, and peace that you will not see outside of a tribulation.
But gaining confidence in your trials is just part of the purpose. It’s the hope that you give others through your experiences that makes a difference and invests in the future of our church family. Trials that I’ve endured 25 years ago and the lessons I’ve learned have enabled me to share even this week to give hope and help others see past the pain and see the purpose for it.
If you’re in a situation right now that seems more than you can bear, don’t you quit! Call the church for help if you need to: we are here for you and know that the pain you are feeling today will be someone’s hope tomorrow.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.