By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
You may have heard the story about the mom who came upon her children huddled around a nest of cute little black and white animals. Alarmed, she yelled, “Kids, run!” and then was horrified when they came running toward her, each child holding a baby skunk.
Sometimes, when things seem to be going wrong, it’s hard to remember to be pious or positive. Shortly before he died, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to Timothy and shared five truths about the Christian life to help us remain strong in grace, even when life is negative.
First, he assured him, pain will be part of the Christian life. “Join with me in suffering for the gospel,” Paul wrote. And again, “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier” (2 Timothy 1:8, 11). Any preacher or teacher who promises otherwise is not being truthful with you. Sometimes the suffering is psychological or emotional anguish, which can be as great as physical pain.
Another reminder is that there’s a bigger picture. Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed at age 16 in a swimming accident, and now as a quadriplegic faces breast cancer. An artist, she paints holding a brush in her mouth. Of life she says “...we will stand amazed to see the topside of the tapestry and how God beautifully embroidered each circumstance into a pattern for our good and His glory,”
Paul’s third point to Timothy is that we’re all in God’s hands. When we were growing up there were no seatbelts, no child safety restraints, yet my sisters and brother and I felt secure going to sleep in the back seat with our dad at the wheel. Paul wrote, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
An exhortation I have difficulty with is to “stay on message.” Avoid distractions such as pain, personal attacks, evil in the world. The New Testament is not a fear-based book. “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). Folks around us have heard enough doom and gloom; the Holy Spirit can help us speak a word of cheer when it’s needed.
Last, always remember that God will find you and will send people who will help you. Paul chose not to focus on those who had deserted him, but instead wrote of Onesiphorus, who “searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find Mercy from the Lord on that day!” (2 Timothy 1:17-18).
We’ve heard it said God never sends us more than we can bear. I disagree – it seems that often we’re called to do more or endure more than we can. But the promises given to Timothy assure that we’ll never receive more than God can handle. His grace is strong, and in receiving His grace we are encouraged.