We've all have setbacks in life. Often we question why we, as God's people, have to suffer through tragic illness, cruelty, loss of jobs, death of loved ones and even tragedy. Under such circumstances, we are not averse to complaining to God, and to anyone else who will listen, about our misfortunes. As children of God, should we not get special treatment, we ask.
The Old Testament Book of Habakkuk opens with the prophet complaining to God. "How long do I have to cry out for help before you listen?" Habakkuk grumbles to God about the evil and anarchy he has to look at every day. "Justice is a joke," he tells God, but God is already aware of the goings-on among the Israelites. God has already considered raising up the Babylonians to punish his lackadaisical people. They need to be shown a lesson. (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
Habakkuk continues his dissent and wonders how God will answer his grievances.
God answers, "Write this. Write what you see. WRITE IT IN BIG BLOCK LETTERS so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming." (Habakkuk 2:2-4)*
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God sent this same message to the Hebrews of the Old Testament, to the early Christians and he is sending this message to us today. We all have our trials and tribulations. It still rains on the just and the unjust. Circumstances weren't perfect in the early churches, nor are people above reproach in today's churches. James, in his letter to the churches, has some good lessons for all of us when we are going through tough times.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors." He advises us not to be in a hurry to get out of the difficulty. "Let it do its work so (we) become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
James reminds us, "If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help." James says to pray boldly, believing in what we ask for. We are not to "worry (our) prayers," I have mentioned this before, because I need this reminder. James tells us that we won't get anything from the Master if we are "adrift at sea" and "keeping all (our) options open." (James 1: 2-8)*
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Like many others, our family has been going through trials and challenges. Rather than groaning and griping, we can pray. Throughout God's word we are encouraged to ask for wisdom and guidance. What we can learn from our trials, can be grist for our writing mills. Although it may take time before we realize the true benefits of our struggles, sharing our stories of coming through deep waters is a testament of praise to God and encouragement to others.
If trials and challenges are considered gifts, read these words from James, "Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light." (James 1: 16-17)*
If we feel called to write, we cannot give up. We may have to shorten or change our writing time. Writing in our journals may feel better for a while than writing for publication. We may have to take on fewer writing assignments, but writing might be the best medicine for our health and for keeping our hope alive.
I will conclude with what St. John XXIII says in this regard, "Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."
*Scripture passages are quoted and paraphrased from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.