By Gary Ericson
When my wife and I were still very young and newly married, God brought an older couple into our lives who became our spiritual grandparents. As should be the case with grandparents, we learned a lot from those two. In fact, a lot of who we are now springs from what the Lord loaded into us from these adopted grandparents.
One of those tidbits centered on the disappointments, challenges and suffering that come with hardship. I remember a particularly difficult challenge they—our adopted grandparents—were facing. I asked “Grandpa” how they were doing. His reply made me ponder how I handle the tribulations Jesus promised would be part of living in this fallen world.
He said, “It always comes down to the same question: ‘You gonna trust Me, or what??'” We talked about how the Lord is faithful, including during his specific hardship.
The question was burned into my mind: “You gonna trust Me, or what?” It cut through all the fluff I normally go through, exhausting my wise alternatives to finally realize He is the answer to my tribulation!
Life moved on… years clicked by. Kids came along. My career got launched and underway. Church became a major part of our life. Life was good. I guess we were a pretty typical family facing the normal challenges of disciplining the children the right way, striving to be successful, having an impact for the Lord on people as we lived each day. Life had become somewhat predictable, and we enjoyed the life the Lord had for us.
Then… the storm rolled in. It was our perfect storm. It didn’t come-and-go as earlier challenges had. It hung on for years. One of the kids developed a life-long chronic medical condition. My job evaporated out of the blue and, on top of that, our church was going through significant turmoil that resulted in us dropping out. We moved to a safe church to hide for a while. Now, all the lessons we had learned and the answers that came with them didn’t seem to fit our perfect storm. This was too big and too hard!
It took over four years to work through the storm. Our son was in and out of medical institutions. I scrambled to find a new job and restart my career. I had to figure out how we were to function as church-goers, or if even we were going to be church-goers. Oh yeah… we were broke, too. Paying for all the medical work our son needed drained our resources. Nearly every meaningful part of our life was in the flusher… all at the same time. I wanted to know, where was God in all this???
It came to a head for me one night. I was really perturbed with God. How could He let this happen? We were a faithful couple. We did it all, and we did it right. He owed us more than this, I reasoned. I sat in my rocker in the dark through the night looking out the window hashing this over with the Lord. About sun up, it dawned on me that I had a choice to make. If God is who He says He is, and I am who He says I am, I had to decide if He was my tormentor or my refuge. He could change all our tough circumstances with a whisper, but He didn’t. Why not!?
As sunlight popped over the hill, He quietly responded, “Am I not adequate for every single bit of what you are facing?” (Isn’t that what Ephesians 3:20 is about: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…). Even that irritated me. Unfair response. I’m hurting and He doesn’t swoop in and change all my circumstance to “make it all better” like a Father should. Of course, He was adequate, but I wasn’t seeing anything change. OK, then, Lord, be adequate for me!
That earlier question – the only real question, actually – suddenly became crystal clear: “You gonna trust Me, or what?”
All the heartache from the years of hardship brought me to this point and this question. We had tried everything. Nothing worked. Alternatives to really trusting Him with all my circumstances had come to nothing. And here He was, ready to join me in my inadequacy with all His adequacy in my perfect storm. In that moment I knew… He is my refuge. That was the beginning. Be my refuge, be adequate for my perfect storm.
Nothing changed, but everything changed… and lots of work lay ahead.
- Still had to work the medical treatment issues
- Still had to pay the bills
- Still had to work at the job and get the career back on track
- Still had a ministry He had laid out for us
But it had now changed. He was at work in us, though us, before us, around us. This was now totally different from our plan. Surrender to Him brought victory. It did not necessarily fix the circumstances and restore my level of desired comfort. In fact, as I have come to enjoy that surrender, circumstances aren’t so important any more. He is.
We had changed. He changed us. I learned to “trust Him, no matter what“. I got to know Jesus.
He is not my tormentor. He is my refuge!
Challenges come and go… but He doesn’t.