Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result so that you will be perfect and complete lacking in nothing
The first time I read this scripture, I thought, “Seriously, how can there be joy in the trials of life?” At this point in my life, I’d certainly had my share of trials, and as best I could remember, I hadn’t experienced joy in ANY of the trials. When I was a toddler Mom and Dad decided to get a divorce, but there wasn’t a lot of joy. When, as a young child, I watched them strap Mom into a straitjacket and take her away in an ambulance, there wasn’t a lot of joy. When I woke up in the middle of the night to screams and shouts, watching my mom in a drunken rage throw plates from the china cabinet at my stepdad—I don’t recall a lot of joy.
Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Let me ask you some tough questions: If you had a crisis in your life and you urgently needed help, do you have anyone you could call and know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they would be there for you? If you found yourself in sin so shameful, do you have anyone that you feel safe enough with to share the details and know that you wouldn’t be judged? If you were severely depressed and you couldn’t get out of bed, do you have friends that would drop everything to encourage you and support you? If you found yourself homeless, do you have people that would open their home to you without question? Finally, the toughest question—do you have someone in your life that you have given the freedom to confront you at any time if they see you caught in sin?
I didn’t, and according to a study by Patrick Means from his book “Men’s Secret Wars” seventy-five percent of the men in church don’t either!
How did this happen? Reflecting back on my entire life, I’ve always felt alone. One of my most poignant memories as a child came when I was in kindergarten. My mom struggled with alcoholism and I witnessed a number of drunken events that no child should see. On this particular event, I awoke from sleep to yelling and the shrill sound of ceramic plates being broken. As I stumbled into the living room, I noticed the dishes from our china cabinet were in pieces. In a sheer rage, Mom was pulling out plates and throwing them furiously at her husband, shouting and calling him names that no child should hear.
Where there is no vision the people perish…
Growing up, I never experienced a home with a “healthy” family. As I mentioned earlier, Mom and Dad divorced when I was only a few years old. Mom struggled with alcoholism, and Dad remarried and started a new family of his own. At the age of eight, my whole family went in different directions while Mom began her recovery from alcoholism. I personally entered a foster home with a married couple, we’ll call them the Jones’, but they certainly weren’t healthy.
My strongest memories of Mrs. Jones came one cool summer evening. Mrs. Jones was grossly overweight, and she told me her feet hurt from standing on them all day. She asked me to sit at her feet and rub lotion into her feet to make them feel better.
Who was I, an eight-year-old boy, to say no? As I was sitting on the floor with her feet propped up in the Lazy Boy chair, I began rubbing lotion into her feet. She was clearly enjoying this…as a foster mom, the state was paying her to watch me, and she was getting a foot massage to boot!
The doorbell rang, and she asked Mr. Jones to answer it. I could see the door from my position on the floor under her feet and glanced up to see who it was.
When the door opened, I was elated to see my mom! She had just gotten back to Wenatchee and she wanted to see me. I jumped up to give her a hug and tell her how much I missed her, but I wasn’t allowed to.
Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run.”
They served me with the protection order on February 16, 1999. I was in shock when I received it, but I felt a strange sense of relief. I could no longer visit the house that I’d personally remodeled a few years before I was married. I could no longer see my wife which, ironically, meant that I was protected from her verbal assaults and attacks on my personal character. I could no longer put my daughter to bed in her own crib, so I wouldn’t feel the pain of leaving her at night.
The relief quickly turned to anger and pain. I could no longer call my wife on the phone when I needed encouragement or the hope that things would be all right. Strangely enough, we would randomly have very pleasant conversations that would give me brief glimpses of hope. Only a few weeks earlier, we had one of those glimpses. We shared a pleasant conversation on the phone and enjoyed each other’s company at church, followed by a pleasant meal as a family at a restaurant.