Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
Today is the day for wisdom to triumph and pride to be killed. Say that out loud even if you might feel a bit silly. Of course, if you are in the public library, someone might shush you, but never let someone shush your resolve. Overcoming is too important for persevering believers.
In every bit of research I’ve done for this book, there are two themes that always bubble to the top, and those are prayer and the old adage that hurt people hurt people. Another truth that abounded is that God’s perfect will is for His children to never stop learning for their eternal purpose. Therefore, trials, troubles, and hurts have a godly purpose. After we sail through this discussion, you’ll better understand how that is so.
I am simply a Christian who has walked through the Valleys of the Shadow of Death, and I feared great evil for a time, but God was with me and He pulled me through those valleys, for there were many of them. The real key to that verse in Psalm 23 is “walk through.” Thank the good Lord above we do not have to camp in those valleys. Although I do see many Christians trying to set up camp in a valley because they choose to, not because God wills it. Trials and tribulations are our lot in this life on earth. Paul tells the Corinthians that troubles are common to mankind. No one ever lives completely trouble free; we just have different sets of troubles.
Anyone who has been married for more than ten years will testify that some of the most hurtful trials can involve one’s spouse; not because their spouse has the intent to hurt, but loving someone tenderizes the heart to that person and to things said and done by that person. What a friend or acquaintance might say or do does not have the same impact as when it comes from a spouse. Unfortunately, we are more courteous to friends and strangers than we are to those closest to our hearts. Why is that? It seems that it should be the other way around, don’t you think? It should be more important to be more courteous to loved ones, and especially to our spouses. That doesn’t happen all that often though, and discourtesy usually causes troubles to boil up in day to day living.
Anyone who has worked in the secular world (and even in a Christian environment) for any length of time knows that co- workers and bosses are just as fallible as any other human being. There is only one person who will never, ever let you down and that is Jesus. There was only one of Him, perfect in every way, solid in His love and understanding. Our co-workers, our bosses, and our siblings in Christ do not fall into the perfect category, therefore room for trouble abounds. Sometimes that trouble takes the form of betrayal, or open hostility. Sometimes we find out people we thought we could trust are no more trustworthy than the weather. Is that where the term fair weather friend comes from?
Wherever people who have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit go, trouble follows. John speaks of the Savior’s warning in chapter fifteen when Jesus says the world will hate us because it hates Him. He also says that we are not of the world and because of that, and because of His commands the world will persecute the followers of Christ. We know it is fact because we have experienced it.
Jesus forewarned us in the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:21 when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word, immediately the one who has no root in himself stumbles (my own loose paraphrase). Therefore, the fair-weather Christian (or the carnal Christian) sustains scraped knees, bloody noses, and skinned elbows. These are the school yard scars that every immature Christian incurs.
However, there is hope amidst the trouble.
God gives us great hope that He will never leave us or forsake us which is promised in Deuteronomy 31:6. Unlike our English double negative that actually indicates a positive, the Hebrew word translated never is a triple negative in the Hebrew syntax – lô' lô' lôh meaning nay, never, no not ever. This is similar to a mother seeing that her child is about to touch a boiling pot screaming, “No! No! NO!” In Hebrews 13:5 the verse is repeated, and in the Greek ou mē is a double negative which strengthens the denial in the same sense as never, no not ever. In Romans 8:35, Paul asserts no persecution, tribulation, distress, famine or peril can separate us from the love of Christ. Glory! Let’s remember that verse follows the one where Paul asserts that all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to His good purpose (Romans 8:28). Therefore, no matter what happens, God is there with us, and we can trust Him in everything. People will fail us, but God never will.
Easy to say, easy to read, but trust is not so easy to carry through sometimes. Dark hours in dark days cause a gloom that shrouds our feelings in despair. When depression hits, we immediately turn inward. We curl into a mental (and sometimes physical) fetal position because everything hurts. When we are emotionally (and perhaps physically) curled into a tight, inward ball we are leaving God out.
Sometimes things do not make sense like losing a loved one, or divorce, or losing a job when you have done nothing wrong, and then it is so easy to blame God for the problems. Because we do not understand God’s purpose in giving permission for it to happen – just as it happened with Job. Then, erroneously, we think God is to blame for the trouble.
What is harder to understand is that God sanctions these problems for our own good and especially for His own glory. Some problems—or situations—come about because of our bad choices, some are to train us to be ministers to others who will suffer the same thing, and some are just because God wants to show Satan how mature in Christ His child is, which is basically the same thing He did with Job. Regardless of God’s reasoning, we have a great purpose in His plan. At the very least, we should be content to play this great role in God’s magnificent plan. At the very best, we should be honored that God allows the troubles because He trusts our reactions will be godly. We should be eager because God is teaching us a great truth that will serve us well later in life and in our eternal purpose.
My story covers the whole realm (as I am sure most of your story does, too). As I said above, Jesus told us that where Christians go, trouble follows. The stories in this book have been collected in order to keep you from having to tread through each particular valley, or at least perhaps, your walk through them may be shortened. Believe me. I desire no one to have to endure some of the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
I held stubbornness and pride like shields against certain things in my life. I know that God must have put hands on hips in exasperation over me because I not only had to learn the hard way, but I became prideful over the lessons learned, which meant that I had to keep running back to Daddy to bandage my knees, clean up my scraped elbows, and kiss my bruised forehead. Never fear that I am preaching down to you because God made sure I walked through those same valleys you have trod. Sometimes He had to literally drag me out of them because I seemed to like the sympathy I received when camped there. Humility, as King Nebuchadnezzar found out, is a very hard lesson to learn.
Before we dive into it, let us remember there are three classes of people. The natural person who has no inkling or desire for godly things. The carnal Christian who is still a baby in Christ (the Corinthians are good examples of these babies). The spiritual Christian who is mature in Christ. Christians have the mind of Christ, but bear in mind no Christian ever knows everything, or always acts godly. Let’s just say here that the mature Christian is less likely to react to a situation in an ungodly manner.
Therefore, let’s ponder and pray over these scriptures:
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual ones, but as to fleshly (carnal), as to babes in Christ... For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envyings and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men? 1 Corinthians 3:1,3.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Colossians 1:9
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 1 Corinthians 2:13
The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:15-16
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation ... you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:2,5
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (against our siblings in Christ), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 3 John 1:9- 11
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21
Mark these pages and refer back to them often as you read through this book. Our loving, heavenly Father knew precisely every hurt and broken heart that did, and does. and will occur in His children before He created the universe. This is why He gave us all the warnings and comfortings in His love letter to His children.
(Editor's note: I am getting close to my publishing deadline for my new book When Christians Hurt Christians: How to Remove the Stone-Heavy Ache of Hurts and Betrayals. Please prayerfully consider purchasing this book. I have learned so much over the years, and I would like to pass along not only my own wisdom, but also that of many others who have been hurt by siblings in Christ. It will be available in paperback and Kindle. Also available in other eBook formats if you email me at GLBurgess at gmail dot com.)
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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