Sunday, November 23, 2008

This too shall pass

I've heard this several times since my care giving began. People say it when trying to be encouraging. I began to ponder these words to see if they truly applied to my situation. I wondered where they came from. I knew they weren't scripture. Maybe it was quoted as such by some, thought to be found right beside "Cleanliness is next to godliness", but I was rather sure I'd never read it in the Bible.

So, I went to my great research tool, the internet and found this on Wikipedia.....

This too shall pass is a phrase occurring in a Jewish wisdom folktale involving King Solomon. The phrase is commonly engraved on silver rings. Many versions of the folktale have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa. Heda Jason recorded this version told by David Franko from Turkey.

"King Solomon once searched for a cure against depression. He assembled his wise men together. They meditated for a long time and gave him the following advice: Make yourself a ring and have thereon engraved the words "This too shall pass". The King carried out the advice. He had the ring made and wore it constantly. Every time he felt sad and depressed, he looked at the ring, whereon his mood would change and he would feel cheerful."

Wow, interesting way to deal with difficult situations, don't you think? Yet, what would happen if you were to look at the ring when you were feeling happy, when all was right with the world? Ah.....then you would become depressed because you would read, "this too shall pass" and would understand that happiness is fleeting.

I've been thinking about "this too shall pass". The thought spoken right after someone says, "this too shall pass" is usually, something to this effect: "don't be discouraged, this is only temporary". Well, exploring this further lead me to think some more.

I thought of difficult times in my past. Difficult pregnancies, the flu, babies in diapers, sleepless nights from crying children, car trouble.....These are what I call transitory, short lived and temporary. The pregnancy does eventually end....sometimes well, sometimes sadly. I've gotten over the flu. My children no longer wear diapers, although, with some we wondered if they would wear them for the rest of their lives! My babies learned to sleep through the night....eventually. And, the cars, at some point get fixed or replaced.

Applied to my situation, is this difficult time I am going through just temporary? I then thought of others that I know who are going through difficult times. Are their circumstances temporary? Let me think: cancer, brain tumors, death of a spouse, MS, Brain Injury, Alzheimer's, Paraplegia, etc. Hm....would I consider these trials and difficult times to be temporary? Not hardly. They last a lifetime.

MS is the one that touches me personally. My Dear Hubby, apart from intervention of the Lord, will ALWAYS suffer from MS. He will not be able to walk again. As a matter of fact, the things that he is able to do today, he will mostly likely not be able to do in the future.

Depressing? Sure....but, where do we turn when we realize that for some of us, this will not pass. It's not going to go away. With MS, a person's life expectancy is rarely affected, and if it is, it's usually by just a few years. Cancer is no longer a deadly disease that takes all it's victims. With new treatments, cancer has almost become a chronic illness. Brain Injuries do not heal themselves and loved ones do not return from the dead. Alzheimer's patients do not wake one day to have their minds restored.

I suppose many would say, "But, Paula, compared to eternity, this IS temporary." My answer, "Compared to eternity?" anything to eternity, and you find yourself in temporary situations. But, honestly, 5 years on earth is a long time. 10 years, 20, how about 40? Wow, it's a long time for some of us. We've had a diagnosis since 2000. Certainly not temporary.

So, if Jewish folktales about King Solomon can't give us the answer to dealing with difficult situations, what can? How about the Holy Scriptures?

Yeah, let's start there. And end there.

If I were to look at a Biblical example of a man who was able to endure trials....trials that weren't transitory, trials that lasted from the moment he gave his heart to Christ to the time of his death, I would have to turn to Paul.

Start by reading Acts 22:6. Paul dealt with thorn in the flesh to start with from his Damascus Road experience. He asked the Lord three times to remove it and the Lord said no. (II Corinthians 12:7-9) He carried this thorn, regardless of what it was, for the rest of his life. Temporary? Nah.....

II Corinthians 11:24-28 tells about the other things that Paul struggled with in his life. Maybe they were transitory, but let me tell transitory thing piled on the other leads me to call Paul's experience "Chronic Trials"!!!

Beaten with rods, stoned, three times shipwrecked, in many journeys, water, attacked by robbers, persecuted by his countrymen, and the heathen. In
danger in the city (I can relate), in danger in the country. Wilderness, the sea, dealing with false teachers, weary, in pain, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold and naked, and finally the care of the body (the church) falling upon his shoulders. This man really suffered. And, these weren't just small, short term items here. Compare my list to his, and all I can say is: My life is a cake walk.

One day, several years ago, I was reading through the book of II Corinthians and came across a passage of scripture that just about knocked me down. I read it and couldn't believe it.

II Corinithians 4:16-18

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Amazing at the depth of Paul's understanding.

I always like to read the verses before, to get an idea of what is being discussed. Do this in this chapter and you'll find more amazing stuff.

Starting in verse 8: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Ok, so this too shall pass? Maybe, maybe not. It just depends on our perspective. Whether our trial is short lived or lasts a lifetime, there are lessons to be learned. While we experience difficult times and go through horrible situations, though we hurt, cry, and think we can't take another step....if we let these things in, and in turn let the Lord use them we will find that our inward man CAN be renewed, day by day.

Joseph spent time in the pit, he went through the hate of family, was sold into slavery, and lied about, but all the time, God was working. He could not see the hand of God, but He was there, seeing, knowing and allowing these things.

I don't always like what the Lord chooses to do in my life....but I am learning, day by day to trust Him. I don't know that I will ever ascend to the throne, like Joseph did at the end of his story. I don't know that I will ever lead a nation to safety. I don't think millions of lives will be affected by my life. But as my Pastor says, "I'm just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread."

We have to believe God. My childhood Pastor told me once: God is too loving to be unkind, too good to do wrong, too wise to make mistakes, too great to be petty, spiteful, small or mean; above all, too powerful to be thwarted.

I must have faith that He is working in my life. I may have to go through the pit, the rejection, the loneliness, the trial.....but the other side, which WILL come, will bring with it the eternal weight of glory. God is NOT finished with me yet, of that I am sure. I choose today to trust HIM, whether this passes or not.

Finally, let me end this with another great scripture written in Philippians 1:12, "But I would that ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;"

I want the difficulty God allows in my life to be used by Him to spread His Word. His Word of salvation and His Word of hope.

II Corinthians 12:9b
"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."


Darlene B said...

I find your blog entries to be so thoughtful and encouraging. And what a great God we serve - even in the midst of trials! God bless you and your family. TN said...

That really touched my heart. Thank You!