I was listening to John Hagee this morning. He was on one of his wonderful tirades again about the glory of Jesus. But then he slipped into something I have heard over and over since becoming a believer as I studied scripture. Sadly, I rarely hear it from the pulpit.
Rejoice in your trials
Maybe the NASB puts it better: exult in our tribulations [Romans 5:3]. Pastor Hagee was talking about how nothing good in our lives happens without trials. Immediately the spirit took me over the past decade. It’s been a rough ten years. Ten years ago, I was enjoying my life because we were entering a time of comfort. I was writing textbooks that were a joy. InDesign had just come out—and what a relief that was. I’d been afraid of being consigned to QuarkXPress for all eternity. I’d finally gotten to a place where I could pay my bills. Crown of Thorns church in Albuquerque was thriving. Life was good.
If I had known what was coming, only the Lord knows how I would have reacted. The litany of things that have happened since then are sort of encapsulated by what happened a month and a half later: 9-11. It took a while, but God has allowed a strong attack on us also. We’re nothing special and this assault on our lives has brought great good. But it does look horrendous in the telling.
2002: Published my last book for a traditional publisher, Introduction to Digital Publishing.
2004-2005: Pat’s spine, distorted by genetics and damaged by physical therapists, finally gave out. In each of those years she suffered under the pain of a spinal fusion to protect her from spinal cord damage and the incapacitation of pain. Her lower back is held together by 8-inch titanium rods and four pairs of two inch titanium screws.
Fall 2004: After Crowns of Thorns was put in my care during Pat’s recovery, it became clear that the annointing had lifted. We shut down the church.
Summer 2005: I took early “retirement” from my teaching career, so we could move to Minnesota and the support of our daughter and grandchildren.
Fall 2005: We moved, leaving the culture and scenery we loved, handing our sheep back into the hands of the Great Shepherd. The cultural shock was tremendous. The cost of living tripled.
December 2005: Was dealt the reality that no one up here cared at all about my background or credentials. I was forced to start all over at an entry-level position in a printing company for $11 an hour.
November 2006: Was fired from that job after providing all the documentation needed to retrain their prepress department as they switched from Quark on a Mac to InDesign on a PC. Wrote a couple dozen training booklets. Received many promises of promotion. Working on a PC—what an education that was! The sado-masochism involved in that is stupendous. All of their problems were made much worse by the OS switch. In truth, I was let go because they had used me for my talent and no longer needed that talent and I was making waves. Silly me!
2007: Filed bankruptcy. The higher cost of living and lack of employment did us in.
May 2007: Pat gets an intrathecal pain pump installed to deal with the pain.
Christmas 2007: Was hired by a business college nearly a hundred miles away to teach digital publishing.
January 2009: Degree was terminated by the college (too expensive: a euphemism for “we refuse to support Macs”)
June 2009: Went on Social Security
This is the short list
The complete lack of friends up here; the lack of ministry; Pat’s incredible physical trials; the dearth of believing churches; the cost of living; the governmental regulation; the list could be a short book. But what was the result?
God has been at work powerfully through the use of this trial
Through all of this, God has brought me and my wife much closer together. Because of the pressures, I have been “forced” to become a decent font designer, a competent writer, and have come to know myself in a way that is truely amazing to me. He has given me the desire of my heart, the ability to support ourselves while working at home. He has honed my skills as a scripture teacher, a teacher in general, a writer, designer, publisher, and so much more.
Why did this happen?
Because in the midst of all of this trial we turned to Him, the source of our supply and deliverance. There is not the time, space, or need to list all of the wonderful things He has done for us—especially since we moved up here. Has it been painful? OF COURSE! Change and growth is always painful. But let me leave you with a bit of scripture you really need to take to heart.
- “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him; for those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every child whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons and daughters; for what child is there whom their father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For our earthly father disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to him, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. [Hebrews 12: 5–11]
We need this discipline to grow into maturity and fruitfulness. As Hagee said this morning, [loosely paraphrased] “When you receive tribulation do not panic or run. Rejoice in it. Grab it, saute it, give it a dash of hot sauce and eat it!” Make it a part of you and allow it to do the work the Lord intends. It is for your good that the Lord trains you.
I know. He’s done it for me. Alleluia!
Thank you, Lord Jesus.