Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (NIV)
Are you kidding me? Paul must have been off of his rocker! Faithful in prayer I get, but joyful in hope and patient in affliction—how can that be? I’m more like desperate in hope and more desperate in affliction!
When I was 12 or so, I went on a birthday excursion for a school mate- girlfriend. We went to a huge Olympic size pool with 3 tiers of diving boards! My mom would have been mortified had she known. In my defense, I didn’t even know that the birthday “pool” party wasn’t in a backyard somewhere. I was so excited to go but so overwhelmed when we got there. I couldn’t swim to save my life…. I thought we were going to play in the shallow end, but most if not all my girlfriends were gathering up the courage to jump off the high board, one tier at a time. Not to be embarrassed by sticking with the little kiddies in the wading end, I kept one hand on the side of the pool, kicking and waving my other arm like I knew what I was doing.
I knew what the concept was. My parents had taught me respect for the water and the basic training… or should I say, explanation of the art of swimming, but I had only dabbled in the elementary scribbling of floating. My parents had grown up on the river bank. My dad swam like a fish and can’t even remember when he learned. It was second nature to him but here I am trying to follow those vague instructions in real life! I would hold my breath and duck under water, dog paddling a little only to reach out my hand to take a firm grip on the side of the pool. I would look up, as if I had just swam across the pool and arrived at the edge. That cool, tiled edge sure felt good in my hand. I don’t know how deep it was at this point but I do know it was over my head, when low and behold someone jumped in cannonball style right beside of me! Of course the water swelled up into a wave that carried me up, then over, then under!
I was desperate to find the side of the pool. I flailed my arms and legs so fast, if I had of been on the ground, I’m pretty sure I would have been running over 25 miles an hour. I couldn’t find the side and with all my waving movements I was being carried under and tossed about, making a bunch of bubbles. I didn’t even know which way was up. I thought I was on my way up alright…. Up to my heavenly home, for surely my lungs would burst from need of air before I was able to find it and suck it in.
“Oh, God!” I cried! “HELP MEEEEE!!! I’m drowning!”
The next thing I know I opened my eyes and could see light above me. “Oh, thank you Jesus for turning the light on!” Now if only I can make it up through all the water I am down here somewhere under before my oxygen totally runs out, I might survive this ordeal.
In all my wiggling and squirming and God’s answer to my desperate cry for help, my fingers found that precious, life saving ladder! “Oh, wonderful!” As I grabbed it with both hands, not caring now about my style and form, in a combo of hand-climbing and launching, I made through the five miles of water to the top. Well, maybe it was 5 feet, but I’m pretty sure beneath me was 5 miles to the bottom. At least. Surely, it was.
Choking and dragging in air all at the same time, my energy now at zero, my heart pounding in my chest ready to break through my rib cage, muscle and skin quivering in fright or relief, I’m not sure which, I finally calmed down enough to breath normally. The world had gone on in those brief seconds that seemed like hours of fighting, without me! No one had noticed, everyone was still screaming, splashing, swimming around me while I was dying!
This is what I feel like during affliction! No one cares. Life goes on. I’m all alone and God only answers when I’m screaming as loud as I can in my mind and then He only lets me find a ladder to claw my own way out! When I finally reach the top, I’m disoriented, confused and a little angry that He let me almost drown!
“Thank you for saving me, but why did you let me go under?”
“Me?” He says. “You’re the one pretending that you have the knowledge and the ability and experience to swim in water so far over your head! I thought I would show you that you don’t have it all together like you pretend to. I thought it was pretty merciful of me to provide the ladder just in time before you really got yourself in trouble! And here you are, a little more than peeved at me because I didn’t let you go on pretending?”
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer
I had hoped to find air again, but I sure wasn’t joyful! I had desperation during the whole drowning affliction but I can’t say I was patient! Oh no…couldn’t say that at all and I was praying sure enough, but faithful? More like a last minute desperate cry for help when I find I can’t rescue myself!
“Ex-act-ly! So when will you learn to start it off that way?”
“God, you are crazy! I mean, not to be disrespectful or anything, I don’t mean that as a slam, just as an exclamation of how different you are. Your teaching methods are unconventional.”
“You’ve got it backward, my dear. Unconventional is good, if that’s what my methods are. My methods formed the earth you are standing on and that air you so desperately crave! What have your methods created for you?”
“Touché, Lord! Will you forgive me?”
“For not believing in you.”
“Done, my dear! You see, unlike you, I understand who you are, now I’m trying to teach you just who I am. After all, you asked me to, didn’t you?”
“Did I? When?”
“When you said, “God, I want to know you.” There’s no other God but me… so I thought you were talking to me!”
“Yeah, I was and I did ask that, didn’t I? But I didn’t expect…”
“I know! That’s what’s so fun! Showing you that you cannot expect how, when and what I will do. My ways are so far above your ways, you can’t know what to expect. My thoughts are so far removed from your thoughts that you have no idea even if you think you do. That’s what you need to remember: joyful in hope. Like waiting for Christmas but not knowing what you’re going to get. You trust your parents have a gift inside that brightly wrapped box. You believe in them enough to know that they won’t let you down, so you’re patient in your affliction that Christmas won’t arrive for another 15 days and that seems like an eternity. All along, you need the reassurance so you keep asking them and talking to them about your dreams, your hopes, and your future and asking those questions, hoping that they will give you hints. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but always there to listen to your constant banter and sometimes serious doubts even though they know all along what they will give. And what they will give you is what is best for you. But presents (blessings) are not all they have in store for you. They also provide, feed and clothe you. Do you worry about that?”
“They work to earn the money; are you concerned about how they bring all of that together?”
“Do you really even care that some has to go towards the light bill, telephone, water, sewage, food and housing and how they will divide it all out to pay for it all?”
“No. I’m just a child, I have my own things to worry about. I can’t be concerned with those big things!”
“My point exactly!”
“Wow…thank you, God.”
“You are welcome… for what, exactly?”
“For being so wise and so awesome. You’re not crazy…you’re just so much smarter than me!”
“I should hope so, but thank you for the praise and compliment. I love to hear you say it. You’re learning! Are you ready for the next test?”