Death (Life) By A Thousand Problems

I stayed up too late last night.

My Hebrew class gets over at 11 p.m. I enjoy the class. It is taught by a woman who is also learning Hebrew–she is taking a class using the same book. She is just farther into the book than we are. If we ask questions that she doesn’t know, she asks her Hebrew teacher. Also, sometimes people join the class that have greater knowledge of the language, and they are able to help us. We do a lot of reading and learning vocabulary words. It is very helpful and fun to have others to study with.

After the class, my friend–the one I study Hebrew with–and I stayed on the Google+ video-chat and chatted. Then EJ came home, and I stayed up with him until I was too tired to stay awake and had to get to bed.

My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. JJ gets up at 7 a.m. He’s actually a night owl, but we never study well in the afternoons, so we have to get our studying done in the morning, which means he has to get up early. I usually like to start school about 8:30 a.m.–absolutely no later than 9 p.m. I have to switch from teacher to cook at about 11 a.m. and if we start on time, I get my part of school done well before that. But this morning we got a late start, and didn’t get going until a little after 9:30 a.m. JJ asked a lot of good questions and we had some good discussions, so school took a little longer. I don’t mind (I enjoy) “delays” due to good questions, comments, and discussion.

We finished my part of school after 11 a.m. I had JJ help me get the dirty clothes in the car, and I drove to the laundromat to wash our clothes. I got home….I think about noon. I put a load of clothes in the dryer (it rained most of today so I didn’t do it on the line). It takes me all day and into the evening to dry the baskets of wet clothes because it takes 2-3 cycles for the clothes to get dry. My dryer is inefficient.

EJ wanted me to walk to the post office and bank with him. I felt pressed for time about lunch, but remembered that I had leftovers. I was tired from lifting heavy laundry baskets of clothes, but I saw EJ was feeling discouraged, so I went with him. When we got home, I fixed lunch and fixed EJ’s lunch for work.

As soon as EJ left for work, JJ and I loaded the empty water jugs into the car so we could go to store ten miles away and refill them. Our water isn’t good, so we buy water for drinking, cooking, and making coffee. I feel them about once a week. First we had to drive to the gas station and put air in the tires. Our HHR’s tires have a slow leak, so we have to fill them when they get low. The HHR was at our friends for a couple weeks while he put in new brakes, so the air was quite low. JJ checked them at the gas station and the air pressure was 12. It is supposed to be 51. The problem is that the gas station’s air hose was broken. I called EJ and asked what to do, and he said to abort my mission and he’d deal with the problem tomorrow. After I hung up, I felt frustrated because I REALLY needed to buy a few groceries while we were at the store. I’m getting low on groceries, and I feel as if I am in a rut with the meals I have the ingredients to make. I ended up spending the afternoon making homemade potato soup for tomorrow and doing dishes. I’m taking a break now before folding the mountain of clothes that are dry while I wait for more to dry.

While I sat in the car after EJ said that I needed to abort today’s trip to the store, I felt frustrated and exclaimed, “Can’t ANYTHING EVER GO RIGHT?”

There is a method of torture called “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” which is a form of torture and execution originating from Imperial China in which portions of a person’s body are sliced off over a long period of time. They bleed to death from a thousand cuts. Today I thought in frustration, “Sometimes I think I’m going to experience Death by a Thousand small problems!” And thus was born my topic for today’s post.

Our lives are filled with a thousand problems. For example, in the last month, we have experienced (are experiencing) our washer break, our oven break, and our HHR brakes wore out and needed to be fixed. I can’t drive Aunt Dolly Llama because she needs coolant. And now I can’t get to the store because the car tires are low. In the last year, beginning in May 2010, EJ’s Dad died. I had to separate from my dysfunctional family (which broke my heart), we experienced rejection by people we really loved, EJs niece’s husband was killed in Afghanistan, a storm tore some shingles off our roof, EJ has experienced agonizing back pain, work has been very difficult for him, and we have struggled to know what to do in our life. And this is just one year in our lives.

I confess that we all got very discouraged. But there came a day in which I felt very, very low, and I realized that I had to fight the discouragement or be destroyed by it. So, in much the same way that I battled fear, I battled discourgement, refusing to give in to it, and choosing to be thankful.

Trust in Jehovah, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness. (Psalms 37:3)

There have been many times in the past when everything went wrong. Like the time when both our vehicles and our furnace died in the middle of winter. I think it was during the time when EJ had been give the choice to either be laid off from work or accept a lesser job at 1/3 less pay. He (with my agreement) chose to work with less money. It was a very lean time in which we were pinching pennies and we couldn’t afford to repair our vehicles or furnace. But friends let us borrow their old van for as long as we needed it, and we were able to heat our house with our woodstove. God miraculously provided us with wood throughout the winter, often just when we needed it. One time sticks out: JJ and I went to the garage to bring in wood, and there was not enough to get us through the day. JJ said anxiously, “Mom, we are almost out of wood! What are we going to do?” I replied that God had so far always provided us with wood when we were almost out. “Therefore, we are going to tell God we need would and wait for Him to bring it.” An hour or so later, JJ came running out to the kitchen where I was working. “Mom! Mom! Look! God brought us the wood!” One of EJ’s co-workers had drive up, unhitched a wagon of wood, and driven away before we even new he was there. But, of course, the wood came from God.

We had had to deal with a leaky roof for a few years, but finally were able to get it fixed last fall.  All autumn and spring, every time it rained, I thought, “Ahh! I don’t have to worry about a leaky roof!” But early last summer, a big storm came through our area, knocking over many large trees and damaging houses. It tore shingles off our roof. It really discouraged me. Our beautiful roof, so recently fixed, damaged! Added to that, a neighbor’s tree fell on the power line and ripped it off our house. The guys from the power company went through town fixing power lines and restoring power. Our house remained dark. We were told that they could fix only the lines at the street. The ones to the houses were our responsibility. So we faced having to spend money for getting the roof fixed and for an electrician to get the line rehooked up. We had two freezers of food melting. We didn’t have extra money. I was discouraged. But the next day, a guy from the power company drove by, said he wasn’t supposed to hook our line up but it would only take a moment and he’d do it for us. Within minutes, we had the line hooked up and the power back on for no charge. And a few weeks later, our roof was fixed for not much money.

The truth is that sometimes problems can be frustrating and discouraging, but they can also be opportunities to experience God’s provision. Sometimes the miracle can be in having an abundance, but sometimes there is a “miraculous lack” that teaches us to trust God.

We can trust and be thankful even when there is no air in the tires and I can’t get to the store. I think thankfulness is a very powerful form of faith because a person can only be thankful if he (or she) has faith to trust Him when there are a thousand problems. Complaints and discouragement blind our eyes to what God is doing. The way to see God at work is to start thanking Him–and then our eyes are opened even farther. One of my favorite verses is Hab. 3:17-19:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

One of my (many) favorite Bible stories is in 2 Chronicles 20:1-22. A huge army was coming against Jehoshaphat and there was no chance that they could win against them:

1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.
2 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said:
“LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.

This is what happened next:

 14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.
15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’”
18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. (2 Chron. 20:1-22)

Did you get that? Jehoshaphat set up a choir at the frontof the army to sing praises to God. Trying finding THAT in a military strategy book. Kind of hard to sneak up on an enemy when you are SINGING. But at they sang praise, God defeated the enemy. Praise, which includes thanksgiving, is  very powerful weapon.

Did I say we were experiencing Death By A Thousand Problems? I meant to say we are experiencing LIFE By a Thousand Problems, as we experience a God who provides for us, and deepens our faith.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD. (Psalms 27:132-14)

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