Monday, February 25, 2008

Playing The Hand You're Dealt

At one time or another, most people have to contend with a life situation that just doesn't seem fair. The injustices range from inconveniences as trivial as being out jousted for position in traffic or a supermarket line, to more significant setbacks as frustrating as being overlooked for a promotion or being misunderstood by a good Friend when trying to help them. These everyday trials affect virtually everyone, and every mature individual learns to take them in stride. There is another level of trial, however, that defies easy explanation and requires much more than average maturity and focus to digest. This level of trial is truly life altering and involves a level of commitment and endurance that engages all of one's being - heart, soul, mind and strength. This weekend, I was reminded of how jolting this level of trial is when I heard difficult news involving 2 wonderful women involved in ministry in our area.

Nelda Hart is one of those rare people who seems to have no enemies. She is the kind of person who always has a smile on her face and never stops thinking of ways to help others. While others approach a ministry opportunity seeking the lowest level of commitment and challenge, Nelda eagerly volunteers for those behind the scenes hands-on tasks that involve coming early, staying late and getting very, very dirty. she absolutely epitomizes Christ-like service. What makes her attitude so special, is that she exhibits her amazing attitude while enduring all sorts of personal trials. After a recent accident, Nelda had to have one of her legs amputated. While the average person would have been crushed by such a tragedy, Nelda spent her time comforting those who mourned for her and inspiring them to allow God to use their problems to encourage others to apply their faith when it mattered. When someone close to her asked how she could possibly be so upbeat in her situation, Nelda simply replied, "It's the LORD!" This weekend, Nelda joined a group of women from our church for a getaway retreat. On the first night of the retreat, Nelda mentioned that she wasn't feeling very well and complained of chest pains. An ambulance was called and Nelda was rushed to a nearby hospital where it was found that she had suffered a heart attack. When the women of our church visited Nelda she was true to form, trusting God in the midst of her pain and displaying more concern for their emotional well-being than for her own situation. Even in this terrifying and uncertain situation, Nelda continues to be committed to trusting God and displaying His comfort for the encouragement of others through His abiding presence in her life.

On the heels of hearing about Nelda, I received news that a strong woman of faith in our church's association had gone on to her Eternal Reward. Trenise Lowe was a person you would remember forever if you had the privilege of meeting her even once. She was extremely outgoing, highly motivated, totally committed to serving the Lord and had a particular passion for missions. A few years ago, Trenise learned that she had a malignant form of cancer that had grown behind her eye. While this is the kind of news that would paralyze many with fear, Trenise took a different approach. Whether she lived or died, she would seek to live every day as a testimony to her faith in Jesus Christ and encourage others with her testimony of His faithfulness in her trail. Of course, Even with this resolve, the questions came. One question that tugged at Trenise's heart was this - why would the Lord seemingly confine her to limited mobility when she had such a Passion and willingness to go wherever the Lord would send her to serve as a missionary? With so many people unwilling to surrender to this type of service, it just didn't seem fair that someone willing like her should be placed on the "disabled list" and not allowed to go because of ill health. She soon found the answer to her question. In receiving care for various stages of her treatment she found that everywhere she went, she was encountering people from all over the world. She summed it up by saying, "When I couldn't go to world, the Lord brought the world to me!" Seeing the great opportunity the Lord had placed right at her feet, she began sharing Jesus' message of hope with those who cared for her and those who suffered with her. Some were so amazed at the mighty faith she consistently displayed that they asked for one on one time to hear how faith in Jesus had given her such strength in the face of certain death. What a ministry, what a mission and what an impact for the Kingdom of God!

I believe there is a straightforward life lesson to learn from these extraordinary women of faith - play the hand you're dealt! Life will bring you trials and tests. Generally, we cannot choose our trials or select our tests, but they do come. The one factor we can choose, in most cases, is our response to our difficulties. One response we can employ is spending our time complaining about our trials and growing bitter in disbelief about how unfair our tragedy is. This response is understandable. Nevertheless, the two women whose stories I have highlighted have shown us what the Apostle Paul described as a "more excellent way." The way of Jesus is The Way that calls us to live with the understanding that our life was never meant to be all about us. We are here to live for God and to serve for others. Everybody suffers. Christians are called to embrace the God of all comfort in our own suffering that we might be able to show others the comfort we ourselves have received from Him. Rather than murmur about the hand the Dealer dealt us, we should play out the hand we have received for as long as we can with all the strength we can until our hand has been played out.

The next time you find yourself in the midst of a trial remember Nelda and Trenise and ask the Lord to give you the strength and resolve not to complain, but to grasp how He might use your trusting and faithful response to encourage others as the face trials of their own. It's the reason you've been placed on this earth. Play the hand you're dealt! Until next time....


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