“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus, as quoted in John 16:33 (NIV)

“Troubles” was the name of the dog that made rounds in our neighborhood every day when I was growing up, “baptizing” my mother’s transplanted pine trees. 

Why on earth anyone would name a dog “Troubles,” I have no idea. He wasn’t mean-tempered or destructive. He just padded from yard to yard, sniffing and marking his territory. No turf was off limits. Back then there were no shock collars to keep a curious canine contained. You either tied him up (and the whole neighborhood heard him yap from morning ’til night), kept him inside, or let him roam. 

Isn’t that what trouble does? Makes rounds of the neighborhood. No one is immune from its visits. You can’t tie or lock it up to keep it from coming. And you can’t live in a box, afraid to venture out in case Trouble is in the yard. It will leave its mark. Sometimes it changes your life forever. And it always brings with it a lesson, if you’re not too stubborn to acknowledge it. 

But I’m preaching. Sorry.

I got to thinking about trouble when I read “Trouble Was Bound to Come,” chapter 13 of Debbie Macomber’s book, Once Upon a Time: Discovering Our Forever After Story. As I prepared to respond to the chapter prompt, “Describe a time when trouble knocked at your door,” I ran into a little, uh, trouble. After six decades, deciding which time to write about presented a challenge. I could write a book, not a journal entry. 

But that wasn’t the only difficulty I encountered with this assignment. Writing about a time of trouble meant resurrecting something I buried long ago and had no desire to exhume. 

I’ve learned to deal with trouble by treating it as an opportunity—to grow, to change, to make changes, to better myself and my life in some way. Trouble, I’ve learned, is a wake-up call, a chance to see things from a different perspective, from the underside, as upside-down becomes the new normal. Trouble removes the blinders or rose-colored glasses we don in order to cope with life. 

Does God send trouble? Sometimes—when He needs to get our attention. “See, I have refined you,” he says in Isaiah 48:10. “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”

But most times trouble comes simply because we live in a fallen world. The only time in earth’s history there was no trouble was in the Garden of Eden before The Fall. 

Trouble comes because of our choices. Trouble comes because of others’ choices. Trouble comes because things happen. That’s life. Most of which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is out of our control.

So where does this leave us?

Back in the yard with Troubles. 

How you perceive your visitor—and note that I use the word visitor—is your choice.

For me, yes, I have troubles, but I prefer to remember the words of Job: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

When trouble visits, Lord, remind me that I’m too blessed to complain. Amen.

Read and reflect on 1 Peter 1:6–9.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

Venting Problems

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. —James 1:19 NIV

When we bought our camper, an RV refrigerator didn’t come with it. The sellers had installed a refrigerator that ran only on electricity. Since we planned to do a lot of traveling, we needed one that ran on either electricity or propane gas. We found a used one at an RV place near Raystown Lake, only a two-hour drive, for a reasonable price. 

But when we brought it home and installed it, the freezer worked, but the refrigerator compartment didn’t. My husband, fix-it guy extraordinaire, reasoned the problem was the refrigerator wasn’t getting enough ventilation. Which was why the previous owner had installed a 4-inch fan on the back, which we took off because we didn’t think we needed it. 

We tested Dean’s ventilation theory the first weekend we camped out in the yard. Dean hung a 20-inch box fan on the outside of the camper where the access door for the refrigerator compartment was. 

It worked! 

But when he slid the refrigerator out for the umpteenth time and re-attached the fan, it kept blowing fuses. After a week of frustration, he removed the fan and tested it with his volt-meter tester thing.

“It’s junk,” he said, tossing the fan on the table. Back he went to the camper.

Now, my husband refuses to let a stubborn problem get the best of him. He searches for a solution long after I would have said, “Nuts with it.” 

It wasn’t long before he returned to the house, grinning. 

“I found the problem,” he said, dropping a thick slab of Styrofoam on the table beside the useless fan. “This was in the roof vent over the refrigerator compartment.”

Apparently when the camper’s previous owners had the electric refrigerator installed, the Styrofoam was inserted in the vent for whatever reason. 

The refrigerator’s working great now. It just needed to vent.

Like me. 

At times, I need to vent, too, or I’ll get too hot and say or do something I later regret.

I remember a woman whose anger was directed at me one time, saying in lieu of an apology, “Once I vent and get it all out, I’m just fine.”

“So does a volcano,” I said, “but look at the damage it causes.”

We all need to vent. We’re flawed human beings with emotions that can get out of control at times. Tears are one way to vent. I call them the release valve the Creator installed to relieve built-up pressure. Physical activity, such as running or, for me, cleaning, is another. 

But we have to be careful of how we vent, when and where we vent, and to whom we vent. 

I used to have a terrible temper. Throwing things, slamming doors and drawers, and screaming were my methods of venting. Not very pretty. I’m ashamed of how I behaved.

But God has taught me a better way to vent: prayer – and lots of it. 

I’ve learned there isn’t a thing in our lives that He doesn’t care about — from the big, life-changing events to the small stuff, like an RV refrigerator that just needs to vent. 

Thank You, Lord, for being there when I need to vent. Amen.

Read and reflect on James 1:19–25.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.