Troubles

“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

What’s in the Darkness?

Read and reflect on John 1:1–18.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:5 RSV

When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. That was because my brother and sister, both older than me, would scare me with ghost stories and hide in the dark, making mysterious noises. I had a vivid imagination even then, and their antics only increased my fear. When I went upstairs at night, I had to flip on every light switch along the way, and I couldn’t fall asleep unless the hall light at the bottom of the stairs was turned on, its beams reaching into my bedroom, dispelling the darkness and calming my fears.

When I grew up, however, I learned no spooks lurked in the darkness, waiting to harm me, and the darkness held no real threat. But still, inky blackness had the power to resurrect old fears buried deep in the recesses of my heart. 

I remember one time my husband, our three children, and I were camping, and all the lights were extinguished. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand two inches from my face. My heart beat faster, and my breath came in short gasps.

“Calm down,” I scolded myself. I thought about turning on the reading light and reading through the night until I fell asleep, but the light would disturb my husband. So I squeezed my eyes shut, pulled the covers over my head, and forced myself to breathe deeply and slowly—and think about something other than the blackness that still held terror for me. 

While adults may scoff at a child’s (or another adult’s) fear of the dark, I believe we need to respect it for its power for good and for evil. 

The Bible tells us there are three kinds of darkness: Physical darkness is the absence of light and can harbor both good (rest) and bad. Our fears, worries, and heartaches are felt more acutely at night, and loom larger than in the light of the day. Spiritual darkness, not knowing what is right and true, also represents everything evil, gloomy, or hopeless. Eternal darkness is hell, the absence of God.

As Christians, we are to avoid spiritual darkness, respect its power to destroy and send us into eternal darkness, but not fear it. Why?

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus tells us in John 8:12. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus, the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God, the child born in Bethlehem, the God-man who never sinned and became the perfect sacrifice, paying the punishment for our sin by shedding His blood and dying on a cross so that the darkness will no longer have power over us. Jesus, whose name means “God will save,” who overcame the eternal darkness of death and rose from the grave, continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not—and cannot ever—overpower Him. 

Like that hall light when I was a child, His beams of love and life continue to reach out to me, surrounding me, enfolding me, dispelling the darkness around me, and calming my fears. I know I need never be afraid of the dark anymore.

As I light the first Advent candle, dear God, remind me that in this season of long, dark nights, that I never need to fear the dark, as long as I walk in the Light. Amen.

From God, Me, and a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 by Michele Huey. All rights reserved.