Keeping our hope in Christ will help us through daily trials.
Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
But so often, if we are honest, we would have to say:
For me to live is family.
For me to live is health.
For me to live is success.
And when those things fail us, and we come to the brink of despair, it is a gift from God.
For if we realize that Christ must be our life, then we can enjoy the gifts without demanding from them what they cannot give.
Last week I was blessed with another gift. A grandson. Born to Beth and Seth.
This child, plump with possibility, had been given to us. We were euphoric.
But mountaintops are for a moment.
We were told he was jaundiced. Had to go under the lights, a blindfold on his wee head.
He wailed and flailed and his mother could only stand and watch.
So she cried.
So I cried.
Finally I took their two-year-old home and left the parents at the hospital. It rained all night and in the morning my basement guestroom was filled with water. I had to evacuate my soggy belongings while Seth hurried home, removed furniture, vacuumed up water, pulled back carpet, and tried to convince his wife, who was experiencing baby blues, that the house was not a disaster, when indeed, it was.
The next night I was attempting to get their two-and-a-half-year-old, Katherine, to bed. I did everything I could think to do: water, story, prayers, rocking, more water… Still, she kept getting up, wailing, pointing toward the living room. We had begun at 7 and it was nearly 9. Past my bedtime.
“Use your words, Katherine.” (This is the new phrase I’ve picked up from my children and laughed to see it is the "in” phrase when I watched the comedy Parental Guidance.)
Katherine couldn’t use her words. Instead she sobbed, pointing to the air.
“Show me.” We wandered about the house again. She sobbed. “Honey, I don’t know what you want. Use your words.”
She collapsed, WAILING. When I picked her up she had a tantrum, screaming and kicking. Anger WELLED up in me. I held her legs tight, dropped her in her bed, and said, “STAY THERE!” I left abruptly, flicking off the light, slamming the door.
I slid to the floor outside her room, my head in my hands, listening to her heart-broken cries. Her grandmother had turned into Mr. Hyde. I hate this monster in me too, Lord! Help me! Her life has been turned topsy turvy, she probably wants her mother, and I can’t give her that. (An hour later, while she was still whimpering, I spied her pink bear under the couch. Maybe, I thought. I opened the door a crack, waved the pink bear, and she cried out in delight. She clutched it to her heart while I knelt and told her I was sorry I was mean. (She nodded!) Then I stroked her sweaty head until sleep came.
In heaven there will be no jaundiced babies, flooded basements, or wicked grandmothers. But we are not in heaven yet. We need the gospel for the here and now, and Philippians shows us how to apply the gospel to the trials of life, whether they are small or overwhelming, as some of you are facing. I so long to become the kind of believer Paul was, who knew Jesus was real and could see through what he called “these light momentary afflictions” (though they hardly seemed like that) to eternal glory.
It is natural to grieve when we lose family, health, ministry—but we should not be devastated, for our real hope is in Christ.