by Frank
(Smyrna, Delaware,USA)

Scripture reading: Psalm 46: 1–2, New King James Version (NKJV)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Today I want to say two things: First, Life is difficult and second, God is good.

“Life is difficult.” That is the way Scott Peck opened his book, The Road Less Traveled.

He is right, you know. Life is very difficult. Life is full of change, challenges, disaster and distress, trials, troubles and tribulations. In one way or another none of us is free from these. As I think about the changes and challenges in this world, they have been good for some and a threat to others. Some have fought them, some have encouraged them, and others have just resigned themselves to what they consider the unexpected.

However, while an issue for some, these changes are not like the catastrophic changes made by the eruption of St. Helens, or the earthquake and sunami in Japan, or Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. For many, wars in various places in the world have been catastrophic and have caused significant changes.

Yet there are personal tragedies, changes, losses, that have huge impacts on our lives, such as the death of a loved one, life threatening diseases, job loss, marital troubles, and then there are the recent tragedies that have taken place over the past couple of months. All of these are in a way like the disasters that take place in the world of nature; they affect and change our lives forever.

When I read the Psalm it says,
“We will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.”

All of the personal, social, and natural calamities and changes are wrapped up in that fragment of a sentence in the Psalm.

The question we ask at these times is often “why” did this happen? That is such a heavy question. Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy Which is a complex psychological system that stresses the development of client self-awareness and personal responsibility. Said that we should not ask the “why” question in the face of such events and issues. They only lead to death and not life. The questions we should ask are “What” or “How”. “What should I do now?” Or “How should I respond?” These questions lead to life if answered appropriately.

Yet some folk react inappropriately to the bad things in life by turning in on themselves.

Like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman – (Arthur Miller 1949). By the way, the play won the Tony Award for the Best Revival Play of the year in 2012. Willy is a sad, lonely, angry man who does very little right. He even kills himself in a car accident so his son could use his insurance money to start a business; however, the policy had lapsed because Willy had not paid the premiums. At the graveside, his son Biff says, “He had the wrong dreams, all wrong. He never knew who he was.” Willy’s reactions to the tragedies of life were destructive to him.

Some people react by being destructive of things and people around them. We have seen examples of this over the past ----by the senseless and tragic killing of innocent school children and teachers in the Connecticut shooting by unbalanced and upset individuals. They get angry with others or even with God.

When my father died in 1998 one of my close friends called me to give me comfort and support . I really appreciated his call. However, while we were talking, he said to me, “Frank, you should be mad at God for his death.” I answered him, “Well that is the way you think. I am not mad at God. God didn’t do this to my father. It was one of those things that happens in life. It is God that has kept me going through the pain and grief caused by the death of my beloved father. I am not mad at God. I find my strength in my relationship with God.”

Others simply let life roll over them and they just let go. In the long run, if you don’t deal with the stress, pain, grief and loss in some positive fashion, it will cause you physical, mental, emotional and spiritual problems down the road.
There may be a different way which is far better than any of the ways of coping I have already mentioned.

Let me illustrate by going to the Old Testament book of Habakkuk. King Josiah had died.

The Babylonians were bent on capturing Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem was under siege and was being attacked. The people were being defeated by the invading army from the North. The Prophet is very distressed. His world is falling apart. He goes up into a tower as a watch post and has this argument with God. He is shaking his fist at God and demanding to know why these awful things are happening to God’s people.

Then God answers and says, “Write the vision on tablets big enough so those who are runners may read it.” Then he gives an answer which is simple, yet very profound. “The Just (righteous) shall live by faith.”

This answer is repeated by the New Testament writers over and over. It is at the heart of the Book of Romans and it was at the heart of the Reformation. It is faith that sustains those who are in right relationship to God. It is a sense of trust of the Creator, Redeemer, and ever present Spirit that keep us going during hard times. It is the only satisfying answer that is present in the universe. The Just shall live by faith. Those who are in a right relationship with God will simply trust God. They will live by faith.

It is as if Habakkuk has just finished reading Psalms 46 and it dawns on him that the answer to life’s difficulties is found in that Psalm – “God is our refuge and strength. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” If you trust in the LORD God you will be able to withstand the changing earth, the shaking mountains and the roaring, foaming, flooding ocean.

The other night I was reading my Bible before I went to bed and I was trying to finish the book of Romans which I had started during my morning Bible Reading and prayer time. I was in the 12th chapter and these words jumped off the page at me. I thought they would be a good outline of a sermon on this topic.

Romans 12:12 reads, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering continue in prayer.” There it is! How do we go from chaos to peace?

We rejoice in hope for that is one of the items the Christian has been given by God through the Holy Spirit, and hope does not disappoint us. It is seeing a new and better future even though it doesn’t look that good right now.

How do we go from chaos to peace? We should be patient when things are going wrong. We don’t fly off the handle, go searching for something to numb us, or strike out at God or other people or just roll over and say I’m whipped. We don’t strike out; we don’t get all discombobulated and irrational and fall apart. We stay patient and seek the kind of help we can get if we look in the right places.

How do we go from chaos to peace? We go to God in prayer and we persevere in our prayer life, not stopping, nor begging as if God doesn’t care and has to be convinced of our case. But we continue to give God thanks for what God has promised us, what God is doing in us and what God will ultimately accomplish in our lives.

"Precious Lord Take My Hand” this marvelous gospel song written by Thomas Dorsey. Not the Tommy Dorsey of the Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey big band fame. This was Thomas Dorsey, an African American songwriter and gospel singer. He had gone to St. Louis to hold an evangelistic meeting, leaving his lovely wife in Chicago. While in the midst of his ministry, he got word that his wife had died. Thomas sat down and wrote “Precious Lord.” In the midst of the trials and tribulations of life, there is a faith to hold onto which will guide us, strengthen us, and comfort us. “

“Precious Lord, Take my hand, lead me on, let me stand. I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm through the night, lead me on to thy light, take my hand, Precious Lord, Lead me home.”

“When my way grows so dark, Precious Lord, linger near, when my life is almost gone. Hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall. Take my hand, Precious Lord, Lead me home.”

P.P. There is another hymn I love to sing while in the shower significant in a time like this. It is “It Is Well with My Soul.” The song is special because it reflects the attitude and the faith that Horatio Spafford had.

You probably know the story, but it is so touching that it bears repeating. Horatio sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to France, the Villa du Havre, and he was going to join them later. They left New York on November 15, 1873. On the 22ndof November the Villa du Havre collided with the iron clipper Loch Eam. Over 200 of the passengers and crew perished in the sinking of the Villa du Havre. Anna Spafford, the wife of Horatio and the mother of their four daughters, was rescued and taken to Cardiff, Wales where she was able to telegraph to her husband and say, “Saved alone. What shall I do?

”Horatio did two things: first, he went to get his wife, gives her comfort and brings her back to Chicago where they lived. Secondly and a bit later, he sat down and wrote a very touching hymn which expressed his faith in God and his trust in God in spite of what had happened.

“When peace like a river attendeth my soul,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say.
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

In the midst of a life that is difficult, know this full well. “God is good. God’s mercy endures forever.”

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change… The LORD of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

If anyone asks you what the service was about today, just say: “Two things: Life is difficult but God is good.” Amen.

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