Friday, June 10, 2011

The Purpose of Tribulation

    I am fascinated with Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:  knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.  I like to look at the key words of these verses and apply them to my life experiences. What are the key words?


 The Bible tells me that tribulations in life are to have a purpose;  from tribulations that we experience, we gain patience.  When I was 16 years-old, my great grandma died. Up until that point I had never had a relative who was close to me pass away. My Grandma Catsman was very close to my family, and her death was not easy, but as I came to realize--grandmas pass away, and every other kid I knew lost grandparents also.  I had to learn to be patient with the natural deaths that occurred in my life, and I could not let myself become unglued because of them. Grandma's death also gave me experience that I could use in the future.  I learned through her death that although losing her was very sad, I was going to survive; not only was I going to survive, but I could look back on time spent with Grandma and cherish the wonderful memories that I shared with her. Now having experienced a tribulation that gave me patience and experience, I now had hope. What did I have hope in?  Hope that when other tribulations would occur later in my life that I could also weather those storms with Jesus by my side and gain even more patience, more experience, and more hope.  Losing Grandma Catsman was just the beginning.

Daryl and I were married in December of 1983. I had always dreamed of having children at a young age because I loved having a young mom (what I didn't realize was that although my mom was young, one of her best attributes is that she is young at heart). I was 20 years-old when we got married, and we both agreed that we would spend two years together in marriage before having children and then proceed with having a family. We enjoyed our first two years of marriage and looked forward to God blessing us with a child right away when we wanted one, but life doesn't always work how we want it to. I was not able to get pregnant, and I didn't know why. I began having several different types of procedures to pinpoint the problem and even took fertility drugs, and for a couple of years we still did not have a child. Finally in January of 1988 I had a procedure that showed that I had endometriosis, a disease in which the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus and can attach itself to other organs. The doctor who did the procedure removed the endometriosis, and several weeks later we found out that we were expecting our first child! Meanwhile, my dad who was a pastor, was suffering from severe depression. On August 1st, 1988, our phone rang at 5:30 a.m.  My dad had shot himself and was at the hospital. Daryl and I raced to get dressed and get to the St. Margaret's Hospital in Dyer, Indiana. When we walked through the hospital doors we were ushered to a little room and told that my dad had not survived. The grief I felt was unexplainable. Because this is a blog, and not a book, I will not go into detail about the extent of grief that my family and I suffered, but for the affects of his suicide can still be felt to this very day.  How did I make it through? I had an amazing husband who was there for me every second; I had a great church in which I heard preaching that gave me hope; I have a WONDERFUL God who surrounded me with his peace and tenderness and gave me courage to continue.  In my tribulation, I gained patience.  In gaining patience, I gained experience; through my experience I gained hope.

Our son, James, was born in October of 1988. What a gift! What a blessing! God knew what we needed at just the right time. We hoped to have another couple of children, but once again, I was not able to conceive. In 1992, I had an appendicitis attack, and while one doctor removed my appendix, the doctor who removed my endometriosis the first time did the same surgery for a second time. I wish I could say I got two surgeries for the price of one; but unfortunately I got two surgeries for the price of two.  A couple of months later I was expecting our second child. I had a good pregnancy, and we were all looking forward to seeing the new baby. One of the people who was the most excited was my father-in-law, Bill Whitehouse. Every time I saw him, he would say, "Laurie May, can't wait to see that baby!" By the way, my middle name is Ann; only Bill Whitehouse ever called me Laurie May, and I loved that nickname he gave me.  The month of April 1993 rolled around, and our baby was due at any time. I was huge and miserable,  and Daryl and I couldn't wait to see our new little one. On the morning of April 20th, before the sun came up that day, our phone rang. My mother-in-law through choked voice and tears told Daryl that his dad had been shot and killed while trying to cash his paycheck after work. Bill Whitehouse, one of the kindest, most decent men I've ever met, was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity. Two men had gotten in a fight, and one had gotten so mad that he went to get his gun with the intent to shoot the other man. He saw my father-in -law from the back and thought that he was the man he was looking for.  With one shot, my father-in-law's life ended. Once again we relied on God's Words to get us through; we relied on the preaching of God's Word to lift us up; we relied on good people who were there to help us.  Once again we faced tribulation; we gained patience; through the patience we gained experience, and through the experience we gained hope. Nine days after my father-in-law's death, Jessica Marie was born. God had mercifully granted us another gift, another blessing, just when we need it most.

We have faced other tribulations in life, but none have yet to match those two experiences--the suicide of my dad and the murder of my father-in-law.  I am so glad that God has a purpose in allowing us to experience tribulation. I can't imagine living a life in which terrible things happen--but they just happen and that's that! I prayed when my dad died that God would give purpose to His death.  We prayed when we lost my father-in-law that God would give purpose to his death. My husband and I are in the ministry. We both have used our experiences to counsel others who are going through loss and grief.  We are both witnesses that would like to say that there is life after grief! We are both witnesses to say, "You can make it with God by your side."  We are both witnesses to say, "Get into church. Hear the preaching. Memorize scripture. Meditate on God's Word."  God will bring you through, but you have to be willing to do what it takes for Him to get you through.  It's like climbing a mountain with a guide. The guide wants to get the hikers to the top of the mountain, so he tells the hikers what to bring, what to watch for, how to pace themselves, etc. Then, when the hikers follow the directions and follow the guide, they will be sure to arrive at their destination. I can't begin to tell you how important reading the Bible is; memorizing scripture is; meditating on God's Word is; and hearing the preaching is.  Obeying our Guide will get us through. Everyone will experience tribulation. Prepare yourself now to make it through when the tribulations arrive because they will arrive! We don't have to end up bitter, insecure, full of shame, and an emotional mess for the remainder of our lives. There are some experiences that are going to be harder to get through than others, but God will provide a way, and if we follow His lead we can glorify God through it all.


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