Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh Joy

"Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens." Epictetus

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3

Last night my son, Dan, came home. Not unusual, but he lives in Yorba Linda and normally works Friday in Long Beach so it's not so usual on a Thursday. Dan was depressed. He lost his job.

I got depressed -- it hit me harder than I thought it would. Dan already had lots of financial hits with his car. He's getting married in two months. He didn't need this. I felt afraid and angry and depressed.

My oldest daughter, Sarah, has been going through a very weird housing situation. She signed a year lease with three roommates on a nice house. The roommates have become very flaky. My daughter had to pay the entire rent in June. She got a restraining order against one of them, who had been a very good friend for over a year, because she threatened her life. Sarah's finally out of the house, but her living situation is very uncertain and she may still be liable for all or part of the lease.

I live with rheumatoid arthritis. My wife has various on-going health issues.

We are good friends with a couple at our church -- we've known them since college. Their children grew up with our children and are best friends. One of their daughters suddenly had seizures a few weeks ago. They found blood in her brain from a congenital tangled vein that began bleeding. They also found an aneurysm. She needs surgery and is bed ridden all summer. At least she's alive and we have modern medicine to fix her up. (She wrote about this on her blog)

Another lady at church had a brain tumor. Fortunately it was benign and got removed OK. She is having a slow recovery. A teenager at church has numbness in her legs -- she can't feel a thing. It now has gone away as mysteriously as it came. Our church can't afford to fix the parsonage air conditioning so our pastor and his wife suffer while temperatures sky rocket. A couple of years ago we had three young people associated with our church died within a short time span. People have left, making our small church even smaller. The simple fact that our church is falling behind in our bills seems trivial compared to the real-life drama.

What is going on? Are we screwing up? Is it time to cash in?

Well, giving up on church won't really solve anything. It won't find a job for my son nor fix anyone's health. Obviously we need to be alert to any changes God is asking of us. However, we've been doing that for quite some time and it hasn't stopped bad things from happening, nor should it.

Epicetus has good advice, but it's often hard for me to follow. It did help me just to read his quote. The help in Philippians 4:6 is even better. I know God is here and praying is good. There's someone out there watching over me, my family and my friends. That's comforting.

The rejoicing mentioned by Paul in Romans and by James is harder. Sometimes I suppress stuff and just pretend to be OK. That not healthy and can't be what they mean. Somehow I need to accept the awfulness of stuff, grieve over it and still rejoice in God. What's cool is knowing how much he loves me and wants me to grow into a better person. It's still pretty hard to rejoice.

God takes care of me, comforts me and loves me. Same for my family and friends. He ultimately has good plans. We're all going to grow from this. Right now, though, it hurts a lot.