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There was Jesus
By Chris Rathbone

Mitchell County

 

There’s a struggle sometimes when writing these articles. Struggling to decide whether to share our own life experiences. In this life, we tend to avoid bearing our hearts for others to see. Those hard chapters in life that come our way we often even avoid talking about with others, even our own family. For some reason, we fall into the belief that those struggles should be covered and hidden in the background or simply ignored by only sharing what we think people want to hear and see. The mistake is made that we should only focus on those positive places in our lives and then we end up not dealing with our inner emotions and spiritual struggles. There is even pressure put on pastors and preachers to only share “positive truth”. We bury our hurts and struggles deep inside until they reach a point where they overwhelm us all at once.
Over the years, Jesus has taught me many lessons in life. One of the lessons that I personally don’t always like to learn is this: We grow more in our walk with Him during hardships. There’s not one of us that wants to admit that truth. Everyone enjoys those periods in life when all is well, and life seems to be rolling along smoothly. While we all are very thankful for those times, we often take them for granted and will come to a place spiritually and emotionally where we tend to put ourselves on cruise control. Our focus will become blurred and our commitment to the things in life that should be of the utmost importance will begin to fade into the background of our lives. We never really know what we are made of during these good times. How I wish it weren’t true! The fact is hardships and struggles cause us all to dig deep inside our soul. They force us to search out places in our hearts we haven’t been. We discover, more often than not, just how shallow we have been living. Our hearts become an open book, exposing to our Savior all those areas we thought we were keeping hidden from everyone, even Him.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5 when speaking of tribulation: “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.” In the trials, tribulations, and hardships of life is where we grow. Those are the times when we find more intimately the faithfulness and grace of our loving Heavenly Father. For it is there in those chapters of life that He works in depth. These “tribulations worketh patience”. According to Vine’s Bible Dictionary, the word in the original language for “patience” almost always means “an abiding under”. In tribulation, we abide there in Christ. “Experience” means “the process of proving”. Tribulation “worketh” or produces patience where we abide while God is in the process of proving us spiritually. Then when we are proved or tested through those times, we find hope! I hope that God is with us and has been the entire time. He has used these tribulations to reveal His love in our hearts through His Holy Spirit which is given to us.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul wrote about praying for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh”. Whatever it was Paul did not want to experience it. He prayed and asked God to remove it from his life. Do you realize that God said no? “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Paul concluded that he would rather suffer through the hardships of life with his own weakness exposed so he could experience the grace, presence, and strength of Christ. Wow! And all I do most of the time is pray for everything to change so I won’t have to go through things!
We are often skipping through life thinking of how strong we are and how nothing is going to bring us down. Hardship comes and we come to the realization that we weren’t strong at all. Our weakness is exposed, and we come to understand our great need for Jesus. We cry for answers and struggle because we do not understand. Sometimes we get angry, we intentionally blame God and even stop praying because we somehow believe if we ignore Him things will become better. They don’t. We have been plunged deep into things that we don’t want to experience, and we had no choice about it. Like it or not we have to admit that we will not make it without Jesus and His strength.
Over the years in ministry, I’ve watched people, good people, go through experiences that have brought even the most committed and strong Christians to their knees, both physically and spiritually. I have listened to cries that have described brokenness more clearly than words ever could. Questions have been asked for which I have no answer. My own heart has been broken for others knowing that I have no idea how they are feeling because I’ve not experienced for myself what they are going through in their life. There have been times when words, even words in prayer, could hardly be spoken. Times when silence and tears were all that could be expressed. Times when the burden was so great you could physically see people bowing under the load.
And right there in the middle of it all……………..there was Jesus.

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Preacher Chris Rathbone serves as Pastor at Mine Creek Baptist Church.

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