Hard Road Journey – Part 8

This article will conclude chapter four of Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.  And the theme of that chapter is “Stay Positive”.  It was last December that I read this book and immediately I knew that there were some powerful messages in this book that I needed to hear, for I had been on a hard road journey for quite some time.

As you may know, it was November that I started this blog writing, partly to reflect on life, partly as a therapeutic activity for myself, and soon after I started, it became a means to reach out and try to minister to others.  I wonder about the people who read these articles if some or many may also be walking on a hard road journey.

So this article marks the end of four months of looking into this book.  Are you walking a difficult road right now?  Has life gotten any better or easier to bear in these four months?  Have things gotten worse?  (I sure hope not, but I do realize that is quite possible.)  If you have been going through a difficult time for these four months, or longer, you may well be asking, “How can I ever stay positive in these circumstances?”  Let me summarize three main points that Atteberry offers to us all.

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First of all, things could be worse.  That sounds so trite, but it is also very true.  Now I will not try to do what I think many mothers do when they say to their children, “Think about all those starving children over there in Africa.”  (That statement usually comes out when our kids don’t want to eat their vegetables, or some new strange-looking casserole for dinner.)

Actually, we tried that one time with one of our sons when we lived in our remote village in Papua New Guinea and the boys were elementary school age.  Jill had worked hard getting supper ready, but our one son didn’t want to eat it.  So Jill used that famous line, except she said, “Think of the children starving in this village.”  So our son got the bright idea of getting up, going out the door, putting his plate of food on the landing, and came back inside.  A few minutes later, as we watched with open mouths, he went and got his plate and indeed, it was empty.  There were starving children outside.

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No, what I’m thinking of is when life seems to crash in upon us and we think we’ve hit the bottom, what do we do?  In the two years of mid ’87 through mid ’89, we thought things were bad, and they just kept getting worse.  I mentioned a few in the last article: losing a child, packing and moving multiple times with Jill’s next pregnancy, my critical illness, feeling almost bankrupt, and another illness that kept me in bed for a 6 month period.

We had every reason to think negatively, and to think to ourselves, “Will we ever reach the bottom of these disasters and crises?”  But it is exactly at this point that we needed to look at what we had, and not at what we had lost to keep us sane.  We had each other, we were blessed with our first-born son, we had my parents take us in a few times into their home, we did find employment and some other income.  And we had God with us and many caring Christian friends and church people to love us.  By many standards, we were very blessed to have all that we did have.

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The second helpful advice is the inverse to the first, namely that things actually might be better than they seem.  With the mission work that Jill and I have done over the years, we often found things to be tight financially.  During our first long-term over in PNG (1997-99), we always had enough to buy the essentials for living, but we could not save any extra and prepare for our upcoming furlough year back home.

Well, wouldn’t you know it.  There were some logistical issues in those days that made transferring funds from Canada to PNG difficult, and some monies began to accumulate for us back home.  Unfortunately we never knew this at the time, so maybe we might have worried a bit less back then.  But when we did get back to Canada, there was enough of a reserve fund that we were able to live okay during our 10 month period of visiting all our supporting churches.

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And then finally, Atteberry reminds us that “We Are In Good Hands“.  This is a truth that all of us as Christians really need to remind ourselves.  We are not insignificant specks in the Universe, but rather we are children of the King.  And He is still God and He is still in control.  He is the Master Potter, and though we feel the bruising of being shaped, and will endure some fiery trials here on earth, the Bible tells us that we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10) and that after creating mankind God said, “it was very good.”

And so my dear friends, while I hurt for those who are hurting, let us not give up hope.  Let us look up to God, not down at the trials that we think will crush us.  A brighter day will be easier to find if we can keep our spirits up and remain living life with a positive attitude.  And another Day will come when all sorrow and suffering, all disease and death will be gone and all tears wiped away.  Remember, God is the King, and we are His children.  He will rescue us in this life, and in the next.