When trouble comes

Nelson Reed and David Gomero - smallThe common phrase is that “trouble comes in threes. “That stands as a warning to us that bad things happen in bunches. But what to do when trouble, due to its contentious nature, refuses to abide by that limit? We are currently experiencing a season like that.

For us it started with our daughter experiencing a dark presence in her room at night that made her afraid. We dealt with that in the power of the name of Jesus. The next Monday, Celia was moving a heavy box and decided to drop it to the floor from about waist height. It bounced off the ground strangely and hit her in the ankle, causing it to swell to the size of a baseball. (It has now been several weeks and even after medical attention she is unable to bear any weight on it without severe pain.)

Four days later our youngest son made an ill-advised left turn and was T-boned. We are grateful that he is okay, though the car was totaled. 48 hours later our other car died as I was driving it on the freeway; the transmission gave out.

I thought at this point we had filled our quota of trouble, but there was more heartbreak coming.

Last Monday I was informed that the founder and leader of our Hope of Life hospital ministry had left Cuba along with his wife, leaving behind their two teenage sons. They planned this secretly and it came as a disheartening betrayal to all of us who had ongoing ministry plans with them.

Then on Wednesday night we received a phone call that split us into pieces. The 29-year-old son of our good friends Nelson and Linda Reed, ACTION’s International Directors, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Stephen was living at home as he pursued business and philanthropic ventures, so was with his parents daily. I can’t imagine the pain the Reeds are going through. I’ve worked alongside Nelson (pictured at the top of this post) almost every day for several years and I love and admire him. The sudden loss of Stephen has brought heartbreak to the whole ACTION family, as he was also the nephew of ACTION’s Founders, Doug and Margi Nichols.

So, as Paul Simon wrote in one of his songs, “What is the point of this story? What information pertains?”These things are certainly not written by me to garner sympathy or to give the impression we have it worse than anyone else. Everyone faces challenging seasons of life. (As the sign in the dentist’s office says: spit happens.) Our observation, though, is that the “trouble comes in threes” is a gross understatement. The Lord teaches us exactly this, and in fact He might rephrase our common saying to “trouble comes in 365’s.”

His precise statement is, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Every day of life has the potential to degenerate into a pitching machine that sends fastballs at you faster than you can possibly swing your bat.

The key is that although troubles come, we are not to let them trouble us. There is great personal victory and great glory to God when in the midst of it all we do not let our hearts become troubled or fearful (John 14:27). Good luck trying that without Jesus because our human strategies are insufficient for 365 days of trouble — think “coping mechanisms” and such. But with the Lord Jesus we can face the fastballs of life without losing our faith or losing our temper. His peace is real. Celia and I are seeing that reality right now in the lives of Linda and Nelson Reed and we are learning that ourselves.

The Lord is good, but not in the sense that He causes our Christian lives to be trouble-free. That is coming at some point for us, but it’s not how He manifests His goodness today. Rather, He is good because He is with us in the midst of trouble and because His empathy is based on real-life experience. (He might even have a T-shirt in His closet that says: Planet earth — been there, done that.) Jesus knows experientially about spiritual attacks, about physical pain, about betrayal, and about losing someone close to Him. He knows and He cares, and at the right moment, when His overarching purposes have been accomplished, He will cause all trouble to cease.

For now let us take comfort in what the prophet Nahum writes: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

May you be blessed in Him today.