Lessons from Life
 
Weekly Message
  • In January, 2004, the "One Minute Message" was renamed "Lessons from Life".

    "I believe this new name will be more descriptive of this message, and more in keeping with its mission and purpose. I hope you find it to be an encouragement in your life!"     - Randall Vaughn



Title:   So, you think you are the only one?
By Randall Vaughn, from the "Lessons From Life" series

"But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it.  When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it."  (1 Cor 10:13 NLT)

The word "temptation" in the above Scripture is translated from the Greek word, "peirasmos", which means, "a putting to proof (by experiment [of good], experience [of evil], solicitation, discipline or provocation); by impl. adversity:" (Strong's)

In other words, it can mean not only a temptation (to do evil), but it can also mean a "test".

When people find themselves in a "test" -- a difficult (or seemingly impossible) situation -- they often begin to feel overwhelmed, abandoned, and alone.  They may begin to feel as though no one could possibly understand their circumstances or the pain and depression that they are feeling.

Next, an empty sense of isolation sets in.

Then come the questions:

"Why is this happening to me?"   "What did I do?"   "God, why don't You DO something?"   "God, HELP ME!"

But there seems to be no answer.

After that comes a mindset of utter hopelessness and defeat.

Finally, all hope of overcoming the circumstances is abandoned.

I know. I have been there.

If you have been there, you know too.  You may be there now.

(If you have never been there, do not bother trying to understand, because you cannot.)

It is such a painful experience to feel as though no one on the face of the earth understands you, your feelings, your circumstances, and your pain.

The Scripture above can feel very empty at such a time.

Other people may quote that Scripture to you in an attempt to get you to "snap out of it", "get over it", and "cheer up".  They somehow reason that you should feel better because you are not the only one hurting.  (If someone quotes that Scripture to you in that way, you can rest assured that they have never had to "use" it themselves.  If they had, they would know better!)

When my wife died in February 2000, I felt very much like the above.

 Alone.  Abandoned.  Lost.  Overwhelmed.  Isolated.

I hurt as I have never hurt before.  But I couldn't stop and "indulge" my pain because of other circumstances at the time.  I had to go on in spite of the pain.  But it didn't stop the pain from coming.  That made me feel even more alone and isolated.

No one really understood.  No one really cared.

In my personal Bible study, I read a great deal of the Old Testament. Some people shy away from it, but I find great inspiration, example, and patterns there.  I enjoy studying the personalities and the way they related to God.  The prophets are of special interest to me.

One day, while reading, I came across an event in the life of Ezekiel that really got my attention.

Ezekiel is a difficult book for some.  It contains accounts of strange visions, other-worldly creatures, symbolic descriptions, technical details, almost impossible-to-imagine assignments from God, and more.  It can be quite a challenging read.

As I read Ezekiel, I keep in mind that Ezekiel was a real man.  When God gave him some of those strange assignments, he probably thought (much as we would),  "But Lord, are you sure about this?" Ezekiel had real feelings.  He felt real pain.

But as I read this day, I had no idea just how real Ezekiel's feelings would become to me.  I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to meet Ezekiel one-on-one, "up close and personal"!

I was in chapter 24. I read these words:

The word of the LORD came to me:  "Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes.  Yet do not lament or weep or shed any tears.  Groan quietly; do not mourn for the dead.  Keep your turban fastened and your sandals on your feet;  do not cover the lower part of your face or eat the customary food of mourners."  So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died.   The next morning I did as I had been commanded.  (Ezek 24:15- 18 NIV)

It was a moment I will never forget.  Those words burned into me.  "...and in the evening my wife died".  Even as I write this now, I unashamedly re-live the tears.

I knew at that moment that at least one other person understood how I felt.  I immediately bonded with this man that lived several thousand years ago, who endured so much, yet still maintained his integrity with God and obeyed what God told him to do.  He did not have time to grieve as others did.  He had to go on.  He had work to do -- for God -- and  "The next morning [he] did as [he] had been commanded.".  I understand that.

Ezekiel and I share that pain -- and that joy.  (Do not even try to understand the "joy" part if you have not experienced it.  That is entirely another message.)

I believe that when I get to heaven, I will find Ezekiel, exchange a long and understanding gaze, and then we will share a long brother's embrace that only those who "know" can share.

You see, before my wife died, I had to deal with a question.  This question had been troubling me for some time.  For a long time, I ignored it.  Later, I rejected it.  Then, one day, I realized that this question was from God.  The question was,  "What are you going to do if she dies?"

It was not about circumstances.  It was about my relationship with Him.  Would I become bitter?  Would I abandon Him?  Would I give up?

The day I realized that the questioner was God, I settled the answer with Him.  I made a commitment.  I committed to Him that whether my wife lived or died, it would not change my relationship with Him.  My faith in Him would remain absolute.  No exceptions.  No conditions.  I would do whatever He asked, just as I had promised Him years before.

I found comfort in knowing that Ezekiel survived his ordeal.  I found comfort in knowing that Ezekiel went on to do great things in his life.  I found comfort in knowing that there was a purpose in Ezekiel's pain.  It gave me assurance that there was a purpose in my pain as well.  I found comfort in knowing that I was not alone.  If Ezekiel survived, so could I.

What about today?

As I look back on those days, they are so very precious to me.  The word "precious" is a word that men do not use generally, but it is the only word that can describe how priceless, wonderful, and valuable that time is to me.  It is now a great source of strength, and, yes, joy.  Real joy.

Am I a "special case"?  No.  I am just a man.  Just like you.  I survived.  Ezekiel survived.  And if we survived our circumstances to find joy waiting on the "other side", you can too.

Are you in a "test" now?  Are you in a "difficult (or seemingly impossible) situation"?   Feeling alone?  Abandoned?  Isolated?  Defeated?  Hopeless?

Take comfort from one who has been there.  There IS hope.  You are NOT alone.  You may feel alone at times, but you are not alone.

We are assured that

"Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close."  (Psa 27:10 NLT)

You will come through your difficulty if you set your heart to trust Him.  He has not abandoned you, regardless of what you may feel.

Remember:  While feelings are real, what you may be feeling is not necessarily true reality.

What God has promised you IS reality.  He is faithful.  Trust Him.

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  (Mat 28:20b NIV)

G. Randall Vaughn


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"Lessons from Life" ™ is written by Randall Vaughn
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