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Monday, March 3, 2008

Donegal Creek
Donegal Creek
This creek is along our favorite country walk, about 1/2 mile from our home.

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"Why Lord?"

"Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter" (Ruth 1:20).  "See to it that …no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15).

Mike Muhlhammer
Mike Muhlhammer attended our church for several years in the late eighties along with his family. I recall his pleasant attitude and vibrancy toward life.  I also remember one Sunday afternoon when we had a rather silly hot dog eating contest among the men and boys of the church where Mike distinguished himself as the Hot Dog Champ.  All these years later I can't recall how many he ate! He stood out as a very bright young man with lofty ambitions.

Mike and his family moved on from our area but we’ve stayed in touch through the years. Following his high school graduation in 1993 he attended a one year program at Wisconsin Wilderness Campus of Philadelphia College of Bible.  Following this he was preparing to transfer to another college and, in the course of his application process, he had a routine physical. The physical was followed by some tests that revealed a brain tumor the size of a golf ball at the base of Mike’s skull. 

His mother tells the story: Within a week Mike was in surgery.  We were told that he would be in ICU for a day or so, then out of the hospital within the week and able to attend college later that month with a decreased academic load.  Life has just not been the same since that day.  Mike suffered two strokes during surgery and came out of surgery in a deep coma.  Over the next several days he slowly began to wake up.  Then, nine days after the surgery, he came down with meningitis.  He had been able to breathe on his own prior to that, but now needed a trach and was put on the ventilator.  Additionally he was given a stomach tube for liquid feedings.

In the weeks, months and years that followed right up to the present time, some 14 years later, Mike has had a lengthy recuperative process and is a real overcomer.  (See below for a link to the complete testimony that Mike's mother, Chris, shared with me.)

These are situations where we who have earnest faith cry out, "Why Lord?"  As a pastor, circumstances like this are among the greatest challenges we have when attempting to minister to the family and loved ones.  Many of us have had crisis situations in our lives where we have uttered a deeply felt "Why Lord?"  I'm not speaking of the many trite matters where we are inconvenienced in some manner or things just aren't going our way in a temporal sense.  Really, these situations amount to mere grumbling if we honestly examine our hearts. 

Life experiences similar to what Mike and his family have been through can prompt the gnawing question, “Why, Lord?” It is the common expression of those who have had deep unexplainable hurts, often with lifelong consequences.

In our previous church in New England we had a member whose young daughter was killed as a service truck backed over her in her own driveway.  I recall a fellow pastor sharing of a situation involving a young mother in his church who had just come through extensive cancer therapy and then discovered she was expecting. What a difficult ecision that family had to make.  These are the "Why, Lord?" expressions that test the very limits of our faith in God who is good.  I myself have had to deal with a few situations like this in my own life.

The severity of the testing may vary among Christians but the grace of God is all-sufficient to meet every affliction we have.  Annie Johnson, a woman severely crippled at a young age by rheumatoid arthritis, says it so well:  “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; to added affliction He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.”  In other words the grace of God more than matches the depth of our need.

The best step I have found in dealing with these troubling situations is to humbly acknowledge "I don't know why," get my focus off the situation (which will eventually lead to bitterness), and focus on the character of God.  Naomi had experienced monumenta loss.  Her husband and two sons had died; she'd moved to foreign land with foreign gods.  She expresses her deep hurt and confusion in our daily text with these heart-felt words:  "the Almighty has made my life very bitter."

But the little book of Ruth ends with a contented grandma holding an ancestor to Jesus.  As people of faith we believe that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Today if you are dealing with a situation that prompts bitterness may you recall Naomi’s story.  It only takes a few minutes to read her entire book for the fuller perspective.  After reading her story apply the powerful truth from our second daily text, "See to it that …no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Jesus, when burdens increase and answers don’t come I have a choice to become bitter or become strong in You.  I acknowledge that I am weak, often dealing with unbelief and fear, when my burdens become my major focus.  But when I clothe myself in the spiritual armor You provide I have a powerful defense against the enemy; I will stand firm against Satan's evil schemes. You cautioned us repeatedly in Scripture that we will have many troubles, but that we should take heart because You help us to overcome them.  Jesus, though You’ve proven Yourself to me many times before I ask for grace to trust You even more.  Amen.

Here is Mike's fuller testimony.

Today's Suggested Music and
Supplemental Resources

"Enough"  (Audio)

"God Answers Prayer"  (Audio)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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