by Mimi Redick, Pastor’s Wife, Uniontown, PA

IT’S AMAZING THAT CHRISTIANS SEEM SURPRISED WHEN STRUGGLES COME. Perhaps because we belong to Christ, we feel we should be exempt?

The Apostle Paul was a great Christian; his testimony is in II Corinthians 11:21-23In today’s vernacular, his testimony was basically “I work harder than anybody elseI am abused more than anybody elseI have had travel accidents because of frequent travelI never slow down as I am often on the road for ChristI get tiredI have physical painPeople I am trying to help hurt meI can’t afford the best clothes, fellow believers condemn me, and I worry about my churches.”

Sometimes our testimony is similar to that of Paul’sCongregations are like family, and this usually brings fulfillment and enjoymentIt can also have down sides due to conflict, relational tensions, criticism, disloyalty, or divisionPeople can behave immaturely or selfishly, and at times they impose past unresolved issues on fellow members.

If we have been wounded, it is tempting to avoid being vulnerable againIronically, risk is required to find healing, yet risk leaves us open to more painThe Holy Spirit offers to help usIsaiah 43:1, 2, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob [put your name here], and he that formed thee, O Israel [put your name here], Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

In 1991 with a lot of faith, my husband started a church in Anderson, IndianaWe had no nucleus of people, no idea of how we were going to succeed, and little money .The eleven and a half years we were there were some of the best years of our life and yet some of the most stressful. Slowly we gained a foothold and saw our ministry grow. Around 1996 we had an influx of Christian families, enabling us to start some new programs. About 70 percent of our Sunday evening crowd was actively soul winning.

Eventually Satan got his foot in the door, and like dominoes, one by one those families lost their focus on Christ and left our ministry. We were in some respects starting over. Our hearts were broken; our dreams were in ashes, and our church ministry in need of re-structuring. God did not lead us anywhere else, so we did what we could. We began to rebuild again—one slow step at a time.

I put on the mask of contentment. You know—“It’s all good.” Inside I was frustrated and disappointed, and I felt that we had been let down. Our small budget was decimated, our work force depleted, our hearts broken, and then my father-in-law died. This all happened in the year 2000. My husband has often joked that we were not Y2K compatible. We muddled through that year, and my husband and I both anticipated the new year, saying to each other, “Next year has to be better!”

Six days into the new year, our son sustained a severe brain injury with many symptoms, complications, and hospitalizations lasting about four months.

At times Christians have seasons of struggle; for the most part, it is only for a season.God offers grace to get us through, and He is worthy of anything that He demands of us. Though I would not prefer to go through those seasons of intense struggle again, I also would not want to part with the person God has helped me become.

The problem is that many times we have a preconceived idea of how our life should be. Even though we are attempting to do all that Christ commanded of us, we have also predetermined what the result of that commitment should be. I do not think any of us envision times of disappointment, heartache, sickness, injuries, or rejection when we are picturing our future, but those are real elements in life. Therefore, I submit to you that we may, at times, assume we are struggling when in reality we are not.

Sometimes I feel we “struggle”— not because of Christ’s demands on our life but because of our preconceived idea of how life was supposed to be. Being content is vital! Stress comes when we compare ourselves, our families, our possessions, or even our ministries with others and what they have. When your focus shifts from what you don’t have to what you do have, it is amazing how much God has already blessed you! I personally feel that God has been better to me than I deserve. Yes, I have had times when I have felt like I was “struggling.” There have been times when I have just barely been on my feet, but by God’s grace I was still on my feet! And I can testify that God’s blessings and goodness have far outweighed any negative or perceived negative I have faced! What do we do when we are struggling? Just never give up and never quit!