Press On Through Trials
By Rich Carmicheal
Last year was a difficult year for the Herald staff as two of our members, Christine Ludlow and Lois Stucky went home to be with the Lord. Neither of these two precious sisters had ever married, and since 1988 they had shared living quarters. This past September, while my wife and I were cleaning out their apartment, we discovered in Lois’ bedroom a painting by Simone Lopez, a dear friend of Lois and the Herald ministry since the 1960’s. The painting depicts a young lady walking down a narrow path with rocky walls on either side. Above, in the midst of the clouds, are depicted the Lord and an angel.
Gail and I suspected the young lady was intended to be Lois, and so I wrote to Simone (who is now 94 years old) to ask about the painting. She replied that it was indeed "a young Lois entering the narrow way, her Bible in her arm, walking under the Lord’s guidance and protection." I am blessed to now have the painting hanging in my office.
Simone’s depiction of Lois on the narrow, rocky path is very appropriate because Lois did indeed walk such a path throughout her life. She made crucial and hard decisions as a young lady to lay down her own dreams and desires and to surrender her life to the Lord and His work. Of course, the Lord was faithful to her and filled her life with great joy and enabled her to bear much fruit for His glory. Nevertheless, her path was challenging and required ongoing self-denial.
I share this with you, not to draw attention to Lois. She certainly was never one to draw attention to herself – thus, even the painting was tucked away in her bedroom. Instead, I share it with you to encourage you in your own walk with the Lord. You may be in the midst of your own challenges right now as you seek to follow the path the Lord has laid out before you. The way can be very hard at times, requiring sacrifice, self-denial, toil and perseverance. You may be facing all sorts of troubles and opposition. But keep in mind that "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4) and that you can do all things as Christ strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). No matter how great the challenges, stay faithful to the Lord and His course for you. He is your Helper and has promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5-6). No matter what the cost, you will never regret living fully for His glory!
Encouragement and Comfort
Unfortunately, it seems the challenges we face as God’s people will only intensify in the days ahead. Many believers in the world are already facing much opposition to their faith, and there is growing opposition in places that have been more favorable to Christianity, including the United States. On top of this, because of the spiritual breakdown in the world, there are more and more people facing sorrows and hardships, whether of their own making or as the result of the actions of others. All of this only adds to the burden we feel as we seek to care for and minister to others.
In other words, the Herald staff realizes these are hard days for many of God’s people. With this in mind, we hope the messages in this issue of the Herald are very encouraging and comforting to you. Some of them remind us that it is indeed costly to follow Jesus, but that no matter how difficult, His path is one of abundant life. Other articles remind us that God works through trials and suffering in our lives to bring us to less of ourselves and to more of Him, deepening our character and pruning us for more fruitful ministry.
Hope in the Midst of Suffering
If you are in the midst of hardship and suffering, I encourage you to take to heart these words: "Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (Jas. 5:11). This passage reveals that no matter how great the trials (Job’s were obviously extreme and terrible), the Lord has a purpose for them. In Job’s case, "the outcome of the Lord’s dealings" was a powerful personal revelation of the Lord (Job, chapters 38-41), and much greater blessings in Job’s life than he had experienced before the suffering. Though Job did not realize it in the midst of the trials, the Lord’s compassion and mercy were at work the whole time.
So do not give up, dear friend! The Lord is up to something good! He "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). We can "exult in our tribulations; knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:3-5). Or, as James writes, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (Jas. 1:2-4).
The Apostle Peter gives this comforting and hopeful word as well: "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Pet. 5:10). Our God is indeed a God of all grace, and He is faithfully at work in our lives in keeping with His eternal glory, and He will perfect us, confirm us, strengthen us and establish us! No wonder Peter goes right on with this exclamation of praise: "To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen" (v. 11).