“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 16:33 (NIV)
“Troubles” was the name of the dog that made rounds in our neighborhood every day when I was growing up, “baptizing” my mother’s transplanted pine trees. Why on earth anyone would name a dog “Troubles,” I have no idea. He wasn’t mean-tempered or destructive. He just padded from yard to yard, sniffing and marking his territory. No turf was off limits. Back then there were no shock collars to keep a curious canine contained. You either tied him up (and the whole neighborhood heard him yap from morning ’til night), kept him inside, or let him roam.
Isn’t that what trouble does? Makes rounds of the neighborhood. No one is safe from its visits. You can’t tie or lock it up to keep it from coming. And you can’t live in a box, afraid to venture out in case Trouble is in the yard. It will leave its mark. Sometimes it changes your life forever. And it always brings with it a lesson, if you’re not too stubborn to acknowledge it.
But I’m preaching. Sorry.
I got to thinking about trouble this week when I read “Trouble Was Bound to Come,” chapter 13 of Debbie Macomber’s book, Once Upon a Time: Discovering Our Forever After Story. As I prepared to respond to the chapter prompt, “Describe a time when trouble knocked at your door,” I ran into a little, uh, trouble. After six decades, deciding which time to write about presents a challenge. I could write a book, not a journal entry.
But this isn’t the only difficulty I’m encountering with this assignment. Writing about a time of trouble means resurrecting something I buried long ago and have no desire to exhume.
I’ve learned to deal with trouble by treating it as an opportunity—to grow, to change, to make changes, to better myself and my life in some way. Trouble, I’ve learned, is a wake-up call, a chance to see things from a different perspective, from the underside, as upside-down becomes the new normal. Trouble removes the blinders or rose-colored glasses we don in order to cope with life.
Does God send trouble? Sometimes—when He needs to get our attention. “See, I have refined you,” he says in Isaiah 48:10. “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
But most times trouble comes simply because we live in a fallen world. The only time in Earth’s history there was no trouble was in the Garden of Eden before The Fall.
Trouble comes because of our choices. Trouble comes because of others’ choices. Trouble comes because things happen. That’s life. Most of which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is out of our control.
So where does this leave us?
Back in the yard with Troubles.
How you perceive your visitor—and note that I use the word visitor—is your choice.
For me, yes, I have troubles, but I prefer to remember the words of Job: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
When trouble visits, Lord, remind me that I’m too blessed to complain. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read 1 Peter 1:6–9