A despondent man who was considering suicide contemplated every method that he knew. He could shoot himself, poison himself, hang himself, burn himself, or drown himself. To be absolutely sure he accomplished his goal, he tried all procedures at the same time. He climbed into a small boat and pushed it out onto the lake. He then put his head through a hangman's noose, which he hung from a limb that reached out over the lake. As he placed the loaded pistol to his head, he dowsed himself with gasoline and lit the match while drinking the poison. Suddenly, he slipped on the wet boat seat, which caused him to accidentally pull the trigger, which was aimed upward, thus severing the rope. He then fell into the water, which doused the fire. As he began to sink, he swallowed the dirty lake water, causing him to regurgitate the poison. He later said that if he hadn't been such a good swimmer, he would have drowned. Sometimes, nothing goes right.
Most of us are not suicidal, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to stay "up" in a "down" world. The world is a tough place, which is why moms tell kids to be careful. Nature is harsh. Whether it's a two-year-old throwing a tantrum, nature throwing a tornado, or a terrorist throwing a bomb, it's easy to be discouraged by the devastation of a world in rebellion. Scripture tells us that one day the lamb and the lion will lie together, but it would not be a pretty thing to watch today.
Trouble is not a gatecrasher; it has a reserved seat in every family. Heartache has a key to every household. No matter who you are or what you do, the thorns of life will stab you. Even Paul had a thorn, and he did what all of us do. He asked for relief, or at least a reason. Isn't it great to know that Paul was not a missionary machine, an evangelistic engine, or a religious robot; that he could be down and want instant relief?
For most of us patience is not a good word. I hate to wait. I once told one of our girls that she needed to learn patience, to which she replied that she hated patience. We all do. Why wait? Because those who wait shall be renewed. Those who are down will rise again. As I used to tell my patients: If you can take it, you can make it.
Waiting is not just patience, but it's a predictor of one of life's most successful life skills. The physical and the spiritual are similar because God created both. There was an interesting study in which researchers put a four-year-old in a room with a marshmallow and told him that he could either eat it or wait to eat it. If he waited to eat the marshmallow until they returned, he could then have two marshmallows. The experiment was repeated with other children. Some immediately ate the marshmallow, some studied it and waited but then chose to eat the marshmallow, but others waited for the second marshmallow. Those that chose to wait found ways to entertain themselves by singing or playing games to distract themselves from the tempting marshmallow. When the teacher returned, the patient kids were given the second marshmallow.
The researchers followed these children's life paths and found that the ones that put off eating the marshmallow had a better school outcome. Years later, the clincher is that when the kids took the SAT, the ones that waited to eat the marshmallow scored over two hundred points higher than the other kids. Isn't that amazing? Patience! The Bible says, "Wait on the Lord and you will get two marshmallows." It doesn't really say that. But it does say is that patience is the way to win. The analogy is of a soldier who continually takes the enemy's onslaught over and over until the right time for an offensive victory — the patience of a soldier.
I hear that in Vienna, Austria, people like to swim down the Danube River and that extremely strong whirlpools often pull even the strongest swimmers into the churning water. But expert swimmers don't worry about the currents because, rather than fighting and struggling against the pull of the water, they relax and allow the churning, swirling water to spit them back out again. That's very difficult, and it's just as difficult for us to wait on the Lord in the midst of the churning trials. But, if we're patient and calm, we may discover that the day of our disaster may be the day of discovery. When the sun is shining brightly in our lives, often we depend on ourselves and don't listen to God. He gets our attention in the middle of the storms. The Bible teaches us that the storms will come to both houses — those built upon the Rock and those built upon the sand.
A lady was having an extremely difficult time, and a friend noticed that whenever he saw her she was irritable and moody. A few months later, he saw her and noticed that her perspective had brightened. He asked how things were at home, and she replied that things at home were about the same but now she was different.
Sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms us as the storm continues to rage. George Handel, the great musician, was recovering from a stroke that had left him with partial paralysis when he wrote The Messiah. Despite circumstances that could have destroyed him, God used him to create beautiful music, including the Hallelujah Chorus. Wait on the Lord and you just might experience music in your mess.
Charles Lowery is a member of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, founder and president of Lowery Institute for Excellence, and is in a fulltime speaking ministry. You may contact Lowery Institute at 800-723-9025 or www.CharlesLowery.com.