What would you think if you were lying in a back bedroom in Africa and a group of global workers filed into the room, stood around your bed, and one by one prayed for you? This happened to me. I thought, “They think I’m dying!” Several days later, my doctor wrote in his journal, “Today is the day I think we will lose her.” But, God showed His unbelievable graciousness and recovery came.
My reaction to that illness is what prompted me to write this article. For months and years after recovery, I still wanted to live, work, love and serve the very God who allowed that life-changing illness to occur. Sad as it was, I had to immediately leave that country and return to the United States for recovery. How was I now to think of God? “Why, God, did You let this happen to me?” When stressful things happen to God’s people, the resulting frustration or joy should not be determined if the circumstances change, but, rather, by what they understand about God’s character. We may know God’s promises, commands and warnings, but these things only flow from His character: the basis and foundation of all else. Today, people want to remove the stress from their lives by removing the stressful situation or by reflecting in some way on themselves instead of skipping those things by turning first to God.
It is not a little thing to leave your home country and set off to live in a new land with new friends, foods and languages. The first few months can be a “honeymoon” period, but, that is soon replaced with the realities of life in a new country and all the accompanying stress.
As I turned from thoughts of my illness to think rather about God, the thinking and meditation on God’s attributes transformed the reaction to my problem. It’s true that what we think determines how we actually live out our lives. Here is how God’s attributes affected my thinking following the illness:
- God is Sovereign: “This happened by God’s permission and He still has a good plan in it for me.” rather than anger because “Doctors didn’t have the vaccine for my two diseases and I think that is unfair!”
- God is Omniscient: “God has heard my prayers. He didn’t miss even one word!” rather than “My prayers must have gone up, hit the ceiling and bounced back down because I didn’t see anything getting better and I didn’t feel His love for me.”
- God is Good: “Even though my situation is bad, I know God is good and His intent for me is good. I will trust Him with my situation.” rather than, “I am angry this happened. I don’t see anything good about having to return to the USA!” It might be that we need to leave some questions unanswered in a trust situation with God. This is faith, and it is a life lived by faith that pleases God.
- God is Loving: “God loves me with all His heart; He really loves me.” rather than, “I am disillusioned by a love from God that would let me contract two diseases that ended my global work assignment.”
Not everyone has the same problem I had, but, everyone will face some type of stress and the following can help.
Start a notebook and do this on a regular basis – daily or weekly. Fill in the blanks using the following attributes of God and their references. An example has been included. You also can use these to worship God. God will come, tension will fall away and you will be able to go on, trusting God even if the circumstances don’t change! Then your work will bring Him glory and honor.
- Attribute and its Scripture references
- Meaning of the attribute
- False exaggerated meaning of the attribute
- What is my problem at this time? (fear, embarrassment, anger, loneliness, homesickness, longing, disappointment, jealousy, disillusionment, suffering, etc.)
- How does this attribute affect my thinking about the problem?
- How does my problem look if I don’t know this attribute?
Some attributes of God:
- Sovereign 3:37/Eph. 1:11
- Omnipotent Job 26:7-14/I John 4:4
- Omniscient 139:1-6/Deut. 31:21
- Imminent 28:10-17/Ps. 119:151
- Loving 3:17/Rom. 8:31-39
- Good 119:68/Jer. 29:11
- Infinite I Kings 8:27/Eph. 3:8
- Wise 40:10-14/Col. 2:2-3
- Faithful 3:23/Is. 46:9-11
- Merciful 103:8-13/John 8:2-11
- Holy 6:1-7/Heb. 4:15
- Patient 103:8/Gal. 5:22
- Trustworthy 23:19/John 10:35
- Beautiful 27:4/S. of Solo. 5:16
- Kind 34:6/I Kings 19:1-9
- Zealous 3:17/Hosea 11:1-10
- Unsearchable 29:29/Jer. 10:6-7
- Just 32:4/James 4:11-12
- Omnipresent 139:1-18/Jer. 23:24
- Gracious 145:8/I Sam. 1:1-20
- Forgiving I John 1:9
This article is a classic originally published in our early print magazines.