“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able t bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, KJV).
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NRSV).
How often have we heard Christians say that God will not give us more than we can bear? Even Apostle Paul says that either our burdens are in proportion with our level of strength, or they are burdens that God will make us able to wrestle with and win–meaning, that God knows exactly how much we can handle and will give us no more than that, or that God will give us what we need to be able to stand firm against our great difficulties so that they do not overpower us (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).
In theory, these words sound glorious. However, in reality, just telling others in the storms of their lives that God will not let them suffer beyond what they are able to handle, or beyond the supernatural strength that He will give to them to help them withstand until He provides a way for them to escape–either by circumventing their storms or by lessening the affects of their storms–often will not give the suffers any real joy. Then too, just preaching, teaching, and consoling others about the fact that there are no valleys so dark that God cannot find a way through them, that there are no sufferings so dreadful and terrible that God cannot prevent, remove, or help people to bear them, and that God will work it all out for the “good” (that He will overrule the evil in their favor, if they would but keep their faith in Him and rely upon Him to see them through) often isn’t enough to give the suffers a new outlook on life. That’s why, in theory, the spoken, written or sung words of encouragement, wisdom, and truth sound gloriously great, but in reality sufferers often need more than high-sounding theories, no matter how righteous and true they are.
Now, when the sufferers are unbelievers, we can understand why they could need more than just words of encouragement, but what if the people who are providing these words of encouragement, wisdom, and truth do not practice what they preach, teach, and console? What happens to God and His Word after He brings to believers’ doors more than what they would want to bear, or think they can bear? Does God vanish, leaving believers to fend for themselves? Is His Word now powerless, or only good for some people? Do believers crumble under the weight of their burdens? Do they question: “Why me?” Do they shake their fist in God’s face? Or, God forbid…do they walk away from their faith?
Certainly, how we (Christians) talk about coping with suffering and persecution with people who are in their individual storms will determine whether or not our words of comfort prove the faithfulness of God and the truthfulness of His Word. How we (Christians) handle the suffering and persecution that are in our own personal lives also will demonstrate to us (and others) how much belief and faith (trust) we actually put in the words of comfort we speak to others. Sure enough, crisis situations will reveal just how big of a gap there is between our talk and our walk–between what we say we believe, and how we live what we believe.
In my life, God has brought many storms to my door that nearly “killed” me–literally speaking. And, if my life wasn’t in grave danger from some of these storms God brought to my door, my innocence, dignity, identity, strength, and faith were.
Moreover, while I was in m storms, I never was satisfied by the people’s patented and often insensitive remarks. I especially got nothing beneficial from sayings, like: if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger; trouble don’t last always; you have to forgive the ones who hurt you; you are much smarter than they say you are; hold your head up high…never let them see that they have gotten the best of you; if that were me, I wouldn’t have let that happen to me; don’t sweat the small stuff, and everything is small stuff; let go, and let God; or, God will work it out for your good.
In truth, as I went through so many of the storms that arose in my life prior to 2000, I didn’t always respond to them like the Christian I was supposed to be. Even though I was quick to preach, teach, and console others on God’s Word, I often didn’t practice what I preached, taught, and spoke as consolation. What’s more, for many of my Christian years, I often reacted to my storms in some of the ways that I did before I became a Christian. Prior to March 1, 1965, I reacted to my storms out of my innocence and ignorance—using my writings, fist, tongue, or defiant body language to silence my naysayers and bring peace to me in my storms, but this peace was never long lasting. However, the sad truth is that I am even more ashamed of my later behaviors than my earlier ones, for after I received the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit I still didn’t practice what I preached, taught, or spoke as consolation.
From the age of 13, when my Christian walk started, there have been times in my life when I have crumbled under the weight of my burdens. There have been times in my life when I have asked God, repeatedly, “Why me?” There have been times in my life when I have shaken my fist in God’s face, challenging His decisions and reasons for why my life couldn’t have been easier and full of more peace. There also have been times in my life when I almost walked away from my faith.
However, because God is who He says He is, He never let me go. Even when I wanted no more of a God who would allow the atrocities and evils that were happening throughout the world, let alone the “seemingly” unbearable circumstances in my life, He wouldn’t let go. Even when I thought that He had turned His back on me, He was there through all of my storms. He was there when I wanted and didn’t want Him to be, always providing a way for me to escape.
Here are a few of the storms that God has brought to my door:
- Being raped as a young girl (at 5) and again as a young woman (at 28); at the older age, having my life, and the lives of my children, threatened if I continued to fight my rapist … after both physical attacks, being consoled this way: forget about “it,” don’t talk to others about “it,” get over “it,” “stuff happens” …
- Being born into a poor family with parents who drank away much of their money, leaving their children to go without wholesome food, suitable clothes and shoes, necessary school supplies, and the playthings that so many other children our ages had
- Being on welfare most of my childhood and laughed at because I wore outdated Salvation Army and Goodwill clothing, or, when I was old enough to make my own clothes, laughed at for wearing the clothing I stitched from McCall’s, Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue, and other such patterns
- Being laughed at for bringing soiled brown paper bag lunches to school in which there almost always was ONLY just one peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Being laughed at for not having any Christmas gifts to bring to school for “show and tell”
- Being called a crybaby or looked at as if I were diseased, just because I have inherited my maternal grandmother’s teary eyes that run when any breeze hits them, or from too much sunshine, or from too much pollen, or from being too tired, or from looking at something too long, or just for the fun of it
- Being placed in the back of my elementary classrooms, along with other “unattractive” browned-skinned “blacks,” while the more “attractive” light-skinned “blacks” were allowed to sit closer to the front of the classroom
- Being publicly humiliated and called stupid, dumb, and lazy, because I could not do the tasks my “white” elementary teachers were writing on their blackboards, primarily because I could not see the blackboards from the back of the classrooms … after I began to wear glasses early in second grade and could demonstrate that I indeed understood the mathematical problems and other work my first and second-grade teachers were putting on the boards and orally quizzing me about, my teachers never apologized for the way they had treated me
- Being told in front of my classmates that I could not carry a tune, and then questioned why that was so since “ALL ‘Negroes’ were singers”; when I said that I would try to sing better, I was made an example of; my punishment for “disrespecting authority”: I had to pantomime the songs that my other no-tune carrying classmates were allowed to sing during our class’ Thanksgiving musical and dramatic presentation
- Being given lower grades for the work I did for many of my elementary, junior and senior high teachers, which usually was the case when my grades were higher than many of the “best white” students in my classes … those teachers’ actions often were supported by their rationalization: I “must have cheated” in order to get my test scores
- Being devastated by the death of my maternal grandmother, who gave her ALL to the Lord, yet she was taken shortly after God had called home my maternal grandfather (the very ones in my life who kept me grounded in the Lord); and devastated, too, by the deaths of so many of my God-fearing Christian cousins who died at very young ages in horrific accidents, or by an excruciatingly painful disease (like cancer)
- Being laughed at and called UGLY, just about all of my life
- Being rejected because of my skin color and my looks, because I didn’t fit their “image”
- Being given a sedative after my water broke, but my labor had not begun, and it was a drug that I didn’t know I was allergic to … so my “code blue” allergic reaction to this drug, the severe respiratory distress I experienced, nearly claimed my life while I was still carrying my youngest son
- Being in numerous car accidents, some of which should have taken my life
- Being threatened, daily, for four consecutive months, by white students and faculty members who sought to do me bodily harm, because I had informed school administrators about a “white” high school teacher who used the “N” word in front of her study hall students to describe an upcoming Black History Month school program
- Being unable to find work in my discipline for over 5 years after I resigned from the school in which the teacher openly used the “N” racial slur … unable to find employment primarily because of the egregious comments made about me by that school’s Superintendent and because of the media frenzy this incident caused
- Being unsupported by my spouse and my fellow African American faculty members during my whole dreadful ordeal at the school in which I reported the abovementioned racial slur incident Being tempted with the thought of taking my own life, while I was experiencing a deep depression that lasted, on and off, for over four years of my life after my spouse fell in love with another woman
- Being divorced after nearly 27 years of marriage, because my husband wanted to marry someone he loved more than me
- Being denied by my local church family any financial support, or help in any way, that would make my relocation to another area much easier (a church family, by the way, that I had been a member of, had held many positions in, and had given my tithes and offerings to for 17+ years), and they did so because they believed my husband would had abandoned me for another woman would do right by me and give me what I needed to live my life in the custom that I was used to—but he never did
- Being devastated by a friend who invited me to live with her in Phoenix, AZ, assuring me that I could take my time getting myself together; … after persuading me to travel across country on a Greyhound bus with $300 in my pocket and virtually just the shirt on my back, in less than a month after my arrival, she told me that I had to leave her house; she put me out primarily because I was led by the Holy Spirit to go on a religious retreat rather than accept a temporary employment position through the temporary agency she used (my decision kept her from receiving a referral bonus); also, she put me out because I was so depressed and not the cheerful person that she once knew; and, lastly, she put me out because I refused to lie for her; the irony of her deed, telling me that I had to move out of her home, was that she told me I had to go right as she was dropping me off at a bus stop, a spot near where I would have boarded the bus that would have taken me to where my permanent job interview was to take place; she gave me until the end of that week to find shelter; it was Wednesday
- Being called into the ministry but having what God has given to me to impart often dismissed or rejected by family, friends, clergy and church members, because I had not graduated from a Bible College, Divinity School, or Theological Seminary, or because I was not ordained by a church affiliated with “them,” or because I was just plain, old Nadine from Wilkes-Barre—in essence, a female nobody
And the list could go on, but these are just a few of my storms; and I haven’t mentioned any of the foreign mission field storms. I have experienced so many ups and downs while ministering in Japan, South Korea, and China—too many to write about here. However, I must say that the storms I have faced since 2000 (when I received the call into ministry) have received the appropriate responses, for the most part. That is to say, that I have walked my talk, and stayed the course, but only because of the Holy Spirit working inside of me. May God be praised!
The upside of all of my failed attempts at being the true Christian that I was supposed to be all along is that God still has chosen me to be His mouthpiece, in spite of myself. He has taken my messes and made them His messages. He has called me to write about, preach about, teach about, and console people in many of the very areas in which I have fallen way short. That I have fallen short and recovered from my falls is true only because of God’s Grace, and that I NOW allow Him to keep me from falling is my living testimony. Today, when I write, preach, teach or console people, saying that God is in control…He never will leave you or forsake you…He’s a friend who sticks closer than a brother…or, He will work it out for your good, I can do so because I have firsthand experiences and have learned from them that, without a doubt, God and His Word are faithful and truthful.
So, when God brings it to your door, know that He will give you everything you need to go through each storm, and that you do not have to face any storm without Him. He truly is a “way” maker. Therefore, if you are in a storm right now, won’t you let Him make a “way” for you today?