YouVersion reading plan for today: James 1
We're officially more than half-way through the fast now. I don't feel deprived by eating our super restricted vegan diet--except when I'm super hungry. Yesterday afternoon we had a long to-do list that took us to the hospital, to Sam's, and to SDSU. We didn't stop to eat until about 2:00 in the afternoon, and at that point every fast food joint looked incredible. I think I was even craving McDonald's, and I never eat at McDonald's. But the rest of the time we're eating amazing food. I don't think Daniel and his friends ate this well when they were following their special eating plan.
At least some of the Newbreak men doing this Daniel Fast switched to juices only this week, and then next week they'll switch back to the no animal products, no sugar, no bread. Duane and I opted to stick with the same plan for the whole fast, but sometimes it feels like cheating. If I don't feel like I'm giving something up, if it isn't a sacrifice to eat like this, is this really a fast?
At the beginning of the fast, my research on Daniel Fasts found several different versions, and I came to the conclusion it wasn't as much about the food as it was about the commitment to seek God. Still, I can't help but think I should be suffering a little bit. I have no point here, but I do think about these things.
I mentioned that our first stop yesterday was the hospital. We visited a woman who just got out of ICU. Honestly, I used to dread hospital visits, especially if I didn't know the person well. My friend Rodney loves hospital visits, even when he doesn't know the person. So does Duane. They just believes that prayer matters. Not that I don't, but . . .
I just thought I needed to be able to say something profound and encouraging, and I don't always come up with those incredible things when people are sick. Sometimes God heals, and sometimes he doesn't. Always, he asks he us to "count it all joy" when we go through suffering. Apparently I have a thing about "suffering." At any rate, it's not always good to say things like that during hospital visits.
Fortunately, I have found that hospital visits don't really require me to do anything besides pray. Still, I don't normally volunteer to visit people unless I know them.
In this case, I do know the woman. I met her close to ten years ago when she and her husband first started attending the church. We were about the same age, and her oldest and my youngest were the same age. I never got to know her well, but we ran into each other at unique times in her life, when she was struggling with one thing or another. Most of the time it was her husband.
And then her husband got sick. And then he got well. And then he died. Now she's in the hospital with pretty significant problems, and she's dealing with Medi-Cal because she has no private insurance. And of course she's not working because she's in the hospital and so she's not earning any money.
The New Living Translation puts James 1:2 this way, "When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy." When life turns crazy and hard, when you experience hard times, God also gives you a chance for a unique kind of joy, the kind of joy that comes from walking through difficulty and depending on him.
Our friend has had nothing but suffering for the last four or five years, and she's tired. She's wondering when life will get easier, and I don't have any answers. And so we listened, and we prayed. And we left, and she's still dealing with all the problems. And intense pain.
She's not alone. As I write this, Duane just got a phone call because another friend has learned she has breast cancer.
There is no promise of "easy" in James 1. Only of joy and endurance and patience and maturity. And wisdom. And a crown of life. Oh, and he tells us that we'll all fade away like flowers. No matter who we are, we will all die eventually.
We prayed for our friend before we left the hospital. Of course we prayed for healing, but mostly we prayed for peace and rest and strength and wisdom. Even if her health problems miraculously went away, she still will cope with the loss of her husband and the day-to-day of raising and supporting two kids on her own. She told me most of the time she acts like everything's okay, but really coping with the reality of her loss just keeps getting harder.
None of us knows what's in store for us tomorrow. Our friend didn't plan for her life to turn out like this. I think I could say this for a lot of other people I know. Their marriages are crashing. They've lost jobs. They're lonely.
And even some people who look like their lives are all together? They're not happy either.
I'm trying to think of some point that ties all this together. The thing is, life doesn't always tie together neatly. And so we choose to live as "prized possessions" of the living God, or we choose to live on our own terms. We choose to take advantage of the opportunities for joy, to grow in our suffering, or the suffering wins. We can seek God, we can be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry," obeying God's word, or we can simply get mad at God for allowing us to suffer.
I have a lot of things to pray about.