Betty J. Slade
Is that crazy or not? Sometimes only trouble can get us to where we need to be. It could be there is no other way to move us along, to learn what we need to learn in order to be in that place we’ve been called to live.
I am big on knowing my purpose. I still don’t have a real handle on the bigger picture. It’s that place where I can find my completion, my satisfaction. And in that place, it brings different challenges, different problems and different trouble that, perhaps, others might not have to experience.
Listening to some people complain, I asked a friend, “Why is there always a target on my back?” He said, “You stir things up. You challenge people. You make them uncomfortable. If you are in a position as a point person, you will always have a target on your back.”
In the New Testament, James wrote, “Rejoice in your troubles. When it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can, when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things … there will be nothing missing and nothing lacking.” — James 1:2-3 (TPT).
At our writers’ group, the writers were given a prompt: What trouble has come to you? There’s always a reason why your life has been spared.
I responded without thought and wrote about an event. I wasn’t sure the reason, but I knew the day. Nov. 8, 1982, one day before my 40th birthday. Driving to the San Luis Valley to give an art lesson, I hit a piece of ice and flew off the side of the road over Cumbres Pass.
On a slick, icy road, white knuckles clinging to the steering wheel, airborne, no control, art supplies in the back seat, I remembered thinking, “It’s all over.” I muttered a prayer, “I’m in your hands, Lord, whatever you want.”
Forty feet down, a wire fence came from nowhere and stopped the fall. The car teetered and clung to the side of the mountain. My art supplies fell forward to the front seat. I struggled to open the driver’s door. Once outside the car, I crawled up the steep cliff to the top of the road.
A man stepped out of a dump truck and waited at the top. He said, “Lady, you’re lucky. It’s a long way down to the bottom. You could’ve been killed.”
I still don’t know why I was spared. At the time, I had four teenagers at home. It could’ve been for them or many other reasons. Maybe the dump truck driver experienced seeing a miracle as he waited at the top of the road. Maybe I needed to learn something I couldn’t have learned any other way about the faithfulness of God.
God left me here on earth to celebrate another 40 years. I’m turning 81 this month. I still don’t know exactly what the Lord has in mind. Facing prison time in 1986 is another story for another time. Trouble along the way has equipped me and prepared me for this day.
Paul was called to preach the gospel, shine the light on dark places, call out sin — not a popular occupation. He was a lightning rod, a conduit for trouble. He attracted and absorbed hostile feelings at every turn. Always with a target on his back, he pushed forward with joy toward his life’s calling.
The church of Philippi began because of a supernatural vision. Paul had a vision in the night of a man standing at his bedside pleading with him to come and preach the gospel to Macedonia.
When Paul brought the good news, he and his co-worker, Silas, were thrown into jail. They sang and praised the Lord. The doors flung open and they could have escaped. They didn’t.
Trouble brought Paul to one man he was to see. There was probably no other way would he have come in contact with the jailer. As history is told, perhaps the jailer was the man Paul saw in the vision. A miracle of God birthed a church among the Philippians.
When we embrace trouble as James tells us to do, reason doesn’t always play into the situation. Paul was once again in prison when he penned his epistle to the Philippians. His prison letters have been read and have encouraged believers for 2,000 years. Many times, the reason is not revealed for years.
Final brushstroke: There’s always a reason someone’s life has been spared. It might take years to understand the trouble we’ve seen. Sometimes, the work we are doing is deeper than what we see on the surface. It’s actually the story of our true life, the work we’ve been called to do, the heavenly calling, given to us through Christ.