I love this old hymn that we used to sing when I was growing up called, ‘Got Any Rivers?’
Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible
And does the things that others cannot do.
by Oscar C. Eliason
Don’t know about the rest of you, but I have encountered rivers that seemed ‘uncrossable’ and huge mountains that I felt I could not tunnel through. I am not talking about actual rivers or mountains. Instead, what I mean are those seemingly impossible, overwhelmingly awful circumstances that seem to come when you least expect. Sometimes, they have even been more like what I would describe as tsunamis! By whatever name, they tend to hit out of nowhere and leave one feeling vulnerable, devastated and afraid. When they occur, there often just does not seem to be a way to make it through.
Like it or not, we are guaranteed to experience these awful trials. In John 16:33, Christ reveals to us, “In the world, you will have tribulation…” This Greek word for tribulation is thlipsis and means, ‘to crush, press, squeeze’ or ‘a grievous affliction or distress.’ God accurately describes these kinds of storms because they really do feel like a crushing blow and seem to squeeze the very life out of us. Jesus warns us that while here, we will all eventually bump headlong into ‘grievously distressing’ situations which have the capability of crushing us and taking us under.
Though it does help to be warned, knowing ahead of time that we will face tribulations doesn’t make them any easier when they hit. In fact, they are the things which make or break us as believers. They become our defining moments. Our ‘moments in the storm.’ If we really trust Christ, we should all be able to just ‘bounce back up’ and handle anything life throws our way. The reality is that these stormy moments can be of such magnitude even the strongest in faith are knocked flat.
As if the storm itself were not bad enough, there are also many online or on television preaching that believers must merely ‘speak away’ every trial in Jesus’ Name. When the storm does not immediately subside, the same ones say we should call into question that person’s level of faith. Jesus does want us to pray in faith against any mountain or storm; however, conclusions by others due to the apparent lack of results when we do, are at best guess-work and even cruel.
It would be great if our trials were so easy to understand and we could go through this life totally free of tribulations by simply speaking them away! The fact of the matter is that we have no guarantees our storms will suddenly abate by our speaking, wishing or even praying them away! Our only certainty is that they will come. God is God and we are not; consequently, we cannot circumvent His sovereignty or negate circumstances He has allowed and perhaps even deemed necessary. We often misunderstand that God’s seeming refusal to respond is instead Him asking us to wait.