What Happens in Tough Times?

by Stan Mitchell
Brent McCaffrey sat in the hospital waiting room with his brother and mother. There were half-read magazines on the coffee table — magazines about real estate in New England, the kind you never see except in hospital waiting rooms. It was five-fifteen in the afternoon. His wife had been in a car accident, and judging from the looks of the nurses and doctors entering and leaving surgery, her status was serious. The wait was interminable. Brent’s brother kept cracking his fingers in a gesture of nervous tension, and it annoyed Brent. The clock above the door to the intensive care unit seemed glued to the spot. How long had they been in surgery? Four hours? And not a word on Jean’s condition.
“Be patient, then my brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too be patient and stand firm….” (James 5:7,8).
What happens when tough times come? James notes several typical responses to suffering and trial.
1) Impatience. We feel like we can take a “shot” because it is over in just a moment; it’s when the pain or anxiety lasts hours, days, or much longer that we feel like we have been asked to endure more than human strength can bear. But grief and heartache may take years to overcome. That’s why James councils patience.
2) Tensions. James says something that might seem strange at first in this context.
“Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged” (James 5:9).
The tension between Brent and his brother grew almost unbearable after a while. “Stop that noise, you’re driving me crazy!” Brent said. His brother shot back, “Then stop pacing back and forth. It makes me nervous.” Their complaints, they realized later, were minor, infinitesimal compared to the crisis Brent’s wife faced. Why did they turn on each other, when they needed each other’s help?
3) Inspiration gained from others. It was then that Brent’s mom began to talk. “Boys,” she said. “I never told you this about your father.” They sat down again, Brent’s brother resting his hands in his lap. Their dad had died when they were little boys. “Before he died,” she continued, “he would sit in the little hospital in town and watch the birds make a nest in the tree outside his window. He would call me over to watch. They would take one twig at a time in their little beaks and bring it to the nest. ‘Look Mary,’ your dad told me. ‘They are building a nest one twig at a time.'”
Healing takes time. Whatever you suffer from — whether it is physical illness, loneliness, or the effect of your own mistakes, know this; rebuilding takes place in nature as in life, one twig at a time.
Brent was woken by a gentle hand on his shoulder. It was the surgeon. She was a gray-haired woman in her fifties. “Your wife pulled through,” the surgeon was saying. “She’s safe. You can go home if you want.” Brent looked at the clock and saw it was four in the morning.
“You have heard of Job’s perseverance, and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11).

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