When Things Go Wrong!

Isaiah 40:27-31

I read about a fellow named George, who owned an apartment complex,
and had just completed the exterior brick work on the second floor.
He had some bricks left over and was trying to decide the best way to get the load
of bricks back down to ground level without breaking them.

He noticed a 55-gallon barrel on the ground and thought, "I know what I'll do.
I'll tie some rope around that barrel, hook a pulley to the second-floor eave,
and pull the barrel up to the second-floor.
Then, I can load the bricks into the barrel, and let it back down to the ground
."

So, that's what he began to do.
He tied the rope around the barrel, ran it over the pulley on the second floor
and pulled the barrel up to the second-story level.
Then, he tied to the rope to the root of a nearby tree.
He went up to the second floor balcony, and loaded the bricks into the barrel.
Then he went back downstairs, grabbed the rope and pulled it loose from the roof.

Now, that 55-gallon drum full of bricks was four times heavier than George.
So the barrel shot down lickety split, and George shot up lickety split.
An you know what happened.

As George shot past the barrel, it hit his shoulder, slammed against his hip,
and whomped his kneecap.
The barrel crashed to the ground, and George's head smashed into the pulley above,
cracking his skull.
There he was, dangling by the rope from the second-story roof.

When the barrel hit the ground, the bricks were so heavy they knocked
the bottom out of the barrel.
So, now George was heavier than the barrel.
Yep! Down he went, and up it came.

This time, the barrel caught him on the other side.
It whomped his other knee, scraped past his other hip, broke his nose,
and dumped him on top of the pile of leftover bricks below.
He turned both ankles, scuffed up his shins, and the corners of the bricks
punched him in the side.
So George let out a yell, and turned loose of the rope.

You guessed it.
Now the barrel was four times heavier than the rope, so it came bombing down
on top of George to finish the job from the previous hit-and-run.
And George found himself lying in the hospital, bruised, sprained, and broken,
saying to himself, " I don't know whether to file one insurance claim or five."

We're living in a world of what someone has called it an "ubiquitous ambivalence"
(forever going back and forth -- up and down).
Our balance is always being tested.
About the time you have your bucket filled, the bottom falls out.
Just when you step into the shower, the phone rings.
These things happen with such regularity that we must accept the fact that this is normal.
We can expect life to have a few bumps and bruises.

I think most of us sometimes feel like George.
Life has dumped us bruised, sprained, and broken on its pile of leftovers.
We are all banged up, and we don't think that we can even get up and walk away.
That is just the way things happen in this life.
Things just go wrong.


What do you do when your daughter tells you that she is going to marry a man
of whom you do not approve?
You do not think he would make her a good husband.
Or what do you do when your daughter tells you that she's going to divorce her husband
that she already has.
Or what if your daughter tells you that she is going to have a baby,
and there is no husband -- what do you do then?

What do you do when you have lost your job and you cannot find another?
All of the doors have suddenly closed, and it looks hopeless.
What do you do when the doctor finds a lump and says that it must be removed at once?
What do you do when someone you love has to go off to war?
What do you do when the one you love can no longer remember his or her name?
What do you do then?

What you do reveals the kind of person you are.
Do you panic?
Do you just collapse into a state of paralysis?
Do you just withdrawal from the situation in fear and trembling?
The you just get mad and shake your fist in rage and shout," Why does this happen to me?"

Or do you pray?
Do you do what the psalmist did who wrote, "When I was in trouble, I called on the Lord,
and he heard me
"?
Or do you call someone else, and ask that person to call upon the Lord?
These are all kinds of possibilities, but there is a more excellent way.

So how are we going to make things right in this world of ubiquitous ambivalence?
Those two big words just basically mean that the world is a mixed-up place.
There is good, there is bad, and there are all kinds of problems in life.
Life doesn't come to a straight.
It comes all mixed-up.
It is up to us to straighten it out for ourselves.
How do we do this?
Where do we start?

If we want to make wrong things right, and if we want to set the world straight,
and if we want to get our act together; we must get our attitude right.
We must get our heart right.
Everything we are and everything we do are products of our attitude about life.

All of God's creatures carry around an atmosphere wherever we go.
When a little black-and-white bundle of fuzz called a skunk is around,
he is in full charge of the atmosphere -- both his and yours.
The skunk has no choice,
But if your attitude stinks and is fouling up the atmosphere for those around you,
it's because you choose to stink.
When your attitudes go wrong, you can choose to make them right.

Your disposition sets you apart, in one way or another -- a positive way or a negative way.
Do people stay away from you as they would stay clear of a skunk?
Or are people attracted to you as they are to a single bright star in the night?

Philippians 2:14 says, "Do all things without grumbling or arguing so that you may
become blameless and pure -- in a crooked generation in which you shine like stars
in the universe as you hold out the word of life
."

Right attitudes are the foundation stones of successful living.
All that you are and do today is the sum total of your thoughts and attitudes of yesterday.
You will travel the path tomorrow which your heart and mind blazes today.
The thoughts, images and perceptions cast upon the screens of your mind
become the blueprints you will use to build your future.

The Bible says, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23: 7, (KJV)
It also says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4: 23)

Do you hear what the Bible is saying to you?
Peter looked at Simon the magician and said, "You've got heart problems." (Acts 8: 21)
Jesus looked at the people of Jerusalem and said, "Their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15: 8)
Heart problems can mess up your life.

Someone has said that attitudes are more important than facts.
But we humans have the tendency to judge a person by his outward appearance.

So, we need to be still and consider these things.

Say to yourself that there is nothing that can happen to you that has not happened
to millions of others.
Say to yourself, "I am unique.
Never before has there been one like me and there will never be another.
I am unique, but my trouble is not unique.
To be sure, it comes to me in different ways, but it comes to everyone
."

Now you have put aside the ideal that you have been selected as a special target
for the worst blows of life.
Now say this to yourself: "I knew ahead of time that as a human being,
I could run the risk of something like this happening to me
."

One of the things that surprises me as I see people going through difficult times
is that so many of them seem to be completely surprised that anything like this
could happen to them.
Life means exposure to all sorts of things, and among other things,
it means exposure to many different kinds of problems.
There are disappointments, disease, defeat, and death.

Adversity is just a part of life.
You can never be prepared for adversities.
You are never ready for them.
You will never welcome them -- that is, if you are normal.

Certainly, no one would want adversity, but it will come, and going through it
may make us stronger.

F. W. Boreham wrote an essay referring of an occasion when the great naturalist,
Alfred Russell Wallace, tried to help an emperor moth, but only harmed it
by his well-intentioned efforts.
Wallace discovered the moth which was struggling wildly to break its way out
of its cocoon which held it.

It was a handsome creature, and Wallace was moved by the sight of its severe ordeal.
So he split the cocoon open, and released the moth from any further struggle.
But that moth never developed.
Its wings never expanded.
The colors and tints that should have adorned them, never appeared.

In the end, it died undeveloped, stunted, and ruined.
That hard and severe struggle with the cocoon was nature's method of developing
its splendid wings, and of bringing forth the glory and beauty of the creature.
The moth had been saved from its struggle, but the naturalist's ill-considered ministry
had ruined and killed it.

But you can prepare yourself for the possibility that adversaries may attack you.

Then you can go even further, and say to yourself,
"There are people who did their greatest work when they were suffering
under the most severe adversities
."

For instance, there was Pablo Casals.
He was a veteran performer -- a great musician.
He had celebrated his 90th birthday, and he said,
"Nerves and stage fright before playing have never left me throughout the whole of my career."
But it did not stop him from playing.
It may have helped him to play even better.

I read about John Keats, as a young man, and about the misfortunes to which he was exposed.
When he was nine years old, his father was killed.
He fell from a horse.
When he was 10, his grandfather, his mother's father, whom he adored, died.
When he was 19, his grandmother died.

She was the last one to hold the family together, and to provide a home for him.
When he was twenty-two, his younger brother, George, married and left for the United States,
and when he was twenty-three, his youngest brother, Tom, at the age of 19, died of tuberculosis.

Not long after Tom's death, John recognize symptoms of tuberculosis,
which was his own fatal illness.
About the same time, he fell desperately in love with Fanny Brawne,
whom he could never marry because he didn't have the money.
So, he had nothing to look forward to, but the prospect of almost certain death in the near future.

At the same time, his reputation among the literary people of the world was
ruined by: reviews of his second book.
Nevertheless, in two months in 1819, after all those things that happen to him
-- in just two months he produced the five poems, including the great odes,
which elevated him to the highest ranks of English literature,
and in six months of that year he produced all the greatest poetry that he ever wrote.

You may say that thinking of people like that depresses you.
They are great, and you're not.
They can do what they do, but you can't.
It is impossible.
It simply makes you feel more inadequate than you had to start with.
Most people would not look at that in that way.

They would recognize their superiority and the greatness which they know they do not have.
But then, they would say, "If that person can overcome, then I can also overcome
-- in some way and to some degree.
If they could do it, then maybe I can do it in my own small way."


Then you may also say to yourself, "I do not know how I'm going to handle this,
but I know that I can.
I know that, I will have resources of which I assures me that help will come.
It may not be the help for which I ask.
That help may appear from unexpected sources.
If I wait, that help will come.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
."

Now you are ready to pray.
That's the next thing to do.

Instead of praying for something, pray about it.
In one sense, you have already been doing it.
You have already been thinking about your situation in God's presence
for Christ lives within, and knows your need even before you ask for anything.
Then already, some of the bitterness and defeat will be leaving you.

Now, ask God for what you want.
If you want a job, ask God for it.
If you want help, ask God for help.
If you want to win some battle, ask God to give you the victory.
If you want to get out of a difficult situation, then ask God to help you get out of it.

And after you have asked God, then get busy with it yourself.
If you want to be well, start looking for solutions that will help you to get well.
Certainly, do not work against them.
Let the solutions work for you and with you.

If you want a job, get out and look for one.
You may not find the one you are looking for, but if you don't look, you won't find any.
Not many jobs will come looking for you until you go looking for them.

If you want a friend, and if you feel left alone in life, then be a friend to someone.
If you want to find the meaning of life, then begin to make some little corner
of your life mean something.

You might not get just what you are asking for.
But if you do nothing about it, nothing will happen.
On the other hand, if you pray about it, you just might get it.
But if not, you may get something greater than what you asked for.

You may get what all of us need and that is to put down deeper roots of faith in our great God.
One of the reasons why we are so likely to snap in heavy storms, the way trees do
in heavy winds, is that our roots do not go deep enough.
The deeper your roots go will enable you to go through the heavy storms without incident.

The more realistic you are about life and suffering, joy and sorrow, death and defeat,
the greater power you will have when the time comes for you to lift some heavy burden
that you didn't choose to carry, but has been laid upon you.

God has given us some of the most wonderful advise as to what to do when trouble comes.
It is found in Isaiah 40:31 "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary,
and they shall walk and not faint
."

When you wait upon the Lord, you're more than likely to find that you will not only have
the strength to run but also the strength to walk, step-by-step, day by day, and not faint.

Every Christian should be able to say,
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13)

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White