What do you do when hardships come to keep the faith?

Imagine walking up to the stage as the entire Grace Elementary School sang, “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do.” I can attest to the fact that after being away from Grace for ninety-nine days it was overwhelming to be welcomed back by a choir of passionate worshippers.  I was asked to return and share a word of testimony to my largest group of prayer supporters comprised of elementary students and their teachers.

That message went something like this: I want you to raise your hand if you can think of your best day ever. Now on that best day ever, did you believe the words to the song we just sang?

“My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do.”

Let’s see by a show of hands. This year in Bible class from kindergarten through fifth grade you probably learned the foundational truth that God is all-knowing, God is all-powerful, and God is always present. The older students learn bigger words like omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent to refer to God’s character.

Now, I want you to raise your hand if you can think of your worst day ever. Maybe you have been sick. Maybe you have broken your arm or a leg. Maybe your best friend had to move away. Maybe you lost someone you loved very much. On that day, your worst day, did you believe those same words?

“My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do.”

Let’s see a show of hands now. You know it is easier to believe and to trust God when life is good. The true test is, do we believe the same when life is hard?

The Apostle Paul, who tells us in Philippians 4 that he has learned to be content in all circumstances and that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, lived with a hardship daily. In 2 Corinthians, Paul calls it a “thorn in the flesh.” Let’s listen to what Paul has to say,

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

While he does not tell us the exact cause of his hardship, we know that Paul understood that God was indeed all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present. Paul learned through his hardship that God was faithful and that God could be trusted.

We then paused to sing, “My Jesus” by Anne Wilson. In fact to get the full effect you just might want to pause here and listen to it yourself. Wilson talks about the heavy burden that is too much to carry. The chorus rings out with, “Let me tell you ‘bout my Jesus.” This is another song that you haven’t heard until you have heard almost 400 elementary students sing it. We paused for three reasons. I was not sure how long I would be able to stand. I knew that I was going to speak longer than the attention span of the audience. A line of the song conveys the message “His love is strong and His grace is free and the good news is I know that He can do for you what He’s done for me.”

You are wondering, what did God do for Mrs. Rhine?  An hour after returning home from a Grace basketball game on December 21st, I began to experience pins and needles in my hands and feet. On December 28th as I was getting ready for a doctor’s appointment, we discovered that I had lost my ability to walk. I was also quickly losing strength throughout my entire body. By that evening, I was diagnosed and began treatment for Guillain-barre syndrome, a very rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. The attack damages both the myelin sheathing and the nerves causing severe muscle weakness and eventually paralysis. I was fortunate enough to have such a rapid diagnosis that my respiratory system and vocal cords were never affected. Praise God for a rapid diagnosis and that I was free of a ventilator. I was however still in for a fight to gain control over most of my bodily functions and to learn to move all over again. It was during this time that Grace Elementary student prayer warriors joined the fight. The student message included photos of my 37-day hospital journey as well as my outpatient therapy journey.

So what do you do when hardships come to keep the faith? You follow the Apostle Paul’s example, you pray and pray some more. Remaining in a state of prayer helps you see beyond yourself and be in tune with the needs of those God places in your path. You also remain thankful. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul tells us to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. Mr. Rhine and I learned the joy of giving thanks in all circumstances. You also look for inspiration in God’s Word and God’s people. The fourth graders, the cheerleaders, and the teachers lovingly inspired me by sending cards, gifts, verses, and song links. You surround yourself with prayer warriors. Grace Chapel, Grace Christian, and believers around the world rallied on my behalf to approach the Throne of Grace daily. Lastly, you get up! You take one step at a time. Although that was figuratively for me for some time, eventually I was able to get up and keep on moving. For 28 years God has called me to a full-time vocational ministry in Christian education, yet this year the children ministered to me. God worked a miracle in me through the faithful prayers of the next generation right here at Grace Christian.