Madison Church

The Role of Faith in Overcoming Tribulations | Questioning Christian Cliches (Part 1) | Jason Webb

October 09, 2023 Jason Webb
Madison Church
The Role of Faith in Overcoming Tribulations | Questioning Christian Cliches (Part 1) | Jason Webb
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever been told God won't give you more than you can handle? We're about to turn that misconception on its head. We've all found ourselves in dire straits—situations that seem insurmountable. The Bible is teeming with examples of such predicaments. From Noah's daunting task of saving humanity to Abraham's promise of fathering a nation, we see biblical figures grappling with overwhelming situations. Even personal experience has taught me—losing my job, suffering financial hardship, and enduring the end of my marriage—that sometimes, life can indeed be more than one can handle. But here's the twist: while God may allow us to encounter situations we can't handle, he never allows us to face something he can't handle. 

Our journey doesn't end there, though. We also delve into the story of David, whose trials and tribulations moved him from an "I’ve got this" mentality to an "it’s got me" realization. It's a beautiful testament to letting go and surrendering our struggles to God. His faith allowed him to turn to God's safety, comfort, and deliverance amidst physical pain, emotional confusion, relational conflicts, and behavioral struggles. Faith can do the same for us. And amidst all this uncertainty, we stress the significance of patience and trust in God's timing.

Finally, we offer a glimmer of hope in the face of despair. Even in our darkest hours, we emphasize that God is present and has a plan for your future. Through David's example, we see how he waited patiently for God's goodness, even amidst confusion, pain, and conflict. The road may be rocky, the night may be dark, but rest assured that dawn is coming. So, join us in this episode for an insightful discussion that challenges cliches, explores biblical truths, and provides reassuring reminders of God's unwavering presence and unfailing love.

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Speaker 1:

Today we are launching our series called Challenging Christian Clashets, where we look at things that sound biblical but may not be biblically sound. In other words, we're going to look at some things we've been told in churches, or by maybe Christians or other people of faith, that when we hear them they sound kind of right, but we're not sure if they're actually true or false. And to get this ball rolling, I want to give you a little test that I saw in Reader's Digest a few weeks, a few years ago. When it comes to popular legends or myths, you may have been told growing up, and so I'm going to read the statement and then I want you to decide whether it's true or false. You can shout it out, you can write it down. If you're watching online, you can tell the person next to you on the couch what you think. The first one is this Don't go outside. I should actually say don't go outside in the cold with wet hair, because you'll catch a cold. True or false? Actually, you are correct. Yes, it is false. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, we're in Madison smart people. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a study was done on two groups of people one who went out with wet hair in cold weather, freezing temperatures, and one who went out with wet hair in warm temperatures, and both caught the colds at the same rate. So go outside with wet hair, it doesn't matter. It doesn't look weird though, but it doesn't matter. Second one is this Feed a cold, starve a fever? True or false? You can pray for the answer on this one. It's mainly true. It's a bit of a trick question. Actually, you need to feed both. The original phrase was this Feed a cold, stave or prevent, stave a fever. So the Italians in the room, you're good to go, bring out the pasta, the sausage, whatever you need. Feed a cold, starve a fever. Third one is this Eating fish will make you smarter true or false? Obviously, not many of you have been eating fish, because it is true. The fish oil contains omega-3 and omega-6. In fact, a study done at Oxford University showed, when they gave 120 kids fish oil, that their school performance increased dramatically and makes you smarter. So here's the deal, wives, if you think your husband isn't the smartest fish in the drawer, obviously I need some fish. If you think your husband isn't the smartest, sharpest knife in the drawer, don't ask him to read a book. Don't tell him to go to school. Take extra classes. Just feed him fish. He won't figure out what's going on after a couple months he will, but not right away. So eating fish will make you smarter. Next one, put some brandy on your baby's gums to help teething. True or false? No, wisconsinites, this is not true. I know we think drinking solves all problems, but it's toxic. Don't give your baby booze. Okay, and this is from my Chicago friends. I'm from Chicago and they're watching online. It's this. Chicago has a professional football team. True or false? Yeah, actually this is false. A recent joint study done by Harvard and Yale studied a hundred different Chicago Bears games and what they concluded is that what is played in Chicago is not actually football. Now, bears fans, god loves you, has a wonderful plan for your life, just not your team. But today I don't want to talk about the Bears or even fish oil. I want to talk about things that you've heard in church or in life, that have been presented as true but are actually quite dangerous, and one of the most dangerous and destructive cliches that has ever propagated the Christian church is this one God won't give you more than you can handle. God won't give you more than you can handle and the thought behind it isn't actually that bad. It's that you'll be strong enough to handle anything now that you have great faith and now that you follow Jesus, you'll have this amazing wisdom. You'll have this power to get through anything. The problem is it's just not true, because it works until it doesn't. It works dealing with communications, breakdowns in marriage and you can kind of fix that until it doesn't and she walks away. It works at your job, when you just kind of have to improve a few things to let your boss like you and keep your job until it doesn't and the whole company has layoffs and you're one of them. It works when you get through that one health scare and you think, yes, my faith got me through that until it doesn't and you have cancer and it's incurable. It works when you're dealing with that little bit of anxiety and you learn how to deal with that and make it through until it doesn't and you have crippling depression. You can't get out of bed in the morning. It works when you figure out how to raise your eight-year-old daughter as she deals with conflict with you and your life until it doesn't and she's 23 and won't return your calls. It works until it doesn't. And when it doesn't, a couple things happen. We either give up on ourself and we think we're this, your faith isn't enough, or we're not strong enough, we're not spiritual enough, or we give up on God because what's wrong with him? He's not delivering what he promised. But the issue isn't with God and the issue isn't with us. It's with this statement that's destructive. You see, the story of Scripture is people constantly coming up against things that were far more than they could ever handle. Talk to Noah. He was asked to build a boat to save humanity. That's way too much to handle. Abraham was told he was going to be the father of an entire nation and he couldn't even have kids. And he was 90 plus years old. That's way too much to handle. Moses was chased by Pharaoh with the Israelites and he was standing in front of a huge raging sea and he didn't know how to cross it. It's too much to handle. Esther was told to rescue a nation. Esther who, in that time, women were seen nothing more than property, was told that she was going to rescue the nation of Israel. It was too much to handle. Ruth and Naomi lost their entire family and were dealing with crippling grief. It was too much to handle. Hannah wanted a child, but she couldn't conceive. It was too much to handle. Paul was locked up in jail not knowing how to get his message out. It was too much to handle. You see, in Scripture, on nearly every page, with every person, they're constantly dealing with stuff that is way too much to handle. Up until five years ago, I thought I could handle anything. Thanksgiving in 2019, I had lost my job at Elmbrook Church because of an addiction I couldn't handle. I had gotten sober and was healthy, but it was now a year and a half later. I lost a lot of my finances and, for reasons I still don't fully understand, I was in the process of losing my marriage. My then wife had filed for divorce. I'd applied for over 100 places to work outside of ministry and gotten over 100 rejection letters. It was the first Thanksgiving without my kids, and for those of you who have gone through something like that, you know that first holiday it's thanks, and I had actually planned so that I was busy all day, and so I went from one friend's house in the morning to be with their family to another party in the afternoon, to another friend's house at night. In each place I just felt like a zombie. I was surrounded by everybody, but so alone I just missed. My kids Went back to my house that night and I was sitting in the bathroom just staring in the mirror and I just started crying, not like a little tear, but like weeping and wailing so much I couldn't breathe. I thought I might actually have to call 911. I mean, I remember just falling to the ground on the floor, being curled up, saying God, I can't do this. And God whispered to me in that moment of course you can't, it's too much for you, of course you can't. It's too big for you. Of course you can't. It's too painful for you. Of course you can't. This is way more than you can handle. You can't do this, but I can, but I can. He said See, god wants you to know there will come a point and maybe you're there. There will be way more than you can handle. I know this sounds depressing, but it's true. I'm sorry, it's true. And if you're not there, great, enjoy the season of your life. But you will get there or you may know somebody right now who's there and you can help them through what we talk about today, and there's two key truths I want you to hold on today, and if you forget everything else, remember this. The first truth is this that God will always allow people to face things they can't handle. God will allow you to face things you can't handle, but the second truth, and most important truth, is that God will never allow you to face something he can't handle Because he's got this. I mean, just ask Moses God parted the Red Sea. Just ask Hannah God gave her a son, samuel, when she conceived. Just ask Esther she ended up saving that nation. Just ask Paul, whose letters that he wrote from that jail, from those jails, have now changed the lives of billions of people. When we say I can't do this, god says but I can, but the problem is we still have to go through it. I mean, it's nice for us to say that, but we still have to go through it. So how do we move from saying I'm going to solve this to I'm going to surrender this? Because that's the key. It's not about solving it, it's about surrendering it to God. And I think there are three key movements we need to make. And the first movement is this we have to move from saying I've got this to being honest and saying it's got me. We have to be honest with ourselves and say you know what? I used to think I've got this, but now I have to be real and say it's got me. Parents, we kids, we do this all the time. We tell them you've got this. I have six well, four of my own and then two stuffed kids now Six kids. A lot of kids pray for me, but I'm on my six kid going through youth soccer. So he's six years old, playing soccer and we dress him up in Bapé's uniform. You may not know who in Bapé is, but he's the best soccer player in the world and my stepson is half French, half Filipino, so in Bapé plays for France. So we said here's your French in Bapé Jersey. So go out there and, bapé, you've got this. You're going to be, just like in Bapé, the best player in the world. And he runs out onto that field saying I am in Bapé. And he runs out and does he touch the ball? No, I mean, if the ball hits or just grazes his foot, we call it a kick. You know what he does most of the games he does splits and cartwheels on the grass and chats with the other opposing team the other day he did score a goal on his own team but he comes back and we tell him you had that, you got this, you are in Bapé. In other words, we lie to him all the time. But what we do in life with little kids we carry on. Throughout. As we grow older we think, if I just try harder, I've got this. My parents told me I've got this, even though we've struggled, looking at porn our whole lives and made promise after promise to stop and still haven't. This time. This time will be different. I've got this Even though your boss has destroyed person after person and it starts to destroy you. You know that you can convince her. It's different. I've got this Even though you've never experienced grief at this level or experienced loss like you have. After your parents are now gone and you feel like part of you is missing. You say I just have to hunker down. I've got this. The fact is we don't. The last five years, as I've been on my own journey of this, I've been reading the Psalms every day. I've never read the Psalms. It's kind of a shocking book. It's like opening up somebody's personal journal and just reading their raw emotions, and a lot of them are written by this guy named David who was king of Israel. You would think if anybody could say I've got this, it would be king David. I mean, after all, songs have been written about him. After all, thousands of people kind of worshiped him. After all, he had killed a lion and killed a giant and was later called a man after God's own heart. You think if anything in life would be thrown at him, he would say you know what, I've got this. But he doesn't say that. In fact, when you read these Psalms, these journal entries, it's just the opposite. He's saying over and over again it's got me. He talks about physical problems. He said, psalm 32, my body wasted away and I groaned all day long. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. In other words, it's got me. I talked about emotional problems, psalm 13,. How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and, day after day, have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? In other words, these thoughts, they won't go away. It impacted him relationally Psalm 59, see how they lie and wait for me. Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine. Lord, I've done no wrong. Yet they are ready to attack me and some of you are right there with them. You know what? There's these people attacking me at work and my family. It's not fair. But they're lying, they're waiting to attack. He talked about it behaviorally, or sin struggles that he has when confronting his adultery and the consequences of it. He would say this Psalm 51, for I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. In other words, my sin, it's got me. I don't have this, it's got me. Over and over again he moved from I've got this to it's got me and in those moments he cries out In the physical moment. Psalm 32, 7,. You are my hiding place. You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance, with his emotional problems. Psalm 13, verse 2,. Turn and answer me, oh Lord, my God, restore the sparkle in my eye. And some of you are saying you know what. That sparkle I used to have is gone now. Wouldn't it be nice for God to restore that sparkle in your eye? Relational troubles Psalm 59, verse 4, arise to help me, look on my plight, his sin or behavioral struggle. Psalm 51,. Created me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a loyal or steadfast spirit within me. David's saying God, I don't got this, it's got me, but you've got it and you've got me. So, god, I don't have this, it's got me, but I believe you've got it. And, more importantly, you've got me, so, help, I'm surrendering it to you. See, the only way that God is going to work is if we stop the charade in pretending that we've got it and throw our hands up in there and say no, it's got me. And God in that moment doesn't say, oh, you person of little faith. Now he just says, finally, finally, you're coming to a point of realization. So maybe it's saying God, this marriage, I can't fix it. God, this addiction, I can't break it. God, this feeling, I can't shake it, it's got me. And he says, okay, finally, finally I can interact with you. Thomas Merton, the great theologian, once wrote this God is too far real than to be met anywhere other than in reality. He desires. David would also say truth in the inner parts. You see, when God realizes that you have finally come to this point of saying you know what, I can't do this. Look what happens. David says this in Psalm 34. This is what happened for David. He says this 34, 18. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, and some of you are. If you're honest, you're crushed right now. Your heart has been broken. Maybe you've done some of the breaking, maybe others have broken it, maybe situations have broken, it doesn't matter. God says if you're just honest about it, that's when he's going to be close to you, that's when he can work. So you have to move from saying it I've got this, it's got me. But the second thing you need to move from is I want to escape to, I need to connect. Move from I want to escape to, I need to connect. See, the problem when dealing with something we can't handle is that often it gets worse before it gets better. About a year and a half after that Thanksgiving I mentioned before, I was now making one third of what I used to make with three times the bills. The math doesn't add up. In case you're wondering, early in that July and I've shared this with some of you before I actually fell asleep on the highway coming up from Chicago to Mass in church. So I blame you. I fell asleep on the highway coming up here and I bearded into a semi going 70 miles per hour and almost died. One week later I had to resign my job because they needed somebody to live in Kenosha and my kids had just moved with their mom to Chicago, and I needed to move to Chicago. One week after that, one of the people I'm closest to in the world and care most about in the world wrote me four texts telling me that I was a worthless human being and a piece of garbage and that they never wanted to see me or speak to me again. I was jobless, feeling alone, feeling like a complete failure. I remember just one day, just wanting to run, I wrote in my journal God, I just want to get out of here. Part of me wanted to run back into the addiction. If I'm being honest, I wanted to just because it numbs me. Part of me wanted to just get on the next flight out of the country and never come back. I didn't want to be around anybody, I just wanted to escape. You see, that's what happens when things go from bad to worse. We want to run or hide, not literally most of the time. It may not be as dramatic as my story. We run into working longer or harder, so we don't have to think about our problems. We run into unhealthy relationships or affairs so that we can feel some worth again. We run into numbing ourselves on social media or Netflix, whatever the latest show is we run. David knew what that temptation feels like. He would say this in Psalm 139. He talks about just wanting to escape. He says this surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me. Another version says I want the darkness to hide me, I just want to go where nobody sees me, nobody knows me, nobody can deal with me anymore. I just don't want to see any of this life anymore. I want to escape. Dr Dan Green, who I honestly owe my life to, walked with me for many years on my journey through hell. He said the key to dealing with grief, the key to dealing with situations that you can't handle, is not solving them, but connecting to somebody, connecting to something. He says there are four things you need to connect to, and they'll come up on the screen here in just a second Connect to self, connect to truth, connect to a safe other or connect to God. You got to do one of those four. Connect to yourself in a healthy way, in other words, be honest with yourself about what's going on. Do things that are healthy for your body. Take a run, eat something healthy, take a walk. You know, one of the things I do every day just as part of this process is I still do this I write down whether I walked every day. I know it sounds kind of silly, but for me that's important because it's connecting to myself. The second thing is connect to the truth. Jesus said this you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. See, when we're up against these issues in life, we tend to do what psychologists call catastrophizing the situation. We tend to think I'm alone, so I will always be alone. I'm broke, so I'll always be broke. My finances will never turn around, I'll never have friends, I'll never see anything better happen. It is what it is. And we develop this victim mentality, I'll never find work. The reality is those are the lies in our brain just catastrophizing the situation. So what is truth? The truth is you're not alone. People have gotten through these things. This is just part of your story. It's just a chapter. It's not the end. So connect to truth, connect to yourself. The third thing is connect to a safe other. Connect to a safe person. David understood this. In fact, scripture says that he had this friend called Jonathan and their souls the Bible describes it this way says their souls were chained to one another that when life got hard, their souls were chained to each other and they were safe spaces for each other. You see, we need to save people in our lives, especially when we're going through hell. Our problems is that we either try to gut it out alone or, more often than not, we go to unsafe people, and some of you have unsafe people in your life. You can still acknowledge them and connect with them, but not in this way, and I don't even have to tell you who they are. You know who they are. I don't have to give you a long list of what an unsafe person is. You know who that person is, and if you've never read her or studied her, do it. She's written prolifically on this and studied. This Talks about the key to dealing with grief and trauma is empathetic connection Finding people who are empathetic with you, not sympathetic. Instead of me trying to explain it to you, I want you to see this video that she put together. Take a look so, if you are going through it and you are wanting to escape. A safe other is the key to it Somebody who is empathetic. I've had that. Your pastor, stephen, has been one of those people for me. In fact, sometimes, when I go dark and I don't text him because he's very needy for my texts every week he'll actually call me and say I haven't heard from you. Is everything okay? I want to walk with you and if you're not going through something, will you be that person of empathy for others, not telling them some pity statement of hope, but just saying I know this is hard, I know you're struggling and I'm down here with you. Job was going through hell and the Bible says that some of his friends just came and sat with him, didn't even say a word, just sat with him. That's what the Jewish culture calls sitting Shiva. They just sit with you and they're there with you Every step of the way. You need to save other, but finally you need to connect with God and really all these are connections with God. But more specifically, at times you're not going to have necessarily somebody there to connect with. The truth is maybe escaping you. Connecting with yourself is no good, so you need to be intentional about connecting with God. There's several ways I've done this over the years. There's a hundred different ways you do it, but one thing I do that's very practical when I sit down in the morning to journal is I put, I have my chair, I sit in, I put an empty chair next to me and I know that may sound silly, but it has changed me significantly and I just have this conversation with God and I write down my conversation with God and I talk to God as if he's physically right there and I don't know how to describe it, but his presence comes or is already there and I'm finally waking up to it. David understood this Psalm 139. He says, right after saying he wanted to escape, or right in the midst of saying he wanted to escape the darkness. Look at what it says. It says this I can never escape from your spirit. I can never get away from your presence. If I go up to the heaven, you are there. If I go to the grave, you are there. If I ride on the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night, but even in the darkness, I cannot hide from you Another place. David would say even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. And so, practicing that presence of God, waking up to the presence that is there, the presence that will never go away, the presence that he is close to the brokenhearted, to those who are crushed in spirit, the presence of God as you are walking through hell, because God himself has been there, he understands it and he is walking right with you, so connect. The final thing in this whole new way of thinking is, instead of running back to the old, say I will wait for the new, move from running back to the old to saying you know what? I'm gonna wait for the new. See, when we go through the impossible situation, we want to get through them as quickly as possible, and more often than not, we want to just return to what we knew before. We want the relationship we once had, we want the financial security that was once ours, we want the person who passed away to come back, we want life the way it was, and so we somehow try to grab the old somehow recreate the past. But if we try to just run back to what we have, we miss the new thing God is doing in our lives and we're never gonna get back the old, anyway at least not in that form. God may even restore that relationship, but it's gonna look different now. Jonathan Martin wrote a book that was very pivotal for me in the early stages of this journey I've been on. It's called how to Survive a Shipwreck Again a very depressing title, but how to Survive a Shipwreck. And he writes this and I love this. I want to share it with you. He says the good news is you are not going to die. I like that. The bad news is the boat that has been carrying you, the vessel that had taken you from port to port, place to place, the strong and stable boat that you made, that made you feel safe on all the oceans you've sailed thus far. That boat will be lost. So what boat has been lost for you? Or are you in the process of losing? It's kind of shattering at its core. That boat brought you to that part of your life, but it's not gonna bring you to the next part and it's okay. David knew this in the midst of losing the old. He knew he needed to let go of that and wait for the new, and so he wrote these profound words in Psalm 27, verse 13. I remain confident of this that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. But waiting is hard, especially when we don't always know what we're waiting for. The new thing God is doing may seem murky at first. You may not even be able to see it at first. Pierre Taylor de Chardon say that a hundred times was a French Jesuit priest in the early to mid 1900s, and he wrote a poem that powerfully embodies what David was saying. So I want you to hang with me as I read this to you. He writes this trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability and that it may take a very long time. Your ideas mature gradually, let them grow, let them shape themselves Without undue haste. Don't try to force them on as though you could be today. What time that's to say grace and circumstances actually, on your own good will, will make them tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you and accepting the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete Trust in the slow work of God. It may take a long time. Give the benefit of our Lord, knowing that he is leading you. You know, I really wish I really do believe me that I could wrap this message up in a nice little bow and tell you of how my own story has done a 180. And now I'm making more money I've ever made my kids all and I have the best relationship we've ever had. That people are calling for me to do ministry again. That everything in my life is candy canes and cotton candy and rainbows. That's not In fact. This year, in many ways, has been harder than ever before. There have been things I don't understand, things that are still coming at me. There have been amazing things. I got married by the grace of God again and I have two wonderful step kids, by the grace of God. But I know I can't run back to the past. The boat that got me through the first 40 years of life isn't long gone. So I have to wait, and you do too. If you were to open up my journals over the past five years, you would see almost on probably about every five pages, a very poor drawing of a tree. And I'm not going to go into the long story of why that image is important for me, that's for another day in time. But that tree to me has become a symbol of hope, a symbol that God's growing something and doing something new. And oftentimes when I draw that tree I'll write these words. I remain confident of this I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, and so I'll wait. Yesterday I drew that tree again when I was up against something that was wrecking my heart. And so will you wait, not naively, not ignoring the pain you're in, but will you wait confidently, knowing that God is creating something new. Will you wait when you're confused still? Will you wait when grief overcomes you to the point where you can't breathe? Will you wait when you just don't understand why these things have not come into fruition yet. Will you wait? Will you wait knowing that, yes, you don't have this, but God does and God's got you? Will you wait like David waited and say I believe. Even in my darkest moments, I choose to believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?

Challenge Christian Clashets
When It Works Until It Doesn't
Surrendering "I've Got This" Mindset
Connecting With God and Waiting
Waiting for God's Goodness