Gain in Pain

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.  For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2

I listen to John Maxwell CD’s.  I enjoy his lighthearted approach in teaching leadership skills, and always learn something value to apply. Driving to work this morning, I slide in his latest CD titled “Stupid Hurts”.  In it he describes a serious mistake that recently landed him in jail. (Read his embarrassing story below)

“We are all one step away from stupid” is a statement from the CD that keeps ringing in my head.  How did John Maxwell, a pastor and respected speaker on leadership, accidentally bring a gun to the airport in his brief case?  I wonder how many times he has asked himself that question!  We are all capable of doing something stupid at anytime.   In addition we are vulnerable to mishaps, which usually occur without warning and often at the most inconvenient of times.

Both mistakes and mishaps create unforeseen difficulties giving us plenty of opportunity to grow steadfastness when we choose to respond well. John Maxwell said in his CD  “every major difficulty you face in life is a fork in the road; you choose which track you will head down, either toward breakdown or breakthrough.” He goes on to give four responses necessary to turn difficulties into breakthroughs:

  1. Responsibly owning up to ones mistakes and dealing with the resulting consequences.
  2. Maintaining a humble mindset.  J. M Barrie, author of Peter Pan, wrote:  “The life of any man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another.  His humble hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he had hoped to make it.”
  3. Staying prayed up!  Mistakes and mishaps pull you out of your comfort zone and often place you on your knees.  John Maxwell posted bail and immediately flew from prison to deliver a speech in Dallas to over 6,000 people.  That speech turned out to be one of his finest hours because in the midst of his greatest humiliation and embarrassment, his own strength was gone and God’s strength anointed him instead.
  4. Counting it all joy.  In everything give thanks for this is the will of God.

This last one is the most difficult for me.  Are we really to count everything as joy? Even when we land in prison by accident?  Or when a pregnancy ends in miscarriage like my daughter Erin’s did this week?  Or when we are falsely accused or misunderstood?   Or when infidelity rocks one’s marriage or a child is diagnosed with a learning disability?  Can we really be joyful in the midst of mourning?

Joy is a frequent melody in the Bible. The joy of the Lord IS our strength.  It is the means by which we overcome and overwhelm any sorrow or brokenness in our lives.  God’s joy is not about denying the pain or the disappointment, rather it is about comprehending that even in the midst of the deepest troubles –  when clouds and darkness are the reality we live in –  our hearts can rest in the certainty that the miracle of His joy planted within us will comfort and heal us. The very nature of God is joy and He is sufficient to meet our every need.

We are instructed to bring to mind the truth about who God is, what He has promised and what He says He will do, especially in the midst of our trials.  His truth will not only turn our attitude into joy but also bring heaven’s power into the midst of our difficulties.  Happiness depends upon what happens BUT true joy does not.

Psalm 51: 11-12

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not from your presence, and  take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Stupid is as stupid does…John C. Maxwell blog on March 13th, 2009 (www.johnmaxwellonleadership.com)

“I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life. Early in my marriage I would win arguments with my wife, Margaret, and hurt her feelings really badly. I have made business moves that lost tens of thousands of dollars at a time. And I’ve made leadership decisions that led to failures for my organizations. But up until now, none of the dumb things I’ve done has gotten me arrested.

Here’s how this came about. Last Sunday, I was in Birmingham, Alabama, speaking for the Church of the Highlands. It’s a wonderful church with a marvelous leader named Chris Hodges. He is a good friend, the congregation is fantastic, and I had a terrific time.

Most of the time when I have speaking engagements, I fly commercially, especially when the commitments are far from home. But when the engagement is not very far away and it means that I will be able to sleep at home in my own bed, I’ll sometimes fly on a private airplane. That was the case on Sunday.

As I got on the plane, someone from Chris’ congregation gave me a gift: a handgun. “This is for Margaret,” he said, “so she can feel safe when you’re traveling.”

Now, I’m not really a gun person. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people who own guns. I have been hunting a few times with friends, so I’ve shot a gun before, but I’ve never bought one. It’s just not my cup of tea. But I knew this was being given as a gift from the heart, so I accepted it, put it in my carry-on, and got on the private plane and flew home.

And then I forgot about it.

For the next several days, I was focused on preparations for an upcoming speaking engagement in Dallas. There was a moment when I thought to myself, “Oh, I’d better remember to get that gun out of my bag,” but because I was in the middle of writing, I didn’t want to stop. By the time yesterday rolled around, it had completely left my mind……

Well, off I went to the airport in full Mr. Magoo mode. In security, I put my carry-on bag on the conveyer belt and didn’t think anything of it. Truly, it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

You can probably guess the rest. I was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail, where I was fingerprinted and photographed. Needless to say, it opened my eyes to a world I’d seen only in the movies. I was glad when I posted bail and was able to leave.”

(To read the full post, go to www.johnmaxwellonleadership.com)

3 Comments

  1. Haha! That’s such a great story! At moments when I do something really stupid, I often assume that God can’t use me…I guess that says a lot about who my trust is often in, myself. The word promises that His strength is perfected when I’m weak. This is such a good reminder to me to take myself a little less seriously and trust that God can and will use me even in my “stupid moments.”

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  2. Hilarious story! And very true!

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  3. One of my “take aways” from this post is your comment on how happiness depends on what happens, but true joy does not. I am prompted to contemplate the fact that I can have terrible arguements with my kids, but still feel joyful about my life as a whole even though the situation has been an unhappy one. Where is the joy in fighting with your kids? I guess you find joy in the way you recover from it and hold them tight and pray with them reassuring them in your love for them through our Lord.

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