06 Jun HARD TIMES: We’re either coming out of ‘em, in the midst of them, or heading into more of them.

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

I always figured that—if I pretty much followed Jesus—I’d be protected from serious dismay and attack. I guess I skipped that part in Hebrews where it says, of some believers:

“Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.”

Yikes.

Though I haven’t seen anyone cut in two, I have witnessed some tough things over the years.

Some challenges are small, others medium, and still others mammoth (and seemingly hopeless).

Maybe you’re in one of those places today—a time of trial. Perhaps one of three stories will encourage you.

Some challenges are little:

I learned of a high school drama coordinator who had to take over a broken program and revive it from scratch.

She had to fight for working lights, a sound system, and a few kids to take part in her plays.

By God’s grace, she’s done all three.

Some battles are large:

Several weeks ago I interviewed a young, Harbor lady who, as a little girl, watched while a man nearly strangled her mama to death.

Though mother, “Theresa,” and little Christy got away from the abusive relationship, they had an empty fridge, and only $15.00 to their name. Through a lot of hard work—and some amazing blessings—they started a growing business. Alas:

Theresa was diagnosed with a rare, internally ravaging disease. For several months Christy, by then in her mid-teens, had to keep the bills paid, younger brother in school, etc.

Seattle doctors created a surgical procedure from scratch. And Theresa lived.

Just barely.

Now the single mama and her two teens are blessed. That small company which they started?

It’s thriving.

Some seasons are knee-buckling:

My best buddy, “Danny” had a terrible life.

His mom’s ex-boyfriend murdered her when Danny was just a baby. He lived in a run-down, doublewide trailer, partway up the mountains outside of Leavenworth. Their yard was strewn with broken-down vehicles. Cookies for breakfast.

Biological dad disappeared to Alaska. And whenever new guardians, Grandma and Grandpa, went on a rare drive into town, a neighboring babysitter abused Danny and his brothers.

Rage set in. By age 16, he nearly beat a man unconscious outside a bowling alley.

Somehow my friend scraped his way into WSU, where he promptly got two Minor In Possession charges, and was set to appear before the Whitman County court.

In the days before his trial, Danny and I—once again playing football video games—had to have “the talk.”

No, not the birds and the bees *smile;* the main one…

The Heaven discussion.

God literally would not let me rest until I told Danny about Jesus. After several false starts by me, interrupted by my fear of being rejected (I was actually more worried about offending him than I was about him spending eternity apart from Christ),

I finally led him through a booklet called, “Would you like to know God personally?” https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

When we got to the end, he paused and looked at me. Uh-oh, I thought, here comes the anger. Only he didn’t get mad.

Danny whispered, “Jon, I think I need this in my life.”

He prayed and asked Jesus to become His Lord and Savior.

His alcohol and violence addictions quickly disappeared.

Fast-forward more than two decades…

For many years now Danny’s run an amazing Bible camp. Countless children have come to see him as a father figure—one who helped point ‘em to their Heavenly Father.

When I volunteer at his camp, sometimes he and I make grocery runs into the nearest town.

There, on nearly each isle, Danny gets lovingly pulled aside by kids and parents of all ages. They positively BEAM at him!

He’s married, and absolutely loyal, to a beautiful bride and fathers his three boys with inspiring love.

In truth?

I wanna be more like him.

Many years ago, when I was a new believer, I figured that God would protect me. And He surely, often does—He greatly blesses and provides for me and mine.

Even so, in this fallen world, awful things still happen to the Johansens.

Folks who aren’t perfect, but are truly seeking Him, as best we can.

Thankfully, I can look to stories like Christy and Danny, and their awful experiences…

And I have Hope.

I pray that you do, too.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Isaiah 58:11″