Carefully, tears flowing from the fumes, Bob finished rubbing a mixture of Vicks VapoRub and BenGay on the insides of his underwear. With a grimace, he pulled it on, then smiled ... well, grimaced.
"Bob, what on earth?" gaped his wife, Marsha. "Have you lost your mind?"
"Not at all," he said, as he walked, bow-legged, from the bathroom. "Ooh, that smarts."
Mincing his way to the family Bible, he picked it up and started leafing through it.
"Didn't you ever notice that there is something drastically wrong with our walk with Christ?" he asked. "Just listen to James 1:2 -- 'Consider it joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds...'
"And how about Romans 5:3-4? 'Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.'"
"OK," said Marsha. "I'm sure this is going somewhere ..."
"Don't you see?" said Bob, exasperated. "We NEVER suffer! No matter how many things we do for God, Satan NEVER attacks us!
"We tutor at-risk kids, feed the homeless, evangelize at work ... and do we even get so much as a flat tire on our car? NO! So, basically, Satan sees us as a great, big joke!"
Marsha backed up another step as Bob's heated rant notched up the eye-watering vapor coming from his shorts.
"So, if Satan won't make you suffer, you'll just have to do it yourself?" she ventured.
"Exactly!" exulted Bob. "Nowhere in the Bible does it say your trials, tribulations or suffering can't be self-imposed."
Marsha had to admit, some of what Bob said seemed to have some merit. OK, a VERY tiny bit of what he said.
When the Johnsons from church were preparing for a mission trip to South Africa, Bill Johnson got boils and Becky lost her car keys. And how about the Prathers, who couldn't find a babysitter the night they were supposed to give their witness talk?
Marsha pondered some more, as Bob wiggled downstairs and began pouring hot sauce and jalapenos into the spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove.
"Wait a minute," she yelled. "We've had trials! Just last week, Bill in our home group was hit by a car and we had to take him to the hospital."
"Nope," Bob yelled back. "That was a ministerial opportunity, sorry."
"How about when I thought I might have cancer?" she said.
"OK, I admit that one had us going," Bob replied. "But it ended up being a false alarm, it brought entire families together and God was glorified in the process. ... Hardly what I would call true suffering."
Something wasn't sitting right with Marsha by this time. What if it had been Bob with a boil and me with no car keys, she wondered. Bob would have probably ended up evangelizing to the lab tech who lanced the boil and she would have seen it as a rare opportunity to share fellowship with a taxi driver.
"Hey hon?" she yelled down the stairs.
"Yeah, just a second, I'm putting some nails in our driveway. Be right there," he shouted back.
Thoughtfully, Marsha flipped open the Bible to 2 Corinthians as Bob's scent preceded him into the bedroom.
"Maybe we just look at things differently," she said. "Remember when Paul had that thorn and was in all that pain? At first he saw it as a trial, but then look at what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10."
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Bob pondered that a moment, squirming and wiping his watering eyes.
"So it's not that we don't suffer, but that we see everything as an opportunity for God to be glorified?" he said. "That's great! Now I understand why we are supposed to keep reading scripture. Paul is a professional at this sort of thing!"
In undressing overdrive, Bob pulled off his nearly smoking underwear and headed for the laundry room.
"Not that way hon," said Marsha, pointing out the window to the sealed dumpster in the alley.
"Better leave THAT to the professionals too."
Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.
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