Trying Times

By Dr. Ken Matto

2 Corinthians 8:2 (KJV) How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

Let us face reality! Many of us are going to undergo physical problems in this life which are going to change the direction of our lives. I remember seeing an advertisement on TV for supplemental health insurance and the woman is walking in the park and states “I’m only in my sixties, I have a long life ahead of me, big plans.” She speaks as if she is in control of her life and that she will be directing everything coming at her. I have news for her and those who think like her that as much planning as you do, can never negate any trials or permanent changes which may come into your life.

I speak from experience because on August 28, 2003 I woke up and tried to get out of bed as I did the day before. I had trouble with my hip and thought maybe I had just hurt it and it would be a temporary thing. Well, that was the beginning of a permanent situation in my life which extends to this day. I have severe snapping in my left leg which sometimes feels like someone is sticking a knife in me with the pain going up my back. Combine this with the fact that I can barely walk and when I do, it causes much pain. I am basically house bound and cannot even go into a store. Now this became a sobering reality that as a person who loves to travel, I will never be able to travel again. I live in New Jersey and love the west but now I can only look at it on my computer through the Google maps. I wanted to share this, not as a complaint, but as one who is writing this out of experience and not theory. Many write books about troubles and next thing they are flying away to Hawaii on a vacation.

I have met people in my life who never even had a headache and told me that they could not even tell me what that would feel like. At the time I met this person, I suffered from sinus headaches so bad they caused me to have to sit in a chair with a towel over my eyes. I can sympathize with those who suffer from cluster or migraine headaches. I thank the Lord that I no longer have those headaches but they have been replaced by present problems. We have all heard of Joni Eareckson Tada who became a quadriplegic at the age of 17 and has spent 45 years in a wheelchair. We could pose the question. “Could not God have used her in a different way to send forth the Gospel?” Let us look at the results of her ministry. Many have come to Christ, she has given encouragement to those who suffer from disabilities, and her ministry sends wheelchairs all over the world for the poor who cannot afford one. Maybe God may answer these questions for us but the reality is, God is under no obligation to give us a response plus He is the potter and we are the clay which means He can mold us any way He chooses.

We know that everything God does He does out of all knowing wisdom and He never makes a mistake, yet when trying times happens to us, all of a sudden, the situation does not look like it was handled with divine wisdom. Oh how fickle we can be. Remember Job’s response to his wife? Job 2:10 (KJV) But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Just as we receive good from the hand of God, we need to be prepared to receive any calamity from the hand of God. Even in trying times when our bodies are less than responsive, God still gives us the strength to make it through each day and to make it through difficult situations.

Deuteronomy 33:25 (KJV) Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. I count on this promise personally every single day since I live alone and do not have help to do any regular tasks. The reason I decided to write this type of article is to hopefully impart some encouragement to those who are going through trying times which may be permanent. (Did you ever notice that the word “through” has the word “rough” in it? [th-rough]) Being disabled is not for cowards because it brings with it new challenges each day but we have a great God who is right there to strengthen us and see us through each day.

Revelation 21:4 (KJV) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. This day is coming since it is already appointed and because we do not know when, we continue each day to do the best we can under our present circumstances. We must never use our disabilities to hide or shirk our Christian responsibilities. God is fully aware of our situation and will never expect us to do more than our bodies are able to do. Exodus 4:11 (KJV) And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Here the LORD is telling us that it is He that made the deaf, blind, and dumb which means it is not the devil, but God who is the Creator and can recreate us according to His will. We must never forget that.

Your Situation Does Not Affect Your Salvation
If there is one thing we must understand is that our physical conditions in our body does not indicate we have lost our salvation. One of the greatest teachings in the Bible is that fact that a true born again Christian cannot lose their salvation. Salvation was purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary and was given to His Elect. The Elect did nothing to earn it. The only thing the Elect of God did was to receive it.

Romans 8:38-39 (KJV) {38} For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, {39} Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As we can see in Romans 8:38-39, there is nothing which can separate us from the love of God in Christ. This simply means that God loves His children and nothing in this world will ever separate us from that love if we are true children of God.

John 6:37 (KJV) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

When we look at John 6:37, we have the promise directly from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ that whomever the Father gives to Him, He will in no wise ever cast them out. These are just two verses among many verses which give these great promises. So never feel that just because something has happened to your body that it affects your salvation. That is a tool of the devil to turn your faith in God to distrust and fear.

Your Christian Life Is Not Over, Instead You Have a New Direction
The fact that you are still a child of God means that you are not out of the plan of God. What has happened to you is not punishment but it means that God has planned a new direction for you. Can you imagine the surprise that Saul of Tarsus had when he was on his way to Damascus to try and arrest all the Christians? Did you think that he ever thought that he would be joining the very ones he was persecuting. Saul had all his plans laid out and was even in league with others. Then something happened on the way to Damascus. He met the risen and ascended Savior. From that moment on, Saul’s life had changed and he went from being Saul to Paul. He was about to embark on a journey which included much spiritual learning and much physical hardship. When Paul was in prison, do you not think that he would have desired to be elsewhere bringing the gospel to people and working with the Christians in churches? I am sure he would have but God had different plans for him and even though he suffered many physical setbacks, his impact on Christianity was great. So do not despair because your life is taking on a new direction and that by the hand of God. He will reveal it to you in His time.

Limit Yourself To What Your Body Can Do, Not What It Can’t
Mark 10:46-47 (KJV) {46} And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. {47} And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. Here we have the man known as blind Bartimaeus who could not see because he was blind. What he did was, he heard that it was Jesus who was approaching and yelled out to Him. He could not see to get up and go to Jesus instead he did what he could do and that was to exercise his voice and yell to get the attention of Jesus. He did what he could. This is a major principle in living a contented life in the condition you are now in. You cannot do what you used to do so only focus on what you can do. There was a time when I was able to preach twice on Sunday and visit rescue missions and preach the word. Now I can barely stand up and because of my lower back involvement in my situation, I am unable to stand for periods of time longer than a few minutes. So I must accept the fact that I can no longer do itinerant preaching or even attend church and teach Sunday School. I started this website back in November 1997 and since August 28, 2003, it has become my primary ministry. I had once applied to three missionary ministries and was rejected by all three. I didn’t know the reasons for rejection but God knew that soon I would have a major change in direction and I would be unable to continue on my mission. Two of the places I applied was the Yukon and Puerto Rico. The third was right here in the USA.

Here is the wisdom of God in action. I had a desire to be part of missions and if I would have been accepted in any of those three ministries, I would only have reached one country. Now because of my website, I reach an average of over 160 countries every month. The Lord allowed me to fulfill my desires but in His way. So I am able to work on my website and do ministry through my website because I am sitting down, plus I read about 2 to 5 books per month. When you accept the fact that you can only do what your body can do, God will pave the way for some type of ministry for you and if you apply yourself it will have a great impact. A good friend of mine was a missionary in Liberia and because she had twelve concussions, she had to come back home and felt that she was a failure. I encouraged her in telling her that she can only do what her body can do and when you work within the confines of that, you will garner great contentment in your life.

Your Life Has Changed
If there is one thing that you must accept, it is the fact that your life has changed. Can you imagine how Joni Eareckson felt when she made that dive into shallow water. When her friends picked her up out of the water, her life had completely changed. On August 28, 2003, my life completely changed. Before that day, I could come and go as I wanted and I needed no help. Now I need the help of stabilizer bars in the bathroom, a cane, extended reachers, long shoehorns, and a long toenail clipper. I have had to make adjustments in my life for almost every phase of my life. Isaiah 43:2 (KJV) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. God has promised to see us through all the problems in our life. He may not remove them but His promise is that He will go through them with us. We face drastic changes in our life when we go from a healthy life to one of a disability. We must accept those changes and work to adapt to those changes so there will be a smooth transition into whatever situation we are in. Life “A” is yesterday, and life “B” is the reality of today. We cannot live in the past but we continue to progress into our new lifestyle. Philippians 3:13 (KJV) Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, To live a fulfilled Christian life, we must now fully adapt to the present life we now have and we cannot attempt to live in the past life because we will only face discouragement.

Psalms 77:3 (KJV) I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. If there is one thing which can begin a downward spiral toward depression, it is complaining. All the complaining in the world is not going to change your circumstances and as a believer, if we catch ourselves complaining, then we need to stop immediately. Psalms 42:5 (KJV) Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Our hope is in the Lord because it is He that has engineered your circumstances. Notice what it says in Psalm 42:5 that the Psalmist will yet praise the Lord. Complaining will never accomplish anything, in fact, it makes a situation worse because most of the times we start listening to our own complaints and it brings us down. The way to stop complaining is simple. Planning! When I first became disabled, I would drop things on the floor and it would be very difficult for me to pick them up. So instead of complaining, I purchased about 8 extended reachers and placed them in locations where I will be. For example, I have one in my car, kitchen, bathroom, two in the bedroom, laundry room, living room and dining room. Now if I drop something, I don’t have to complain, I am prepared, especially when you put 14 socks in the dryer and 13 comes out. (He who has ears to hear) The Lord knows the frustrations we face as disabled people and He is right there to help, all we have to do is send up a prayer instead of filling His holy ears with complaints.

Ephesians 4:31 (KJV) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Right on the heels of complaining is having a heart of bitterness. We may begin to start asking the question, “why me?” Having a bitter spirit in us will only make our lives a living hell. Bitterness is basically an extreme enmity or a hatred. It can cause us to sink into the depths of depression and also makes it hard for anyone to speak with us. A bitter spirit will repel the very people who may want to help us. Many people who become disabled or chronically sick make their condition worse by allowing a spirit of bitterness to rule their lives. Just like complaining, no matter how bitter we get, we will not change our situation. In fact, the bitterness will change our situation because if we do not expunge that from our lives, then God may have to chastise us to remove it. Even though we are disabled, we are still children of God responsible for maintaining our testimony and a bitter spirit will not do that. James 3:11 (KJV) Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? James asks a very important question. As Christians, we are to have the sweetness of the Holy Spirit living in us and if He is indwelling us, then how can we send forth bitter water out of His holy cistern? There may be a time of bitterness when we first become disabled or sick, but if we allow it to fester, then we will only be hurting ourselves. There must be a removal of all bitterness from our lives and if for no other reason, then to remain a good testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. It may take time but God will help you peel away all the bitterness and by doing that, your spiritual eyes will become much clearer.

Proverbs 6:34 (KJV) For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. Along with complaining and bitterness, another evil which can crop up in the life of a disabled person is jealousy. When I first became disabled, I had allowed this to crop up in my life. I was so bewildered as to why this happened to me that I was making remarks, rooted in jealousy, about Christians who could walk and would not attend church, or would be doing absolutely nothing to further the Gospel. Here I was doing itinerant preaching and teaching Sunday School and I was now on the sidelines watching other Christians with the ability to walk do nothing. I guess part of that was the preacher in me wanting to motivate my fellow believers but a good part of that was from jealousy. They could walk and I could not. As time went on, it waned and I was not making those comments anymore. If I would have allowed the jealousy to continue, I still would not have been able to walk as before but it would have robbed me of my peace and testimony. Proverbs 6:34 likens a jealous person to one who is an unbeliever and if you sow a life like an unbeliever, you will reap the rewards of the unbeliever. So never look at one with jealous eyes. If they have a healthy body and are doing nothing for the Lord, the Lord will deal with them. You focus on your relationship with the Lord and your own situation.

There is another debilitating attitude which must be avoided at all costs and that is self-pity. We can get into the doldrums of self-pity and it will have the ability to destroy us as quickly as the other bad attitudes I have mentioned. We continue to feel sorry for ourselves and if we allow it to continue, that sorrow will lead to depression and lethargy to the point of us not wanting to do anything for ourselves. It will also repel people because who wants to visit someone who is always feeling sorry for themselves. 2 Corinthians 7:10 (KJV) For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. Worldly sorrow not only leads to eternal damnation because it means you are unsaved but worldly sorrow leads to death through causing the body to become weak and susceptible to diseases because of a compromised immune system. Self-pity can be a major problem and if we find it in our lives, then we need to expunge it quickly.

Seeming Dead End
When we become disabled and we had an active life which must be redirected we come to the conclusion that our life now has a hit a dead end. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, it is true that the plans we have before becoming disabled will have to be re-evaluated in light of the new circumstances. One thing we can be sure of is that we serve a limitless God and our circumstances are not a hindrance to Him. He will tailor our life according to our condition. He will never ask of us more than we can do but He does not expect us to do less than we can do. There is no such thing in Christianity as a dead end. Christianity produces life and not dead ends. Christians deal in life and not dead ends. The impact we have on the world can be just as powerful as the life we had before. In fact, owing to the disability, your Christian walk may become more intense and fruitful because all the distractions we had are no longer in our lives. So don’t view your life as having reached a dead end because that is what Satan would love for you to believe so you can be discouraged to the point of depression. View your life as having reached a junction and now you need to seek the Lord as to which direction you need to go.

One Day At A Time
James 4:13-15 (KJV) Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. If there is one thing which you must stay away from, it is trying to anticipate the future. There is much truth in taking one day at a time instead of borrowing from the future. If you borrow from the future, you may not be able to pay the interest. This does not mean you do not plan things but it does mean trying to stay from anticipated scenarios. Matthew 6:34 (KJV) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Anticipation is normally worse than the actual event itself. I remember some years ago I needed a double root canal and I was anticipating the pain and troubles in having it done. In fact, I was almost depressed because of it. Well guess what, the day arrived and I went to the dentist and he numbed it so well that I was on the couch for three hours on the first of four sessions and I did not feel a thing. I had allowed Satan to let crazy thoughts run through my mind and it was no more than if he was drilling and filling a cavity. Never borrow anxieties from the next day because it will always lead to discouragement and if Satan can get you discouraged, the next thing he will do is get you to blame God for your situation.

Understanding Your Situation
If we can understand our situation, then we can better understand our limitations and our capabilities. Understanding our situation does not necessarily mean that you will be able to experience healing but it does allow you to function better and more efficiently to be able to face life each day. It will also put your ministry capabilities in perspective so you will be able to perform it more competently. Working within your bodily limits will allow you to be comfortable in your ministry thus being able to increase ministry as you get used to your situation. You will then be surprised as to what you can accomplish and when you look back, you will be surprised as to what you have accomplished. In my own ministry, I do not only give every study away for free but I also offer free literature that I can mail to a person and many have taken advantage of my offer and requested the literature. This means I have expanded my ministry while staying within the limits of what I can physically do. Understanding what you can do will be a great help in expanding your own ministry.

You Are Not Forsaken But Friends And Family Will Leave
Deuteronomy 4:31 (KJV) (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. If there is one thing that is definitely going to happen, it is the reality that many of your friends are going to leave you. Their visiting you will become very sparse and some will not even come to visit anymore. Some friends may become closer but the majority are going to go their own way. Be prepared for this. Sometimes people do not want to face the disability of others because in them, they see their own vulnerability and the possibility that it could happen to them. I spend about 99% of my time alone and the type of visits I get are phone calls. I have a large extended family and only three of them have visited me. Even my own brother stayed away. When I first became disabled I had to become a care giver for my aged father and I received no help from my brother. So here was the disabled taking care of the terminally ill and believe me it was not easy but the Lord strengthened me through those four years. So you can almost count on the fact that friends will forsake you and family also. Except for one extended family member who e-mails me and calls me from California, I have heard nothing from my extended family here in New Jersey in years. Not even a phone call to see if I am alive. I have come to accept that fact and do not allow that to interfere with my daily ministry and my daily routine.

The sooner you begin to accept your circumstances, the sooner you will once again be a highly functional Christian in the Kingdom of God. If you continue to wallow in self-pity, you will never have a ministry to others. Ministry is always others centered but if you are self-centered it will only hurt you. Sit down and do an assessment and see if self-pity will change your circumstances. It will not, it will only keep you in emotional bondage and hurt you worse. It will make you ineffectual for ministry. Accepting an unchangeable situation will make you more pliable in the hands of God as He will begin to redirect your life and ministry. Acceptance of a disabled physical condition may be one of the hardest things to do but God will guide you through and will be there to help you. Your outlook will become much better and even though you suffer from some debilitating challenge, your health may even improve and you will begin to experience the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah 8:10 (KJV) Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

1 Timothy 6:6 (KJV) But godliness with contentment is great gain. Believe it or not, as you progress in your situation leaving it in the hands of the Lord, you will not only experience the joy of the Lord but that joy will under gird your life and you will experience contentment in your present situation. Now that may sound crazy but the Lord will strengthen you spiritually and give you joy and contentment in your life. I have come to experience this contentment. Now would I love to be able to walk so I can travel or even shop? Of course, that goes without saying and because I no longer fight my situation but live according to it, I have been able to live with godly contentment. As I previously stated, every month I look at the statistics of my site and see that it reaches over 160 countries with the Gospel. I am very contented and joyful about that since my ministry from my home is having a world wide impact. Once I absorb the number of countries my site reaches, it brings great contentment that I am doing my part in the Great Commission despite my present disability. Mark 16:15 (KJV) And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Be A Comfort To Others
2 Corinthians 1:4 (KJV) Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. If there is one major aspect of being a disabled Christian, it is our ability to comfort those who are also suffering a debilitating disability. I had previously mentioned Joni Eareckson Tada who has become a worldwide encouragement to all who suffer from physical maladies. Since the majority of us are not in the public eye, it does not mean we cannot be a testimony of the Lord’s keeping power to others. People become disabled every day and may not know how to handle the initial shock and the subsequent days of disability. This is where we come in. We can help another cope with their situation even if their disability is of a different kind. When you get down to it, all disabilities call for a re-direction in a person’s life. We can make suggestions on how to do things and what to do when certain situations arise. We may not be able to live their lives for them but we can be there to help them and guide them making their transition from a healthy body to a limited body much easier. Only a person who has a disability can minister in reality to another who has a disability because they know the realities of being disabled. In other words, if possible make yourself available to help.

The Next Life
Revelation 21:4 (KJV) And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. We have only a few years on this earth to suffer from our disabilities but there is going to come a day when all this will end. All the hell a believer will ever face is here on earth. Once the last day comes and the Lord descends from Heaven to claim His own, the end of pain will be a reality. I tell people that I am contented with the fact that even though I am experiencing physical pain, the fact is that there is a scheduled end to it all. Acts 17:31 (KJV) Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. This is why I say that the days on earth are short and in case you have not noticed, there is a divine phenomenon occurring today, and that is, that time seems to have been sped up without it going any faster. Have you noticed how fast the days are going and how fast they turn into months and how fast the months turn into years? This why even in our limited capacities, we need to get busy getting the Gospel out to the world for once the trump sounds, that will be the end of all ministry and pain. I know I will walk again and just like the song says, “I’m gonna walk in Jerusalem just like John.” Of course, that will be the New Jerusalem where all the believers will be gathered. I am not focusing on this life except where the ministry of the Word is concerned. I am focusing on the next life which will be eternal without one shred of pain. John 6:40 (KJV) And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. Can you fathom that? Everlasting Life without one of the challenges we face here on this present earth. What a Mighty God we serve! So don’t see things as bleak but look up for your redemption draweth nigh. James 5:8 (KJV) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

I have given sixteen areas where those who suffer from disabilities need to look at that I have drawn from personal experience. Disability does not mean the end of your present usefulness. If you are no longer able to go to work, that does not mean your working days are over. God will re-direct your life in the direction He has planned for you and that also means He will never forsake you. You will have to make major adjustments in your life which you will have to get used to. Your life is not over, it has just taken a new direction and if you accept your situation, then God will give you contentment in whatever situation you are in. You can be a great encourager to others and that will boost your ministry mightily. Keep in mind that the days of disability have an appointed end but until that time we need to keep busy in Kingdom work getting the Gospel out to the world. 1 Peter 4:7 (KJV) But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.