We all struggle with various problems in our lives from time to time. Sometimes they are problems of our own making. Then there are the times when stuff happens and we sit back as we roll our eyes and say, "Here we go again!" or "Why me?"
The truth of the matter is all of our problems serve to help us, even though they may not be a pleasant experience at the time.
We understand what the "school of hard knocks" is all about, but no one actually volunteers to "attend" that school.
However when we "graduate" from a class or two, we are sure that we have learned our lessons well and do our best to not end up repeating the "coursework."
I have found there seems to be no shortage of "new classes," though. I may not repeat the earlier classes I have completed, but there are always newer, more difficult ones that come along that I have to traverse and learn.
Charles Swindoll is one of my favorite modern-day authors. The following story is adapted from a story he once told:
In the northeastern United States, the sale of codfish is a big commercial industry. There is a huge market for codfish all over the Northeast, but not just on the coast but also in areas of the country farther inland.
Though the fisheries and their supporting industry desired to meet the demand for codfish in those other areas, there was a large problem that the shippers had to overcome: how to get the codfish to their customers further inland while maintaining the wonderful flavor and texture of the fish.
In other words, "How could they deliver the same product to the customers inland that their coastal customers had grown to know and love?"
They began to experiment with different ways of shipping their product. At first they froze the cod and shipped them that way, but they discovered that freezing the fish took away much of the natural flavor. So they then attempted to ship them alive. They used great tanks of seawater in the trucks. The results of this trial were even worse than freezing them had been. A number of issues arose over this method.
The major problem was that it was much more expensive to ship the fish in this manner. The codfish still lost its flavor, and what's more the flesh became soft and mushy. The texture of the fish was seriously affected. No one would want to buy, much less eat, their product.
Finally, someone began to think outside of the "box"... that is to say the "tank." They began to look at how the codfish lived and survived in the vast expanse of their natural habitat, the ocean. This person or persons began to look into the "natural things in the life of a codfish" to see if they might discover an answer there.
They found out that the codfish has a natural enemy: the catfish. So the shippers, going on the word of these "codfish experts," began to ship their codfish alive in tanks of saltwater, along with their natural enemy, the catfish.
And something amazing happened.
From the time the codfish were shipped from their point of origin on the East Coast until they arrived at the final destination, however far away that might have been, those cantankerous catfish chased their natural codfish prey all over the tank.
Do you know what happened? The codfish arrived at their destination just as fresh as when they were first caught. They had not lost any of their flavor, and their texture was not affected. The answer to a bad business problem had been solved, albeit in an unusual way.
Ship the codfish with its enemy, and the codfish would arrive healthy, tasty and strong!
Yes, I know that each of you reading this knows where I am going. Each one of us, in our life, have been placed into a tank of exacting and unavoidable circumstances. It is stressful, painful enough to just stay in the tank. We are continually wondering, "Why am I here (in this tank)?" We each are painfully aware that in our situation we are not alone ... there are God-appointed "catfish" in there with us, to bring sufficient pressure and apprehension on us to keep us busy, prepared, bright, and, yes, growing.
It's all part of God's work to shape our lives so we will be more like his Son. So part of life is understanding why the "catfish" are in our tank. We must realize that God uses them as part of His plan to help us to grow and to become molded to the behavior and character God has designed for us. Without these "catfish," we become "tasteless" or even "nasty." We become people others want to avoid.
Maybe, just maybe, God has put a catfish in your life (tank) to keep you alive and well spiritually. You know it doesn't take too many days for you to lay in a hospital bed without moving before your muscles begin to atrophy. You then have to undergo physical therapy to regain muscle tone and strength. It is not an easy process, and it is certainly not painless. However, the end result is the ability to be mobile, and to continue to live your own life and do what you need to do using your own strength.
That is the whole point to the catfish in our tank. It strengthens us. We become the people we are supposed to be through the trials, tribulations and problems of this life. We survive by resisting and working through those difficulties that life hands us.
Just like the codfish, we must remain vigilant against the "catfish" of life or end up being overcome by them (eaten up).
May you swim well in the tank of life. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Jesus swam with the "catfish" of this world, endured them and realized the final result in His own life.
(Dr. C. Bradley Morris is pastor of First Assembly of God in Georgetown. His e-mail address is PastorBrad@sccc.tv.)
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