Sent:  February 22, 2002

Subject:  Monkey Do…Monkey See!

Good Morning Ethan &  Emily:

“Trials,” tribulation,” “hardship,” and “pain” are words that sometimes characterize our life at various times.  We are tempted to ask God:  “Why?” and we should.  God wants us to be honest and open with Him, and in so asking, we seek His wisdom as we strive to gain as much from the experience as possible (James1:5).

Charles Stanley in an article entitled “Wisdom for the Trials of Life” in the March 2002 issue of “In Touch” magazine outlines six reasons why God allows the trials and difficulties that we encounter:

1.  “First, God allow our trials in order to test our faith.”
2.  “Second, God allows our trials in order to test our devotion to    
     Jesus Christ.”
3.  “Third, God allows trials in order to purify our lives.”
4.  “Fourth, our trials give God an opportunity to demonstrate His 
  sustaining power for His children in tough times.”
5.  “Fifth, a major purpose for our trials is to produce Christ-like 
character within us.”
6.  “Finally, trials equip us for service in the kingdom of God for the 
sake of others.”

This morning I would like to add several personal comments about the last reason…how trials help us better serve others.  2 Corinthians 1:4 states:  “…(God) comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

To this I can say a hearty “Amen!”

As you know, I have been blessed with a peaceful confidence and optimistic outlook on life.  But suddenly and without warning, some years ago, I was “struck” with anxiety attacks.  Of all the maladies that might have afflicted me, this was one I least expected would ever come my way!  I found myself unable to sleep at night, and in fact, I had “night sweats” that were so overwhelming, there were times I wondered if I would ever be O.K. again…or if I would ever enjoy a night of complete sleep again.  The lack of sleep only aggravated the situation and increased the anxiety.  I remember so vividly having to go to a drug store to find something to help me sleep at night with the Sominex T.V. commercial ringing in my mind:  “Take Sominex tonight and sleep, safe and restful sleep, sleep, sleep!” This was definitely a new experience for me, as I had always “slept like a baby.”

During the day, the onset of the anxiety would be so severe that sometimes I would find myself short of breath.  I was, in short, miserable and desperate.  I went to a doctor for help and ended up with several drugs that affected me so negatively, the “cure was worse than the problem.”  The tranquilizer left me so woozy I could hardly think, and the antidepressant to help me sleep left me disoriented and with a “hung over” feeling in the mornings.  I remember being at an Army reserve meeting one weekend feeling so uncomfortable and hurting so badly at the base of my head that I knew I had to do something…and quickly!  I called the doctor that night, and he curtly dismissed me, seemingly irritated that I would call after hours and advised me to see him later in the week.  I got off the phone feeling “mad,” “rejected”…but determined that I would change doctors which I did as quickly as I could that next week.

This new doctor changed my prescriptions and told me that what I had been taking was outdated and addictive.  The new medicines “worked wonders” and within several weeks, I was fine again, and I have never been even close to having these problems or symptoms again.  Perhaps I had a fleeting chemical imbalance in my physical makeup…I don’t know…but the situation cleared up as quickly as it appeared!

The first lesson I learned from this experience was that depression and anxiety are physical ailments and conditions…they are not merely mental orientations that can be swept aside with admonitions to “get a grip on yourself” or “go pray about it.”  Chemical imbalances can do “strange” and awful things to your mind, and I know…having “been there.”  Secondly, I learned that if you are being treated for any condition and you have doubts about your doctor, you have nothing to lose by getting another option…and you have everything to gain.  Just a change in my prescriptions made all the difference in the world.

But the most important lesson I learned was the experience itself…and how persons experiencing anxiety attacks and depression “feel.”  Now, having “walked in these shoes” I can talk and relate to other suffering and anxious persons in a way I never thought I would be able to.  Just several Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to talk with a school teacher at church who was recently put on medical leave at her school due to anxiety attacks she had been experiencing.

There was a time when I would, no doubt, have told her “I will pray for you.”  But I never would have been able to genuinely say:  “I know what you’re going through” if I had not had the same experience earlier in my adult life.  This teacher knows me as a very self-confident and outgoing prominent member of the church…someone she tells me she looks up to…and I’m sure the story I related to her of my own anxiety experience “surprised” her, as many people relate these kinds of feelings and experiences as indicative of some type of spiritual problem or deficiency on their part.  But from the expression on her face, I could tell that we “connected” due to our shared experiences.  The tears in her eyes told me she felt I really understood what she was going through, and it was great to see her smile and relax as I comforted her and assured her of my prayers and support.

I fully believe I had my “trials” with anxiety…if for no other reason…than to prepare me to help others with the same condition.  It’s not that I know the “answer” to this condition even now, but I believe I have been able to encourage others as they discover that someone they admire has walked in similar “shoes.”

Now I can say:  “Thank you, Lord, for the ‘trial.’  I hated going through it, but I am blessed over and over as I am able to minister to those of my brothers and sisters that are “hurting” in a similar way today.”

There is an old expression:  Monkey see…monkey do!  But upon reflection of the truth that “doing” or going thru an experience makes one more perceptive and better able to “see” and understand what someone else is going thru with a like problem…I think we could summarize this lesson with a new “twist”:  Monkey do…monkey see!

Keep this in mind as we reflect again upon that amazing verse from yesterday’s devotion:  “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy” (James 1:2).

Have a wonderful day knowing that God can “work” everything for good in our lives (Ro. 8:28),

I love you,