Beyond Mud – Punched In the Face!

Have you ever been punched in the face? Like, cold-cocked punched? The kind you didn’t see coming so there wasn’t only the element of pain but a shock that made the blow exponentially worse. Sometimes it’s literal and there are knuckle marks to prove it. Sometimes it’s emotional and there are tear tracks to confirm it.

And after the blow there’s this whirl and swirl of clouds and stars. Earth and sky seem to move at differing paces and gravity appears to defy itself. Gaining composure isn’t easy. It’s as if you’re under a magnifying glass – from your perspective – and everyone is blatantly gawking at you…thunderstruck. Their lips move but you can’t hear a word they’re shouting, like a fight scene from a boxing movie.

Yeah…that kind of punch-in-the-face…

Baja Cove Beach, Mexico. Sea Bird - When we're punched in the face, where do we place our trust, where do we look for help? Difficulties and deep trials are certain to come, it's how we handle them that truly matters and will make the difference between advancing in victory or stagnating in death.

Throughout life we’ll all face difficulties and hurdles – things that create a pond of mud for our feet to force through. They slow us down and sap energy from us like a blood leech on our leg. But at some point we’re able to scrape it off and move forward. But those punches-in-the-face…they’re way beyond mud. They’re debilitating, disorienting, degrading, demoralizing, devastating.

The older I get the more realistic I am about what’s “mud” and what’s a “sucker-punch-of-life”. In my twenties a thin soup seemed like sludge and sludge, well, that was just plain horrendous. But now, several decades later, my perspective has changed and what used to be mud is now more like a thin slurry. My interpretation of what slows me down and what makes the laws of physic cease are interpreted differently. And I’ve learned this lesson: when we do not embrace our trials, the things that slam us in the face, for the good that could come from them we delay the plans and intentions of God in our lives. We won’t thwart them, but we’ll delay them. This, as a good German friend of mine says is, “No bueno!”

But we still ask ourselves, “Are these trials just an impromptu exclamation of a lunatic mind? Or, are they intentional, having purpose and a goal?” Maturing tells me that they’re neither spontaneous nor maniacal. I realize, as I type this, that some of you have not only been punched in the face repeatedly over the years, but pummeled to dust. You’ve been so wounded, sliced and diced that you can’t possibly see any good in what you’ve experienced. But here’s where grace enters with both chivalry and victory. From out of the shadows victory comes! If we embrace the promise that from our trials life can arise, then we’ll begin to journey towards the crown of conquest. What was meant for evil will be revolutionized for good.

The other thing I’ve learned the hard way is that God already knows our faith level – but we don’t. That was true for Mary the mother of Jesus is true of us. We think we know, but we really don’t until we’re tested, tried, punched. God knew Mary’s level of faith long before she was told she was pregnant. Out of wedlock. By God. Alone. But did Mary know? Did Mary need to see that not only would she truly trust and obey the Loving Lord in every situation – especially the ones that don’t make sense – but that the LORD would be with her through those times as well? That’s a promise told throughout the Bible.

The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
— Isaiah 41:17
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
— 2 Corinthians 1:8-12

Contrary to “pop Christianity”, God often gives us that which is beyond our bearing – He did it to Paul many times. How many of us can truly say we ever, “despaired for our own life”? We might feel that way, but until there’s a knife to our throat, it’s a bit euphemistic. But for those of us who have felt that, those whose memories go to deep, dark places, God beckons us to Himself even in our feeble faith so that we would be firmly planted in Him. When we “confide in the flesh”, there are all sorts of unhealthy manifestations that arise. Fear. Depression. Desperation. Anxiety. Loneliness. Vengeance. But when we put our confidence and trust in the God who raises the dead, a different manifestation takes place. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control.

God will allow us to slog through the mud of life and He will also allow deep, dark trials to come because what awaits us on the other side of that dark night is more precious than gold.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
— James 1:2-4