God’s Tumbler

Written by: George J. Elling

Did you ever wonder why the various people in your life are there? First there is family. They are there because of biological relationships and marriages. Then there are friends which we “pick” to be there. As the old saying goes, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family.”

Next are people with whom we choose to have a professional relationship with, like doctors, dentists, auto mechanics, lawyers, etc. Then there are co-workers, bosses, employees, managers, business associates, etc. Some of us have teammates from a sports league or fellow volunteers from a charity we engage with. We may have fellow worshipers from a church or synagogue we go to. And, of course, there are those who are our neighbors and other people that don’t fit into one of the above categories.

We all interact with quite a few people in the course of a week. But, why are these particular people in our lives? Is there something deeper about why certain people are the people we interact with in a given week? Does it go beyond happenstance or “our choices?”

A tumbler is a barrel or a drum in which you place stones, or parts, along with some grit in order to polish them. Round and round the drum turns. The items inside are forced into each other, interacting with some friction, enhanced by the grit, to wear down the rough edges of the objects in order to achieve a smooth and polished result.

We, and the people in our lives, can be like the items in a tumbler. We are all going round and round, being forced to interact with each other, sometimes easily, and sometimes with a great deal of friction.

It is easy to simply view people in your life in terms of what they can do for you; a utilitarian view. You can also view people in terms of mission or ministry. These are people whom we are to “love on” and help. But, what if God has this particular set of people in your life to help shape and polish you as well as for you to help shape and polish them? What if you are in God’s tumbler?

This, of course, is not the only reason God allows, or places, people into your life. There are the practical and missional purposes as well. But, I think it is valid to consider how God is “polishing” your life when bumping up against others, especially when there is a bit of friction. We grow through struggle. This was true also of Jesus’ life. The Bible says;

“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Hebrews 5:8

Jesus came in contact with all sorts of people during his life on earth. While he healed, helped, and discipled many, he also clashed with many. Some helped his mission, some ignored him. Some tried to control him, and some betrayed him. Through it all, the man, Jesus, learned experiential obedience to the Father and was made perfect, or mature. As a result, he became the man God the Father intended him to be.

After describing the work of ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers), Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:

15 “…But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Ephesians 4:15-16

Notice in this passage the special work of each of the various parts of the body of Christ (not just the professional ministers) and that they contribute to your becoming the man or woman God intends you to become. Not a generic man or woman, but a particular you, a part of the body of Christ who measures up to the standard and stature exemplified by Christ.

But how does this happen? Well, for example:

From the irritating, we learn patience and to appreciate calmness.

From those who persecute us, we learn endurance and to appreciate peace and security.

From the educated, we learn knowledge and to appreciate how much there is to know.

From the lovely, we learn beauty and to appreciate beauty.

From the helpless, we learn to give and to appreciate how God reaches out to us.

From the lonely, we learn to be a friend and appreciate God’s presence with us.

From the dysfunctional, we learn to bring and appreciate order.

From the poor, we learn to give and appreciate what God has given us.

From the ones who truly love us, we learn what true love is and gain a desire to share it with others.

I could add additional examples of how we are shaped by those in our lives, but I think you get the idea.

So today, why not reflect on how God may be shaping and polishing you by the interactions you experience with the people in your life. Pay special attention to the ones you feel cause discomfort and friction. God may be using that person to polish your own rough edges. And remember, it is Christ in you (Colossians 1:27) who will give you the ability to see and understand what God may be doing. Welcome to God’s tumbler!

7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 
2 Corinthians 4:7

17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

1 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

-GJE

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How Can Adversity Be Good?

I know that we all have our own stories of how bad life has treated us, but, for now, we are going to expound on why I am a prime example of adversity.

I’ve lived a normal life up until age 35 and then I was diagnosed with a 7″ spinal cord tumor between C-3 and T-5.  After the tumor was removed, I was left paralyzed from mid-chest down.  Where, since, I have regained some ability to move and even walk, I have little ability to feel in those areas – except for pain.  Severe peripheral neuropathy in my right leg and left arm and both hips.  Minor peripheral neuropathy is in my left leg and right arm.

Also, in the site of the tumor resection, there had developed some bad arthritis (is there a good kind), a bone spur and a pocket of spinal fluid building up that was starting to choke off the nerves as well as one vertebrae that never healed from the original surgery, so the bone never healed back together and was then considered fractured.  That all being said, I ended up having to have the vertebrae in that area fused together 10 years later.  All 5 of them (four joints).

To top it all off, 5 1/2 years ago I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Carcinoid Cancer.  This is a very slow growing cancer and that is why I haven’t died yet.  It was found only after it had spread to my liver and now my liver is infested with it.  There are a multitude of “primary” tumors in my “gut” and, since it has spread, it is considered to be inoperable unless something life-threatening comes of it.  It is under “treatment”; meaning, there is no cure, there is no treatment to get rid of the tumors or even shrink the tumors, the only thing they can do is give me a drug every 4 weeks that helps control the symptoms.  I would be dead now if it weren’t for that drug.  The symptoms alone were enough to kill me eventually.

Both of these things that I document here, are very rare and almost unheard of finding them.  I mean, the spinal cord tumor was found when I was 35 – it is normally found in 12 year olds, according to my pediatric neuro-surgeon that removed it (I was his oldest patient).  The cancer is so rare that they only find it in maybe 1:300,000 people.  It is one of the most rare types of cancer in the oncology world and one of the most misdiagnosed diseases in the world… in fact, most cases aren’t even found until the patient is already dead.  I am fortunate and divinely cared for in both of these situations.

But, why do you think that these things happen to us?  Is it to punish me/us for some sin that we have committed?  Not likely. Then Why?

Side note: At the time that both of these situations happening to me, I was NOT walking closely to God… I was a Christian, I was just seriously backslidden in my Christian life.

There is a serious chance that God was trying to get my attention and make me realize that He really was in control, so if I continue to walk in the path that I was in, I would only be having more bad things happen to me.

Since we have gotten to this point, I have since given my heart and life back to God and given Him control of my life and now my life has purpose. No, I was NOT miraculously healed and the cancer taken away from me and my nerve problems solved.  God has used my infirmity to put me in the paths of people that I otherwise wouldn’t have ever come across that I might be able to witness to them and encourage them; and in return, He has shown me the plans that He has for me and has placed a wonderful wife and 2 kids in my life to help me along and, hopefully, I can help them along as well.

Ever since I was a kid, I had heard of Joni Eareckson-Tada.  She was in an unfortunate deep-water diving accident in shallow water resulting in a broken neck and becoming a quadriplegic ever since.  Since then, she has become quite an amazing person (I didn’t know her before the accident) having become an artist – yes, artist; she paints with her mouth – and an author and inspirational speaker in the evangelical Christian world.

I came across a video clip that is only a little over 5 minutes long that you might enjoy watching:

I hope you enjoyed hearing what Joni had to say.

Suffering is only one side of the coin in God’s eyes.  He really wants to see how you deal with it and which way you turn.  Because, you have a choice of what you are going to do with it.  You can take the devil’s route and get depressed and think “woe is me” and get down and even contemplate suicide, or you can turn your eyes upon God, get in His word and see what He has to say about it and be encouraged by it and in turn try to encourage others to turn to Christ as well.  It’s your choice.

References for Bible verses on comfort during hardships and to see what God has to say about it are available upon request.   I really want to find out how many of you are out there that are interested in this sort of thing and those of you who actually read this and care.  Comment at the bottom and let me know what you think.

©2013 Mark Davis

If you feel that you have a story that might encourage someone or that just points out the awesomeness of our God, please email it to me at mdnoidlife@gmail.com.  I am compiling some of these stories to be put into a new section of my blog for Testimonies.  I will even give you all the credits and will even link to your web site if you have one.

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