Read an Excerpt
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A prayer to be said
When the world has gotten you
And you feel rotten,
And you're too doggone tired to
And you're in a big hurry,
And besides, you're mad at
There it was ... one of those posters. Some are funny. Some are clever. A few thought-provoking. This one? Convicting. God really wanted me to get the message.
He nudged me when I first read it in an administrator's office at a conference center in northern California. He slapped me hard when I ran into it again in a shop at Newport Beach. While moving faster than a speeding bullet through a publishing firm in Portland, I came face to face with it again, silent as light but twice as bright ... smashing me down and pinning me to the mat for the full count. It was almost as if I could hear His celestial voice saying, "My son, slow down. Cool it. Admit your needs."
Such good counsel. Ah, but so tough to carry out!
Which begs a question. If asking for help is so smartespecially when we're about to launch into a new leg of our life's journeywhy don't we?
The reason is as sad as it is foolish. It comes down to plain, unvarnished pride, a stubborn unwillingness to admit our need. It's been bred into us by that insistent inner voice which urges us on: Prove it to 'em! You can do it ... and you don't need anybody's help.
The result? Impatience.Irritation. Anger. Longer hours. Less and less laughter. No vacations. Inflexibility. Greater and greater gaps between meaningful times in God's Word. Precious few (if any) moments in prayer and prolonged meditation.
My friend, it's time to declare it: No way can you keep going at this pace and stay effective year after year. You are H-U-M-A-Nnothing more. So, slow down! Give yourself a break! Stop trying to cover all the bases! Allow yourself time to assess your position, andif necessarytime to heal.
Moses on the Fast Track
Once you've put it into neutral, crack open your Bible to Exodus 18:17-27, the revealing account of a visit Jethro made to his son-in-law Moses. Old Jethro frowned as he watched Moses dash from one person to another, one crisis to the next. From morning until night Moses swam neck deep in decisions, activities, and high-stress appointments. He must have looked very impressivecramming down a handful of manna on the run, moving fast, meeting deadlines, solving other people's problems. If he were living today, he'd probably have a beeper strapped to one hip and a cell phone to the other.
Jethro, however, wasn't impressed. "What is this thing that you are doing for the people?" he asked. Moses responded defensively (most too-busy people do) as he attempted to justify his schedule.
But Jethro didn't buy it. He advised Moses against trying to do everything alone and reproved him with strong words: "The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out" (vv. 17-18).
In other words, he told Moses: Call for help.
The benefits of shifting and sharing the load? Read verses 22-23: "It will be easier for you.... You will be able to endure." Isn't that interesting? We seem to think it's better to wear that tired-blood, overworked-underpaid, I've-really-got-it-rough look. Among Christians, it's what I call the martyr complex: "I'm working so hard for Jesus!"
The truth is that a hurried, harried appearance usually means, "I'm too stubborn to slow down" or "I'm too insecure to say no" or "I'm too proud to ask for help." But since when is a bleeding ulcer a sign of spirituality, or a seventy-hour week a mark of efficiency?
If the world is beginning to get you down, if you find yourself too tired to pray, if you're constantly ticked off at a lot of folkslet me suggest one of the few four-letter words God loves to hear us use: HELP!
It's the first and best word to use ... when you're starting where you are.
And just in case anyone ever tries to tell you differently, please remember this: Life assessment and healing take time. Stay with me for the next few pages and I'll show you what I mean.
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It's the first and best word to use ...
When you're starting where you are.
A TIME TO HEAL
Hippocrates was a Greek physician considered by many to be "the Father of Medicine." It is he, you may recall, who wrote the immortal Hippocratic Oath still taken by those entering the practice of medicine.
This ancient physician lived somewhere between 450 B.C. and 375 B.C., which makes him a contemporary of other philosophical thinkers such as Socrates, Dionysius, Plato, and Aristotle.
Hippocrates wrote much more than the famous oath that bears his name. Other pieces of fine literature flowed from his pen, many of which still exist. Most of his works, as we might expect, deal with the human anatomy, medicine, and healing.
In a piece titled Aphorisms, for example, he wrote: "Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases." On another occasion he authored Precepts. These words appear in the first chapter: "Healing is a matter of time."
While reading those thoughts recently, it occurred to me that one might connect them in a paraphrase full of significance and relevance for our own day:
Recovering from extreme difficulties usually requires an extreme amount of time.
In our microwave culture, that statement may not sound terribly encouraging. "Slow" finds little place in our accepted vocabulary. We say traffic is slow, lines are slow, orhorrorsthe download time off the Internet is slow. We have very little patience for activities or enterprises that compel us to wait.
But more often than not, real recovery is slow. It takes time. And the deeper the wound, the more extensive the damage or trauma, the greater amount of time may be required for us to recover.
Wise counsel, Hippocrates! We tend to forget your insightful advice.
AN OLD TESTAMENT CONNECTION?
Where would the old Greek doctor get such wisdom? His Aphorisms and Precepts sound almost like the Proverbs of Solomon. As a matter of fact, the more you read his writings, the more similar to Solomon they sound.
While entertaining that thought the other day, I pondered an idea I had never before considered. Hippocrates lived sometime between Solomon the king and Paul the apostle, during the between-the-Testaments era, a four-hundred-year span of time when no Scripture was being written (although the Old Testament books were being compiled).
Here's my thought in the form of a question: Could it be that in his research the Greek philosopher came across some of Solomon's writings and rephrased a line or two? Isn't it possible that something from Solomon's journal (Ecclesiastes, by name) could have found its way into the old man's writings?
Consider the first few lines from Ecclesiastes 3:
There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Tucked away in that third verse is the phrase that intrigues me. "A time to heal." Perhaps I am only imagining all this, but I cannot help but wonder if Hippocrates' words, "Healing is a matter of time," might have found their origin in Solomon's statement. We may never know for sure. In any event, the statement remains sound, both medically and biblically. More often than not, healing truly does take time.
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Recovering from extreme difficulties usually requires an extreme amount of time.
WHEN HEALING ISN'T QUICK
In thirty-eight years of ministry I have met thousands of people who hurt, their pain caused by every conceivable source. The most disillusioned among them anticipated but did not enjoy quick recovery.
Many of these hurting folks were promised a "miracle"but when no divine intervention transpired as advertised, their anguish reached the breaking point. I have looked into their faces and heard their cries. I have witnessed their responseeverything from quiet disappointment to bitter, cursing cynicism ... from tearful sadness to violent acts of suicide. Most have been sincere, intelligent, Christian people.
Many other ministers, it seems, enjoy the role of leading people into rapid relief of pain. I could easily envy such a joyful and popular ministry. More often than not, however, it seems my lot to help those who do not "heal in a hurry"no matter how hard they try, no matter how firmly they believe, no matter how sincerely they pray.
Even though I would love to perform instant miracles (or at least promise recovery "within a week or two"), I am not able to do so. Maybe that is the reason I am so intrigued with the combined thoughts of Hippocrates and Solomon. Since I deal constantly with people in pain, I am left to search for answers that make sense, even though they will never make headlines.
The next chapters are about the answers I have found. I have no cure-all solutions to offer, no secret formula that will get you on your feet, smiling, in twenty-four hours. I wish I did, but I don't. Yet I do have some things to say that may give you fresh hope and renewed perspective in your process of recovery.
While I cannot guarantee you healing as a result of your reading these pages, I can promise you this: a God who cares, a God whose plan is unsearchable, whose ways are unfathomable, and whose counsel is dependable. A solid grasp of God's Word will never leave you in the lurch or disillusioned, since it does not come from philosophical meanderings or superstitious hocus-pocus.
That is our starting place. And starting there, we cannot go wrong.
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That is our starting place. And
starting there, we cannot go wrong