The sights of Lancaster County.
An old-order Mennonite family taking watermelons to market.
Message summary: During a time of trial and loss we wonder why and where God is in the midst of our pain. However, whereas Psalm 10:1 is an expression of how we feel another Psalm is an expression of God’s character. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
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“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Mike Muhlhammer was about nine years old in the mid-eighties when, along with his family, he began to attend the church we served in northern Pennsylvania. We recall his pleasant attitude and vibrancy toward life. Active in Royal Rangers, a scouting type program in our church, Mike stood out as a very bright young man with lofty ambitions.
He and his family moved to North Carolina in the early nineties. Following Mike’s high school graduation in 1993 he attended a 1 year program at Wisconsin Wilderness Campus of Philadelphia College of the Bible. Following this he was preparing to transfer to another college and, in the course of his application process, a routine physical led to some testing that revealed Mike had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball at the base of his skull.
His mother summarized the story: “Within a week Mike was in surgery. We were told that he would be in ICU for a day or so, then out of the hospital in under a week and able to attend college later that month with a decreased academic load. Life has just not been the same since that day. Mike suffered 2 strokes during surgery and came out of surgery in a deep coma. Over the next several days he slowly began to wake up. Then, nine days after the surgery, he came down with meningitis. He had been able to breathe on his own prior to that, but now needed a trach and was put on the ventilator. Additionally he was given a stomach tube for liquid feedings.”
In the weeks, months and years that followed Mike had a lengthy recuperation where he patiently endured all that came from his diagnosis, treatment plan, and the outcome that was not what he or his family hoped for. Formal education aside, Mike was now enrolled in the school of hard knocks where he earned his degree in that of being an Overcomer. We visited with him and his family about ten years ago and saw Mike and his sister again this spring, following the death of their devoted mother, Christine. Last week we received news that Mike was called home to be with the Lord at 42 years of age. For 24 years his life reflected that of an overcomer in all the health, cognitive, and other issues he battled, with the support and assistance of his devoted mother, loving sister and many other caregivers. Mike will be greatly missed in his community where he was active, especially the YMCA where he was the friendly and joyful greeter for many years.
As a pastor and chaplain, situations like this are among the greatest challenges we have when attempting to minister to the family and loved ones. Many of us have had situations in our lives where we have uttered a deeply felt “Why Lord?”. I’m not speaking of the many trite situations where we are inconvenienced in some manner or things just aren’t going our way. Really, these situations amount to mere grumbling if we honestly examine our hearts!
These “Why, Lord?” expressions test the very limits of our faith in God who is good. I myself have had to deal with a few situations like this in my own life.
Life experiences similar to what Mike and his family have been through can prompt the gnawing question, “Why, Lord?” It is the common expression of those who have had deep, explainable hurts, often with lifelong consequences.
The severity of the testing may vary among Christians but the grace of God is all-sufficient to meet every affliction we have. Annie Johnson, a woman severely crippled at a young age by rheumatoid arthritis, says it so well: “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; to added affliction He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.” In other words the grace of God more than matches the depth of our need.
The best step I have found in dealing with these troubling situations is to humbly acknowledge “I don’t know why”, get my focus off the situation (which will otherwise eventually lead to bitterness), and focus on the character of God. He can turn the situation around or He may be shaping my character in ways that can only come about in times of difficulty.
Today’s text expresses the heartfelt honesty of the Psalmist and is an expression that we have all had at some point in life: “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1).
During a time of trial and loss we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain. However, whereas Psalm 10:1 is an expression of how we may feel another Psalm is an expression of God’s character. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Father, when burdens increase and answers don’t come we may, like the Psalmist cry out, “Why Lord?
” I have a choice to let a bitter root grow up or to remain firmly rooted in You. Focusing solely on my troubles is sure to germinate doubt, fear, resentment and unbelief. But when I clothe myself in the spiritual armor You provide I have a powerful defense against Satan; I can stand firm against his evil schemes. Though he plots evil You plan my eternal good. We are cautioned repeatedly in Scripture that we will have many troubles, but that we should take heart because You help us to overcome them. Father, though You’ve proven Yourself over and over, I ask for grace to trust You even more for that which troubles me today and endurance for that which is yet to come. Amen.
Katie, Christine, and Mike Muhlhammer in a photo we took back in 2009.
A front view of the wagon in our lead photo.
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Mike Muhlhammer obituary
“He Giveth More Grace” Video
“Why Me Lord?” Video
David Crowder This old song has a different perspective than today’s message of asking, “Why Me?” It considers why are we recipients of God’s blessings, which is a good perspective when we deal with the other sense of “Why me?”.