Nathan Jones: The year 2020 could be compared to a dumpster fire. Most people would describe that disastrous year as nothing but horrible. And, 2021 so far hasn’t been shaping up to be much better.
We’ve all suffered at some level, but few as much as Al Gist of Maranatha Evangelistic Ministries based in Southern Louisiana. Brother Al has partnered in ministry with Lamb & Lion Ministries for many years now and he has been one of my cherished mentors.
Al joined Dr. David Reagan and myself on our television program Christ in Prophecy to share his personal story about the troubles he and his wife endured in 2020 and to give us hope by providing us with the secret to how he overcame suffering.
A Time of Suffering
Al Gist: Let me say, first of all, that I am 67 years old, and in my 67 years, 2020 by far was the worst year that I’ve ever had to live through. The whole world endured so much suffering, beginning with the COVID-19 virus that due to the quarantines caused a lot of businesses to go bankrupt. Millions of people became unemployed as a result of the closures and ongoing restrictions.
Immediately when all of the closures started, I began to get calls from pastors canceling my speaking engagements at their churches because the churches were being closed as well. My ministry is primarily a preaching ministry. In fact, our income comes mostly from preaching engagement. I lost all of my speaking engagements and so my ministry’s source of income.
Then, somewhat later after that, August 27 to be specific, a date that I will never forget, Hurricane Laura came right up through southwest Louisiana where I live. This massive storm blew right up to my home and left terrible devastation in its wake. My wife and I were fortunate enough that the damage to our home was minor, but everything around my house — my shop building, all the trees, my children’s home, and everything else on my land was completely destroyed. I used to tell people that I live in the woods, now I tell them that I live in the wood debris, because that is what it looks like now.
Hurricane Laura wasn’t the only hurricane to hit my home. Thirty days later Hurricane Delta came right behind it following the same exact path, and once again everything that Laura had missed was destroyed by Delta. So, we suffered through two hurricanes.
During the midst of all of the cleanup, the weather became immensely hot. We had no electricity for more than three weeks. And, the mosquitos were terrible! When those hurricanes come through Southern Louisiana, they blow the mosquitos up out of the marsh and further into the state. Where we live we normally have these tiny mosquitos, but those suckers that come out of the marsh look like eagles. They’re huge! They just tore us up. On top of that then we endured a lovebug infestation. Everything was covered by these insects.
So, here we were, all of us, outside with chainsaws trying to cut through all of the fallen timber and restore some sense of cleanliness around our home, and we had to deal with biting mosquitos, and clingy lovebugs, and the intense heat, and soggy humidity — it was hard.
In the middle of all that, I contracted the COVID virus. It affected me like a terribly bad case of the flu. I burned with a fever and shivered through the shakes. I thought I was getting better at one point, but then it regressed and I got worse and worse. I felt so very, very weak and couldn’t hardly do anything. And so, it was quite a bout. The coronavirus really took me down for about three weeks for sure.
A Source of Hope
Nathan Jones: Some preachers are proclaiming that if you believe in Jesus Christ then all of your problems will go away. You will gain health and wealth if you just “name it and claim it.” But, Al, you are a believer in Jesus Christ. You also have been a pastor and evangelist for many decades. And yet, you suffered mightily. Why do you think the Lord has allowed you to suffer?
Al Gist: Suffering began when the first man committed the very first sin in the beginning. Ever since the time of the Garden of Eden, where man turned his back on God and became disobedient, sin entered the world. And, because of sin, and because of our broken fellowship with God that Adam and Eve had once enjoyed, hardships began to come on all of humanity.
When God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden, man was placed under a curse. God told Adam that everything that he would plant would be done so by the sweat of his brow. So, the earth was cursed, too. Women would begin to experience pain during childbirth and it would be very difficult for a woman to have children. And, of course, we know from experience that all of this came true.
Human suffering can be traced back to the beginning at the Fall. Sin carried forward through the generations and has become a part of mankind. I would say sin and suffering have actually gotten worse over the centuries.
So, all that being said, hardship comes because of our break in the fellowship that we had with God. Mankind once enjoyed perfect fellowship with God, and if we could do so again then everything would be perfect and life would flow smoothly. Until that day when our fellowship is at last restored, though, hardships in this life can be expected.
God doesn’t promise to remove all of the hard things in our lives just because we become Christians. But, remember, what He does promise us is that He will stand with His children through every hardship, and that’s what we truly really need. I need it. You need it. Everyone needs the strength, support, guidance, and the deliverance that God gives His people when they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. My hope is in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone. Nothing else will get us through our daily sufferings. Only Jesus can truly deliver us.
Nathan Jones: Amen! People tend to blame God when suffering comes their way. They forget that we are sinners. We’re the fallen ones. It is our own sin that causes all of the devastations in the world. Therefore, as Al advises — turn to Jesus Christ! He will help carry you through life’s trials and tribulations. Jesus will guide you through that valley of the shadow of death. When trouble comes, don’t pull away, but rather place all of your trust in Jesus Christ alone and He will see you through your suffering.