New Hope Notes

Gifts Discovered In The Midst Of Pain
Discovering the Hidden Gifts of Christmas

Pastor Elwin Ahu
December 5, 2010 - W1049

Today we will be talking about another kind of gift –the gift we receive through pain in life. We have been singing Christmas songs with joy in the lyrics, however there was actually a lot of pain in Christmas stories. When we look at the book of Luke, we read that Joseph and Mary were not welcomed after Mary became pregnant. People didn’t understand that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and thought that they were a disgrace. When they traveled to Bethlehem because they needed to register at Joseph’s home town, they couldn’t find any room to stay when it was time for Mary to give birth to Jesus, who is the most high, in a manger. A manger is not the most desirable place for birth. And I assume that Joseph had relatives back in Bethlehem, but no one offered them a better place than a stable to stay even though Jews were well known for their very hospitable culture. So I imagine that there was the pain of rejection. And the rejection would be the most painful when you are rejected by the one you love the most. Sometimes when things are not happening the way we hope, when our prayers are not being answered, we probably would feel pain as if we are being rejected by God.



“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth…Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Ps. 34:1, 8 NKJV) We should be cheering for God, worshipping God and blessing God at all times regardless of what circumstances we are in. It means that we should still bless Him even when we are in the most painful time in life. If we are in a basketball game, and Satan’s team is winning, we should still be cheering for God and not let our hearts be downcast, because God has won eternity though Satan might seem to be winning one game! God is not seasonal; He is good at all times, which means that He is still good at our bad times! We have to remember that God is not broken or unfair though life may seem to be.



  1. Life may seem broken and unfair; But, God IS NOT


We cannot judge God according to the circumstances we are in. God is always with us and working in all things. When we are in despair, we will keep praying and crying out to God. Often times it seems nothing happens and we feel that we have run out of words and don’t know how to pray anymore. That is the time God sends the Holy Spirit to pray for us. As it was written, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us… [and] pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Rom. 8:26-27 NLT) When we are weak, God is still strong. He always helps us especially when we are at our weakest. And when things don’t turn out the way we would like them to, we are in pain but God is always working and is still working through that pain. Because He is working at all times, He never wastes our hurt in His work.



  1. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV) So now we know that God works in ALL THINGS, He does not only work in our good times, but also in our bad times. He works in our suffering and painful times. He even works in deaths, too. I cannot imagine how painful it is to lose the most loved ones in our family. Tonight we have two couples as our special guests to share their gifts from God through their most painful time of life. They have pain through losing their dear children. And they will share their experience and what gifts they have received through those pains.



    Special Guests:



    1. Nathan and Connie Backstrom



    Nathan and Connie had five sons and lost the three oldest ones, Matthew, Justin and Jacob, through a car accident. These three boys were killed by a drunk driver who was speeding and talking on a cell phone at the same time.



    When Connie heard that Matthew and Justin were dead, and that Jacob was in critical condition at the hospital before dying, she knew God was still working and asked God to let her and Nathan know what they should do as the crisis was too big for them. She believes that their deaths were part of God’s working in their lives. God hinted to her about these three sons being set apart for a special purpose through a daily devotion she had with them a week before they died. Matthew had a rupture in his diaphragm when he was a kid, but God saved him. Connie wanted to make sure that they had received Jesus for themselves through that daily devotion, and told them that God had a special purpose for them. After the accident happened, Connie then realized that it was God showing her to trust in Him through that devotion, and God had a purpose and was working in this car accident.



    God could have prevented the accident from happening in many ways but God did not. It was hurting Nathan so much that he had thought of asking God to take his own life as it was unbearable. But God showed Nathan that He was with them through all these pains. Nathan didn’t have any anger towards the drunk driver who caused the accident. Right after they came back from identifying Matthew and Justin at the morgue, they got a visit from the media requesting to interview them. They agreed to be interviewed as they felt that they should do that. So they had a press conference in their front yard. During the interview, Nathan told the press that he forgave the drunk driver because the Lord had forgiven him. And Connie told the press also that she was not angry and would pray for the drunk driver and his family. However, it actually took Connie three years to figure out if she could forgive that drunk driver though she was not angry. At first, she had the wrong attitude to think that Jesus is the high priest who will judge the drunk driver. And God showed her that it was a wrong attitude and showed her to leave vengeance to God and leave room for God to work. So she was then able to forgive and leave room for God to work, and still trusts in God that He is working in all things though she does not totally understand why and how everything happened.



    From then on, Nathan also started to understand that God’s plan is different from his.

    Through this loss and painful time, Nathan realized that there are actually a lot of people hurting out there because of different reasons. So he felt that he and Connie have been given a new mission by God to help people going through pains in life. They have been spoken at schools and churches to share their testimony on how God works in their painful times of losing their three dear sons.



    2. Max and Erica Neves



    Max and Erica lost their only son Joshua from the complications of contracting the flu virus H1N1 last year. It was very shocking for them initially. They prayed for God healing Joshua but God’s answer was no. Joshua died and this incident shook their faith down to the core. They realized that their trust in God was not as deep as they thought. Max chose to keep seeking God, and be disciplined and obedient in Him though it was painful to get through. Erica was pregnant again six months after they lost Joshua. It was a great joy for them; however Erica miscarried on Christmas Day last year and lost this baby before they could meet him. It was very painful to lose two children one by one. One day, Max screamed his anger at God. He was very angry and didn’t understand how God could let these cruel things happen to them. And one of his brothers told him that it was probably the first time Max really had a conversation with God though the words were full of anger and despair.



    On the other hand, Erica found that it was difficult to praise God at the bad times she was going through. She was mad at God for not healing Joshua and her faith drifted. It took her some time to realize that she needed to understand that God was really there through those toughest moments. There were times that it was so painful and she wished God would take her life. But later on she realized that it was not the right path to go into and started to seek God again.



    Though both have gone through anger and painful moments, they experienced the gift of God’s grace and their faith has been strengthened through those toughest times. Because of their belief in Jesus and God’s promise of Heaven, they know they will see Joshua and the other lost baby again in Heaven, and this promise helps them to get through every day though they don’t fully understand everything that has happened. Statistics show that there are three families losing children per week in Hawaii. Because of the pain they have gone through, they realized how important it is to help others who suffer from the loss of children. So they have set up a foundation as a ministry to help those parents to get through that pain.



    You can live beyond the most painful time of life in the Lord when you trust in Him. And He is always working in everything you are going through. These 2 couples were able to walk through those painful times because they know who Jesus is, and His healing hands heal any broken hearts and guide us through. I cannot imagine how we can go through our pains if we don’t know the Lord. Without God, life would not make sense, and would be like a mess with random dots not being able to connect together. God is there through our painful time, and we can still rejoice in Him, and praise Him always in good times as well as bad times.





    Discussion Questions:


    1. How do we know God is fair though life seems unfair?

    2. How can our hurt not be wasted?

    3. Who is there to help us when we are in despair and even running out of words in our prayers?

    4. What is your experience in God’s working in your bad times?

    5. What is the greatest gift we have received throughout all the pains we have gone through?