Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thankful for trials

Thankful for trials.

Wow.  I never thought I would say this.  I never thought I would be able to say this.  I am the Big Chicken, remember?  I'm the one who is always complaining about the way we have to learn through pain, and wishing it were a different way.

Count it all joy, my brothers,
when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith 
produces steadfastness. 
And let steadfastness have its full effect, 
that you may be perfect and complete, 
lacking in nothing. 
~James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, 
knowing that suffering produces endurance, 
and endurance produces character, 
and character produces hope, 
and hope does not put us to shame, 
because God's love has been poured into our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit 
who has been given to us. 
~Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

You learn things when you go through something hard.  

You learn that God is faithful.  He may not fix the problem when you want Him to fix the problem, but He demonstrates His nearness over and over.

You keep seeing the same words come up, words like hope, peace, joy.  Delight yourself in the Lord.  All things are possible with God.  You find these words in the morning when you are reading the Bible by yourself, and then you see them in an article on the internet, or hear a friend speak them, or they rise up out of a small group Bible study.  They may even float by on the notes of a song.

You spend a rough morning crying tears to the Lord, and the phone rings.  Although you never answer the phone when you don't recognize the number, you happen to pick it up, and it's a friend you haven't spoken with in quite some time.  "The Holy Spirit put you on my heart, Ruth," she says, "He told me to find your phone number, and I looked until I did.  I don't know why, but I just got to pray for you."   And she does, balmy God-words flowing, mixed with scripture, from her lips.  "God is faithful," she tells you.  "He has this.  He's the almighty God and nobody can stop Him.  You got to PUSH.  You heard that before?  PUSH.  It means Pray Until Something Happens, and it's going to.  God's not going to let you down.  He's faithful.  He's merciful.  He's Love."  Through your wondering tears, you try to tell her how blessed you are by her obedience to the Spirit's direction.

You have it out with God one afternoon, and you beg Him, "Please, if You aren't going to fix this, please hold my faith together.  Please help me see Your goodness when things don't seem good.  Please don't let me stop believing when it feels like You are so far away, and it appears that You are not acting on my behalf." He leads you to John 6:68-69 (you were familiar with the words but didn't know where they were, and then, while looking for something else, you stumble across them) --

“Lord, to whom shall we go? 
You have the words of eternal life,  
and we have believed, and have come to know, 
that you are the Holy One of God.” (ESV)

He shows you beauty all around you, soothes your spirit, comforts your heart.  He tells you, "Delight in me, my child.  I will care for you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.  I am your God and I watch over you always, without slumbering or sleeping.  I am your Shepherd, and you shall lack nothing."  As He gently works, you begin to experience joy again, to see beauty and goodness and the hand of God all over, in spite of the thing that troubles you.

You also learn things about yourself.

You become aware of ways you used to be, ways that needed to change.  You used to be so protective of yourself.  "I feel bad for those people," you'd say.  "I'll be pleasant, and maybe donate to a shelter or something, but arm's length is good.  I don't want them to know where I live."  You realize that God has ways of breaking down these attitudes, tendering your heart, making you care compassionately for the lost in ways you never could before He began the hard work.

You learn the difference between understanding that and understanding how.  For instance, you used to understand that certain topics of conversation could make someone sad, but now you understand how the sad person feels in the middle of the discussion, the uncontrollable visceral pang.  You understand how the barren woman feels when she sees a new mother with her baby.  You understand how a mother of a child with a disability feels when the mothers of "normal" children celebrate their children's successes in sports and academics.  You understand so much more, and with more understanding comes less judging.

Some of us have a strong propensity to try desperately to do everything right so nothing bad will happen to us.  There are two problems with that.  (1) None of us can do everything right, and (2) Bad things will happen; we live in a fallen world.  When we live under the mistaken notion that we can control outcomes and insulate ourselves from trouble by doing all things right, we set ourselves up to suffer loads of guilt when troubles come.  We think we are being punished.  It's the natural conclusion.  It's what Job's friends told him: "You must have sinned.  Confess your sins to God, and He will stop tormenting you." 

We have all sinned, but a person's sin is not the cause of all his suffering.  When trials come, we must learn to give up control and hope in the Lord.  To whom shall we go, if not Him?

God uses all things for good for His people.  He uses terrible, painful situations.  He uses brokenness and loss.  He even uses sin and guilt, redeems them and makes them produce blessed results.  He uses it all for good, to form our hearts and to beautify our spirits within us, to make us holy.

I wouldn't say my spirit is beautiful yet, but I know without a doubt that He is working on it.  He is teaching me, growing me, changing me.  I'm already stronger, already a little more joyful than I ever was before, for no understandable reason except that Jesus is working a miracle.

So yes.  I am thankful for trials.

Kind of.  I'm thankful for how God powerfully uses them, anyway. 


1 comment:

Priscilla said...

I totally get this whole post. Every word of it. It's like I could have written it myself.