Sunday, November 24, 2013

Count it All Joy

I am thankful for trials. Ouch. It hurt me just to type that. Who is thankful for hardship? Who wants struggles and challenges? Who needs that? I do. And so do you.

Trials, all by themselves, do not produce character, but they certainly expose it. Someone explained it to me this way once, "You can tell what's in a container when it's bumped." What spills out of you when you get jostled, knocked over?

It's good to practice with the small stuff--since that's what comprises the majority of our angst in life: Someone cuts you off in traffic, or the grocery line. The Bozo in the truck ahead of you has a green light but he just keeps sitting there on his cell phone. The dog shredded the trash all over the kitchen and dining room. Your toddler has diarrhea all the way from his socks to his eyebrows...and you forget to buy wipes...and you are at a restaurant. Your boss has failed to notice all the extra work you've been putting in and refuses to allow the time off you requested for a family gathering. Your neighbor can't seem to remember when his yard ends and your yard begins. How do you respond? (And yes, these are all real life examples from my life.) Do you lay on the horn? Do you rant out loud or in your head at the stupidity and injustice of it all?

How about the big stuff? What comes out of your heart through your mouth when the house doesn't sell and you know you can't afford two mortgages? How about when the specialists run thousands of dollars worth of tests and they still don't know what's wrong with you? Or when budget cuts mean you are out of a job? What happens when the doctor looks at your loved one and says, "I'm sorry...there's nothing more we can do." What then?

In Life's big and small trials, we learn things about ourselves. We learn that we are not as tough or as smart and self-sufficient as we'd like to think. We find that we are frail, emotionally and physically. We don't have what it takes. When we reach the end of our rope, we look up--we look for help. Trials put us in a position to admit our need for God. That is the goal of suffering. In the humble state of our neediness, God gives grace. Embracing our weakness, God shows Himself strong. When we are ridiculous enough to show JOY in hardship, God imparts strength to us that causes us to develop ENDURANCE. When we train ourselves to stand and face trials joyfully, not consumed by searching for a shortcut out of them, but actually permit our Father to work THROUGH them IN us for His good purposes, we grow. We mature. We become complete, lacking nothing.

Oh, the rewards--the benefits--of learning grace under fire, joy in trials, courage in adversity! Think back on a season in your own life when something you thought would finish you made you stronger in your faith. Is there Someone you should thank?

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