Trials, above all other things, have a tendency to distinguish between true religion and false.
If you are a child of the 70’s…like me…when you hear those two words together, there is only one thing that come to mind. Charlie Brown! My favorite bald-headed, melancholy, chevron-shirt-wearing, pre-adolescent. (a strange juxtaposition of characteristics, I suppose…looking back…)
Amidst the antics of the other, more vibrant characters of the show, Charlie Brown, in his practical—yet often nay-saying way; would shake his head and say “good grief”. As if his mere existence amongst all of the frivolity caused great hardship to his soul.
I’m all grown up now. (at least on the outside…heh, heh, heh…)
The hearty amusements of the Snoopy cartoons are now archived vaguely in my overtaxed 43-year-old brain.
But, that phrase has often come to my mind.
A large debt we could not pay.
A child who follows after bad company.
Friends who forsake or wrong us.
Another bad report from the doctor.
Somewhere between Charlie Brown and growing up; the Lord saved me.
Praise His Name!
Over the years walking with the Lord, I have had ups and downs. In spite of what some would say about being a Christian…that you will have peace and happiness and wealth all the rest of your days.
I soon realized that was not the case.
“strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ’Through many tribulations we must enter he kingdom of God.’ “ -Acts 14:22
Trials and tribulations. What?
I was not really prepared.
Sometime after the Lord saved me, the Lord began drawing Nate to a life of proclaiming the Gospel. We were made fun of, mocked, and otherwise laughed at…because of Nate’s zeal for serving the Lord by proclaiming the Gospel. That is bad enough, but some of the teasing came from within the Body of Christ.
Well, I guess this is a good place to begin.
Because I realize now, that once you take a step onto that Narrow Way, all sorts of objects are flung at you from the bushes.
It was a new sadness.
A new grief.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” – 1 Peter 4:12, 13
Do not be surprised.
Yet, I was often surprised at “fiery ordeals…”
Now I can say…it is a “Good” grief.
That does not make any sense.
How can grief be good??????
How can my sadness be of any benefit?
Well, God is pretty clear about trials and troubles.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be complete, lacking in nothing.” –James 1:2-3
When we began our preparation for our move to Belize, there was a lot of grief. About what was being left behind. But, the funny thing about what you leave behind, if you turn your face the other way; you will see what is in front of you.
It reminds me of the Mennonites here, with their horses and wagons (often heavily laden with watermelons to take to the market for selling) The wagon-pulling horses are equipped with a harness. Various leather strappings draped in particular order, and then buckled or snapped securely in place; to ensure that the horse goes nowhere without the wagon compliantly following behind.
Along with all of the leather strap ware arranged on each horse; fastened to bridle (head collar) of each equine, is a set of blinkers, or blinders; which serve to keep the horse from looking behind him. Horses tend to get spooked very easily at things coming at them from behind…which would have deadly consequences to the travelers in the wagon.
Just look ahead. In my case, just look up.
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” –Colossians 3:1-3
I have so often needed to take my lesson from the picture of these wagon-pulling beasts of burden. Keep looking forward. Run my race. Keep the faith.
Don’t pay any attention to what is going on around. As far as earthly distractions, anxieties, worries, uncertainties, etc.
But all these things serve to bring me closer to the Lord.
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I might learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” –Psalm 119:71-72
My battle is not according to the flesh.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our wafare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” – 2 Corinthians 10:3,4
The week before Cheyenne’s wedding, we had family arrive. I also had a flu arrive. Only, this was no regular flu. This one came with throbbing aches throughout my body, and a sore throat that left me barely able to eat or swallow for 3 full days.
Oh, and did I mention we had a houseful of loved ones who needed to be fed and cared for?
I have found illness, particularly of a “flu-like” nature; to be very common here in Belize. Almost cyclical. High fever is unpleasant. High fever is fiercely unpleasant in 100+ degree temps, when the humidity is soaring.
As a sapping sickness was draining my strength and hope, I had no choice but to look up.
If I looked around me (at my circumstances…), I would certainly despair.
Like that time recently, when we were dealing with a simultaneously broken washer and dryer.
Or, the most recent time the flood flies came. Oooooh, flood flies. Boy, you could really get an idea of the plagues of Egypt going through a flood fly “invasion”.
These creepy flying critters come out at twilight, at the initial rains of the season. And they are attracted to light. And apparently sound, too. They fly *everywhere*, and I do mean everywhere. And they are no respecter of persons. They fly up your nose, in your ears, and well, anywhere else you could imagine! Thank the Lord, they do not bite.
The only way to get a little relief is turn off all the lights and shut your shutters tight (which makes it miserably hot in the house) and go to bed. Poor Eliana does not like bugs at all, she lay in her bed that night, whimpering herself to sleep.
Or, there was the circumstance a few months ago…when Nate was being slandered and maligned by someone who was claiming all sorts of false things about my husband. Literally spitting out ghastly falsehoods about my man.
We heard it from someone…who had heard it from someone…etc, etc. You know how the “rumor weed” grows…
That *really* tempted me to walk in the flesh. To react with my fists and anger.
Like everybody else, I have trials. I have things to endure, and sadness, and grief. I don’t always see the reason why. It is a soul-nourishing process to study the men and women of Scripture who endured hardships.
I think immediately about Job. A righteous man. Who lost everything but his life. And yet…his words were…
“…Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” – Job 1:21
And then, soon after, he says to his wife…
“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” – Job 2:10b
But, what I know is He is good. And what He does is good.
Because He says so.
“You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes.” –Psalm 119:68
I have so often wanted a hug from my mom. She went home to be with the LORD back in 2013. I miss her so terribly. Before her health started to seriously deteriorate; she and I would chat on the phone for hours…just really about nothing. You know, mother/daughter stuff…
I would moan and whine about my troubles (whatever they happened to be that day…spilled juice, one too many blowout diapers, a migraine headache, a spat with a friend, etc.). She would always point me back to one solid truth.
God is still on the throne.
That makes me overflow with worship.
I hope it does for you too.
“There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.” – Jeremiah 10:6
In His Service-