Trials: heartbeat of becoming

There are days that everything seems to fall into the place and you’re five minutes ahead of schedule. Your children woke up on the perfect side of the bed because they are listening and obeying without fuss. You got to drink an entire cup of hot coffee. A healthy dinner is cooking in the crockpot. Your keys are exactly where you remember putting them, at the top of your purse. You leave the house fully dressed with your sunglasses. And, you were able to manage 30 minutes of activity without feeling like you were going to pass out. Everyone is healthy and smiling and happy with the world.

Then….

There are days your children wake up crying for no apparent reason, have fits all day, and seem to be deaf. No one in your home is healthy. You warm up your coffee five times in five hours and still haven’t gotten to drink it. Your keys aren’t even in the last three places you might have put them. Your running fifteen minutes behind and you end up leaving the house in your bedroom slippers with no sunglasses. You managed to forget picking up dinner through the drive-thru so leftover mac-n-cheese with microwave hotdogs it is.

We all face days that fall apart, tragedy strikes, tempers flare, meltdowns happen, sickness creeps in, and life is a mess. Faith is not about how to keep these days from happening, it’s about how we respond WHEN these days happen. You can’t keep the world from turning and you can’t keep bad days from happening. So, what are we to do? The only thing we are capable of handling or changing is our own mentality.

“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)

I have tried to over-organize my life thinking if everything has a place and a purpose life wouldn’t have any bumps…I was wrong. And, I have tried to let everything go and live in chaos thinking that if my expectations were lower then the bumps in life wouldn’t fill so overwhelming. I was wrong on that too. It isn’t about control or lack of control that makes trials easier. Trials are never easy, it doesn’t matter how much you over or under plan life around them.

I was OCD organized when my husband was deployed for six months and my dad got diagnosed with a brain tumor. The fourteen-hour drive I made every weekend to be with my family had nothing to do with how organized my house was. Nothing stopped life from throwing a curveball and turning my emotions upside down. And, letting go of everything (first pregnancy hormonal changes) while others helped didn’t make having my first baby and parenting my first child any easier and it didn’t stop me from being diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2Corinthians 12:7-10

Life is going to get under your skin no matter what personality type you have, whether you’re 100% on time and organized or 100% go with the flow and messy. I wish I could say with certainty that personality makes a difference and that if you could be more organized or more laid back it would make trials easier, but it doesn’t matter how prepared you are when you face them, they always bring surprises you’re not prepared for or laid back enough for.

Pain, trouble, loss…this life is full of experiences that leave us hurt and broken physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I’m exhausted or overwhelmed by a situation in life I meditate on the scripture…“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philipians 4:13) This was my go-to inspirational battle cry for the first 10 years of marriage, kids, jobs, schooling, business, and ministry.

I speak from a very tender place while writing this. My husband has deployed on yet another six-month adventure. It’s never easy to hear the sirens going off in the background warning of the incoming missile while you try and have a happy conversation. My husband laughs it off and explains it away to put me at ease and I laugh it off and talk about other things to put him at ease.

And, while I type this…my vacuum, dryer, and DVD player have all died an untimely death (first world problems). My daughter flooded our downstairs guest bath, garage entry, part of the laundry room, and created a stream through our garage (I’m so grateful it was the downstairs bath!). We are all sick, including our six-week-old puppy who has been having diarrhea all day….yes, I am coughing, sneezing, running a fever and cleaning up boogers and poop…on the hour almost every hour.

I am handling the repair of all our broken and damaged furniture because it took the military eight months to pay us a very tiny fraction of what our items are worth, and the company they hired finally came to pick up a few of the pieces to fix after my husband deployed. I am too far from family to ask for help and the day a new friend offers some, I can’t accept because we are all, well, sick. I am trying to run a business, start a ministry, take care of two kids (6 & 4), handle the house and finances, make friendships, nurture relationships, care for animals, and cope with disease, all on my own.

All this is minor when compared to what some are struggling with…always keeps this in mind when your trials start to get the better of you. Somewhere there is someone handling far worse and they are still putting one foot in front of the other. Now, I am not immune to tragedy, which is major. If I need to talk about faith or relationships I call my mom, my sisters, or my deepest friends. However, when I needed to cope with the struggles of military life, I need someone who has walked the road before me. In this, I turned to a mentor, whose family became dear friends; she passed away unexpectedly just over a year ago.

She had it all figured out. She understood how life worked and nothing ever shifted her from her peace. Don’t get me wrong, she dealt with sickness and struggles like all of us but she always handle them with grace and understanding and I loved learning from her. Now, she is not a phone call away. My mentor, my friend, the one who walked me through marrying into the military and all its responsibilities as a spouse, the one who came to help me and walked me through major tests of endurance. She is gone. I have not met anyone like her and I’m not sure I ever will. She knew down to the marrow of her bones what most of us are still learning to cope with and that is: Trials don’t hinder us. They make us into who we are supposed to be. We shouldn’t be fighting against them. We should be learning from them.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:1-4 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy. There as never been a trial that has brought joy to anyone, Job is a prime example. The trial is not what we are to be joyful over but it is what we are about to learn which will bring us closer to God and who he has called us to be. When a day hits where my plans are ruined and I’m left home cleaning up diarrhea and catering to cranky kiddos with no help I ask myself this… What can I learn from this, how can I grow in my faith and as a person?

Typically I know immediately what I can learn. It’s normally what I’m failing at that moment. Whether that is patience, self-sacrifice, long-suffering, joy, love, peace, contentment…the process of gaining the fruit of the spirit is never easy…and each trial we face walks us closer to obtaining the goal of being Christ-like…mature and complete.

“More than that, 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

Coming out of a trial a better person with better faith and a better perspective, that is what trials are for. We don’t experience trials so that we can experience God’s miracles; though many do have the joy of receiving miracles in their walk of faith, and we benefit from hearing those miracles which increases our faith. We experience trials so we can grow to be more than a sinful sack of dirt destined to live a sad life and die a lonely death.

So often we just want the healing first and the teaching second. I know this is like a slap in the face for some, especially those who want to believe God just wants everyone to be successful and happy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the prosperity gospel, because I know our God to be a prosperous God. However, I equally believe in a perspective gospel that say’s God is sovereign and faithful in season and out of season, during seasons of trials and seasons of blessing.

God allowed his own son to walk the most horrific trial known to man, death by the cross. This is how Jesus handled the situation…

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” – Matthew 26: 36-39

WOW, Jesus….ALL MAN and ALL GOD! Did you see what happened? Jesus being all human was sorrowful and troubled. He was upset his disciples didn’t understand the gravity of what was about to happen. Yet he was ALL GOD. He implored his disciples to get with the program, not for his sake but for their own. In the end, he prayed a simple and sweet prayer for the Father’s will to be done. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s more than good enough for us…I often find myself praying like this during trials…”Father, please remove this but if it’s not possible to take these circumstances away, let your will be done. I will walk the path you have set before me, give me strength.”

You are no different than Jesus, in fact, we are called to be just like him and to teach others of His ways. You are ALL MAN, but because Jesus went to be with the Father in heaven He sent the HOLY SPIRIT to dwell with you and the Holy Spirit is ALL GOD.

I implore you…stop looking at your trials as if they were sent to defeat and shame you. Start seeing them for what they are truly meant to be, a lesson in the area God needs you to glorify Him most!!!

Satan doesn’t want you focused on the truth. He wants to hinder you and keep you believing that you can never get ahead because you are being held behind by these trials. He wants you stopped before you learn how not to be stopped! Because then, he is rendered powerless and his attacks are non-effective. At the point you look at a trial and scream…YES, LORD – teach me…satan’s hold is left weak and his raging roar against you void.

I don’t want you to stop praying for miracles, because we serve a miraculous and miracle working God. However, I do want you to embrace trials for more than a hindrance; I want you to see them as lessons that push you closer to who God is calling you to be. He placed a special calling on your life, and He knows what you need to accomplish it.

God has already rescued us, he wants to teach us!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1: 3-9

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