Tag Archives: trials

12. trials and change

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails 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 1.2-4

characterI am thankful for the fact that I am a W.I.P.

A “work in progress.”

And I am thankful that I don’t have to go through this transformation all in one shot:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1.6

This has been a trying year for me…one full of financial strain, relational issues, situations I had gotten myself into that left me wondering how on earth I’d ever get out, forgiveness, redemption, renewal and joy.

Yes, joy.

I have to include that as I am happier now than I’ve been in a long time. Now, don’t get me wrong. My days aren’t perfect nor are they magically full of rainbows and sunshine.

Joy is a choice I make upon pulling the covers back each morning and, at times, with each passing moment. And it’s hard.

Is it ever!

Truth is, I’m faced with trials that allow me to grow with each passing day. From trying callers at work to a friend who cancels last minute, I’m faced with the choice of joyfully extending grace or being what I like to call a “negative ninny.” I do not like what the latter does to my heart (or my day). I despise it, actually.

It’s easy to fall back into old patterns and habits rather than allowing Jesus to change the way I react in certain situations.

How many times am I faced with a tough (and sometimes not so tough) situation and immediately pray for God to fix it? How many times do I ask Him to make it go away without seeking out His Word or asking Him to help me walk through it?

How about when He answers in a way I don’t like?

“Not yet.”

“Not that way.”

“’Wait.”

“Keep doing what you’re doing, Anita, and wait.”

Or, my personal favorite: “Why don’t you spend time with me instead?” How convicting is that?

Most of the time, I know what God wants me to do…I just don’t want to do it; at least not in that moment.

How about you?  I know I’m not alone in this. We all deal with it. We all struggle with trials and most of us fight change to no end.

We must learn to seek His face first, in any and all situations. We also have to be willing to listen to His answer and to obey. We must consider it pure joy when we face any trial, especially when it changes us. “The new creation has come…The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

We cannot escape the trials and temptations we go through in life. Though they are hard to endure, they develop endurance and patience within us. We need to let these be developed in our lives so that we may become what God intended us to be, lacking nothing. In knowing this, we can consider it joyful because of what is developed in us as a result. That mindset is hard to grasp, but when you look beyond the trial and understand the purpose of it, what it accomplishes in us should be considered joyful.

I am not the girl I was a year ago. Granted, she’s still there as she’s a part of who I am becoming, but God has since touched my heart and has left me forever changed, moment by ever-chaning moment. And I know that change will continue…that’s  one guarantee I can hold on to.

And for that, my friends and family, I am grateful.

trials

hope: in light of the incident in Boston

“I wonder…if the rent in the canvas of our life’s backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
To see through to God.”
– Ann Voskamp –

My heart aches

…aches for those in Boston

…for those affected by yesterday’s events.

I can only imagine what it would be like to live through that ordeal…and the more I think about it, the likelihood of that happening in my lifetime, directly to me or to those around me, is higher than it would have been the year I was born.

Oh, the world we live in.

darkness

sin

brokenness

And yet…there is hope.

Hope because we’ve been saved; by grace through faith.

Hope in Jesus.

Hope in His Kingdom to come.

Granted, I see events (am somewhat indirectly affected by them, rather) like yesterday’s bombing and I want nothing more than to go Home. I also know how difficult it is to see the hand of God in those types of situations, but He’s there…and He’s very much alive.

I’ve been rereading through A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes (find book review here) and taking part in her online Bible study the last seven weeks and this week’s lesson really hit home today: “Trusting God in Tough Times.” She asks some pointed questions right in the first chapter: Could it be that the puncture wounds in the canvas of [my] life might actually become the rent places of the soul through which you can see God? …through which you can see His light burning through the openings?…How do we allow life’s difficulties to become see-through places? How do we see those glory moments?”

I’ve been working on another entry for quite some time – and I hope to have it up soon, but you know how temperamental writers/artists are; not including the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist – regarding such an experience. Did you know you can experience those moments on a daily basis? It’s true. It’s easy to find God when things are going well; when life is coasting by with the pay raise; the new home; a new love interest; a new addition to the family – but…

but…

when life gets dark…

when life gets tough…

when the road gets hard…

Where is God in all of that?

Jesus Himself states, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). And the beautiful thing? He has overcome the world! That statement, in and of itself, makes my soul smile. Have you ever experienced that feeling?

“When we experience shattered dreams, broken relationships, tragic losses/events, or unfulfilled longings, it can be difficult to feel God’s presence, to see His hand, and to hear His voice. Moments of His glory cease when we close our eyes in pain and tune God out in anger” or hurt. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t there. He is.

People let us down. Life disappoints. And so does God…in a sense. We expect Him to move one way and He doesn’t. We show Him the roadmap we’ve drawn out for this situation in our lives according to the way we think it should go and He doesn’t follow it to a tee. Then, like a lover wronged, we guard our hearts against future disappoint and lower our expectations and trust. But…God understands. He’s been there. He knows exactly what you’re going through; what I’m going through.

He sympathizes.

He sees.

El Roi

“The God who sees me” (Genesis 16.13).

I’ve always thought the ancient Hebrew language was beautiful…and (on a side note) I’m thankful for the scholars, theologians and researchers who have done research and studied to uncover these truths about the Word of God that make the emphasis and its power that much more real…to me, at least.

Instead of following our tendency to be the child throwing the temper tantrum, maybe we should take God at His word and simply “be still.” I know…easier said than done, right? But not impossible. We simply need to shift our focus from what we see (but don’t completely understand) to what we cannot see (2 Corinthians 4.18). It may not make sense today, but some day? It will.

Isaiah 55.9 reads: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I stumbled on a fellow believer’s blog entry posted by a friend on Facebook today – which can be found here. Tim Meier asked a valid question: How do we respond to these events?

And, being human, I would tend to agree with his answer…and in agreement with Obama: justice. But…

but…

I also know that just punishing these people, while the right thing to do, won’t end a culture of violence or hateful evil.”

Ending that cycle starts with us.

And we must remember that God will bring judgment due to those based on what they’ve done with the life God gave them. That breaks my heart…the thought that thousands of could-be brothers and sisters won’t be saved before Christ returns. It’s my responsibility to live out His gospel on a day-to-day, moment-by-incredibly miraculous-moment basis; to show others what it means to have life to the full; to follow Jesus.

We may never understand the actions behind the tragic events of yesterday’s attack in Boston. But I know that God was and continues to be there. He is omnipresent….everywhere at once. He did not write the story of our lives to simply sit back and watch it play out. He is in the story with you; with me. In fact, He has the leading role.

Does that surprise you?

It shouldn’t.

We try to butt in and take the spotlight…often. Remember the statement I made earlier about showing Him your life’s blueprints? Yeah…we do that all too often. I’m guilty of it. You’re not alone on that.

Imagine this:

Imagine getting to heaven and looking at your playbill…personally, I think it will be the entire tapestry and I’ll automatically see that role He gave me to play in His bigger picture…and you’ll see that God had the leading role all along. His life covers ours. Our names will be listed in supporting roles as a display of His glory.

And His glory can be found here:

  • in your current timeline.
  • in the community that came together to help following yesterday’s events.
  • in the lives that were/are being saved.

Our limited vision doesn’t allow us to see how God is working behind the scenes, but we must believe that He is there. “Difficult times are pregnant with glory moments just waiting to be birthed in the lives of those willing to labor through the pain. The key is to not allow bitterness and anger to make our hearts infertile to God’s gifts.” Those moments in difficult times are not dependent on our circumstances but on our focus.

But how do we focus on God during trying times?

By cultivating a grateful heart…being thankful for all that you have…and keeping your focus on God through it all. Trials test and stretch us (read the book of James); they rip away the flimsy fabric of self-sufficiency and become the raw material for God’s miracle in our lives. God is far more interested in developing our character than doling out a life or comfort and ease. “Consider it pure joy,” James said, “when you encounter various trials.” (James 1.2). Note that he said when not if. It will happen. Believe it. And be prepared to grow in faith and character because of it.

C.S. Lewis (enjoy his work) stated, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

Phillip Yancy also wrote: “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” That is so true. Often times, I’ve looked back over past journal entries and have been recognized God’s hand in my life during a past struggle…when I didn’t feel His presence or couldn’t see Him at that precise moment. He was there.

He’s here now.

The dark places are simply opportunities to trust that He knows the way – and the perfect time to hold on…

…hold on to faith.

…hold on to hope.

…hold on to Jesus.

Video – Give Me Jesus – Jeremy Camp

Works Cited:
A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More. Sharon Jaynes. 2012.
When Terrorism Comes Close. Tim Meier. <http://www.theunitive.com/when-terrorism-comes-close-the-boston-marathon-ill-never-forget>