So my pastor was talking about this a few weeks ago, and it came at such a great time for me. I figured there's got to be a few of us out here that are facing some trial/struggle, some disappointment.....some unanswered prayer right now....so I thought I'd share.
He reminded us that when these trials and struggles come our way......ultimately they are just tests.
Now we use the word test in many common phrases;
When we are being cautious, we test the waters.
I don't know about your kids, but mine definitely test my patience. (not sure if I have passed this one lately)
We talk about the quality of something when it stands the test of time.
How about when we were in school? When a test was given, it revealed how much you had actually learned of what you had been taught. I hated tests......and I always bombed on them. Looking back, it most likely was due to my ADD/retention issues....(not anything to do with me totally goofing off)
But tests are part of school, I guess. There's no way around them. If we can relate this to life now....Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:20,21 that we are being taught in a different school when we are Christians. The School of Christ. We are "learning Christ" and are "being taught by Him, as the Truth is in Jesus". So we will have these tests........even "pop quizzes" throughout our walk in life until Jesus returns.
I decided to look up the word test and found the first definition to be:
~the means by which the presence, quality, or genuineness of anything is determined; a means of trial.
So the purpose of these tests are to determine.....or establish.....the genuineness of who we are.
How do we handle disappointments and setbacks? How do we treat others when we don't get the answers that we want to hear. How do we treat God when things are upside down? We ask Him to solve our problems, but do we ever ask Him what it is that He is trying to teach us through it all?
And it's not only to see how we handle these trials, but how we have been transformed when they are over. What is actually gained after the dust settles? That got me thinking about those first couple of verses in James that I always had a hard time wrapping my head around.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." ~James 1:2,3
(on a side note.....joy? Really, James? Not sure about you......but when I am finding myself struggling with relationships, wrestling with emotions, scrambling with finances and/or just the junk that life throws at me.....I can honestly say I am NOT very joyful.)
But what I have been learning, as I have been digging deep with my friend Jesus these past couple of weeks (which is one of the reasons I've been a little MIA)......is a little enlightenment on just what James is teaching us with that Scripture.
I guess the joy should come from the fact that we should look at these times as a sign that God has something great planned ahead. But we are not quite ready for it, so he needs to do a little work on us. I read somewhere that these hammerings and chiselings...although painful.... are necessary (while still in this earthly “quarry”) to prepare each of us so as to fit perfectly in our unique spot as a pillar in temple of my God (Revelation 3:12).
These tests are to shape and develop our character.....our true character......not just what we proclaim to be. I picture God using His tools..... chipping away chunks of pride, unforgiveness and selfishness off of me when I think back to certain issues I have gone through... or maybe I should say.......He brought me through. God, in His infinite wisdom, can work on so many areas in our lives with just one situation.
Of course, when we are amidst the trial, it is hard to imagine that God has His Hand on it. It is hard to trust that He has something better ahead for us. Whether it is a new job, a new chapter in our life, a new (or renewed) relationship. Helen Keller once said.....“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.”
These tests are not only tests of our faith......but of our total trust in God that we are "going to be OK"....(in fact, quite sure we will be much better) after this all plays out. Think about some of the past trials you have gone through. If you had a clear picture of how it really turned out in the end, you probably would not have been robbed of a week's worth of sleep....saved your stomach some damage with heartburn/indigestion.....probably spared yourself some wrinkles and gray hair too. (oh, that would be me). Well, you might have said a few less damaging words to others, been a little more pleasant to be around......maybe you just might have enJOYed life a little more.
So I'll wrap it up here and leave you with these two things:
One, try to remember that these tests are for our learning, not God’s....... He knows the end from the beginning. If we recognize that these trials are meant to strengthen us, change us where change is needed.....we will persevere as James reminds us.
And second........when you find yourself in the middle of a difficult situation......try to imagine a loud voice in your head......with that annoying beeping sound in the background.....saying
P.S. funny thing.....I was being tested with writing this post. Guessing the enemy did not want someone to read it. Basically started this about four hours ago. My computer locked up about six times, had to keep shutting it down, then go back and rewrite many run-on sentences just to get this message out. I will tell you that I am actually laughing now thinking about how I wanted to kick, scream and swear after the third time......or how I wanted to throw the whole computer out on the front lawn by the fifth time. But I passed the "keep my cool" test with flying colors. I only mumbled a few choice words......slammed my hands on the keyboard a couple of times and did a little tantrum dance on the front deck once.
Thank you to all my friends who took the time to shoot me an email and/or post to my Facebook, wishing me a happy birthday this past weekend! I had a great time celebrating the 22nd anniversary of my 21st birthday! I was spoiled by my family with lots of presents including new muck boots (have to be fashionable cleaning barns), milking and soap making supplies....and a brand new dishwasher! WOOHOO! :)