“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds….” (James 1:2)
How do I make sure adversity actually brings glory to God and growth to me?
Faith is the key! When I pass the faith test I become tougher in endurance and that leads to maturity, which, in turn produces more and more the character of Christ in me. On the other hand, if I doubt that God is big enough to handle my problem, that he is smart enough to know what’s best for me, or that he cares enough to see me through, I spiral down — I crumple in self-pity and give up or grow hard and cynical or even mean-spirited and hostile. But faith will transform that same trouble from a stumbling block into a steppingstone, God’s fast track to spiritual growth. Without the testing we would remain spiritually flabby and quite unlike the One who “learned obedience through the things He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). When we respond with childlike trust in a loving Father, we can join others in trusting God in our pain, with a child we lost, a job unfulfilled, with a mate’s Alzheimer’s, a ramshackle little house that just burned down, an only son who never panned out. And you can say from the heart, “Praise God!” Nothing honors him more. Faith is the key that turns tragedy into triumph.
Of course, you may not have that many major problems! This may be a “still waters and green pastures” time of life. Then pause and give thanks. On the other hand, you may need an extra sheet of paper! Now are you ready to take the leap of faith? Here it is: thank God for each one of those problems. You probably can’t thank him for the problem itself, for it may be evil incarnate. But stop right now and thank him for how the Spirit is going to transform each of them into glory to God and growth in you. Write out your prayer of thanks in your journal for today, with full detail. Turn it over to God, thanking him that He is wise enough, strong enough, and cares about you enough to use that problem for eternal good.
In a personal retreat at Highlands, NC, I wrote the following verse flowing out of my conversation with God:
Why does God sit idly by while dev’lish men set his world aflame, creating hell before it’s time?
And why does God allow good men feel pain unassuaged and unexplained generations unending?
I’ll tell you why: God is love.
Mindless, I labor to create an anti-image of God but ever and always love barricades my way. With pain.
Just as the severe mercies of the trainer discipline the unbridled colt so God’s love-wounds — by little and by little — shape me into what the trainer has in mind.
And when I strain to break free of love-bonds meant to hold me close to him, in hot pursuit of some seductive other-love, jealous love flashes warning signs to turn me back again.
Because he loves me so.