Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 MSG
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 1:2-4 NIV
My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything. James 1:2-4 CEV
Yes, that’s the same three verses in three different translations. Each wording is so good, and makes its point in just a different way. But the point is always the same. Problems and hard times don’t mean that God isn’t taking care of me. They don’t mean that I did something wrong. They aren’t a punishment, a lack of faith, a weakness on God’s part. They are a test, to make my faith stronger. Not to test my faith to see if it is good enough, but to make it stronger.
There was a time when Sam and I worked with a trainer. Now, before anybody gets a mental picture of two health nuts with beautiful, buff bodies let me just say – no. (Boy, sometimes I wish I hadn’t promised so much honesty in this blog!) But we used this trainer who was available to us on kind of a group plan for a few months, until we were sure we knew the routines and the equipment well enough that we could continue on our own. (Want to guess how many times we “continued” on our own? If you said zero, you got it.)
The trainer was harder on us than we would have been on ourselves (obviously, since we completely gave up on our own.) She made us do “just ten more reps” or “just one weight heavier”. Why? Because if we didn’t push the muscles, they didn’t get a workout. They wouldn’t stretch, work, grow. They would get flabby – like they are now. We really need to get back to the gym. But that’s beside the point.
The current situation is obviously what God is allowing in our lives for the purpose of growing our faith. Does that mean I think God gave me cancer and had Sam lose his job? No, I don’t. I believe that God uses these times for our benefit (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28) I don’t know the purpose yet. I wish I did. I know the overall purpose – the Word is clear about it in James, up at the top of this post – it’s for us to become mature and complete.
But I also know in my heart that there is a specific purpose. We are being strengthened and matured and shaped and smoothed (which isn’t fun either – how do you get something smooth and shiny and beautiful? Sandpaper!) for a specific purpose. I believe that it is ministry-related, but I don’t know more than that. We continue to pray to be in the center of God’s will with each decision we make and each step we take. It seems like it would be great to know what is coming, because right now not knowing is really hard, but God wants us to trust him today. The time will come for us to know.
I do believe that we will get there not by some amazing revelation of God’s will, but by taking each small step inside of God’s will. As we follow him as closely and completely as possible on the small things, I believe that the big things will fall into place. If there is a ministry waiting for us, the steps we take will lead us there. If not, our ministry will continue to be the people we interact with every day and the people God brings across our path. And hopefully this blog as well, as the idea is that God can draw anyone he wishes to it. My prayer is that it is used to bless and encourage someone every day.