This is so hard.
The finances that pile up. The marriage that is falling apart. The kids that always need you. The job that drains you...or the job that you need. The dream that you had, that seems to be slipping away from your grip. Losing someone you loved- by death or betrayal. The trench you are in---and can't seem to get out of. It's radical and crazy to thank God for it. No one wants to suffer. No one wants to hurt.... but what if THIS place- the trench- is exactly where God wants to meet you. Grow you. Strip you of your dependence on your own efforts and strength so He can clothe you with His righteousness....His glory....His purpose? The things we try so hard to move on from and push with aggression out of our lives, are the things and places where God is. "How could a loving God want me to hurt?" Maybe He sees something we cannot see yet. Maybe He knows that our happiness is second, third, maybe not even on the list, to the importance of developing His character in us. And His character cannot be developed without our surrender- without our neediness- without our trench moments- without the thorns.
One of the most heartbreaking, yet encouraging parts of the Bible is when Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take the thorn away from 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."It's heartbreaking because it means we have to endure the pain. Yet encouraging, because it means God is doing something supernatural in our weakness; but if we try to take a shortcut out of the pain, we will miss it.
When did I learn the most about real love? When I was faced with the decision to love someone who was unlovable towards me.
When did I learn joy? When I realized that joy is more about contentment and gratefulness and less about happiness.
When have I learned about thankfulness and gratitude? When I have stopped complaining about the things I don't have and started thanking Him for everything that I do....
When is peace developed? When I am forced to let go of my circumstances and trust my Father-- trust that He will work things together for my good---whether I see it or not.
Self control? When the circumstance arises and I think "Ooh, I know how to fix this!" and that little voice inside my head tells me to "Back off". Sometimes I've listened, sometimes I haven't. Every time I haven't, I fail.
The thorns aren't ever over for good and we never fully "get it". I can think I have learned all the lessons I need to for my character, but I'm wrong. There will be more to come. Mainly because I think we forget where God has already taken us. We are double minded. Doubtful. And we think we have so much more control than we actually have.
Surrender is a HARD thing to learn- it is more than lyrics to a song....it's painful; But it will always produce righteousness, deeper faith and a more meaningful life....
Years ago, I found myself begging God- "Please Lord, take me around another mountain, I am so tired of this same mountain.....over and over and over and over. Lord, I can't take it anymore." Looking back now, I know God was far more concerned with what He wanted to teach me through it and less concerned with how I felt in it. I can relate to this as a parent myself...
The bible is FULL of great people who suffered. Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, Job.....Jesus.
"Consider it pure joy when you face trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance which must finish its work (no shortcuts!) in order for you to be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
...Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that was promised to him through Christ Jesus."
"We also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, character, hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out into our hearts."
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that is to come."
Oswald Chambers- My Utmost for His Highest:
If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others. Because of this process, you will never be surprised by what comes your way. You say, “Oh, I can’t deal with that.” Why can’t you? God gave you sufficient opportunities to learn from Him about that problem; but you turned away, not heeding the lesson, because it seemed foolish to spend your time that way.
Are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp out our personal ambitions? Are we prepared for God to destroy our individual decisions by supernaturally transforming them? It will mean not knowing why God is taking us that way, because knowing would make us spiritually proud. We never realize at the time what God is putting us through— we go through it more or less without understanding. Then suddenly we come to a place of enlightenment, and realize— “God has strengthened me and I didn’t even know it!”
And last but not least, one of the most beautiful promises in Scripture:
Revelation 21:4:One day, this will all be over. The thorns will be gone. The trenches removed. And we will live from glory to glory, forever and ever...
"...And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."
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