Our family endured a life-quake this past month. Like every notable quake, there have been aftershocks in the very ground upon which we stand. Why these things surprise us, I don’t know. We comfort seekers think we have this deal wired – like if we arrange things just so, we will avoid pain and difficulty.
But He told us life wasn’t going to be pain free …
“In this world you will have trouble.” He said it. He said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.” He wants us to be prepared that trials will come. And more importantly that He will not leave us nor forsake us in the midst of those trials.
In John 16 Jesus tells His disciples that He will be separated from them and that they will be killed in His Name and that those killing them would believe they were doing it for God. Then and Now. People who love Jesus and have walked well in His presence – killed by those who think they are doing it for God. It is so overwhelming that we want to shut it off, close our eyes, hope it will go away like the nightmares we dreamed as children. Yet, these, our brothers and sisters are living and dying in His Name for Him.
We may see these atrocities and attempt to gain some perspective. “My trial is not that bad,” I am tempted to say to myself. When I hold it up to those who are really suffering I feel almost petty. We might dismiss the suffering of a broken relationship or financial pressure or pervasive loneliness or unshakable depression or addiction or chronic physical pain because they do not compare to the agony and sacrifice of martyrs. And that is true. But when we have these private pains, they are real and they ache. They preoccupy our minds and tear at our hearts. Our hurting heart is like a little child coming to us with a need for comfort. When we minimize the pain we are rejecting that child – saying the pain isn’t enough to matter. Maybe someone treated your pain with rejection or criticism in the past. God is not rejecting, minimizing or criticizing your pain.
He doesn’t put pain on a scale – saying some is worthy of comfort and other pain is to be shut out and silenced. He calls Himself the God of All Comfort – He refers to Himself by that name in 1 Cor 1.
Comfort is His Name.
When my little five-year-old bangs his knee I don’t stand over him saying, “Well, it isn’t a gunshot wound, so get up and brush yourself off.” I take him in my arms and hold him until he feels my love and is soothed. I tell him I am sorry He is hurting – because I am. I don’t compare his hurt to any other – I just love him through it. God loves us through our pains as a mother cradles her child. He is no stranger to suffering. He does not shrink away until we have it all tidied up. He gets in the miry mess with us and He loves us – even when we can’t feel past our pain to sense that reality.
He hears your cries when you don’t feel His responses. When your grief is deafening, He is still present.
His work is deeper in those seasons than any other.
God is at work in you through your trial. This is why James could write that we consider our trials joy. JOY. Because beyond the trial – as we outlast the trouble – there is fruit in us.
When we are ready, God finds opportunity for our healing and growth. He already knows when this will come because He is above and beyond all time. He uses these painful experiences – these “light and momentary trials of various kinds” – to be His spade in the garden. And what is He cultivating? He is cultivating the real us, reflecting and containing and expressing the real Him. And everything that gets in the way – the sin against us, the sins we committed and commit – He lifts and tills and incorporates (like manure) so that the most repulsive thing becomes the very element that feeds our growth and makes us richer than if we had not had it mixed in. That is sanctification.
And that is why I agree with Samuel Rutherford –
“Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh deep furrows on my soul? I know He is no idle husbandman; He purposeth a crop.”
What God permits to enter our lives, He allows to be sifted through His love and He uses every inch of it for our good. Painful? Yes. There is just no way around that – but, He also said, “Take heart I have overcome the world.” Whatever we face or endure – He has overcome it.
And we, in Him, with Him, through Him are more than conquerors.
God is present in your trial – He is not only present, His is your Comforter – and He will render good fruit in due season. In you and in me – through this very trial.
Photo of Earthquake Fault Line Courtesy of WikiCommons … Photo of Scales Courtesy of Bing Images