This is the question I’m mulling over today. Currently, the particulars include God’s plans for one of my children and how they don’t look like what I’d hoped they would look like. While praying through my action steps in how to move forward and assist aforementioned child, the Holy Spirit revealed the problem might be with my heart more than the trial.
“Do you trust me? Do you know that I know what’s best and you do not?” I felt the Spirit question.
What if instead of scurrying to make a game-plan and “fix” things every time they went off my grid, I thanked God and waited graciously for Him to reveal His hand of blessing. What if I asked Him how I could submit to His wise shaping and trust His refinement?
Real Thorns, Real Gifts
God first attempted to teach me this lesson three years ago, with a literal thorn. A trip to the doctor’s office for generalized pain in my heels revealed both feet had developed bone spurs in the shape of tiny fish hooks. With every stride, my own bones were piercing through muscle. The pain would only be alleviated through surgical intervention – on both feet.
Following surgery were two weeks of bed rest, lying on my back with the corrected foot elevated over my heart. After that came four to six more weeks in a walking boot and physical therapy until things returned to “normal.” Six weeks after the first healed, I repeated the process on the other foot. All of this while I had four kids under 7 running around the house and supposedly homeschooling. Yet, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose ().
How God? How can I do this? How could this be for my good? I asked.
Three years later I’ve gained quite a bit of perspective. The Lord used my seasons of surgeries for my humbling – to teach me that other people could do my job (taking care of my kids, cleaning my house, grocery shopping, making meals) for me and the world wouldn’t fall apart. He used the deep despair of lying in bed and watching the world go on without me (and a LOT of Netflix), to shake me awake. “What are you investing in that’s of eternal value? Are you glorifying me or biding your time?” He asked.
It was also during this uncomfortable season that the Lord brought the blessing of new friends. A woman new to our church (unfamiliar with my particular season of grumpiness) offered to swing by with her kids and entertain mine. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between her family and ours. Of course, knowing the value and the joy I gained from that relationship, I would do both surgeries over again in a heartbeat! But would I do it again to gain the humility birthed from the stripping pain?
In we are instructed to “count it all joy” when we face trials of of various kinds.”All joy. Foot pain, skyrocketing property taxes, cross-country moves, joblessness, cancer, death of a loved one, all of it. This instruction has always astounded me. So much so, that I’ve hesitated to write reflections on it. Like a thorn itself, this expectation has always seemed to catch me and pull at me in each season of suffering.
We cannot count trials joy if we look exclusively to the current state of things. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight (). When I look only to the challenge, the pain, and the seeming lack of solutions – I will be tempted to despair. Instead, I must keep my eyes fixed on the steadfastness produced by the testing of my faith (v.3). And most of the time, I will have to wait to see the real joy of this fruit God is producing.
What trial are you facing today? How are you tempted to problem-solve, anxiously toil, or generally grumble? Would you pause and thank Him? Thank Him with more than PollyAnna-like optimism. Thank Him for moving mountains in your heart – mountains you may not have ever chosen to move for yourself, on your behalf. Thank Him for developing in you, steadfastness that leads to godliness (). Thank Him for not restraining His mercy from you, but preserving your soul with His faithfulness and steadfast love ()!
The next time you find yourself praying your way through your own thorns, thank Him on the way.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (ESV)
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. (ESV)
4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (ESV)
6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, (ESV)
11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me! (ESV)
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (ESV)