Trials! Really?

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hgtv-feat-kitchbnaSo I hate to admit it, but several years ago, I had an addiction. In truth, I haven’t really confessed this to anyone outside of my Christopher but I was addicted…to HGTV. It started off innocently enough; having recently delivered our fourth little one, I would find myself like many mommies – facing the middle of the night looking for something to help pass the time. On one of these sleepless nights I innocently stumbled across this channel. It didn’t take long before I found myself in awe of the transformations that came as an old dilapidated house was transformed into a thing of beauty. I found myself entranced with the way knocking a wall out, completely changed the look and feel of a home. And yes, I even found myself questioning…will they love it or list it? I would watch a show here or there, but then I began to record them so that when those quiet times came up I would always have a selection of programs to entertain me. This should have been my first sign that this was slowly becoming an addiction, but what clinched it for me was when I began to look around my home. Suddenly our home of seven years was showing much more wear and tear then I had realized and the ‘quick fixes’ that I saw transpire on TV seemed completely doable. But it was when I began to watch these shows when Chris was in the room that I realized I had a problem. I watched them quietly…making sure not to say anything like ‘don’t you think that would be cool’ or ‘why don’t we do something like that’. I just let them play until that exciting day when Chris began to brainstorm ‘what if’ home improvements with me. Ha Haaa! It was a wonderful moment of excitement and shame all mixed together. 🙂

Following one of these conversations we began to talk through what it would look like to put in ‘hardwood’ floors. We even went to Lowes to get an idea of pricing and then came home to see what kind of square footage we were looking at. Chris diligently went about spouting measurements off to me and then together we sat down to determine the square footage. A little multiplication here, some dividing there and we got to an answer – 8910. We hurried on to figure how much flooring we’d need and more importantly how much it would cost and when I hit ‘=’ on my calculator, I sunk into the chair…$26,000. WHAT?!? We did all of our calculations again…and again…$26,000. Good glory! We sat there dumbfounded. Chris just shook his head as that was a good 13 times greater than what he was expecting. I sat there thinking HGTV had lied to me. Deflated we both began to squint at the filthy carpet, conceding that maybe it really wasn’t THAT bad. Sigh. It wasn’t until the next day as we sat lamenting that it suddenly occurred to Chris that we made a completely crucial mistake…8910 was correct but that was the calculation in inches not feet (an important little detail as we had in fact calculated it as feet.) We were apparently going to lay hardwood flooring for the entire street – you’re welcome neighbors. Glory! It was a horrible miscalculation and NOT one of our finer moments.

So with that frustration tucked away, let’s rejoin James.Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ James 1:2-4 ESV  

Yesterday we opened this lovely letter from James, received a simple (yet challenging) greeting and then BAM! James doesn’t waste a single second – he throws out a huge challenge. Count it all joy when you meet trials. I’m sorry, count it all joy when I meet trials? Count it all joy when I meet trials? Does this seem counter-intuitive to anyone besides myself? Trials – when there never seems to be time to get all of the laundry done. Trials – when the children test your patience and you find yourself at a loss. Trials – when finances are tight and you’re unsure how you’re going to cover all that needs to be taken care of. Trials – when a loved one gets sick or hurt. Trials – when a long-time friendship suddenly ends. Trials – when you lose your job. Trials – when a parent once again hurts you with their words or actions. Trials…Okay, clearly I get that we will experience or ‘meet’ trials of various kinds – and sometimes they may even happen simultaneously. I understand that trials can come at any degree, for any length of time; one at a time or all piled up together. I understand that there will be trials. But I am to count it all joy when they come? If we stopped reading after ‘count it all joy’ we’d simply walk away confused, frustrated and shaking our heads. But James goes on to explain why. Is it because trials are fun? No. Is it because suffering is enjoyable? No. In truth it has nothing to do with ‘the moment’ or even the trial itself. If you look at what James says here, he explains that it is a testing of our faith. They test our faith – will we hold to Christ? Will we trust Him with the outcome? Will we try to work through it alone or will we lean on Him? Will we lose hope? Yes, it is our faith that is tested.

Sometime ago, I shared with a friend an example of just that…
I was almost twenty weeks pregnant with our second child. My husband and I were preparing for that exciting visit where we get to have an ultrasound. Where technology would allow us a sneak peek of our newest miracle and where, if possible, we would get to find out if we were expecting a boy or a girl. Chris took off work, we found a sitter for our two year old and off we went; giddy, giggly, and talking through all kinds of ‘what ifs’. We were ushered into the ultrasound room and soon saw our little one. It has to be a mama thing…but what makes a blurry white blob just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? The technician went about measuring quietly – very stoic and somber. She only spoke to ask if we wanted to know what we were having and then obligingly informed us we would be having a little girl. Holy cow…a girl! The technician wrapped up what she was doing and said the doctor would be in to talk with us soon. She had barely left the room and Chris and I immediately began gushing. We talked about how his mom would be SO excited, how much fun it would be to have both a boy and a girl, and that always favored question…what will we name her? As we were talking, we were interrupted and asked if we could make our way down to the doctor’s office. This seemed a bit odd, but as this was our first time with this obstetrician we didn’t think much of it. We entered his office and slowly watched his welcoming smile fall as he began to express to us the concerns of what they saw on the ultrasound pictures. The conversation began to blur as I heard statements like ‘we don’t see her intestines’, ‘there is too much fluid surrounding her heart’, ‘we can’t find her liver’, ‘we’re unsure of her survival rate’; ‘you may lose her’. Somehow my body remained there…but my mind kept trying to escape. Plans were made for us to go to the hospital for a more in-depth ultrasound and for us to make a game plan. Out of courtesy of our emotions we were escorted through the back of the office and like923107_10152229776648566_1755021014_n that … we found ourselves sitting numb in the car. I’m sorry, but I’m supposed to find joy in this? I’m supposed to be glad that our baby girl may die? Is that what James meant? No…here is what James meant. About a week later…a painful, gut wrenching week later…it was time to go to the hospital to find out the fate of our daughter. I sat on the bed, head down, trying to remind myself to breath in and out. Chris came and sat beside me and I will never forget his words…he looked at me and said, ‘Sarah, whether we get a lifetime here on earth or an eternity with her in heaven – she’s our girl and we are her parents. We will love her and she will always be ours.’ I can’t explain it, but a peace washed over me as I realized that the God who I felt hidden from in the moment – had this. He had her fate in His hand – if that were to be with us or with Him – both were worthy of praise and I rejoiced. I looked at this man beside me…scared and worried…but strong in faith and realized that we would walk this together and I rejoiced. I sat in a place of complete helplessness, fear and uncertainty and yet knew my Jesus would not forsake me, would comfort me, and would love me through this and I rejoiced.

Trials come. As James says ‘there will be many kinds’ – trials will come in relationships, in health, in finances, in experiences…in all kinds of ways, they will come. For those of us who call on Christ, these trials are opportunities to see Him work, to hide in Him, to hold to the truths of His word. They are opportunities where through Him we persevere, we endure…so that when the next trial comes we look to Him quicker and believe in Him more. We have a God who is so crazy about us that He doesn’t want us to lack anything…and when trials come and we still doubt…we lack, so He wants to eliminate that for us. See the joy isn’t in the trial. The joy isn’t in the suffering. The joy isn’t in the fear. The joy is in Him! That sweet place when everything else is a mess, our world is rocked and what comes next is unknown – He is constant, He is steady, He has it all in His hands. We must put our joy in Him for there is no better place to find it and there is so much wanting to steal it away.

Don’t be foolish like Chris and I were when we were trying to calculate our square footage. In our rush, in our desire to skip to the end – we did not count the cost correctly. In fact, we were horribly off base. We are to count it all joy. Don’t miscalculate. Don’t underestimate. Don’t discount. You have a God who wants you to lack nothing. What joy!

 My prayer for Today – 

Lord, I love you. When everything around me is chaotic and crazy – that one thing I know – I … love … you. Precious Lord it is no surprise to you that this scripture, while filled with such hope, gets under my skin. My flesh wants to fight the truth in this verse for all it’s worth. I want to have my pity-parties. I want to get frustrated and just yell. I want to hide under my covers. I want to stand face-to-face and let that other person have it. I want to scream. I want to sob. I want to freak out. I want to make a plan that will solve it all. But you didn’t say, ‘Consider yourself challenged when faced with trials’, you didn’t say ‘See how tough you can be when faced with trials’, nor did you say ‘because of your mistakes, your failures, your ineptness – you will face trials’. You asked me first to consider them joy and then you explained that it’s because you are doing a work in me. You explain that you want me to be complete not lacking anything. You are giving me hope – not in how the trial will turn out, not in a quick end, not that it won’t return, not even that it will all resolve sweetly – you are giving me hope in YOU. You are testing my faith – my trust in you – the depth to which my relationship with you goes. In conflict, chaos, fear, uncertainty, heart-brokenness or even simple frustration – you desire for me to cling to you, to trust that you will strengthen me through these things and to know that no matter what the outcome you are in control – you’ve got this. Please help me when I forget these things. Forgive me when the trials that surround me, I allow to consume me. Forgive me for my lack of faith and for not finding that joy that is in you. For my friend, praying along with me – I ask that you help them to see that the trial they are facing needs to be laid down. They need to fuss, cry, pout, shout out their fears and concerns to you. May they see that you are wanting to use these moments to have them draw closer to you – to test their faith. I thank you Lord for your patience with me when I miss the mark and lose my joy. I thank you that when the trials in front of me are fighting for position – I can rest in the joy that I find in knowing you are a God who can either move the mountain or lift me up over it. Please help me daily find my joy in you. In Jesus name…Amen!

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