“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6, ESV)
Growth in the Christian life almost always comes at the cost of comfort. It's God's strange economy: Growth flows from pain. Pain flows from love. Love flows from God--- a Father who is too kind to cause His child a needless tear, and too wise to leave us long on the path of least resistance.
Expect God to hurt you: to give you things you do not want. To take things you want to keep. To withhold blessings that you desperately want to enjoy. Pain is God’s school bell, and one of the many ways He tells His children, "I love you!"
How can I view trials in such a positive way? By remembering at least 3 lessons:
First, Remember: trials reveal our character. They show us where we are right now in our Christian maturity. We regularly forget this. Too often we begin with the mantra: What does not kill me makes me stronger. This is true, but it is not the first truth. Before trials develop our maturity tomorrow, they reveal where we are today.
When times of trial come into your life, how do you respond? Self-pity? Despair? Anger? Impatience? Or are you able to reach through the pain with the attitude of gratitude, rejoicing in the Lord at all times, giving thanks to Him for everything? Gratitude is the acid test of Christian maturity. How often are you able to find the note of gratitude amidst the blinding fog of pain? Is it one of your spiritual reflexes?
Second, Remember trials are an evidence of God's love (Hebrews 12:5-8). They are not sent by an angry God who wants to hurt you. They are sent by a loving Father who wants to develop you. When coaches plan out a particularly arduous work out for their young protégé, does she whine and complain, “Oh, how the coach hates me?” -- not when her head is on straight!
We must learn to see the trial as a love gift from heaven, an undeniable reminder that God is not through with us, He will not leave us to ourselves, He is committed to our spiritual growth. I often tell my children: Attitude determines altitude. In trial the attitude of gratitude changes everything!
Third, remember our duty to submit to providence. Trials must be embraced from a posture of submission.
“Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subjectto the Father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12:9, ESV)
Trials are an excellent season to test our trust in God’s providence. Do we really believe, “Father knows best”? Anger, bitterness, and anxiety all reveal a heart that does not fully grasp this truth!
All this to say: How we choose to respond to trials matters. They never leave us the same: always better or worse, but never as we were before. We can choose to bring our soul into line with God’s will. Or we can respond with impatience and bitterness, which together lead in turn only to further dislocation, and the need for even more redemptive discipline.
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet,so that what is lame may not be put out of jointbut rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12:12–13, ESV)
As daddy like to say to me, “Son, we can do this the easy way or the hard way? Which will it be for you, today?” Here is one of the great distinguishing marks of human dignity. We are response-able. We can choose our response to life. We make these choices, and then, almost inevitably, those choices make us. How does a person become bitter? By choosing to respond to disappointment with anger and resentment? How does a person become grateful? By a similar process going hard after God in the opposite direction!
May God give us all the wisdom to choose wisely.When God blesses you with trials this week, tell yourself, “Behold how the Father has loved me!” What a difference this perspective will make!