By the time I made it back to Texas that winter, I’d been wandering, physically, for only about 4 months. Spiritually, I’d been “wandering” for about half a year. On both counts, however, it felt much longer. I was a whole new kind of desperate after experiencing the drugs and homelessness and the loneliness that comes with that sort of wandering.
My parents accepted me again warmly, if hesitantly, after I returned from North Carolina. I was desperate enough to accept their help even though it came with conditions. The boy had to stay away, preferably in North Carolina. In the end, I felt so sorry for him that I paid his way to TX with money my parents had given me to help me get back on my feet. I stuck him into our house when he refused to stay at a shelter. Things happened that I’m very much not proud of, and then my parents caught on, and everything fell apart. I clung to the guy. Why to him? I really don’t know, but I clung hard until he cheated on me, and then I started to let go.
So what is the WHY behind the trials we face?
Christians believe that God has a purpose for everything – and often go as far as to say that there is no such thing as coincidence. Even bad things (trials) have a reason and purpose, and, if you’re a Christian, you know that God promises He “works all things together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The Bible says that trials produce endurance and patience, and patience produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5). Hope is an interesting thing. It’s a lot like faith. It’s a very active belief in God – a “confident expectation.” How do we grow or increase our hope/faith? Well, the best way to see improvement in any skill is to use it, and trials give us the perfect opportunity to exercise and use our faith, our character, and our hope.
Sometimes, though, I think we get discouraged when we don’t see an immediate benefit from our trials. For me, at every turn, my trial became more unbearable. In addition to the fact that my running did nothing to help with my original pain, I found all kinds of new sources of pain. I found only more and more trouble as I moved through, even though all I was trying to do was make the pain stop, and that continued until I began to turn back to God.
So my point here is two-fold.
- There is a purpose to our pain, and that is growth.
- There is a choice we must make every time we come upon a trial, and that is which wisdom will we trust. Man’s worldly wisdom? Or God’s wisdom?
Man’s wisdom vs. God’s widsom
These verses describe how God would have us face trials:
- James 1:12 – Be steadfast
- Romans 12:12 – Rejoice, have hope, be patient, and pray
- John 16:33 – Have peace and take heart
- Phillippians 4 – Don’t be anxious, but pray about everything
- Romans 5:3, Matthew 5:12, 1 Peter 4: 13 – Multiples verses say to REJOICE in suffering
- Joshua 1:9 – Be strong and courageous.
When I was in the midst of this trial, I was faced with a choice. Would I continue to have faith in Him, or would I doubt? Would I trust in Him and His solutions for my life?
When God would say to pray, believing… the world would say to act. When God would say to honor your parents (period!)… the world would ask whether they are really deserving of honor. When God would say to turn the other cheek… the world would say that you must stand up for yourself. When God would say that trials produce character… the world would say that a loving God wouldn’t let bad things happen to good, undeserving people.
I handled my pain with man’s wisdom: by escaping in every way I could and eventually by turning away from God to every worldly solution I could find. I even physically ran away and clung to a person other than God, all in an effort to ease my pain.
I’m the example not to follow, but there’s another example in Matthew chapter 4. Jesus had been fasting. No food for 40 days. Then the Tempter comes. The Devil. The lord of this world. Basically, Satan offers Jesus some worldly solutions. He questions God’s power. “Turn this rock into bread.”
God was calling Jesus to continue His fast and to do the hard thing by trusting God to provide for his needs, his strength, and his food when it was time to eat. (Be steadfast!) The world said, “Come on, it’s been long enough, just perform a miracle and eat already. You’ve had it rough – it’s time for some easy. You deserve it.”
Jesus chose the unconventional path – God’s way. He stood up and said, no, man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
God asks you to trust when you can’t see the way, to keep moving when you feel faint, and, sometimes, to do nothing when you’re in a state of hyperactive panic. Sometimes God’s way goes against every natural instinct. Sometimes it seems He is asking us to face more pain than should be necessary. However, I know now that there is a reason behind it, and there is always something really good on the other side.
When God is trying to help me grow, it’s worth it.
In my life it seems that God is willing to let me keep choosing the world’s way and reaping that pain until I’m ready to turn back to Him. That was me in this story, and during those times of pain I was just surviving.
Eventually, though, things began to change. It started when I came back to Texas, to my parents. After some more ups and downs and wanderings, I eventually made my way back to God, back to church, back to prayer, back to the Bible. These things happened slowly, one by one, but eventually I was in a place where I was relying on God and things started to improve. The messes I’d gotten myself into started to disappear as I exercised my trust in God’s solutions.
When I came out on the other side, somewhere around 2007, I was stronger, and my faith had increased by leaps and bounds. I wasn’t just surviving; I was thriving. I had been blessed with things I’d never dreamed I could have just a year before – the perfect (for me, at that time) job, a great apartment, awesome friends. As I received these blessings, knowing I’d done nothing to make them happen, knowing it was all His doing, I gained a new understanding of trust…faith…hope…endurance. I had to live it to begin to understand how awesome it was to experience God’s provision after turning trusting His way. I learned that when we choose worldly solutions and wisdom rather than God, our pain and suffering is compounded, we face more trials, and we create a vicious cycle.
And I think that’s why God allows trials. To allow us to grow and thrive. There is no shortcut to the kind of character produced by suffering. We just need to be sure to face the trials with God’s wisdom. That’s what I remind myself of as I continue to face trials in my life, my marriage, my living situations, and my work.
And I hope you will now remind yourself, as you face trials, to think about God’s infinite wisdom and grace. Trust Him to see you through, and don’t compound your pain by turning to man’s wisdom. You may not be able to see it now, but good things are coming. Growth, character, hope, and likely even physical blessings. Be steadfast!