The same sun that warms the rocks also hardens the clay. The same losses and disasters that suck away the faith of those who thought they believed also builds it stronger in those whose faith is genuine.
Who appreciates trials? Not me. As I read God’s Word again, listening to what He might say to me, I think of the relatively short-term struggles of days, weeks, months, even a few years, but also the longer tests, such as praying for the salvation of those I love. Those prayers began more than forty years ago and many are still unanswered. Yet in that trial, my faith has not diminished. It has gone up and down, but in the long run is stronger.
This is a principle for those who walk with Jesus Christ. Trials are not mere tests of faith nor merely the attempts of our enemy to rob us of it. They are gymnasiums where the muscles and sinews of faith are pulled, stretched, developed. This is why God can have the audacity to say,
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)
These readings challenge me. Life is basically fair and sunny these days. Only yesterday my husband had a checkup at the cancer clinic with the good news that his white blood count dropped significantly (CLL involves a huge increase in WBC). Our family is well. We are blessed in many ways. Yet as today’s devotional writer says, “Yes, unbelievably they come. You and I go our sunny ways and live our happy lives, and the rumors of terrors blow to us from a world so distant that it seems to have nothing to do with us; then, it happens.”
He tells of the two men in the story of Jesus, who likely lived in the same village, went to the same synagogue. One day, some kind of gale blew into their lives. For one of them, everything collapsed for he had built on sand. In his day of need, everything was undermined and vanished.
The other man also faced the emptiness, loneliness and pain of loss, but came through braver, stronger, mellower, nearer God, for he had built on the rock. Read carefully this story. Jesus says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). God say something similar to Joshua,
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
Today’s verse is the same one as yesterday and the days before. It is God’s reminder to me that my response to the small annoyances, inconveniences and difficulties are tests, but more than tests. They are my sit-ups, leg raises, push-ups, and weight training in the gymnasium, so that when the greater challenges come, I will be ready for them.
If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)
Today’s devotional speaks of the sudden storms that blow up and buffet the breath out of me, then blow away as suddenly as they came. It speaks also of the “long purgatory of physical and mental agony” which is an even greater and more drastic test of faith, but of the right of Jesus Christ to take me on these paths. He alone knows what will make me strong.
I do not understand the purposes of God, at least in His initial dealings with me. I don’t always agree with Him or obey Him. I do not like the challenges of the gymnasium and would rather sit on the couch, but I do know one thing; after many years of both joy and sorrow, smooth places and rough, I think far more greatly of the grace and power of God than I did in the beginning.
All the way my Savior leads me,What have I to ask beside?Can I doubt His tender mercy,Who through life has been my Guide?Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,Here by faith in Him to dwell!For I know, whate’er befall me,Jesus doeth all things well;For I know, whate’er befall me,Jesus doeth all things well.All the way my Savior leads me,Cheers each winding path I tread,Gives me grace for every trial,Feeds me with the living Bread.Though my weary steps may falterAnd my soul athirst may be,Gushing from the Rock before me,Lo! A spring of joy I see;Gushing from the Rock before me,Lo! A spring of joy I see.All the way my Savior leads me,Oh, the fullness of His love!Perfect rest to me is promisedIn my Father’s house above.When my spirit, clothed immortal,Wings its flight to realms of dayThis my song through endless ages:Jesus led me all the way;This my song through endless ages:Jesus led me all the way.(Fanny Crosby, public domain)