A Place of Training

It’s been a rough week.

After two years of orthodontic torture and enduring near constant discomfort in order to get my adult tooth pulled down where it should be, I was told that the tooth had died in the process.

This journey has been a roller coaster of eager hope crashing down around me, only to be carefully pieced together and revived again. After all, what is life without something to hope for?

The latest news sent me spiraling, numb, into gloomy disappointment and disillusionment.

Why hope? hope-2

I thumbed the pages of my Bible indifferently. Did it even matter? My brain felt calloused. I didn’t want to feel this way…but I couldn’t help it. In the past, I’ve wrestled through times like this by being thankful, grudgingly at first, but gradually moving out of the bog into grateful living.

I tried to thank God for my dead tooth, for the rest of my strong, healthy teeth, but it was forced, fake.

The pages fell open to Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”

“Truth”, I thought. But it wasn’t comforting in the slightest. If anything it made me sink lower into my despondency. My hope had definitely been deferred, leaving my heart ill with worry and confusion. So how on earth do you stay strong in the faith – believe with all your heart that everything is for the best and trust, trust, trust – when your heart is impaired because of hope that never happens?

I hit a new low the next evening and felt like I would burst from the burden of, what I later realized was, unsurrendered pain. My dear parents prayed for me and we talked it out until late.

The next morning I turned to my daily devotional titled, What Do You Expect?

“If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you will find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” C.S. Lewis, God in the Docks

Ah, that’s my problem. I think I’m entitled to certain things in this life – marriage, health, good food, good friends, a decent amount of money, a job I like, fun things to do, and the opportunity to travel – among others, I’m sure. While it’s not something I’ll readily admit, that’s just what it is – expectations I have of life. When one of these gifts fail to meet my expectations I feel cheated. I doubt God’s goodness. I get heart sick because my hope is deferred.

“Sometimes we expect that life should be happy and pain-free. But that is not what the Bible teaches. For the believer, this world is a place of spiritual development through both good and bad times. Jesus was realistic when He explained what to expect out of life. He told His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation…” Dennis Fisher Our Daily Bread October 9, 2014

Why do we think we deserve more and better from life? It truly isn’t the Word of God that gives us this impression! The Bible is filled with warning us about a life of trials and encouragement to get through them.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

“Imagine a set of people all living in the same building.”, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable.”

This keen illustration left me thinking about how I perceive life and what I am expecting from it. Quite a lot to be honest. I want a grand hotel where I’m pampered and waited on. But God has different plans.

Christ continues His dialog with His disciples, “But be of good cheer, I have over come the world”. (John 16:33) The devotional ends with these words…

In facing life’s blessings and bruises, we can have the inner peace that God is orchestrating events according to His sovereign plan.

This life is a place of training. It’s not a 5 star resort where we can kick up our feet and vacation on the beach. Truly, trials make us stronger. Pain surrendered molds us to be the people God meant for us to be.

There really is no reason to hope… in things of this world. But hope in God is not futile.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.

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Choosing Trials

“Life need not be easy to be joyful. Joy is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ.” – W.V. Hoven

I think that Yahweh is teaching me that life is not about feelings, but about choices. We can choose to love, or we can only love when we feel like it and be miserable the rest of the time; we can choose to be joyful in our trials, or we can moan and groan through them and never grow higher because of them; we can choose to be at peace with ourselves and our circumstances, or we can drag through life being bitter, discontent, grumbling…and get old fast. Very Happy

Feelings are fleeting – here one day gone the next, they can never be relied upon. Living by them only causes heartache and confusion. If we keep our eyes on The Rock however, we will be stable, strong characters for Christ and He will “grow us” through the trials and temptations that come our way.

I am learning to…

· Identify my trials. Name them, label them – know what/who they are. This has been a tremendous relief in my life. I never realized before that I just didn’t want to admit that I had trials!

· Pray about them. Surrender them to Christ.

· Prepare for them. I know, it sounds strange, but trials are a FACT of life. You have to know where your enemy will hit before you can plan a counter-attack, or in this case, how you will react.

· Count them all joy (James 1:2). Realize that this is what makes you GROW. Glory, like Paul, in your tribulation because only by these will you become the person that Yahweh intents for you!

· Detach the trial from the person/people that bring them. Know that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers…of this darkness”. These “sandpaper people” as Elizabeth George calls them, are in your life for a reason – to make you a better, “smooth-er” person.

· Last of all, be confident of this very thing – that He which hath begun a good work in you will complete it (Phil. 1:6)!