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Posts Tagged ‘Trials’

I have a mental list of passages that remind me to be grateful for trials. Here are only two of them:

Now this trial the Lord therefore permitted to happen to him,
that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job.
(Tobit 2:12)

“Besides all this, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test as he did our ancestors.
Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother.
He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them.”
(Judith 8:23-27)

I was reminded this morning of a beautiful story about the Refiner’s Fire. It’s not long, and I’d like to share it!

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver:
and he shall purify  
the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver,
that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

 (Malachi 3:3)

While reading Malachi chapter 3, a woman noticed a remarkable expression in the third verse: “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

She went to visit a silversmith and, without telling the object of her errand,
begged to know the process of refining silver, which the smith described to her.

“But, sir,” she said, “do you sit while the work of refining is going on?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am,” replied the silversmith. “I must sit with my eye
steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining is
exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”

The woman at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression,
“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” God sees it needful to put
His children into a furnace: His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying,
and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them.
Their trials do not come at random: “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

As the woman was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back
and said he had forgotten to mention that the only way to know when
the purifying process is complete is  . . .

 . . .when he can see his own image reflected in the silver.

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I’ve written before of the verse God gave to me the day before my dad died, and how close it has been to my heart ever since, even becoming my “life verse:”

16 Rejoice always.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5)

I’ve had many opportunities to share it with others undergoing trials and it does seem to be popping up more often lately as people face great struggles in their own lives.

This morning I read a passage that dovetailed beautifully with it; something more for me to ponder in harmony with that passage:

7 Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?
8 If you are without discipline, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards.
9 Besides this, we have had our earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not [then] submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live?
10 They disciplined us for a short time as seemed right to them, but he does so for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness.
11 At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
12 So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees.
13 Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. (Hebrews 12)

I like how this tells me to view my trials not as punishment, but as discipline. Though painful, if I look at discipline as a sort of training for my own benefit, it helps me to endure it a little easier and to look for both the blessings and for the lessons I may glean while I am in the midst of trials.

This is important to me because as I reflect back in my life I see how I used to avoid trials as much as possible – lamenting when they came upon me and struggling against them – instead of looking to God within them. I can see how giving me the verse from Thessalonians on the eve of my father’s death, God has given me an attitude adjustment, and how He has given me a new way to look at what I am experiencing.

My God knows me so intimately; He knows this is effective with me. It may not be the most effective with others and I believe and trust that He is also drawing and teaching my loved ones in ways that they best hear and respond to our Shepherd’s voice.

I am so grateful for my attitude adjustment, and knowing that it is meant to help me someday share in His holiness. Wow!!!

 

 

 

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I look at my nails this morning. Less than 24 hrs. ago I had my first manicure and now my nails are rich in color, smooth, shiny, and perfect … except for one small chip. Nine out of 10, perfect; the 10th with a flaw.

I think I like it that way. It’s such a reflection of my life. The last 3 months have been a whirlwind of great blessings:

Emily visited for 6 weeks while doing a pharmacy rotation. We have always been close, but living so far apart creates distance in a relationship, too. It was wonderful to have her here, to see her dressed each morning for work in a cute outfit, to linger over a meal and talk about anything and everything, to receive advice from her, and to hear about the hopes and dreams and plans she shares with her husband. This wonderful young woman is my friend and I treasured every moment.

Joe has been here almost 2 weeks, his girlfriend Amber a week. I’d met her only briefly before and it’s been great to spend time with her, get to know her, to see her and Joe as a couple. I like her a lot. He has been on a roll, hardly stopping to sleep as he visits friends, shows Amber the sights, talks about football and work and politics. To cap off his visit, he learned yesterday that he passed the first (and hardest) test on his path to being a licensed architect. He arrived for the holidays absolutely certain he had failed the test; he will leave motivated and excited to keep pressing toward his goal.

Having both of them home has given me more time with Mitch, too. Though he lives here, he works and goes to school and has one of the bedrooms set up with his tv and computer – a den where he studies and relaxes, an introvert like me. But he has spent more time hanging out with the family, laughing and debating and making us laugh with his offbeat sense of humor. No longer “the little kid” but a man who is easy-going, kind, funny. His eyes glistened with tears that he tried to hold back as he hugged Emily good-bye. What a beautiful moment and blessing for me to witness.

Mark and I were recently able to buy a piece of ground, realizing one of Mark’s dearest dreams. 80 acres – half timber for hunting, half crop ground to cash rent. We looked at a house for sale near the ground; it wasn’t quite right but we are keeping our eyes open and making plans together. It feels good to have moved closer to each other again in our marriage and to have some new plans and hopes for the future.

Like my new manicure, my life right now feels rich in color, smooth, shiny, new. But it won’t stay that way and even at its best it isn’t perfect. The glow of our time together will fade and there will always be chips. They are the inevitable trials of living in a fallen world; the veil that hangs between this life and the next; the separation I feel from my real home, my eternal home.

This life can never be perfect, but it can be very beautiful. And the chips aren’t flaws or something to avoid – they are necessary too.  God Himself will fill them in, clear them out, change the color, and re-do them as He wills. Sometimes ragged, sometimes nearly perfect; always worth pondering both the perfection and the flaws.

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

 

 

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At mass, we often sit behind a couple who is older than we are – not “elderly” but probably retired.  Several years ago I noticed that sometimes the wife seemed a little disoriented, unsure of what to do next or speaking to her husband at inappropriate moments.  He would sometimes respond with irritation, frustration and impatience, shushing her or grabbing her elbow and re-directing her a little roughly.

As time has gone by, her descent into dementia or Alzheimer’s has become more pronounced. As I’ve sat nearby praying for them, I wondered how it felt for him to watch his wife slip away, not knowing what would come next, what he was to do, what would become of them. I’m sure he felt frightened and alone sometimes.

I’ve watched her slip away more and more into her trial of disease and illness.

And I’ve watched him grow in holiness.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any hint of frustration or impatience. Now, he is extremely gentle, guiding her into the pew, helping her to stand, speaking in her ear to calm her.

I smile at the stubborn cowlick in her hair – unruly and always sticking up and I wonder if she would have been embarrassed to see herself like that, or amused.  I wonder if he even notices it or if, like many of our husbands, he doesn’t really notice details of his wife’s hair.

People stop to pat his shoulder as they pass by, and he turns to smile up at their friend. I am struck again at how we rarely are alone in our suffering or trials. What affects one, affects so many others.

Tonight Father Jim offered a blessing for mothers, as tomorrow is Mother’s Day. He invited all the men to raise their hands over the women in church in blessing.

I watched that couple as he gently laid his hand onto her head. She bowed her head at his touch, and I wept at the beauty of a man blessing his wife.

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The longer I walk with God, the more I understand how trials really are a blessing, meant to teach us and to turn us toward Him.

Last week we had a reading from John 12:

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour?’
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”

Father, glorify your name.

I find myself breathing this prayer often now as I pray for myself and for my loved ones. I sometimes picture myself holding people in the palms of my hands, praying for them. But “I” am only doing what I’ve been led to do … holding precious people who have been given into my care only for a time. I don’t want to see my loved ones suffer; I want their comfort and joy.

But more than that, I want them to be saved … to leave this life and spend eternity in God’s presence.

If it takes suffering now to accomplish that, am I willing to trust God? Should I pray for their comfort if it robs them of opportunities to learn, opportunities to turn to Him?

I am troubled now, yet what should I say? I say I trust you, Father;  I know your plans for us are good even if we are unsure or feel lost and afraid. You know how dearly I love these people for whom I pray; and I know you love them far more, far better, far more deeply. So help me release them back into Your perfect care; help me to pray for them in ways that are pleasing to you. And most of all …

Father, glorify your name!

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I think there are many reasons why God may allow or bring a trial into our lives.

Sometimes it is to break us … to bring us to a point where we can no longer deny our need for Him. It causes us to cry out, reach out, to seek.

Sometimes it is part of the Holy Spirit’s continued work within us, making us holy.

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

I think these types of trials transform us, helping us to really become patient or forgiving; teaching us how to surrender, or trust, or to be still.

And sometimes, I think trials are an opportunity for us to see our growth – to take stock and see where we have been and areas we may need to work on with Him.

Last week was a week of trials that normally would have caused me great anxiety. Driving home from work on Tuesday, my car completely died.

It wasn’t a dream car, but it was less than 10 years old, it had less than 100,000 miles on it, and it had some nice features like a sunroof and a cd player. And most of all, it had been paid off for over 2 years. No car payments make life so much easier!

But even without consciously making an effort, I felt calm and very grateful, counting my blessings. It would have been much worse if it had broken down just two days earlier when I was traveling three hours away. Mark and Mitch might have both been away, leaving me nobody to call for a ride home. And while I don’t look forward to monthly car payments again, I can afford them and won’t have to struggle to pay for other important things like groceries or medicines.

So in many ways, this “trial” simply revealed the many blessings God has poured out on me. That’s a big change for me. By nature I am a worrier, and spent much of my younger adulthood fearful – afraid of many things, not at peace and not in joy.

But now, in spite of struggles with depression and trials of life, I can honestly say I am at peace in the depth of my being; I know joy in God even during trials.

I get knocked off-balance at times, more easily than I’d like and I wouldn’t boast that my faith will never be shaken … I think of Peter saying he would never deny Jesus. But I’ve come a long way and I know He will never leave me alone on this journey home.

I am back in balance; I am grateful for my trials and what they reveal.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18 )

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A long time ago, a friend shared a sermon she’d heard.  She said that we should imagine ourselves with our arms stretched out in front of us, palms-up and hands open.  When we are in that posture, we don’t hold on to anything … we are open. 

From that posture, God can give to us what He wills … trials or blessings. Likewise, He can take from us what He wills … pain and sorrow, or He may ask us to surrender something to Him that we find precious.  

I love that. I am a visual person, and kneeling in prayer I have literally done that – stretched my arms out, palms-up and hands open – surrendering to God my hopes and dreams and burdens and fears. I’ve reached for blessings and comfort, and have returned to Him the children He so deeply blessed me with.

As Job asked, how can I receive blessings and refuse trials?

 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

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