Thursday, July 3, 2008

learning from trials

Yesterday, I was just beginning to read the book Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. Chapter 2 began with an Arab proverb--
"Sunshine without rain is the recipe for a desert."
Thomas then went on to describe how Abigail Adams bade her nine year old son, John Quincy, farewell as he left with his father on a diplomatic mission to Europe for a number of years.

In a letter, she wrote:
"It is not in the still calm of life ... that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman."
It is during those hard break-ups, disappointments, dashed plans for the future that carry so much uncertainty that I am convinced that God grows us the most. Our growth is somehow connected to how we respond to the challenge. Do we run to God or do we wallow in self-pity?

What is it that we believe about God at that moment? A.W. Tozer once said that what a person believes about God is the most important thing about him. It determines how we respond to blessings and trials. It characterizes what we value or detest. Do we believe he is a loving father who disciplines his children so they may learn from their wrongs and grow in knowledge and faith and virtue? Or is he a passive being who merely watches from afar? Or perhaps a cruel tyrant who takes pleasure in seeing man suffer?

(another parenting analogy ... it's the season ...)

I was watching one of those Super Nanny type shows last night and every time the 6 year old boy flipped out and through a tantrum, the parents GAVE IN! The coach took them aside and told them that this was stunting their son's growth. "He MUST learn how to cope with life! And he will! But you aren't letting him!"

God cares for us so much more than these parents could even attempt to. He is more touched by our suffering than these parents were when they saw their son "suffer" because he had to go to bed at 8:30. His love for us sometimes involves miraculously snatching us away from the fire ... or ... allowing us to experience the consequences of our actions. May we choose to grow during suffering or trials, rather than give into stubborness and throw tantrums. May we learn to love God and love others better through each trial we experience and not coddle or sulk within our self.

1 Peter 1:13-25

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

"All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever."

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

How wonderful is it to know that these trials come from God for his good purpose and to shape and mold us into the image of His Son! How awful it would be if everything was just by chance! ... for no reason! ... there would be no hope. How much better it is to yield to God's work in our lives than fight it.


ckjolly said...

I'm always encouraged to hear stories of other women who have fought hard to do right and learn and grow in godliness and grace. Do you have any to share?

One Salient Oversight said...

Usually when someone starts talking about suffering in an abstract or theological way, they are usually facing a specific trial.

So, what's happening?

GloryandGrace said...

Thanks for this post. Regardless of the season you're in, I think parenting illustrations are always good in pointing out the relationship the Father has to His children as it highlights the fruit of discipline.

I hope you're doing well :)