Friday, September 09, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough...

Life is sometimes a whirl. I have felt this way a lot lately. Sandra and I have been on several trips this summer – more than usual. Our latest was to the city of Prague, capitol of the Czech Republic. Oh, but it’s not as easy as all that.

We couldn’t just get on a plane and go. First, there was a problem with my ticket. It was a problem I caused myself, and it brought about some consternation. The issues were worked out and I never missed any flights, but it was nerve-wracking while we were in the working-it-out phase.

Then there was Irene. She was a hurricane as she roared up the coast. She was probably a mere Tropical Storm when she hit Maine. She inflicted damage and caused power outages, however. Our own street was blocked by a downed tree, which took wires down with it. We had to abandon Sandra’s car on the way home from church and walk along the beach – in the continuing storm – to get to our house. Her car survived, but another car, which had been left in the next driveway, fell victim to another downed tree. It was totaled.

We finished packing that evening in the dark. When we left the next morning for the airport there was still no power. We couldn’t even take a shower before a long flight to Europe.

All of this was annoying, but not devastating. We know that others fared much worse in the storm – and the one that followed a week or so later.

There was a constant in all this. God was in control. This is a good thing to think about as we face the dilemmas of life. God is, indeed, sovereign. We may not like some of the things that happen in our lives, but God knows what He’s doing.

We often hear people say such things as “everything happens for a reason.” If they mean that nothing happens by chance, I can agree. And certainly we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. And trials do come for a reason. What are those reasons?
 Well, first, Trials Build Perseverance. In James 1:2-4, we read
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What is perseverance? Stick-to-it-iveness. Hanging in there. Standing firm. God wants us to persevere in the face of hard stuff, annoying stuff, in the face of life. 

Another aspect of trials in our lives is that trials build trust. The apostle Peter wrote,
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.  (1 Peter 4:12-14, 19.)

This really is the bottom line. Both James and Peter (and, of course, Paul) are teaching that especially in times of trouble we need to trust in God’s sovereignty. He knows what He’s doing. He keeps his promises. And in the end, those who are His will end up in the heavenly chorus, singing Holy! Holy! Holy!