Friday, May 8, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS?
Build Character~. On Sunday, Sept 14, 2008, Dayton, OH was affected by unprecedented weather caused by hurricane Ike. Yes, a hurricane in OH! Even though trees and limbs looked healthy, the 75 mph wind gusts revealed their hidden flaws. Many came crashing down on power lines, leaving residents without water and electricity for days and weeks. Some seized the opportunity to play Scrabble with their kids by candle light; and others, picketed the electricity company for not working fast enough. When driving through the neighborhoods this spring, you can easily see the “gaps” in the fullness of the trees’ silhouettes. However, the trees have benefited—when looking at the gaps it is easy to miss the benefits; they aren’t trying to feed limited recourses into repairing dead branches. They can focus on feeding and growing the healthy branches. “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He lops off every branch that doesn’t produce. And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops” John 15:1–2. In God’s Power to Change Your Life, Rick Warren points out, “when God prunes us, he cuts off the sinful and the superficial, the deadwood in our lives. He does do that, but he also cuts off stuff that is alive and successful: a business that is going great, a satisfying relationship, good health. Some of that may get whacked off for greater fruitfulness. It is not just deadwood that goes. God often cuts back good things too, in order to make us healthier. It is not always pleasant, but pruning is absolutely essential for spiritual growth.” Similarly, life’s storms reveal our best and worst attributes.
As children, it is difficult to understand why we aren’t able to do something by ourselves...out of ignorance and frustration, youngsters throw temper tantrums. Often like children, Christians often need both time to mature and divine help till we can master the concept. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:1-3 I’ve often heard it said God always answers prayer, but the answer isn’t always yes!
Troubles often reveal our flaws; through repentance we become more Christ-like. None of us is perfect, nor can we achieve salvation through our works. It is only through repentance that we can be free and healed. I wholeheartedly feel that we are given free will and sometimes we diverge from God’s divine design for our life; but, He is powerful enough to take that sin/problem/illness and turn it into good. Joseph was sold into slavery, accused of rape, imprisoned—and yet, God used these “problems” to facilitate his being king! David coveted his neighbor’s wife, murdered her husband—and yet, the bloodline of Jesus is directly connected to David and Bathsheba’s adultery.
Not all trials are a direct result of our sin; after all the scripture explains, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45 Sometimes troubles can be a result of someone else’s sin or a generational curse. In the midst of my personal storm I wondered and still sometimes wonder, “Why me?” That became a very dangerous question, because instead of trying to improve my situation, I began to focus my energies on “Oh woe is me…I’m a victim.” When there is a car crash, you had better call the medics and seek immediate treatment…it isn’t the time to ponder why the accident happened. “Why?” should happen later in the healing process. The goal of reflection shouldn’t be to blame, but rather, to prevent another accident. We need to check ourselves and ask, I am going to choose “bitter or better”? Pastor Rick Warren reminds us, “… God is glorified when we bear “much fruit” (John 15:8), and that requires pruning. We must remember that the loppers are in the hands of our loving God. He knows what he is doing, and he wants what is best for us. If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned. Count on it. You may be going through pruning right now, and it may not all be deadwood. God cuts off branches that we feel are productive so that more fruit may be produced” (God’s Power to Change Your Life).
As the church receptionist, I was startled by an unusual question: a quite, male voice asked, “How do I know I am healed?” I simply asked, “Do you feel better?” Yes, it is that simple! Leave your past of sin and guilt at the Cross—move forward freely with the love of Jesus in your heart. Therefore, I know that my daily struggles and challenges are a part of my life in order build faith and tenacity. “…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5