About twelve years ago, life was chugging along just as it seemed it would for years. I was a young mom with two little girls at home, living in a new housing community. Our home was sandwiched between my sister and brother-in-law's home on one side and one of my best friends and her husband's home on the other. Having been transplanted from the same church in another town, we began to meet from house to house Acts 2:42 style and reach out to the neighbors around us. All was well in my little world.
Then one day, while my sister, her husband and our dear friend were commuting together something happened that would change our lives forever. While their car was sitting in traffic merging from one highway onto another, they were hit from behind by a semi carrying forty tons of carpet. The big rig driver was both unlicensed and had fallen asleep at the wheel. The instant they were hit, my dear friend Christine and her unborn baby were transported home to be with the Lord. My brother in law suffered serious injuries and the status of his recovery was touch and go for nine days in ICU. My sister was also hospitalized both with personal injuries and concerns for the life within her- she was carrying her first child as well. Serious tests were run to see if the baby (now eleven years old and one of my favorite people in the world) would even survive.
It was during this season that the Lord impressed some things on my heart about trial that I seek to pass on to my children.
1. You cannot cram for a trial. There are no cliff notes and no quick spiritual shot in the arm we can take. We are either in relationship with Christ and navigating by the unchanging truth of His Word or we are not. When we are hit, we will be hit just where we are. If we are to be ready to face trials (big or small) we must expect 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." - 1 Peter 4:12
2. Trials filter out what we really believe. When you see a man go through trial- that is when you truly see the man. Trials are where the "rubber meets the road" so to speak. Before trial some of our theology may be more academic than practiced. We may think- in theory- that God is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), that God is sovereign over every decision (Proverbs 16:33) or that God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46) but until we are able to trust that in the midst of trial we lack a steadfastness that we need to be complete. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." - James 1:2
3. All believers experience trial. Sometimes we think we are only supposed to experience happy times- we are to be joyful people after all. But as I read the words of the Psalms when I am in trial and see that we are to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) as well as rejoice with those who rejoice, I know there will be seasons of trial in every believers life.
4. We receive grace when we need it. The Scripture is clear that we must be faithful not to harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:8). We must believe God's Word (Hebrews 3:19) and be diligent to enter His rest (Hebrews 4:11). Yet, if we know our flesh at all, we know we can do nothing without God first working in us. "It is GOD who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." - Philippians 2:13 We will stand by God's grace alone. And as we do, our hearts gain a personal confidence that He will complete the work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). He is the ONE who will keep us faithful until the end.
Spafford's testimony, as documented in the hymn, "It is Well with My Soul" is a wonderful illustration of that truth. Recently, our five girls learned the beloved hymn in American Sign Language (thank you Dana and Trish) and shared it with our church body. A summary of Spafford's testimony and the girl's signing are in the following clip.
5. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. I love the intro picture of my friend's daughters. As the girls and I have been working through the proper way to respond to trials- sometimes big trials, but often the daily 'splashes in the face,' we keep coming back to the quote that: Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. As we remind our heart that: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." -1 Corinthians 10:13 we have a biblical perspective that can help us to stand. The truth is, as believers we do have a choice in the way we respond.
We will experience trials every day. Sometimes the trials will be big, sometimes small. But none will be outside God's control. May our hearts be stayed on truth and encouraged in Him.
And after you have suffered a little while,
the God of all grace, who has called you to
His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself
restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
- 1 Peter 5:10
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