In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed~ 1st Peter 1:6-7
Every December, as the year comes to a close, I try to spend some time during the final weeks of the month mentally recapping the past year. I mull over the good as well as the not-so-good. I spend some time thanking God for the good and pray for the wisdom to make the bad stuff better in the coming year.
As my mind meandered through the events of 2015, it did not take me long to conclude that this past year will not go on record as one of the better years in Price family history. It was, in fact, awful. 2015 was one of those years where everything was a struggle. Nothing worked out the way we hoped it would, or in a way that made any sense at all to any of us. There have certainly been blessings, but for the most part even the blessings this year were born out of enormous difficulty and came as result of some hard-fought battles.
Don’t get me wrong; I believe with all of my heart that God is firmly in control of all of the events of our life, even the less than perfect ones. I also believe that our happy ending will be arriving at some point in the (hopefully) near future but we sure haven’t experienced it as of this writing.
I am sharing our story not because I want to bum you out with my closing blog of 2015. I am sharing because I believe it’s imperative that Christians are truthful with each other about our struggles. If we always put on a happy face and pretend not to have have problems or stress or, in my case, an unbelievably crummy year, we will never really understand the reason God allows struggles and heartache in the lives of His people.
Not understanding the why of the tough, bothersome, tedious junk can be spiritually confusing. Living in a state of spiritual confusion tends to make us hard, bitter and resentful and can cause us to leave the life of faith altogether.
There are all kinds of reasons why God allows us to struggle or suffer through stuff that FEELS completely unnecessary. Sometimes struggles come because there are things we need to learn about ourselves. There is nothing like a little stress to show us all the attitudes and knee-jerk responses to pressure that are not exactly what Jesus would do in the same situation. We will never change what we can’t see, so it could even be argued that trials are a necessary evil that help us see what areas of our lives still need work.
Trials also prove our faith. Not to God. God knows exactly how much or little faith we all have already. Persisting through a trial with our faith firmly intact proves to you and me and all people around us that we are not just flocking to God for what He can provide. Perseverance proves our love for God and is the truest sign of salvation that there is.
Last week I was given a reminder of perhaps the most critical reason of all that God allows us to experience trials and difficulties. I had the privilege of looking someone I care deeply about in the eye and telling them in all honesty that I completely understood the weird, crazy, absurd situation they were dealing with. I could do that because I had been through something very similar just a few years before. I could assure this person that they too would survive their shock just as I had survived mine. The Apostle Paul gives us an image of how the cycle of trial and comfort works in the life of a Christian in 2nd Corinthians 1:3-5:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
My prayer for all of us this coming year is that God will comfort us in tangible way through the trials that are sure to come our way. I also pray that He will give us all many opportunities to be the hands, feet and source of comfort our hurting world will undoubtedly need in 2016.