I often pray that God will give me peace, increase my faith, grant me joy and such things. My expectation is that He’ll increase my “level” of Holy Spirit and push out the bad parts and replace it with Spirit.
Romans 8:18 (NIV) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
I believe He can do that and does do that at times, but I also believe there’s another way to look at that.
Imagine you’re at the gym and you’re trying to lift 200 lbs. above your head. It would be hard (if 200 lbs. would be easy for you try to sympathize with me here). I’d really struggle to even pick it up at all.
Then let’s say someone super, duper strong came over and I said “Help me lift this!” and they did most of the work. Did I really do it? No. They did it. At best, we did it together. Can I lift 200 lbs. above my head? No. And next time I’d be in the same boat.
But they could train me and give me a little more each time to get me stronger. They could change me over time to handle the heavier load.
I always pray “give me peace”, “give me faith” and such which He’ll do:
James 1:5 (NIV) If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
But I have to remember how He gives:
James 1: 2-4 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The obvious point is that God will give me these things. He will get me to the point where I can lift 200 lbs. but it won’t be easy. And it won’t be false or fake – He won’t be a super, duper strong guy walking around lifting things for me.
Of course He’s always there but there’s much more value in Him changing me, through His Spirit, to be more like Him. If He just removes all the problems and caters the situation to me, what’s the point?
This may sound obvious if you’ve been walking with Christ for a meaningful amount of time. It even seems obvious to me. But there’s a different, deeper realization in there this time.
Honestly, it does make me “consider it pure joy” a bit more. Not b/c I’m enjoying it but b/c I’m hopeful that next time it might be a bit easier.
So while I don’t expect trials to just disappear and I don’t expect Him to instantly make me able to frolic through life, I do have hope that He’s working in me to change me.
And how much better is that!? To be changed to legitimately be able to handle things better. To be a peace in the storms of life.
As always, it’s like parents’ relationship w/ kids. Isn’t it better to train them to handle tough situations than to just remove the challenges?
A good friend of mine and I were writing about trusting God recently and he wrote this:
“Trusting God means we cling to the truth (even when emotions try to pull us away) that God is good and does good (Ps. 119.68), and that He works all things together for good (Rom 8). He does not make all things right in this world, but He will in the next. Someday there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, but right now we experience them in spades—like Jesus.”
What stood out to me more than at other times was “He does not make all things right in this world.” I think of Job and many others who have legitimately suffered. It’s not like God just removed the pain, challenges, suffering, etc. And later if God restored blessings to them, I’m sure they don’t forget the pain and loss from before.
So I thought – then the goal is to be ok w/ the wrong in the world. How? Jesus. He’s always the answer somehow. 🙂 To be like Him. To focus on Him.
Again, He’s not just going to lift the weight for me. If that’s the route, He could just remove the weight in the first place. Like w/ kids, it’s better to make me better and able to lift the weight.
How? A little at a time. And if I try to avoid the little times of growth then I’ll never get there. I should be thankful for it. Crazy but in the big picture it makes sense. Consider it joy – not “be happy about it” but joy.
UPDATE: After I wrote this, later that day, I felt very discouraged at the way I was handling the things I had written about. I removed the post b/c I felt like a hypocrite. However, I know that I will never arrive. While I might not “feel” the above or I may not act on it how I’d like, I know it to be true. And I need to be gracious to myself.