September 19, 2012
From Tears to Triumph
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, NIV).
Friend to Friend
Trials and hard times are part of life. In fact, they are an important part of life. Yet, we desperately try to avoid any kind of pain, and when the difficult times come we frantically search for the nearest exit. I have discovered that the most beautiful life is often the most broken life. The ashes of death may very well be the fertile soil from which a new life of victory and promise will grow. God is forever covering each pain with His infinite love and mercy, bringing hope and encouragement where there was once only despair and death. We simply need to remember who God really is – the God of all comfort and compassion.
2 Corinthians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort!”
God stands ready to comfort His broken-hearted child. He longs to wrap His arms of love around us and bring the peace and comfort only He can give. In every trial, God is with us and for us. Some trials come as the result of sin and frail humanity while others come because we are Christians, striving to live a life of obedience to God. However, the reality is that all trials come with God’s permission. Paul writes that God “comforts us every time we have trouble.” In this verse, “trouble” literally means “narrow, confined or under pressure.” Paul paints the picture of being hemmed in to the point that the only place to look for help was up. For the believer, everything is a divine appointment. What we call “dis-appointment” is really “His-appointment.” Trials accompany faith and are a test, a measurement of growth given to see if the learner can pass … not pass out! Faith is always tested for a reason.
James 1:2-3 “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.”
Trouble strengthens our faith and builds endurance, the ability to stay under the load. We have a loving Father who is committed to building the character of His Son in us. His love wants what is best for us, not what is easiest.
Our daughter attended our church school from K-3 through fourth grade. We then felt it was time to move her to public school for her fifth grade year in order to prepare her for middle school, a tough transition at best. All summer long, we talked about how wonderful her new school would be. We visited her new classroom, met her new teacher, bought new clothes, searched for just the right lunch box, ordered the latest back pack, accumulated the coolest school supplies and even drove by the school several times a week. As the school year approached, Danna grew more and more excited about her new adventure and seemed totally prepared for the transition…until the first day of school.
I prepared Danna’s favorite breakfast, fixed her hair in her favorite style as she dressed in her favorite new outfit and off we went. When we approached the school entrance, Danna’s excitement gave way to sheer terror. As we pulled up to the door Danna was to enter, I heard her gasp as she saw a large group of students waiting for the bell to ring. She did not know a single person! “Honey, you can do this,” I encouraged, “and remember I will be praying for you all day!” With tear-filled eyes, Danna opened the car door and literally ran into the building. I cried all the way home and all day long. After cleaning the house three times, I was in the car pool line thirty minutes early. When the bell rang, the school door burst open and students spilled out. No Danna. Cars pulled around me as more students ran to meet waiting parents but still no Danna. Just about the time I began to panic, the door burst open and out came my daughter surrounded by a group of kids, laughing and talking, shouting promises to call each other that night. She hopped into the car, faced me with a grin and announced, “Mom, I am soooo popular!” Danna had a great school year and when the first day of middle school rolled around, Danna was the one assuring her friends that it was “no big deal.” Looking back, the easiest decision would have been to take Danna back to the church school where everyone knew her and loved her, but the best decision was to allow Danna to work through that trial. It made her stronger.
Shallow love rescues easily and quickly. Real love walks with us through the trial. We don’t know exactly what trials Paul endured, but there were bad enough to make Paul think he was going to die. Still, God loved Paul, protected him and controlled the circumstances, using them for His glory and Paul’s ultimate good.
1 Peter 1:6 “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure.”
God wants us to trust Him in the trials of life, even when we do not understand, even when it makes no sense, even when there seems to be no explanation.
Isaiah 55: 8-9 “The Lord says, "My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
You see, it is easy to have faith and to trust God when the wind is still, the waters are calm and the nets are full of fish, but the true measure of our faith is in the midst of the howling storm. His comfort is best realized when our pain is strongest. The darker it gets, the brighter His light shines. We may be down, girlfriend, but we are never out because God is the Shepherd of every valley, Lord of every storm and Friend of the wounded heart.
Father, I am so guilty of looking for the easiest way out of a painful circumstance instead of looking for Your hand at work. I really want to become a woman of faith and learn to trust You enough to keep my gaze on You and my glance on my circumstances. And even when my faith is weak, please help me place that faith in You alone.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read the following verses found in James 1:2-3: “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.”
Think back over the past month. What trials have you faced? What was your response to those trials? Was your faith tested? Has God strengthened you or taught you a lesson through your trials? In your journal, record what God has accomplished in your life and how He has strengthened your faith through the tough times you have experienced.
More from the Girlfriends
I know every word of today’s devotion could have been written by so many of you. You are familiar with the emotions that wreak havoc in your life. Looking back, I wish I had danced in the deepest valleys and embraced my greatest pain as a friend because so much of what I do and who I am today has been accomplished by God at work in the darkest moments of my life. Don’t trust your emotions or give credence to your feelings when they tell you to give up. Step out in faith and into His perfect provision…no matter how down you may be. Keep walking through your fear and choose to praise Him.
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