Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Hidden Treasure in our Trials

This is a blog post I wrote for my church website in August 2013 (High Pointe Church in Altoona, IA)

“The unknowns.” We face them every day. Technically, that’s a glaringly obvious statement, isn’t it?  Who really knows for sure what’s going to happen during the course of any given day - even the very next hour or minute? But I’m not talking about our obvious inability to see the future. I’m talking about the twists & turns that the road of life takes us on – the curveballs. If there’s one thing that can truly shake our faith as a Christ follower, it’s the circumstance that blindsides us out of nowhere that we have absolutely no control over.

The magnitude & manifestation of these circumstances can vary, but the amount of anxiety surrounding them always seems to be large. Trying to sell a house, facing sudden unemployment, working through a marriage in jeopardy, receiving a devastating diagnosis, grieving the loss of a loved one & wondering how to move on without them – the list of unknowns we face can go on & on. The brutal realization that we can’t control or immediately fix what we’ve suddenly been thrown into can stare you in the face every morning and never leave your mind throughout the entire day. As hours pass by, the “why’s, when’s, and how’s” can grow from a seed of worry to a tree of doubt and defeat. It’s tiring. It wears you down.

Over this last year or more, it seems as if I’ve continually jumped from one giant unknown in my life to another. Each one completely different, but all have been a clear test of my faith. Maybe it’s just my natural instinct as a man, but my first reaction to any predicament is to immediately search for a solution – to try and fix the problem & make it go away. But when you are suddenly dropped into a trial that cannot be remedied with a quick fix, you really begin to learn a lot about yourself. But far more important than that, I believe that I’ve learned the ONE thing that we are ALL supposed to learn through the unknowns we face in life.

Searching for, finding out, and ultimately knowing the “what’s, why’s, and how’s” isn’t really the point. I have wrestled with those questions at some point throughout every unknown I have faced, and I’m always left frustrated & confused. What God truly wants us to search for, find out, and ultimately know during our time of unknowns is what He has already clearly & completely revealed to us:  HIM. Yes, the situations & circumstances that define our unknowns are important – sometimes very important (and God does care about the details of our lives) – but here’s a hard truth: finding out the origin or the end result of our unexpected trial will not bring us satisfaction. When we come to the end of ourselves and surrender our desire for control of the situation over to God, we will start learning how to completely trust Him as He reveals His character & proves Himself faithful. We experience comforting truths like the ones found in Psalm 23:6, Psalm 34:17-19, Isaiah 43:2, Isaiah 26:3-4, Matthew 11:28-30, and so much more! Fighting through that process not only brings a peace that surpasses all understanding, but that is also when we can finally “count it all joy when you meet trials,” as James writes.

I can’t help but think of the book of Job; the account of a man the Bible describes as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” He had everything. 10 healthy children, an over-abundance of livestock, multiple servants, and unimaginable wealth; so much that the Bible adds that “he was the greatest of all the people of the east.” But Job was thrown a curveball – an enormous twist in the road – and he found himself in the midst of a greater unknown than most of us can imagine. On the same day, in a matter of minutes: ALL of his livestock were either killed or stolen, ALL of his servants were killed, and to top it off ALL of his children were casualties of a giant wind storm. He later falls into great sickness, his wife and friends hurl insults & condemning words at him, and some even tell him he deserved worse. Talk about riches to rags. Talk about facing “unknowns.” (Spoiler alert: things work out pretty well in the end for Job). But do you know what Job never finds out? The “why.” Even though he has conversations with God Himself, Job is never told that all of his trials were actually the result of his righteous life. That Satan accused him of only being faithful to God because he had great wealth. That God allowed Satan to take everything away from him except his life, to test his faith. Those facts are never revealed to Job. Why? Because if God would have told him all of the “background info” – the answers to the “unknowns” – then Job would have never been able to learn about who God is; he would’ve never realized the power & sovereignty of our Almighty God that was explained to him by God Himself in chapters 38-41. If God would have given Job the answer to the “why” of his situation, Job would have never experienced God the way he did, and he never would have said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42:1-6) God wants to give us so much more than just answers – He wants to give us Himself!

Recently, we were introduced to a new song at HPC called Great Reward by Tim Timmons (you can listen to it here). God greatly used this song to solidify what He was trying to teach me through my many unknowns this last year. Read these lyrics:

I won’t demand to know the reasons for my suffering
These open hands will trust Your wisdom beyond what I can see
Help me to know that You are God, I am not
Remind my soul You’re in control

Praise to the Father with every breath I take
In joy and sorrow, all for Your kingdom’s sake
Be Thou my vision, Be Thou my hope restored
Now and forever – You are my Great Reward

My prayer is for God to help me change my focus and purpose when I find myself in the midst of the unknowns of life! Instead of demanding to know the “why’s, when’s and how’s”; instead of searching only for solutions and answers, I pray that I will run hard after Christ – our Great Reward!

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