This question of ease and comfort haunts me at times. God often whispers this question to me in the midst of my angst … when I get frustrated that life is not as I planned it … harder than I want it to be … more difficult … more painful … more complex … gut wrenching and seemingly impossible.
A few years ago I sat at breakfast, opposite a good friend … he spoke to me, weeping, of how hard family life had been for him lately. He was experiencing marital problems as well as issues with his children. As he was speaking to me the Holy Spirit gave me something to say … which was good because I had nothing to say that could help him in any way. I began by asking him a question. I said "Do you know how much God loves your family"? I continued "Do you know how much God loves your wife"? "Do you know how much God loves your kids"? He sat there looking kind of perplexed. I told him that God loved his family so much that He sent them a husband and father who was a mature experienced believer ... He didn't send a rookie when a veteran was needed.
In the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he says
"So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall. No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."This scripture tells us first to be on our guard … temptation or testing is something that is common to us all. It also tells us that when testing comes we can depend on one thing - God's faithfulness. It says that God will measure out the testing in proportion to what we can bear … what we have been prepared to undertake. How many of us want things before we can handle them … we all do. When we were young we wanted to drive a car … though we could hardly reach the pedals or see over the dashboard ... we believed that we were "ready for the road". Many of us have experienced lessons in humility by taking on roles and tasks that we were not prepared for. That is why I find these scriptures so comforting and encouraging. When a crisis comes, we can be sure that we have One who is faithful to not allow the crisis to be beyond what we can bear. Instead of getting depressed or running from our trouble we must embrace our testing.
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians he writes of his trials:
"Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and day on the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have know hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Beside everything else, face the daily pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness."He goes on later to say that the Lord said to him:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness".Paul concludes:
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."The Apostle James instructs us to:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."I think that we all want to "not lack anything" but kind of get hung up along the way. We all want spiritual maturity but find it difficult when hard times come. Perhaps if we could get a glimpse of what Paul and James had … seeing the trials and testings that come our way as God's ways to strengthen us and make us like Jesus … we too would say when we are weak we are strong.