Seasons of Testing

722ef7429d5bef55b02631684d622cdcA while back, I wrote an article about the different seasons of life. If you didn’t read it, you can here. This morning, my thoughts led me to ponder these seasons a little more deeply. One in particular seemed fitting for the particular season I have been in – the season of testing. As is often the case, a conversation with a friend I haven’t talked to in a while provided the inspiration and hence, this article. After recounting the various trials I’ve been through in the past several months – having major surgery to remove my left hip and the long, painful road to recovery, learning to deal with the difficulties of being in a wheelchair most of the time, losing my dad suddenly and unexpectedly, plus the loss of my husband’s job – she asked me, “How is your faith holding up?”

There is no greater test of our faith than when we are in the midst of the fire. In fact, I have come to believe that you don’t really know where your faith level is at UNTIL it is being tested. Anyone can have faith when things are going smoothly, according to our plans. However, God wants much more from us than being comfortable, while claiming to have great faith. When God was commending Job to the devil, even the devil understood this when he said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have You not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out Your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:9-11) And we all know what happened next; Job was put to the test. 

So is God mean, or angry, does He enjoy watching us suffer? Every saint mentioned in the Bible underwent some form of testing, some more severe than others. It’s understandable why many who don’t believe use this as an excuse. “If God is good, then why do innocent people suffer?” they ask. I admit to wondering this at times, too. Especially when it comes to children. It is true that much suffering is a result of living in a fallen world, or because of our poor choices. But that’s not the point of this article. Why does God allow His beloved children, His chosen ones to go through such trials and testings, even when they have faithfully served Him? I have wrestled with this question for many years.

To understand God’s ways in our seasons of testing requires that we step back from the moment and take a good, hard look at the big picture. In other words, we must have an eternal perspective. As finite humans, we get confused when we focus in on our little world with all of its difficulties – the things that get in the way of us having or doing what we want. Financial lack, sickness, job losses, relational issues, etc., often consume us and turn our focus inward. We seek the quickest, easiest way to get out of the pain. When that doesn’t work, we cry, moan, and groan. We are not unlike the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness.

But God in His wisdom, allows what He could easily prevent in His power. He does this because He sees and knows the big picture, and what He is trying to accomplish in us. James had this revelation when he wrote, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the TESTING OF YOUR FAITH produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, emphasis mine) There it is – the testing of your faith. Faith must be tested. Testing produces perseverance, endurance, patience. These characteristics, found within the nature of God, will bring us to maturity and perfection. In other words, God’s purpose in allowing seasons of testing is to make us more like Him. If we fail to understand that and resist the process, we only prolong the trials and suffering. Israel’s eleven day journey became forty years of wandering. 

God is not mean, angry, or vengeful. He does not enjoy seeing His people suffer. But like a good parent, He knows that we don’t know what is best for us. He understands how to raise us up into mature sons and daughters. Granted, it’s a painful process, as any parent would testify. It often hurts to discipline our children because we feel their pain. Even more so, does our heavenly Father. Though it may seem harsh at times, His goodness is seen as He walks with us through the fire, and doesn’t prolong it beyond what is absolutely necessary to accomplish His perfect will in us. Instead of praying to get out of the test, may He give us grace to cooperate with Him so we may pass the tests and move on to maturity!

 

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Standing on God our Rock

standing on rockI wrote briefly last week about a recent season of adversity I’ve been (and still am) going through. As I said in that short article, I’ve been processing what God has been showing me so that it might provide insight for others in difficult situations. Of course, I also expect to gain greater understanding of what He’s doing in my life.

One recent night I was unable to sleep, and was scrolling through the internet reading articles that caught my attention. After reading one, the Lord led me to Matthew 7:24-27, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

The next verse He brought to mind was Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” There are plenty of rich nuggets in these verses, more than could fit within this short article, so I will only focus on those that make my point.

In the first passage, Jesus says that storms will come to everyone – wise or foolish. The house represents our life. We all have the choice of what kind of foundation we will build our lives upon and that foundation is either our way, or His way. He describes His way as a rock – immovable, firm, unchanging, while our way is likened to sand – unstable, constantly shifting, soft. The storms are the circumstances of this life – death, sickness, lack, and other forms of adversity. These are things we all face because we live in a fallen world.

Though we are all impacted by troubles, if we build our lives upon the truth of His Word, we will not be devastated or destroyed. However, if we choose to go our own way, He declares our lives will face great devastation and ruin. Some of this can apply to our lives here on the earth, as well as our lives in the next age.

The second passage is similar in meaning. The “full armor” of God are characteristics describing different aspects of Jesus’ ministry. He is the Truth (belt); He is our righteousness (breastplate); He is our salvation (helmet); He is our Prince of peace (shoes); our faith is in Him (shield), and the Spirit is our weapon (the sword/Word).

To “put on ” the armor of God it is not some sort of mental exercise we go through daily for fear we will be unprotected if we forget. It means to walk in His ways – His character and nature. When we do this, He says we can then “stand [our ground].” The ground refers again, to our foundation. When we build upon the foundation of His ways, His character and nature, we can trust we will indeed stand, no matter who or what may come against us. And, even more importantly, He will be standing beside and around us for He dwells within us.

Therefore, whatever we may be facing, we can have the assurance that He will bring us through it victorious, if we continue to stand on Him – our faithful, unchanging Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing With Disappointment With God

Charlene S Hughes

A recent conversation with a friend unearthed a topic that, I believe, plagues the mindsDepressed Man On Bench of many believers. I know I have dealt with it more times than I care to remember. It also comes up frequently with those I minister to. If not resolved, it has the potential to derail us from our destiny. The subject – disappointment with God. In Romans 9:33, Paul writes, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” The word translated “disappointed” literally means, “put to shame.” Paul was quoting from Isaiah 28:16, and the stone/rock spoken of is referring to Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone.

I would venture to say that most, if not all of us who are believers, have had times we felt disappointed with God. Why? Some reasons I’ve discovered are:

1. He doesn’t seem to…

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Dealing With Disappointment With God

A recent conversation with a friend unearthed a topic that, I believe, plagues the mindsDepressed Man On Bench of many believers. I know I have dealt with it more times than I care to remember. It also comes up frequently with those I minister to. If not resolved, it has the potential to derail us from our destiny. The subject – disappointment with God. In Romans 9:33, Paul writes, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” The word translated “disappointed” literally means, “put to shame.” Paul was quoting from Isaiah 28:16, and the stone/rock spoken of is referring to Jesus, the Chief Cornerstone.

I would venture to say that most, if not all of us who are believers, have had times we felt disappointed with God. Why? Some reasons I’ve discovered are:

1. He doesn’t seem to answer our prayers, or answers them in a way we weren’t expecting.

2. We go through difficult times and don’t understand why He seems to allow it.

3. We are wounded by other believers, the Church, leaders, etc., and feel He is somehow to blame.

4. The prophetic words or promises we’ve received haven’t come to pass.

There are probably many more reasons, but these are a few I’ve personally dealt with, and know many others who have too. There is much that could be said about each of these, but, in short, it all boils down to one thing – we don’t understand His ways. If you ponder these reasons at all, it seems evident that all of these center around “me.” We so easily forget that this life, once we have surrendered it to Him, is no longer about us; it is about Him having His way in and through us.

In truth, if we have died to ourselves and He now lives His life in and through us, we have given up our so-called “rights” to have anything. A dead person doesn’t question or object when things don’t go as they thought they would. I’m not saying we should never question God, for He can handle our lack of understanding and self-centeredness. He totally understands the weakness of our flesh. (see Psalm 103:14) But if we are going to grow up in Him, we must trust that His ways are higher, and far better, than anything we could ever come up with. (Is. 55:8-9) We must believe that everything He allows in our lives is for our good, whether we see it, feel it, or not. (Rom. 8:28)

We must remember that this life is not about having our way. I believe God loves us far more than we’re capable of comprehending. I believe He has good plans and a destiny for each of us that will bring us great satisfaction and fulfillment. But ultimately, His plan is to conform us into His image. He is preparing us now for our future assignments – ruling and reigning with Him for eternity. His consummate desire is to raise up a bride who is worthy of His Son. He has an eternal perspective, and if we are going to better understand Him and His ways, we need to have one, too. Remembering these things will help us to surrender our disappointment with Him, to Him.

How have you dealt with disappointment with God? I would love to hear your comments!