Seasons of Blessing

A former pastor of mine once said, “Seasons of testing are always followed by seasons of Blessings-Glitters-2blessing.” After many years of walking with the Lord, I believe that is true. God is good and He loves to give good gifts to His children. If you’re a parent, you know the exhiliration of surprising your child with something they have desired, and watching the joy erupt on their face, the hugs and kisses they give, and the feelings of gratitude they share. There is nothing quite like it! How much more does our Heavenly Father love to do the same for us? I have no doubt He gets as much joy, if not more, than we do when He blesses us.

Obviously, we would love it if all we ever received from Him were blessings, or at least, so we think. I don’t know of anyone, especially me, that enjoys the trials and testings that make up so much of our lives. I’ve already written briefly on how important those times of difficulty are; if you didn’t read it, you can here.

Though I love the blessings of God, I’ve come to the conclusion that our seasons of blessing can be even more challenging than the times of testing. The reason I believe that is found in Scripture. One example is from Deuteronomy 7-8. In chapter 7, Moses and God remind the children of Israel of all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon them and will continue to pour out upon them, if they will follow His laws and decrees. Then in chapter 8, He issues a sobering warning, beginning in verse 10, When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land He has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery… You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today. If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.” (8:10-20)

Though we’re no longer under the Law, it is true that blessings often distract us from our need for the Lord. It is easy to forget all that He has done for us, and that which He provides for us. Jesus said it was difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom. Wealth kept the rich young ruler from following Him, for he could not let his money go. The man whose vast riches inspired him to build bigger barns to store them in lost his life and his soul. In contrast, testings, when dealt with properly, will drive us closer to God. They bless us by reminding us how fragile we, and the things of this world, really are.

Blessings don’t have to destroy us or our relationship with God, however. When stewarded as they should be, they can be a means to bless others. In fact, God often does just that – He blesses us so that we, in turn, may bless others. Blessings can make us more grateful people. Our old nature is hopelessly selfish and greedy, never satisfied. When we meditate upon God’s goodness in seasons of blessings, we should be humbled and thankful that He doesn’t give us what we deserve. This, I believe, is one reason why God chooses to bless us. He is good, and His goodness is a facet of His splendor and glory. Lord, teach us to be grateful people and humble us through your extravagant goodness!

 

 

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!

 

Changing Seasons

seasonsGod said in His Word, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecc. 3:1) There are seasons in nature, and seasons in our lives. I find it amusing though somewhat annoying at times at how we so often complain about changing seasons, especially when it comes to the weather. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too humid, etc. Often, we do the same in whatever current life season we are in. We want to finish school, or start that new job; we want our kids to become more independent so we can do what we want. We want to grow up and move out of our parents’ house, get married, have a baby, go on that mission trip…and so on.

We humans have such tunnel vision. We search for the light at the end, but totally miss the journey to get there – perhaps because it is dark and we can’t see what lies between where we are and where we long to be. We focus on the destination – on our destiny, the fulfillment of our dreams, arriving at that place where everything will be as we want it. Yet within the journey, God has stored the greatest treasures. Every season has its unique beauty and challenges. Each serves a vital purpose in preparing us for our ultimate destination – Christlikeness and spiritual union with Him.

It matters not whether we are going to school, learning a new job, raising children, supporting a family, serving on the mission field, training for ministry, running a business, being a wife, husband, mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, daughter, son, aunt, uncle…I hope you get the picture. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity. That sounds like it includes pretty much everything to me!

Colossians 3:23-24 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward…”  Whatever season we are in, whatever we do every day, matters to God. He sees it all, and uses it all for our good, to accomplish His purposes in our lives. Remembering this can help cure us of tunnel vision. Seeking the treasures He has for us on the journey will help us to be filled with gratitude rather than complaints. It isn’t always easy, but it is worth the struggle because we get to discover more of who He is and wants to be for us in each season. This will lead us into deeper intimacy, the greatest treasure of all and the ultimate destination we all long for. If we ask Him, He will help us learn to enjoy the journey!