“Thank You for the trials
For the fire, for the pain.
Thank You for the strength
Knowing You have ordained
– Joel Sczebel and Todd Twining
These lyrics struck me the first time I heard them a few years ago. Though I do not ask God for trials, I am thankful for the ones He has chosen for me – as strange as that may sound.
Some trials are God-ordained. He allows us to go through them to sanctify us and make us more Christ-like. Other trials we bring on ourselves by making poor choices. (I have surely endured my share of those.) Have we not all struggled with the consequences of our actions? Honestly, is there anything better for a child than to allow him or her to feel the pain which comes from disobedience or foolish choices? Sometimes we think we are showing love or mercy by removing the natural consequences which come as a result of foolishness; but, really, the most loving action we can take is to let children feel the pain of their poor choices. They can learn the reality of cause and effect now when they have little to lose – or they can learn it later when it could cost them dearly.
Most of the trails in my life have been due to my poor choices. However, some, I am sure, were ordained by God for a purpose I may never understand. When I am lying in bed weeping, I do not appreciate the trials; but, when the clouds begin to part, I find myself thankful that God sees fit to take this lifeless lump of clay and form it into something beautiful.
My Own Pain Helps Me Better Understand the Pain of Others
One of the main reasons I am thankful God has allowed me to suffer some in my life is that I am more keenly aware of others’ pain. We can understand that others hurt and we can be deeply sorry, but it is another matter entirely to get it. Though everyone grieves in his or her own way and at differing degrees, I am honored to have a glimpse into the suffering of my neighbors.
Mother’s Day is particularly hard for me – to the point that I tend to avoid going to church on that Sunday. The pain of watching all the mothers receive accolades, of hearing “Happy Mother’s Day” ring through the hallways, and of enduring the squeals as young ladies announce their pregnancies is simply too gut-wrenching. However, because of my own pain, I am also aware of the mother in the corner who lost her sweet child last year. Aware of the couple in the front row who lived through several failed adoptions, but never brought home a child of their own. Aware of the woman staring down at her coffee cup, grieving the sudden loss of her husband and the dreams they held together. Aware of the mother of three who can think only of the baby she miscarried years ago. And, aware of the brave woman with the painted smile who throws showers for everyone, and yet constantly dreams of attending her own baby shower.
I still pray God gives us children; and, in the meantime, I thank Him for giving me the slightest glimpse into the aching hearts all around me.
Trials Remind Me that I Must Rely On God
When everything in life is going well, we naturally drift from our dependence on God – at least, we forget how dependent we are. As the old gospel song says, “I can’t even walk without You holding my hand.” Without reminders of our need for His grace, we trust in Him less and in our own abilities more.
Experiencing trials, even the ones I cause for myself, reminds me that I am weak and in desperate need of a Savior, Comforter, Counselor, and Teacher.
Times of Heartache Give Me An Opportunity to Draw Near to God
Never have I felt so close to the Lord as when I am at my weakest. Just as I crawled into my Daddy’s lap for comfort as a child, I still want to crawl into my Savior’s lap now for comfort, reassurance, and connection.
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
I Know God is Using the Pain to Sanctify Me and Make Me More Christ-like
When the ache is strong, and I wonder how much more of it I can take, I remember that the struggle is not in vain. My Lord has a plan, and His plans are not like our plans. His plans do not fail. I take comfort in knowing He is working in my life – for my good and my sanctification.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
Painful Moments Slow Me Down and Help Me Divide the Important from the Not-So-Important
Have you ever been going about your day, complaining of life’s little inconveniences, only to see a mind-blowing headline or to receive a phone call about the death of a family friend? Do those moments stop you in your tracks? Do lesser problems fade into the background? The morning I found out my godfather was suddenly taken from this earth, I had a load of work on my plate for the day. In fact, I was about to get started on it when I discovered the news. After reading his son’s words on Facebook, “I miss Dad,” and learning the details of his passing, none of my work mattered at that point. Driving to my hometown and being with family is all that mattered.
Are You Thankful for the Pain?
As we head into Thanksgiving, I would challenge you to take a moment and thank God not only for the good in your life, but also for the trials He has brought you through. We forget sometimes that God is always good – even when He allows us to hurt.
How have you seen God use suffering in your life to make you more like Him?