“Alright woodchuck chuckers, it’s Groundhog Day!” Call me a little weird, but I have always loved the movie Groundhog Day. It is hilarious and I plan to watch it in its entirety as soon as I complete this post! ~smile~ Additionally, it highlights the struggle and depression one feels when his or her life seems to be going nowhere. It also reminds us that we can take those dark times and use them for good.
I live in Virginia and this winter has already been “too much” for me. Those in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada, and other chilly areas around the world likely do not feel sorry for me one bit, I am sure. But, for us, it is not a normal cold, but a bone-chilling cold… and my normal jacket is not cutting it! I remember my mentor saying, “Heather, as you get to be more mature (i.e., as you get older), the cold gets to you more.” Well, Miss Betty, I guess I am officially becoming… mature. It has been cold! And gray. And I have been dreaming of the warm sun on my skin and waves hitting the shore in the background.
Why does it have to be so cold?!
Then, I woke up on Groundhog Day… to warmth! Out of the blue, it is 60 degrees in February. Thank you, Lord, for this reprieve. Even though I know the cold is coming back, I can enjoy these moments outside with my doggie, open a few windows, and reminisce about it when it is freezing again. (By the way, it was snowing yesterday. The weather around here does not play by the rules.)
This time of cold and gray has led me to think about the trials in our lives. When will it get better? When will springtime come? Has the Lord forgotten about me?
As we prepare to craft our personal and couple’s creeds this year, it is important to study and think through the topic of trials. What are trials? What role do they play in our lives? How should we react to them? If there is one thing we can expect in life, it is that we really have no idea what to expect. There will always be mountains and there will always be valleys. Some days, we will feel as though life cannot get any better; whereas, other days, we will wonder what the point is in getting out of bed. That is just life… and if we do not share similar beliefs with our partners about trials, we may be in store for some frustrating, emotional, and lonely days.
Do You See a Shadow?
As legend tells it, on February 2nd, the groundhog comes out, looks around, and either sees his shadow or not. If he does see his shadow, we can expect six more weeks of winter. If he does not, we can expect spring to come early! I don’t know about you, but when I am neck deep in a rough patch, I wish I had a groundhog to clue me in as to how much longer I must suffer.
Will life be easier in six weeks?
Will I still be struggling next year?
Is relief imminent?
Unfortunately (or, perhaps quite fortunately), we do not have a furry, diurnal, burrowing creature to predict the end of our cold, gray, depressing seasons. But, what we do have is God’s Word and passages which challenge our gloomy perspectives.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4, ESV)
James is one of my favorite books of the Bible, possibly because I know my tongue is one of my biggest problems (chapter 3)! But, in addition to challenging me to keep my mouth shut, James starts right off by telling us not to be discouraged by trials, but to be joyful in them! God is allowing you to suffer so that you may grow and be more like Him which is the end goal of every believer. Trials give us a chance to trust, to grow, and to see God work in mighty ways.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18, ESV)
I go back to this verse again and again when I am feeling discouraged. It is a beautiful reminder that there is no experience on earth so bad that we can even compare it with Heaven. It is like a child suffering the lack of candy for one minute in exchange for all the candy in the world in eternity. For those who are in Christ, suffering is only for a season. Compared to eternity, our suffering is like a ragged breath, a brief sting, or a single tear.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7, ESV)
For the believer, another beautiful result of trials is experiencing peace which passes understanding. One of my favorite songs as a teenager was Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look forward in His wonderful face.
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
When we take our eyes off our circumstances and seek the Lord – not solutions, not results, but the Lord – our situations fade into the background and we are overcome with the glory of our Savior. Trials give us the opportunity to experience peace which does not make any earthly sense. When we seek God, thank God, and trust God, He pours out His peace on us and there is nothing in this world like it. He may not immediately remove us from the fiery furnace, but He shields us and walks with us (cf. Daniel 3:24-28).
In the binder (or folder) you’re keeping for your pre-creed research (you’re keeping one this year, right? ~smile~), add the below questions and think of others to add as well. Answer individually and then discuss them together.
- What is my definition of a trial?
- What trials have I been through and what did I experience before, during, and after? What did I learn from the experience?
- What do I believe about the role of trials in my life (e.g., I do not believe they have a purpose, they teach us patience, they are tools God uses to sanctify us, etc.)?
- Should we ask God for trials? Why or why not?
- How do I react when I go through a difficult season? How do I believe I should react in those seasons?
- In my future marriage, how do I want my spouse and I to respond when faced with trials?
Knowing what we believe about trials is important before forming our creeds because trials play such a prominent role in the lives of believers. What you believe about trials will affect how you react to them. Your beliefs lead to your actions. So, take some time to consider what you believe. Study God’s Word. Talk to seasoned Christians who have been through mountaintops and valleys. Ask God to reveal Himself to you as you study.
Is Every Hardship a Trial?
Sometimes what seems like a trial is not a trial; but, rather, a result of our poor decisions. The hungover partier may say “God is really testing me” as he holds his head over the toilet. Yet, those looking on know his suffering is a result of his choices. Sometimes we suffer because we willingly go down the wrong path. We choose to continue eating the wrong foods and then whine when we encounter related health problems. We stay friends with negative people and complain when everything in our lives seems bleak and worthless. We complain instead of praying and then wonder why God is not answering our non-existent prayers.
Though not everything you believe will fit into your creed (after all, you want to be able to memorize it or even post it up in your home), we would encourage you to include something about trials and suffering. Trials are central to the Christian life and making note of that in your personal and couple’s creeds can serve as a frequent reminder of God’s grace, mercy, and steadfast love during the valley experiences – to you and to others who read your creed.
Often, we endure trials seeking God’s deliverance from them. Suffering is painful for us to endure or to see those we love endure. While our instinct is to flee trials, remember that even in the midst of suffering, God’s will is being done. – Paul Chappell