Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Embracing Eternity's View Amidst Earth's Challenges"

(The title of this post is taken from Pastor's message on Sunday afternoon.)

The Lord has been teaching me so much lately about trials, and about seeing things from His perspective. In fact, I am becoming addicted to trying to see everything from Christ's perspective. All the events of this year have really helped me to do that. Following is some of what I have been learning.

  1. God allows trials in our lives to make us more like Jesus. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations [various trials]: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7). For the first time yesterday, I read 1 Peter 1 as though it had been written directly to me-- something I had never done before. I was reading it in light of Megan's and the Wagoners' deaths (it sometimes strikes me afresh as though it had never struck me before, and yesterday was one of those days), and it just seemed so real, so alive, so applicable. I learned that instead of responding to life's trials in a fleshly way (v. 14), we now have the power to be like Christ through it all, to be holy as He is holy (v. 15). During tragedy, we learn to depend on the Father as Christ did-- even though He is God. During conflicts with others, we learn to love as Christ loves-- unconditionally, sacrificially. In trials such as these, we ought not to look for others to change, but ourselves. Perhaps the Lord is trying to purge us from something in our lives, and fire is the only way.
  2. God allows trials in our lives to glorify Himself. Read Ephesians 1. Over and over again, Paul proclaims that it is for "the praise of His glorious grace". He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace. We hope in Christ to the praise of His glory. We will one day acquire possession of our inheritance to the praise of His glory. God loves to show us how good He is, how omniscient, how omnipotent. In the normal pace of life, when all goes well, ease and carelessness clouds His goodness from our human eyes. It is in the times of trial, when we think life is so dark, that God actually pulls back the clouds and shows us how wonderful He is. I have learned more about His trustworthiness, goodness, wisdom, and strength in the past few months of tragedy and trial (big and small) than I could have in a whole year of living in a bed of roses.
  3. God allows trials in our lives to prove us. In Matthew 7, we read of the "wise man" and the "foolish man". Usually, when we read that passage, we start singing that children's song: "The rain came down, and the floods came up..." and of course, we think the hand motions. But for once, let's try to think of that passage in a different way. Let's see it for what God is really teaching. The storms in our lives-- be they small or great, physical, emotional, spiritual-- prove the integrity of our lives and the foundation we have built upon. Trials prove where we place our hope. For instance, a huge economic crash will show whether a man put his hope in the Lord or in riches. A breakup with a boyfriend will prove whether a girl had given her whole heart to Jesus or absolutely lost it to a fallible person. A tragedy in the family or in one's circle of friends (as we had this year) will prove whether a person really believed, or whether they just said they believed, that God is always good and wise. God's Word tells us that the earth will one day dissolve, but He is unchanging, unshakable... forever. The biggest storm in life cannot shake the life that is founded on the Rock of Ages.
  4. God will bring us triumphantly through each trial to eternal peace and blessing. In Revelation 7, we see the glorious scene of countless people, clothed in white and praising their Saviour in glorious chorus. These are the people who came through the great tribulation-- they suffered such terrible things, and yet they stood firm through Christ, and He brought them through to glorious rest. In this chapter we see such a beautiful picture of our Jesus-- He shelters them with His presence, He leads them like a Shepherd, He wipes all tears from their eyes. During trials, however big or small, we must remember this. Spring follows winter; rainbows follow the storm; peace follows pain; eternity follows earth (and proceeds it). Our struggles will one day end in glorious rest for all eternity. What a thrilling joy it will be to praise our Saviour in Heaven after the play of earth ends and we see Him glorified. What a great sight that will be! What words can describe it?
In Wives and Daughters, we follow the protagonist, Molly, through all sorts of heartache-- her father's remarriage, the man she loves throwing away his affections to another girl who doesn't care a wit for him, friends dying, and her being criticized for things she didn't do but being unable to defend herself due to promises. But in the end, everything turns out for good. I feel like crying as I watch Roger and Molly standing in the rain... "Molly, have I any chance with you?" Through all the trials, she learns Christlike love, patience, endurance, discernment, and constancy. She comes through like gold, and when all she could wish for finally comes to be, it is even more wonderful, more exciting, than if it had all worked out in the first place, and she has grown into a beautiful, godly young woman. It the same type of story with Cranford. Disappointments, secrets, misunderstandings, even deaths... but in the end, Dr. Harrison and Sophie marry, Martha and Jem marry and are able to help Miss Mattie, Harry finally gets to go to school, Lady Ludlow finally comes to see what is important in life, Miss Mattie's brother comes back... and I just gave away a lot of spoilers... But there is joy after sorrow, and that is what makes Wives and Daughters and Cranford such sweet stories!

And here that is the way our lives are. One day we will come through, and how glad we will be that the Lord brought those things in our lives to make us all the closer to Him, and all the more joyful in Him. Now does it seem so strange that Peter says we "rejoice" in various trials? Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, "Rejoice!"

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