I often think of my dear mother who was ushered into heaven on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. During the decline of her health, she was in great pain, and she would pray and ask God for the strength to help her to endure. Her great faith in a Faithful God helped her in her time of suffering.
She had lived a blessed life of 90 years and she was looking for that city that God had designed and built (Hebrews 11:10). On Dec 25, 2013, as my brother and I were at the ER at Sampson Regional with our mother, as she was in so much pain, she would quote Revelation 21:4; and she would inform God that she was ready for the day when He would wipe her tears away. And she was ready for the land where she would live forever, with no sorrow, crying or pain! Mother knew that grace had brought her safe thus far and grace would led her home.
I was my Mother’s caregiver and it was such a great honor to take care of her and see the example of faith she lived out daily. As I would listen to my mother and reflected on my own life, I could see how the tests in my life had grew my faith and trust in God and I have learned to accept His Will in my life. I have been through so many tests and trials, more than one near death experiences. And you don’t know “all” of my story, but my story is the reason for my “Praise.”
Why would a loving Heavenly Father allow His children to go through terrible trials and experience sorrow? We can understand the reason that this is a common question — it can be baffling when the all-powerful God of love seems to stand silently while painful things happen to His followers.
Job 14:1,”Man born of a woman is of few days and ‘full of trouble.’” On this journey called life, we all will suffer, saved or unsaved. “It rains on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) Where is He during personal tragedies, natural disasters, financial crises, and other times of heartache? The Word of God is the only place we can find the real answer. Even the scripture in James 1: 2-4 can be hard to understand or accept.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (New Living Translation) One may read James’s exhortation to be joyful in the face of trials and think, Count me out! Difficulties and joy just don’t seem to go together—that is, unless we understand God’s perspective of what life is all about. The Biblical definition of endurance is: “continuing Christian commitment in the face of difficulty.”
When James spoke of joy, he wasn’t referring to a cheery, frivolous feeling. Rather, he was talking about an inner sense of calmness, peace and confidence in the Lord. He wasn’t telling us to feel happy about our trials but to know, as we go through them, that God is up to something good in our life.
Isaiah 55:8 informs us that His ways and thoughts far exceed ours. Our attitude during the struggle will determine what shape we’re in when we come out on the other side. Despite our sin, His thoughts are for grace and peace. Trials test our faith, confirms our faith, and grows our trust in God. Trials can make us bitter or better. Trials reveal what we truly value. If God were so glorious but allowed me to think I was enjoying Him when I was only enjoying comfort, then I wouldn’t be seeing a beautiful and accessible God who lovingly pursues me.
When tested, faith in the life of a person committed to living according to the Will of God, produces an inevitable victory. We must have faith and trust in Almighty God. But when God enables me to endure even when I am weak, people can see that the strength is from Him, and I am made humble and dependent. He gets the glory, not me. Jesus gives us the strength to stand firm and press on. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “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. 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.’” God does not promise certain limits to suffering. He doesn’t guarantee personal happiness. He does not ensure our escape from pain. His people are often crushed beyond measure. God does not give us freedom from weakness but strength in weakness—the strength to keep obeying, and serving even when I feel tired and overwhelmed like I can’t go on. If God made me strong, all people would see is my strength, and I would become proud.
We should endure challenging moments with confidence and courage, and arise from them with an even stronger faith. As Christians we have learned that simply having professing faith is not the same as acting on faith. We should face every difficulty that life presents with confidence and optimism that God will work things out to our advantage in His own due time and in His own mysterious way. Faith + trial = patience. Why would anyone want to rejoice when trouble comes? They see life with worldly eyes. The Christian rejoices when trouble comes. When trouble comes, we should approach it with an attitude that it is another opportunity to let our faith work and for Christ to work through us to achieve another victory.
When our faith gets tested, the end result is endurance; being aware of this gives us hope and strength. What’s more, the Bible promises God will use trials for our good, so we don’t need to be afraid or anxious. God’s desire is to bless us, not destroy us. Adversity can make someone feel like a victim, but as followers of Christ, we can choose to be victors. After all I’ve been through, I still have joy, I still have peace, and I still have a praise inside of me. Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
There has been times when I felt like I was overtaken by the enemy because of the wounds and scars, but after reflecting on God’s Word which He declares that He will never leave me nor forsake me but that He would be with me always, even unto the end, I am able to keep my praise! I still have a “Glory Hallelujah” inside of me. Tell the Lord Thank You because you still have a “Praise” inside you in spite of all you went through. When we go through our tests and trials we should have even a greater praise when God brings us out. Yes, God is going to bring us out for He declares that He is with us in it. Romans 8: 31; “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Marvin Sapp sings a song entitled, “Never Would Have Made It.” Some of the words are,”Never would have made it, Never could have made it, without You. I would have lost it all. But now I see how You were there for me. And I can say, ‘I’m stronger, I’m wiser, I’m better, much better. When I look back over all You brought me through, I can see that You were the One I held on to. I made it through my storm and test because You were there to carry me through my mess.’” Live with enduring faith in God and He will sustain you through every trial.
Milley Brewington is a guest columnist for The Sampson Independent.