Count it all Joy?!

So I will have to first give my pastor credit for today’s ramblings. He’s a great pastor, and teacher, and his past two weeks’ sermons on the first part of James has been amazing. As usual, what he talks about is stuff I can relate to, or have on my heart at the time.

Have you had a hard time sometimes trying to just survive in our fallen world? Trials and constant.. just stuff always keeps piling on it seems, all while our world is going more insane daily.

And what about when something big slams us… we’ve all been there. How do we learn through trials and hard times, times of loss or pain?

A very wise reptile we all love and respect said something the other day that just stuck in my mind… “It is the worst of times that draws best friends together.”

There is so much truth in that, and I believe it with all my heart. Without a best friend to go through life’s worst that’s thrown at us, it’s almost impossible to imagine going through things alone.

Through a time of my hardest, worst hurts , I had no one to talk to- except God. And He was quiet. I prayed once I got through, that I’d never have to deal with that depth of loneliness ever again. And while I was in a sense alone, and have been since Michael died, I have by His grace and mercy, had people I could talk to and had help from folks in many ways which were a true needed blessing- because I didn’t have one iota of help from many family members.

So I do understand how things can draw best friends closer through tragedy or trials. But how many of us would consider God to be our best friend to carry us? To lean on?

Why is it that we only come to that absolute trust and dependence on Him when we have no other choice?

The things we’ve been learning about at church aren’t that new or hard to understand, and I’d venture to say we all know them already, but being human, we don’t always follow them. We always have other things to fall back on or prefer to find our own solutions first. It should be that God be our best friend, to depend on through everything, no matter if things are going well for us or not. But we don’t, and we need constant reminders that He is there, waiting on us to exhaust all our own wills so we can ask Him to help us.

I’ve mentioned before that when American Boy asked me about his dad, as we followed the ambulance, I told him no matter what, God was with his dad, and with us. That He would take care of us. When we got to the hospital and I told them who I was, I was asked to go sit for a few minutes. When the nurse came out and sat next to me I knew.

And at that minute, I also knew that I would need God, I would need Him to be my best friend and to be with me in ways I’d know He was there. I prayed that I wouldn’t be alone like the last time I experienced a painful test- and He was quiet. I needed Him, and I needed Him in a real, personal, and out loud kind of way. And in His love and goodness, He was, and still is.

As Christians, to be followers is a major step in a relationship with Jesus. But in following, the next major step is to do so with absolute trust and it comes with responsibilities.

We have a responsibility to ask God in trust and faith for wisdom. I needed His wisdom (and still do, always will) to do the right things. So often I realize I can’t trust my own judgement for things I never had to do before. Even things many people take for granted, I found myself, and still do sometimes, afraid, unsure and unprepared to decide on. So I prayed for His wisdom, for discernment in the things I had to do in the months after Michael died. And I still need that for decisions concerning American Boy. Raising a feisty, strong willed, stubborn teen boy is hard enough for two parents, but being a mom, not equipped to teach him many things on growing into a man, I needed wisdom from God who created that strong willed boy. I need wisdom for this strong willed yet unconfident duckie too.

What is the first nugget of wisdom for us through trials and tests?

Count it all joy. Whoo boy, how??

Well, can I count bad things that I experienced years ago as joy? Or the death of my husband? Or the thought of raising the boy on my own? What about all the things I had lost after Michael died? Moving, having to get a job to keep a roof over our heads… No, not at the time. I found no joy in any of those things, and I still don’t. But what I do find Joy in, is that God is faithful to walk with us through it. Or at least be present with us through all tests.

Remember when I said He was quiet when I was going through my earlier test? A bad divorce from someone who’d abused me… who twisted things so that people questioned my behavior… God was so quiet and I thought even He’d forsaken me. But let me ask- when you took tests in school, what was the teacher doing? They were quiet right? Tests are to see where we are, how we’ve retained or comprehended things we’ve been taught.

God does the same thing. No matter where we are, or what we’re going through, He uses as tests which builds endurance (patience). And what does the Bible say about those who endure to the end?

Matthew 24:13 tells us But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

James 1:12 promises, Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Going through trials and tests help us not only to trust in God, but to build endurance which helps us through the next trials, and allows God to show his mercy His way.

James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

How often is it that when we have much, we don’t really give God much thought? That we trust in our own abilities, bank accounts, job security, nest eggs, self reliance… and on and on?

When I talked to American boy on the way home from church this past Sunday we talked a bit about that. Even though Michael and I didn’t have much by way of savings, we did save everything we could, and managed to withstand some very hard and lean years up to the time he passed away. We were proud of our self sufficiency. Being able to grow food, survive if we had to on very little and to not have to rely on government or handouts.

There’s nothing wrong with being wise in preparation or provisions, but even giving God thanks for giving us the abilities to be self sufficient kind of gets set aside.

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Has patience had her perfect work in me yet? No. As much as I’d like to think so, after all the ways God has proven Himself all these years, sometimes I still miss being able to live off the land a little, and having enough for savings. And yet, in some ways, it’s a little easier to depend on Him even for things that come up that I just can’t do. He shows Himself in amazing ways when we have to depend on Him.

It’s easy to get discouraged through trials, especially when they seem to be piling on regularly- but wisdom is also looking with a new perspective. Having our faith developed through trials and tests helps us to see things in a different way that non believers wouldn’t think to do.

James 1:9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted

It’s easy to waller in discouragement when life throws things for a curve, or slams you head on into a post.  All the what ifs, if onlys, could’a, shoulda’s cloud our minds and helps us to stay discouraged.  By refocusing on what the Lord has us in, whether it’s a season of trials, being still, or in the middle of the fiercest storm of our life… and understanding that He is working out endurance and refinement is something we can do to help us get out of those thoughts.

I know- it all sounds so… ugh.. simple?  So many people are facing incredible things, life changing, or dangerous things. I get that simple mind changes, focusing on a God we can’t see sounds ridiculous, but it’s really not.  He proves Himself through these times if we let Him. We need His wisdom so we can let Him.

While I question  any kind of a future for myself here and now, and wonder if things will ever change for the better or not see much hope for my life here, I still have hope for life beyond this one. Hope that helps me through this life with everything it tries to throw.

Oh, and remember those tests at school? Sure they seemed long at the time, but they didn’t last forever.  An old friend once reminded me years ago- the Scriptures always say, “And it came to pass”.  It didn’t come to stay.  Trials will pass. Yes there will be more again, but they too shall pass.

Once again, James 1:12

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

While I love my earthly best friends, God is truly my best friend and I love Him. My hope lies in Him, and I trust His promises. And that makes enduring trials and tests so worth counting for Joy, no matter how hard they are.

Whatever you face today, give it to the Lord and count it as Joy ♥

Have a blessed day all!

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