It has been said that a classic is a book everyone would like to have read but no one really wants to read. Take Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, for example. I confess I’ve never read it, and I probably never will. It’s one of the longest novels ever written, and it’s quite a feat to make it through. Sure, it would be nice to have already read it, but I don’t want to go to the effort!
In a similar way, I’ve found there are other things in life I want the benefits of having done, but I don’t want to do them. I want the benefits and rewards of having gone through the trials of life victoriously, but I’m not eager to go through them! I want the testimony and experience of having weathered storms successfully. I want to look back with joy and see the merciful, strong hand of God’s grace getting me through each trial. I want my family and friends to see God in action in my life. And I want the perspective on my future that only comes from having trusted God in the past.
But to gain the perspective I desire, I must do more than just survive day by day. I need to get through my trials successfully. And that means trusting God today with whatever trials or difficulties I am currently facing. I must not ignore the situation. I can’t look for someone else to blame or wait for someone else to handle it. I dare not have a pity party. And whining in my spirit like a spoiled toddler, hoping my heavenly Father will take the trial away, is not an option either!
I’m nowhere near perfect, but sometimes, when the problems of life hit, I truly want to do right—right away. I want to faithfully and peacefully accept God’s will. I want to be courageous. I want to show love or die to self. I want to do the right thing. I want to be godly. In those times it is pretty easy to trust God and move through the situation successfully in His strength.
Other times, although my flesh does not immediately want to react in godly ways, I do at least desire to want to do right. I want to want to! I am more than willing in those circumstances to let God work in my heart to line my desires up with His will. At those times, I see my desperate need for His grace, strength, and mercy, and I am quick to make my requests known to Him. Thankfully, He is loving, thorough, powerful, and kind! He always meets the need of my heart.
But sometimes, I have to confess what God already knows: I don’t want to do what I know I should do, and I don’t even want to want to. At those times, I must get to the point where I can ask the Lord to change my heart and help me obey Him from my heart. And you know what? He is never shocked by my honesty. He knows only too well that I am dust. And fearful. And selfish. And easily deceived. Thankfully, He is always gracious. And oh so very patient!
When I have trouble going through a trial, I have learned that it’s usually because I am looking too closely at the problem and how it affects me. I focus on what I will have to go through. How long it might last. What I will have to give up. What I will have to do. How hard it will be. I dwell on the fact that I don’t like difficulty. I don’t like conflict. I balk at some responsibilities. I think about how tired and worn out I can feel when going through a long, challenging process. I take an inventory of how many hard things have come my way in recent days. In short, my focus is on me, me, me—and my misery.
In my flesh, I don’t embrace difficulty. I don’t want to exercise endurance. I find cultivating spiritual fruit in my life to be difficult. Truthfully, I pretty much just want life to be one big, long, happy, easy, healthy, prosperous, fulfilling time. I have a hunch that I’m probably not alone in that desire. But that’s not the norm on this earth, is it?
Just knowing that my wishes for an easy life are unrealistic can help me resign myself to the inevitable difficulties life brings. But being resigned to the inevitable, gritting my teeth and just trying to plow through, is hardly enjoyable for me, and it isn’t the glowing testimony I desire. It doesn’t yield the fruit of contentment, peace, abundance, strength, or joy. It doesn’t make me feel safe or cared for.
Gritting my teeth and enduring life is not God-honoring. As a Christian, I know that I have been saved by God’s amazing grace. God is love. God is stronger than anything else. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. God’s grace is sufficient for absolutely anything I face.
God loves us so much that He doesn’t leave us in our sinful mess. Once we come to Him for salvation, He begins a refining process in our lives. That’s a good thing! His refining fire brings peace, growth, faith, strength, and trust. I can trust that when He allows a trial in my life, as long as I love Him, He will work it all for my good.
When I’m faced with a trial and I’m feeling afraid or hopeless or stubborn or out of my comfort zone, it’s imperative that I switch my focus off of me and onto God. I need to speak truth to myself in my heart and mind. I need to focus on the truth of the character of God—His faithfulness, strength, omnipotence, grace, mercy, providence, peace, power, and more!
Getting the focus off me and onto God changes things dramatically. Instead of feeling stuck, scared, and miserable, I have peace and even a sense of joyful expectancy about what God will do in, through, and around me as I trust Him and obey Him.
No matter what we’re wading through in our lives at the moment, God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good! By the grace of God, we can embrace our trials, knowing that good will come of each one. Life doesn’t have to feel like a ponderously long trail of one trial after another. Having a godly outlook on life’s problems and Jesus Christ’s purpose for our lives can mean the difference between war and peace in our hearts, souls, and minds!
Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.