“Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty Thy glory in my valley.”—The Valley of Vision
In my perfect world…
Do the words ‘world’ and ‘perfect’ even belong in the same line on a page?
The truth is, we fell from perfection before we ever made our little, naked grand entrance into existence. We fell hard. As a result of that fall, we will experience the pits, valleys, and hardships, which often feel like the sinking ships of this life. Can someone throw me a lifesaver, please? God, are you even tracking with me? Do you see me? Is this really what I signed up for?
The older I get, the more I realize that the one thing I can count on in this great journey of life is a good trial. I have come to an understanding that great trials precede great things, and because of this I have started to foster a sort of ‘love-hate’ relationship with these trials as they arise. It’s as if our Father is looking down on us saying “now this is going to hurt, and you might wish you didn’t have to go through it, but in the end, it is for your good. Trust me now, thank me later.” All the while, He is assuring us that He will carry our burdens and will walk by our side the entire time. He will not only utilize our circumstances to make His glory known to others, He will use them to transform our hearts to reflect more of Him. Pretty humbling stuff.
In James we are instructed to “count it all as joy” when we experience “trials of various kinds”. (James 1:2) Notice the “when”, meaning, we will inevitably experience trials if we are following Christ. The promise of trials…awesome, sounds like a blast. This promise is not typically the hook that is drawing the masses down the aisles on Sunday mornings. When faced with death, job loss, heartbreak, loneliness, grief, pain, hurt, betrayal, we are to find…joy? Really? This command can often feel counter-intuitive. When experiencing trials, the world would tell us to respond with anger, question God, run to the passions of our flesh, or just throw down a giant pity-party. The outcome of the trial is what marks the difference between a human soul which is fettered to the anchor of their creator.
As followers of Christ, we were never called to cruise through life, hair blowing in the wind, hands gripped to the steering wheel, jamming out to the latest new worship tunes. Our approach looks much different as we are daily marching into battle, fully dependent on our Saviors leading in the midst of experiencing trials of various kinds. Trials we can count on, in the very same way we count on the sun’s rising every single morning. It is in the trial that the great purpose of God is being accomplished in and through us! Our circumstance doesn’t inhibit His purpose. The Lord can use the most horrific of circumstances to refine our souls in a way we never could have imagined and that reveals His character in our lives.
It is one thing to expect the coming of trials and another to accept them when they arise, but to give ourselves the permission to experience joy in the midst of them can often be the greatest challenge. In tough circumstances, we typically have a choice to either sit in self-defeat and repeatedly ask the question “Why me?”. Or we make the choice to stand up and face the challenge with full confidence that there is light in the darkness, life in the death, joy in the sorrow, grace in the sin, riches in the poverty and will ultimately be glory in every single valley! Self-pity is undoubtedly the easy choice. I once heard a quote to illustrate this, “We belittle the life, death and resurrection of Jesus when we sit in our pity party.” The truth in this statement has changed my world. Trials should cause us to confidently run to Jesus when we are tempted to host a pity-party. It has already been finished, the battle is won, the victory is ours and there is great joy in this!
We are so inclined to bypass the process through which we are most transformed.
Time and time again, I have gone through the valley before making my way up the mountain, and in all honesty I can say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. The only way out is through, and it is through the trials that I have been refined, sharpened, and brought into a deeper relationship with Jesus. We must allow ourselves to experience fullness of joy in all circumstances. May we, like Paul, “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake may we suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that we may gain Christ!” (Phil 3:8)
Fight for joy, and give yourself permission to lead a joy-filled life in the ups and in the downs. When you are in the fire, let faith assure you of the things hoped for and convict your heart of the things unseen.
Jesus knew He had to die and yet didn’t bypass the trial. He knew it was only through death that we could be made alive. The greatest trial anyone could ever endure was that which has brought us life!
Knowing that the perfect world is yet to come gives us the freedom to find great joy in the purposeful trials experienced while on this earth!
Photo by Nebojsa Mladjenovic