Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Beauty of Trials

holding hands

Each of us has at some point in our lives endured a painful experience.  The last five years of my life have been especially difficult. In fact, I feel like I’ve aged more in these last five years than I have in all my other years cumulatively. There have been frightening moments when I concluded that the only solution was  for me to leave this earth.

I have a vivid memory of contacting Dr. Bell, who is both a friend mine and an employer (as well as a doctor) and telling him I was concerned that I needed to be put on some kind of anti-depressant medication. I had been devoting an increasing amount of my time giving thought to suicide. There were moments that it seemed like the only sane solution. I’d even formulated a plan. Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to realize how selfish I was being. I have children, which denies me the right to only think of myself.   My reason for contacting Dr. Bell was the fear that one night I would struggle so much that rational thoughts wouldn’t intervene.

I didn’t like the idea of anti-depressants, but thought it might be a good preventative measure for me. I was afraid something was wrong with me emotionally. He listened carefully to everything I had to say before replying. He then said that given everything I was going through in my life, he would be more concerned about my emotional well-being if I did not have those kind of thoughts. The fact that I was struggling showed that I was dealing with the issues and had not checked out. He also felt confident there would not be a moment in my life where I didn’t think of the children. Therefore, he concluded the anti-depressants were unnecessary in my case.

Fortunately, he was right. Though I’ve had many more painful, heart breaking days than encouraging ones, I’ve managed to live through them all and even become stronger as a result. So why am I bringing this up in a post entitled the Beauty of Trials? Because I want you to know, before I tell you how wonderful they are, that I have been there. I understand what it is to feel so trapped by your trials you’re confident the only way to end the pain is to die. I know what it is like to be so disillusioned with humanity you think there is not a truly reputable person on the planet. In fact,  around a year and a half ago I went through such a heart-rending experience that was not only unrighteous, but callously cold and calculated with someone I loved and trusted, and was supposedly above reproach,  that I was sure I would NEVER trust another living soul again. There are very few things anyone could have done that would have ripped me to shreds more than this “friend” did. Please believe me when I tell you I understand.

Yet, throughout all the anguish, I have learned that every life experience, both good and bad, my Father in Heaven has used to make something more precious than gold. I hope I can communicate it well enough. In a recent study I’ve been doing on the New Testament book of James, the topic of trials marched out front and center. You’ve probably read the passage a dozen times, as I have, in the past. It wasn’t until last night when asking the Lord to open its meaning to me while I dug deeper, with word studies and cross references, that I began to mine just some of its beauty. There is even more that I have to learn, but I am on my way. Maybe you’re quicker than I am and have already plunged the depths of its meaning, if so, bear with me as I get to share my joy in learning. The passage says:

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” ~James 1:2-4”

We all know that trials make us stronger. But there is so much more to it than that. The first thing I did was look at the original meaning of the words and not just the current translation I had. Be patient with me as I give some definitions and take the verses apart phrase by phrase.

….count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations….

Divers- Those used to King James English may already know that this word means varied, but I “grew up” with the NASB translation, so I needed a refresher.

The next word, temptations, takes on a much deeper meaning in its original vocabulary. It is the Greek word Peirasmos, which means a trial or test divinely permitted with a beneficial purpose and effect.

Now we are getting somewhere. These aren’t just temptations, especially since elsewhere in scripture it explicitly says God does not tempt anyone. These are tests specifically allowed into our lives for a purpose.

I want you right now to think about a trial you are currently facing. Now remember that this was sent to you for a beneficial purpose. We’ll find out what specifically in a moment. But, doesn’t it take at least a teeny tiny portion of the burden off your shoulders knowing there is a specific reason this is in your life?

…knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience…

Trying- This Greek word, dokimion, means a crucible or test. In the context it means a means by which our faith is proven. Not as in, “we’ll see if your faith is real” kind of proof, although it certainly can give you an indicator of that. This is more of a purifying kind of proof, the way gold is purified in the fire.

Patience-  A literal translation of this word, hupomone, means “abiding under”, the flavor of what it means is to bear up or endure courageously.

…that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing…

Perfect- Teleios means having reached its end, complete, fully grown and mature.

Entire- holokleros means sound in every part, complete, whole.

What God is trying to tell us is that He allows these trials into our lives to make us completely ready for exaltation. They are designed to make us more like our Savior! As I was doing some cross-referencing, I came across a similar passage that has the same meaning but in slightly different terminology.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 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….receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” ~ First Peter 1:6-7,9

Though I think we know instinctively that there is some heavenly purpose for all we go through, it is amazingly joyful when you think it through. Why can I count trials a joy? Because they are the building blocks to spiritual completion. This isn’t an instantaneous result. That tiny word in the beginning of James 1:4 “let” qualifies the whole thing. We have to allow the trials to perfect the maturing of our faith. How does that happen? I believe it is in our response to our trials.

Sitting down, or better yet kneeling down, and asking our Father in Heaven what we are to learn through this is always helpful. It is that quiet submission that we read about in Mosiah 3:19.

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek humble patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Even if we are submissive and realize the truly eternal benefits of what we’re living through, I don’t believe that “count it all joy” means we will not feel the sadness and weight of what we are having to endure. Instead, it means that underneath it all we can have the quiet assurance and confidence that we are becoming like God as a result. You name any trial I have endured and I can tell you at least one (but often several) spiritual benefits and growth I have received as a result.

Oh! How frustrated I am that I am not communicating the beauty of this Scripture well enough. I’m just not doing it justice. What I request that you do is to open your scriptures to this passage in James and ask the  Holy Spirit to make known to you the riches, depth, and beauty of what the apostle is communicating the to Israelites who’d been scattered abroad from persecution. I pray that the Spirit will give you a glimpse of your future glory that is a direct result of your present pain if you respond to it in righteousness.

Your trials aren’t for naught. They are beautiful.

1 comment:

Mama Rachel said...

Beautifully said! And many blessing and hugs to you!!!