when trouble comes your way…
It’s taken me a REALLY long time to agree with James 1:2-4: “Dear brothers and sisters, when trouble comes 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, lacking nothing.”
In my book, trouble has almost never been a cause for joy.
In any form: loss, sickness, heartache, persecution – it doesn’t matter, I have not found it joyous.
And I have never understood why trouble has to be the way that we grow our faith. Why can’t faith flourish in a shower of blessing? That sounds like a better plan to me.
But that’s not what the good book says.
And that’s not the evidence I’ve seen in my life.
The hard times have (unfortunately) been the best training ground for deepening my faith and strengthening my character. They have given me the endurance that I lacked when I walked away from my faith in my early 30’s.There have been many times in the last six years, for example, that have challenged my faith like never before.
During the first year Ben and I were married we: lost a baby, lost my health, lost his job (and a big chunk of our community with it), lost my job, and subsequently lost our joy.
Trouble had definitely come our way.
After losing the baby, my body started to shut down and no doctor could figure out why. I spent months at the Mayo Clinic, undergoing painful and extensive testing, but no treatment seemed to work. They prescribed heavy pain medication and antidepressants, and as a result, I spent most of my days in a drug-induced fog, waiting for the next dose. My chart at Mayo actually had the words “failure to thrive” at the top. I’m not exactly sure what that meant, but I bet it wasn’t good. The photo at the top of the blog was taken one night while we were at Mayo. Ben was making rice, which was one of the only foods I could eat, and I was laying on a chair covered in blankets. It was our normal.
I lost the ability to sleep, so I would lay awake at night, drenched in anxiety and sweat, praying for God to let me die. I wanted to be free of the prison that was my body. I couldn’t imagine ever being healthy and thriving again.
Yet, every morning, I would get up with my hubby and get on my knees and get in the Word. We clung to it. We taped verses all over the house. We spoke them to each other. My husband and my kids did a 21 day Daniel fast for my healing. We leaned into the trouble and trusted our God.
I remember during that time I was reading the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 16:23, King Saul was being tormented by a spirit and could not sleep, so he asked David to play his harp for him. When David played, the spirit left Saul alone and he could rest.
It struck me that maybe Ben should learn to play the harp.
Not really…but I did have an idea for what he could do: Ben started to read the Word, out loud, to me every night in bed.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would fall asleep instantly…like during the first verse instantly. I would sleep the entire time he read. That husband of mine would lay in bed, exhausted, and read scripture out loud for hours at a time so that I could sleep. He read through a giant portion of the Bible in just a few months. That’s true love, huh? The minute he would stop reading, I would wake up. But the protection of those hours was priceless to me.
And the power of God’s word to bring peace to my troubled soul astounded both of us.
We clung to God and to each other until I was miraculously healed 6 months later. Ironically, the one thing the doctors said was not a good idea completely reset my body and fixed me: pregnancy. When our son was born, it was like I got a new lease on life.
The intense trouble we faced that year strengthened my faith and gave me the endurance that I lacked. We saw God’s hand like never before. I can think of so many good things that came out of that trouble… that have given us cause for joy. Here are a few:
- It grew our roots deep into God’s Word. Being immersed in the Bible has strengthened all of us by keeping us planted in truth. Reading the Bible is still part of our daily culture.
- It grew the faith of our big kids. They got to be part of praying, fasting and rejoicing when God answered their prayers. Developing those spiritual disciplines stretched their faith beyond the borders of what it had been. The trouble they faced has given them empathetic hearts and servant minds; they know how to love well during trouble.
- It strengthened the relationships in our family. Ben and my big kids had only been step-parent / step-kids for a few months when this happened and it bonded them. They learned to lean on and trust each other and the resulting relationship is awesome.
- It purified my character. When I was struggling to survive, I was pruned of so much of the selfishness, vanity, pride, materialism and self-sufficiency that were in my heart. None of that stuff mattered anymore in light of my need for God’s presence. I still have a long way to go, but that reliance on God changed me to the core.
- It strengthened our marriage. Taking care of and supporting each other through all of that loss, as well as seeking the Father in desperation together, has given us a wonderful intimacy. I will never forget the care, patience, support, love and encouragement Ben supplied during that time. He saw me and loved me at my worst, and I loved and supported him during his grief too. It built a deep trust.
- It gave us hearts full of gratitude. We are overwhelmed with thankfulness for all we have seen God do in our lives. The good times seem even sweeter because of the bad times we have faced. Each morning, we get on our knees and praise and thank God for his mighty hand before we give him our requests of the day. Every night we pray a prayer of thankfulness for what God has done and is doing, and I cry almost every time. His goodness is all around us.
- We saw God’s provision in the form of financial gifts, meals from friends and family, too many prayer warriors to count, access to top doctors, and more. He was our provider and he would send his hope to us in many different forms. Whenever we felt hopeless, God would show up with provision. It felt miraculous and increased our trust.
- It focused our goals. There is nothing quite like hardship to weed out the stuff that isn’t important, right? Going through trouble has helped our entire family reframe what we are trying to achieve. Our experience with his love and power and provision causes us to want to bring God glory first and foremost.
I still struggle with considering it joy when I face new troubles. If I am honest, I would rather trouble flee far from me! But I am getting better (and quicker) at surrendering during trouble and choosing to be thankful because I’ve experienced the blessing that flows from watching God use it in my life. I’m closer to responding in joy than I was five years ago, and I am determined to keep pursuing his joy in the midst as I walk forward.
Friend, what is your trouble? How are you responding?
As someone who has been there, can I encourage you to lean in to God and:
Affirm your trust.
Thank him for his plan.
Allow it draw you closer and increase your dependence on him.
Drive you to the Word.
I promise you it is not in vain.
1 Peter 1:6-7 “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Christ Jesus is revealed to the whole world.”
If you are in a time of trouble, I would love to pray for you. Please message or comment below and I will get on my knees. Let’s do this faith journey together. Blessings.
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