A situation arose in February that was extremely difficult. I and many of my colleagues spent much of the next month under a lot of stress; we worked long hours and there were many conversations that were not necessarily pleasant. At times my stomach was tied in knots. It was so stressful.
But in all that God was teaching me something that I already knew in my head. You know how that is, right? You know that something is true but you go through something where you realize, "Wow! That really works!"
Well, the more stressed I got, the more I prayed. And it so happens I was reading a book that focused on how the Kingdom of God was ushered in through suffering. Much of the nation of Israel was expecting the King to come in power, but he chose to come in humility and conquer evil by suffering on our behalf. So God began to speak to me.
What was I learning? So many Scriptural principles that I found really did work - really did give me joy and peace in the midst of pain and stress:
- God's power is made perfect in weakness so I should be glad I don't have it all together.
- That for the Christ-follower, suffering is the normal state of affairs, because we are following in the footsteps of Jesus.
- That when I am comfortable and happy, I should be thankful but not expect that this is how it should be.
- That God wants to shape my character into the likeness of his Son, and that doesn't happen when I am untested.
- That I should welcome the bad days because those are the ones where I need to depend on God; and I should beware of the easy ones because that is when I am tempted to think I can handle it all myself.
I am so a work in progress. I handle adversity so poorly at times. I run from it when possible. But with God's grace, I am learning that when things heat up, when my stomach is tied in knots, when I can't see the other side - that is when God is working on me. That is when I need to stop, pray and thank God for his mercy. That is when I need to look in the mirror and see whether Christ is being reflecting in how I handle it.
And that is when he is conforming me to the image of his Son, who suffered for me.
Thank God he doesn't give up on me when I blow it. And thank God for the fire that refines me. I need it. So much.