counting it all joy

In this morning’s Bible Study I was prompted to identify my most pressing personal trial right now.  As I looked at my prayer life, the thing that most consumes the conversations I have with my creator is intercession for friends.  I have so many who are struggling with life now.  Before I even opened the workbook this morning, I wrote in my journal about them.  I spend so much time at the throne pleading for others! So quickly, I identified my most pressing trial to be the heartache I feel because of loved ones who are hurting.

Next, I was given the assignment to name three different things I could do with what I’m going through. Then consider the fruit of each of the three…what do I think would be the ramifications for each of these courses of action? I took the time to write these addressed directly to my friend.

My first option is easiest. I could quit.  Just stop caring.  Slowly withdraw from your life.  You would probably even make it easy.  No more annoyingly perky texts.  No more stating the obvious.  No more ‘positive and encouraging’ conversations filled with scripture and sometimes sprinkled with clichés.  It may take more or less time with you than with other friends.  But I could make excuses rather than make time to be with you.

An obvious result would be losing your friendship. But couldn’t I just replace you with a happier person? Couldn’t I find a friend that never has ‘issues’?  Perhaps I could find a simple person that just wants to giggle together.  While I’m at it, I think I’ll look for a millionaire zillionaire who wants to shower me with gifts. Maybe I could take out a personal ad? Yup, that sounds perfect. . . . Right up until the point I need to be real about an issue. Friend, everybody has problems.  Walking through life together, we are bound to face difficulties.  Isn’t life made so much more precious by experiencing all of it together?

You know, something else with this option: wouldn’t I just be a hypocrite?  You see, when I call you friend, it means so much. It means, I can’t just stop caring. I can’t turn it off! As much as I care for you, I know Christ cares so much more. I know we were sovereignly put in one another’s lives to encourage and edify each other.  To call you friend and stop caring would make me . . . a lying liar who lies! Not an option.

My next option is what I would have done before Christ. I could wallow in the pit with you.  Really revel in the pity party. Who doesn’t love a party?  We could become angrier and bitterer together!  I could point out all the reasons you have a right to be upset.  We could both give ourselves over to malice. What a pair!

Now, let’s consider the ramifications of that option. Giving my emotions over to malice and depression would be aided by dwelling on circumstances rather than on the One who is bigger than all of it.  The next time a problem pops up, I could skip over trying to learn from it or just get through it, and jump in head first, drowning in despair.  Any thoughts of effective ministry would be dashed. I have a suspicion any creative ideas would drown in all that misery. Bonus–all of my status updates could be plagiarized bits of emo poetry. How would I lead VBS?  Could I have a discussion with lost people about salvation with a sad, sour spirit?  Would the Lord see fit to send me to Colombia in April or even next door this weekend? No, this is not an option either.

     The only option is found in James 1:2. Consider it joy to walk through these trials. Weep with you.  Hurt with you.  Always point you to Jesus.  Continue to endure your stories of heartbreak by focusing on, and pointing you to the One who formed your heart.

The result being I will rejoice with you on the other side of this trial.  I whole-heartedly believe the promise “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting”.  Our faith will be strengthened.  We will have endurance to face the next rial.  We will love Jesus more.  We will fear less.

I’ve taken the time to write this all down so you can see the contrast.  Know my heart has always been to stay the course; t the first two options have never really been options.  Life may be wearying, but our strength is renewed as we hope in the Lord.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9

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