Until this year, I had not experienced much suffering in my life. I didn’t have to look for blessings in disguise; my blessings paraded themselves rather boldly.
I remember feeling on many occasions like I was living a “charmed” life. Inexplicably, I was spared any major trials at all. And I was lavished with numerous blessings.
It felt unfair. I saw people all around me experiencing trials; many of those people were walking through multiple fires at one time. But I was completely untouched. I didn’t know why.
It also felt scary. I knew everyone experienced trials. The Bible says that in this world His followers WILL have tribulation. Where was mine?
What was it going to look like?
How would I handle it?
How painful would it be, exactly?
I knew my turn was coming. I just didn’t know when. And I kind of felt like I deserved an extra dose or two because of my previously unscathed life. When that proverbial “other shoe dropped,” I was certain it would appear in the form of a huge steel-toed workboot … or maybe a 5-inch stiletto heel.
But after this year … I know.
Not all of it. But a small part of it. I’ve suffered this year. In many ways, it has been the hardest year of my life.
I can tell you with all truth and sincerity, it has also been the most joyful year of my life. There are so many reasons this is true … too many to list here, really. So I’ll start with one, and save the rest for another post or two … or two hundred.
By far, the best of the blessings in disguise has been the joy of God’s presence. God is always with me; I’ve never doubted that. But I’ve also never had quite as much joy in His presence as I’ve had over the past few months. I have been alerted to His presence like never, ever before.
I think this is partly because through suffering, God has revealed idols I had been embracing. Good gifts I was adoring, instead of worshipping the Giver. Things like health … status … income … friendships … . When these things went away, it revealed just how attached to them I had become. I hadn’t meant to. It just … happened.
I still loved God. But it turns out there were an awful lot of “vain things that charmed me most.” Things I hadn’t yet “sacrificed to His blood.” Things I clung to, hoping and praying that when those inevitable trials came, I would be allowed to keep clutching them.
But God loves me more than that. He loves me more than to allow me to continue clinging desperately to gifts, growing more and more attached to them, when I can embrace the GIVER Himself. He loves me more than to allow me to cling to substitutes for HIM. He wants me to have the real thing. He DIED so I could have the real thing.
And so, He pried my grasping fingers from the substitutes, and then held my hand in His own. And when I began to realize just how idolatrous my heart had become, and allowed His conviction to bring about repentance … well, that changed everything.
Because then He turned my unfaithful heart back to Himself. And I began to encounter Him once again … which is what I’ve been needing all along, with or without the trials.
So when I sit down at the Thanksgiving table this year, I will probably cry … because I always do. But they won’t be tears of sadness. Oh no, they will be tears of overwhelming joy and gratitude that my God loves me so much that He won’t allow anything in the way of our love relationship. I am thankful for the trials I’ve faced this year. As I grow to know Him more and love Him better, I can tell you with certainty that it has been BEYOND worth it.
Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.”
Want to know more about our family’s experience with unemployment? Here’s a related post: Unwrapping a Trial
How have you experienced Christ’s presence in the midst of a trial? I would love for you to take a moment and encourage me and other readers by leaving your testimony below.