I do love receiving gifts...ask my husband. My favorite time of year is Christmas when I can give gifts to the people I love and receive the gifts I have hinted about all year. Christmas day reveals whether my hinting fell on deaf ears or not!
Most of us love to receive gifts—that unexpected package that comes in the mail or that beautifully wrapped birthday present heralding another year in your life.
There have been times I have received a gift that has come in a different kind of wrapping. It is one of those unexpected gifts that come without warning and turn your life upside down and inside out. It can be wrapped in pain, sickness, death or trial—you know you cannot give this gift back or throw it away—it is yours to keep, to use as you choose.
The book of James chapter one and verse 2 says something quite strange and difficult to wrap your mind around...this is what it says: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Okay, now I don't know about you, but this sounds strange. But then lfaced the kind of trials that James was talking about andverse 4: "let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" suddenly took on a whole new meaning.
Let me try and explain:
- We shouldn't look for trials: I do not go looking for suffering because suffering comes to all of us in different packages. We do not have to look for it.
- We shouldn't run from trials: Instead of running from a trial push into them. Accept that this pain has come your way—yes it was unexpected, out of your control, but it is with you now. You can scream and kick or you can shoulder it, learn from it, grow through it, and become stronger!
- We shouldn't try to be brave: The point is not to be brave but to be authentic. We are not superhuman and we feel pain. The best thing you can do in your pain is to acknowledge it hurts, lean on God and others, be authentic, be real and let perseverance work itself out in your life.
Yes, I have had trials come in different wrappings. I would never ever want to walk some of those lonely roads again, but I can tell you from this perspective that those unexpected gifts have had the most lasting and meaningful impact on my life and here is why:
- I have learned to appreciate each new day: When sickness or death comes near your door or the door of someone you love you know how precious each moment is. Every day is a gift!
- I have learned to appreciate my humanity: I have realized that I am a mere mortal and that time is ticking away. Somehow I have grappled with the topic of death and although I am not wanting to die I have realized that death is not this terrifying event that will end my life. Actually as I take my last breath on this earth I will be taking my first one in heaven.
- I have learned to appreciate my faith: No, my trials have not lessened my faith, rather, my trials have deepened my faith. I realize that God is with me no matter what my circumstance. When He said that He would never leave me or forsake me He meant it. My faith has deepened and my love for God has strengthened my resolve to serve Him all my days.
I pray that for those who are experiencing unexpected sickness, loss, trial or traumathat you will gain a new perspective today. I do not want to diminish anyone's suffering because pain is not a pleasant thing. I do want to give hope to each person suffering and encourage you not to give up because when all is said and done you will look back and see the deep work that has taken place in your own life. Don't give up and don't give in because as the psalmist said: "Weeping endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." The joy that James spoke about may not be bubbling inside of you now, but it will come and it will be deep, satisfying and lasting.
I am and always will be,
recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus,