I feel so stretched. Between walking through the challenges of growing up with my teenagers and the overwhelming demands involved in special needs parenting — sometimes it is just plain hard. I’m stretched beyond anything I ever thought I would be and I’m far from being Elasti-girl! (although I am married to Mr. Incredible!)
Helen Keller once said,
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition be inspired and success be achieved.”
Well Lord, by the time my five children reach adulthood I just may be a saint, not an every-day regular saint, one of the ones they put on stain-glassed windows!
It sometimes feels as though there is little ease or quiet in my life, however, I know this is all relative. Comparing my life to others who deal with great hardship helps me live with gratitude but doesn’t take away my own trials and suffering.
Helen Keller’s words bring my thoughts straight to one of the most practical books in the Bible. I love the book of James, it is full of gems of wisdom and practical Christian living. It is here I have read the words of James many times.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfected and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
So, for many, this probably sounds crazy. I’m to count it joy when I meet up with trials?! When I consider these words, ‘meet up with trials’ — Firstly, it’s a given that this will happen, not if, but when. And secondly, who chooses to ‘meet up’ with the tough stuff in life? More often than not it feels as though it is dumped in our lap or flung in our face. And joy does not normally come to mind! How often the Lord’s ways are not the world’s, nor mine for that matter.
When my husband and I started our parenting and fostering journey we had no idea that one day we’d be challenged by the difficulties of technology and teenagers. Actually, we didn’t even own our first mobile phone until our eldest was about to be born! We didn’t know what Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder was or that the two youngest additions to our family would struggle with it every day. I ‘meet’ trials of various kind. Every. Single. Day.
So it would seem that I have a choice. Do I count these trials and sufferings as joy; let them produce steadfastness in me so that in God’s timing I shall be perfect and complete, lacking nothing? Or, do I wallow in my trials and let them drag me into the depths of depression, fear, and uncertainty? Seems like an obvious choice! But somehow it’s just not always the easy one. My humanity loves to wallow. It loves to sit in anger, sadness, and self-pity; and the stupid thing is, it brings me nothing but despair.
How deceived we are to think we know better than the Lord! To think we can ‘fix’ ourselves with retail therapy, chocolate, or empty success. How grateful I am for the gospel of His grace, that despite my despair and self-pity when trials come my way, He lovingly draws me to Himself and reminds me there is so much more.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18a
Today I’m remembering the words of a dear friend who mentored me during my young inexperienced years as a pastor’s wife, “Keep looking up and reaching out.” In essence: keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the one who will bring joy to my trials; the one who will bring meaning to my suffering. Don’t give up reaching out to my struggling teenagers and to the ones who I’ve been given to love and care for as children of my own. Because in the end, which will only be the beginning, I will be lacking in nothing.