At church last week, the youth pastor was preaching the sermon. The main topic of the sermon was sanctification, but a sub-topic was trials. The preacher was saying that trials are a way that God refines us. Suffering is not always God’s punishment for any sin on our part, but it can be a means that God refines us. And the preacher said that everyone needs refining, whether they are religious or non-religious.
These points intersected with what was going on this last week. We
had a few days of trials. I will not share what exactly they were, but
we were scared. For their own reasons, not everyone where I live would
necessarily consider himself or herself a Christian believer. Still,
they are good people, people of integrity.
The trials lasted only for a few days, and they were resolved.
Trying to account for the trials theologically is difficult.
Refinement? The trials only lasted a few days. Not much time for
refining, is there? But people were better prepared for these trials
this time around because they had gone through them before, and, as one
person said, they knew more now than they did then. I suppose that I
have more gratitude now. But I also have more fear.
What if people in the household are not turning to God for help?
Will God provide? I cannot make anyone like God, especially when there
are times when I wonder if I like him that much myself. Something I
pray every day is, “Lord, help me not to hate you or others as much as I
do, if at all, but to have more love in my heart, or at least respect
for you and others as beings of value, in their own right.” People like
what they like and believe what they believe for their own reasons. My
preaching was not something that people needed to hear, in this time.
It got to the point where I figured that I could do nothing more than
I already was doing. I prayed. I did not have a prayer-a-thon, since
there is no point making the same request over and over, as if God did
not hear me the first time, or as if I did not make the request the
first time. But I prayed, sometimes formally, and sometimes
informally. But I pray every day anyway. It was not as if my
devotional routine was dramatically changed as a result of this trial.
During the trial, I did think about issues other than the petty
issues I ordinarily think about. But I was honest with God: if this
trial passes, and things become normal again, then my mind will probably
return to its usual pettiness. I don’t like that. I struggle with
that. But going through a trial does not necessarily change the way
that I am, at least not entirely.
We got through this. During the trial, I had to take a good hard
look at how I viewed God. And, even afterwards, I was perplexed, as
relieved as I was, and as relieved as we all were. Things are becoming
normal again, but an experience like this is somewhat like what happened
to Jacob after he wrestled with God: he still had a limp.
The preacher’s sermon was relevant to the questions I was asking,
even if I did not find it to be a slam-dunk answer. I have found that
the sermons these last few weeks have been relevant to my situation, to
questions I was asking or struggles I was having. Maybe that has to do
with God’s concern, or it may just be because a lot of people have these
struggles. A lot of people struggle with intimacy with God after
botching things up, which was my struggle a couple weeks ago. A lot of
people have trials.
I hope my frequent use of “I” in this post does not come across as
self-centered. I was, of course, praying for others during this
difficult time. We were in this together, but we were also coping with
it and handling it, in our own way.