For the past six weeks, I have clung to these words, “No trouble lasts forever.”
During this time, I have been dealing with a respiratory illness that has just seemed to hang on….forever. I just couldn’t shake it. I was improving. However, the rate of improvement was far too slow for me. I kept telling myself, “I should be better by now!”
But I wasn’t.
As I type words to this blog post, I know I am doing better. I’m not 100% yet. However, I can breathe again. I can eat again. I can function again. Yet, the illness took a huge toll on me. I am weak. My stamina is fragile. My energy level is low. Even as I begin to increase my workload, I am very much aware that I am compromised.
With just twelve days remaining before our family’s departure to the United States for our six and a half month home assignment, I have wondered aloud many times, “Why did this illness happen, now? Why was I struck down? Why was I made so weak at a time when I really needed to be strong and healthy?”
Recently I read these words from Peter in his first letter to the persecuted church:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. New International Version, 1 Peter 1:6-7
The words that Peter penned were for those who were being persecuted because of their faith and love for Jesus Christ. As I struggled through this respiratory illness, I wondered many times, “Does this illness count in some way towards some kind of Kingdom purpose, Lord?”
Why did I ask that?
Well, this illness really put a wrench into a number of ministry plans and opportunities. Two literacy workshops were cancelled because of my illness. John’s ministry trip to Zimbabwe was postponed two different times because of my illness. We were unable to host some pastors in our home because of my illness. We had to say ‘no’ to some other ministry opportunities too. As a result of my illness, our ministry life was impacted.
It has been a time of discouragement. Yet, in the midst of it all, I held onto the belief that this time will not last forever.
My health will improve.
Soon, I will feel like me again.
And amazingly, for reasons I may not entirely understand, this particular trial would require approximately six weeks to accomplish an inner work in me for the honor, praise and glory of my God. This trial was not meant to discourage me or even ruin me. It certainly was not fun. Yet, such a time spurred me to draw even closer to my God because of my need for His encouragement, His healing, His strength, and His joy.
As He came close, He worked to establish, strengthen and multiply my faith during the heavy and taxing days of this illness and opposition. Because that is one of the benefits of trials – our faith is strengthened during such times – as long as we hold fast to Jesus Christ. And for me, there is no other place I would rather go.
Friends, what about you?
Are you in the midst of some kind of trial like me?
This trial is not meant to ruin or destroy you.
For me, this short-lived illness caused me to focus my heart and mind on Christ and the hope He offers me in an entirely different way. I couldn’t do what I normally do in my day-to-day life. I had to slow waaaaay down to rest and to heal. As the illness remained, I turned to Christ to be my healer, protector, and hope with more and more intentionality.
Trials do that, don’t they?
Trials make us focused and intentional. The imperfections, impurities, and non-essential things in my life and character are discarded. I have no real need of them. I have been released from such things to experience a fuller and richer life in Christ.
This illness has helped me fix my eyes on the hope of my salvation – Jesus Christ – even more. After all, the life we live here is finite. The trials we experience on earth are even more short-lived. Yet, our faith in Christ is eternal. Our love for Him is enduring. He is our Redeemer and our Hope and the One who supports and strengthens us during difficult times.
As A.W. Tozer once said, “Jesus is teaching that His disciples must make his relationship with God the dominating focus of his life, and be cautiously carefree about everything else in comparison with that. The greatest concern of life is to place our relationship with God first, and everything else second.”
Trials of faith help me get this priority straight.
Image retrieved from Friends of the Divine