I'm currently writing a book about the nature of trials and God's redemptive story through them. I just love it. I love who God is, Redeemer, Restorer, Reconciler, Faithful Steward. He lets nothing go to waste. When we walk through pain and trials remarkable things happen. Trials are invitations and you can get as much out of them as you want.I'm not going to give you the whole synopsis of my book, but a friend asked me to write something that would pertain to a situation she is walking through. (Ps: friend, I love you) As I thought about the many ways to address her situation, the verses I could shove into one blog, the "revelation" to help her, the many thoughts running through my head, the encouragements, the gold I see in her, oh the many things I could write about. I instead felt the desire to write about the nature of trials. I've had several phone calls over the last month that have just been... hard. My friends, my family, even a few of my heroes going through circumstances that are just plain... crappy. I'm sorry for the language, but I can't think of a better way to put it. Sickness, trauma, betrayal, slander, disappointment, and some just strongly difficult situations. My heart feels the pain of the ones I so dearly love and respect. I won't launch into it because most of you know already, but the last year has been a journey for me of walking through trial and confronting the pain, the heartache, the failure, the disappointment, and the many other things that go with navigating life's difficult seasons. In the past I would have shoved it under the rug, tried to smile, and press on, but that was not working anymore. Jesus kind of drew a virtual line in the sand and said it was time to go after complete healing. My journey of confronting the deepest pain I've ever experienced led me to the greatest place I've ever been. A place of wholeness, healing, anointing, intimacy, love, and joy, oh so much joy. Someone even said to me the other day, "You just laugh yourself through life don't you?"... Yes, Yes I do. Because I just spent a year and a half crying my way through it. My journey isn't completely over, I'm still learning things from those situations, but I can honestly say, I'm thankful for what I walked through. The nature of trials is that they call to question the nature of God, they lay bare your heart for you, God, and quite possibly others to see, and they hurt, they just stinking hurt.
My question is, what of those three things is so bad? I know, I know, they seem bad, but are they? -When God's nature is called into question, He wins. He proves that He is who He says He is. So really when a trial calls to question whether or not He'll provide, He'll heal, He'll defend, He'll restore, He'll be a Father, He'll be a Friend, etc. it's really just an invitation to find out that God is.... I AM. He is the God who stands the test of our doubts and fears. -When I'm actually vulnerable and open, I have to take a hard look at not who I think I am, not who I want to be, but the true character of my heart. This part stinks. I hate seeing where I am lacking. I hate seeing that I"m not as compassionate as I thought I was, I'm not as secure as I thought I was, I'm more jealous than I thought I was. Circumstances having a funny way of flashing a big sign and saying, LOOK, LOOK AT WHAT YOU'RE FEELING RIGHT NOW, LOOK HOW YOU'RE ACTING, THAT IS WHAT IS ON THE INSIDE OF YOU. As Christians we try to put some spiritual names on our dysfunction and we run away from facing the issues of our hearts, but when the true condition of our heart is fully realized, then God can begin to do work. When I lay myself on His alter and say (like David so often did) GOD, I FEEL THIS. I feel like hurting that person. I feel bitter. I feel jealous. I feel competitive. I feel like they abused me and used me. LOOK at them God they betrayed my trust. God this hurts so bad. God I feel like you're not near. God I feel like you failed me. Oh when I bring it all to Him, then He can deal with the real issues of my heart and not the "me" i'm pretending to be. This is where healing comes, this is where sanctification comes, this is where I find He is who He says He is. When man sees my true nature quite often we lose people, we don't meet their standards or their expectations, they haven't fully learned how to love people through brokenness and they walk away. That's okay too. Perhaps they aren't ready to walk with you through your trials, your pain, your failures. You need community in your life that supports you through your ugliness. You need people who can see the dirt in your life and say yep that's ugly, but gosh there is some gold in you too. Your true self being exposed gets rid of surface level friendships and it deepens the real ones, the ones that love you unconditionally. Though trial you find some people really can walk with you through long standing pain. They're not just there to give you a hug, write a card, and walk away. They're actually going to take you by the hand and walk with you through the mud and the muck until that situation has been turned around. These friends know how to pray, these friends know when to be compassionate and wrap you in their arms, but they also know when to get in your face and say GET UP HIGHER GIRL! Through trials we find out what kind of community we have around us and this is super important for where you're going in life. -Finally, pain. Oh this issue of pain. We spend a large majority of our lives trying to avoid it. We run from it at all costs, we do everything possible to hit the eject button as soon as we feel the slightest bit of it. Is it possible that we hit the "eject" button on our pain before God was ready to alleviate it? Now I'm not talking about physical pain, like diseases, so don't misunderstand me, but Paul said, I beat my body into submission. He also said that God didn't remove a "thorn in his side" so that in Paul's weakness God could be proven strong. That sounds painful. James puts it brilliantly, "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 its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4)
I don't have joy because my trials are fun. I have joy because I know that at the end of overcoming trials that I will have faith that is tested and strong, I'll be steadfast, and I will lack nothing. Now that just sounds JOYOUS! But it only comes through trials.
Oh how I wish we could grow without them. Oh how I wish we learned more on mountain tops than we did in valleys, but the Word says "Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered". Why would I think I'm better than He is?
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not preaching a gospel that looks like struggles and trials every day of life, in fact I'm sharing the fact that we can actually HAVE JOY in the face of trials, so whether trials come or trials go, we have joy. We can be like our Father and laugh at disaster and famine. We can dance our way through injustice. We can have a garment of praise for heaviness. Because when you learn the nature of trials, you learn that they aren't something to be feared, they aren't something to run from, in fact they're something to go toe to toe with and conquer.
Your trial is an invitation into greater level of authority in the Kingdom, it's an invitation into knowing God more intimately, it's an invitation into lacking nothing. My pastor Bill Johnson says this, "The Devil and God both have a plan for your time in the wilderness." The devil has every intention of destroying you there, shaking your faith, and making you quit, but God has every intention of you overcoming, you growing strong, and you shoving victory in the enemy's face!
In October last year the Lord spoke to me out of Corinthians. He said, "None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:8) Then He said to me, "Jessika if the enemy had known what I'm going to do through these trials, he never would have messed with you in the first place."
You may be walking through what feels like hell. You may feel attacked on all sides. Maybe you've failed. Maybe you've been hurt or betrayed. Perhaps it feels like there's no way out, but I'M HERE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING. IF THE ENEMY HAD KNOWN WHAT GOD WAS GOING TO DO THROUGH THIS, HE WOULD HAVE LEFT YOU ALONE! You just need to step back into faith. Run to the rock of ages. Run to the deliverer. Run to the healer. Run to Him. He will turn this situation around for your good. YOUR TRIAL IS AN INVITATION TO GREATER AUTHORITY.
In February last year I was ministering with a friend in San Francisco. I shared my story of how God restored my hope and healed me. At the end a veteran came up to me. He'd been battling PTSD since the Vietnam war. He said as I spoke my testimony he felt hope for the first time since the war. He said he felt anxiety leave. He was healed.
I went to the back of the room and burst into tears. Jesus was faithful. He'd done what He'd said. He'd given me authority over the very trial that I had to conquer with Him. I'd wanted to quit. I'd wanted to die. I'd wanted to give up. I doubted that God would heal me. I doubted that He'd come through. I felt betrayed by leaders and friends. I felt abandoned. BUT GOD. The devil had intentions for my wilderness, but God's intentions prevailed. The enemy will regret everything he stole. He'll regret every nightmare. He'll regret every night of fear and tears. He'll regret the torment. Because in my weakness, God became strong, and we overcame.
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere." (2 Cor. 2:14)
Your God is a healer. He is a redeemer. He is a Father. He is a Friend. He is Faithful. He is a Reconciler. He is working on your behalf. He is your defense. HE IS WHO HE SAID HE IS.
Your trial is an invitation. Don't quit. Don't hit eject. Don't run away. Get into the ring. You're a fighter and you have One who fights with you. Be Blessed, J. Tate