Dear Grace family,
It’s funny how our Lord often works, isn’t it? Ever since I wrote my post from last week about relying on God and responding humbly to his discipline, it seems that life in our home has been a little more stressful and difficult. It’s nothing different from what many of you are dealing with (especially those with young children!): spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted, and well beyond ready for this quarantine to come to an end.
Even though I’m slow to remember it in the moment, I know that all our trials are opportunities that the Lord desires to use to teach us to know and love him more and to mold us more into the image of Christ. And yet, too often it feels as if the only thing these trials and struggles do is reveal just how un-Christlike I am.
All this has me thinking lately about the wonderful John Newton hymn, I Asked the Lord. Take a look at the lyrics (or better yet, listen to the hymn yourself!):
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face
Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest
Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part
Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low
Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”
“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”
I’m not sure about you, but this so often reflects the way I feel as I live the Christian life. I ask the Lord to strengthen my faith, and he strips me of my self-reliance and takes away the other things I place my trust in. I ask the Lord to make me more patient, and he pushes me to my limits and beyond. I ask the Lord to make me less self-centered and just when I start to think I’ve made a little progress, he shows me just how far I still have left to go.
It’s painful – like re-setting a broken bone – but it’s the only way to heal properly. It is the way he sets us free from our selfishness, pride, and love of this world in order to help us set our affections on Christ and his kingdom.
It’s a comfort to me to remember that this is part and parcel of the Christian life; it’s what we all signed up for when we put our faith in Christ. It is through these kinds of trials – big and small – over the course of a lifetime, that Jesus takes sinners and turns us into saints.
So, if like me you have been struggling this week (and can’t believe its only Tuesday!), remember that you are in the loving and capable hands of your heavenly Father who promises to work all things for your good. And know that you are in good company as your brothers and sisters (at Grace Church and throughout the world) are enduring similar trials and struggles to the glory of God.
“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 complete, lacking in nothing…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:2-4,12