Trials and Joy

Re-posted from InTouch, by Dr. Charles Stanley, September 16, 2014

My pastor is currently preaching from the book of James and Dr. Stanley’s message today is a perfect reminder that through out our lives we all suffer under a variety of difficult trials and hardships. But, if we consider that those times of suffering can be used as a catalyst to help us be mindful that the Lord uses them to mold us into what His desire is for our lives, they’re so much easier to bear.

Trials and Joy

James 1:2-4,12

“Consider it all joy . . . when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2)—what a preposterous statement! How can that make sense when joy and trials don’t fit together? But James is presenting a divine vantage point, not a human one. There are some surprising benefits in suffering, which aren’t easy to discern.

First of all, we need to understand that these verses are not telling us to be happy in our pain, but rather to rejoice in the blessings that accompany suffering. The word consider is an accounting term that means “to evaluate.” When we look at hardships from God’s perspective and place the proper value on them, we can rejoice in the beneficial outcome, even while experiencing pain. Humanly speaking, trials hurt; but from the Lord’s point of view, they help.

The only way to rejoice during trials is to understand what God wants them to accomplish. Regardless of the difficulty’s source, we can know that the Lord wants to use it to test our faith and thereby produce endurance and spiritual maturity. In every trial, He has hidden a precious character gem, but whether we receive it depends upon our response. Those who want to be transformed into the image of Christ can rejoice in the many benefits that accompany suffering.

How about you? Does your hunger to know the Lord and be transformed by Him exceed your dread of suffering? None of us want to experience pain, but since it’s an unavoidable reality in this fallen world, why not respond in a way that produces eternal benefit? Let’s not waste our suffering.

Book Launch Invitation & two reader comments…

 

Made New Book Launch flyer

…I laughed, I cried, my heart and soul ached for all that you went through and I felt boundless joy reading about how your relationship with Christ has evolved and is continuing to grow daily. When you asked questions, you asked the hard questions that require soul searching for answers. Thank you for doing that as I don’t think we ask enough hard questions in this present age. Thank you so much for obeying God and telling your story. This book has the potential to help so many people who are hurting because of choices they have made. ~ Patty

I spent the weekend with you and your friend, Judy!! What a journey – what courage – what a faithful God to bring you to this place!! It has given me such insight into who you are and how God has brought you here – for such a time as this. I found myself in parts of your story – the me I had forgotten even existed. Your journey was a tough one, but look at the victory!! Amazing grace, no doubt about it. ~ Cathy

Made New ~ Excerpt of Foreward

A friend recently posed this question to me: “If you could go back to when you were sixteen years old and give yourself a word of advice, what would that be?”

Instead of blurting out what I knew was in my heart—fearful of causing an unwanted shock factor—I rambled on, explaining how rebellious and stubborn I had been at sixteen and how I should have listened to advice from my parents and those older than myself.

I pondered my friend’s question over the next several days and concluded that there was a compelling reason why I was so rebellious and stubborn. At the tender, yet naïve, age of sixteen, I had already endured four years of sexual abuse by a close family member, on an almost weekly basis. I was innocent, young, confused, afraid, and not sure where I could turn for help. Who would believe me? How would my family be affected if I revealed the secret? I felt guilty, dirty, and unloved.

If I were able to go back to sixteen, I now know I would fall on my knees, challenging myself to find another adult, somebody I could trust with the horrible secret hidden so deep within my being. If I could have found someone, anyone, to confide in, it may have saved me from another four years of tormented abuse.

Has someone ever deeply hurt you? Maybe you’ve also been abused physically, mentally, or sexually many years ago, or maybe recently? Perhaps a family member has mistreated you, or somebody you work with, and you can’t find within yourself the ability to forgive the person who was responsible for the mistreatment. You are positive that, regardless of the regret your abuser may or may not feel, and despite sincerest apologies and pleas for forgiveness, in your own strength you know it would be impossible to forgive them. I know what you’re feeling. I’ve been there and know firsthand that it’s not easy to forgive that type of abuse in your own strength.

Obviously, we live in a broken world where injustice is rampant in our society. But, despite this fact, where can we turn and in whom can we trust?

Being sexually abused by someone I was inherently taught to trust altered my view of a sovereign God who loved me enough to die for me.

* * * * *

I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few Christians who can proclaim that they know exactly when the Lord revealed his purpose for their life. Without a doubt, I’m completely aware of when he revealed his purpose for mine.

Over the past several years, I’ve felt an inward tug to share what the Lord has done and is still doing in my life with our hurting world. While I was going through difficult times, I wasn’t always conscious of how God was shaping my life. But as I look back, I can see his hand guiding me into what his desire is for me.

On October 30, 2011, my husband and I enjoyed the last morning of a whirlwind four-week trip through California, Oregon, and Washington. It was Sunday morning and we planned to visit a newly planted church where old friends were attending. But, for some unknown reason, that particular morning we felt more compelled to stay inside our cozy cottage, where we snuggled close together on the sofa and watched In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Stanley’s forty-minute message centered on the purpose of our lives being used for the glory of God. He ended his sermon with a question that radically changed my life. Though I don’t remember his exact words, I distinctly remember the point.

One day you will stand before the Lord your God. All-knowing God will look you eye to eye and heart to heart and ask, “What did you do with your life that has brought glory and honor to me?” He’ll continue, “What did you do with the spiritual gifts I so generously gave to you, my child? Who did you tell the Good News of the gospel, possibly leading another precious soul to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?” How will you answer when he asks that all-important and soul-searching question?

Suddenly, as if I had been stunned out of a dispassionate spirit, I heard God’s voice, the words pounding deep in my heart, loud and clear. “Judy, have I not blessed you with a firsthand knowledge of my forgiveness, by my grace and mercy? I want you to tell others about the forgiveness I offer to each one of my children. It is I alone who can forgive your past, present, and future sins!”

I felt as if I’d been hit with a two-by-four. I immediately knew what my answer would be. A loud, reverberating voice inside me screamed out, “Write a book. Tell others about events of my life and how today I’m able to see that my Lord was with me along every step of my journey. Talk about how tragic and deep the pain of my past was. Include the answer to the essential question for someone who has been abused: ‘How could I possibly forgive another person, especially someone who abused me so deeply and continued abusing me for so long?’”

In the few years since then, I’ve discovered that I can truly trust what God’s Word promises to those who call him Savior; namely, that Jesus loves his children unconditionally. He knows we’re sinners in need of his mercy and grace, and without him, we’re completely lost.

Jesus relates a story in Matthew 19:26, following his encounter with the rich young ruler. Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!”

Most of us have heard the poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. The poem recounts a conversation when a child of God asks something like this, “God, why is it that during the hardest and most difficult times of my life and during my most painful experiences there are only one set of footprints and not two?” God lovingly answered, “Because, that was when I carried you.”

Come back with me to the difficult years of my life as I recollect a tragic, heart-wrenching journey, as well as many celebratory moments, when I was becoming Made New.

 

 

Aside

Life in the Lord is part of His Tapestry

Recently, I finished reading Heaven, by famous Christian author Randy Alcorn. Along with the Bible, it made an extremely profound impact on my spiritual journey with the Lord. I became keenly aware that out of all God’s promises we can’t begin to fathom or have any idea of the eternal and unfailing love He has for us.

My eyes, and the doors of my heart opened to receive more of His promises and the glorious eternity He has prepared for us. It’s hard to begin, or comprehend, what life will be like when I step over into eternity.

One important fact that we need to focus on is that our lives are but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I fully believe that there will come a day, when I’ll be able to look back on my life as the Lord lovingly guides me, allowing me to see how both tragedy and joyous events unfolded from an eternal perspective.

We should look forward to the end of our lives, praying daily, seeking God’s will. His desire is for us to serve Him, showing Christ’s love to a hurting world, in the process, continually mending broken relationships through forgiveness.

That takes faith! Yet, remember, Romans 8:28? ‘We know that all things work for the good to those who love the Lord, those who have been called according to his purpose.
Years ago, I read Why do bad things happen to good people?
I don’t recall the name of the author, but he had an intriguing way of describing events that occur throughout our lives.
To paraphrase, our lives are like part of a tapestry, we only see the threads closest to us, each thread woven in alongside and beside us, but God sees the full picture of a beautifully complete tapestry, every thread carefully placed, and sewn in, by our Creator.

Freedom!

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/freedom.html#xZoKSuuR41b2GWu6.99

October 2011: Pismo Beach, California.
Inviting aromas of Splash Café’s world famous clam chowder, served in a toasted San Luis Sourdough bowl and Mo’s Memphis style hickory smoke barbecue drifted up Pomeroy Avenue, towards the rocky cliffs separating the Central coast from the rest of the state.
My husband and I were on another vacation to an area of California that’s all too familiar for both of us, since that was the area where we met and fell in love. We leisurely made our way past rows of storefronts on our way to the pier and miles of sandy beaches stretched along the pacific coast.
Warm afternoon breezes and valley tourists packing up, preparing for the two and a half-hour drive back to the San Joaquin Valley.
Strolling hand in hand, reminiscing over previous years, once again taking in the thunder of the waves, and the cool, hard sand beneath our bare feet. Another pursuit, searching for a unique, yet somehow abandoned, discarded, home of a sea creature.
We sat down together on the soft warm sand, watching surfers riding an occasional wave and skim boarders sliding over a sheet of sand that looked like a giant mirror reflecting a biplane in the clear sky above.
I stopped a young man and asked, “I’ve never seen this before. The sand looks like it’s an enormous sheet of smooth glass. What does it feel like when you skim over it?”
“It feels like you’re floating on it.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
“Yeah. When it’s not this smooth, and we try to skim over it, we fall off our board a lot easier. We love it when it’s like this.”
“That is so incredible! You guys have fun!”
Two others, around fourteen, tucked their boards under their arm and waved goodbye.
Watching from a distance, I commented “If they’re fortunate enough to have a father who cares about their day, I bet when they walk into their house, Dad says, “Hey son, what did you spend this nice day doing?”
To which his reply may be, “Oh, John and I spent the day at the beach, skimming waves. The conditions were perfect.”
I don’t have a penchant to go into a political discussion, but I wonder if we really realize how good our lives are in this country.
Pete and I sat snuggled together and began an in depth contemplating conversation about how privileged we are and how much we take our freedom for granted. The reality of a difficult economy has kept many families from being able to afford to go on long vacations, but consider how freeing it is to be able to pack your family in the car and say, let’s go to the Coast for the weekend.
It’s so commonplace for us to just jump in our own car and drive anywhere we want to go, whether it’s to the grocery store, an afternoon matinee, or to a nice restaurant with a list of entrees a mile long.
If we think about it, one hundred years ago, only the wealthy would have had the type of luxury we enjoy today.
How about those living in impoverished nations? I have never been to a nation as poor as many third world countries, but by what I’ve read and seen in documentaries it makes me extremely thankful to be an American. I’ve never experienced the horrors of starvation and unhealthy living conditions friends have told me that they’ve experienced on a vacation or perhaps while sharing God’s love on a mission trip.
May 1998, after landing at Charles d’Gaule Airport and standing in the security line for what seemed like hours, Pete and I hopped onto a shuttle headed into the city of Paris. Naturally, everything was printed in French and the buildings had roofs that reminded me of old Disney movies like Peter Pan and the 101 Dalmatians. I felt as if I had landed on another planet. This was my first visit to a foreign country and it felt exactly like that, for me, foreign.
While in France we toured ancient castle ruins and saw how severely Christians were tortured for their faith as we made our way south towards vacationing for a few days along the Mediterranean coast. I was so thankful when we landed on US soil that I felt that I would kiss the ground.
Living in this Great Country, we have our own citizens living in unhealthy conditions and families that have a hard time making ends meet until the next payday, or those who are homeless, living on the streets, searching through a restaurant’s garbage to find something worth eating.
Why can’t we see how our nation is so fully loved by God? How is it that we’re so privileged and we’re able to live in a country so richly blessed, when there are so many souls in our world suffering? The amount of various responses to that question, is way more than I could possibly answer.
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the freedom God has given us. We tend to take each other for granted.
Don’t forget that we live in the United States of America, where freedom reigns.
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 186 other followers

%d bloggers like this: