It's been five months since I've posted on this blog, due to an unexpected season of illness. Never in my life have I faced one health problem after another, but now that I'm better, I'm starting to realize that God has blessed me with many learned lessons through my trials.
The first lesson learned is that praying the prayer of "wanting to draw closer to God and to know more of the sufferings that Christ endured" will inevitably bring hardship into your life. While I'm sure like me, many have wished that drawing closer to "The Almighty" could be done on a beach in Hawaii, the reality is that if we let Him, God will use our trials to strengthen our faith, our minds and strangely, even our bodies.
1 Peter 4:12-13 (NKJ) says: "Beloved do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed you may also be glad with exceeding joy."
Ultimately, the only way to truly learn more about Christ's suffering is to partake in it in some small way. Never would I be arrogant enough to think that my trials have even come close to those that Jesus endured, but for four months my body has been wracked with every illness imaginable and on a human scale it has been life altering for me. When I think of how I've complained, and cried in my personal misery it fills me with wonder that Jesus went to the cross with His head held high. To experience suffering of any kind is so difficult, but to experience it knowing that Christ went through so much more on our behalf, does offer encouragement and ultimately the joy that Peter was talking about.
I've also learned that trials of any kind will only go away when God is ready for them to go away. I do not ascribe to the theory that if, as a Christian you are poor, or sick or somehow in need, that you are in that place simply because your faith is weak. Obviously prayer and faith are the mechanisms that God has given us to cry out to Him, and to help us cling to His hope, but like any father, there are times that God will say no,or not yet to the prayers that we send.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul said "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Paul's thorn was not removed but his ministry and love for God grew, and the Lord was glorified. While I'm not suggesting that this will be my fate, if I can use one ounce of my testimony to bring glory to our Father, then I praise Him for my trials.
The third lesson learned is one of hope and encouragement, and I cling to the promise that all times of trouble will come to an end.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 Solomon reminds us that "To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven...."
I take great comfort in knowing that at some point this season of my life will end, as will the hard seasons others find themselves in. Whenever God decides that time will be, I hope others who have suffered, will join me in standing firm on God's principles. My prayer is that all will recognize that God has been with us all along, and that after our trials have ended, we will go forward stronger, and more prepared to fight the battles He has chosen for us to fight.