Perhaps this is not the most cheery post to end the year with, but I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to wrap up 2021 than to share with you all the Lord has taught me this year through the gift of hardship. No one signs up for suffering, or walks into a year thinking it be best that their overall experience would be lessons learned through trial, it’s just not a human response to want anything but the good and easy. Before this year, I didn’t understand just how closely joy and suffering are related, closer than two opposite sides of the same coin. It’s as if they are wrapped in the same package, a package only a Divine, All Knowing God could have ever created.
It’s so easy for us humans to conjure up a picture of perfection in our minds eye. We walk into a new year, knowing exactly how we want it to look never slowing down to ponder whether or not that is God’s plan for our time. Thankfully, our all knowing God isn’t confined to working through only what we would call good. He understands that our wayward human heart’s often need suffering to see just how Holy and magnificent He truly is.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do not for a moment think of God as some cruel taskmaster with His arms crossed as He glares down into the expanse that is the earth and throws times of hardship into all of our lives. Satan would love nothing more for you to believe that, that you may then turn from Christ, but friend, it simply is not the case.
We are promised abundance from the hand of God, but that abundance does not always mirror the prosperity we have come to think of it as. Sometimes, the most beautiful gift God can give us is to walk through the fire with us. To refine us with the flame. Be assured, if you are walking through a hard season right now, the Lord does not leave us in the fire alone and He will not leave us in the fire a second longer than it takes to burn the chaff away.
Hardship opens our eyes to His glory. To knowing without a shadow of a doubt where Holy Goodness comes from. Not to us, but to His name be the glory. Our wildest imagination of how our lives ought to play out cannot even hold a candle to His dreams for us. We must let go of this idea of only good in our lives. Yes, the Lord’s heart for us is good, and Yes He is the father who delights in giving us good things but once again, this abundance is not prosperity.
Suffering opens our eyes to mercy. As we understand on a deeper level what it meant for the Lord to take on our sin and disgrace. He took our place. That ugly cross He died on, the grave He was buried in, the way the Father turned His face from Him … those things should have been our fate. But in a way only God could do, He created good from them. Jesus beat death once and for all and while that doesn’t mean we will be spared the bitter taste of trouble in this life, it does mean we know how it all ends. To be absent from this life is to be present with Christ.
We are, through trial, brought closer to joy. Joy in the person of Christ. If it weren’t for the moments that drive us to our knees we wouldn’t know the beauty of delight. Both are a gift. Suffering and joy, used to draw us deeper into relationship with our Lord.
If we have to walk through fire to better know the heart of God, it is a gift is it not? If we have to stand in the fire to allow it to burn the chaff of our sinful nature away, we should embrace the time God places us there.
Suffering and joy are a gift packaged in the same box. Embrace both this coming year, know that God only, ever, always has the best intentions for His childlen.
Soli Deo Gloria