This post was written for the Two Rivers Church Chattanooga blog series on First Peter, which can be found HERE
Why is that when things get hard the first question we ask is, “Did I miss it? Did I not hear God correctly?”
Or is that just me?
Two years ago my wife, Katie, and I agonized over the biggest decision of the eleven years we had been married.
Accept a promotion in an incredible church (that provided well for our family) in a town where we had spent a decade developing deep-rooted relationships.
Leave all the financial and relational stability to start a new church in a new town.
When I say that we agonized over the decision, I mean I had to see an oral surgeon because I was grinding my teeth at night. I had a jaw-clenching, white-knuckle grip on being in control.
And I was afraid.
Afraid of failing, afraid of losing prosperity, afraid of the unknown.
One morning after a restless night, I found myself on my knees in the corner of my office. I needed God to speak. I needed a clear answer. And I got it.
God didn’t say, Go plant a church.
Instead, he invited me to trust him.
That was the sense I had. I wept at how hard I was trying to stay safe. And when the tears stopped, I had total peace.
Planting a church is as hard as everyone says it is. It didn’t take long for major appliances to start breaking. Meeting neighbors was hard. Relational tension was starting to boil over.
That’s when I started to wonder: Maybe I missed it. Maybe this wasn’t where God was leading us.
Implicit in that line of thinking is this idea that if it’s God’s will, it won’t be hard.
“In this [the security of your salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Trials are necessary. God allows them, and even uses them, to refine and strengthen our faith in him.
Jesus tried to give us a head’s up in John 16:33:
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Tribulation isn’t a word we often use, unless we’re at book club talking about the Left Behind series.
We get our word tribulation from a Latin word tribulum. A tribulum was an ancient farming tool used to separate wheat from the husk. Pieces of wood were lashed together to form a crude sled. Then sharp stones and jagged pieces of iron were attached to the underbelly of the sled. As the tribulum was pulled across the wheat, the stones and iron helped separate the husks from the valuable kernels of grain.
Sometimes trials feel like that.
Like you’re being raked over and cut up.
Why would God allow that? Why would God do that?
Look how one scholar puts this in perspective:
No ancient farmer ever operated his tribulum for the purpose of tearing up his sheaves. The thresher’s intentions were far more elevated than that. The farmer only wanted to cull out the precious grain. And as it is with the ancient farmer, so it is with God. – David R. Helm
Your faith is being tested. It’s being strengthened. What is precious and useful to God remains, and the waste blows away in the wind.
Now, when things get hard, I try not to ask the question, “Is this God’s will?”
Instead I look for how he is shaping me, and I ask him how I can learn from the process.
And I’ll be honest: I also ask him to make the hard go away.