You know those days. The sun’s out, not too hot, windows down and breeze flowing through the car. You’re usually singing along to your favorite song. Time seems to stand still in those moments. It’s as if things are perfect just for a short while. The family’s health is fine, everything is ok at work and Jesus, Himself, seems to be in the car with you! You’re driving the highway headed towards a destination of your choice and suddenly the phone rings. The information on the other end of the call has just “changed” everything. Or has it? This is where we are forced to make a very important decision. Do we curl up in a ball and pretend hardship hasn’t shown up? Or, do we face the challenge with the understanding that God has a chance to teach us important life lessons during this trial? Our perspective is everything. 

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2-3‬ NKJV) All? Yes, all. Another translation puts it this way: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2-3‬ NLT) “I don’t want my faith tested. It’s fine the way it is,” we protest. Well, my friends, welcome to Christianity 101. Let’s talk about this. How can our loving God possibly even think that going through any sort of hardship could make us better people? Remember, He’s The Creator. We’re the “created”. I think He has a pretty good idea of what can and will conform us more into the image of His Son. After all, isn’t that the goal?

There’s an interesting scripture in the Bible. You’re usually not going to see it hanging on a banner outside a place of worship to draw a crowd, but I think it’s extremely relevant to discuss it. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭17‬ NLT) It’s that second part that gets me every time. “We must also share His suffering.”  Whoa! This is heavy. Nobody likes suffering! But God promises to take our trials, whatever they may be, and produce more patience in us and develop our endurance. These are qualities we absolutely have to have to make it in this broken world. Our character, becoming more like Christ, will cause us to stand up during affliction and not crumble. So you see, God cannot leave us the way we are. It’s for our own good that we grow. It’s necessary. 

The apostle Paul was no stranger to hardship. He encountered shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments and the famous “thorn in his flesh”. I believe we aren’t told what the “thorn” was for a specific reason. The truth is, we all have thorns. Everyone’s thorns are different. But we all have them. Paul’s response to this hardship was to ask God to take it away. He actually begged God three different times! Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9‬ NLT) We, like Paul, are just human. Hardships are tough. They can be debilitating. But Paul understood that God was in control at all times and our weak areas are a chance for God’s strength to show and shine for others. This is counting it all joy while you’re staring your enemies in the face. It’s the inner knowledge that “no weapon forged against you will prevail” (Isaiah 54:17 NIV) that keeps you full of hope. 

So we’re all going to deal with unpleasant things in life. My struggles may be different from your struggles but they’re all tough. But God looks at these times as opportunities for us to grow spiritually and learn to completely rely on Him. The apostle Paul also said “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭10‬ NLT) See? He mentioned suffering. The sharing in the suffering will result in sharing in the glory. Wow! It all comes full circle. So don’t be so quick to pray away the trials. Pray through them. Take this opportunity to get to know the very One who is for you, not against you. These trials may be the very things that will ultimately catapult you into your victory. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭28‬ NLT) So expect God to educate you and bless you through every circumstance. Then when hardship arises, you can count it all joy! Amen!

 

Today’s writer is Brandi Crowe. A hairdresser for over 25 years, she is currently the owner of Brandi Crowe salon in Buford, GA. She loves hiking, a good cup of coffee and spending time with family and friends. Brandi lives in a custom farmhouse with her husband, Robby and cat, Harold.

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