What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
The song containing these lyrics has become a favorite to many radio listeners. When I first heard it a couple of years ago (it’s hard to believe it was introduced that long ago), I was moved by it’s depth and truth. In his book “A Sweet and Bitter Providence”, John Piper states: Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Laura Story’s song struck a nerve with me immediately when I heard it the first time. I decided she must have read some of Piper’s books. Or something from CS Lewis. It sounded so familiar … that message of finding blessing through pain. Mercies in trials.
In recent months, numerous bloggers and tweeters have written to express disagreement, actually border-lining on outrage, at what they consider to be a lie perpetrated by well-meaning people. Their beef is with those who flippantly advise people who are experiencing pain or difficulty that “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I get it. We all know we have been in situations and seasons in which we felt we were pushed beyond our ability to cope. So we balk at such a ludicrous thought.
Now I don’t know what every person who has said that means, but I do believe that the Bible does teach that believers do not face anything in our lives that would push us over the edge … to sin.
James reminded us to “consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.”
And Paul said that “no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”
The reason I find great comfort in these verses, is because I know I have entrusted my life into the hands of a faithful God who will not allow anything in my life to cause me such despair that I have no choice but to fail Him by sinning. Trials in this life are inevitable. They are also useful. They reveal what is really inside of us. They test our dependence on God’s strength to resist the snares and schemes of our enemy, who is also very aware of the situation and desires for us to fail.
So while I don’t believe that God promises me that He will never allow me to experience gut-wrenching sorrow and pain, I do believe He has equipped me with everything I need to overcome the temptation to sin in the midst of the trial.
TRIALS WILL COME. Our hearts will break. Paul said that he and his friends “were completely overwhelmed – beyond our strength – so that we even despaired<sup class="crossreference" value="(S)”> of life.” But the great news is that he saw the purpose of that despair … “so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God<sup class="crossreference" value="(T)”> who raises<sup class="crossreference" value="(U)”> the dead!”
YES, GOD IS NEAR.
I serve a God who I can trust. I am not conscious of His nearness while I’m sleeping. But oh so conscious while I’m awake. The night may not bring peaceful rest for some reason. But it can still bring peace. The trial may bring sorrow. But it may also bring a recognition of the power of the One who lives within me. That One who allows me to be strengthened and sustained in the face of the enemy’s schemes to destroy my faith.
My thirst in 2014: to know the power of the risen Lord even in the midst of pain. To recognize His strength can sustain me through the trial and I can come through in victory, not defeat.