3-5All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Did you ever consider that the hard times you are going through yourself may be designed for you to learn what you will need to know in order to come alongside someone else going through a hard time? When we are in times of trial and the way seems pretty awful to us, the last thing we think of is that God would make us an instrument of his grace in the life of another! As a matter of fact, we usually are thinking, "Get me through this as fast as possible, God!"
Paul spent a good deal of his ministry under house-arrest in a Roman prison. He was not free to go about the work of the ministry as he would have liked to. Yet, from his place of imprisonment, he penned the majority of the words we have recorded for us as the Pauline epistles. His attitude was one of trust in his God, not chafing against the trials he endured, but embracing them for the value they produced in is life. It is apparent from his writings that he had come to understand that God comes alongside in order to not only bring him through the trial, but to prepare him to come alongside others in similar trials.
Being human, we focus on the hard times more than we focus on the good times. We find it easy to gravitate toward what is NOT right, focusing only superficially on what IS right. Why is it that we go to the bad before we ever get to the good? Simply put, it is because we have a sin nature - we are pursuing what come NATURALLY to us.
God's mission is to change that nature. His plan is to use the things of this life to expose the sinful side of our choices, motivations, and attitudes. In so doing, he also is there to replace wrong choices with correct ones. He affects what motivates us by getting into our heart and spirit. In moving upon our emotions, setting them straight where they are all messed up, he begins to affect our attitude. In time, our sinful desires, patterns of behavior, are changed.
I am asked quite often how a Christian can grow up - usually because the one asking the question is struggling with something they are trying to "grow out of". Most of us are looking for a formula to follow - some mystical advice that will change everything in our lives. Here it is: Don't resist the trials!
Not what you expected? Well, it is the way God does business and we cannot circumvent his methods. In the trial, he comes alongside. He is there, not as an observer, but as a participant in bringing us through with grace, peace, and exuberant mercy. He even provides others to assist us in the "moving through" phase of the trial.
This Christian walk is not mystical - there is no immediate, instant growth process. There is no formula to follow. In fact, it is consistently opportunity after opportunity for laying down one pattern of sinful behavior or selfish attitude, taking up new patterns of righteous living and Christlike attitudes. Step one today, in today's trial, may not even be the same tomorrow. God is after our obedience, not a system of rules or regulations we follow.
The next time you are in the heat of the trial, ask God who he will be bringing you alongside to help in their time of trial. Having the attitude that you are in the trial with Christ alongside can make it less difficult to bear up under. Knowing he will use us to come alongside another in similar trial gives us hope that we will get through the present trial!