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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One more wave

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.  (Charles Spurgeon) 

I can recount numerous times when a particularly difficult season of my life seemed to be finally winding down, when I could just begin to see the clearing of the fog of chaos, and then almost imperceptibly there comes the "next wave" of trial! I know you have had similar experiences, when you didn't think there was much more you could or would have to face before the muddle you were in would clear and allow you some "breathing room". You might have even uttered the words, "Can it get any worse?" I think Satan might just like to hear those words uttered because he relishes in showing off his pretty ugly self all around us!  I have learned not to ask those words, but rather to ask God, "How shall you show yourself stronger than the trial adding havoc in my life today?"

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5:22-25 NLT)

The trial teaches us who we are - who is at the center in our lives - what it is we hold onto more than anything else. If self is at the center, it becomes pretty apparent in the midst of the trial - through unsavory attitudes that emerge a little too frequently, or even the constant fear of what will come next because we don't have the peace of Christ in the matter. It reveal to us where our trust is squarely placed - either in self, or in Christ. There is no middle ground here. The trial will reveal areas of our lives where we need to let go and begin to trust Jesus like never before. In the natural sense, trust is defined as an assured reliance on the character, strength, ability, and truth of someone. I know for a fact that my character waxes and wanes - kind of a little too "situational" for my own good. I also know the truth I believe about myself is kind of flawed - because I have told myself many lies over the years!

As much as trials come, you'd think we'd be better at recognizing them and the value they actually carry, but we almost get blind-sided by them, don't we? It is like we didn't expect anything to "test" us - to place us in a position of having a little more chaos or discomfort than we wanted at the moment. As Spurgeon implies, the soil isn't turned by just watching it! It is turned because the plow is set to the ground, the team pulls the plow, and the one who guides the plow directs the team repeated over those patches of soil until they are of sufficient "texture" for the reception of the seed to be planted deep within it. Notice that I said the team is directed to take that plow over the same soil time and time again - in order to ready the soil. Even the farmer knows the soil is not ready the first time the plow hits the fallow ground! It requires continued efforts to be directed toward making it "receptive" to the seed.

In much the same way, we might just need to recognize trials come, not in onsey-twosey fashion, but in one "passing stroke after another" as the plow passes over the soil of our lives. It isn't that God couldn't do it all in one pass - it is that we need to learn to trust the care he places in making sure no rock is left unturned! It is that one rock that makes all the difference in how the growth he desires may occur! Until it is brought to the surface and finally removed, the plow will continue to pass. That may be a hard concept for us to grasp because we wonder how a loving God would require more trials instead of taking care of the stone the first time! I think it is because God knows if all of life was just instantaneous, kind of that "one-pass fixes it all" kind of lifestyle, then we'd never learn where it is we are to place our strength, who guides the passage of the plow, and who created the seed that will take root in that prepared soil!

God isn't allowing the "next wave" because he wants to hurt us or bring unnecessary upheaval into our lives. He is doing it because he wants to reveal areas of our lives where he is not our strength - where we are reliant upon our own self sufficiency, or where we have misplaced trust in another. If we begin to think about it, there are moments of rest - as when the farmer puts the plow away for the day and rests the team overnight. Yes, he sets to work the next day, but it isn't because he hates the soil - instead he sees the potential there and knows that until it is fully prepared, those small breaks are all he will give it. Relish the breaks - but don't count on the "tilling" to be over. Until the farmer realizes the soil has a certain "feel" to it, he will continue to work it. When it reaches that stage where the plow's blade just glides through it, he knows it is ready. It no longer resists the blade - it yields to it. Maybe we are right on the brink of being totally yielded to God's hand - trusting him to know when the soil of our hearts is just right. It may take one more "pass", but if it does, rest in the assurance that each passing of the "plow's blade" has a purpose. Just sayin!