I began my trip on a lovely winter day. The sun was gloriously shining, and as I traveled on, the sky began to glow with a beautiful rosy-orange color. I couldn't have picked a better time to travel. Or so I thought.
As darkness fell, a sudden snow squall started to assault my car until I couldn't see anything except for a wall of white. I worked to get closer to the car in front of me - my lighthouse to guide me through the storm. And I began to pray for help and protection in the midst of this unexpected blizzard.
Once I made it out of the snow, I thought I was in the clear. Little did I know what the rest of the journey held in store… The snow had come so suddenly and the temperature dropped so drastically that the roads had turned to ice. It was literally an accident waiting to happen. So when traffic slowed to a standstill, I realized that must have indeed been the case. I hoped for the best, but as time ticked slowly away, I began to wonder if I would ever get home.
With trucks blocking me in on every side, I couldn't see anything that was happening, so there was really no way for me to know when we would start moving again. For all I knew, I could be waiting there for hours upon hours. All I had was this nebulous idea that I would get home eventually. But because I didn't actually know when that would be, I couldn't truly anticipate the end of this unexpected hardship.
As minutes turned to hours, I began to berate myself for leaving when I did. "Why didn't I leave in the morning?" I thought, feeling as though I had made a terrible mistake. I couldn't help but wonder, "Why had I made such a poor choice?" But as I continued to ponder, I realized how many elements to the story were totally outside of my control. I had no idea that there would be a sudden snow squall. I had checked the weather, but it didn't indicate blizzard-like conditions. And there was no way I could have known that there would be an accident or that I would get stopped for hours, while waiting for the aftermath to clear.
In fact, there was no way to know what would have happened if I had left even a few minutes earlier. Perhaps it could've been me in that accident. Instead, because I left when I did, I was able to sit in my warm car, rather than dealing with broken bones, damaged vehicles, tow trucks, or worse.
As it continued to look as though I might be there for quite some time, I decided to read through the book of James in preparation for my meeting the next day. That had been the whole reason I wanted to get home.
Here's what James had to say:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).
As I reflected on the passage, I realized that this snowstorm and traffic jam were trials of various kinds. And somehow there could be joy in the midst of them. So when I considered the various factors of my current situation, I began to think that maybe this journey was intended for so much more than just getting me home in time for dinner. It was teaching me profound truths about the nature of going through hardships - the very thing I was studying.
Here are the things I learned:
- You often can't predict the beginning or the end of a trial. Instead, they surprise you and make you feel like they will last forever.
- You typically aren't aware of the suffering you've been spared by going through the trial that you did, instead of another.
- At the beginning of a trial, you have no way to predict the amazing things that you will learn in the midst of it. You only see them in hindsight.
- In reality, you don't need to know or predict any of the various aspects of your trials, because there is a God who is sovereign over all. He is weaving the details of your story together in a way that is so magnificently perfect that you wouldn't believe it if told. He is the source of joy, even when you can't yet see the beauty He is in the midst of creating.
But as I reassured myself that there would indeed be an end to this trial, I reflected on the fact that for those who are in Christ, these trials, no matter the size, are only momentary (2 Cor 4:17). One day, all suffering will end (Rev 21:1-4). Christ has taken on the suffering our sins deserve, and we have a guarantee that we will not face any of the trials of this life in heaven (1 Peter 2:24). That is surely something to look forward to. That is surely a reason to hope. And because we're still living, and He's not done with us yet, we can rest assured that any trials we face in this life are part of His plan to make us like Him - steadfast, perfect, complete, lacking in nothing.
Loving Him is Red!
What's the hardest part of facing trials in your life?
How has the Lord helped you find joy in the midst of them?