…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:3-4 (NKJV)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)
God, in His Infinite Wisdom, with exquisite timing and His Divine Sense of Humor, is teaching me to wait upon Him. It is the encouragement we believing folk offer one another when things are hard. It is the kind of advice you feel confident to give, coming as it does directly from the Word. That doesn’t make it easy to hear. It certainly doesn’t make it easy to do. Truly, in this season, I am experiencing a testing of my faith.
Looking back, I thought I had it right. It was a faith of sorts, just one without much testing. You know, it’s another one of those things we tell one another, “no testimony without a test.” I don’t think I didn’t have faith, but lately good friends who are praying and counseling me through this take me back to Word, reminding me that “the refiner's fire is hot, I know, but the end result is beautiful. Hang in there.” I am thankful that my Christian friends are not the drive-by variety.
Have you experienced drive-by Christianity? I’m describing those interactions with people who, upon hearing of your circumstances, drop something on you and keep it moving. I think I was one of those at one time. I remember hearing a sermon saying that when someone reaching out to you, humbling themselves, confessing their pain or their fears and seeks comfort, maybe asking for your prayers, you should get all like Nike and JUST DO IT. Take their hands if they’re in front of you, and go before the Lord. If you’re talking to them, stop the conversation and start praying. I know people like that, and I’m trying to become more like them. They are the hands, the voices, sometimes the arms and the tissue bearing God in my life. Not empty scriptures. Not passing words. Real connection. Real intimacy. Real caring.
While we are learning patience, while we are being perfected, while we are subject to the refining fire, we Christians ought to bear one another up. You see, what I’m talking about is really being Christian.
So, if this is my time, I am admitting that growing in faith is not easy, and truthfully it is easier said than done, but besides an omnipotent and ever-present God, I have my friends. They’re not the drive-by type either. They have pledged to stand beside me, standing in the gap (you know, another one of those things we say, and genuinely mean) praying with me and even for me when my heart is weary and I am afraid.
Faith through the hard times is easier said than done, but I have blessed assurances. In explaining James guidance to the faithful, Matthew Henry teaches us that
troubles and afflictions may be the lot of the best Christians, even of those who have the most reason to think and hope well of themselves. Such as have a title to the greatest joy may yet endure very grievous afflictions…These outward afflictions and troubles are temptations to them. The devil endeavours by sufferings and crosses to draw men to sin and to deter them from duty, or unfit them for it; but, as our afflictions are in God’s hand, they are intended for the trial and improvement of our graces.
That helps me understand the why. As to the how? Paul teaches us through his writings to the Philippians. We are told to be anxious for nothing, letting our requests be made known to God. Reading that scripture again, it doesn’t say that we should necessarily carry them to Him alone, and that’s where I think I have to grow. I AM NOT AN ISLAND.
So, during my hard season, I will be still. I will cultivate patience (for real, this time). I have made my requests known to God, and since I completely appreciate through my will I accomplish nothing, I will fellowship, I will worship with the community I cultivated AND the community God sent me to while I wait.
I know…easier said than done, but I’m not giving up.