Monday, August 2, 2010

Questions to ask in times of trial

"Why me? Why now? Why this?" Are these the first thoughts to cross your mind when something unpleasant occurs in your life? Something painful, or at least uncomfortable? If you're anything like me, they are. Our culture has trained us to be comfortable and amused at all times and if we are ever inconvenienced we are highly offended! Sure we claim to believe in the fall of man, we are aware that the bible says something about this life being filled with sorrow and the Christian life in particular requiring sacrifice and chastisement. That's all good and well in abstract, it makes for stimulating conversation and thought provoking theory, but when those chickens come home to roost it's another story entirely. But do we really deserve a life of happiness? Is it our intrinsic right to live a life free of too much care or worry? Or is perhaps the opposite true? Perhaps the song writer had a legitimate point when he asked, "Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?" As I meditated on these things recently I purposed to begin asking myself four questions whenever my life was bumped, rocked, or upset by some unpleasant circumstance.
1. Is there any sin in my life that has directly led to this calamity?
I am always amazed when hear stories or read articles about someone whose sin directly led to a mishap and they say something like, "I don't know what happened, everything was fine and then this happened!" A man is shot in a drug deal gone wrong and his surviving family bemoan his passing as though it was unprovoked and he a martyr. But how often do I do this very thing? More often than I would like to admit. I have been in car accidents that were a direct result of rebelling against the authority of the civil government's set traffic laws. I have injured myself carrying on in some foolishness, I have lost money by not exercising proper stewardship. More often than we like to imagine, our personal storms are brought on us by our own sinfulness.
2. Is there sin in my life not related to this trauma, that God is trying to get me to stop and think about.
Miriam's rebellion did not naturally lead to her leprosy, but God used it to show her it was sin, nor did Ananias and Sapphira's lies directly lead to their deaths, but God killed them and a righteous fear fell on the church and world alike. If I have examined myself under the light of the first question and see no connection, that does not mean I'm off the hook. I now will examine my life in total and see if perhaps God is using this fire to purge out some dross somewhere else in my life.
3. How can I be made more like Christ through this trial?
If I have made sure there is no sin for which I have not repented in my life, I attempt to distinguish in what areas might this pressure enhance my character. Will it give me more patience, long suffering, love, joy, hope, meekness, some combination of the above...? You will remember that Jesus healed a blind man that had not suffered that for a sin, but simply that God might be glorified in him. How did your last tribulation glorify God through your life? How did it make you more like Christ? How did it sanctify you?
4. How can my love for others be more effective now because of my hardship?
If God sends me a storm for no other reason than to hone my ability to help others, can I really complain? Did not Christ suffer many things simply so it might be said of him, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."? If our master suffered to be able to empathize with us, shall we murmur and complain when asked to suffer in order to show his love more clearly to others? God forbid! I pray every trial I face, every pain I endure, and every inconvenience I experience would make me a more able minister of the gospel.
These are questions I am going to attempt to ask myself from now on, and I was encouraged by a friend to blog them, so here they are. I pray they help you in some small way. To God alone be the glory.