Test Trials

 

Child in medicine maskTest trials are also known as “Clinical Trials” and these are implemented when trying to find a specific drug or medical protocol that will attack a certain disease or illness. These are tests of sorts and often, they are “last ditch efforts” to help fight certain types of disease.

The book of James comes out of the gate with some crazy ideas regarding trials of life and suffering. This is a different kind of test. Check this out…

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

12 Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4,12 CSB)

I’ve been through a few trials and suffering in my life and I did not think they were great joy. I will submit that the trials and sufferings built somethings inside of me that weren’t there before. I admit that I was pretty “ticked off” at God because of the trials and suffering, but then when I settled down, I realized that He would not leave. He would walk with me through the trial and He always has a different perspective on my trials from where He “sits”. It is very easy to lose perspective during a trial.

I believe that God has taught me things during trials and suffering that I couldn’t have learned any other way. I learned a lot about me and what I was “made of”. I also learned a lot about the faithfulness of The Lord. He is so patient and understanding while I’m reeling and frustrated. He holds me when I’m hurt and angry. He sits with me when I can’t even talk. I have a different perspective completely on all of life. I want Him with me as I celebrate the joy of life and I know He will be with me when I’m in a trial time or suffering time. He helps me make lemonade out of lemons. He helps me navigate through the dark ally of trial and struggle.

In the middle of one particular trial this song blessed me. “Let Me Feel You Shine” by David Crowder Band.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Suffering Can Build Strength

Child in medicine maskThere are times of suffering in my life that I thought was about to destroy me. I’ve not experienced a life-threatening illness, but one my kids has. I’ve not had a life-threatening injury and been air-lifted to a trauma center, one of my kids has. I have also had some personal suffering that has rocked the foundations of my world. I have been speechless and silent before the Lord. I have screamed at Him for help. I have screamed at Him in anger. He has NEVER wasted my times of suffering. He has NEVER left me when I was in the middle of suffering. I’m sure I’ve left Him a few times, but quickly realized the stupidity of that. I don’t always understand suffering, but I trust Him. I don’t understand why He doesn’t prevent it in the first place. I don’t understand why He doesn’t “swoop in” and save the day. During my suffering, He’s taught me to trust His heart even when I can’t see His hand at work.

Paul was a passionate follower of Jesus, a teacher & preacher. He started churches and served them and poured his heart and soul into them. They still didn’t seem to get it. He made his case again to them about his journey with the Lord through suffering. He wasn’t going to quit and he made that clear. He had suffered much but he wasn’t about to quit. Check this out….

24 Five times I received the forty lashes minus one from the Jews. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. 26 On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers; 27 toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and without clothing. 28 Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 CSB)

Suffering can make you bitter or better – it’s up to the sufferer.

Suffering can give you new perspective.

Suffering can give you purpose.

Suffering can help save.

Out of my pain came my purpose…His Purpose for me. My purpose on this earth is to live to honor God and make Him known. I can’t stand during suffering without His strength. I remember another verse by Paul….

13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 CSB)

….and another:

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 CSB)

This topic brought to my mind a song I heard years ago after suffering from a job loss….

His Strength Is Perfect by Steven Curtis Chapman

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

___________________

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Desperate Place

 

Abstract Silhouette PrayingI’m a bit familiar with desperate places. These are places when it seems like the whole world is crashing down upon me. It can be something insignificant to others, but super important to me. Desperate places are where suffering often resides. When I hear that someone is going through a divorce, I’m confident that one or both of the parties involved are either in a desperate place now or they will be later for sure. Desperate places often call for desperate measures. When I’ve found myself in desperate places, I need a radical shift in my thinking to be able to navigate out of that place.

Job was definitely in a desperate place. His life was ruined from his desperate place perspective. He is crying out to God in desperation and despair. He lost his possessions. He lost his family. He lost his health. As he cries out to God, I can feel his emotions and they are raw for sure. Check this out…

15 You will call and I will answer you;

    you will long for the creature your hands have made.

16 Surely then you will count my steps

    but not keep track of my sin.

17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;

    you will cover over my sin. (Job 14:15-17 NIV)

Job is actually practicing some self-talk. I don’t see a dialogue between him and God. He appears to be more monologue – by he’s also pushing back on some of the counsel of his friends. I think he is also trying to come up with creative ways to survive this ordeal or for it to be over.

I was introduced a couple of days ago to a new song that we will be singing at church called: “Here With Me” by Tim Hughes. I’ve been learning the song and the words of the chorus are stuck in my head. Job needed to hear the words of this song.

When darkness deepens

The path unsure

The sun is hidden by the storms

I look to heaven

And cry to Thee

Oh God be here with me

 

In every breath

Every joy and tear

Every passing hour

Let me know You’re near

In life, in death

For eternity

Oh God be here with me

 

When faith is shaken

When fears surround

My feet will stand on solid ground

In every season

My song will be

Oh God be here with me

 

In every breath

Every joy and tear

Every passing hour

Let me know You’re near

In life, in death

For eternity

Oh God be here with me

 

And in that moment

We’re face to face

I will not need these eyes of faith

Forever after, God I will see

That You’ve always been with me

You’ve always been with me

That is a promise worth remembering when I’m in a desperate place.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Why Suffering?

Why MeThere are a lot of things that I don’t understand about life here on earth. I have a pretty extensive list of questions that I want to ask the Lord when I see Him. As I continue to study His Word and get to know His Heart, I’ve received what I believe are some answers to some of my questions. I’ve often asked why do children have to suffer from a sickness or disease? Why do kids get killed in car accidents and the drunk driver live? I know that the presence of evil in our world is real. I know that disease and distress is here. I just hate to see someone of any age suffer and struggle with pain.

Job’s life changed radically and quickly. He went from having it all to having nothing at all. Everything was taken from him in a test allowed by the Lord because of His faithfulness to the Lord. He lost his family, all his livestock, his buildings, and not his health. He didn’t curse God, however he did curse the day he was born. Check this out…

16 Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,

    like an infant who never saw the light of day?

17 There the wicked cease from turmoil,

    and there the weary are at rest.

18 Captives also enjoy their ease;

    they no longer hear the slave driver’s shout.

19 The small and the great are there,

    and the slaves are freed from their owners.

23 Why is life given to a man

    whose way is hidden,

    whom God has hedged in?

24 For sighing has become my daily food;

    my groans pour out like water.

25 What I feared has come upon me;

    what I dreaded has happened to me.

26 I have no peace, no quietness;

    I have no rest, but only turmoil.’ (Job 3:16-19; 23-26 NIV)

I don’t think I’ve ever suffered so profoundly that I wanted to die. I have seen that level of suffering up close though. From a pure human perspective, I understand why some people want assisted suicide. It’s even called “assisted dying” in parts of our culture. This topic is closely related to Euthanasia – the act of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering. I struggle with this when it comes to a dog or cat and I can’t imagine working through this with another human being. I guess my view of life and the Creator of life really changes my view.

I don’t pretend to understand the depth of suffering and pain, but I do know that God is fully of mercy and love. I do believe that sometimes the suffering and pain of another person is not about them, it’s about the people around them. I’ve watched people grow emotionally and spiritually while walking with another through the struggle of pain and suffering. I know that there are times that death is a friend, but I still believe that the Lord is the only One qualified to make that call.

I still believe that God teaches us truth about Himself and sometimes about ourselves through suffering and these truths often can’t be learned any other way.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Broken

broken potteryI do remember what it feels like to be beat down and broken because of events that happen that are completely beyond my control. I have felt absolutely helpless to fix or repair the damage done. I have come to accept that there are accidents and events that happen that I have absolutely zero control over. I sometimes wish that I could see those events on the horizon but that’s not exactly how it works. I’ve had my heart broken into millions of pieces, or so it seems. The Lord is able to restore my broken heart for sure.

I started reading the book of Job this morning and in the background, he was a proud and grateful man for his family and all that the Lord had blessed him with. The Lord had complete confidence in Job that He allowed Satan to test him with suffering. He had four messengers come him, one right after the other with waves of bad news. The first three messengers told of the loss of his livestock and possessions. The fourth messengers told of the loss of his children. That was the point when Job was broken down. I wasn’t really expecting Job’s response though. Check this out…

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

    and naked I shall depart.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;

    may the name of the Lord be praised.’

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1:20-22 NIV)

There are times when my brokenness feels like I’m totally destroyed. In the midst of my pain and suffering, I can’t see what life could look like getting beyond this pain. I think it’s like being in the fog, when it’s so thick and dense that I can’t see through it. When the fog clears, I can then see clearly. I see brokenness and suffering like this fog – the Lord provides the directions through the fog if I will just trust Him.

Job’s response of worship is powerful and shows incredible discipline and trust in the Lord. I suspect that worship was a part of his everyday life as it should be in my life. Job is about to “go to school” and learn more about God through this suffering and loss. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I believe God teaches us things about Himself through suffering that I’m not sure we could learn any other way. I want my daily journey with the Lord to build worship and trust into the structure of my life – into my DNA. I want my life to be totally dependent upon the Lord. I know that my faith needs to grow and the Lord helps me with that too. Brokenness is beautiful when the Lord is in charge of rebuilding.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Strength For The Fight

Man withstands moving downI sometimes try to imagine what some of our military men and women go through in fighting to protect the freedoms that I enjoy. I can hardly put my head around some of the conditions of the battle. I assume that there is an emotional/mental component of struggle from being away from home and loved ones. I also imagine that there is a big physical component to the battles or drills that they participate in for sure.

There was the death of the King of Ammonites and David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to the family and his son who was now king. The son obviously had some bad counsel and suspected David’s men as spies so he had half their bear cut off and he cut of part of their clothes exposing their backside – both of the actions were meant to humiliate the men. It really did humiliate the men and really sent David sideways too. He told Joab to go take care of business. Check this out…

9 Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. 10 He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. 11 Joab said, ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. 12 Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.’ (2 Samuel 10:9-12 NIV)

That last verse jumped out and landed all over me this morning. I need to be encouraged to be strong and brave in the middle of personal struggles and suffering. There are times when suffering comes (and it’s never welcomed), that I have to walk through the struggle. I would be wise to quote Joab, the commander of David’s army – “be strong and let us fight bravely. . . The Lord will do what is good in His sight”.

As I live out my life today and every day, I want to see suffering and struggle as tools that the Lord can use to shape me. The enemy tries to use those things to destroy me, but God can use “all things for good”.   The apostle Paul reminds me that with the Holy Spirit in me, I can face whatever and be strong. Check this out…

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: 

‘For your sake we face death all day long;

    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NIV)

He gives me the strength I need to push and fight through suffering, pain, grief and hardship.

Pressing On!

Dwayne