Thank You for My Thorns

"Dear God, 
I have never thanked you for my thorns.  I've thanked you a thousand times for my roses, but never once my thorns.  Teach me the glory of the cross I bear.  Show me that I have climbed closer to you along the path of pain.  And show me that through my tears, the colors of your rainbow look more brilliant."
-George Matheson

What a beautiful prayer.  How many times I have thankfully prayed to God for my blessings, but so very seldom have I prayed thanks for my trials.  I was introduced to this convicting prayer by my pastor through an opening to one of his sermons titled "Bridge Over Troubled Water."  I've needed a major spiritual boost, not because I am enduring a catastrophic tragedy in my life, but because I see myself losing hope in what He has planned.  This prayer served as a humbling reminder to me of how my heart should be responding to these frustrations of my current season.  My pastor continued to teach from James 1 and what I learned in that hour long sermon has impacted my train of thought.  It deepened my understanding and reminded me of why we go through trials in this life.

First in foremost, it is pivotal for me to remember, as taught in Job 5:7,  
"Yet a man is born trouble as surely as sparks fly upward."  
Translation: No human can avoid trials, yet rarely can we see them coming.  
We can be sure that we will be faced with troubles and trials of all kinds through our lives.  Some, mere hills while others are towering mountains.  We can find hope, however, that no trial is too tiny or too massive that James's instruction for handling trials cannot cover.

James is teaching us a lot here, but he isn't saying exactly what our minds may initially think.  James isn't saying that every moment of bad, grief, or tragedy should be faced with only joy.  He acknowledges that we will sorrow, we will grieve, we will hurt.  He acknowledges that our lives and hearts will be troubled, but he encourages us through his words, to sorrow in a way that there is still hope.  What James IS saying is that these tough times should be a genuine source of joy just in knowing that God will use these moments to produce wonderful results within us, our ministry.  The joy doesn't come from the trial, but instead from the results in produces when the storm has passed.

If we face our trials head on with an encouraging spirit, it stirs our hope in our great future.  As my pastor said in his sermon over James 1, "I can glory in the pressures of life because I know that God will use them to build endurance which will in turn build proven character which will in turn strengthen my hope.  And hope will NEVER let me down."

He went on to talk about different ways in which we should and should not respond to the trials that we face, which was a convicting reality when I realized that I am very guilty of incorrectly responding to many of the challenges that I face.  More importantly, though, he talked about how we should respond to our troubled waters:

1) We must KNOW and be confident in our knowledge that the testing of our faith produces endurance.  God is behind every trial we face as said in James 1:3.  One example that I remember clinging to a couple of years ago, is the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis.  For the story, click here to read a post I wrote about him a couple of years ago.  Joseph's brothers tried to murder him over their envy of their father's love for him.  He ended up being captured and enslaved and lived s very difficult life.  But through this time, he stayed faithful to God.  He knew to see this trial and troublesome life from God's perspective and not from evil.  And in the end, Joseph was greatly blessed.

2) God always intends the trial for our spiritual good and for our spiritual growth.  He tests us to prove the genuineness of our faith.  But to truly benefit from this, we have to believe in what the word says in that God only has good purposes for us.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
God will never tempt us, as that comes from evil, but he will give us trials to build our character and produce spiritual growth within us.

3) Let our attitude show that we know that every trial properly responded to will only strengthen our faith.  Through these times, our endurance will be strengthened, just as a weight lifters endurance is strengthened for every second longer he lifts that heavy weighted barbell over his head.  Until the timer goes off, he learning to endure more and more weight.  So if our faith.  The stronger weight of trials we bear, the stronger and stronger our endurance gets.  "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance." Romans 5:3

Endurance demonstrates and leads to proven character, and proven character produces hope!

While the troubles I am facing right now are so minute in the grand scheme of life, they are still pressures upon my heart.  James says that any tribulation we face is covered by his instruction, and just in the small two weeks that I have remembered this, my pressures are weakening greatly.  I feel more confident about not being the most hands on mom to Preslie that I am use to being and being okay with that, I am confident that Blakely will arrive on this earth when God is ready for her to, and I am reminded that my physical pain and angst with this pregnancy is only temporary.  My nerves have become tremendously less rattled (not to be confused with not rattled at all, ha) about our house situation when I focus on God's plan not mine.  All in all, I have moved on to trying my best to looking at our situation as a positive.  Even if it's tough on my parents for us to live here with a newborn and toddler, this is clearly how God planned it.  I am trying to remember not to take that pressure on myself, but remember that this, too, is a trial that God has given them to strengthen their endurance as well.

And when my heart falls weak and temptation to sin from my pressures arises, I replay this verse in my heart and remember everything will be okay.

"I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13

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