I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75
This week I am celebrating one year since my brain surgery, and looking back I have so much to praise the Lord for as I consider the evidences of His sovereignty and loving Hand in my life! Part of me hesitates to even call what I went through a "trial," because it seems so small in light of the suffering that many others have been entrusted with. However, God, in His perfect wisdom, knew that this was exactly what I needed at this particular time in my life, and I have no doubt that He used it, and continues to use it, to teach me about His faithfulness. As a loving Father, He does not always give His children what is most comfortable or convenient, and sometimes it is downright painful, but He always gives them what He knows will be most effective in bringing about growth in Christlikeness (Rom. 8:28-29)! I will never forget the following statement that I once heard in a message - "God's goal is not to make me comfortable but to make me Christlike." How thankful I am that He is willing to allow me to experience difficult, painful situations at times, not because He doesn't care or can't stop them, but He purposely chooses not to spare me from all pain, because He, my perfect Father, knows that would not be best for me!
The more I think about God's timing with this ordeal surrounding my brain tumor, the more amazed I am to realize that He allowed all of this to happen exactly at a time in my life when I most needed to be shaken up and learn by experience that God alone can satisfy me - that He alone is enough and always will be, regardless of the circumstances of this life! I was at a point in my life that I was very dissatisfied with where I was at and was really struggling to find enjoyment in what He had given me to do. By taking me out of commission for a few weeks and bringing me to a point of physical (and at times emotional) brokenness and dependence upon Him and others, I was awakened in a whole new way to His wonderful goodness to me - that I deserve NOTHING at all, and every day He gives me is a gift from Him to be used for His glory! The fact that I was given the gift of complete recovery from a fairly major surgery just made me even more humbled and grateful for the gift of life and health and gave me a whole new perspective and excitement about life that I had not felt in a long time! I can truly say that I went back to teaching and my other responsibilities a different person after that experience, and nearly a year later that new enthusiasm and joy is not diminished! Now instead of longing for Friday and dreading Monday, I find myself looking forward to Monday, excited about starting a new week, and overwhelmed whenever I think about how privileged I am to be able to be doing what I'm doing right now - loving my job more than I ever thought possible, and thrilled with the incredible potential for ministry here in the Iowa City area! Truly, it is only by His grace, and I praise Him for bringing me to this point!
I think that one of the reasons why trials can be such a powerful tool to awaken us to God's goodness and to draw us closer to Him is that they have the potential like few other things to humble us and to renew our appreciation for things that we so often take for granted! Nothing can sooner weaken our effectiveness for Christ or dampen our enthusiasm in life than pride and ingratitude, and God knows that there is nothing quite like trials to weaken both of these enemies of our souls! I truly believe this is why Paul could say, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me... for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:3-7