“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. “
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8
You’ve got to be kidding me! Trials and testing are an integral part of The Father’s process for perfecting faith in my life. The result of His process is meant to complete me, not to defeat me. Good to know.
“It can’t get much worse than this.” These may be the most foolish words in human language. Of course “IT” can. Saying them in the face of a trial or a test is like spitting into the wind of a wild hurricane. “IT” usually comes back to hit you in the face.
When Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer, the words hit our hearts with all the force of a sledgehammer. I was a mess, but she was resolute. Her first words were, “I am just going to have to fight it.” I, on the other hand, couldn’t figure out how to get out of the parking lot. I was in some form of shock. Though physically whole, my bell had been rung mentally and emotionally. Trials and tests come in all kinds of packages, and are rarely the same for everyone.
For six years the trials and tests that we have faced in her fight with breast cancer have come and gone. I have not faced all of them with joy. Dana, on the other hand, has found the grace to call this experience, her “Great Adventure.” Faith produces endurance, indeed.
We have endured tests and trials that we never thought possible, or probable. To be honest, at times they didn’t seem necessary. They arrived on our doorstep as unwanted intrusions, and they were wrapped in a good deal of confusion. Prayer became more than an occasional devotional exercise for us. It became our life’s breath. It was essential, and we did it early and often, throughout the day, and into the night.
Still, in spite of prayer, my lack of joy, when faced by these trials and testing, revealed an unsettling foolishness in my heart. My lack of joy was based on the lack of wisdom on my part, not the lack of love on The Father’s part. When “IT” hit the fan, I gritted my teeth for the endurance I needed for the furnace, but I often missed the cool breath of His Spirit to calm my heart in the middle of it.
Joy is the by-product of endurance. In the face of trials and testing, The Father’s children need not run around in panic as abandoned orphans. They are free to run t The Father in prayer, and receive from Him calm and confident assurance that in spite of appearances, all is well.
Prayer has the capacity to gradually generate a calm assurance, and over-riding confidence in The Father’s love. Testing and trials tempt me to sense the absence of The Father’s love. This temptation is intensified by the relentless intimidation of immediate circumstances. Prayer restores my faith in the presence of The Father’s love, and removes my fear of the absence of it.
Doubting The Father’s love, and the expecting His provision define “a double-minded man.” Only a fool would resist the process of The Father’s perfection, and still demand His provision. When I am prayerless, I am faithless. When I am prayerful, I am faithful. Prayerlessness is an act of foolishness. Prayerfulness is a hurting child’s search for wisdom.
Prayer has the capacity to turn a fool into a wise man. Your turn around begins when you turn your eyes towards The Father and turn away from your failure. Admit your lack of joy over the process, and your raging doubt about The Father’s provision.
The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name. Your anger and doubt harbored in your heart towards The Father often comes disguised in more politically correct garments of disappointment, and discouragement. Underneath the fake rags there is genuine rage. Admit it. Let go of it. Don’t harbor it.
Failing necessary tests, pouting over trials and doubting The Father’s love are not signs of a student who is making progress in The School of Prayer. Fools can expect to be kept after school. Completing the course involves kicking foolishness to the back of the class, and moving to the front row to find wisdom in The Father’s direction, protection and correction.