Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
– James 1:2-3
Two months ago I was reading John Piper’s daily devotional. There was a compelling post about how faith works in our lives. The takeaway hit me like a ton of bricks: our faith endures because of trials, not in spite of them.
Fast forward six weeks. I am 26 weeks pregnant with our second child and find myself in the hospital with pregnancy complications. I’ll be on indefinite hospital bed rest until I deliver. The first few days of my hospital stay were filled with emotion, uncertainty, many doctor recommendations, and “if your baby is born today this is what you should expect” statements.
I have now been in the hospital for over two weeks. Each day that I don’t deliver is a blessing from God. My family and I have no idea what the future holds. I could be here for five more weeks or I could deliver tomorrow. These are the trials we are facing right now.
Reflecting on the verse above in James, we are told to look on these circumstances with joy!
- Indefinite hospital stay—count it all joy.
- Uncertainty over the well-being and viability of our unborn child—count it all joy.
- Missing my husband and son—count it all joy.
These are not things I would ever look to for joy or for peace, but God is bigger than any of this. God has known about this before the dawn of time. Each day before any of us awakes, God is forging a path for us which we can use for his delight and our joy, regardless of the circumstances.
His plan is built of knowledge so deep and a breadth of love so vast that it is beyond all of our comprehension. I know that because I am his child anything that happens (anything!) works together for my good and the good of my little family (Romans 8:28).
These trials serve a purpose in our lives—they grow our faith. Piper says this:
…James says it is trials that ‘produce endurance.’ This is odd. Most of us would say that faith endures in spite of trials, not because of trials. Most of us think that when trouble comes faith is threatened. We don’t usually attribute the duration of faith to the trouble it meets. But duration is what endurance means.
Growing our family has been a long-distance run. Endurance has been the key the entire way. Now we are faced with a situation which has potentially dire consequences, and I am reminded each day that God is pouring his grace out upon me and growing my faith.
I can’t help but think how abundant my blessings are. I am in one of the best hospitals in the country. I have insurance that will help our family pay for this. I have an incredible team of doctors and nurses monitoring me constantly so they are aware of any changes almost as soon as they happen.
One question I keep thinking about is what would it be like if I lived in Bangladesh and this was happening to me? My current situation would look vastly different, and quite ominous. I wouldn’t be in a clean, modern hospital and I would likely not have access to skilled medical specialists.
I don’t know why I was born into such abundant circumstances that I had no part in creating. I do know that I want everyone to have access to the glimpses of flourishing that I have living in such a free country.
You and I live in a country where opportunities abound to become whatever God has called us to be. These opportunities are so plentiful because we have high levels of economic freedom and personal liberty. The doctors and nurses taking care of me had opportunities to get educated and compete with others to use their God-given gifts to serve me.
In developing countries this is not the case. But all of us, those born in the United States and those born in Bangladesh, are made in the image of God. With that comes an intrinsic dignity that is lifted and bolstered when we are able to flourish.
I recently heard a radio interview with the band Tenth Avenue North. One of the band members became desperately sick. The band and family waited in the hospital to hear if their member was going to make it. The doctor came out and told them to prepare for the worst.
They ad-libbed a song born of this prayer said aloud in the waiting room:
God you do all things well. If he survives you are good but if he doesn’t you are just as good because you do all things well.
I will never forget that story. God does all things well and he doesn’t always do them on our terms, but if we surrender to his will we will not just survive but we will grow and deepen our faith with the Father who loves us so much. I have no idea what tomorrow brings, nor do any of us, but I know that endurance will bring us closer to him.
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