Early this year our family experienced some serious struggles in our lives. We had our previous challenges but this one, from a stress perspective, was definitely a couple of knotches higher. This struggle has been going on for a while, and we were praying diligently for a solution to our problems and if possible to just make it disappear.
The problem was that, impatient as we tend to be, God’s answer was just not coming quick enough. Everything felt out of control and even though the Spirit within told me that my thoughts were ridiculous, I was starting to think that God was trying to discipline us for some unknown transgressions and that we deserved His punishment.
A couple of weeks later our minister said the following during a sermon:
“God desires to lift us up. Not necessarily out of our circumstances, so that we can receive freedom and peace in our hearts. Therefore do not pray to take the circumstance away, but for Him to enter your hearts and give you peace and joy and to live within the circumstances you live” (Jacqui Rivas)
This statement totally changed my view of our situation. It gave me hope and reminded me that: Yes, sometimes God does need to use our struggles to discipline us and bring us back on His path, but more likely He uses it for personal growth and character building so that we can grow as children in Christ.
When I understand it from this perspective it may still be a struggle but in my faith I can trust that God will never forsake me and that He will provide in His way and time. The important word here is “TRUST”. Not in yourself but in God alone.
God’s Word also tells us of such a situation in Judges 2:20-22 and 3:1-6. After Israel entered their Promised Land their later generations started forgetting what God did for them and followed other nations’ idols. The abovementioned verses then started explaining why God left them with challenges and did not drive out their enemies from Canaan. There was three reasons:
- Firstly and understandably God was disciplining Israel for their disobedience (Judges 2:21). Because He loves them He was trying to bring them back on to His path. But,
- He was also testing them to see if they would continue to walk in the way of the Lord (Judges 2:22, 3:4). And finally,
- He was training Israel in warfare because the new generation never experienced war and would therefore not know how to defend themselves (Judges 3:2)
In the same way God can use obstacles in our lives to achieve many things. The experience is not always the most comfortable but I can know that even though there may be some ‘breaking down’ that needs to be done in my own personality and life, that at the same time God is also ‘building up’ and training me for what is good.
The testing part of the Scripture threw me a bit, but on reflection I believe that testing and training goes hand-in-hand. A person cannot accept the training that needs to be done if he doesn’t realise that he needs it. When God tests us He shows us our weaknesses and at the same time He then equip and train us to make us stronger.
(Jdg 2:20-22) So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations taht Joshua left when he died.” In order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their ancestors did..
(Jdg 3:1-2) Now these are the nations that the LORD left to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan (it was only that successive generation of Israelites might know war, to teach those who had no experience of it before): (NRSV)