"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." James 1:2-4
I am not naturally a very noble or valiant person. And so when I read this verse over the years, I would flinch and go through it quickly, because I didn't relish trials. Our lives have been full of them and I have, at times, learned to dread another day in case it might have some new trial in it.
Having four children, working on books, ministry and conference for the last 20 years, homeschooling, moving seventeen times, and facing all the unavoidable difficulties in relationships, criticism for my ideals, finances, health issues, loneliness, marriage, the different phases of my children's lives, ministry and an overload of responsibilities, just keeping up with all the work that never ends was so very much harder than I ever realized life would be.
Though I became serious about the Lord and truly committed to going anywhere, doing anything for His kingdom in my early twenties, I no more had an idea of what that would mean, than a little girl who dresses up as a princess and pretends to know what it would mean to become a queen and rule a country.
Yet, I can look back now, after many years of trials, and see that God had such great plans for my life, and the only pathway to these plans of His was through many trials. I had pretty much committed myself to becoming a warrior for His kingdom in this life, not realizing that in order for someone to become a general to lead others into battle, he must first begin with basic training.
Basic training is that hard, disciplined, demanding season of training that seeks to build strength, self-control, in the life of a would-be soldier. It is also for the purpose of drawing soldiers forward, stretching their capacity to be stronger, more capable, to live up to their own ability and potential.
After passing successfully through basic training, a soldier must prove worthy in real battles to earn the right to humbly and wisely lead others into victory in bigger arenas.
And so, because God delights in us entering into the fray of this world, to bring light, beauty, truth and to stand strongly and boldly for His purposes, He sends us trials and training--our personalized basic training-- to prepare us for the platform He would have us stand on. His trials have been the training grounds to give me integrity in my messages so that I really could encourage other women. Only God was there in the dark moments of my life, to see if my heart would respond in faith, to do the hard work, to love when no one else knew I was making this good choice but God Himself.
And so, my victories through the trials became the very platform in which I saw the grace of God, His goodness and love, as I realized that He had a better plan for me than I had for myself. My integrity was won in the seemingly invisible places, where He was testing and strengthening me for bigger arenas.
Each of us has this same opportunity to live a faithful story--to choose in the trials of life to be faithful, to see our stories as as our training grounds. How can we encourage others in this fallen place if we do not see God's faithfulness in our own story as we hold His hand and move faithfully forward, so that we will have a story to tell, a way to encourage from the integrity of our own lives?
Today, don't resist the trials--they will be the making of your character, the galvanizing of your integrity, the defining of a great story of your King working on your behalf in the history of His redeeming the world back to himself. Today is your opportunity to show forth your true love for Him.
And, surprisingly, in this process, I am finding great, deep down, fulfilling joy. I pray you will, too.