As a young woman, I told God I wanted to be his servant and to be used greatly in this world. It has been in living faithfully through count- less tests that God has fit me for ministry. Having struggled through the trials of life has made me much better suited to connect with a broad range of women. My heart is more compassionate because I have been humbled and tested through many roles of life—as a single woman, a married woman, a mother, a working woman, a woman tempted to depression, a woman with conflict from family, a woman with health issues and financial stresses. These tests exercised my spiritual muscles and increased my capacity to work And yes, now I am grateful for all the tests because they brought joy.
Of course, we each will face different tests in our lives. When I was younger, my best friend longed to get married, take care of children, and be domestic. It was what she most wanted. Yet she ended up being single and alone for her whole life. But because she responded to God's tests over many years by saying, as Mary did, "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) and sought to live out her life faithfully, just as it was, she became one of the most loving, life-giving, mature people I know.
And yet I, who really had never longed to have children, got married and had four. I have probably learned more from the Lord about joy in the midst of trials by being a parent than in any other role. It is what I needed to become the woman he wanted me to be. And it's taken years to get there! God doesn't grow us in character and joy quickly. He has a long-term perspective for me. He sees the training process over a period of years and is always seeking to move me ahead in my character.
Often it seems we would rather have another life—any life—than our own. Somehow we think if we lived a different life, it would be easier for us to grow in faithfulness and spiritual character. Yet it is in accepting today with all of its issues, in accepting God's will and training grounds that we learn the secret of joy in his presence. It is in being faithful to our own set of tests that we become mature and fitted for the ministry he has called each of us to accomplish. If we aspire to be a general, so to speak, spiritually, then we must first pass the training and tests of life as a private!
Other friends have lived through the devastation of divorce, personal rejection, financial losses, illnesses. Whether it is dealing with a prodigal child, an unfaithful spouse, an angry parent, unjust accusations, the loss of a job, or any other kind of trial, we always have a choice to endure with strength or capitulate to the darkness of our souls.
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