Count it all joy when you encounter various trials....Really? Are you kidding?

 My Nathan  "It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." C. S. Lewis

 "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."

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 4 children, homeschooling, moving 17 times, 6 times internationally, and all the 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 in my early 20's, I became serious about the Lord, and truly committed to going anywhere, doing anything for His kingdom, 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 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 choice but God. 

And so, my victories through the trials became the very platform in which I saw the grace of God, His goodness and love, in seeing 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. And so I understand this process better for my children as they foray into life. 

Last year, when my son, Nathan had returned from finishing his training at the New York Film Academy, he told us he wanted to go out to Hollywood to give a try to get into the film industry or music industry to seek to have an impact for Christ. Of course it seemed very scary to me. I was not excited to send my child into another dark arena.

Nate said, "Mom, it would be such a shame for a wrestler to train and work out and exert himself his whole life and never be able to have a chance to compete in a real arena. You have trained us our whole lives, saying that we needed to consider what work God had for us to do for His Kingdom while we were here on the earth. I believe that for now, He is leading me to walk by faith into this difficult area and to learn how to be a warrior for him." 

And so, Nathan went to California, without a permanent housing situation, with only enough money for 3 months, no Christian roommates, no apartment, and no job, but he believed that the Lord would be with him. 

The first thing he did was to find a good church, while he stayed for some days with an unbelieving friend he met at the NY Film Academy. Then, by God's grace, he found an affordable housing situation with 2 Christian roommates, worked at a very demanding job that eventually ended, got down to his last few dollars, came home at Christmas to get refueled.

He had been through a lot of trials. When he needed money, he had to turn down a couple of job offers because the shows he was asked to play in were not morally acceptable to his Christian values. Yet he said, "I really believe God is with me and He is stretching my capacity to follow Him and believe in Him. He doesn't want me to be a wimp, He w ants to build me into a man."

And so we all prayed like crazy every day, and he went back out and pounded the sidewalks, and has found enough "extras" jobs in the last few weeks, to pay his rent this month, his food and gas for his car, and keeps seeing God opening doors every day. 

Today, he will be an extra in another tv show, always hoping to be noticed and bumped up to a little bit bigger job that pays more. (Prayers would be appreciated.) Tomorrow, he will be an extra in a movie and hopes again, not to just be an extra, but to be bumped up to another more important job.

But, in the meantime, he joined the worship team, is in a worship band, meets with the pastor, has begun to make friends, and keeps praying for God's favor.

It is a day by day existence, of trusting God, answering every email, pursuing by faith, God's pathway for him.

And so, Nathan isn't just in training, he is now wrestling in the arena of life, seeking to stretch in the difficult matches he is up against, to win and move onto 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 it 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? 

 And so I find great joy, in seeing both of my sons becoming strong men, not because their lives are easy, but because God is building them through the trials, into men of integrity, men  who cannot rest on the coattails of their parents, but must themselves push through the trials, choose faith and see as the result, God making them into true men of God, so that He can use them in their lifetime.

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. Your opportunity to show forth your true love for Him.

And, surprisingly, in this process, I am finding great, deep down, fulfilling joy.

Dancing with My Father, a book about Biblical joy.