Time is our most precious commodity. More than cash, diamonds, or gold. Everything costs us time. Businesses will employ you – exchanging money for your time. Books will enrich you – trading knowledge for your time. Games, exercise, sleep. Everything takes time.
Trials take time too. They aren’t planned events, and they often last longer than we want them to. Not only are they difficult, but they can feel as if hours, months, or even years have been wasted. But, if what’s happening during that time is for our best, then the time isn’t wasted at all. It’s being invested.
Today, I want to encourage you by offering another reason to “count it all joy” when you face trials (James 1:2-4).
The Best Use of Your Time
Our pastor said in a sermon recently, “As a believer, the best thing that can happen to you today is to die. The next best thing is to be conformed to the image of Christ.” This process of becoming more like Jesus is called sanctification, and, like everything else, it takes time.
In fact, it takes a lifetime. Were it not for the help of the Spirit and the final glorification of believers, it would take all of eternity to become like Jesus! It’s an incredible task, and we, though new creations, are still so prone to doubt and failure that, if Jesus had not promised to finish what He began, we would all despair of ever making any progress at all.
Yet, little by little and day by day, as we learn more about our great God through His Word and through experience, our lives begin to reflect His glory. His truth and faithfulness and goodness draw our hearts to worship, and, by design, we become what we worship*.
Get Rich Quick
Two of the fastest tracks to Christlikeness (other than dying) are suffering and having kids. If Christlikeness could be quantified in monetary value, they would be labeled “get rich quick” schemes, though they would hardly be considered options for living “your best life now”.
A mentor once teased, “Those who are serious about sanctification get married. Those who are really serious have kids.” (He has 7.) God has ordained that relationships be a primary means of sanctification for the believer. Merely living in close proximity to another sinner is enough to draw out hidden sins of your own and provides ample opportunities for “dying to self”.
The other “short cut” is suffering.
But what happens when you combine the 2?
8 Months of Joy
On March 7, 2017, 8 months ago yesterday, our daughter Joy was born. We already knew from the ultrasounds that she had fluid in her brain, but arriving 8 weeks early was a surprise. She was transported by helicopter to a larger hospital the day she was born because of her condition and the surgeries that lay ahead. It would be 15 weeks before we’d be able to go home.
Baby Joy ended up needing a shunt, trach, and g-tube. Even at home, she requires constant supervision and vent support 24/7. We have nurses in our home every day (and night), and though she is happy and stable, the future is still uncertain.
We wouldn’t trade the last 8 months for anything.
Reaping the Fruit of the Spirit
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). It has been defined as “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the Word and in the world”**. But how do you find joy in trials?
Ultimately, trials are a joy because they make us more like Christ.
- The Bitter and the sweet- Suffering makes the Gospel sweeter. God’s Word is more precious to us when set against the darkness of sin and the empty promises of the world. We long for heaven more in the midst of trials than when everything is “well”.
- Empathy- Our spirit isn’t drawn only to God though. Pain produces empathy for others as well. When we have felt despair, the ache of loss, or ridden the rollercoaster of uncertainty ourselves, we are more likely to respond with compassion toward people around us rather than with callous “advice” like Job’s friends.
- We aren’t special- My wife and I aren’t saints, at least not more (or less) than any other believer. We don’t possess more (or less) of the Holy Spirit than any other Christ follower. There are people we know who have more wisdom and love God more than we do, but we love God more than we would if we hadn’t lived through these last 8 months.
Trials have given us opportunities to know God better through fervent prayers and study of His Word. They have given us opportunities to cry and ache and trust. We’ve been blessed by our church family and have had the opportunity to share our story with unbelievers. We’ve found an entire community of special needs families, and we’ve made new friends while deepening relationships with old ones.
If you feel like trials are a waste of time, then you don’t know God.
If a trial accelerates your sanctification by causing you to know, love, and commune with God more, then it is time well spent.
And that is a reason to be joyful.
* We Become What We Worship by Beale, G.K.
** John Piper