I actually wrote this a couple days before Jay’s passing, but it is nonetheless true, in fact it is more true as it has kept me going. I need God’s overwhelming peace and joy and grace both in trials and out.
As I continue to walk through the fruit of the spirit with the youth group we come next to the fruits of Joy and of peace.
I sit today in my office at Gracepointe church being overwhelmed with the grace and love of God. I could say in one sense that I have arrived but that would only be me setting myself up to fall in a fire of pride. But what I will say is that I sit and I am once again reminded of his faithfulness. There is a joy that comes when you find your place in this world as Michael W. Smith sang. I know that I sit in my calling and the feeling is amazing. I am at peace. I sit and listen to worship and I worship. The longings are gone the questions are gone, but I am not so foolish to think the challenges are all gone but still I sit and bask in his glory. A moment of respite is a real joy. I think of 1 Peter 1 where he is reminding us about rejoicing in our salvation.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I also know that all the overwhelmed feelings that have gone before were serving the purpose of preparing me for where I am. I can truly say in agreement that God does call those who he calls after him to suffer, not for a sick purpose of sadism, but for the purpose of the refining fire so that one can be used more effectively for ministry. How can I sit and weep with those who need help if all I have to offer them is merely a chapter and verse reference? Now the Bible absolutely does speak, but what good does that do if it doesn’t transform his people to be more Christlike? It causes us to empathize and love and care and have joy and minister in compassion and kindness and recognizes the challenges of this life and to encourage when times are so hard that it is hard to see God.
These are truths that need to be gained in the trials of life. God truly raises us up from the ashes. If we are willing to walk with God our pain takes on a new light of refining. I know from experience that truth does not always specifically help while someone is still in the desert. Just in a similar way it didn’t help to point out to the wandering Jews that a promised land waited on the other end of the desert. It was still difficult to see those fall on the way, to feel the pain and exhaustion. It was nonetheless true but they still had real trials of doubt, of hunger, of thirst. What they needed was someone to come along side and plead their cases before God and ask for them to be spared from their rebellion and doubt. Someone who could see above the mess and see God and realize that the people were truly sheep who needed a shepherd.
We have real trials and struggles that cause us to question and wonder about the future, about provision, about him. Sometimes we don’t voice these questions and we simply grow hardened and over time we recognize we have allowed distance to form between us and our maker; been there. Sometimes we question and the answers don’t come and we grow disillusioned by this. God was supposed to deliver us! This is still not a bad place to be, if we would press on and press into God.
If we are overwhelmed the best thing we can do is keep pressing into God. This may feel like the very last thing we want to do. I remember when I was at Moody and a professor speaking to the class about sin and pressing into God. He didn’t sympathize with us really, but what he did was give us an impassioned plea to continue pressing into God when we feel like crumbling. It was encouragement to continue on not a speech that would somehow make it all better. I remember immediately recognizing the wisdom, because words alone would never take us out of our journey with God if that is where we wanted to go. Jesus tells us that we will have tribulation in the world but we take heart because he has overcome it, not that we get to circumvent it. The only relief in a sense that would come would be to give up, but in the end this is no relief at all.
God calls us to continue on with him on the journey. This is the exhortation throughout all of scripture. God wants us to persevere to the end. I am reminded of some verses.
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
I plead with you to continue to press into God. Wherever you are whatever you are going through. God promises to abide in you if you will abide with him. We are told this because our natural inclination is to give in and find an easier path, to do whatever we think we need to do to find our own peace. This is going to sound cheesy but God used the song “Don’t give up” by Peter Gabriel to minister and speak into my life for many many years. I recognized this truth and this song was a constant reminder to continue pursuing God. Read the book of Revelation and despite your interpretation you cannot deny the theme of enduring to the end.