I hiked deep into the woods Thanksgiving morning packing a load of cares and concerns. Thankfulness was the last thing bubbling in my heart. I needed to remove those distractions and invest quality time alone with God.
God serves blessings into my life by the truck load, but lately as I’ve been seeking Him the heavens seem silent. Waiting is exhausting work. The miles passed beneath my boots as I navigated the leaf-covered trail in the solitude of the crisp morning.
A passage of Scripture I hurriedly read before breakfast flashed into my thoughts and refused to budge. I tried to switch channels, but God had other plans. In my experience He speaks most often in the quiet as I meditate on a portion of His Word. His message of wisdom, common sense, and practicality is always on target.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3-4 (NASB)
Trials, those ubiquitous and unpleasant difficulties in life, surround most of us. We can take every step correctly and still trouble finds us. And troubles travel in a pack. Yet these verses describe someone exulting in tribulations!
Paul described a process. Trouble leads through some intermediate stops on the way to the final destination of hope:
Someone described perseverance as a patient, steadfast waiting. Other translations of Scripture use patience or endurance. Waiting on someone or something. Might be a change in circumstances or a shift in the weather. Could be a promise someone made. Even a phone call or email with the answer to our quandary.
Paul pointed to Abraham as an example. God promised Abraham a son yet the years ticked by without an addition to the family. God assured Abraham the plan was on track, and the promised son would come. Abraham waited. And waited.
Abraham’s mindset is worth noting (Romans 4:20-21), “yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”
Abraham was confident that God would deliver on His promise.
As I shuffled through the leaves God gently pointed out that my prayers have become conflicted, and my relationship with Him is suffering because of sagging confidence. Since God has not resolved my challenges in a timely fashion or in a way that meets my approval I’m not viewing God as I should. Patience in trials means waiting with a worshipful attitude and a heart filled with thanksgiving. Patience assumes confidence as the foundation of my outlook.
Tribulation serves a purpose. Job, an expert on adverse circumstances, offered this insight on trouble (Job 23:10), “But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” The difficult times are designed to burn away impurities.
Peter also navigated tough waters, and shared their purpose (1 Peter 1:6-7), “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
The order of Paul’s progression, tribulations to perseverance to character, tells me that delayed resolution is often part of God’s plan. The character God wants to develop in me is an internal change, not an external adjustment of the circumstances. I cannot become that character without patient and steadfast waiting.
Instead of patience my heart is percolating anger, bitterness, and frustration. I’m looking to and dwelling in the past, and I’ve lost traction in the sticky clay of hurts and disappointments. Through these verses God held out His hand to lift me back onto the path.
Patience and proven character are God’s intentions for me. He expects me to remain productive while I wait for His help, His solution, or His strength to enable progress in the face of the circumstance. I can choose bitterness mingled with a heaping dose of sour disposition and wallow in self-pity. Or I can take His hand and persevere even though the circumstances haven’t changed.
Heavy thoughts for a morning walk.
What would you choose?