Intruders

As I begin to wake up from the nauseous exhaustion that was my first trimester of pregnancy, my brain seems to be coming alive again. Where I was before in survival mode, {and admittedly still have moments when fatigue hits and my brain draws blanks!} I do feel as if I am gaining capacity and excited again to ruminate over things that the Lord is bringing to my attention. Most of these things He has been teaching me for years, and yet, they seem to be fresh — new revelations made up of recycled truth. This morning, a dear and wise woman, rich in years and spirit, brought my attention to these verses {James 1:2-4} in a version of the bible I have come to adore: the JB Phillips translation:

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Over and over in scripture, we are reminded of the fact that trials are inevitable. I wrote here about the fact that many are misled to think that a life with Jesus is a protection against difficulty, that his presence = ease, and a life of ease and comfort = God’s blessing. Not true! Such thinking leads to despair, to lack of faith and understanding of God’s character and his promised nearness.

What assurance though, when we realize that trials are in fact inevitable and purposeful! They are for our good… and we are not alone in our trials! In the age of social media and the facility for projecting a false self, it is easy to fall into the snare that everyone is living a wonderful life without you, and yet it is simply not true. I believe that one of the great pitfalls of living out our faith is not living authentically; not sharing in one anther’s struggles, bearing one another’s burden’s, being honest about our brokenness hinders us from drawing near to the God of comfort, the God of hope, the God of grace and healing, who is most tangibly discovered within a community of people where we are safe to be real, experience grace and understanding, so then free to grow.

I have been pondering the words of Jesus’ brother, James, for some time now; the opening of his letter is among my favorite portions of scripture… so honest, so true of the reality of life, so hope-filled. I have returned here hundreds of times, in various season of life because every season of life is sure to bring “trials of many kinds” but this translation, that exhorts us to welcome trials as friends holds an entirely new challenge. A friend shared with me of a missionary in China who had traveled much and observed that North American Christians pray “God, remove these burdens from my back” whereas African Christians pray “God give me a stronger back” … while that might be a broad generalization, I was struck by the delineation and my own inclination to pray for God to remove things from me, rather than lean into them, to welcome them as a means to greater intimacy with God and heightened character. How often instead have these trials been seen as intruders inmy otherwise lovely life. If only this thing, this issue, this person, this addiction, this financial crises, this stage of singleness/marriage/parenting/etc would just pass, THEN I would be happy! Faithful! Complete! My walk with God would not be hindered and I could actually possess the joy he talks about!

But what if that intimacy with God, that joy, that peace actually comes with welcoming these trials as friends?  Wow.

Hospitality just took on a whole new meaning.  And so I am doing an inventory of those things that I have asked, begged God to eradicate. And I am wondering how it is that I welcome them, how it is I turn my head and my heart to face them square and beckon them in to do their work.

I trust that God is for my good. That He is FOR me, and that he is much more concerned with my holiness than my happiness.  And an outcome of holiness {being hidden in the Father’s loving, gracious embrace} is JOY… not the fleeting sort of happiness I often pursue. Does my heart align with the things God desires for me? Not always…but my prayer is that they would.

My new prayer as of today with a wince and a smile: Come on in.


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