“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I had a bit of a wake up call last night. I guess you could say I’d forgotten who I am. The last few weeks have been a struggle for me, and I sensed God withdrawing his presence from me. Or so I thought.
When I start to feel alone like that, I begin to withdraw and wallow in self pity. That sucks because I’m a pretty fun-loving guy. It’s a sad irony. I begin to feel lonely, so then I start to do things that make me feel even lonelier. Where’s the healing in that?
For example, a few weeks ago I was hit with some pretty disappointing news. It was tough to swallow, but I got it down and was able to move on with life. Sort of.
Since I never fully addressed the pain that I had experienced that day, it began to plague me for the following weeks. And as the pain intensified, my sense of vulnerability increased, as did the feeling that God was pulling away from me.
It’s a scary feeling. Because I knew in my head that it wasn’t true. God promised to never leave me. Then why did I feel like he was doing just that?
I think it was because he was strengthening me. He was stretching and expanding my capacity in order to make me more mature. What I interpreted as his withdrawal from me was his allowance of stronger attacks on my soul in order to intensify my resolve.
But in the heat of the moment, I didn’t make this realization. So I pulled into myself and allowed the pain to engulf me. I even grew slightly masochistic and slowly cut off some of the friendships I really wanted to flourish.
So there I was—a lonely, self-deprecating shell of the man I had been, and a distortion of the man I was supposed to become.
So why James 1? It began with a “faith-quake.” God decided to send something into my life that would shake up my faith in him. I hadn’t questioned my faith for a while, so it seemed fitting that a trial should come along. The aftershocks were just as harsh, attacking me at my weakest points: my obscenely strong desire to connect. And it was painful.
God had just one word for me: “Persevere.”
“What?! You mean, in the face of all these trials, you want me to suck it up and keep going?”
“I am with you,” he told me.
“So you’ve said before,” I replied.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see my glory?” And then he hit me with it. “I began something good in you, and I will be faithful to bring it to completion. . . Even if you are faithless, I will not lose faith in you because to do so would be to disown myself.”
So what was the wake up call? A few harsh words from a friend of mine that opened my eyes to an amazing truth about myself: I am loved. That’s who I am. That’s who I’d forgotten.
It’d have been nice if she’d simply said, “I care about you.” But sometimes the brusque way is the better one. We learn about ourselves through the ugly honesty of those who truly care.
King Solomon wrote that “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
The wounds weren’t really all that bad, but thanks to those harsh words, I’m pretty sure now that I have at least one friend. 🙂
I’m not quite myself just yet; that “faith-quake” shook me harder than I’d initially thought. But thanks to some “wounds from a friend,” I’m on the path to rediscovering myself.