I think most people will agree with me when I say that experiencing a moment, or multiple moments, of conviction, can be one of life’s best teachers. You know what I’m talkin’ about right? That second you want to crawl in a hole because you’re feeling smothered in guilt, remorse, shame…need I go on?
I am sure it doesn’t take long for us all to recall those, not so fun, life lessons. Whether we impulsively stuck our foot/feet in our mouths, blew a situation out of proportion, or continue to fail at that one thing you’ve been trying to work on; if you’re a follower of Christ, His Spirit will quickly begin to weigh on us. I can just picture His Holy Spirit standing in front of me with His arms crossed while tapping His foot out of frustration until I have that Ah Hah moment of, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have done/said that.”
I had just such an experience this week. Several of them, I’m sure, but one that is really tugging at me. I have been struggling for about a month with kidney stones. I was passing seven at one time, had surgery to have a stent placed, and finally began feeling better last week as I was starting to recover. By the end of the week, I could tell I was passing more. I went to the doctor, and they did see multiple stones. Good times (deep sigh). Ladies and gentlemen let the pity party begin!
Can’t you just hear the thoughts I was having…”Why is this happening to me again? What did I do to deserve this? Wah wah wah…” Poor pitiful me. I could feel the frown on my face. All while sitting in my air-conditioned home, on my comfortable sofa, reclined with my heating pad, my fourteen-year-old daughter making my plate of food, and watching all the Netflix my little heart desires. Sounds hideous, doesn’t it?
I have been blessed with the opportunity to go on two mission trips to very poverty-stricken areas in Uganda over the last couple of years. Each time coming home feeling terrible about how so very spoiled we are as Americans, and we don’t even know it. We don’t realize how ridiculous we sound to people around the world when we complain about standing in line too long, and wi-fi being too slow, and “I don’t really feel like eating there…”
I would get so aggravated when people would moan about their “first world problems”, yet here I was, doing just that. I realized it while I was sitting through our weekly Women’s Bible Study group discussing missionaries over the centuries that have literally sacrificed and lost everything to be obedient to God. One, William Carey, traveled to India in the 1800s with his wife and children. While there, one of his sons and his wife died. He continued to serve the Lord through it all, and His ministry impacted innumerable lives.
The way I would have seen that situation if it was me, I’m afraid, would be a much different view than what he saw. Through the pain, sacrifice, grief, and struggle, he saw the path that God had laid before him from the beginning. He could see the lives that would be touched, and the Glory God would receive if he persevered. His view was filled with the desire to show Christ to a lost world, the faith that knew God was in control, and the expectation of Him to do something absolutely amazing with his situation. Not only that but what a testimony for people to witness a man walking out His faith in such a way. We claim to have hope, but so few of us show it when the rubber meets the road.
As we read Carey’s story, I could feel myself sinking in my chair. How much had I complained that day and the days before? My view was filled with self-pity and impatience. I was focused on my circumstance instead of fixing my eyes on the One that was in control of it. I lost sight of all the blessings that fill my life that I know I don’t deserve.
With that being said, I type this with a smile on my face (while sitting on a heating pad 😊) because I am so very thankful for God’s sanctification process through conviction. NOT CONDEMNATION. That’s a whole other topic that I won’t get into tonight. I am thankful for the tests we must go through, whether I succeed or fail. I am thankful for conditions that He allows me to endure in order to continue to mold me into the person He created me to be.
Consider changing your view to one that sees struggling in the Christian life as a temporary privilege.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5