Today I was painting a bathroom. Not the most fun thing to do on a Saturday by any means. When I paint, my mind wanders. There is really not any thinking to be done with painting so its a time that allows me to slow down from my normal hectic life and pay attention to some of the things going on.
While I was painting today I had a small revelation, if there is such a thing. Traci and I have been going through the grinder so to speak the past many months. Our lives have been turned upside down and we still don’t have any answers coming on the horizon. Although I believe God has this whole mess under control and that I must rely on him for the answers, I think I have been going about this wrong.
I often tell people that God knows how much I can handle, and follow that by a tongue in cheek, “I hope he thinks I weak so I can be done with this.” My focus has been on when the end of my trial will be, how tough it will get, and how we will come out in the end. I have been tackling it like a warrior in a defensive position. Down behind a shield, determined to thwart the blows coming at me, and waiting for my backup (God) to arrive. I believe I have been obedient to God in this and my faith resides in him…. But while painting today it occured to me, he wants more…. More is hard…
James 1:2-4 says that I should consider it ALL JOY when I encounter trials. Joy is defined as ‘the emotion of great happiness’. I have not been doing this. The bible is telling me here to do the opposite of what the world would expect. I have been faithful, I have been thankful, but I have not had ‘great happiness’ over the circumstances I am in. Will I be truly joyful about it tomorrow? Probably not, but I know I need to work at it.
The next part of the verse tells me why I should be joyful. “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.”
As a christian I want that last part, ‘perfect lacking in nothing.’ But that is the result of the character building trials we must go through. Being ‘hands on’ faced with problems is much different than externally examining them. One of the wisest people I know, my Dad, always told me that after high school he went to the school of hard knocks. There is something valuable there, life experiences cannot be replaced.
Mark Peacock introduced me to the idea of christians being ‘vessels’. I cant think of a better single word to describe it. Modern terms would be any item that could hold water. As a christian, God pours himself into me, and in turn I can pour his spirit out on others. Not all vessles are equal. Some christians are spoons. They fill up quickly and have little to pour out. Some are cups, they can take more of god ‘in’ and thus have more to pour out onto others. Some are pitchers, kegs (ha!)… you get the idea. Some people will just be spoons for their whole lives. That is ok if that is what God has designed you for. But what if you are a spoon and God wants you to be a pitcher? How do I do that? A little hint here, look at the above verses in James.
I want to be the biggest vessel I can for the lord so that I can pour out his spirit on others. So as I joke that “I hope God thinks I’m weak”, I am telling him that I just want to be a spoon, I don’t want the work or the trouble to become the greatest vessel I can for him.
So how do I remedy this? I need to approach my trials differently. I will not do it overnight, but I will stay the course. I must remember that God’s plan is ultimately the best one for me and that he has my eternal future in mind as he allows things in my path. Instead of acting as a warrior in a defensive position I need to act as a student. I need to be thankful for the challenges because they are my opportunity to grow in the lord. I need to be joyful because as I go through these trials and rely on God, he is increasing my capacity as a vessel. My goals during this time should not be to minimize the pain and timeframe, but to grow through the process and seek to become a larger vessel, God will take care of the rest.