“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
It’s funny, maybe a little ironic, that as I read this verse, I was trying to think of the time in my life when I faced the most trials. Nothing really came to mind. I know that I have walked through many, and that I certainly did not count it as joy. However, looking back on my life I no longer identify the trials. When I think about the times when God has made Himself most real to me I can remember the trials I walked though.
I think about the trial of being a young child in first grade when my earthly father was jailed for abusing my sibling. I learned that God is who we go to when there are problems in a family. I also learned about forgiveness, accountability and forgiveness.
Or the trial of loosing my best friend when I was eight to a rare childhood disease. I learned God knows about the sadness we face and counts our every tear. I learned to hold onto the positive and let the negative go.
I think about how I walked away from God because I couldn’t understand the hypocrisy I saw in the church. I learned that He never stopped calling me back to Him. People will fail me, but He is faithful.
I think about the trial of being a single teenage parent. I learned God’s love and forgiveness and that He wanted to be a Father to me and my child.
I am reminded of the trial of being a homeless, divorced mother with two children, pregnant with a third. I learned God was my provider, my shelter, my refuge in times of trouble. He carried me through that time, and my children were older before they heard my testimony and understood what we had walked through.
There was the trial of substance use that impacted my family. I learned that God can brings things to light that are done in the darkness. God reinforced the need for healthy boundaries to protect our children. Through the years He showed me His power to deliver and I learned the importance of prayer. I learned God can restore even the most broken of relationships; something He showed me time and time again through my life.
I know the trial of my father dying of melanoma. I was holding on to faith for healing this side of Heaven. When he died, I questioned the validity of my faith. I learned that there are many factors that play out when we make a declaration in faith especially over another. I learned God is not deferred by our emotions.
There was the trial of leaving my family and learning to hold on to God for myself when I married and we moved away from our families. I learned that I could depend on God and how to build a personal relationship with Him. I learned to teach me children about God in the absence of a church family.
Then came the trial of my other best childhood friend dying in a meth lab explosion leaving behind three children. I remember daring God to move me as I stepped back into church for my children. I learned that God is willing to answer the challenge and draw me closer into relationship with Him.
There was an extended trial where my spouse went through his own crises that impacted our family as he quit his job and struggled with depression that lasted for years. I learned God can open doors that no man can close. God reinforced that He is our provider and sustainer. I learned to stand strong in adversity for our children.
There was the trial caused by the economy that was outside our control. God again provided even as we lost our home and relocated. I learned sometimes Intake things into my own hands and really I needed to trust God. I learned faith is believing God can and trust is believing He will for me.
I remember the compounding trial of church hurt as I had a series of events that hurt my heart. An adolescent who was told by a church leader that God had given up on him. The young man who brought his friends to church offering them a way out of drugs, only to have them judged and condemned for their appearance. The kids who didn’t few included despite their best efforts. The godly woman who betrayed my confidence and lied about my character. In those I learned to stay steadfast, God is not man. Sometimes man is just plain wrong but that is not God’s fault it is the consequences of sin entering our world.
I remember the trial of walking my mother through dementia and heart failure. Watching her slip away from the strong woman I knew to someone completely dependent on others. I remember asking God for five things as the death of my mother became evident. And so saw God miraculously give me all five as she passed from this earth into eternity on Good Friday 2016. I learned of a peace that surpasses all understanding.
My marriage has been a trial. One that despite a divorce, a second filing and separation and years of unhealthy behaviors on both our parts is stronger now than it has ever been. God has restored and repaired what we broke.
I have walked through trials with my now adult children. I have walked through trials with my extended family. I have walked through things in my career with other families and with friends and through every trial, God has shown me something. My faith has been tested and tried. I have learned to be steadfast. I won’t say that it is perfect and complete, but ai know I am a work in progress. I don’t know what future trials lay ahead, but I know the God who does. I have learned He is not surprised; He is not afraid; He will never leave me. Regardless of how dark or impossible it may seem, He will see me through. Because of these truths, I can count it all joy!