(Part 3 of 4)
Sometimes I stop and look at my husband and say, “Wow, we have a great life, thank God.” But, that doesn’t mean we have an easy life. Find me someone who has an easy life, and chances are they’re not really living. We didn’t get here accidentally either. There is no denying that God has blessed us tremendously, but even among the blessings, there are many trials and tribulations.
I’ll never forget that year we spent serving in another state. We were far from family, friends, and our usual support system. Looking back on it, I can admit that I was not ready for what was coming, but I’m so thankful for the experience. I was an optimistic young wife who really wanted to serve God in any capacity, and never said no to anything. So when my husband and I were asked to go serve a church in another state we easily said yes (this is after we almost moved to Australia to serve, but that’s another long story). Needless to say, I had no idea what was coming.
Adjusting to a new environment was tough on its own. And on top of the normal struggles of supporting a husband who is serving full time, I had a new job that I did not feel qualified for, and with no friends or family nearby, my world got flipped upside-down. Not only did it take a toll on my mental health, but also on my physical health. I had trouble sleeping, I lost my appetite, and lost a lot of weight without even noticing. My internal struggles manifested in an unhealthy physical way.
I remember reading 2 Corinthians 11 & 12 and finding comfort in learning how St. Paul dealt with his struggles. Of course my struggles were nothing compared to his, but in my little world, they were huge.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
By the grace of God I finally made it out on the other side. With the help of my father of confession, talking to mentors, and lots of prayers, I was able to move past the hardships I was facing. When I felt comfortable enough to share this experience with friends, I called it “growing pains.” Like the growing pains a baby goes through then they’re teething. They are miserable and in pain, but it's a necessity, they need their new teeth to grow in. The same was happening with me, I needed to go through this pain in order to grow. I would not have been ready for the next step in my life (my husband’s ordination to priesthood) if I had not gone through this experience. God taught opened my eyes and softened my heart to many things.
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10)
God really does refine us by fire. Just look at the story of Job, Joseph, Moses, Jonah, or just about any other person in the Bible. Tertullian said, “The greater our trials, the greater our rewards.” It definitely doesn’t feel good as we’re going through it, but I can’t argue that it yields greatness. And no matter how hard the tribulation is we have to remember to be of good cheer, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
My friend, Youstina Asaad, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It not only came as a shock to her, but to all her friends and family. She was in denial that a 28 year old with no risk factors and no family history would have cancer. She felt fine, healthy, working hard as a surgery resident, and planning a wedding that was two months away. Her life was in full bloom.
She said, “I knew that God sometimes sent trials and sometimes allowed them in our lives, and I was okay with that, but there's no way that it would happen now, would it? Once the doctors confirmed that it was definitely cancer, to be completely honest, I was very shaken. Every possible worst case scenario went through my head in that moment. I then realized that this was a gross lack of faith - what happened to "be anxious for nothing"? The mere fact that this was so unlikely and a "very random thing" as my doctors described it, is evidence that it could only have happened by God's allowance, and I know that, "All things work together for those who love God." Whatever it was, whatever would happen, would be for good. What more could I want?”
I asked her how she thought God was using this experience in her life, and she told me, “I have yet to see His grand plan for this season of life, and maybe I won't get to see it in this lifetime, but I pray that He uses this as fire, and I hope to be as gold, purified and refined.”
What a beautiful prayer that is! How many of us can truly ask to be purified and refined by fire? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. St. Augustine said, “In my deepest wound I saw Your glory, and it dazzled me.”
It’s through the fire, the trial, the tribulation, the chastisement, that God really refines us to bring us closer to Him. To get closer to becoming His image and likeness. After all, He sacrificed His life for humanity. I wish there was an easy way to get there, but no where in the Bible is life promised to be easy. We’re told that we have to go through the narrow gate to get to the Kingdom, and that it will be filled with trials and tribulations. So are you willing to let God take you on that journey of growth?
This is the third part of a four part series about personal growth.
Part 1 - Personal Growth
Part 2 - Growing Through Reconciliation
Part 4 - Growing Through Grief (coming 10/16/20)