I guess I should start with a church update. We have been going to my friend Ryan's church since my post "keep walking". I have really enjoyed it and today for the first time Ethan was able to join me. We both feel that even if it is not our permanent home, we are meant to be there right now. My kids are actually excited, which is very fun to see. They ask every week when I say we are going to church if we can go to Ryan's church. I haven't seen them actually excited about church in some time.
The sermon this morning was very interesting and left me with a lot to think about. Ryan is currently doing a series in Revelation about the 7 churches. Today was Smyrna. Here is what intrigued me, Rev 2:10-11 "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death." The Smyrnan church was not told, "Gee, I love you so I'm not going to let you suffer." Jesus told them that they will suffer, but that He would be with them through the suffering. This got me to thinking about modern Christianity a little bit. It seems that so many believe that signing up to follow Jesus means that He will keep you from all suffering, discomfort, pain, etc... Jesus never promised us that! He said that if they persecuted Him that we should expect persecution. James 1:2-4 says to "consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything." I know that I don't always think "This is pure joy that I am struggling right now." I like many, tend to complain first. Why is this happening to us? How often have you heard someone say, "IF God were good, He wouldn't allow......"?
Now though, think about the times in your life that have strengthened your faith. Has it been the easy times? Has it been when you are experiencing God's hand of blessing, when you seem like you can do no wrong? I know for me, my greatest growth has come from my pain. Two years of infertility and a miscarriage before my sweet boy was born was excruciating. I spent many a night crying listening to lullabies wondering how long my arms would be empty. Yet in that, I pressed in to my Father. I choose to believe that whether God ever gave me a baby to hold or if my arms stayed empty that God is still good and that He still loves me. Through that time I learned to call out to my heavenly Father and then "Be still and know...", something that I'm not always so good at.
Another huge growth experience in my life was just last year when my youngest, my dear sweet JJ was ill. I took him to the pediatricians at 6 months old for a suspected ear infection and learned that he had lost weight. Thinking that it was an effect of being sick, they rescheduled us to come back in 2 weeks for another weight check. When we returned, he had lost weight again. Blood work was done, not so fun for mom or JJ. Diagnosed with RTA, a kidney condition which causes the blood to be acidic and therefore nutrients are not being absorbed. It was easily treatable with medicine and we were told that he would grow out of it between 2-3 yrs old. We continued to go in every 2 wks for weight checks and he did stabilize on the meds but still wasn't gaining much, maybe 4 oz in 2 wks. Then from nowhere he started dropping weight again and the tests started all over again. Going to Children's for Cystic Fibrosis testing, genetic screenings, tons of blood work, still no answers for us. Go see a nutrition specialist at Children's who also can give us no answers. Shortly after his 1st birthday we had to take him in to the hospital for an upper and lower G.I. Still no answers. I remember when the doctor said have him tested for CF. I drove around and cried. I remember very clearly saying as I drove trying to clear my head, "Lord, I know he is yours not mine, but I am not ready to give him back to you." At that moment I knew that I had learned that trusting God with my children is difficult but I do. I really do believe that they are on loan to me from a gracious and loving God for a short time. Would I have ever fully understood this had I not been through pain? Maybe, but not in the way that I know it now. (By the way, my JJ "grew out of his condition" earlier than expected, at 18 months. He is now a very healthy little boy and in 1 yr has jumped from less than 3%ile to 75%ile in height and from less than3% to 50% for weight. You would never know to look at him that there was a time when we wondered if he would ever be ok!)
So this is my point, when we are facing trials, instead of insisting that God deliver us from them, maybe first we should just realize that He is still with us. One of my favorite quotes says "God never promised us smooth sailing, just a safe landing." Remember that God never promised to take away our pain, only to walk through it with us. He will never leave us or forsake us! What an amazing promise, that our Savior will never leave us!