Glimpses of Joy - Learning to thank God for the scars
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 (NIV)
I’ve been blessed to have two older men from my church as both friends and mentors - we try to meet once a week for coffee, and other than my wife these two individuals probably know my character, struggles, and areas of weakness better than anyone on this earth. Having them walk with me on this journey we call life has made me a better man.
Yesterday we got talking about the day after day, same-old , same-old that our existence often entails; I mentioned that, at the age of 45, I feel more and more that being faithful to God in the “ordinary” is often his way of preparing us for those moments when the extraordinary happens - whether that be an opportunity to share our faith with someone who doesn’t know Christ, or an unexpected trial or time of suffering. I shared how my life prior to chronic pain - full of international travel, adventure, and leisure - did little to prepare me for my journey through chronic pain. I mistakenly thought the “good life” was my just rewards for following Christ, and when hard times came I completely fell apart, to the point I wanted to end my life.
Thankfully God is God and I’m not; he took all those shattered pieces and began putting them back together again. I can see now my old faith really needed to die, so that a new one - a faith that included perseverance and faithful dedication - could grow in its place.
This morning I was listening to KCWN on my walk and heard the new song “Scars” by I Am They. The chorus really struck me:
So I'm thankful for the scars
'Cause without them I wouldn't know your heart
And I know they'll always tell of who you are
So forever I am thankful for the scars
That got me thinking about my coffee date yesterday with my good friends; as the discussion advanced we realized that each one of us had in recent past experienced pain, suffering, and loss - a terminal diagnosis, watching a child go through a devastating divorce, and chronic pain - that left us changed men. Thankfully we recognized that in the hands of our loving Father that pain and suffering was not wasted - none of wanted those bad things to happen, but had they not we likely wouldn’t be the men we are today.
Lysa TerKeurst has an excellent devotional today titled “Glimpses of Joy” - she shares he insights on James 1:2-3, where the brother of Jesus wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” I remember reading those verses when my chronic pain began and wanting to either throw up or punch the wall! Often my reaction was, “God, can you please choose someone else? I’ve had enough of this testing!”
As a baker I especially appreciated Lysa’s comparison of our reaction to suffering and baking a cake from scratch. When you bake a cake, you absolutely must use all of the ingredients exactly as the recipe specifies, or (as I know from experience!) you’ll have a big mess and/or disaster. Lysa says, “We must know that just like the master baker has reasons to allow the flour and eggs in right measure into the recipe, Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), will do the same with dry times and hard times. And yes, we may have to go through some chaos in the mixing and some heat in the baking, but soon we will rise and live lives that are a sweet offering of hope, grace, peace and comfort to others.”
We can’t pick and choose the events of our lives; everything is there for a reason. (And yes, I know our decisions often have a profound impact on outcomes in life, but I think you likely understand what I’m getting at) The Word of God tell us that suffering is a when, not an if - we know with 100% certainty trials and hardships will come. Unlike the world, we know God uses these things for our good and his glory. As Lysa says in her conclusion, “Let’s enjoy the mess out of all that’s worthy of celebration while fully allowing sorrow to come to our party as well — knowing there’s purpose in the pain and joy in the making of a life with Jesus.”