Trials, testing, waiting, and growth

 

Last weekend as I was praying, I felt like God was highlighting a belief that perhaps many of us have found ourselves tempted to think and perhaps have even come into agreement with: that trials are a sign of God's disapproval of us. 

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I'll be the first to say I have found myself entertaining these thoughts, even as of late--that somehow the trials I'm experiencing, the lack of breakthrough I've felt, or the wrestling I've walked through is somehow God withholding from me out of disapproval, displeasure, or to leave me to work it out on my own. Looking at these thoughts, that couldn't be more ridiculous. But in the moment when strength feels drained and the pressure feels real, it can be tempting to let our thoughts drift there. (Note: there is difficulty that can be experienced that is the result of our own disobedience. It's the result of our choice. This is a different subject. When we acknowledge and repent, God will restore us and bring us back into alignment with Him.)

So what is God doing when we experience resistance?

Many of us are comfortable with the blessing of the Lord in the form of receiving breakthrough and answered prayers, but what about trials as a blessing? What about testing and waiting as a gift? 

In the valley, the wilderness, and climbing the mountain moments, the Lord has been teaching me to come into alignment with truth and see these moments for what they really are: for good. James 1 declares: 

“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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

What is God doing? In His kindness, He is strengthening us. He is maturing us. Trials are gateways for growth. They reveal what is in our heart. They strengthen our faith. They are intended to move us towards God, not away. Trials and testings are instruments for refinement, and God refines us because He loves us and is causing us to look more like Him.

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom He delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12, NASB)

 

So, why can't God just impart maturity to us? Simply put, God didn't design it to work that way. He has created us to live in partnership with Him. He wants us to live with an active faith--not a passive one. An active faith causes us to partner with God to produce sustainable foundations in our lives. Maturity is not something that is simply read-- it is cultivated, learned, and worked out by the power of the Spirit. He wants to empower us to live victoriously.

“My beloved ones, just like you’ve always listened to everything I’ve taught you in the past, I’m asking you now to keep following my instructions as though I were right there with you. Now you must continue to make this new life fully manifested as you live in the holy awe of God—which brings you trembling into His presence.” (Philippians 2:12, TPT)

We are instructed to work out our salvation with reverence towards God, dependent upon Him, in humility. This isn't saying we earn our salvation. It means we are living it out, walking into deeper wholeness and likeness of Christ. God wants us to thrive in this life and walk in the fullness of what He's intended for all of our days. 

So, when we encounter trials, it isn't because God is displeased. Instead, it's His favor, wanting to bring us into greater fruitfulness and growth, because He loves us and cares for us. He is strengthening us to be able to walk out and carry all He desires to give us, and that requires unshakeable foundations. He is producing sustainability.

If you are experiencing a trial at this very moment, ask God what He is doing. What is He cultivating in you or teaching you? Take heart. You are being refined and strengthened, because He loves you. In Christ, you are more than a conqueror. Be encouraged and empowered as you watch Him work. 


I write from the place of personal experience, study of God's Word, and reflection on who God is. With any and all posts, I encourage you to pray, search the Word, and seek Him on these topics.


 

Trusting God Beyond Feelings

I've realized that when I pray for faith, God will often lead me through a circumstance that will stretch it--filling the space between where I currently stand and where He breaks in with an increase of faith as I choose to trust Him.

I highlight the word choose, because in this season, I have been realizing that trust is a choice. I've recently found myself in moments where God is stretching my faith, yet I don't feel a resounding fierceness of faith rising up on the inside. It has proven interesting, as I've felt moments where I've felt suspended in the place of knowing He's moving, yet not necessarily knowing when or how--sort of like falling through the air before your feet hit the ground or stepping out into a foggy meadow without seeing the other side, all you know is that's where you're heading, because your compass is leading there; in this case, because the guidance of the Holy Spirit is leading you to a final destination you know you'll arrive at. It's the in-between time that is growing the eyes of faith.

Sometimes, we don't know how God is going to get us to the place He's leading us to, but deep down we know He is calling us there. And the important thing is that we don't rely on feelings. A few weeks back, I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, reminding me "Faith is not a feeling." He's so right. Trusting God is a choice. It doesn't always come automatically, but takes submitting our flesh, our fears--anything that that hinders--to the Lord and saying, "Yes." It's intentional. It's relying on His ability and not our feelings. I've found myself in this position at times over the course of the past few weeks, that when I don't feel excitement or see movement, needing to choose trust, going back to what He's said, not what I feelOften when our faith is stretched, it challenges strongholds and belief systems we perhaps didn't know existed, and that stirs up a whole bunch of emotions. In these moments, it's important we remember fear is not from the Father. Fear might try and sneak in as we step into what He's calling us to (it's not like fear doesn't seek to be present when we step out into what God has ordained), but He doesn't lead us with fear our pour it out upon us. It's important for us to discern what is going on in our hearts and trust the faithfulness of the Father. The Word says this about those who belong to Christ:

"For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15)

God desires to fill our hearts with faith. We need His help to trust Him. We are that dependent upon Him. Just as in Scripture where we see the prayer from hearts rising up to God, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5), God desires to help us and help us choose Him.

God is so good, and in Him we have every need, fully equipped by His Spirit in every way to walk into and through all He is calling us to. In between the place where we stand and the place where the testimony is lies a land of miracles and God's faithfulness. May our hearts be filled with expectation, resting in His timing, His way, remembering it's not in our own strength the thing will happen, but knowing that the God of the impossible will come through. He doesn't abandon. Doesn't forsake. He knows no other way. He will show us when to step, when to rest. And on the other side, just like when a muscle is exercised, our faith will be stronger, because of Him. 

 

 

Rejoicing in ALL things

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I look back on this year and there is so much to be grateful for. Many of the journeys God has invited me on have been unexpected, and it's been incredible to watch how He has worked in and through them to reveal more of Himself to me and strengthen my heart.

God has also led me on some amazing journeys of stretching, pruning, and learning lessons that though have felt vulnerable in the midst, I am incredibly grateful for. One of those things in particular I feel He has been reinforcing in me is how to rejoice in all things, training in me a new perspective and growing in me a new strength, in particular in the circumstances where perhaps rejoicing would not be the first reaction. I have been reminded of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Thinking upon this verse, I felt the invitation to search out with the Lord and ask the question, "What does it mean to rejoice in all things?" 

First things first--always means always, and everything means everything. So, how do we position our hearts to rejoice in all things? To give thanks? What about the hard times? The challenging times? The moments that stretch us and test us? As I look at these things, I feel like the ability to rejoice in all things springs forth from a position of rest--knowing God's heart and His character. It springs forth from a position of trust. I remember what felt like a two-year period where when people would pray over me, they always felt the word "rest." I kid you not, it was SO often, it was undeniable God was trying to teach me something. In the midst of it all, I asked God and prayed. And on one quiet evening, clear as day to my heart, I felt Him say (paraphrased), "Unbelief causes unrest." This revelation brought a new level of freedom to my heart. I realized that an area of unbelief in my heart had produced striving and restlessness, and I was able to repent and give it to the Lord. It was from there the Lord took me a on a sweet journey of learning to rest in Him--to trust in Him more deeply; His timing, His promises, His heart--because trust is the antidote to unbelief. When we truly trust God, we are able to fully let go and see with eyes of faith that He's moving, maybe when our outside world isn't moving or progress feels slow.  

Even in the midst of battles we face in life, there is cause for rejoicing and giving thanks. This is an area I feel God has been encouraging me in over the past months. In honesty, these moments can feel rough, however, God is the only one who can work good from them and use them to strengthen our faith. One way I feel He has been encouraging me to dismantle discouragement that the enemy may want to bring is by choosing to thank God that I get the opportunity to exercise authority in Christ by choosing truth. Not that I seek warfare or openly invite these moments in, but when they do come, I find that changing my perspective and choosing to rejoice in the midst gives me a strength to walk through them and works out a perseverance in my heart that God works in me. God always works good. 

"It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make Your saving help my shield, and Your right hand sustains me; Your help has made me great." (Psalm 18:31-35)

Praise defeats darkness, because where praise is, His presence is, and where His presence is, the enemy flees. The worship we release from our hearts to God actually serves as a weapon. When our lives are filled with rejoicing and praise, it leaves no room for discouragement or a foothold for the enemy. 

I believe as we exercise thankfulness, it will become a more familiar response in our lives, even in the midst of trying circumstances. God's nature is good, and every thing He does is good, so there is always something to praise Him for. He's always pouring out good and beauty into every moment of our lives. The more we get to know Him, the more our eyes will be trained to see His hand in every detail of our lives, building our ability to rejoice in all things. Being reminded and standing firmly on the truths that He is in control, that He loves us, and that He ALWAYS works good will help posture our hearts. In this, I continue to grow. Thankfulness and rejoicing turns our eyes towards Jesus. May we find our hearts rejoicing in all things.    

Be blessed. Be empowered by His Spirit.