Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vitamin F

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” – James 1:2-4

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when frustrations and stress were so heavy that you just wanted to crawl out of your skin and your life and be someone else for a while?

I’ve had a very frustrating week. Chaos has been all over me. It’s as if nearly every angle of life that affects me suddenly decided to go wrong, create stress, put my stomach in knots, and really just wring me out to dry. It was little things, big things, continual worries, and things that just zoned in and stomped on my very last nerve.

Frustration is like being in the middle of a hurricane. You know exactly where you are, you want it to stop, but you just cannot seem to find your way out of it. And the longer you stay, the more stressful it becomes. Life’s whirlwind begins to tear you down, take away your faith and hope, and torment you.

After almost two weeks of trials, I began to ask God why I was in this state. What was He doing with me? I know God is all powerful and satan does not have free reign over me, so I knew He was behind it all. Was I not pleasing God? Had I been slack in my relationship with Him? Was I moving away from Him? I began to see the trials I was under as punishment.

Then I remembered several times hearing people say that as soon as you begin to serve God, look out for satan to begin to mess with you. Was that it? Was it because of a responsibility to serve I’d recently accepted? I began to question whether I was strong enough to undergo all this, and whether the opportunity to serve was something I should drop.

I thank God that at that point He gave me clarity about the situation. I wasn’t being punished - I was growing. God was giving me a healthy dose of “Vitamin F” (Frustration) to allow me to be tried.

When silver comes from the earth, it’s not shiny and pretty. It’s a metal mixed with a lot of other minerals. But when it’s put through a hot fire, a refiner’s fire, the minerals all break apart and turn to ash while the silver is purified and made even more precious.

Sometimes God has to take us through a refiner’s fire to produce from our lives the experiences and strengths that allow us to be even more precious a tool for His work. In order to understand what it’s like to endure any hardship fully – you have to have borne that hardship yourself.

Maybe if I could have seen God leading me through the storm of frustrations, and understood this was a growth opportunity to begin with, I wouldn’t have fought against it so hard. If I knew He was at work, maybe I wouldn’t have broken down, used bad language, given sharp answers, and ran my mouth! But then again, maybe I wouldn’t have experienced the full scope of the trial I needed to in order to be a tool worthy of helping someone else who’d be going through the same things.

A patient person I am not. But God is growing me. I do find joy now in the trials He took me through simply because I know that He wouldn’t bother with me if He didn’t love me so. He chooses to sharpen this tool because He still finds it useful. He chooses to teach me patience so that He can complete the work He has started in me. I will never be perfect, but I will always be under the influence of the One who seeks perfection in me.